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Opposing stance on gays costs Mormon chance to go on mission

Published March 27, 2013 11:23 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A 20-year-old Mormon man says he was turned down as a missionary candidate for opposing the LDS Church's stance on gays during his pre-mission interviews.

He says he also was denied a temple recommend for his beliefs, according to the online magazine Religion Dispatches.

The man, identified only as Emmett C. in the Pacific Northwest, is straight but has an older brother and sister who are gay. Last year, the young man applied to serve a two-year mission for the Utah-based faith but told his LDS stake president (an ecclesiastical leader) that if asked about the issue as a missionary, he would share his view that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are equal in the sight of God and should have the same rights and privileges as everyone else in the church — including temple marriage.

The LDS Church's official position is that "attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is." The 14 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considers any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage to be a sin and opposes same-sex marriage.

Emmett told Joanna Brooks at Religion Dispatches that he mentioned his views on gays to his bishop "because I was afraid of being sent out on a mission and the issue of gay marriage coming up and not being able to preach that it was wrong."

He didn't want "to be sent home," he told Brooks. "I wanted to get it sorted out before I left."

Emmett's bishop was sympathetic, he said, but the stake president was not.

"His conclusion was that I would not be able to serve," Emmett told Brooks in the interview. "I would have to fast and pray until I realized that I was wrong and had to change my beliefs in order to support the church leadership in their decisions."

The LDS leader also said he would not give Emmett a "temple recommend," allowing him to participate in the church's most sacred rituals.

That struck the young man "even harder than being denied a mission," he said. "That meant my priesthood — which I honor — my hope of marrying in the temple. This really brought home the reality of my situation as someone who believes that gays are equal but can't be open about it."

Emmett broke down at the news, he said. "I died inside. I pulled down the blinds. I wouldn't even get out of bed for a month. For a long time, during my depression, I was filled with angry feelings."

Eventually, Emmett said, he was able to regain some perspective.

"This experience is just a small part of my testimony, my faith life," he told Brooks. "But I can only imagine for gay people — it's everything."

Peggy Fletcher Stack