Living gay in the Mormon Church

Q Salt Lake/April 14, 2011

Most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in modern revelation. They profess a living prophet that speaks directly to God and in turn speaks to the members of the Church. But for David Baker, it's more than that. The Utah native, who now lives in Washington, D.C., is an openly-gay Mormon who still believes and practices the Mormon faith.

"I differ from the church in one key area," Baker said. "I think that the organization of the Church might not be in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ concerning homosexuality."

Baker began the coming out process in August of 2008 when he first admitted to himself that he is gay. Next he told his parents. And then his extended family just before Thanksgiving, and most recently his co-workers.

"It's been an interesting ride. And a little bit bumpy," Baker said.

It's a little bumpier than some other similar coming out stories. Because unlike other gay Mormons who practice the religion, Baker dates men and is looking for a husband.

"I do want to find someone to settle down with. I want to find a husband," Baker said.

Through his coming out process, Baker is now open about his sexuality to his family, friends and even his ward.

"I've had two bishops and I've talked with both of them on this issue. They both know that I date men," Baker said. "There's been a lot of interesting conversations, but never any problems."

Baker is a current and full member of the Mormon Church. He attends all his meetings and said he has not received any castigation or formal reprimands from the church organization. He holds leadership positions in his church, often times known as callings. He has helped as the co-chair of the cultural events committee, home teaching district leader and as the first counselor in the elder's quorum.

"I absolutely believe that a man named Joseph Smith was visited by God, the father, and his son, Jesus Christ," Baker said. "I believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God and I believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly."

The reaction from Baker's bishops is becoming more and more common, said the president of Affirmation, David Melson. Affirmation is a group for LGBT Mormons to associate with their peers.

"There are different reactions throughout the Church. I've seen a bishop excommunicate a man simply for being gay. But I also know of some great leaders that allow their gay members to be fully welcomed and they react very well," Melson said. "I'm moderately encouraged because I see more and more equality-minded leaders."

Melson said he has been working with many members of the church organization because the varying experiences that gay people have in the Church are potentially devastating. Melson has been communicating regularly with the Mormon leadership, including general authorities. Melson delivered, along with the president of the Human Rights Commission and gay-rights activist, Bruce Bastian, a petition of more than 150,000 signatures to the Mormon Church protesting a speech made by Apostle Boyd Packer.

"Since I delivered that petition, not a week has gone by that I haven't received a phone call from a Mormon general authority saying he doesn't agree with what Packer said," Melson said.

The differing experiences of the different members of the Church cause internal struggle as the members must support all local, regional and Church-wide authorities, despite the differences of opinion on how to treat gay people in the Church.

In a statement from the Mormon Church, Apostle Dallin Oaks said that marrying a woman is not a therapeutic way to change a sexual orientation, but it is an option for those that feel they can "deal" with being gay.

"Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices," Oaks wrote in a press release. "On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that's a situation when marriage would be appropriate."

However, this vague position on homosexuality has not always existed and there is some discrepancy among church leadership.

"Currently, the policy is to follow the teachings as stated in sacred scripture," Baker said. "The only reference to homosexuality in all of the cannon of scripture is the Levitical reference. Even Paul's epistle (in the New Testament) only references that one scripture."

In his journey to find a husband and settle down, Baker continues to follow the basic tenants of the Mormon Church. He doesn't smoke, or drink coffee, tea and alcohol. He takes care of his body and he prays daily. He also said he won't have sex until marriage.

"I usually have a discussion about this by the third date," Baker said. "Usually people react very well. There are always questions, but they react very well."

However, Baker fully acknowledges that when he does find a partner and gets married, there might be some problems.

"I am fully prepared to be excommunicated," Baker said. "And even though I won't be able to hold callings, I will still be that guy. I will be at every church activity. I will be the one baking casseroles for the sick. I'll be the first to sign up on every committee. I'll be setting up and taking down every activity."

Until that happens, Baker said he is happy with his life.

"I am really blessed and I am pleased with the way my leaders have reacted," Baker said. "But I realize that I live in a singles ward in D.C., not everyone's experience would be the same. The people that come to church here are younger and more open-minded than most other wards."

Another reaction

Just like many young, white Mormon boys before him, Drew Call was raised to believe in God. He followed all the rules and religious doctrine that he was taught by his parents.

At the age of 19, Call went on a two-year mission where he preached and taught people about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He taught about Joseph Smith's visions and the Book of Mormon.

And just like thousands of other Mormon boys before him, Call came home and married a beautiful young woman. After graduating from LDS Business College he continued his job working for the Mormon Church as a production supervisor. He helped oversee the production of print materials. From handbooks to pamphlets, Call was involved with it all. Because he worked for the Mormon Church organization itself, he had to agree to always live by the standards of the Church. But for the recently returned missionary, that wasn't an issue, or so he thought at the time.

He and his wife bought a home in Davis County. And together they would go on to have two beautiful daughters and take part in their portion of the Mormon American dream.

But the dream was cut short.

"I got married to my ex-wife because it was exactly what I was always told to do," Call said. "I knew I was attracted to men. I'd always known I was attracted to men. But I got married to a woman anyway."

The problems in the marriage began early. And after seven years of marriage and two daughters the two separated.

He met a coach of the gay aquatic club, QUAC, at the gym. After cultivating a friendship with several gay men, Call realized that gay people weren't all bad and he started developing friendships.

After his ex-wife found out he was swimming with QUAC, she told his parents. After troubles with his relationship with his parents, he also faced problems with his church congregation.

"I felt so alone. No one came to visit me and everyone ignored me at church," Call said.

Which is why his new group of friends was so important, he said. Along with swimming practices, Call began attending a charity bingo event with his friends.

The bingo event attracts a straight and gay crowd. All of the money raised goes to a different charity and Call's daughters are absolutely in love with it. However, this bingo event is sponsored by the Utah Pride Center and the comedy drag troupe the Cyber Sluts.

And this bingo event is why his stake president said he had to lose his job.

The act of associating with people that are involved in same-sex relationships is against the will of God, even if his daughters love bingo, his stake president told him in a recorded interview for a temple recommend renewal. Call's job hinged on this interview. If he was denied the recommend, he would lose his job.

"I think it's inappropriate to take children, and I really think it's inappropriate for you to go, myself, to this gay bingo," said the stake president.

Call was denied his temple recommend, which is a card that is given to worthy and active members of the Mormon Church by the clergy. The members face a series of questions that ask about whether or not they follow the Mormon doctrine.

"So what are you going to do?" Call asked the stake president.

"You're going to have to look for a job," the stake president told him.

Call said he identifies as gay, but in the interview with the stake president, he was not reprimanded for being gay, only for having gay friends.

"The church opposes the relationship between a man and a man and a woman and a woman, and you're associating with those individuals. I don't know how to get around that," said the stake president, who did not return phone calls made by QSaltLake.

Call said he knows that each different stake president might have different interpretations of the Church's stance.

"I know that each different leader would have reacted differently to me having gay friends," Call said. "I guess I am OK with the outcome. I am moving on."

Melson encourages gay Mormons, like Call and Baker to continue and rely on their own faith.

"No one has to be mistreated in the church," Melson said. "It's going to change. Just like the blacks with the priesthood in 1978, I fully expect the church to accept gay people with full equality, even marriage. It's just a matter of time."

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