“Oh, Landon. That shouldn’t have happened.” Bishop Peterson peered intently over his desk. I looked away. For some reason I could never hold eye contact for long these days.
My bishop was a dean in the
My previous bishop had actually been my brother, fourteen years my senior. I had just recounted to Bishop Peterson that while in my brother’s congregation I had met with a church social worker who had recommended counseling to appropriately address my “same sex attraction.” When I showed some concern over the cost, he said the church had a policy to fund such counseling. He would notify my bishop that I had need of counseling services, all while respecting my confidentiality by not disclosing the specific issue, and I wouldn’t have to pay a thing. I agreed. Only a short time later after being “released” from my job in the church teaching the teenage men in the ward did I realize there were probably very few situations that warranted unquestioned subsidization of counseling services by church offerings. Undoubtedly, my release was not coincidental. I had unwillingly been outted to my brother, but not in a way that would ever allow either of us to address it directly. From then on and forever more it would be the elephant in the room.
I have long been very comfortable with my situation. I wouldn’t mind family or church members knowing I’m attracted to men if I could just have a guarantee that they wouldn’t treat me any differently. Some would and some wouldn’t. So I see no benefit and plenty of risk. And I wouldn’t mind my gay friends knowing that I’ve chosen to be married and have a conventional family because of my religion if I could just guarantee that they would be understanding and supportive and wouldn’t try to “out” me for my own good. Or do something worse. There are bigots on both ends of the conservative-liberal spectrum. I was safe from neither.
“Well, bishop, it’s okay. I understand nobody meant it to happen that way.”
“Well, I think it’s inexcusable. However you decide to deal with this, I’m so glad you are willing to let me help bear this burden. I’m here for you to talk to whenever you may need it. And I’ll try to think if there’s anything else I can do.” He paused and leaned back in his chair. “I obviously don’t have any training in this area, but I want to help however I can.”
Unlike some encounters I had heard of between gay Mormons and their bishops, mine had been wonderful. I actually felt better about myself walking out of the room than I did walking in. I felt like a courageous person who was dealing admirably with a challenge that few could ever understand—not just being gay, but being gay and Mormon simultaneously. Really gay and really Mormon. I was managing.Index for A Congregation of One