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December 16, 2013

headshot revisedProvo, UT

About Me

I’m a junior at Brigham Young University, majoring in Art History and minoring in Nonprofit Management. I’m on track to graduate a year from now, in Spring 2015, and I’m going to graduate school after.

I work as a reference librarian in the BYU library. It’s a fun job, and I get to handle everything from minor printer problems to extensive research requests. I’ve been working there since summer 2013, and I plan to stay in this position pretty much until I finish college.

Previously, I’ve also had the opportunity to work and intern at cool Mormon Studies institutions like “Sunstone Magazine” and “Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.” I love discussing issues of Mormon culture, as well as issues of religious culture more broadly, so feel free to chat me up about that!

Pretty much everything interests me: high culture, pop culture, no culture, all of it.

My Story

I’m a gay Mormon. I know it, I live it, I love it. It’s very meaningful for me to write that sentence today, because it wasn’t always something that I would have the courage or the confidence to write.

I’m a convert to the Church. I joined as a teenager–finding the church at age 13 and finally getting baptized at age 18. I chose to get baptized, fully knowing that it would be hard for me in the long run as a gay person, but I also had confidence that somehow it would work out in the end. I had a testimony. I had a belief in God and in the Church. I had a strong desire to serve a mission, and to enter the temple, and to participate in all the blessings that the gospel had to offer.

I guess it was relatively easy for me to push off the sexuality question to the back of my mind, as a teenager, because Mormon culture has the effect of asking teens to take their minds off sex and things like that, anyway. So, I thought, “”I’ll focus on teenage Mormon things, like preparing for a mission and refraining from drinking at parties, and things like that. Marriage may end up being an issue…but I won’t have to deal with that until I’m 22 or 23.””

Well, I’m 22 or 23 now, and I certainly am ‘dealing with it!’ I came out of the closet during the summer of 2012, almost two years ago. I’ve moved around at various levels of church activity since then. When I’m in a ward with a kind, understanding bishop, I do try to participate in church life to a reasonable degree. I’ve been pretty fortunate to have had bishops who, for the most part, did everything they could to welcome me into the ward.

Bishops aren’t experts on homosexuality though, and I suppose–who can fault them? It’s not really in the job description for a married heterosexual man to understand the ins and outs of what it’s like to be a young gay man. A few months after coming out, I started to realize that my bishop, inspired as he was, wasn’t necessarily going to have all the answers or experienced counsel that I might need. I realized that I would have to take more personal responsibility for my spirituality and for my life as a whole.

Affirmation has been a great resource for me in the time since I made that decision. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to interact with network with older men and women who have found creative, healthy ways to balance their Mormon faith with their gay, lesbian, or bi orientations. I’ve also had awesome experiences to serve in a mentoring role for gay Mormons who are younger than me, or who may be just beginning the process of coming to themselves and to others.

We are a community of love, here in Affirmation. I’m grateful for the chances I’ve had to be blessed by this community over the past two years, and I look forward to many more years of giving and receiving blessings.

I started volunteering with Affirmation during fall 2012, shortly after I came out. I help out locally within the Utah Affirmation community, helping to plan and conduct social events in the Salt Lake/ Provo area.

I’m also specifically involved in Affirmation Millennials, a group for GLBT Mormons in their 20s and early 30s.

More About Me

This is a profile story written by Chris Stedman, the assistant chaplain of the humanist community at Harvard. The article describes Chris’ experiences with the liberal Mormon community, including a number of personal interactions with me. It’s an interesting perspective on my life and on progressive Mormonism more broadly:

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