Gay Mormons Face Excommunication

Daniel Holsinger was born into a devout Mormon family. He went on a mission for two years to spread the faith, as young members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, or LDS, are supposed to do.

But Holsinger is also gay, and he also knew that the church would not allow him to be himself.

"I felt huge love and fulfillment, love and fulfillment in the church in many ways," Holsinger said. "I loved the values that were taught. I love things about the church, but there was obviously this very strong sense of what is being said about, fundamentally, who I am that doesn't make sense to me."

Jay Christianson's background was similar -- he is from a devout Mormon family, but he had a feeling his whole life that something was wrong with him.

"I was confused because I was, I was being told one thing but I was experiencing a completely different thing," said Christianson.

Holsinger is in his second year of medical school, studying human sexuality. Christianson is an architecture student. They are in their 20s, they are gay, and they're a couple. And that's a problem.

"There is a very strong notion that I am a sinner, fundamentally who I am is hated and reviled by God. I am alone, there is no one else like me," Holsinger said.

Christianson says their love for each other is genuine, though many in his faith would disagree. "People say that kind of love is not real but it's very real, very real," he said.

Celibacy or Excommunication

Both men say they have known since childhood that they were attracted to the same sex. Both tried hard to fight it.

"I fasted, you deprive yourself of food and you go for a period of time in meditation and prayer," Holsinger said. "I mean I did everything I felt like I was supposed to do to really communicate with God. So I figured if I did everything in this course, eventually that prayer would be answered. Eventually this nightmare would go away. Eventually I wouldn't hate myself because a new part of myself would appear. This new heterosexual part of myself would emerge. And it didn't."

Christianson and Holsinger say they feel left out of the Mormon church because of their sexuality. Church doctrine says that to reach eternal glory in the afterlife, you need to be married to someone of the opposite sex.

"Well, they talk about it as some type of eternal reward that you get to spend eternity with someone of the opposite sex and that just isn't really a reward if you're not heterosexual, that actually sounds like eternal hell," Holsinger said.

Mormons number more than 12 million members worldwide, and it is a close-knit community, where belief in God and family is paramount.

"LDS church is not just something you go and do on Sunday," Holsinger said. "There are manuals that tell you how to carry out your day-to-day existence. How your family eats its meals, what you eat for your meals, what activities your family participates in. It is a lifestyle. It is all encompassing."

But if Mormons are like the general population, at least 1 percent -- tens of thousands of them -- could be gay. And that is strictly against church doctrine.

"We realize that people have feelings and thoughts for which they may not be responsible and all we're asking is that they control them and not let those feelings and thoughts bring them to behaviors that would bring them to violate the church's law of chastity," said Marlin Jenson, a Mormon elder and one of 80 officers who lead the church.

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