In these episodes of Mormon Stories, we interview former LDS Stake President and LDS Chief Architect Laurie Lee Hall. Laurie Lee’s story is fascinating on many levels:
- Laurie Lee worked for 20 years as Chief Architect for the LDS Church and as Director of Design and/or Construction for around 40 LDS temples.
- She served as Stake President of the Tooele Utah Valley View Stake in Tooele, Utah for 8 years.
- While she remembers identifying internally as a woman from a very young age, she began to experience intense pressure to transition to female while serving as an LDS Stake President. This ultimately led to her being released as stake president after 8 years of service.
- About two months ago Laurie Lee was excommunicated stemming from her decision to transition gender presentation while living in her home ward/stake.
- Laurie Lee and her spouse have been married 32 years this month and are the parents of five children and 11 grandchildren.
- Laurie Lee remains a believer in many of the core tenets of Mormonism (e.g., Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the atonement), and reads the Book of Mormon daily.
Laurie Lee Hall was born and raised in New England, and trained as an architect and construction manager at Rensselaer Polytechnic in Upstate New York. During this time she was taught the Restored Gospel and joined the LDS Church, later serving a mission to Argentina.
She and her family moved to Utah in 1996, as she began employment at LDS Church Headquarters.
Ms. Hall worked at the Headquarters for 20 years until her retirement last summer. During the last 15 years, Laurie served as a Chief Architect for the Church and as Director of Design and/or Construction for Temples and Special Projects.
Concurrently, she was called and served as an LDS Bishop and later as a Stake President.
Her lifetime long and deeply personal journey to live authentically to her internal gender identity, was finally fully realized just this past summer.
Laurie Lee Hall is the Director of LLH Pathways, LLC, a Professional Coaching and Business Development Consulting practice; and the Founder of the Families and Gender Variance Project which seeks to strengthen the love, empathy and communication between gender variant persons and their families.
Question for Laurie.
Allocation of tithing funds, is tithing spent wisely? frivolously? Are they using other funds more then tithing?
Thank you for sharing your personal experience with us, I imagine it’s not easy and I hope you are treated kindly and respectfully. How did you make sense of identifying as a woman when you were younger in the context of the church? Did you have people you could talk to about it? Were you able to be open about that at all with church leaders while you were working as the church architect? If so, do you feel comfortable sharing anything that stayed with you from their feedback? Do you remember any pivotal moments of self-acceptance in your transition? How far along were you when you started experiencing church discipline? I’m sure that must have been hard. How have you and your spouse navigated your transition in your marriage?
What was the most faith promoting request from the Brethren in the design of temples?
I straight man in 50’s. How do you not shatter as a person with such a large public change in you’re Life and the core of who you are?
Big Hug for you . What a tough road . Know that you are loved. !!! please share how you move forward that would be inspiring to me.
Hi. Thank you for your bravery. Question: how often does the budget for building a temple go over? Does the church lean more towards cutting costs? If so, what gets cut first?
How has your spouse reacted/responded to your transition?
This is discussed by Laurie in some detail in part 3 about half way through as I recall.
Are there any upper leaders of the church that you know from personal experience are more open to LGBT+ issues? If so, which ones? From personal experience do you know any that are completely opposed to any type of ideologically bending on this issue? If so, which ones?
Are you and the mother of your children still married? Did she always know? How did she respond?
Good on you and congratulations for having the courage to finally embrace your true self and share the journey publicly.
Critics may suggest the timing is convenient, having retired in 2016 after 20 years employment for the Church.
How, over the past 40 or so years, did you manage any ambivalence you may have experienced regarding, your wife and family, the nature of your employer and/or those members over whom you presided, while understanding the consequences of ‘coming out’ and revealing your gender identity as a woman?
All the best for the future.
My understanding is that you can’t transition as a member of the church, but you can rejoin/join the church as your desired gender. Can you not rejoin because you are married to another female(homosexual relationship)?
You can not rejoin the church as your desired gender.
Any discussion of 2nd anointings in her experience working with temples?
Questions for Laurie:
How much does it cost to build a temple? small ones, big ones, around the world. Could you give us some examples? for example the paris temple (did it cost 80 million euros?Whats the monthly cost of running a temple? how much did the apartment complex next to the Philadelphia temple cost?
Does the church build temples/meetinghouses to laundry money? how do you explain the church building meeting houses all over the world with wards of 50-80 people atteding regularly?
Did the Church allow you to keep your pension? Did you feel that God was working His will as Gordon B. Hinckley implemented the smaller temples? What role did you play in designing the smaller temples? Were there times you felt very close to General Authorities in working on the design of the smaller temples, and later, on the many Utah and Idaho temples? What aspects of Mormonism still resonate with you as being “true”?
While designing temples, was Laurie told to “spare no expense,” or were there areas where she was told to dial it back a bit? For example, the temples in Utah are quite opulent, but the temples smaller temples I saw in other countries are more basic and similar. Other than Gordon Hinckley’s “small temple” design being easier to build and find land, were there financial reasons behind the “scaled back” design? (Thanks for doing this interview. All my best.)
What is the average construction cost per temple? I have heard that GA’s families and connections have a preference on bidding contracts is this true?
A transgender woman just joined our branch. She hasn’t publicly disclosed, but leadership leaked the info. What things would be helpful or unhelpful to say and do?
I’m interested to know if you told any church leaders about identifying as a woman early in life. If so, what advice did they give you? Did you receive any promises or blessings where you were told your feelings would go away if you had faith?
In your experience as a Stake President, did you see many faith crisis? What did you do to help those with a faith crisis? How do you feel one should address a faith crisis within one’s own ward or stake? Should they discuss it with leaders?
Do you get a sense that meeting with seventies is more about the numbers than the individuals. I realize that the numbers are much about what they see, but do you see where the spirit was leading or policy and pressure on business like processes to be implemented?
Just want to say… “YOU GO GIRL!” Way to stand in your truth! <3
So many questions- Dr. Dehlin so many. ..Firstly Laurie Lee – [ one of my favourite english authors, I lived near him once btw ] Girl, YOU LOOK STUNNING – and welcome to the sisterhood sweetiexxx. So……Q?….Considering how bravely all that you have survived so far, With the CES and subsequent publication of huge amounts of historical evidence. Q. 1] how easy/difficult for you still 2 have a belief in the ”truthfulness” of the Church as is is now constituted. Do you think it is as The Christ would recognise or has it changed into a corporation front.. Q 2] Do you KNOW if the Prophets really – ‘DO’ -; have a personal witness of the resurrected Christ. Thankyou xxx Sending Love Light and Peace your way
Hi Laurie Lee, I like you transitioned whilst a member of the church. I seriously contemplated suicide at the time and got zero support from the church other than being ‘treated’ for being gay by a psychologist who had zero experience of someone bring tran. Even the bishopric left me alone, people who I considered close friends and who I haven’t seen since. My question after all that is, have you received a similar experience of being shunned, if so, how had that effected you and your faith, especially as you live in the heartland of mormonism?
I left the church embittered although still believe in many of the tenants of the church but consider myself a spiritualist if anything.
I wish you, your wife and your family all the best for the future.
Church employees called the economic development around the New Zealand temple “sparkle” and protecting the environs of the temple. Is this an ideology imposed by PRI to leverage temples as tools of economic development. To providing living and shopping for the top 1%? The City Creek-ification of temple environs?
Can you comment on the dissolving of the church independent auditing committee in 2001. This appears to be part of the plan to accelerate the construction of temples and City Creek Center without oversight. It was reinstated in 2013. Has the cart / temples been put before the horse / temple names. The rumor is that temples regularly run out of names.
– As a stake president, did you ever counsel any members who, like you, identified with the gender not of the body they were born with?
– If so, how did you handle it?
– Did you repeat the party line or did you speak from your heart?
– How did you juggle the contradiction of leading a local group of believers in Jesus Christ while being required to maintain an official stance towards LGBT members that is prejudicial, discriminatory and unkind?
– Have you forgiven the men who claim to represent Jesus Christ while promoting such an anti-Christ belief?
– How do you think Jesus Christ feels about you personally?
– If you could meet him and ask him a question, what would you ask?
Like you, I am an architect. Are you able to share anything about temple design that you were not ‘allowed’ to investigate further, like additional glazing, etc.? In particular, I never felt comfortable in the celestial room because although beautiful in appointment, I picture a celestial setting as more organic, like a lovely garden.
My best to you and your family as you live your life truthfully.
Which temples would you consider “yours” in terms of the amount of work you put in, or design influence you had?
I wonder, because the article isn’t from first person, how you came to your decision, especially since it was such a huge one. Do you feel you got an answer from God, that you were always supposed to be a woman? How is it that with our core teaching that we are and have been a spirit before we were born and that spirit is and always has been a female or male and we are born as that same identity as we had in the spirit world. Do you think you never did have that solid tetimony? Do you (and these are honest questions.) think that you may have been exposed to hormal changing chemicals along your life’s path which may have cause you to start thinking this way? I know that if you have kept God close and followed him to the best of your ability, you will be able to have things clear and you will be blessed. I hope your family will be blessed for the incredible things they must be going through at this time too.
The truly sad part of this story is how an individual who has dedicated their entire life to the Church and served in such influential positions can so easily be thrown out like last weeks garbage. The Savior would never treat someone this way. From my perspective these kinds of stories do more harm to the church than anything that happened 150 years ago. It is way past time for those who proclaim themselves to be “Apostles” to start acting like one. They need to learn “compassion”.
James, you eloquently summed up my main takeway after just watching all 5 hours of this amazing interview. The treatment Laurie Lee received from her Church leaders totally, completely and unquestioningly FAILS the WWJD (what would Jesus do) test. Although I respect Laurie Lee’s right to choose her personal beliefs and perspective regarding the Church, I do not understand how she can rationalize cutting The Brethren so much slack from her position as the target of such egregious un-Christlike behaviors. She gave the impression that she may not have even been excommunicated had she not served in prominent and visible positions as Bishop and Stake President. In essence, I think she was suggesting (corroborating John’s conjecture, actually) that she may have been ex’d because her coming out simply embarrassed (my word) The Brethren and they had to do something to publicly register their core level disapproval of off-mainstream behaviors by Church leaders. Maybe Jesus loves everyone, but his Only True Church certainly does NOT!
Regarding Laurie Lee’s perspective that the Church was the admittedly flawed “vehicle” that transported her to a close and comforting relationship with God, I will suggest that it’s OK to open the door and get out of the broken car when you reach your destination and then move on.
It becomes a no brainer when The Brethren pull the EJECT lever and catapult you against your will onto the street. God moves in mysterious ways and sometimes makes pivotal decisions FOR us … at those times when we are simply unable to make much-needed changes for ourselves voluntarily.
I was particularly impressed by Laurie Lee’s description of the core level awakening she felt in her body and heart zone when she started her hormone adjustment therapy. I had no idea that the very cells of her body were in living in pain … surrounded by wrong-gender biochemistry. Her description of the relief and exhilaration she experienced once the correct hormone balance was achieved was so heart warming to hear.
Thank you, John and Laurie Lee for a truly amazing education and awakening that will no doubt help countless numbers of us out here to be more accepting of everyone and more able to do what The Brethren have yet to learn . . . to simply do what Jesus would do.
Two thumbs up to you Laurie Lee. My son in law is now my daughter in law. My daughter has decided to stay married and active in the church . But her situation is rare. Most active trans women in her support group don’t transition.They know they won’t be accepted for who they are.
As someone who has never become a member of the LDS Church, but lived in Provo and Salt Lake City, long enough to experience the ‘culture’; I find Laurie’s experience to be yet another example which demonstrates without a doubt that LDS members, come with all the same issues as those who are outsiders, to the church. Yet, when one attends on a regular basis , the over-riding experience is one of obedience to LDS values and behaviour; as though there is no room for individuality, or human frailty. A culture where favour is bestowed on those who choose to conform to very strict standards which expect everyone to adhere to ‘the norm’ whatever that may be. It seems that conforming is a very high price to pay for acceptance, inclusion and to be allowed to participate in the social aspects of the church. Whilst I am the first to admire the organization of the church in taking care of its own, as far as encouraging strong families and betterment of one’s status by education, it seems that the stories of those who, for whatever reasons deviate from what the church expects, clearly demonstrates the darker side of Mormonism. Something I see as being a highly successful business venture, that with the advent of the Internet is having difficulty maintaining control, or preventing the ordinary man or woman on the street from realizing what really happens behind closed temple doors, and allowing them to gain knowlege about the organization before jumping in at the deep end. Seeing Temple ceremonies on the Internet, certainly opens one’s eyes, and exposes the LDS church in a less than favourable light. I wonder to what extent this will predict the downfall of the Church, or if the tradition of large Mormon families will sustain it in the years to come. Or, if public disclosure of church activities on this and other sites, will greatly impact the very survival of the church as those in power die off, usually at very ripe old ages. On the other hand , it seems that there will always be those who find the fellowship offered by LDS membership difficult to resist. It is almost as though paying tithes could be considered a kin to paying an insurance premium, guaranteeing that in times of strife, the Bishop’s Storehouse, along with Employment Counceling, and other church programmes appears to be a definate survival tactic against difficult economic times. Is selling one’s soul a reasonable price to pay for securing one’s future? Knowing that breaking of rules is a sure way to cause one’s ejection from the organization, remaining a member, seems to hinge more upon having family members who are still loyal to the church, as well as not wanting to rock the boat which has, in many cases provided members with a very comfortable lifestyles, which can easily plumet to financial ruin at the mention of the word, ‘Excommunication.’ The bottom line seems to be that no matter how it is sugar-coated , or glazed in mind-control, a cult is a cult, is a cult; no matter how well educated and successful its members, or how desireable their creature comforts, or marital opportunities. It seems obvious that many Ex-Mormons still maintain, to some degree, the mind-sets they embraced as church members, even though they strive to replace rituals and lifestyles, and adopt new social connections outside the church. I imagine it would be very difficult to walk away from a lifetime of family connections and friendships made while one was an active member of the church. Laurie and others interviewed by John demonstrate considerable courage in speaking out, no matter how painful that may be for them. Hopefully it provides others the example of how to be true to themselves, no matter what the consequences, especially when the church does not encourage such behaviour. Personally, my soul is not for sale, at any price, but it is easy to understand the lure of the church to men and women seeking non-drinking, non-smoking spouses who live honourable and decent lives, and place a high value on maintaining intact families in a high percentage of cases. It would be interesting to know how the percentage of disfunctional families within the church compares, with that of families outside of the church, but then again, do we ever really know what goes on ‘behind net curtains’? Just because something such as abuse is never mentioned, does not mean it does not exist, especially when the organization can well afford to pay for the silence of those who dare speak out.
I have to say I was surprised by how much I related to your situation. My distress was caused by the church pretty much from my mission forward, the disconnect between reality and doctrine for me was distressing and I felt less than for not fully believing and having to hide my thoughts, to be accepted on mission and BYU. So on some small scale I know what you mean about hiding to be accepted. For me leaving the church was a no brainer but it took me a long time to make that transition per internet. I have always been annoyed that my siblings stay in the church, I think because it separates me from them regarding belief. My spiritual path is a passion for me, so I still have to conceal it, I have shared secular Buddhism but I have to be careful what I say and a meaning full discussion is out of the question. From listening to you I understand that the church for you was a coping mechanism and helped you make your way in society. Your story gave me a greater understanding as to why someone might stay on an intuitive level. It was wrong for them to try to strip that away from you when you have spent your life trying to honor your religion and lived within its confines and doctrine. For me leaving the church was a huge blessing and knowing that it was not me that was wrong or broken has brought me peace . But your talk has helped me to have more compassion for those you choose to stay. May God bless you with peace on your life’s journey? I think I have moved a little closer to understand the plight of transgender people. The restaurant story was horrifying I can only imaging the pain that caused you. But that story did help me see why those accommodations and legal protections are so important. (truly I had no clue why it would even matter)
Final though check out the Secular Buddhism pod cast on Mormon Stories if you have not already. I have found some of those ideas immensely useful.
What an amazing story, thank you for sharing with us. I have pondered your circumstances at lenghth. You received spiritual guidance and were placed in high authority while a female. Have you any insight into empowering women, such as allowing them to hold the priesthood and have more equality with men? Perhaps this is why Heavenly Father had you born into a male body, so you could lead women into a higher existence that was only open to men?
Laurie, you are a joy and an inspiration. We have all suffered in so many different ways, and all I can do from many miles away across the ocean, is send you my love and heartfelt best wishes on your courageous journey. Great, warm hugs, from a fellow traveler.
I really would like to know more about the mental and emotional changes when becoming estrogen based rather than testosterone based. Laurie mentioned it was a huge change but gave no specifics. Also, Yes on the bangs!
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I’m still in the most of listening to this interview, but had to stop and say 2 things :
1. I just feel so terribly jazzed to realize that a woman worked so many years in such a position of responsibility in the church, in an arena that is so much a man’s world, both in church culture and in the culture at large, and that she earned such respect and did such respect – worthy work… Why this is my response, I can’t say, but I’m pleased to no end, as bizarre as that might seem.
2. I have a trans gender son, and my experience with this verifies what Laurie is saying about people who’ve member experienced any gender dysphoria. My gender was never in question for me. If anything, my gender seemed like the most unvarying, unchangeable, seemingly real aspect of my identity. Beneath everything else that I thought I was, ran this truth; that I was a female. My femaleness, I assumed, wasn’t an idea or concept, but simply fact, like the fact that I have two eyes and one mouth.
The prolonged, sometimes very painful, sometimes very muddled, sometimes discontinued, conversation I’ve had with my son over his gender, and the whole concept of gender, attuned me more and more keenly to the awareness that gender is mysterious, fluid in some ways, in some ways a construct, and has many, many layers to its reality. This was a challenge to the very core of my identity, to open to these shifts in perception. I believe I’m much healthier and stronger for having been shaken in this way, but it has not been easy or quick, to travel along this path. I’m so grateful to my son, and Laurie, and all the people in our world who are helping to shift us all by simply being themselves.
do you have documents to backup her story? I ask because she looks familiar to a former member in california i knew