Monday, May 3, 2010

Should I Tell My Bishop?

I need some advice.

Mentally, I am gearing up to tell my parents about my "struggle with same sex attraction." I phrase it that way because I believe that it would be the only way they could handle the news.

I'm heading home in the summer for a few days, and I feel a growing responsibility to share with them what my life has been like. (I'll write more about that and my family later, I promise.)

In preparation for their questions, many of which I do not have answers for, I am sure they will ask if I have ever talked to my bishop about it.

I never have. Should I?

I have not mentioned it up until now because I don't want the change in attitude I am sure would accompany such news. I am a solid member, trustworthy and responsible. The bishop is a good friend of mine and, I am inclined to believe, liberally minded.

But I am the same person I have always been, and I don't want the way people treat me to change.

One of my hesitations is that I don't want a negative mark on my church record. I don't want to open a pathway to disfellowship, even if it is just because of the way I feel. Right now I am not sure of what course I should take because I don't want to screw up my eternal salvation.

I have never consciously done anything "wrong." I am not a bad person. I have never talked to a bishop about anything personal besides temple recommend questions, and even then, most of those are yes and no questions.

I must admit that I am a very independent person. I have isolated myself and my emotions in an attempt to ignore the gnawing ache of my attraction. I hardly ever ask for help, so when I do, I have a genuine need.

What might a bishop counsel me to do, besides the obvious: pray, read the scriptures, etc.? I have already happened upon a church pamphlet on homosexuality that really didn't help.

I am also wary of organized support groups because of my aforementioned pride and independence. From the left (Affirmation) to the right (Evergreen), I don't want to be brainwashed. Plus, I don't think right now I could even show my face at a meeting.

So I need your guidance and knowledge based from experience. Should I tell my bishop?


  1. Liberal thinking bishop or not the church's expectations are going to be the same across the board. You might have a more relaxed bishop right now, but down the road when he is released and passes on the mantel the next guy might not be. It is tough decision to make. I had two conversations with my bishop about it. I personally wish I had never said anything at all.

  2. I've never had a bishop that has been particularly helpful on the subject. That isn't to say that I don't think I'll ever have one. I say if you think it would be helpful then do it. If not him though, I think it would be good to have a handful of friends/family/a therapist that you can talk to you about it. People who are mature enough to be open and nonjudgmental and who won't tell you what to do.

  3. FWIW, I've never talked to my bishop. There's been no need since I haven't done anything that requires ecclesiastical confession.

    The big question is: What would you hope to gain by discussing this with your bishop? If you can't answer that then it's probably best to hold off until you can - just my $0.02 on the topic.

    BTW, although I generally do not like the terms SSA and SGA, I do agree that it's probably best to use those terms when initially discussing this with family and friends whom you feel might not be ready to hear "gay" coming out of your mouth.

  4. If you don't have anything to confess, then whether or not to disclose to your bishop would depend on the benefit you feel you might derive from it. They won't mark your record and shouldn't even pass on to the next bishop unless you are in the middle of a repentance process.

    Over the past few months, I have told several people, after feeling prompted to do so. It was always liberating and I felt genuine love and support from them. If I felt that they wouldn't be supportive, I wouldn't tell them.

    The nice thing about telling others is when they respond in a positive way and affirm their love and value for you for who your truly are. It is so liberating and dispells the shame we are so good at packing around. I don't believe we are meant to carry our sexuality around alone like unwanted baggage. Family, close friends and sometimes church leaders can help us tremendously.

    It does require humility and making yourself vulnerable, but in my experience, it has been worth it.

    The biggest question your parents or anyone for that matter will have is, "So now what?" Be prepared to tell them how this might affect your life. You may not be sure. Whatever the case, just be honest.

    Good luck,

  5. I agree with Bravone. My experiences with my bishops was always positive, but you've done nothing wrong just by having homosexual feelings. If he's a good friend, it might be useful to talk to him about it, but just keep in mind what it is you're hoping to get out of telling him. I guess what I'm saying is that you're under no obligation to tell him, but it might be good to get it out to him.

  6. I never told my bishop. I loved him - he was an amazing man who had lots of admirable qualities - but after sitting through months of homophobic rants in ward council, no way was I ever goin to tell him. What do you hope to gain by talking with him? I think it's an important question that will have a lot of bearing on your decision.

    Bravone is right in that there is no official gay check box on your record, but there are plenty of ways to make sure that information travels with you wherever you go. I have seen worthy males banned from any priesthood calling for no other reason than being gay, so the threat of being labeled and then marginalized is very real.

    With regard to coming out to your parents - congratulations! This is a huge step. One of the best things I did whe I told my patents wa give them a copy of the book No More Goodbyes. IMO it has made a huge diference with how accepting they have been. I would avoid using the term same sex attraction, and here is why: the first few conversations you have with your parents are your best chance to set the tone and determine how they react to this situation. If you talk about homosexuality as a disease, they are going to clue in to that and will react accordingly. If you treat it as weakness, they will expect you to overcome it.

    I wish I could say more in this small space. Look me up on yahoo messenger if you want.

  7. I will just throw in that since you haven't violated any church standards the dreaded "disfellowshipped" posibility is off the table. Don't worry over that. Having homosexual attractions does not per se violate church standards unless something has changed since my departure.

    Also, my experience with bishops and stake presidents in such discussions was uniformly positive, not in the sense that they were particularly helpful but in the sense that what I received was honest concern and compassion. But then I'm from California and we all know that California Mormons are well from California.

    Good luck. This is a tough decision.

  8. Since you asked, I don't think you have to tell your bishop, but you can, and I don't think many of your fears will come to pass. I've told 8-10 bishops about my sga, and it hasn't ever affected me. I've still been called to be eqp, fhe dad, sunday school teacher, exec secretary, not to brag, but if the Church had a secret practice of blackballing us i'm sure I wouldn't have had those callings. When I told my current bishop I was certain the the just released bishop would have mentioned it to him, but he had no clue.

    While each bishop i've told has had a different response, i've never felt damaged by telling them. Their love and support has been helpful. Part of this may have to do with my attitude, I'm not telling them the Church is bigoted and needs to change.

    In the end telling the bishop is your call, but its been a tool I can go to for strength when needed. I live away from my family and when I need priesthood blessings i used to go the my bishop, now I go to my friends i've told about SGA.

    Talking to the bishop can be nerve wracking, but I think alot of the fears we feel are unfounded.

  9. Don't tell him. I agree with those who say if you haven't done anything "wrong," there's no need. And beyond that, what would you hope to gain? What benefit do you expect? I'm not sure I could think of any. He is almost certainly not trained (other than briefly by the Church) to deal with this issue any more skillfully than some random guy you might see in a grocery store. And despite one commenter's experience, I've been in Church leadership and know that the unofficial grapevine works very well, thank you. If you disclose this, it's gonna get noted and stay with you.

    FWIW, I agree with El Genio's comments most of all.

  10. "...the unofficial grapevine works very well..."

    This is something that I've thought about for some time. I've wondered if current priesthood leaders of mine have spoken with past priesthood leaders about my issues. And the thing is that you will probably never know for sure.

    I've had a priesthood leader tell me that he hadn't spoken to a former bishop of mine, but I had a hard time believing him. Maybe I'm just paranoid.

  11. My Bishop knows about both me and the Kid, I don't think it has changed a thing as far as my ability to serve and the desire of leaders to have me serve. I currently have a high profile calling which has been a very wonderful blessing. I also know that with every call there is a release and that in the future I may have a somewhat lesser role to play in the public life of my ward, but that is ok too.

    What it has done is allow me to correct his misperceptions and assist him in more effectively being a better priesthood leader to my son. FWIW, I also came at this with a humble attitude without any plan or intention to even bring the issue up. Unlike you I didn't have a prompting or a desire to bring it up in advance, so my experience is not quite the same as what you are experiencing.

  12. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments!

    I have responded directly to each of you with a dedicated new post, "Re: Should I Tell My Bishop?"