Sunday, June 29, 2014

Is Tom Christofferson a game changer?

UPDATE on 8-6-15 -- Since this is, by far, the most read post on my blog, I feel the need to add this -- I've heard through the grapevine that Tom is no longer with his partner and is currently working on rebaptism to the church. This blog post he wrote doesn't directly confirm this, but gives details here and there. When asked on the Mormons Building Bridges Facebook page if Tom is still with his partner, Kendall Wilcox of Far Between said: "Tom has not shared all the details of how his relationship with his partner has evolved so respect and circumspection in speculating about the nature of the "break-up" is best advised." 


I'm surprised this hasn't been discussed more on the blogosphere. Either I'm thinking too much about the topic or the Moho Blogging Scene is slowly dying. (I really hope it's not the later.)

First, this is nothing new: gay Mormons who 100% want to stick with the gospel and its doctrine have two choices.

1. Remain single.
2. Marry someone of the opposite sex.

I refuse to follow those two, so I'm obviously not 100% in accordance. But many gay Mormons/SSA'ers are.

What I'm trying to get to - I was surprised (in a good way) that Elder D. Todd Christofferson's brother, Tom, was invited to speak at the recent North Star conference.  Y'all already know how I feel about North Star, so need to elaborate on the organization.

Tom has quite a story and currently lives with his partner Clarke in Connecticut. For more backstory, here's a talk he gave earlier this year in Arizona.  But wait, North Star folks are 100% in accordance with the church doctrine and Tom doesn't comply with the above two choices.

Does Tom's story bring on a third possibility?

3. Be in a same-sex relationship but still be active in the church.

I'm seriously curious because I haven't seen much response and reaction post-conference. All the media attention happened before the conference, and most of the spotlight was put on Tom (who wasn't even a main speaker.)

I've met, both in-person and in online forums, those who in no way would seek out a same-sex relationship, but does Tom's story change things?  Does it give more hope?

Could it be that North Star is softening their stance?  (The conspiracy theorist in me thinks North Star is losing members so they are exploring all options, rather than being so strict in accepting only those who follow the first two qualifications.)  I started to think they were softening their stance, but then they put out stupid stuff like this, and I change my mind. 

Whatever the reason to bring in Tom, I think it's a step in the right direction. It removes some of the guilt and shame some gay Mormons carry.  It shows we don't HAVE to be lonely.  It's nice to know that there are more than two options, and possibly be accepted by friends and family if remaining single or marrying someone of the opposite sex is not your forte.

Next thing we know, Ty Mansfield will speak out FOR gay marriage!  (Ok, ok, I guess we shouldn't go THAT far.)


  1. Thank you for this post. A few thoughts. If I am not mistaken, Tom Christofferson is still excommunicated even if he is attending LDS Church meetings as he is still with his partner (or husband - he was not completely clear about the legal status of their relationship.) I certainly respect him for remaining true to his commitment to his life partner while at the same time wanting to find a place in the LDS Church. But for me the real game changer would be that he could become a FULL member in good standing WHILE still with his same-sex partner. As it is now he is at the complete mercy of his local church leaders to determine to what extent he may (or may not) participate in LDS services as an excommunicated man. It appears that he is lucky to have an enlightened bishop and stake president who allow him to bear his testimony and sometimes teach lessons in priesthood meeting even though he is excommunicated. It is possible that since his brother is an apostle, local church leaders are willing to give Tom some leeway. People who are excommunicated (Kate Kelly being the latest case in point) are supposed to be banned from ever speaking or praying in church. LGBTQ people like Tom who want to attend church while still staying with their same-sex partners/spouses might not find such understanding local church leaders depending on where they are and who the leaders are, especially if they are not closely related to an apostle. And even for Tom, a new (and less understanding) bishop or stake president could mean he has to keep silent when at church. His story is an interesting one but for me not enough to yet call it a game changer.

    1. Thank you, Edward, for your comments. You are absoultely correct. Tom is still excommunicated even while he attends church. I should have focused more on that in my original post. I was surprised that Tom can still teach classes even though he's been ex'ed. (again, surprised in a good way.)

      And how awesome it would be to be a full member of the church with your same-sex partner. That would definitely be a total game changer! In my view, though, even the little things can help start to make a bigger difference. I'm not a fan of but it's a start in the right direction. I'm not a fan of North Star but inviting a guy like Tom to speak at a conference is a step in the right direction. I know bishops and leaders that are the complete opposite of Tom's, so hopefully they can lead by example.

      Again, we still have a long way to go - but these little nuggets of 'good things' help to put a smile on my face.

  2. What I see at work here are two entirely different phenomena: Status and Location.

    Status in the LDS church is interested because it allows members and leaders to overlook wide swath of transgressions that would otherwise discredit the average Joe. This is how people like Steve Young can avoid a mission and consistently work on Sunday without a diminished image. It's how the Marriott family got away with selling porn in their hotels while one of them is called as a GA. Look at the plethora of Mormons celebrities in entertainment who clearly violate "modesty" standards and toss off garments willy-nilly. The Osmonds not serving missions wasn't a game changer for any other young man with ambition who could have benefited by having those two years back. Relation to a GA is also celebrity status in Mormon cirlces.

    For some reason, Mormon celebrity believers are given a lot of slack if their bottom line is that the church is true. There are other gay men in similar positions as Tom. JOHN GUSTAV-WRATHALL who blogs at is one that comes to mind. He's been vocal for much longer. Why isn't he a game changer? Tom was invited to North Star because, as I've said all along, there is some "plausibly deniable" connection between them and the LDS church. Tom mentions in his AZ talk that he gave his talk to his leader in CT to see if it matched his memory. I have no doubt he let his brother (and therefore LDS PR) edit it as well.

    Secondly, location, location, location. I've lived in many different locations in this world and attended various wards. As much as correlation has diluted diversity, there is still a drastic difference between a ward in Connecticut and a ward in, say, Pleasant Grove, Utah. Even back in the 80's I attended a ward in Manhattan where an openly out gay man frequented and was welcomed. This would have never happened in my home ward in Southern CA, or in AZ, ID or UT.

    Wards out in the mission field are very different from the ones in the Jello Belt. If you took a TBM from Gilbert, AZ Or Provo UT and plopped them into a Gospel Doctrine class in Washington DC, Cambridge MA or New Haven CT they'd have a panic attack.

    I hope I'm wrong and you are right. But I don't see it.

    1. As always, Dad, thank you for your vantage point! If we didn't live so far apart, I'd love to sit down with you and have a Coke. I could pick your brain for hours!

      I do feel bad for not thinking about/mentioning JGW as he and Tom have some similarities. But it all goes back to Tom's famous brother. We know Tom's story because his brother is a celebrity. (I have many Mormon friends who treat the GA's as celebrities so I think it's a fair term to use.)

      As for location - you are absoultely right. From what I've heard, if you're gay and attend a ward along the East Coast, you'll have a much better experience than dropping in on a ward in Utah or Idaho.

      I think my main point in all this, which applies to the comment above by Edward Morgan, is that it was very un-North Star to invite someone like Tom to their huge conference. I hope this is a start of a more softening stance in general to accept us Moho's whatever we choose to do. (Stay celibate, find a partner, etc.)

  3. I was quite shocked to learn of an Apostle's brother being openly gay and in a partnership. I think if we are talking about game changing aspects, there are certainly some here.

    First, the example of Tom to his brother is something that while may have existed before in a family relationship to an Apostle, certainly was never made this public. We now know that D. Todd, whether it's a close brotherhood or not, knows someone like us. Unlike Packer, who I am unsure of having met a gay person in his life, D. Todd knows one of us.

    I always believed that people are more likely to soften their rigid ideologies and stereotypes once they realize someone close to them is gay, and defies the stereotypical gay mold. Thus Tom is that stereotype breaker, or at least is potentially.

    Secondly, the access to the higher ups is new. I don't know John Gustav-Wrathall beyond his blog (though I hope to now that I am in Salt Lake City). But I doubt that John has a direct line of communication to one of the Apostles. While John and the rest of us are working on the outside of the council of 12 and with our local leaders, Tom has a direct line to the 12.

    The structure of the church is extremely hierarchical. The revelation does not come bottom up, but top down. However with close relational tie of Tom to his brother there is now an opportunity for a voice to reach the top, possibly unfiltered. Yes the 12 takes their direction from God, but would we have ever received the Word of Wisdom without a side word from Emma Smith? Could Tom have that sort of horizontal communication effect? It remains to be seen but at least its a possibility now.

    In these ways, I agree with G. M. Zurdo, that Tom has to potential to be a game changer.

    P.S. I don't usually blog about these type of topics because thats not the style of my blog, but I am always interested in them and more than eager to comment on topics like this on other MOHO blogs.

  4. Hey Trevor! Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you're interested in these types of topics!

    I liked your Packer/D. Todd comparison. The later apostle "knows" us as you brought up. Hopefully he can knock some sense into the rest! (And wasn't it Oaks that said if a guy wanted to bring his partner to dinner, the rest of the family shouldn't support it?) I know there's a quote like this somewhere out there!

    It's nice to get all these different vantage points from the comments.

  5. This is Tom Christofferson's story in his words which is very interesting.

    1. Hi Jake! Thanks for sharing. I had to do a double take because I thought this was posted recently, only to realize it was put up a year ago. Again, I'm surprised this didn't get more publicity.

      Sometimes it sucks hiding behind an anonymous blog, but I wanted to tell you I admire you, Jake, and all that you do for your family! Keep it up.

  6. This blog is gay!

    Eric Cartman

  7. I am totally shocked that Tom decided he would give up his partner to rejoin the Mormon Church that excommunicated him for being in a relationship with another man. He is disgusting. feel sorry for his former partner but I am sure Kendall will find someone who will appreciate him and love him more than any two faced hypocrite. Tom has chosen to be "celibate" to appease his family and win their good graces. He is groveling his way back into a family that would not accept his homosexuality, since his brother his one of the Church's 12 Apostles.

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