Gay Mormons Face Excommunication

Jenson says church doctrine teaches that if you're gay, you must be celibate -- or risk excommunication.

"Excommunication would really be the last resort. Excommunication occurs only if someone were violating the commandments, the laws, the practices, the procedures of the church and would openly persist in that after some months or years of working with them to try to get them to see that living life differently would be the best thing for them," he said.

Trying to Fight It Didn't Work

Living life "differently" if you are gay is easier said than done for most people.

"Think of the thing that is absolutely most important to you in the entire world or the experiences you've had and its social connections that rivet you and that are most deeply meaningful. And then you can't have it anymore," said family therapist Marybeth Raynes.

Elder Jenson, however, says that "miracles can occur" that can transform lives. He adds that the real reward is in the afterlife, where "many of the unfulfilled dreams and the ambitions that we have will be fulfilled there."

A Salt Lake City-based group called Gay Mormon Fathers, or Gamofites, says changing one's sexual orientation is not possible.

Like many Gamofites, Russ Gorringe denied himself -- he prayed for change and did the right thing according to church doctrine.

"There is no place for me in the Gospel as a person who never married. So I did what I was supopsed to do and we got married," Gorringe said. "During this time we struggled. Intimacy was difficult. In order to perform, I would have to fantasize about a man. It was such a demoralizing experience that after it was over I would roll over and cry myself to sleep."

Gorringe eventually told his wife he was gay, and then he spent years in church-sponsored "reparative therapy," hoping for a cure.

"So the last 12 years of a 25-year marriage we had no sexual intimacy at all," he said. "We began to realize this doesn't go away. This is who I am."

The men in the Gamofites group say that with great difficulty they've made peace with who they are, but making peace with the church is a different story.

"We are recovering Mormons," said Gamofite Morgan Smith. "We're not recovering from God, but we are recovering from the put downs, the discrimination, the people that come along and say that if you're gay you're not good."

Some Gamofites say they still lead a spiritual life even though they may no longer be Mormons.

"Culturally I consider myself a Mormon, but candidly I've been excommunicated from the church," said Ernie Horstmanshoff. "I realized the thing I feared most about being excommunicated was that I was taught if you're excommunicated, you would cease having access to the spirit of God. And I'm happy to say that I found out that that was wrong."

Daniel Holsinger and Jay Christianson say that by going public with their relationship, they likely will be excommunicated too.

"Yeah, eventually," Holsinger said. "Being on national television, saying that we are committed to each other and very much in love and unapologetically so."

While building a life together -- and even dreaming about a day when they might be able to marry -- Holsinger and Christianson say they hope the church will come around to accepting them one day. Elder Jenson is not encouraging.

"Gender is an essential characteristic of our identity. The family and marriage are essential to God's plan for our lives and for the eventual destiny of his children. And if the sun no longer shines, I can't see in God's world how that will ever change," Jenson said.

Holsinger admits it will take a very long for the church to change its stance on homosexuality. If it were to happen, he said, it would take a "revelation" -- God speaking directly to church leaders.

"I think a lot of gay members of the church are praying all the time that God will speak to the leaders of the church and let them know," Holsinger said.

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