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  1. I laughed, I cried, and clapped…Clark eloquently expressed things about his journey, Mormonism, and life in general that everyone needs to hear. Big thanks to both of you for the interview. I feel honored to have been there!

  2. “Give it a year.” I admired his message of patience towards members, even when their behavior isn’t supportive. Most of us were entrenched in that same mentality at one time or another. Great advice.

    Clark has an amazing ability to communicate. His humor and vibrance in describing his journey were exquisite. I didn’t want to miss a single word.

  3. That was absolutely awesome! I have a long story, but Clark’s story really hit home for me. Maybe this isn’t the right place for this, but I want to share a little.

    I am a heterosexual (not active) Mormon. I was raised Mormon from birth. I was the Deacon’s and Teacher’s quorum president, the first assistant to the bishop. I served a mission. I was married a little over a year later in the temple. I was an Elder’s quorum president while going to school. I was “a good faithful mormon” and never questioned anything. Then a little over 3 years ago my older brother took his life. I didn’t know at first why. Very shortly after I found out he was gay. I honestly didn’t know what to think. At first I didn’t want to believe that my brother, a father of five kids, could have been gay. He had always done everything “right” his entire life and set the bar high for me (mission, BYU, temple marriage, etc). How could this be? It gave me a lot of feelings of doubt and I began to question everything.

    I at first I toed the Mormon line, but very quickly started thinking, maybe it was me? Maybe it was everything I had been taught? Maybe he couldn’t tell me he was gay and about his true story, and why he spent a life suffering behind closed doors because of our up bringing? I didn’t know what to think, I was just very angry. I heard everyone’s theories like, “it’s OK you’ll see him again, you’re parents are sealed in the temple”. “Continue to live a righteous life and you’ll see him again”. “Everything will be fine”. I thought BS, “this is not fine, it’s not good”. I know people were only trying to help, but it sucked!

    Well, I have since went inactive and I have done a lot of research and fact finding. I guess it doesn’t matter if I say anything about being Mormon, or my inactivity in the LDS Church. Actually, it does. I think now it was my own prejudices and those taught to me that didn’t allow him to be honest and drove him to his end. I just don’t want anyone else to go through what I have, or more importantly what my brother did!

    I simply want anyone who is gay and Mormon to know, no matter what you choose, it’s OK! There are people who love you! There are people who want to see you be happy! There are people who are cheering for you and want you to succeed! Life is worth it!

    Sorry for the long post.

    Brent

    1. Dear Brent,

      I am so sorry to hear about your brother taking his life. What the Church has done and continues to do to its true believing members who are gay is heart breaking.

      But I am concerned that you are being too hard on yourself. You believed what you believed because you were indoctrinated with this information when you were young. It took something shocking to wake you up. I am glad that you chose to do your own research about the Church. I know that doesn’t take away your pain, but it does change how you view your brother and that is a good thing. Using your new found understanding to help others may alleviate some portion of your pain as it will allow you to stand up for your brother as you would have had you known before what you know now.

    2. Brent

      Thank you for sharing your difficult story. I am sorry for your loss.

      I particularly appreciate your response to your brother’s tragedy. It may have been easier to deal with your brother’s death by condemning who he was and what he did. Years ago I considered suicide for most likely some of the same reasons as your brother: a gay man in the church, looked upon as unworthy and immoral, with only one option available according to those around me (family, friends, authorities): go forth and be straight. It was sometimes a daily struggle to continue and it lasted for years until I was able to break free from the guilt that others had convinced me I must feel.

      Your brother was lucky to have a brother like you. Thank you for loving him. He deserved it.

  4. I’ve only watched the first part but it was awesome. Something I want to share is about something I read on exmormon.org and how it relates to Clark.

    Here is Clark who is trying to do his best to fit into the gospel while at the same time struggling with who he is, who God made him. Clark obviously isn’t alone as there are many people who are gay and mormon and struggle in this church. Some commit suicide, some just hide it, some leave because deep down they aren’t really welcome unless they change who they are.

    Here is how I tie I the quote from ex mormon. The guy basically said, “Here we have men who proclaim to be prophets, seers, and revelators who can’t seem to answer a very important subject that is very damaging to a certain part of their members. Something that is emotionally stressful, is taking lives, and ripping families apart. Where is God and what guidance can he give us? Well apparently it’s either not important enough to discuss or be brought up. But don’t worry, we received guidance on what the appropriate amount of earrings a girl should wear. You know, the real important stuff.”

    The church is worse off without people like Clark while people like him are better off.

  5. Clark Johnsen you are an amazing man. Well worth the couple of hours to watch these Mormon Stories. You are wise, eloquent, smart, self aware, talented.
    I, too, loved the interview.

  6. I have a close relative who is gay. When he told his family everyone told him that they love him and that family is family. Completly accepted. He had a friend whose well-known LDS parents could’t accept their son being gay. They spoke with Gordon B. Hinckley and asked his advice. Hinkley told them to go home and love their son. They couldn’t or wouldn’t do that. The son has since disappeared from the area and some fear he may have killed himself. Follow the prophet’s advice….love the member of your family that might be gay.

  7. Absolutely wonderful interview. I saw the original Book of Mormon musical cast in New York and really liked it. Thank you for the entertaining and thoughtful interview.

  8. I loved the analogy of drinking the poison that is being fed to you as a good thing but that it is slowly killing you. That made it crystal clear to me what it is like trying to make it in the church when you are LGBT. Powerful.
    This is one of my favorite MS interviews ever. Bravo! Best wishes in your future in medicine.

  9. My God!!! This was just the most amazing MS EVER!!! I’ve listened to everything ever produced by MS and normally it’s the intellectual/historical productions that excite me. But this was just sublime!!! To be introduced to such an exceptional person as Clark, to hear his story, experiences and views, with such passion and obvious love was such a beautiful experience. He is a TRUE LATTER DAY SAINT!!!

    Thank you John D and THANK YOU CLARK!!!

  10. This was seriously the smartest, most thoughtful interview I’ve heard! Clark has a way of explaining things that is so amazing! And….the talent to get way off subject and bring it right back without missing a beat! What a great story and story teller. What great wisdom. I’m pretty sure my life has changed for the better because of listening to this. Thank you Clark and thank you John!

  11. This was a great interview. Man, Clark is so funny, and such a thoughtful and eloquent speaker. His profound respect for faith as a social adhesive, his love for unbelievers and the faithful alike, and his personal journey and amazing self-awareness (I’m thinking particularly of when he talks about trying not to be a “missionary to getting people out the church”) is admirable. And I appreciated his very apt reading of both Book of Mormon and the South Park episode, “All About Mormons” as post-literalist, pro-faith works. He expresses and exemplifies so much grace, humility, and love. I’m truly inspired by him.

  12. Wow just Wow. Let me explain. After what seems a lifetime of church membership I believed somehow I just wasn’t good enough and didn’t seem measure up. After all the callings as a missionary, as a young bishop or even after serving in two stake high Councils, I just seemed to fall short of who I thought I should be or could be. If I had been gay as well then life really would have been impossible with what I thought I understood about god but I digress. So after 60 years something finally clicked and I resigned from the church so fast, fact, I hadn’t even shared it with any of my family which looking back probably wasn’t really the best way to exit but like I said, I was really done with the church. Since leaving, I’d been lurking on the internet trying to deal with the angst I was feeling trying to make sense of it all. I soon heard the Tom Phillip’s story. I felt a kinship because of the many hours we both had served many hours and the challenges that were had. However, when he spoke of the second anointing that I found so very fascinating my mind began to open up to new ideas. Fast forward a year later to tonight and I am left almost speechless by Clark and John. Clark I want give you my personal standing “O” for sharing your outstanding story. Kudos for helping me to wake from my slumber, to open my eyes and really see clearly for the first time in my life. Think of all the families that will be helped by hearing you speak your peace. Wow just Wow…..I loved it.

  13. What a great interview! Clark: it was a pleasure listening to your story! I haven’t been able to laugh at the nuances of Mormon world in a while and I have barely been able to contain my laughter while tuning in at work. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m so glad that you are in a healthy place. Best of luck in med school!

  14. I guess I’m what you guys call a “TBM.” I must say that this was a fascinating interview. I have never in my life met an openly gay person. I found it absolutely riveting to watch and listen to this man.

    Here are three takeaways for me:

    Gay marriage: I used to oppose it. Not anymore. This guy is so real, so human, so genuine. Gayness makes my skin crawl and is “gross” to me. But it is real to this man and the others like him. When he says he has always felt this way, I believe him. If he wants to get married, that’s his business, not mine. My heterosexuality probably is “gross” to him. Seriously, this one interview completely changed my mind on gay marriage.

    Stereotypes/Unfair Generalizations: Although I appreciate his efforts to give an honest and fair assessment of his experience growing up in the church and serving a mission, I felt like it had a lot of generalizations and stereotypes that were very different from my experience. It’s not really fair for him to imply that his experiences (particularly how he and his companions approached missionary work) are everyone’s experiences.

    The Musical: In full disclosure, I admit that I have not seen the musical. But I have watched several interviews of Parker and Stone about their motives for creating it and now also this interview with an actor in it. Having grown up in an abusive environment in my home, I recognize in these people who are associated with the play the same justifications that I heard from my abusive father. Namely, “I’m not abusing your mother. Yes, I punched her and pulled her hair and dragged her down the stairs. But the reason that looks like abuse to you is because that is what you are looking for. You are playing the victim just like her. I’m actually doing her and the rest of the family a favor by teaching you a deeper lesson than you see at first glance. If you were more mature and thoughtful and would look deeper into what I’m doing you would see that it is a good thing. And I am actually a kind and loving person who is doing this family a favor in the long run.” Ughhh….it sickens me to oven write that. But with a little variation it is what Stone and Parker say when they get asked about their intent with the play and now I hear the same thing in this interview with one of the actors. But…as a “TBM” I genuinely forgive them and hold no ill will.

    I could say a a lot more…but let me just end by saying thanks for doing this interview it was very interesting and thought provoking.

    1. Dear Fred,

      I applaud your willingness to change your mind about gay marriage now that you have had the opportunity to listen to a gay man speak. May I recommend that if you haven’t already read any Mormon history unedited by the Church that you consider reading some. An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins by LDS educator Grant Palmer is a good place to start. It will give you a better perspective on where non TBM are coming from.

  15. …and I realize he didn’t say a single thing about gay marriage. But it is an issue that has been on my mind a lot as the courts have been rendering their decisions across the country. Listening to this warm, genuine, thoughtful man just put a human face on the issue for me.

  16. …And John, I thought your best moment in the interview came when you held his feet to the fire a bit. After he said he has no desire to figuratively take a baseball bat and “break the precious china” on his way out of the church you very astutely asked him if that isn’t what the musical does. His answer was basically “well, we smashed it all to pieces but it was all in fun and in the end we did a really nice job of gluing it all back together and it made for a good teachable moment for all…”
    But again…I sincerely forgive him and everyone else who participated in the Musical.

  17. As a fellow gay former Mormon I felt a great deal of kinship listening to Clark. Wonderful interview. In light of the recent TV SHOW on married gay Mormons, it was nice to hear of his mature thoughtful process of deciding to not follow that path in life. I imagine that woman will one day thank him for his wisdom if she hasn’t already. My ex-wife will testify you saved her and many others a lot of pain.

    One note to Fed’s comments above. I’ve seen the musical twice. Once with Clark in it! To use your abuse analogy, as one who felt spiritually abused by the LDS church, the musical felt to me more like the outsider who came in and put the abuser in his place. The number “Turn it Off” was so healing because it was so true to my experience and to have someone else defend me like that was precious.

  18. John and Clark,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Clark, from this interview it is obvious that you are a beautiful and honest person inside and out. I was deeply moved by your story. John, this was one of your best interviews. Keep up the great work. It has meant the world to me.

  19. One of the best M.S. interviews ever! Clark is so entertaining and articulate. I hope someday the LDS church will understand that it is far worse off leaving no room for people like Clark & John!

  20. Mormon Stories Podcasts are great, thank you John, but of all the amazing interviews, these with Clark are the best! So positive and full of energy! They bring out such a range of emotions! I hope a lot of people listen!

  21. Yes, Clark and John, absolutely this will save lives, bless your hearts. It is the kind of outreach the Brethren should be making instead of that hopeless, bankrupt, deadly message we hear at every conference and so many BYU/BYU-I devotionals. I will make my first contribution to Mormon Stories tonight.

  22. Bravo! Bravo! Fantastic interview John. So happy to finally hear it! Loved every minute of it. Clark is an amazing, talented, articulate person. I hope all LGBT youth in the LDS church can be directed to this interview. What a blessing it would be for them to hear about Clark’s journey. They need and deserve hope and love and acceptance.

  23. I dont give a damn about language myself… BUT PLEASE CREATE A LANGUAGE EDITED (rated G) VERSION OF THIS SO i CAN SHARE IT WITH MY TBM MORMON FRIENDS AND FAMILY.

  24. John, you’re so courageous in what you are doing. You have and are being blessed. As a teacher I did what I could do for 23 years in a pilot inner city school to help marginalized families love and value their children, regardless of sex, race, creed etc. and other challenges and circumstances they faced. I’ve never deviated from that belief, and my husband and family always supported me in my endeavors. However, at our age (85, 86) we just desire to be left alone and live the “fruits of the spirit” the best we can each and everyday.
    It would be interesting to meet you and your family someday.

    My first contacts with same sex preferences was at BYU. I loved my contacts and years spent at BYU. Everyone should hear this interview.
    We send our love, joy and peace to you. The season and purpose for everything in the world is ready NOW. God bless you.

  25. Just a minor detail.

    Clark said he considers himself more an agnostic than an atheist. Ultimately, how he decides to label himself is entirely up to him.

    That said, Agnosticism is less and less considered a sort of middle position between theism and atheism, as Clark seemed to perceive.

    Instead, atheism and theism are increasingly understood under a single binary proposition. You’re a theist, or not.

    Again it’s up to Clark to define himself as he sees fit, but this reasoning would indeed make him (and John Dehlin, for that matter) an Atheist. Agnostic Atheist, to be precise, but very much an Atheist.

  26. Clark, this was a wonderful interview. You are incredibly wise, funny, and inspirational. All the best with your medical degree. You will have to tell us where you end up practicing so we can sign up to be your patients!

  27. So much fun to listen to his journey. Mine was so similar. I even went to the gay bar, the Sun (many times) that he mentions many times before it was taken out by that tornado. One of my favorite stories has to do with my patriarchal blessing getting me into the Sun. This was in the early 90s and I had come up to Salt Lake (from Utah valley) with a friend, I had only been there once or twice (I was in my early 20s). I got up and realized I had left my drivers license at home for some reason, but in my wallet I had credit card size reproduction of my patriarchal blessing my dad had made for me (so I could pull it out and read whenever I felt temptation :-). It had my birthdate on it and so I embarrassingly handed it to the door person who laughed and let me in!

      1. Not that I remember specifically about being gay. Although I liked my patriarchal blessing, it did say something about having kids and a large family if I remember (which obviously hasn’t happened). The above story is funny (and very true), but this blessing was also a source of anxiety for me when I got it around the age of 12 or 13. Around that age I had started to discover masturbation and also had this sense that I was ‘different’ and was also beginning to understand that this difference was basically an attraction to men. Along with that was a very strong sense that it was a BAD thing. This was in the era of Spencer W. Kimball (early 80s) and his less than scientific attitudes and beliefs that were heavily influencing Mormon thought at the time regarding homosexuality and masturbation. I can still see in my mind’s eye the copy of Miracle of Forgiveness on a book shelf in our home from the time. Anyway, It was decided that I was ready for my patriarchal blessing and the arrangement was made. I remember it with a lot of clarity because I felt so much fear and shame, this heavy weight, that I wasn’t worthy to receive it. But the thought of having to confess these ‘sins’ was worse, so I just kept it to myself. It wasn’t long after that that I had a ‘worthiness interview’ so I could start doing baptisms for the dead, except in this case I did confess to the bishop that I had a ‘masturbation problem’. That situation is a whole other story, but for me these situations set the stage for avoiding church leaders and also my parents. It was dangerous to confide in people and the end result was that for the decade of my adolescence I didn’t talk to anyone about my feelings. So with this backdrop I’ve always kind of laughed about using this patriarchal blessing as a way of getting into a gay bar. I didn’t set out to do this, it just was a kind of last minute sudden thing that happened as I was walking into this club and realized I didn’t have my proper ID with me. Probably only in SLC could this scenario have happened.

        1. Chris, if you haven’t heard it yet, take a listen to the “Little Factories” episode of the Infants On Thrones podcast – they cover some of these topics in a sensitive but simultaneously hilarious episode. They dissect the mind-twisting that happens to boys getting these messages. And I promise many snort-laughs throughout. (Others: take note of the Explicit warning.)

          1. I’m still in the middle of listening to this, but i will say that this material they’re ‘discussing’ (LOL) was the backdrop for my adolescence. This stuff really does need to continue to be brought out into the light. It had such a negative impact on me (I was even given the ‘little factories’ talk first hand).

          2. Yipe, Chris. I started looking into church issues as an outsider (“nevermo”) because of my feminism, but I’ve learned a lot thanks to podcasts like Mormon Stories about the kind of damage a lot of members, male/female, gay/straight sustain when they can’t fit into the holes (no pun intended) that are circumscribed by doctrine/culture. My heart goes out to you all and I wish you wellness and healing. (And yes, I’m not free of culture-baggage or damage myself.)

        2. Chris,

          Thanks for sharing your story. I am so sorry for all the pain you have experienced, especially during your adolescence. (I’m glad you have at least one thing to laugh about now.) I have been miserable in the church for at least 15 years. I’m so glad my brother referred my to Mormon Stories. I found out about the CES letter from my local Mormon Stories support group just a few weeks ago. After the initial pain and shock (which led to a lot more reading), I am already starting to feel my life changing for the better. It is such a relief to no longer have to believe that every thing the church teaches is true!

  28. While much of Clark’s story is compelling, I find it odd that someone with Clark’s experience would participate in a production with the bigoted caricatures presented in The Book of Mormon The Musical. Many have pointed out that if we were to replace the show’s Mormons with Jews or Muslims, a media cataclysm would result. How about something like “The Absurd Adventures of Harvey Milk — The Musical”? Not even a chance, right? Why is it okay to lampoon one groups sacred icons and mythologies while not another’s?

    1. Mike Maxwell, the answer is simple. They know they can get away with it because the church has never responded with violence or anger or in any way defended itself. I laughed when he described how they beefed up security for fear there would be a swarm of furious Mormon’s at their door. How little they really know us. When the pioneers moved out west after being driven repeatedly from their homes, and the government tried to come out and squash the church as a result of it’s polygamous practices, they came close to war, but only because they were being threatened with extinction. Other than that and a few other small examples of isolated incidents, the church and it’s people have been peaceful, patient, and forgiving… plus they take pride in being peculiar. Ultimately, you can choose to judge the church harshly because of their weird beliefs, or you can be grateful for the type of loving and generally kind people that the belief system usually (but not always) produces.

      Plus, to be fair, what other religion has as many things worthy of poking fun at? All religions have their bizarre beliefs, but the Mormon church’s origins are more recent, more well documented, more socially deviant, and therefore more mockable. Plus we proselyte, have prophets & apostles who claim divine revelation, have new scripture, and those things make us a more visible target.

      Still, I’m amazed at the type of incredible people I find in the church, it is truly stunning. There are incredible people everywhere, don’t get me wrong, but those who come from LDS origins and firmly hold to the moral tenets really do stand out as a unique and wonderful people. There’s an awful lot of dysfunction as well, as with any organization or family, but that doesn’t automatically disqualify or invalidate the benefits.

      I look forward to the day when people in and out of the faith interact with each other in the way the Clark describes. Stories like this will certainly move us in that direction.

  29. I am not a Mormon. I can’t begin to understand how much Mormonism is so crucially integrated into one’s physical, emotional, secular, and spiritual life. This interview was breathtaking. I hope that Clark is able to share his story with other mormons who are struggling with their faith and/or sexuality. He knows himself so well and, I think, possesses wisdom one does not usually acquire until later in life. Very impressive interview.

  30. Thank you for this. I have two gay sons — absolutely wonderful, loving human beings — who have been through a similar journey. We’ve been through reparative therapy, missions, broken engagements, and finally…. the elixir. Love. They are both happy now. And so am I. My husband is still pretty programmed and resistant to complete acceptance, but he’s getting better too. I am hopeful for change within the Church, but sadly, I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime. Oh well. Just grateful that we live now instead of in the past. Thanks again, Clark and John!

  31. Loved the interview, which gave me new insights into the BOM Musical. I saw it in LA, and it was so very well done.

    Thank you Clark. Thank you John. It was one of the best blocks of time I’ve spent in quite some time.

    My one complaint about the show is that it’s hard to sing along with songs like “F you, God” like I do with other B’way tunes. Luckily you can with “Hello” and “I Believe” which I think are the most memorable tunes.

    For me, the show’s message can be reduced to one word. “HELLO?!?”

  32. Very informative and entertaining interview!

    He reminds me of a close cousin of mine who stayed TBM as a gay man until he finished his mission and graduated with honors from BYU, then came out of the closet and shocked his family into an absolute stupor. It took time, but everybody adjusted eventually. He simply stayed true to who he was and was patient with the family as we all adjusted. It turned out fine.

    Hearing Clark’s story shed a lot of light on what it must have been like for my cousin. I went out and visited with my cousin when he moved to Vegas, and he was just the same good guy with good heart and an incredible intellect. His mom told me that he’d been proposed to by a few women who loved him and felt he’d be an amazing companion, but he couldn’t bring himself to make that choice, to be untrue to his orientation, as much as he would love a family. He had considered those proposals very seriously, but came to many of the same conclusions that Clark did.

    Most of his friends were female, and they loved him. Eventually he married a his male partner and they were very in love, very affectionate. Sadly, my cousin’s marriage didn’t last any longer than heterosexual relationships do these days, and that was incredibly hard for him.

    In my humble opinion, if God exists, and he intentionally created a world where a sizable percentage of children are born with homosexual tendencies, then he must have done it for a purpose. If he wanted a world where a variety of religions exist that contradict each other, then he must have done it for a reason. God could come down here, in person, and put it all in order if He wanted to, and maybe some day He will, but for now the only reason that makes sense is that he wants to test us, to see how we treat people that are different than us. That test, how we treat others of different faith, religion, race, orientation, or upbringing, is the ultimate test. Homosexuals strive just as hard as anybody to learn how to be loving people, and many succeed in spectacular fashion. Clark appears to be a prime example of that splendid success. It’s a joy to see.

    Hearing Clark’s internal thought processes as a homosexual who genuinely wanted to live the gospel and be a part of the church was incredibly insightful. The transition experience was especially informative.

    The audience was an interesting twist, I think it boosted his performance and story.

    Thanks for this one!

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