214: That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family: Tom Christofferson

Tom Christofferson is gay and he’s Mormon.  His recently published book ‘That We May Be One’ is a touching memoir of love, loss, and faith.  We discuss the story within his story that our life’s journey be underscored by a demonstrative, kind and gentle love, particularly for our LGBTQ brothers, sisters and children.

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14 comments for “214: That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family: Tom Christofferson

  1. Simon Prescott
    October 1, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    I felt this was a very difficult episode to listen to. This is essentially the story of another relationship, this time a marriage, destroyed by the LDS church’s teachings on gay marriage and relationships in general.

    For those of you who didn’t listen, Tom Christofferson (sp?), brother of D. Todd, is cashing in on his Mormon royalty status, has rejoined the LDS church and is now selling his book that will essentially be incredibly destructive to LGBT LDS youth everywhere, couch it as he may in benign intentions. His story is that he loves “The Savior” so much that he is leaving his 19 year relationship with another man to be celibate.

    Gina not only gives him a supportive bully pulpit to peddle this nonsense, she calls this story something like a triumph of “The Power of Love”. Not kidding, taking the talking points right from the Deseret Book brochure or the Hallmark Card, I am not sure which.

    What gives, Gina? Why NO real questions? This was sycophantic drivel, plain and simple. I sure hope John’s interview is a little more socially responsible.

    • Gina Colvin
      October 1, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      What gives Simon is that not all human journeys are going to be what you want. If I have a guest on my show it’s not my job to slice into them and get a confession that suits me. I give all of my guests the opportunity to tell their story – not mine or yours. You don’t have any right whatsoever to interpret Tom’s story beyond what he has written and spoken about unless you have clear evidence that the wool has been pulled over our eyes. I have no reason to believe that Tom didn’t write this book in good faith and with the best of intentions- do you?

      I understand the spiritual journey and sometimes there’s more pull in that than anything else. So if he and his partner decided to call it quits because they wanted different ‘ultimates’ that’s not for you to question but to accept and trust as something both needed to do as part of their journey.

      • David
        October 2, 2017 at 9:58 am

        Well said Gina. Heartbreaking nonetheless.
        Maybe we can accept modern day revelation which is trying to breakthrough into the LDS church, yet there is a resistance primarily from top Mormon leadership to accept it.

        It’s hard to move the needle.

      • Todd
        October 2, 2017 at 8:06 pm

        I’m with Simon. You were far too uncritical in your interview. His book will be used as a cudgel against LGBT folks who don’t opt for celibacy, and I wish you had delved into that more. Whatever the authors intentions, the social context of the book matters.

        • Gina Colvin
          October 2, 2017 at 8:20 pm

          That’s fair enough and I hope other interviewers will pick that up. But honestly, I just don’t see how they could use it. Not if they read it. My reaction to the announcement of its publication was exactly that, ‘Oh no, another weapon to beat down LGBTQ folk who can’t or won’t make church work.’ But, then I read the book and I just don’t see how you could get that from it. Have you read the book?

  2. Simon Prescott
    October 2, 2017 at 7:18 am

    Thank you for your reply, Gina.

    While it may be true that Tom wrote his book “in good faith and with the best of intentions” it is hardly redeeming. The book, and Tom’s example, are going to hurt people. If you can’t see that I am not sure what to say.

    Forgive me if I misunderstood the podcast, but it sounded like Tom is the one who called it quits, not his partner. And Tom did this because he wanted to be baptized in the LDS church, the very church that teaches him that what he feels, in the core of his being, is an aberration that must never be acted upon.

    Why do you think Deseret Book published his tome? To honor and respect gay relationships? Something tells me that is not their motivation. Don’t you rather suspect that it is to reinforce the institutional narrative, to vindicate their prejudicial legalism, and provide evidence to a weary membership that they need not change their gay policy?

    This is the newest “kind and supportive” arrow in the quiver of intolerant LDS parents and relations everywhere. I have already seen some LDS parents refer to it.

    “See, son, Tom Christofferson loved the savior so much that he sacrificed his relationship to him. And just look how happy he is.”
    “See, daughter, if you truly loved the savior you, like Tom Christofferson, would be celibate. So you must not love the savior enough.”

    The obvious truth is that this book will will help [what possible ‘help’ it will offer is beyond me–maybe you can tell me] a fraction of a percentage of the people it will harm. It will cause unrealistic expectations, judgment, and self-recrimination no matter how good faith or well-intentioned it may be. To give Tom a platform to sell this book with no acknowledgement of this danger is, in my opinion, irresponsible. I would like to use stronger language, but hope I make myself clear.

    To praise Tom’s story as ‘a triumph of love’ is, also in my opinion, flesh-crawling stuff. Call it ‘a triumph of adherence to outdated institutional ethics’, ‘a triumph of religious narcissism’, ‘a triumph of nepotism’, or (and this one strikes me as the most apt) ”a triumph of capitulating to repressed self-loathing’. But a triumph of love?

    • Gina Colvin
      October 2, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Well, I guess we see it differently. The love and respect from his family made his coming out possible and made possible a solid and healthy gay partnership for 19 years. I can only partially fathom the drive to come back to church when it means breaking up a good relationship. But, marriages break up over religion all the time when couples discover that they have incompatible moral orders or different spiritual paths. They tried everything, other faith traditions and churches, even going to his ward regularly together – but in the end, Tom wanted to come back to the church of his roots. That’s where he experiences the spiritual depth that he yearns for and the sad trade-off has been the relationship.

      His story isn’t about a return to church as much as it is about a conservative Mormon family who loved him, chose him, and accepted him which has meant he gets to be in healthy relationship with his sexual identity. That’s the point he’s trying to make. Yes people will weaponize this story. Yes, he gets more kudos because of his brother. Yes, Deseret would probably never have published a book by a gay man if he hadn’t had connections. But by the same token, it’s a gay man’s story about being gay, being in a long term intimate partnership with another man, and a family who accepted that – and not once in his book did he apologise for that. Not once.

  3. October 2, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Tom’s book includes these passages:

    “Being gay is one of the great blessings of my life.”

    “If you are the parent of a gay child who decides to marry a same-sex partner, I encourage you to be there, to participate fully and with happiness for their happiness.”

    Beautiful stuff and kudos to Tom for putting it out there. There is a discussion worth having here. With Tom. I’m less sanguine where discussions involving LDS policy are concerned, and that’s really the only rub: If tomorrow, Tom were to fall in love and marry, what good would all of his and our warm sentiment be in the face of the inevitable intractable institutional response?

    As far as what’s been said here in comments by others, I take exception to this notice posted by our host:

    “You don’t have any right whatsoever to interpret Tom’s story beyond what he has written and spoken about…”

    This is a trope I see repeated again and again inside Mormon discussions: always with the intent to establish a hierarchy of who’s allowed to speak, and who gets told to sit in the corner, and I’m disappointed to see it repeated here, of all places.

    • Gina Colvin
      October 2, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      It would be a worthy parry if I judged only certain stories as worth telling- but I don’t. I allow everyone to tell their story and it’s not up to me or anyone else to interpret it otherwise without good reason. I’ve had gay Mormon kids without any notoriety on my show, furious at the church, and have turned their backs on it. They were given the same chance to tell their story as Tom.

      I admit to the same response as you with respect to the Tom’s reaction to the policy and I pushed him on it in the episode. But even then, if his response is prayerfulness then who am I to say, ‘that’s not good enough?’

  4. Noel Armstrong
    October 4, 2017 at 7:26 am

    Tom comes across as a kind and positive and loving person in this book.

    His story will expose some LDS people to the idea that gay relationships aren’t a terrible and destructive force in our society.

    But, having acknowledged that, so what?

    The life lesson most people will get from his book (since I can’t see anyone but faithful LDS reading it) is that if you love your kids, oh yes even the gay ones, they like Tom might one day return to “the Savior.”

    But it seems that for Tom, as it is for so many Mormons who want to sound open and spiritually eclectic, “the Savior” is a double-speak synecdoche for nothing more or less than the forms and institutions of the LDS church. This is why there was never a question that he join a more LGBTQ-positive Christian group, his noises to that effect notwithstanding.

    Tom’s message is only palatable to an LDS audience because of the end, the outcome. Like Abraham at the last second not killing Isaac, Tom as the last second repented and was baptized. His entire life now becomes acceptable faith-promoting material for a Deseret Book volume. But if Tom had honored his commitments to his partner above the dogma of the LDS church? Well, then we are in Signature Books territory, since Deseret Books would never expose the faithful to such a thing.

    From the outside looking in, and as LDS royalty, Tom can feel drawn and welcome to return. Who knows, maybe he will become the gay equivalent of Gladys Knight or Al Carraway, living proof of our inclusiveness, a way to counter all the bad PR the church has received for its soul-crushing bigotry.

    I agree with others here that this book, and Tom’s example, very well might end up doing more harm than good. It is not representative of the damage the LDS church has caused to this community. It will prolong the madness, not end it.

    I know this is not his intention, but I fear it will be the outcome.

  5. BroadwayBound
    October 8, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    I just read this book last night.

    I applaud Tom for sharing his story. His story. His experience. It is a book filled with love.

    My story of being gay and Mormon is very different but I appreciated his honesty and adding to this dialogue. It is needed.

    Much love to all.

  6. November 2, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    People you must remember and know that the Mormon church doesn’t make the rules. God does. The church leaders only enforce it. Church policy will NEVER change on the gay matter. We the Members are taught to love everyone.

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