Jun 2017: Scandals that rocked the Church – the Mormons, the Tory MP and shock revelations of outed gay men
Young gay men who were outed by leading figures in the Mormon Church in Scotland attacked the religion as a “cult” which is openly hostile to LGBT members.
Two former members of the church, officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), spoke out after they were targeted at a time when recently elected Tory MP Stephen Kerr was a high-ranking official in LDS.
Kerr, representing Stirling at Westminster, denied he was involved in outing gay men when he was a Stake President (the head of a diocese) and an Area Seventy (a position of power in the church outranking bishops and priests).
The MP, who won with a majority of just 148 votes, made Stirling the third most marginal Conservative seat the country, also claimed he is in favour of equal marriage.
However, according to Mormon church teachings: “sexual relations are reserved for a man and woman who are married”
Sex between people of the same sex: “violates one of our Father in Heaven’s most important laws and gets in the way of our eternal progress”.
The revelations that gay men were outed when Kerr was a senior figure in LDS was uncomfortable for the Lesbian leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, who when it emerged that the UK Prime Minister was ready to do an electoral deal with the DUP – which is against equal marriage – sought assurances that any alliance would mean: “absolutely no rescission of LGBTI rights in the rest of the UK”.
“I was fairly straightforward and I told the PM that there were a number of things that count to me more than Party. One of them is country, one of the others is LGBTI rights.”
After voting for equal marriage in 2014, Davidson said she returned to her office in the Scottish Parliament and: “cried deep, sobbing tears of relief and release and joy and pain and pride.”
Davidson campaigned with Kerr before the General Election and tweeted her congratulations when he won the seat. She said: “So proud of him. He’ll make an excellent MP.”
One gay man claims he was outed after he had taken part in discussions about his sexuality on anonymous online message boards used by former Mormons.
“At church, my father was handed a print-out of my posts. Bear in mind these are anonymous posts, but someone has taken the time to trawl the message boards and recognise my story sufficiently. My dad waved the print-outs at me, then it all kicked off. There was a lot of screaming and lots of anger.”
“It caused a lot of recriminations at the time because I hadn’t discussed my sexuality with my parents. It caused huge issues. The relationship with my parents still isn’t great. I never got the chance to come out to them in the way I wanted. That opportunity was taken away. It was forcibly removed. It was traumatic for me and caused embarrassment to the wider family.”
The source, who asked not to be named to protect his family who remain in the church, said he was later confronted by a church leader at his parent’s house. At that time Stephen Kerr was an Area Seventy.
“I was told by a church leader I’d be ex-communicated because of what I had written. I told him to shove it and resigned.”
When contacted and asked to comment the former church leader, who has since left the Mormons said:
“I can remember getting sent to his door because he was saying things about the church online. I don’t know what was being said but I remember being asked to say to him he needed to keep his mouth shut or the church would be taking disciplinary action against him. I was a bishop at the time.”
When asked about the church’s attitude to gay people, he said:
“As far as I was led to believe, gay people were allowed in the church but they couldn’t practise it. If they were a member of the church and they were practising it they would probably get ex-communicated. That’s what would happen. If I was a bishop I would be asked to conduct a hearing.”
The young man who was confronted is now openly gay and claimed LDS is “completely against homosexuality and opposes equal marriage”.
“They have what’s called a ‘proclamation on the family’ and, as the highest lay officer of the church in Scotland, Stephen Kerr was obviously aware of that.”
The proclamation states that marriage between a man and a woman is:
“essential to His [God’s] eternal plan” and children are “entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother.”
Kerr regularly posts scripture, quotes and images of Jesus on his Facebook page.
One post was an endorsement of a quote by Mormon elder D Todd Christofferson, which said:
“We cannot afford young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about forming families and making a real contribution in this world.”
Another gay man who also asked to remain anonymous to protect his family who are still members of LDS, claimed:
“I was outed by a church leader when Stephen Kerr was a Stake President in Edinburgh. I was able to tell my family first and they suggested I should resign because they didn’t want the family name dragged through the mud. They knew what the church can do to people. Your reputation gets trashed.”
“The church has a hatred for gays. We’re a threat to the family, to masculinity, to the system. The church thinks gay marriage is counterfeit marriage. There are many cases like mine.”
In the April edition of Ensign, the monthly magazine for members of the church across the world, Mormon elder Larry R Lawrence said:
“Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, but same-sex marriage is only a counterfeit. It brings neither posterity nor exaltation. Although his imitations deceive many people, they are not the real thing. They cannot bring lasting happiness.”
Stephen Kerr confirmed he served as an Area Seventy and a Stake President before becoming an MP, but insisted the church did not out gay people and sought to play down his role in the church.
“My involvement with the church did not require me to be in direct responsibility for anybody outside of Edinburgh diocese so I would not be involved in anything. Same-sex marriage is only counterfeit. It is not the real thing and cannot bring lasting happiness.”
When asked if he is aware that gay men were being outed, he said:
“No, the church’s teaching on homosexuality you can read for yourself online. There’s no secret about what the church’s teachings are.”
When asked if he is against equal marriage, he said:
“No, I am not. As a Member of Parliament, as a Scottish Conservative, I believe in equal rights for all people. People should feel free to be who they are and that is exactly the point of view I take in regards to my responsibilities as a Member of Parliament.”
When asked if gay people who are Mormon should be celibate, he said:
“In our society people who are gay should be free to be gay. It’s not my job as a member of parliament to project one thing or another, in terms of my religious faith or anything else, on other people.”
When asked if there’s a conflict between being a member of LDS and a member of parliament, he said:
“None whatsoever. No conflict. I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but my role as a member of parliament is not to project or to inflect my religious views, my faith, on anybody. My job is to protect all people, to see that they have the freedom and protection under the law that they need to be and to do what they believe and to be who they are – whether that’s in relation to faith, or sexual orientation or anything else.”
SNP MEP Alyn Smith described revelations that gay men were outed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as “appalling”.
“When I came out I was fortunate in that I had a great reaction from family, friends and colleagues so I feel for anyone who had to go through something like that. The day after the beautiful Pride Edinburgh march celebrating love, diversity and tolerance it is worth remembering that not all organisations in society have the same view.”
Smith also underlined the responsibility parliamentarians have to protect and promote equalities, adding:
“This goes beyond party politics. All elected members in all parties have a duty to not just protect equalities but to promote them, as well as free speech and freedom of religion, and with honesty and respect we can all get along. But let’s not forget that the hard-won legal rights to equality would be rolled back by some, and be ever vigilant to their motives.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said:
“Stephen rejects the allegation that he was in any way involved in the incidents referred to here.”
A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the church would not comment on “these confidential and personal matters”.
But a closer look at Stephen Kerr is justified.
April 2006: A Fellow Mormon Questions Stephen Kerr’s Integrity – Does he believe in the Mormon church’s teaching prior to 1978 that skin colour is a curse.
Elder Stephen Kerr, a native of Dundee was sustained as an Area Seventy (top of the Mormon tree) in the Europe West Area of the Mormon Church.
A fourth-generation Mormon on his mother’s side, after completing his first mission he progressed through the various ranks of the Church culminating in his appointment as leader of the Church in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
A post comparable with an arch Bishop or Moderator in the established church
In September 2006 Ensign Elder Kerr addressed the youth of the Mormon Church. He confessed to a passion for books and spoke to a list of things young Mormons might want to do while they are still young. Three things are especially important;
(1) Being worthy to go to the temple.
(2) Regular attendance at seminary and institute classes to learn more about the faith.
(3) The companionship of the Holy Ghost and receiving revelation.
Is this the same Stephen Kerr to whom I wrote in 1998 following his appearance in one of a series of TV programmes that looked at various faiths?
A panel quizzed him and another Mormon about their faith.
Of particular interest was the question of Negroes and the priesthood.
We have addressed this issue before and I need only say that, until 1978, Negroes were disbarred from full involvement in the Mormon Church because the colour of their skin marked them out as “unworthy”.
In 1978 this changed under enormous pressure from the wider society.
This is common knowledge and I don’t imagine that I am telling you anything you don’t already know.
Imagine my astonishment when I heard Stephen Kerr, a fourth-generation Mormon, a lover of books, a priesthood leader of long-standing and someone who encourages youth to learn more about their faith – imagine my astonishment when I heard him deny any understanding of this teaching.
He would have been 18 years old at the time of those momentous changes in 1978, when the official declaration announced from Mormon pulpits across the world that, “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or colour (sic)”.
He would have been preparing for his mission, if not already serving, and this would have had a profound effect on the way missionaries responded to coloured people on the door.
He was challenged repeatedly and, repeatedly, he said, “I don’t know why this was so, nobody knows why.”
It might be argued that I am in no position to know what he knew or didn’t know.
That is right.
It might be argued that I couldn’t prove that he was being disingenuous in his answers.
That is correct.
It might be said that I must take the man at face value and accept that he spoke in good faith.
That is something I struggle with simply because it is not true that “nobody knows”.
It is common knowledge.
This is the doctrine of recent memory, practised by Mormons of my generation.
Especially poignant was the fact that his Mormon companion was a young Negro woman who, I feel, was quite innocent in her endorsement of Elder Kerr’s claim to ignorance.
My generation and his would have been taught as a matter, of course that skin colour other than white is a curse. a curse.
Hers would have been denied such understanding as new opportunities opened up, post-1978, for Mormonism in Africa and among African communities across the world.
Now a new generation of young church members is deliberately kept ignorant of their own heritage.
Same-Sex Attraction and the Doctrine of the Mormon Church
Same-sex attraction refers to emotional, physical, or sexual attraction to a person of the same gender.
The experience of same-sex attraction is not the same for everyone. Some people may feel exclusively attracted to the same gender, while others may feel attracted to both genders.
The Church distinguishes between same-sex attraction and homosexual behaviour.
People who experience same-sex attraction or identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual can make and keep covenants with God and fully and worthily participate in the Church.
Identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual or experiencing same-sex attraction is not a sin and does not prohibit one from participating in the Church, holding callings, or attending the temple.
But sexual purity is an essential part of God’s plan for our happiness.
Sexual relations between a man and woman who are not married, or between people of the same sex, violate one of our Father in Heaven’s most important laws and get in the way of our eternal progress.
People of any sexual orientation who violate the law of chastity can be reconciled with God through repentance.
As followers of Christ, we resist immoral behaviour and strive to become like Him.
We seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the help of the Saviour, who knows how to succour us when we are tempted.
If we give in to sexual temptations and violate the law of chastity, we can repent, be forgiven, and participate in full fellowship in the Church.
We may not know precisely why some people feel attracted to others of the same sex, but for some, it is a complex reality and part of the human experience.
The Saviour Jesus Christ has a perfect understanding of every challenge we experience here on earth, and we can turn to Him for comfort, joy, hope, and direction.
No matter what challenges we may face in life, we are all children of God, deserving of each other’s kindness and compassion.
When we create a supportive environment, we build charity and empathy for each other and benefit from our combined perspectives and faith.
Church leaders have emphasized that simply being attracted to someone of the same sex is not a sin and that God loves all of his children.
But those wishing to maintain full membership in the Church are required to commit to a life of celibacy.
The Mormon Church states unequivocally that marriage and sexual relations can only be between a man and a woman who promise complete loyalty to each other and that homosexuality is contrary to God’s plan for his children.
Members in same-sex marriages are considered to be apostates which is an excommunicable offence.
Children living in same-sex households are excluded from religious rites, such as baby blessings and baptism until they turn 18.
Once they reach that age, they have the option to disavow same-sex relationships, move out of their parents’ house, and ask to join the Church.
Mormon Church Doctrine
From 1849 to 1978 Mormon church had a policy against the ordination of Black people to the priesthood and forbade black men and women from taking part in ceremonies in Mormon temples.
In 1978, the church’s leaders declared that the ban had been lifted as a result of a revelation from God.