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Tom Christofferson: Gay Mormon Shares His Journey Back To Faith


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In most ways, Tom Christofferson’s spiritual journey was not unlike that of many gay Mormons.

 

Christofferson grew up in a close-knit LDS family, attended Brigham Young University, served a Mormon mission to Canada, and then married a woman. (The marriage didn’t last more than a few months.)

 

His faith in LDS teachings went deep, but so did his sexual identity.

 

So Christofferson asked for excommunication from the LDS Church and lived as a gay man, including finding a permanent partner.

 

The rest of his story, though, differed from some gay Mormons.

 

His family, which includes a brother, LDS apostle D. Todd Christofferson, continued to love him without reservation, Tom Christofferson said last month in a speech in Arizona.

 

"Quite soon after I came out, [my parents] took an opportunity to express to my brothers and their wives their determination that nothing would be allowed to break the circle of love that binds all of us together as a family. As they expressed it, while none of us is perfect as individuals, we can be perfect in our unconditional love for each other."

 

About seven years ago, Christofferson found himself yearning to reconnect with his Mormon community. So he began attending LDS services in Connecticut.

 

His LDS bishop, Bruce Larson, welcomed Christofferson and his partner to worship with the congregation.

 

This week, Christofferson and Larson will be on a panel at a two-day conference sponsored by North Star, a group that serves same-sex attracted Latter-day Saints "who desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines and values of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

 

The meeting, which starts Thursday evening with a picnic and runs through Saturday afternoon, will include presentations by Brigham Young University religion professors Robert Millet and Camille Fronk Olson, LDS psychologist Wendy Ulrich, North Star President Ty Mansfield and a host of other scholars, therapists and entertainers from the Mormon and North Star communities.

 

Separate workshops are organized for men; women; transgender; spouses of gays; parents, friends and family members; and ecclesiastical leaders.

 

Organizers hope to provide a "safe place," they write on the group’s website, for participants to learn about these issues.

"Being women and men seeking to be like Jesus, we can be consistently diligent in seeking out those who seem alone or uncomfortable in our wards and taking the initiative to make them feel welcome," Christofferson said in Arizona. "We can be first to utter the kind word; first to offer praise; last to criticize or find fault."

 

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/blogsfaithblog/57994467-180/christofferson-lds-family-gay.html.csp

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Thanks for the update BCSpace.  I'm curious what Tom Christofferson will be speaking about.  I could not find any reference to him on the NorthStar website's conference program.  Tom is highly involved in Affirmation (member of the board of directors) and has been in a committed same-sex partnership for sixteen eighteen years.  Perhaps his comments will be similar to those he delivered at an Affirmation conference last year:

 

Encircled by Angels–Our Mormon Allies

By Tom Christofferson

The recently-concluded Affirmation Conference in Salt Lake City was remarkable in many ways. One was the wonderful presence and spirit of transgender brothers, sisters and parents, who generously shared their experiences and insights. Another was the presence of so many families, attending the Conference together with their LGBT child, sibling or spouse. And another was the participation of church members and friends who don’t themselves have an LGBT family member but who feel that lending their supportive voices and their love is a particular calling at this moment in time.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a particularly gifted and committed sister, Rachel Manwaring, where she shared her fervent belief that the gospel of Jesus Christ is inextricably linked with an outpouring of love for her LGBT/SSA sisters and brothers.

The night before speaking with Rachel, I had been reading one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 17), and it was very much on my mind.

“And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled these little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.” (3 Nephi 17:24)

Through the experience of the Affirmation Conference with so many extraordinary allies present, as well as the warmth of the welcome I feel in my own ward, and the many other ways each of us receive strength from those who choose to walk this path with us, I feel as though we as LGBT/SSA daughters and sons of God are likewise seeing the heavens opened and are being encircled by angels — our allies. It is not always apparent to us the price these angels may pay in having their motives misunderstood, or their faithfulness questioned by fellow church members or friends, and yet with us they stand, determined to express their charity, the pure love of Christ, generously and without precondition.

Their example to us is profound. And it beckons us also to stand on higher ground.

Can we also be more expansive in our own circles of love, including evidencing greater charity and a desire to impute more love-filled motives to leaders of the church with whom we may have felt estranged? Can we extend the loving support we feel from our magnificent allies even to family members who have sought at times to exclude us from their circle? Can our first thought be to find something to praise, rather than a cause for offense, as we listen to General Conference or read statements from local leaders? Can the added strength we receive from our angel-allies be fresh impetus to “go forth in so great a cause” that we need not wait for others to open arms and minds to us, rather we can engage those who share our desire to serve the Lord but whose current understanding differs from our own, to engage them with our unconditional empathy and charity and seek to serve together, with patience that what the Lord may yet reveal will be in His own time? 

http://www.nomorestrangers.org/encircled-by-angels-our-mormon-allies/

 

 

For more information on Tom, see also: 

 

Tom Christofferson is the Chief Marketing Officer of J.P. Morgan Investor Services in New York City. Tom’s career in asset management and banking has given him opportunities to live and work in Europe and the US. Additionally, he has twice served on the global diversity council for his firm, and continues to be a senior sponsor there of its Pride business resource group. He is currently a member of the advisory board of his firm’s political action committee.

Tom was born in Utah and grew up in New Jersey, Illinois and Utah. He served as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Canada Montreal Mission. Before and after his missionary service, Tom attended BYU. As part of his coming-out process he was an active member of Affirmation in Los Angeles in the late 1980’s before moving to New York.

In addition to his efforts with Affirmation, Tom has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, on the finance committees of Senate and Presidential campaigns and is currently as a member of the National Advisory Council for the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. Tom lives in New Canaan, Connecticut, with his partner of eighteen years, Clarke Latimer

http://affirmation.org/event/lgbt-mormon-families-friends-pre-conference-fireside-social/

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Thanks for the update BCSpace.  I'm curious what Tom Christofferson will be speaking about.  I could not find any reference to him on the NorthStar website's conference program.  Tom is highly involved in Affirmation (member of the board of directors) and has been in a committed same-sex partnership for sixteen eighteen years.

 

 

Yes, I'm curious too.  Considering the description of North Star...

 

who desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines and values of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

 

 

 

...on whose event he is paneled, I was wondering about his partner; if he's actually given that up which would be the action of someone who desires to live in harmony with the doctrine. Based on your quote, it would almost seem more like he's hoping to get the doctrine changed.

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Here's a link to the speech that Tom Christofferson delivered at the conference referenced in the OP:  

 

http://allarizona.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/What-Manner-ALL-2014.pdf

 

It's long but very good.

This is an awesome account by Tom!  I don't mean to derail, but it started me thinking, wouldn't it be a wonderful world if the church had open arms for those that struggle in their belief also?  I'm sure it happens, as it happened with Tom.  It just needs to be more widespread.  Big tent church, yes.... 

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Here's a link to the speech that Tom Christofferson delivered at the conference referenced in the OP:  

 

http://allarizona.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/What-Manner-ALL-2014.pdf

 

It's long but very good.

 

Holy cow that is good.  I'm not sure how his bishop got away with it, but according to Tom he was invited to teach HPG as an excommunicated gay man in a long-term SS relationship.  I join in his observation and prayer that each generation gets better than the last. 

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This is an awesome account by Tom!  I don't mean to derail, but it started me thinking, wouldn't it be a wonderful world if the church had open arms for those that struggle in their belief also?  I'm sure it happens, as it happened with Tom.  It just needs to be more widespread.  Big tent church, yes.... 

 

I'd say it's about as widespread as it can possibly be regarding the Church.  Where problems arise is when people confuse BIG TENT with capitulation on principles and tolerance for sin.

 

 

im sick of members doing everything else but loving people who are gay.

 

I'm sick of supporters of the gay agenda falsely accusing members of not loving gays.

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pretty cool post.  im sick of members doing everything else but loving people who are gay.

So, exhorting members-straight and SSA-to live the law of chastity, and thus ensure their eternal happiness, and declare with soberness and love that those who do not live this law will, in the eternities, suffer a never-ending perpetuity of regret and guilt, that's not love? How is that any different than when they exhort me to pay my tithing, live a Christ-like life, obey the WoW, or any other of the commandments?

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So, exhorting members-straight and SSA-to live the law of chastity, and thus ensure their eternal happiness, and declare with soberness and love that those who do not live this law will, in the eternities, suffer a never-ending perpetuity of regret and guilt, that's not love? How is that any different than when they exhort me to pay my tithing, live a Christ-like life, obey the WoW, or any other of the commandments?

 

Seeking to deny them equality under the law is likely not considered to be a loving act by many.  But I wouldn't accuse all members of taking that position... there seems to be a growing contingent of active LDS who support gay marriage.

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  • 3 weeks later...

John Dehlin claimed in a recent interview that Tom Christofferson has been allowed to take the sacrament as well as participate in Church meetings despite being excommunicated. Don't know if that's true about the sacrament, but if it is, I wonder why? Why do they not follow the usual restrictions in his case? I know of people excommunicated for apostasy who were told not to even show up at church or the police would be called.

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I do not trust the accuracy of Dehlin's reporting given his tendency in things I am aware of to leave out crucial details and to create details and act as if they were reported facts.

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John Dehlin claimed in a recent interview that Tom Christofferson has been allowed to take the sacrament as well as participate in Church meetings despite being excommunicated. Don't know if that's true about the sacrament, but if it is, I wonder why? Why do they not follow the usual restrictions in his case? I know of people excommunicated for apostasy who were told not to even show up at church or the police would be called.

 

 

I do not trust the accuracy of Dehlin's reporting given his tendency in things I am aware of to leave out crucial details and to create details and act as if they were reported facts.

 

I also heard that Tom Christofferson had been allowed to take the sacrament even though he is partnered to another man.  I don't think I heard it in a Dehlin interview but I can't find the source.

 

I do know that Christofferson said that he was invited to attend and then teach the HP Group in his ward from "time to time".  That's in his ALL talk here (see the end of page 3).  Teaching HP Group is a violation of what I understand to be the policy with respect to excommunicated individuals but his Bishop was obviously using his discretion.

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As a regular lesson or a one time thing? Possibly on how to feel more comfotable interacting in positive ways?

Did he mention that he and his partner were having sexual relations. I can see a bishop suggesting if someone was inerested in coming back to live as close of a life to the real thig as possible, such as being celibate with his partner, perhaps one in a guest room, living the WoW, etc.

It is hard to see what purpose this as is towards without more context.

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As a regular lesson or a one time thing? Possibly on how to feel more comfotable interacting in positive ways?

Did he mention that he and his partner were having sexual relations. I can see a bishop suggesting if someone was inerested in coming back to live as close of a life to the real thig as possible, such as being celibate with his partner, perhaps one in a guest room, living the WoW, etc.

It is hard to see what purpose this as is towards without more context.

 

More than a one time thing... he used the words "from time to time".  He did not indicate a topic.

 

He did not mention any intimate details about he and his partner but I got the impression they are a couple in every sense of the word.

 

We obviously don't know what thoughts were passing through the minds of his Bishop and HPG Leader when they decided to let Brother Christofferson teach but as a Bishop's counselor I can tell you that I would be willing to let a gay man in a committed relationship teach priesthood lessons in my ward.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/19/health/dr-robert-l-spitzer-noted-psychiatrist-apologizes-for-study-on-gay-cure.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

Psychiatry Giant Sorry for Backing Gay ‘Cure’

 

I just learned of this man, interesting that he has had a change of heart or mind. 

And people say the church does not tolerate dissent! I'm not debating the merits of "reparative therapy", according to the article the study had some flaws. What I did notice was a pattern by gay activists to heckle, pressure, and even bully anyone who held or came to a conclusion that did not square with theirs.  

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http://jeffbenedict.com/index.php/blog/35-blog/378-maybe-ill-meet-a-girl

 

C/P from the article above.....

The challenge for my church isn’t that we don’t know everything we wish we knew about where gays fit into the eternal scheme of things. A higher power will sort that out. The more immediate challenge is to help church members and local leaders set a tone and example so that gay members feel welcome in our congregations. Our doors should be open, our pews inviting.

In my travels I have visited a congregation in New Canaan, Connecticut, that serves as a model example. Tom Christofferson is an openly gay Mormon who attends services there. Tom’s backstory is a lot like Clark Johnsen’s – strong Mormon upbringing, served a mission, left the church due to his sexual identity being in conflict with his faith. But a few years ago he decided to return to the church. He is still with his gay partner of 18 years. Yet his congregation has embraced them. He sings in the choir, attends all meetings, and has shared his testimony from the pulpit. It started with a compassionate bishop.

"Tom's presence has made me a better person," New Canaan resident and JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman told me. "I wish there were three or four Tom Christoffersons in every Mormon congregation. We'd learn to be more tolerant, more compassionate."

I know and admire Tom. I also admire his brother D. Todd Christofferson, who is one of the Twelve Apostles in the Mormon Church. The Christofferson family’s approach to the situation is a pattern for other families with gay children. "Quite soon after I came out,” Tom said, “My parents took an opportunity to express to my brothers and their wives their determination that nothing would be allowed to break the circle of love that binds all of us together as a family. As they expressed it, while none of us is perfect as individuals, we can be perfect in our unconditional love for each other."

Sounds a lot like Clark Johnsen’s family.

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http://jeffbenedict.com/index.php/blog/35-blog/378-maybe-ill-meet-a-girl

 

C/P from the article above.....

The challenge for my church isn’t that we don’t know everything we wish we knew about where gays fit into the eternal scheme of things. A higher power will sort that out. The more immediate challenge is to help church members and local leaders set a tone and example so that gay members feel welcome in our congregations. Our doors should be open, our pews inviting.

In my travels I have visited a congregation in New Canaan, Connecticut, that serves as a model example. Tom Christofferson is an openly gay Mormon who attends services there. Tom’s backstory is a lot like Clark Johnsen’s – strong Mormon upbringing, served a mission, left the church due to his sexual identity being in conflict with his faith. But a few years ago he decided to return to the church. He is still with his gay partner of 18 years. Yet his congregation has embraced them. He sings in the choir, attends all meetings, and has shared his testimony from the pulpit. It started with a compassionate bishop.

"Tom's presence has made me a better person," New Canaan resident and JetBlue Airways founder David Neeleman told me. "I wish there were three or four Tom Christoffersons in every Mormon congregation. We'd learn to be more tolerant, more compassionate."

I know and admire Tom. I also admire his brother D. Todd Christofferson, who is one of the Twelve Apostles in the Mormon Church. The Christofferson family’s approach to the situation is a pattern for other families with gay children. "Quite soon after I came out,” Tom said, “My parents took an opportunity to express to my brothers and their wives their determination that nothing would be allowed to break the circle of love that binds all of us together as a family. As they expressed it, while none of us is perfect as individuals, we can be perfect in our unconditional love for each other."

Sounds a lot like Clark Johnsen’s family.

 

Great quote from Brother Benedict!  I agree except for that first sentence.  Why is it NOT a challenge for our church to find out (through revelation, I assume) where gay people fit in the eternal scheme of things?

 

(I know many people here feel that we already have that answer.  But based on that quote, it appears that Jeff Benedict, like me, doesn't believe that we do.  The difference between he and I being that I think it is a challenge we need to face.)

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I'd say it's about as widespread as it can possibly be regarding the Church.  Where problems arise is when people confuse BIG TENT with capitulation on principles and tolerance for sin.

 

 

I'm sick of supporters of the gay agenda falsely accusing members of not loving gays.

I'm sick of hearing that there is a gay, feminist liberal.... agenda...  furthermore there are most certainly church members who are not loving towards homosexuals.   Just as there are open minded and loving church members.  Fact is... there are a lot of leaders whose remarks can not be interpreted as anything but judging and cruel.  I had a branch President last year who gave a testimony about the sin of homosexuality and how it is certainly a choice AND a sin.  I lost three investigators from my class due to those remarks.  Unacceptable!  The Gospel is for everyone.  Tolerances for homosexuality are minimal in the church and it is archaic.  

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Homosexuality is not a sin. Only acting on it.

But good job illustrating Wants2know's point.

 

The context of her quote implied acting on the desire, if that is not what she meant then I was in error.  

 

Sure that's me in a nut shell, bigoted, homophobic, archaic, and idiotic (or so I have been called when I disagree with someone's views on homosexuality).

 

Good thing I come along to make people's points for them otherwise they would just hang there unproven.

 

-guerreiro9

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The context of her quote implied acting on the desire, if that is not what she meant then I was in error.

Sure that's me in a nut shell, bigoted, homophobic, archaic, and idiotic (or so I have been called when I disagree with someone's views on homosexuality).

Good thing I come along to make people's points for them otherwise they would just hang there unproven.

-guerreiro9

Want2know's context did not imply "acting on it". And I didn't say that you were bigoted or idiotic or any of those things in your list.
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