Gay & Mormon Series Introduction
(Read time ~4 minutes)
Coming Out Can Be Difficult
I’ll never forget the look in his eye when I asked him if he was gay. Stephen (name changed for privacy purposes), a member of my ward’s elder’s quorum presidency, had a look of terror mingled with shock and inner conflict. I knew he prioritized honesty and would be averse to lying to me. Still, he also seemed unwilling to answer the question.
I re-phrased the question, “do you experience attraction to men?” Somehow, that question was easier for him to answer clearly. He responded with a timid, “Yes.” He told me it felt scary to be honest with someone about his feelings because it felt more real if he said it aloud.
At that time, there were few resources for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who identify as LGBTQAI+, and the stigma was strong. There are more resources now, and the stigma isn’t quite as strong; however, coming out to yourself, parents, family, or friends can still be challenging.
Part of the difficulty of coming out is that it is still challenging to navigate the intersection of your religious identity and your sexual identity.
A Resource For Gay Mormons
In 2017 the director for Men of Moroni asked one of the coaches, Warren Bittner, to create a mentor-led group specifically for men who are attracted to other men (gay or bisexual). Warren started thinking about what he’d teach, how to help these men, and what he’d call the group.
He knew the group couldn’t be about changing one’s sexual orientation from gay to straight, as that isn’t something that can be promised with any degree of sustainability or certainty.
Instead, he wanted the group to be about affirming people’s worth, identity, and experience and helping them reconcile their sexuality with their faith. He was inspired by Paul’s words in Romans 12:1 and settled on the name Sons of Sacrifice.
In 2021, I was looking for a grad school internship when Warren and I met, and he invited me to develop and co-lead the Sons of Sacrifice program. My training is with adolescents (teens and YSA) and a group I affectionately call “latter-day gays.” Latter-day gays are adults who believe (but do not necessarily participate) in The Church of Jesus Christ and are attracted to people of the same sex.
(As a side note, Sons of Sacrifice does not work with minors. We recommend a combination of individual and family therapy for LGBT+ minors because they have many personal questions and things to explore, and are also strongly affected by the family dynamic.)
When I joined, Sons of Sacrifice witnessed how Warren created a place where people could feel safe. People could discuss their spiritual lives and sexual identities without pressure or shame. He invited people to open up and was patient with them as they navigated their inner and social lives.
As I watched, I noticed the emergence of two core needs. Our men needed support in understanding and navigating their sexuality. They also needed to learn how to remain faithful to their covenants. So, Warren and I worked together to blend and refine stories, research, and scriptural truths into meaningful lessons rooted in addressing what the men needed.
A Resource For Family and Friends
After we finished the lessons and taught them to the men, something unexpected happened. We started getting phone calls from parents asking about their LGBTQAI+ children.
The most common questions seemed to request help understanding their child because they loved them and requested support in learning how to remain true to their faith while helping their child. To our delight and surprise, that was the purpose of the lessons Warren and I had just worked on!
After getting off my fourth phone call with parents, I called Warren to discuss how we could share these lessons in an accessible way. We realized we could adapt the lessons for a slightly different audience by turning them into blog posts for latter-day gays and their families and friends.
So! I started writing, outlining and editing this series of blog posts called the Faith and Sexuality Series. These posts will be simplified and generalized forms of the lessons we provide and discuss in Sons of Sacrifice.
I try to write candidly from my experience as a latter-day gay and blend into my clinical education. However, I want to be true to my spiritual beliefs and experiences. I tried to write in a way that didn’t ruffle feathers. Still, I quickly realized I couldn’t write anything meaningful without risking controversy.
As I sat with my feelings, I realized that I was selling myself and all of you short in attempting to shield you from controversy in my writing. I don’t know if it’s currently possible to say something about these topics that nobody will consider controversial or triggering, or wrong because faith and sexuality are sensitive subjects.
As someone with experience behind several sides of the conversation, I know this topic can be painful. If you need to take breaks, please be gentle with yourself. Or, if you’re ready to get hooked up to the fire hose, binge my thoughts, think about them, reread these posts, and then book a session with me!
I hope that as you read—regardless of the speed—you’ll pause, check in with yourself, and pray. I pray this series will be a source of edification, education, comfort, strength, refinement, and, hopefully, a little humor.
If you pause, read, pray, and reflect, and your questions still don’t feel resolved, and you don’t know what to do with them, then book a free fifteen-minute session with me, and we can discuss your questions or concerns.
When we release a new installment in our series focused on faith and sexuality, we’ll post a link below so you can find them all in one place.
If you have questions or would like to schedule a session with Forrest or Warren, you can use the links below to schedule a meeting, and we’d be happy to chat with you.
Forrest is a therapist with Life Changing Services who specializes in working with gay/bisexual members of The Church of Jesus Christ, teens and adolescents, and people who feel burnt out of traditional therapy and haven’t had success with previous therapy experiences. He also has advanced training in treating complex trauma. Forrest writes about the intersection of sexuality and spirituality, as well as the therapeutic benefit of integrating the mind, body, heart, and spirit. He currently lives in Utah. To book a session with him or to complain about his writing, click here.