This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Steven Fehr prefers cocoa to coffee.
The 39-year-old actor enjoys cast parties but never imbibes a beer or cocktail.
He still frequents the LDS ward where he was blessed with his name as a baby. There, he recently sang his testimony of Jesus Christ with a solo performance of the hymn "Guide Me to Thee."
Fehr is intrinsically Mormon. But to many of his friends, that makes Fehr, in his words, "a conundrum."
Fehr also is gay. He pledged his love to his partner, Isaiah, two years ago with a commitment ceremony.
That cost him his membership in the church he loves. But it didn't cost him his faith. He continues to attend LDS services, study scriptures and pray.
"My Mormonism really defines me as much as my sexuality does," Fehr explains. "Mormonism feels like home to me."
As an excommunicated member, he does not take the sacrament, comment during lessons or speak when time is allotted for members to share their testimonies. He is allowed to sing.
Fehr grew up in Midvale but now lives in Las Vegas with Isaiah, who asked that his last name not be used because he is not out to everyone in his family.
When he has roles in Salt Lake City productions, Fehr often spends weeks or months at his mother's home in Midvale. This past year he was cast in Pioneer Theatre's "Dracula" and "White Christmas" and in the Salt Lake Acting Company spoof "Saturday's Voyeur," in which he played conservative crusader Gayle Ruzicka. He attends LDS wards in Midvale and Las Vegas.
'What is wrong with me?' • As an adolescent, when his peers were developing crushes, Fehr noticed he felt far more attracted to boys than girls.
"When I realized this was a sin, I thought, 'Oh my gosh. What is wrong with me?' "
Fehr had a reputation as a chatterbox, but he kept his feelings a secret for years. He did not tell his family until he was in his mid-20s.
"Steve was a little bit of an oddball kid. He wasn't sports inclined, but he liked to talk," says Marjorie Conder, 69, a neighborhood mom and family friend. "As an elementary and junior high kid, he'd come over and just talk to me."
When Fehr was asked in junior high to write a report on Americans he admired, he chose Thomas Jefferson, Walt Disney and Conder.
After years of trying to "pray away" his attractions, Fehr grew depressed. When he moved away from home to attend Snow College in central Utah's Ephraim, he stopped attending church.
"I really felt like my prayers never got answered," Fehr says. "I felt like God probably existed, but he didn't care all that much about me."
Unsure about his place in the Salt Lake City-based LDS Church, Fehr put off an LDS mission, which Mormon men typically serve at age 19. But he continued to pray and study his scriptures.
The summer after he earned his associate's degree from Snow, Fehr was at home in Midvale. One night he was praying. Frustrated, he demanded to know why God didn't listen to his prayers. Suddenly, he felt "impressed" to read James 1:5 (the same verse that inspired Mormon founder Joseph Smith as a teenager). Fehr knew the scripture well, but he thought, "OK, whatever." He opened the Bible and started to read:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
As he read the verse and those that followed, a feeling of reassurance washed over him.
"I really felt very strongly that God knew me as an individual," Fehr says. "I felt like he loved me as an individual. He knew exactly who I was, what I was going through, and [I felt] that he loved me."
Fehr describes this as the most powerful spiritual experience he has had in his life. It's a big part of why he still has faith in the LDS gospel.
"I felt very strongly, at that time, that I really needed to go on a mission," he says. "I got a confirmation that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was true."
Called to serve • So Fehr went on a mission. He told his ecclesiastical leaders that he experienced same-sex attraction but never had acted on it. Fehr was deemed worthy to serve and left for Belgium and France when he was 21. The two-year stint, teaching Mormon beliefs to others and converting some, was another time his faith grew.
While he was away, his father died. Fehr did not fret about missing the funeral. He knew his dad was proud he was on a mission.
Fehr began to believe again that he could overcome or manage his attractions. Before he left for Belgium, he started dating a young woman whom he had been friends with since they were students at Hillcrest High. She knew he was gay.
While in Belgium, Fehr asked his girlfriend to marry him when he returned. She said yes. But a few months later, she broke off the engagement to date someone else.
After his mission, Fehr tried dating women again. He went to an LDS Family Services therapist to address his same-sex attractions. It was helpful, he says, to have someone to talk to about his struggles. But he didn't feel like his attractions changed or diminished by learning various management strategies.
Fehr gave up on the idea of marrying. He decided he would live a life of celibacy to abide by LDS standards, which teach that any sexual relationships outside marriage between a man and a woman are sinful.
In 2004, Fehr moved to Las Vegas to pursue a master's in theater performance at the University of Nevada.
Working on the musical "Annie," he met Isaiah, a kind, quiet guy known for helping others. One day during rehearsal, Fehr hurried to the stage to see who was singing when he heard a "gorgeous" voice. Fehr was stunned to see Isaiah, a costume designer. Isaiah did not have an onstage role in the musical.
"I couldn't believe this powerhouse voice came out of this quiet guy," Fehr says.
The two became good friends. When Isaiah, a former Pentecostal, acknowledged he was attracted to Fehr, Fehr insisted the two never could be romantically involved. Their relationship remained strictly a friendship for years. But Fehr eventually knew he had fallen in love.
He decided to propose to Isaiah, even if it meant losing his Mormon membership.
"Steve was kind of a black-and-white movie. Then Isaiah came into his life, and it was like that scene in the 'Wizard of Oz' that goes from black-and-white to color," Conder says. "I felt like light and happiness had come back into his life."
In December 2008, Fehr and Isaiah wed in a commitment ceremony at the Metropolitan Community Church in Salt Lake City. Isaiah blanketed the chapel with red roses. They registered their domestic partnership in Nevada.
Like many Mormon couples, both partners had saved sex for marriage.
Not long after the ceremony, Fehr told his LDS bishop about his new relationship. After some counseling and questions, he was summoned to a disciplinary hearing.
Fehr says he told his bishop he had spent his entire life trying to do exactly what church authorities directed, but it wasn't working. He reached a point at which he felt "exhausted by the battle" and generally unhappy.
"I told him I'd rather be wrong and feel the way I feel right now than right and feel as unhappy as I felt then [before Isaiah]."
Conder and Fehr's mother sat by his side during the hearing and waited with him for the decision. It was what they expected: excommunication. Fehr knew that would be the consequence of his choice.
'I feel … at peace' • "I've just tried to live my life as the best person I can," Fehr says. "I feel very at peace with my relationship with my Heavenly Father. … I feel like he's genuinely happy that I'm happy. Yet I still believe the church is true, and I'm not sure how that correlates."
He says he doesn't expect to have all the answers. He respects that others in his situation often make different choices either to follow the rules or leave Mormonism.
Fehr has invited Isaiah to attend LDS services with him, but Isaiah prefers to practice Christianity outside the walls of any particular religion. Isaiah, 35, says he has seen Fehr's faith grow, not diminish, since the excommunication.
"It really is about keeping your faith even when you feel rejected and knowing that you're OK," Isaiah says. "It is surprising to a lot of people that he wants to continue to go [to church]. But if you look at the person, who Steven really is, the thing is … his heart is there. It is a part of him."
About Steven Fehr
Age • 39.
Home • Splits his time between his home in Las Vegas and his mother's home in Midvale when he has acting gigs in Salt Lake City.
Family • Pledged his commitment to partner, Isaiah, at a formal ceremony two years ago.
Occupation • Actor. He has performed with Pioneer Theatre Company and Salt Lake Acting Company.
Journey • As a Mormon and a gay man, Fehr initially vowed to live a celibate life. In his 30s, he fell in love, pledged his commitment to his partner and was excommunicated. But Fehr continues to attend his LDS wards in Midvale and Las Vegas.