1466-1468: Mormon Nuclear Submarine Commander & His Family – Kelly and Heather Laing


Batten down the hatches and prepare for an epic Mormon Stories interview like you’ve never heard before! Part of what is often called “the Silent Service”, former nuclear submarine commander, Kelly Laing and his family, finally speak out. We dive deep in this three part interview and hear from Heather and Kelly Laing, followed by two of their four children, Britton and Mason, in part 2.

In part 1, we discuss Heather and Kelly’s courtship as teens, the road Kelly took into the military, and the ways they kept their family and love life afloat. 

In part two of our interview with the Laing family, we talk with Britton and Mason Laing about the unique struggles they faced, what it was like coming out, and their advice for other gay teens.

Wrapping up our epic three part interview with the Laing family, Heather and Kelly detail the path of love and acceptance they took while deconstructing their faith in the Mormon god’s plan for families. We hope you’ll resonate with their description of uncovering troubling Mormon history, growing closer as a family, and realizing none of them are broken, least of which their two gay sons.

Show notes: 

Part 1:

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Part 2:

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Part 3: Recognizing Your Two Gay Sons Aren’t Broken in a Mormon Military Family – Kelly & Heather Laing Pt. 3



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  1. Sandra Phillips

    Yahoo for the Laing Family!!! What a wonderful interview! Holding my breath for the next part. Hurry before I pass out, John! ;)

  2. Thank you for sharing your story!

    Some similarities in our stories. My husband is a mechanical engineer, graduated from USU in 1999. I have a son serving in the Navy on a sub. Appreciated both your views and experiences in the military and church.

    Hats off to your whole family for being good humans!💛

  3. Great interview,John….however, it may be time to let the masturbation intrigue go a bit, hedging around if grown a** military men do it whilst away from spouses can seem a bit voyeuristic ….the sooner we accept that (for men at least) 95% of us do it, and the other 5% lie, the better off we’ll be!

  4. I’m about 50 minutes into this but I really like it. I spent 25 years of my life on an island some 60 air miles north of Bremerton, and of course living on a 56-square mile island with a ferry to the mainland, the ocean was part of my life from the lower Puget Sound to Seward, Alaska. Like Heather I saw few people of color growing up. After my family left California not far from Bakersfield, I never saw either a Black or a Mexican until I went to college. I had a part-native American in my graduating class of 20 kids and no Mormons.

    Kelly mentioned Rexburg and my only knowledge of that area is that my daughter (adopted from the Church) attended Ricks and eventually graduated BYUI. And I saw the flood movie of the Teton Dam. I must be about the age of your dad, but the only knowledge I have had regarding the Marines is that my late brother served as a 19-year old on Okinawa in the last days of WWII, but even when I worked for him for several years on his fishing boat in Alaska, he never once talked about his service as a corporal in the infantry.

    I wasn’t to become a super-active Mormon until the early 70’s. Thanks so far John and Heather and Kelly.

  5. Great episodes here. I love hearing stories of families being able to transcend the religious indoctrination they’ve been taught since birth to accept and cherish the ones they love. I’m a never-Mormon, have a trans child and a gay child, and honestly, it was so much easier to accept my kids the way they are without the teachings of any religion to get in the way of our love. This is one of the things about religion that I abhor- the ridiculous rules and beliefs that prevent all of us from being our true selves in this world. I cannot accept the commonly held belief that religion fosters the betterment of humankind. It seems to me that it has caused far more problems than it has ever solved. Think of the grief and sorrow and shame that LDS teachings about LGBTQ people caused this precious family. When their sons realized they were gay, they should have been able to just say, “Hey Mom and Dad! We’re gay!” Like, “Hey Mom and Dad! We’re left-handed!” And have it make no more difference than that. Because in truth, it doesn’t make any more difference than that. Our kids are our kids from the moment they’re born and we love them for who they are, not for some weird construct about who they “should” be.

  6. This story hit near and dear to my heart. I grew up in western WY and spent nearly ever summer growing up in eastern ID (Bear Lake Area) working on my Uncle’s ranch and farm. Moving pipe, bailing hay, castrating cattle, yep, done all of that! Where things split but then came sort of back together was my career choice leading out of high school. I too decided to attend a military academy (not because of direction from a patriarchal blessing) but specifically choose NOT to apply to the Naval Academy due to my fear of ever having to spend time in a submarine. I was accepted into the Air Force Academy and West Point but choose the Air Force due to my desire to fly/design aircraft.

    Like Kelly I eventually gave up a spectacular opportunity at the Academy to serve as an LDS missionary. This choice was heavily influenced by our institute teachers and President Oak’s first cousin Robert C. Oaks, a retired Air Force General and member of the seventy. He was a graduate of the first Air Force Academy class and regularly addressed the cadets while I was there. We held him in the same reverence that Kelly held Elder Scott.

    Unfortunately for me my religious scrupulosity almost got the best of me during my mission to Taipei, Taiwan. My failed suicide attempt left me coming home early from my mission, and prevented me from returning to the Air Force Academy (I tried reapplying but was denied entrance due to my subsequent diagnosis with OCD).

    However, in a strange turn of events I graduated with a chemical engineering degree from BYU and then turned down opportunities to go to graduate school in order to pursue a career in the Navy’s “Nuclear Operations Program” in upstate NY. In 2011 I graduated from the Nuclear Power School in Charleston SC (same as Kelly went through) and then qualified as a supervisor of operations on a submarine prototype in West Milton, NY (same as Kelly did in SC). Since then until 2020 I dedicated ten years of my life personally training hundreds of Naval enlisted and officers on how to operate the engine room of nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines.

    I personally relate with how the naval reactors program helps people develop critical thinking skills and the courage to admit when you are wrong. It also helps the individual develop the necessary self-confidence to tactfully question and provide candid feedback to those in authority over you.

    This culminated in my faith quickly unravelling when I decided the new “Saints” series on Mormon history wasn’t honestly relating the facts as portraited by the sources its narrative cited. Ironically, one of the citations in the narrative used something from Dan Vogel (whom I’d never heard of) which made me think he was a trusted LDS historian. As I sat bewildered at the widening divide between the source material and the narrative I’d been taught as a child, I discovered Dan Vogel’s youtube serives. Watching his youtube series on “Joseph Smith and other men’s wives”, the Book of Abraham, Indian Origins of the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith’s early career as a scryer put me into the darkest place I’ve ever been spiritually. He convincingly persuaded me the church wasn’t what it claimed to be but did not provide any tools, community, or method to aid me in working through this trauma.

    Luckily Dan Vogel was interviewed by some guy named John Dehlin who at first seemed to be like some quirky gospel doctrine teacher who was kind of excited to learn about Vogel’s work but also tried to maintain somewhat of a faithful outlook. After watching several more episodes of Mormon Stories I realized this was the place I needed to turn for healing and advice.

    Kelly, if you ever get the “privilege” of auditing the prototype out here in West Milton and want to hang out with a fellow ex-mormon, give me a hollar.

  7. Patrick of Idaho

    Almost through with the last part of the first section. I like Kelly’s talk about being away from Heather for long periods of time. When still non-Mormon, I married in ’68 after a 6 month courtship followed by my being gone for two months working on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska. We rarely go to port so I could only send an occasional letter but I might not receive one for another month. I once wrote that we were in a red tide area, which can be deadly. She was worried and received no mail from me. We once docked in Wrangell, a small town with all dirt streets and I rushed to one of the very few phone boots in town and called my new wife and spent $70 pushing coins into the booth. So I can understand the feelings a submariner can have. And I never masterbated or looked at porn. I spent one more season away from my love and by 1971 I joined the Church, and we were super-active for the next 40 plus years and now 53 years of marriage. And I’ve had experiences on that boat that few people will ever have. To me that time was similar to how Kelly felt aboard the Maine.

    I never had a gay child, just adopted a lovely baby girl from the Church and she and family has pretty much stopped communication with us since we stopped attending nearly 10 years ago, but I had a gay roommate once in college and I just thought of him as a regular guy.

  8. Patrick of Idaho

    Listening to John talk about the need for a pod and how important it is to be a part of a group, I have found that living in a rural community, with very few non-LDS in my immediate vicinity, to have been extremely difficult these past nearly ten years. . I have two families our age (mid 70’s) and they definitely don’t want to know anything of what we’ve gone through. Online technology is a blur to me so getting into online groups is pretty much out of the question. And now with our area being a covid hot-spot where almost no one wears a mask or will get vaccinated, my wife and I get our only real support from Mormon Stories. Thanks, John, for having this podcast. And thanks again, Kelly, Heather, Britton, and Mason for your long podcast.

  9. Since this comment is addressing something Kelly said, I would first like to thank him for his service to our country and thank him and his family for having the courage to share their story with others.

    For Kelly or anyone else who hasn’t already seen my perspective on the god and Jesus taught by the Latter-day Saint Church, I will put a link to the Jana Spangler podcast episode. You will have to scroll down in the comments to find my name and comment about why I think the god and Jesus taught by the Later-day Saint Church are problematic.


    Although I haven’t watched the entire Laing family interview, I did watch a significant portion of part three. During that part of the interview, Kelly said that he still believed in God because of something that had happened in his life. On the other hand, he seemed to dismiss the story of Noah in the Bible because he thought it couldn’t be true (about the 53 minute mark of part three).

    For former Latter-day Saints, I think there is a tendency toward hyper skepticism about anything religious. I think that tendency develops as a result of being exposed to the excuses of Latter-day Saint Church apologists. I can understand why that would happen. It makes good sense to thoroughly evaluate all religious claims after what many consider to be an experience of betrayal by the Latter-day Saint Church organization.

    As a result of the hyper skepticism that develops and the teachings of people like Bart Ehrman, many former Latter-day Saints seem to try to evaluate Biblical events in a natural way. While many events related in the Bible are natural events, things like creation, the resurrection and Noah’s flood are clearly supernatural events. In my opinion, it would not be humanly possible for Noah and those with him to gather all those animals together and get them on the ark , feed them, clean them, care for them and have all that were needed for future reproduction survive the flood. From a natural perspective, it would have been chaos.

    The Bible relates that the animals went into the ark, not that Noah went out and rounded them up. According to the Bible, they went in two and two or two by two. It also relates that God Himself shut the door to the ark, not Noah or any of his family. In addition, there is the magnitude of the flood itself and the timing of the receding of the waters and the drying up of the land. Also, there is the differentiation of species from a relatively small population size on the Ark and the repopulation of the globe after the flood. Once again, in my opinion, this is all clearly supernatural. I don’t think the story of Noah and the ark is intended to be viewed as a natural event. If it was supernatural, I think it is quite probable that God facilitated the survival and differentiation of all the animals He needed to repopulate the Earth after the flood. If God created DNA, He would certainly know how to manipulate it to produce a desired result.

    I think the flood narrative was a miraculous event . . . I think God made it happen . . . but I don’t think the Bible has ever claimed otherwise. As I read the story in Genesis, I think it is logical to view the story of Noah and the flood as a place where God directly intervened in human history to bring about His desired end result. In comparison to the major miracle of the Bible, the initial creation event, gathering the required number of animals and humans into the ark and then having them survive and reproduce to produce a desired end result would have been child’s play for God.

    In addition, Jesus spoke of Noah in Matthew (24:36-41). He seemed to think the story had really happened. Since I trust the words of Jesus in this passage, I think Noah’s flood really happened. I also think it was clearly a supernatural event. While that might be difficult for Kelly to accept, it makes sense to me . . . if for no other reason than the Biblical fact that Jesus believed it really happened.

  10. Just finished part 3; great story and thanks for sharing! And thank you for your service!

    Britton/Mason – So glad to hear that you have realized that your authenticity and happiness are most important. You are not alone, I think the estimate is now ~500 million LGBTQ, and significantly more advocates (compare that to ~5M ‘active’ Mormons ha). When my son came out, it was devastating to hear that he had to endure years of trauma thinking that Satan was trying to make him gay. No more silence… you and your generation are going to change the world for the goodness of humanity.

    Kelly/Heather – The love you have shown and continue to show for both your straight and gay children is remarkable, and by far exceeds the Mormon teachings/behaviors. Just think about it… if you were to follow the example and ‘love’ of the ‘Mormon god’, you would have shunned and cast out Britton and Mason like the ‘Mormon god’ did to ‘his’ 2nd son and 1/3 of ‘his host’. It is unbelievable and very sad how this one example has been practiced for generations in Mormonism. The past/current Mormon leadership are obviously responsible for this and other terrible learned behaviors, and it’s also very sad that they did not/don’t realize that they were/are victims of ‘the system’ (as referred in this episode ha).

    I get it that there is not a perfect ‘system’, and every system has the good and the bad, but in the end it is obvious that this ‘system’ was founded and based on lies from pathological and/or compulsive liars. And it is also obvious that the advanced/amazing human neurological system is very venerable, and the combined outcome has resulted in a group of victims that have had to navigate through a ‘system’ of abuse, fraud, and extortion at several levels (or continue with the ‘ignorance is bliss’ mentality). And it will take all of us to influence and motivate for change. Again… no more silence.

    John/Carah – And thank you for all you do!

  11. Wow, my heart goes out to the Laings (and most all that share on Mormon Stories) I grew up Reorganized LDS which in my experience was not nearly as adept at or set on brainwashing its members, however, JS and BofM and the “one true church” were probably nearly as deified as the LDS created idols of these three. The devastation I felt (in my late 20s) when I realized it all was based on a hoax, basically an amazingly successful scam. The pain of being duped and programmed was acute. It is hard to imagine what TBMs must feel with this realization! Heart hugs!

    Though I’m not involved in any church I’m still fascinated by the ongoing saga of a young, man’s made-up story about heavenly visitation. The RLDS, now Community of Christ has evolved remarkably imo but still may not survive those fallacious roots, it will be interesting to see how the LDS weathers purposefully manipulating and subjugating members under the guise of “accessing” God. What an atrocious act by any and all religions to promote a judgmental, condemning and punitive God.

  12. Wow, Kelly…. goosebumps. I’m your age, Congrats on all your accomplishments. I was like Brit, perfect kid and as deeply TBM as I was closeted. My perfectly served mission would be my offering on the alter to God who would take my gay away. In addition, it would continue the lie to family and friends that I was a sinful, unworthy being. So much at stake and I went at it hard, like in all my academic, athletic, seminary, church calling and other pursuits. Halfway through the mission, holding it all together, suppressing, hiding, ignoring, turning switches off, elevating my thoughts, singing hymns in my head, studying, memorizing, internalizing scriptures and missionary discussions – MY MOTHER, my incredible, amazing, beautiful, loving mother, my best friend, died of cancer. Devastating, soul crushing, horrifying loss. The bottom fell out. The color went out of the world. I doubled down and robotically went through the motions – confused as to why God hadn’t accepted our offerings, listened to our prayers, so many priesthood blessings, so much fasting, such dedication to my mission. It must be me? In my sick, naive 19-year-old brain, I was sinful down deep, unworthy to have a mother healed, it was my sinful soul that neutralized all the faith, blessings, prayer and good work of others who were worthy. I doubled down, frightened, angry. I pushed my pain down further, which just gave my budding, idle sexuality more strength. I had never acted, but knew inside it would always be a part of me and eventually swallow me up and cause me to sin. If God hadn’t delivered my sweet perfect mother, what chance did I have. He hated me like all my family would if they knew my secret The cocktail of fear, shame, self-hatred and loss was suffocating. My father, also devastated by my mother’s death, was moving on, a trait that I have always admired. With the encouraging counseling of our bishop and stake president, who knew his struggles and whose intention was to not lose him, my father began dating. He was a catch. Eight months later (while still on my mission) he married again in the temple. Like your father, he explained to us that it was him who, after years of marriage, had to wake up to an empty pillow every morning. He couldn’t take it any longer and needed a companion (in all ways). We all buried the hurt and shock and disrespect to our mother, for his happiness and mental health. He didn’t consider ours. It has been a wonderful marriage for him and I love them both. I finished my mission, honorably but damaged. Dad had sold the house, gotten rid of furniture, boxed up pictures and our old life, fully leaned in to his new home, new life, new family. Outwardly I was happy for him but for me personally in the dark recesses of my mind it was brutal, bloody, morose – as if someone had ripped off my limbs one by one. Know one knew, not even me, the depression that was coiling around my brain and tightening. Back to BYU, trying to fit, be the perfect kid that I had always been somehow had lost my edge. I knew nothing about clinical depression, ptsd, grief – just thought it was normal and all adults felt that way, It was part of being an adult. I went from A student to failure, embarrassing dating attempts, unable to sleep, can’t eat, so alone, abandoned, all the while my desperate normal natural urge to find love and be loved which should have been beautiful but was dirty and evil because my particular need was same-sex. Realizing it would never diminish, and I could never act, my life would be forever grey, alone, unloved. I couldn’t talk about it – my mind wouldn’t let the words out. What difference would it make anyway. My self talk: “If your hand offends God, cut it off”, “a sin next to murder””, “millstone around his neck and cast into the sea” “shame on your family”, ” I can’t do this one more day”. My subsequent suicide attempt landed me in the Provo hospital. Years of realization, anxiety, therapy freed and a phd in actual church history -led me out and to health. But along the way, my family believing and believes still that I was an apostate, morally weak and not faithful enough. I don’t mind for me, but now tam desperate for the the next generation of our family and all Mormon youth. Beautiful souls there, that happen to be gay, are being told to buck up and get through this life faithfully in the Church. Platonic relationships are good enough for you but com celebrate your siblings’ prom dates, courtships, marriages, anniversaries, children and be happy with that. This from a man who couldn’t go 8 months without a companion who needed my understanding, acceptance and support. It’s maddening. It feels like the mother who sides with the abusing stepfather (church policy) over their own child/grandchild’s suffering. Kudos to you for putting your children first and stepping out of the line of fire with them. I see my sexuality as a blessing now. Had I been a straight man, I would have had no reason to question the leadership and doctrines. But I knew from personal experience they had it wrong on the gays. So what else were they wrong about? So much, as it turns out.. All the more respect for straight white men who look past all those doctrines that affirm their identity and the see the rest of us oddballs and stand up for us.

  13. Inspiring stories all around but I personally said HURRAY when after Briton said, “I didn’t choose this. I’ve been told my whole life that I’m broken”, he added, “I’m not broken!” That truly is the message that needs to be broadcast to one and all. Homosexuality, just like heterosexuality and everything in between, is a naturally occurring phenomena across the spectrum of human sexuality and it always has been. There simply isn’t a right or wrong sexual orientation. Sooner or later Mormonism, along with every other institution that demonizes folks for something none of us has a choice in, will need to wake up and smell the coffee or fade away to insignificance. Unfortunately, the Mormon corporation has so much fricken money they could continue spouting this nonsense for another 5 or 6 generations. Anyway, thanks to all for sharing your stories.

  14. This Mormon story is as powerful as they come. As Kelly noted, the Laing story illustrates again the moral imperative of informed consent. Thanks so much for sharing.

    For me, not being given the opportunity of informed consent until 41, decades after crossing very important crossroads in life, I understand how angry Kelly was at age 46.

    So happy that the Laing family left together. Imagine the millions that do it on their own without their family. It’s even worse.

  15. Blessings to the Laing ohana for sharing their testimonies of the deceit, false witnessing outright lies, gaslighting, morrally corrupt, and dangerous teachings of the Corporation of the Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints.

    Class Action lawsuits and liens in the Hundreds of Billions are warranted.

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