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

11 Comments

  1. Charlie Bird Fan February 6, 2024 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    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.

    • lbell February 9, 2024 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      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. VFanRJ February 6, 2024 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    Where is Troy’s outrage against Deznat?

  3. Sam February 7, 2024 at 11:28 am - Reply

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

  4. Craig Peterson February 7, 2024 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    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.

  5. Mike February 7, 2024 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Sam February 8, 2024 at 2:18 pm - Reply

      Dear Mike, I really hope you know satire when you see it.

  6. Sue Gates February 8, 2024 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    Dear Charlie Bird Fan,
    Your comment was hilarious and made my day!

  7. Robert M Hodge February 9, 2024 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    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.

  8. Den "Arrow" February 10, 2024 at 2:51 am - Reply

    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.

  9. Marianna February 12, 2024 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    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.

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