In “Christofferson brothers share how they remained 'as one',” Tom Chistofferson shares his experiences with being a gay member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A significant reason that his story gets so much attention is that his brother, D. Todd Christofferson, is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I consider this to be a great blessing, because otherwise fewer members of the church would be conscious of this important issue. Tom exemplifies how the power of the atonement of Christ and the charity of members of the church can bridge divides that the world teaches cannot be reconciled.
I’ve heard Tom’s story a number of times as I’ve attended events at which he spoke. It gives me a great deal of hope to see that an excommunicated member of the church would feel the Spirit enough to come back as a result of the unconditional love of local ward members and his family. I feel that there is much missionary work to be done in the LGBTQ community. It will take some time to change the culture of the church, which is likely the main stumbling block in this equation. This documentary will help people overcome their preconceived notions about homosexual attractions as opposed to immoral behavior.
Tom’s journey to understand himself mirrors my own in many respects. I also had to do my own research to learn what homosexuality was. It was difficult to not have parents to turn to in this struggle (I had too much shame to vocalize to my parents until adulthood) was a terrible trial for me. I, like Tom, doubted that I could serve a mission because of my same-sex attractions. Similarly, I had hopes that God would help me get married because I served a mission, although I didn’t necessarily believe that my attractions would be taken away as Tom did.
I really appreciated that the Christofferson parents never seemed to struggle with showing unconditional love to their son in spite of his excommunication from the church in pursuit of a gay marriage. They didn’t make their son a project. They still enjoyed having Tom in their lives and didn’t exclude him from family functions. There’s a common misconception that showing love to a child in a sinful lifestyle is actually condoning those life choices. From the people I’ve spoken to, guilt typically is not the reason that they returned to the church and began living the law of chastity again. Love and a sense of belonging tugged at their heartstrings when they realized what they were missing and remembered what mattered most.
I’ve brought up in my priesthood meetings the question “If a same-sex couple came to our ward, how would we respond?” I feel like many people, particularly in family wards, would respond with discomfort and possibly even hostility to a visiting gay couple. People want to protect their children, but sometimes shielding them from other lifestyle choices actually hinders their progress or peaks their interest. The fact that Tom’s ward accepted him without question, allowing him and his partner to feel a part of the fold. Why is this so hard for members of the church to replicate?
I love that Tom teaches about how our wounds and pains can enable our empathy to develop and help one another in our struggles. When he teaches that we need to walk in faith, I feel that his journey is something that typifies this kind of trust in God, because we really don’t know why homosexual relationships are sinful. We can argue that biologically it doesn’t make sense because it can’t lead to pregnancy so it’s not part of the Lord’s plan, but what about more modern teachings about how sexual relationships are an important aspect of bonding couples together in love and loyalty. Perhaps there’s an answer that I’m missing, but I haven’t found such a reason that the love of heterosexual marriages is any different from those within same-sex couples. However, we have to have faith that God knows what’s best for us, and that through His Son we can overcome any obstacles in our paths.
While there are many who leave the church who won’t return as a result of their own agency, the opportunity is ours to extend a hand of Christlike love to those whose life experiences may appear dramatically different than our own within the LGBTQ community. Many members of the church don’t know how to respond to their friends and family when they “come out of the closet.” Tom teaches us that the job is not ours to judge and condemn, but rather to keep the commandments ourselves and live worthy of the Spirit. If we follow Christ’s example as the Christofferson’s did, there will be less conflict and more loving communication. We should not use Tom’s story to pressure or invalidate the experiences of others, because every person’s path is unique. Members of the LGBTQ community are our brothers and sisters, and they have a place in the Plan of Salvation just as we do. In conclusion, charity and humility will create an environment to which those who stray will desire to return.
To purchase Tom Christofferson's book, That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon's Perspective on Faith and Family, click here!