Tom Christofferson: The Strange Odyssey of a Gay Mormon

Tom Christofferson is the brother of LDS Apostle D. Todd Christofferson.  He is gay and 60.  When he and his partner moved to Connecticut, Tom started to renew his interest in Mormonism.  (He had previously left the Church feeling he wasn’t welcome because of his sexual orientation.)

His road back to Mormonism was not an easy one.  The following is from an excellent article written by Peggy Fletcher Stack in the Salt Lake Tribune:

On occasion, Christofferson’s partner tagged along [as Tom went to Church].  Then came 2008, when the LDS Church helped lead the push for California’s divisive Proposition 8, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

Christofferson had a brother in California who voted for it, the partner complained. “They know us. I thought they loved me.”

It broke his partner’s heart and created some distance between the partner and the church.

David Checketts, the pro sports mogul and then an LDS stake president overseeing a group of congregations in Connecticut, met with the partner to explain why returning to the Mormon fold meant so much to Christofferson.

The partner responded by saying, the writer recalls in the interview, “Your church should be supporting our family of two, not splitting us up.”

In his new book, Tom reports that his family was always very accepting of his gay partnership.  And this included his brother, the Mormon apostle.  Tom and his partner were invited to all family occasions.

Ultimately Tom gave up his loving partnership in order to join the Church:

Christofferson’s partner — whom Tom still loves — freed the Latter-day Saint from their mutual commitment, saying he should do what was best for him.

Even some Mormons lamented the breakup.

“His partner was/is a wonderful, talented and kind man,” [Tom’s past Connecticut Bishop Bruce] Larson writes. “My heart breaks for anyone who experiences heartache or loss in a genuinely loving relationship.”

Tom chose celibacy over intimate emotional and physical love.  Which begs the question:  “Should a man have to chose between his religion and a loving relationship?  For me, that is rhetorical question.  And I suppose Tom had to repent for his gay partnership.

Tom’s path as a rebaptized Mormon has not always been smooth.  He tells this story in his new book:  That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith & Family.

The most difficult chapter to write, Christofferson says, was the one about the LDS Church’s November 2015 policy, which spelled out new rules about gay Mormon couples — dubbing them apostates and generally barring the blessings and baptisms of their children until they are 18.

“I was stunned,” the gay Mormon writes. “I think many people are.”

Todd Christofferson was tapped to speak in a hastily called video interview to explain the move to confused members and a puzzled public.

“If you feel you need to distance yourself from me, I will understand,” the apostle texted his brother, who replied immediately, “You have never distanced yourself from me, and… I am not going to back away from you in any way.”

The closeness between brothers persists, but so do the gay man’s questions about the policy.

“So many friends have left the church over it — whole families,” Tom Christofferson says. “It hurts, but I’m still trying to understand.”

It’s interesting that Tom’s book was published by Deseret Book, an LDS enterprise and organ.  Unlike many Mormon books, this one apparently includes both the ups and downs, and not just the ups of LDS policies.  (If you want a more upbeat assessment of the book, read the review in the Deseret News.)

But for me, Tom’s story has too many downers:

  • the LDS Church leadership’s misplaced support for Prop 8
  • being forced into celibacy in order to rejoin the Church
  • the LDS Church policy on the children of gay couples
  • hauling out Elder Todd Christofferson to defend Church LGBT policies

For me personally, the above 4 activities are ugly.  And they remind me too much of the Church’s misadventures with the black priesthood ban.

Sorry Tom, I can’t buy your book.  But I honestly hope you are happy.

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