Our special Christmas Morning release on Mormon Stories Podcast includes an interview with Tom Christofferson about his book “That We May Be One.”

Tom shares the story of voluntary excommunication from the LDS Church in order to live his life as a gay man—a life that included a fulfilling relationship with a partner and acceptance from his family including brother D. Todd Christofferson—Apostle in the LDS Church.  Sensing a void in his spiritual life, Tom began attending a local meetinghouse of the Church with the support of its leadership. Over time his relationship with his partner ended and his relationship with the Church began again.

We ask Tom about his experience outlined in his book and delve deeper into the impacts his returning to the church had on his relationship with his partner, and on his spiritual self.  We also ask Tom tougher questions about whether his brother’s apostleship affords him greater privilege as a member of the Mormon LGBTQ community, his thoughts on the November 2015 policy on children of same-sex parents denied baptism, and his being held up as a role model (intended or not) for Mormon LGBTQ youth to choose a life of celibacy in the LDS Church.

We thank Tom for this fascinating interview and hope it furthers the conversation on reconciling sexuality with faith!

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Part 2:

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  1. Gary Horlacher December 26, 2017 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Thanks for this interview! I enjoyed hearing Tom clarify his position since I haven’t read the book. I felt it was better balanced with John’s commentary such as adding the research finding of the negative mental health of lifelong celibacy.

    I loved Tom’s example of the value of what philosophers call “radical responsibility” and psychologists call “intrinsic motivation.” That is when we take personal responsibility for making our own choices it is empowering rather than being a victim of external pressures.

    Thanks to both of you for your efforts to aid the cause of positive mental health for GLBTQ individuals and more healthy families and communities!

  2. Isaac Mathews December 26, 2017 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    I love Tom’s message. Yes, he speaks in a very nuanced language, but if every person would listen to understand him and the heart of his message, the LDS church (and most impotantly, our society) would become so much more loving, kind, and inclusive. Thank you Mormon Stories team and Tom for this interview. I believe that love will eventually and ultimately conquer this painful battle. God is love, and love will heal all hearts someday.

  3. Doubting Thomas December 26, 2017 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Is it just me, or is it ironic that the Christlike gay man sounds more like an apostle of Jesus Christ than his brother who claims to be an apostle of Jesus Christ?

    Tom’s nuanced language accurately captures the truth about God which is we don’t know ANYTHING for CERTAIN. I’ll side with the individual that teaches and encourages the love for everyone over the cruel teachings and policies of a church that flip-flops only when socially convenient to avoid condemnation.

  4. Gary Horlacher December 26, 2017 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    PS, I awanted to add one more thought. They discussed an little about how one’s degree of bisexuality makes a difference in ability for in a heterosexual marriage. Perhaps too personal to address here but sex drive also varies. The ‘A’ in LGBTIA stands for Asexual. A lower sex drive might enable one gay/lesbian member to maintain lifelong celibacy, where it may not be a healthy option for others. Thanks again!

  5. Scotty December 27, 2017 at 12:56 am - Reply

    I don’t doubt the sincerity or the integrity of Tom. He conveys a message of love, tolerance, and hope. Unfortunately, the Brethren have drawn a big red line regarding same sex marriage and labels those couples as apostates and withhold ordinances and blessings to their children. The Church recently did a Friend of the Court Brief to a Supreme Court Case in support of gay discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. In my experience, most LGBT members see these actions policies of the Church as hostile and unwelcoming. Hopefully one day Tom’s hopes and future vision may come to pass.

  6. Wendy Perry December 27, 2017 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    it was clear to me that he WAS saying that doing your best means “good for you, you missed the mark but hey, you did the best you could!” Also he followed that up with saying that you really need to examine yourself…. your motives, etc. and talked about the spiritual almost as if it trumped the temporal, physical intimacy needs of humans– the implication in all his interviews being — there is the lower choice, the carnal homosexual route, and the higher spiritual celibate route. I think he sees himself as above others and very priestly, but doesn’t want to come across as too harsh too the non-priestly class of gays who are going for the “earthy” pleasures, as he did when he was young. I am very disturbed and worried about some of the messaging here. John, you did a brilliant job.
    I don’t square his idea of gay couples engaging in wards after the November policy.
    And the logic follows. Being married to a woman and being sexually unfulfilled is a bad, horrible path, but being single and celibate or “room mating with your partner” is a a good path because then you can be spiritually fulfilled. ??? Also he seems to be very consistent in saying that the only path to Jesus and/ or a spiritual life is within the Mormon church.??
    He is very adept at dodging, and obscuring the intent of questions and being obtuse. I’ve listened to 845 and 846.

    • JD October 16, 2018 at 12:35 pm - Reply

      I am curious to understand how you got “Also he seems to be very consistent in saying that the only path to Jesus and/ or a spiritual life is within the Mormon church.??” when he constantly stated that people needed to make the best decisions for them personally and if that wasn’t with the church then so be it. He stated he and his partner tried other churches, they weren’t for him, that he found a lot of good in those other churches, but it didn’t mean that others couldn’t strengthen their relationship with Christ going to them. I never once heard him say the only way was the mormon way.
      I really do thank you for sharing your comments. I love seeing things from many sides because sometimes I see or hear one thing and don’t even think about it from another perspective, and I am being sincere about my question because I feel like I missed something even after listening to each part twice now.

      God Bless :)

    • John M February 28, 2019 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      It is important to remember that he is just one person sharing just one journey. Does he have an unpure agenda? I dont think so at all. And for me it was clear that he has never lost his desire for both the earthly intamcy with a gay partner and a close relationahip with Christ. He has always wanted both, even when he couldnt articulate this desire as well as he does now. And he still wants both! This is very obvious. He wouldnt even comment on the Proclamation on the Family. It has been a battle, and you are right that at the moment he wants something more than he wants the physical and emotional intimacy with another man. He is motivated to share his story, I think, because he has finally found that he can want something more. As Paul said all things are counted as dross in comparison to a close relationship with Christ. (Paraphrased) There was no notion of superiorty. Just his story, and the unspoken idea that maybe the same can happen to you. And he is still a sinner!!!! Aand you and I shouldnt be offended by the fact that we are sinners! As soon as somebody calls a sinner, we need to just relax. Your best is good enough. Tom made this very clear. In fact i believe his desire to be gay is as strong as it ever was. Its part of him and will never leave him. He didn’t come out right and say this, but I think he said it at least a half a dozen times that he is holding out. AKA , he beleives there will be room for gay relationships in the next life. And why didnt he say it, because he values being in good standing with the church. He sees REALLY good people on both sides of the issue, a d it is his personality to be friends with both. Just a guy thst doesnt see the ooint of s cause thst is confrontational. A different personality. I wouldnt read too much self righteousness into his words. Rather, we should apprexiate a different point of view and experience.

      And let’s be honest with ourselves. Nobody can come up with one good argument as to why two perfectly faithful, and Christlike gay men or women commmitted to each other wouldnt qualify for the celestial kingdom. Its just going to take a while for the church, which is thr size of a small country, to accept hat change. I have a hunch it may take this world becomming a terrestrial world before we are mature enough to adopt many truths. At the moment the church is governing a telestial people, and we know that God doesnt typically give higher laws than people are able to bear. But this hasnt stopped certain individuals from going ahead anyway and living higher laws anyway.

      Tom’s relationship with Christ is independent from the church (he said this directly). And so is the truth. It exists independently of what any of us think. Its the truth we should seek, not a religion or the particular theology of one religion. We seek for truth wherever we may find it, and if it just so happens that the Mormon church has the greatest overlap, then can you fault somebody for wanting to become a part of it? This is part of the test… To believe truth, even if church doctrine hasn’t yet embraced that truth. In the meantime we need need to separate the church from its sins

  7. BrotherFife December 27, 2017 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    I recently read Tom’s book and then listened to all of the podcast. In general I was favorably impressed with his approach and thoughts on a very difficult topic. I worried that he would solely be preaching celibacy for Mormons as the only way. I liked that he is not preaching his path as the only path and even suggests that if someone feels like their path of happiness is in a same sex marriage and even adopting kids then he is fine with that. He is especially good at calling for greater love and acceptance of gays in our wards and families. I get the sense that he would like to see greater changes in the church but is too faithful to speak up right now and is also content to wait patiently for hoped for changes. My one complaint is that he never really attempts to tackle a key concern for many (as stated by a friend of mine with a gay son): “Why does the promise of God’s greatest blessing depend on the union of a man and woman while at the same time He creates men and women with desires antithetical to that union. Desires that create pain and heartache, judgement and isolation?” Tom talks a lot about his relationship with Jesus Christ and of his desire to have the influence of the Spirit in his life and yet there is little mention of Heavenly Father. When asked about the Proclamation on the Family (with its focus on God’s Plan of Happiness), Tom responded by saying he preferred the proclamation on the Living Christ. How do LGBT folks fit into God’s plan? I have yet to find an answer.

  8. Pish December 29, 2017 at 8:59 am - Reply

    I have been gay all my life. I have hated myself and felt nothing but guilt and a desire to die as an overriding thought prevalent at nearly all times of my life. I am married. My wife was aware of my situation before our marriage. It is difficult and the desires for death mentioned previously have not been solved by the marriage, even as recently as two days ago when it seemed like to much for me. I would like to get to the point of being able to say my particular offering is acceptable and let the rest go. So far in 40 years I do not believe I have gotten to that point completely. Except that recently I have had inklings of thoughts that my particular shortcomings and failures to live up to the laws of chastity completely are truly my acceptable offering. I hope that I can hold to this and I think hearing conversations like this one between Tom and John have helped me come to this realization. Others may not understand it, bishops may misinterpret because their acceptable offering looks different, or has holes in different places hopefully I can maintain and grow this new found thought and blossom it into a conviction.

  9. Emma December 29, 2017 at 11:15 pm - Reply

    I think we all want to be respectful of tom—‘his challenges and his struggles and his willingness to speak about being gay

    Please forgive me if I seem insensitive—just being honest

    he is a very intellectual person that uses a lot of words to avoid a straightforward answer

    He talks about being authentic when he told others he had a partner but then he talks about keeping his personal feelings
    personal —about many topics related to the church—

    It is clear that he is trying to create a new church in his mind which is very different from the actual real church that was created by Joseph smith and still exists today

    The reality is he gave up his true desire to have a gay partner so that he could be accepted in the church — that is really sad

    Does he also believe that that is what Jesus required of him in order to be accepted? If not then he gave up his partner for social acceptance in the church and not required of Jesus

    To me it is a tragedy that he has to live his life alone so that he can be accepted in the church which he loves

    A church that would excommunicate him for finding the joy in having a partner and yet he seems to ignore that. Important issue—is that really love?

    The church has a very clear stand that if A gay person is living with a partner they should be excommunicated— and excommunicated people are supposedly in eternal outer darkness

    So what will happen to Tom if he changes his mind and decides to have a partner

    Is it better to live your life alone?? For what purpose?

    All of the doctrine points to heterosexual marriage and children as the basis of all happiness here and in the Eternal worlds
    He must know the doctrines (revelation)of the church

    Sadly it seems he is pretending the church is something it is not and it he is also not permitted to live a life of love with a committed gay partner

    He is trying to live a life with a foot in both worlds without fully accepting either

    It is a very confusing and frustrating example to gay people who want to fully embrace the gay lifestyle

    Tom is a kind person but unwilling to be completely honest and authentic
    And may cause more confusion and more fear for gay people who feel guilty about leaving a church who rejects and judges them— which is the healthiest thing to do— leave and live an authentic gay lifestyle

    • JOHN M February 28, 2019 at 10:45 pm - Reply

      I don’t think Tom is an enemy to himself. Which he would have to be based on some of thr claims. Here is what i meam. Bis story is cometely organic, not forced at all. He has simply followed his bliss and this is how the chips fell. Being gay chose bim, and then later in life, it was Christ that chose him, not the other way around. While it is sad, there was more happiness than sadness in his choices that led to his partner leaving him. His partner hadnt found Christ per say. Tom had made his choice, but it wasnt a choice to leave his partner. Remember that Toms MO is to have everything. To not make a choice. I think because of this MO, it was anorganic change that took place over more than 7 years! He felt his way back to activity in the church almost without even realizing he was. Tom is just a normal dude taking one step at a time just like you and me. Who jas a life full of exoeriences that had every one of them happened to somebody else just like him, their take on life might be just the same.

      In other words, we shouldnt be so proud of our views and opinions and our authenticity or testimony, or depression, etc. It is what it is. We are juat spirits haveing an earthly experience.

      I realize it is WAY easier said than done, but we need to get rid of our inferiority/superiority and need for acceptance complexes. Tom is no better than you or me and we arent better than him. And while we may need others’ acceptance, I don’t think Christ needs ours. Which tells me His only need is to love, and that need has overpowered all of ahis other needs. If we do the same. We will be fine.

  10. TA December 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    Tom is lovely and very thoughtful. He has such a tricky path to tread and many constituents are looking to him since he has placed himself out of obscurity, surely he must know this. He is doing a good work generally for LDS parents who may dismiss their LGBTQ kids, he is showing them how to love. He will hopefully shift the dial in the LDS church generally around LGBTQ issues. The church constituents have had a net positive experience with this. I wonder if he could address young LDS youth specifically in the future? The only thing that jarred for me is that Tom has come back after having an opportunity to explore his sexuality and he can return and defer to the church leadership once more. He had a net gain in terms of leadership roulette, that may have been enabled with him being the brother of an apostle. What would he suggest that young LGBTQ people do? Should they defer in the same way and not explore their sexuality? I’m sure Tom would not tell people what to do, but for some youth, they will look and think that he’s had his cake and eaten it, and now defers once more. It’s the only small issue that I have with Tom. He is obviously a great man and is still working through things as we all are. Whether he likes it, he is now a public figure for LGBTQ issues within Mormonism. I hope for equality within the church and full exclusion for all people, it would take away so much of the gymnastics. I support what he is trying to do.

  11. Sue December 30, 2017 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Seems to me, Emmasays, that you are judging Tom and his personal needs/choices, while he was very carefully not judging yours or anyone else’s. He simply told his story and made it abundantly clear that he was in no way saying his choices would be best for or superior to others’. In fact, he said he knew of many gay couples whose choice to have a family and children was a good and healthy choice for them.

    I believe his reason for writing the book was to encourage wards and families to treat gay ward members and loved ones with the same respect that was shown him by his ward and family. He wanted to show one uplifting example of how it can be done, and the fact that it *was* successfully done is the hope he offers. He doesn’t advocate that gay people need to suck it up and stay in the Church if it is a negative experience for them; instead, he is saying that church members should be doing everything possible to make sure they are not part of the problem. He is also clearly hoping the Church receives more “light and knowledge” on this subject, and while he doesn’t claim to know it will, he feels some optimism in that direction.

    I was most impressed by him, frankly, and maybe your approach is a bit too black-and-white as regards Tom. Realizing there is and always will be a measure of ambiguity in life is not the same as “trying to live a life with a foot in both worlds without fully accepting either.” This good man is just traveling the same winding path we all do, in one way or another, exercising his agency as he sees fit according to what honestly feels right to him. That’s all any of us can do, and I wish him well.

  12. Sue December 30, 2017 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Sorry, Emma. Just realized that the “says” is simply added on without a space and was not part of your screen name! ;)

  13. Emma December 30, 2017 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    I think you didn’t get my message that I thought Tom was a good and kind person but confused and confusing

    My thoughts about htom we’re not to be critical or negative but to just make observations about his predicament and that of all gay people in the church

  14. Emma December 30, 2017 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    I think you didn’t get my message that I thought Tom was a good and kind person but confused and confusing

    My thoughts about htom we’re not to be critical or negative but to just make observations about his predicament and that of all gay people in the church

  15. Emma December 30, 2017 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    I think you didn’t get my message that I thought Tom was a good and kind person but confused and confusing

    My thoughts about tom we’re not to be critical or negative but to just make observations about his predicament and that of other gay people in the church

  16. Emma December 30, 2017 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    I think you didn’t get my message that I thought Tom was a good and kind person but confused and confusing

    My thoughts about tom we’re not to be critical or negative but to just make observations about his predicament and that of other gay people in the church

  17. Mike December 31, 2017 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    Stockholm Syndrome!! Just because Tom got away from his captors physically doesn’t mean that he got away psychologically. The only way that this makes sense is if Tom says that he’s not Gay, maybe never was gay, and that he has repented and is feeling heterosexual, and that the church was right!! That Tom love’s Mormons is great, that Tom love’s God is great! But you can’t endorse an institution that causes a great deal of harm to people and then write a book about how you’ve gone back to your abusers and it’s great!! I have to take issue with John Dehlin saying that it was one of his favorite episodes! John, I’ve heard this kind of reaction from you a couple of times where you get around TBM’s talking their crazy talk; like Tom and like Dan Witherspoon, and you get all gushy and frankly it’s completely revolting! Tom is a victim of abuse who is looking for a way to reconcile the trauma in his life. Through his story, I can see that I’m also a victim of that same abuse, and so will thank him! But we can’t give Tom a pass on his choice to return to his abuser’s and publish a book about how it’s all ok now! It’s not, he’s still Gay, and the LDS church is still very much not! Has Mormon Stories become so liberal that it can allow the abused to persist in their abuse uncounseled and unchallenged?? And the host is going to say to them how much he favored the talk??? Are you kidding me??

  18. Emma January 6, 2018 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Thank you you made it perfectly clear and very sad for Tom

  19. Jennie September 24, 2018 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    Tom or John, I have been reading recently about the high rates of anxiety and depression among gay men. The latest I have read is that this seems to exist even if the person had a very supportive family, was never bullied, and came of age after gay marriage became legal. Do either of you have any comments on this? I have been trying to help a gay man but he is so hyper-sensitive I am getting nowhere. He really is suffering terrible problems with anxiety and sometimes with paranoia. Should I just leave him alone until he finally seeks help on his own?

  20. Robin September 27, 2018 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    John, you mention that gay men who manage to both acknowledge their sexual orientation but continue as faithful Mormons have the best outcome. Could you give us more information on this, the studies and details. Would also love to see an interview with someone who is doing this.

  21. Cathy October 10, 2018 at 8:22 am - Reply

    I would like to see more information on this.

  22. Marcie October 16, 2018 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    I believe we are ignoring a large and growing mental health crisis among LGBTQ people, both in the Church and outside. I do not feel that our efforts to de-stigmatize homosexuality has been particularly helpful in this regard, except to point out that the underlying problems with mental health still exist even in places where coming out is supported and prejudice has been lessened.
    Please comment John.

  23. Kevin October 20, 2018 at 7:29 am - Reply

    Thank you Tom for sharing your wonderful story with us. It is refreshing to hear someone who places their relationship with Jesus Christ ahead of their sexual orientation without feeling it necessary to deny their orientation or attempt to change it.

  24. Vickie Duncan February 18, 2019 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    I am sure I need to read the book to be objective; but I have so many mixed feelings about this…some, I cannot post. I wish him well..but I am sure that he will regret the loss of love rather than a doctrine that disowns him…how is it that he has not have feelings about the very integrity of the church he returns to?? Actually, a nice guy..but I hate this!

  25. Vickie Duncan February 19, 2019 at 11:20 am - Reply

    I understand better now why the 1st presidency does not include his brother Todd. This is sad…he is so admired and an apostle brother could have promoted a better understanding within the church by love and experience. I respect both brothers but it is unfortunate that in some ways this has proved a negative affect on the top leaders and where they stand.

    God Bless All!!

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