Apologies to Charlie Bird, Ryan Clifford, and the Mormon/Ex-Mormon LGBTQ Communities

Gerardo and I deeply regret if anyone has used our Mormon Stories podcast episode entitled A New Norm? Married Gay Mormons Get Callings & The Sacrament as an excuse to intimidate or threaten violence against Charlie Bird and Ryan Clifford. While many of us have been victims of the Mormon church’s well-established “Deznat” wing over the years, we want to state unequivocally that we condemn violence in all forms. We call on the Mormon church to clean up this toxic facet of its culture through the same church disciplinary process it has traditionally reserved for same-sex married couples and critics of the church.

The aforementioned podcast episode had two purposes: 1) to genuinely celebrate the Mormon church’s apparent acceptance of Charlie and Ryan’s marriage – which is an astounding marker of social progress given the church’s well established history of hunting down and excommunicating queer couples (see here, here, and here for examples), and 2) to express a sincere desire for ALL Latter-day Saint queer couples to enjoy the same freedoms and privileges that Charlie and Ryan enjoy — regardless of social status, wealth, or privilege. As someone who was forced to keep his own marriage hidden from the church and from his family out of fear – seeing a same-sex married couple being embraced by their congregation, in public, was a sacred moment for Gerardo — one that he wished he and his husband Zach could have experienced as faithful church members.

We find Troy Williams’s characterization of Gerardo’s peaceful, unobtrusive attendance of a public LDS sacrament meeting as being comparable to the actions of Westboro Baptist Church or of historical LGBTQ “genital inspection” to be inflammatory and repugnant. We struggle to see how “punching down” on and defaming a queer Utahn and an LGBTQ ally/podcast host is befitting of the mission of Equality Utah. We also wonder if Troy’s outrage would be better directed at the toxic and often deadly LGBTQ doctrines, policies, and practices of the Mormon church.  (See here for Gerardo’s full response to Equality Utah and Troy Williams).

That said, Gerardo and I express deep regret and apologize to both Charlie and Ryan, and to the broader Mormon and Ex-Mormon LGBTQ+ communities, for the way we handled this aspect of the episode. Everyone – public figures included – deserves a certain degree of privacy. We are deeply saddened and truly sorry to have played a part in any fear, distress, or division within the Utah LGBTQIA community. Gerardo and I have reached out to Charlie and Ryan directly, and look forward to meeting with them to offer a direct apology if and when they feel ready.

As the host of Mormon Stories Podcast, and as the Executive Director of the Open Stories Foundation, it is ultimately my responsibility to ensure that our podcast episodes conform with our values. For this episode, I clearly failed – and I want to take full responsibility for that. I am sorry – to Charlie and Ryan, to Gerardo, and to the broader community. As an organization, we are in the process of reflecting on this situation more deeply to come up with tangible changes to ensure that nothing like this happens again.

Finally, and most importantly, we remain hopeful that the apparent embrace of Charlie and Ryan, as a married couple, into the warm fellowship of their LDS ward and stake, represents a welcomed shift in LDS policy and doctrine regarding the status and fellowship of LGBTQ Mormons. It has long been the position of Mormon Stories Podcast that Latter-day Saints should not have to choose between the person they love, and their treasured faith.

John Dehlin and Gerardo Sumano
Mormon Stories Podcast

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  1. Charlie Bird Fan

    Thank you for this apology. I think that Charlie Bird has shown us all that gay men are 100% welcome in the Church, so long as they are willing to sit outside the temple and acknowledge their sinful nature. Thank you to Charlie and his husband for demonstrating that the true path to happiness for a gay couple is to continue activity in the Church while carefully avoiding any kind of criticism of the brethren or any suggestion that they are not happy in their place as second-class citizens of Zion. I am sure Charlie looks forward to that glorious day when he is resurrected, free from his same-gender attraction, and assigned one (or more) wives in the Celestial kingdom.

    I am glad that Charlie has amassed such a large following of middle-aged Mormon women. The guilt we felt, supporting a Church that treats gay members poorly, was crushing. Following Charlie, who reassures us that life in the Church for a gay man is all flowers, puppies, and glitter, has been incredibly healing. Charly has given me the courage to post like three rainbow emojis along with my usual #lighttheworld Facebook posts. I want everyone to know that gays are completely welcome in the Church, as long as they don’t act gay (unless you are Charlie, in which case you can marry a man, but don’t act super gay).

    I hope that, in the future, Mormon Stories will stop focusing on the “harm” caused by the Church and report on the many benefits that the Church provides to its gay members. For instance, it has been several years since a high-ranking Church authority expressly advocated physical violence against homosexuals. Shouldn’t we be celebrating that the Church has acknowledged that gay Mormons have a right to live? At BYU, school officials are willing to look the other way and not report mild forms of homosexual behavior (such as looking at members of the same sex, or even holding same-gender conversations), so long as homosexual members don’t act too gay. Once again, Charlie Bird was a great example in this regard, as he actively lied about his gay romantic relationships at BYU – which made his LDS fans much more comfortable.

    I sincerely hope that all gay Mormons will buy Charlie Bird’s book, listen to his podcast, and act more like him. I think we can all agree that the place for gay Mormons is in the warm embrace of their ward members…in the waiting room of the temple at the conclusion of ward temple night. Or maybe at Swig afterward, as long as they don’t act too gay.

    1. Honestly, you are so right. Gay, lesbian, or trans people have always been accepted by the church, the prophets haven’t called being gay a mental illness in so long I can hardly remember it ever happening. Jesus said to love everyone, right? They just have to deny integral parts of themselves in order to be holy enough to participate in salvation. I, for one, would rather be gay than have cancer if it came to it- they should just suck it up and realize that we all have our cross to bear and stop being so darn critical.

  2. Beautifully stated but completely unnecessary. Someone saw drama queen at church take the sacrament and reported back. Life goes on.

  3. I was saddened to hear of your broadcast about Charlie and Ryan that could possibly change their standing in their ward. It was a very cruel thing to do to them without their approval. I sincerely hope that you will be more careful. Sometimes, in the spirit of disclosure, you have hurt people, and as someone who espouses morality, it is a sad day for you, your employees, and Mormon Stories.

  4. Dear “Fan”.
    I really really hope your unconscious wording you used to imply that once Charlie and ALL of our “gay” brothers and sister will be “healed or fixed” in the resurrection and that all will be tolerable here on earth as long as they don’t “act gay” in public. Or even possibly mean always. Even in the privacy of their own home. That will keep them in line with the lord, the ward and all those who seem to feel they have ANY say into their lifestyles. I really hope you are not that ignorant to your opinion.

  5. Is this a restatement of the old “Don’t tell, don’t ask? It seems on this issue the Mormon Church finds itself hooked on the horns of a dilemma.

  6. Dear Charlie Bird Fan,
    I agreed with “Mike’s” comment Feb 07 2024. Further I don’t understand your bias of “Second Class Citizen of Zion”. Being for example a “Restricted Member” is not being “Second Class”. That’s the old unhelpful US and THEM discrimination. Are we not all equal in the sight of God. For many, obviously not.

  7. I think the Charlie Bird podcast was as appro as any civil rights awakening served exposing discrimination. And shame on Charlie and Zach if they have been taking the sacrament as a point of their privileged status rather than standing for others like them who have lacked the notoriety and privilege of being untouchable. If Charley and Zach have empathy for this movement where is their embrace of the othered members.
    BTW, interesting that the Church has never used any gay women as their high profile spokesperson . We can list members of high profile Mormon authorities who have gay male family members. There is absolutely no interest in lesbians who are Mormon.
    Iif you think you are second class in the Church as males, your list is not anywhere nearly as long as a woman’s.

  8. How much of the changed attitude of the Church, to the extent of no longer excommunicating people in same-sex relationships, allowing them to attend church and take the sacrament, and baptising transgender folk, has to do with the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act of December 2022. https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/respect-for-marriage-act-signing
    Presumably the quid-pro-quo is that it removes any future likelihood that the Church will be compelled to officiate same-sex marriages at the risk of losing the Church’s tax status if it doesn’t.

    1. I’ve heard that argument. Personally I think it’s insane or nuts that the government could force a church to do a marriage or something when they don’t want to.

      I still remember reading of a preacher maybe a Baptist or non denomination or something Idaho. The preacher was sued for not marrying a gay couple. Like wtf? It’s one thing to sue Elvis Presley in Vegas that is a business doing marriages or to sue the court house. But a church shouldn’t be threatened. You literally can get online training and be certified to marry anyone and there’s tons of church’s etc that don’t give a crap if they marry a gay couple.

      I hear the hear people bring up the church tax status all the time and it’s a joke. People often threaten or say they should lose their tax status because of x,y,z. It’s like y’all do remember bill gates right.

      Bill gates in 2019 bought stock for $18 a share and sold in 2021 for $300 a share making hundreds of millions of dollars. His trading was better than insider trading by politicians making me wonder if he knew something or had better information. But bill gates did all that trading in his non profit the exact same non profit he used to push for the rona and shots. As soon as he sold his stock a couple months later in 2021 bill gates then said the shot wasn’t as effective as he thought. Of course he could then say that cause he already made all his money. That’s a non profit being used basically for profit.

      Non profits were created or got big as billionaires like the Rockefeller’s created the tax code to allow non profits to exist so they can control their assets and retain ownership of their power while virtue signaling that they’re great people. Remember the democrat Warren buffet said he’s going to donate his wealth to bill gates non profit. A foundation non profit just has to give away like 5% a year. It’s the main reason I think the lds church got in trouble. Cause if ya got a trading account like most non profits do or if you hold the wealth you have to distribute 5% a year.

      Remember this isn’t shocking. 5% a year is about the rate of inflation or credit creation depending on the year. So distributing 5% a year lets owners basically maintain the principle amount and distribute income that’s really not income but merely nominal increases in price due to the private federal reserve and government printing money.

      The federal reserve is private and pays a 6% dividend to shareholders. Remember conspiracy theorists think the Rothschilds or the Rockefeller’s control things. Idk about that but factually the federal reserve is the largest central bank in the world and it’s privately owned and pays a 6% dividend. Read the federal reserve act of 1913 or something.

      The lds church is a non profit or church. A church or religion is really more protected because of the first amendment.

      That form of non profit really is different than Warren buffet or bill gates or the Rockefeller’s or even the Rothschilds moving billions to trusts and non profits to evade estate taxes. When ya read about the Rothschilds moving tons of money from the UK to prior UK places like the Solomon Islands or other places to evade taxes it’s basically what Americans do like bill gates moving money to their non profits just located in the U.S. The key difference is billionaires are evading taxes but want to retain control. It’s the reason why JFKs family the politicians or president used trusts to retain control but not to own it. That form of non profit in my opinion is different than church non profits that legitimately actually act or has religious activities.

      Seriously how many people ever bring up bill gates evading taxes? He committed fraud moving patents to Puerto Rico saying the patents are worth zero then months later the patents are worth billions. They still owe the irs 30 billion in back taxes. It’s just jaw dropping to me how much media attention the church got over not distributing 5% a year or some laws they broke. It’s like ya they broke the law sure punish them. But then I ask wtf doesn’t the media broadcast the same amount or give more attention to bigger crime? Bill gates committed way more crime the then lds church from fraud and tax evasion standpoint but there’s hardly any attention. I read a 50 page document on it. It’s on Google but when I ask my Democrat friends about it they don’t know about it. Even my republican friends don’t know about it. It makes sense once you realize who owns large media companies though.

  9. I don’t find WhatAboutIsm as a compelling response to the Church’s practices (profit-nonprofic) to avoid paying taxes. Neither is right.

  10. R. Shirritt-Beaumont

    It is painful right now for anyone who has a testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, while at the same time being forced to confront the tenuous status of the LGBTQ community within the Church. Whether we like it or not, all faithful Latter-day Saints, LGBTQ or otherwise, need to undergo a paradigm shift in regard to this issue. The doctrinal assumptions of the past are no longer tenable; they need to change. For anyone who has to live with the implications of those assumptions every day, the need is urgent. For those with the authority to make changes, it is becoming increasing so, as they directly encounter, either through the media or the testimonies of their own children and near relatives, all the suffering Church policy has caused LGBTQ members. In my own struggle with this issue over the past two years, I have been aided by my testimony of the Gospel, and a long life that has been punctuated by marvellous spiritual experiences. Dr. James O’Keefe’s TED talk and All Things New by Fiona and Terryl Givens came to my attention at just the right time. I have no lingering doubts about divine providence! I commend Charlie Bird and Ryan Clifford for their courage in publicly celebrating their love for each other. I applaud the sympathetic members of their ward for accepting them with open arms. I also commend John Dehlin and Geraldo Sumano for the grace to apologise for any perceived miss-steps they have made while encouraging change in the Church on this issue. There will continue to be heartache, hurt, and errors along the way, but after the dust has settled, may we all be able to forgive each other when we have given offence. For most of us, if we knew better, we would do better. Knowing this, Christ was able to forgive His oppressors, while he was being tortured on the cross. Based on his example, may we be prepared do likewise.

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