Interview With Mitch Mayne, An Openly-Gay Member Of A Mormon Bishopric
Poached from PrideInUtah.com
By Eric Ethington
This past week, I read an article in the Salt Lake Tribune about an openly-gay man in San Francisco who has just been named as a member of the Bishopric in his local Mormon congregation. Needless to say, I immediately tracked him down for an interview.
Most of our readers know that I have a complicated past with the Mormon, or LDS, Church. I was raised as a member in Utah but was thrown from my house when I came out at 17 by an intolerant and bigoted Father who believed that I was an embarrassment because I wasn’t following the Mormon doctrine. I eventually rejoined the Church and went back into the closet (long story) and was married to a woman in the Mormon temple in SLC. Obviously, that didn’t last long. Since then, I have been an outspoken critic of the Mormon Church and their policies and attitudes towards the LGBT community. This does not mean that I am anti-Mormon, I do not wish to see them disbanded nor do I want to see the government ever force them to change. What I want is them to change themselves. Protest after protest, I’ve called for them to change their own attitudes so that no child ever has to go through the trauma and horror that I did just to stay alive.
So when I heard about Mitch Mayne, an openly-gay man who was called to the Bishopric of this local Mormon Ward (aka congregation), I was intrigued. How does someone who’s being open and honest with and about themselves still find happiness being part of a religion who’s doctrine tells you that you cannot be who you are?
I thought about editorializing my interview with Mitch. But the more we talked, the more I’ve decided that I’m just going to give it to you raw, and without any additional commentary.
Eric: Mitch I very much appreciate you taking the time to speak with me, I have many questions for you and I want to try and understand more about your situation. So question 1: When did you receive your calling as Executive Secretary. And what does that position entail?
Mitch: I officially received the calling during the second week of August. Don Fletcher–now the Bishop–was serving in the San Francisco Stake Presidency. He was called to be the bishop of the Bay Ward, and then he and the stake president called me to serve as Don’s executive secretary. And I wish I had a detailed job description to provide you, it would be helpful to me, as well. I will be the interface between our congregation and Don–so anytime anyone wants to meet with him, I’ll be the point of contact. In our ward, the executive secretary and the ward clerk are viewed as an integral part of the bishopric. And as such, I’ll also continue to participate in ward callings for other service positions, setting those individuals apart, and participate in congregational executive-level decision-making.
Eric: How did you come to belong to the LDS faith? Were you raised as such? Have you always been Mormon?
Mitch: I was baptized when I was eight, but fell away from the church shortly thereafter, due in large part to my parents rather acrimonious divorce. I reconverted when I was in my mid 20s, knowing full well I was gay, and knowing I would have to somehow find a way to integrate my faith with my sexual orientation.
Eric: I read that you only received this calling once you and your partner had been separated for a year, did the Church have something to do with your break-up?
Mitch: If it’s ok, I’d really rather not go into that. I still deeply care for him and it’s not a subject I like to breech. Suffice it to say, it ended due to no direct pressure from the church; no one asked me to leave to remain part of the Mormon faith.
Eric: So as an openly gay man who is also an active member of the Mormon faith, how did Prop 8 effect you? How did it make you feel to watch your church be involved the way they were?
Mitch: Prop 8 was probably among the most challenging times in my Mormon faith. I felt first-hand the sorrow this caused. And, I felt it from within my very own spiritual family. Watching my Mormon brothers and sisters advocate for an issue that would keep me from marrying the man I loved tore at my heart. It was difficult to maintain my personal integrity and, at the same time, stay close to the home where I found my Savior.
Eric: Were those feelings aggravated again when the Mormon 2nd-in-command, Boyd K Packer, made his now infamous statements last fall claiming that anyone can change their sexual orientation?
Mitch: What Packer said hurt a lot of people, and yes, I was included in that group. I have a lot of respect for that man, I’ve read a lot of his work–some of his writings and talks are spiritually amazing. I think that maybe made this hurt even more.
Eric: But is it hard to believe in anyone who makes statements like his? Not just from last October, but his earlier writings advocating violence against LGBT people?
Mitch: I think that’s a very fair question. I look at it this way: I can’t very well go around and ask the Mormon community to lend compassion and kindness to the LGBTQ community without granting others that same degree of compassion. We’re all three dimensional mortals, every single one of us. And as such, we each have strengths–and flaws. There is not a human on this Earth that is exempt from that, it’s simply our human state.
Eric: Do you ever find people who feel that they have to end relationships if they wish to be fully embraced by the church. What do you tell people who feel that a life without the love of someone is at odds with the doctrine of the Mormon faith?
Mitch: If I am to follow my Bishop’s example and directions–and I shall do so with absolute pleasure–I welcome them into the congregation, just as they are. That’s the thing that’s really great here–the direction we’re taking. Everyone is welcome, regardless of where they are in their personal lives!