This is a review of a book I received for free from the publisher. All they asked for in return was a review of the book.
See that little bit at the top? I just want to be clear that I did receive this book for free, but I also want to point out that I volunteered to read this book and write a review. I was interested in it, and honestly would have read it anyway. They just wanted a review, but gave me no direction on what to say in my review. I feel fine saying what I am going to write here is unbiased.
If you don’t know what this book is, let me explain. This book is written by Tom Christofferson, who is the brother of D. Todd Christofferson, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Tom is also an active member of the LDS Church. He is also openly gay. In fact at the beginning of this book he states that he describes himself as a “happy, gay Mormon.” He feels that it is important for the reader to know that from the start. I agree.
I think, just from the title and subtitle, “a Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family,” one might draw have a few preconceived notions on what this book is. One might assume that this book will be advocating for one course of action or another. One might assume that this is going to be full of steps on how to “fix” being gay, or how to live a fulfilled life all alone or married to a heterosexual spouse. One might assume these things, especially knowing that this is published by Deseret Book, the Church owned publishing house.
If the reader is unfamiliar with who published the book, one might assume this is going to be a book where a gay member of the LDS Church is going to attack the Church, and advocate for the Church’s acceptance of Gay Marriage. It seems like these two sides are the only sides we hear about in the conversation. This book, however, is not either of these things.
Disclaimer: I am a Mormon, and I am not gay. I am going to try to write this review with respect to all parties. If I use a term that is offensive in some way, please know it is not done on purpose, and I welcome any feedback.
What This Book Is
Christofferson states near the beginning, and throughout this book, that this is his story. His Journey. He is not advocating in any way that the choices he made are the right choices for everyone who identifies as both Mormon and LGBTQ. I think that is an important thing as we look at individuals in the Church, and especially our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We are all individuals. We all have our own challenges and our own journey. There is no one size fits all approach to these issues. Every individual is the same.
This is a story about one man’s journey in faith and becoming a disciple of Christ. There are so many principles he discusses about developing your own personal testimony and making your own choice to be a disciple of Christ. These are principles that apply to each of us, regardless or which direction we are pulled romantically. The principles he discusses, when put into practice, would benefit anyone, regardless of where they are with their own spiritual journey, and regardless of who they are attracted to.
This is a story about Christlike Love. Over and over again, he talks about how fortunate he was to have loving parents who strived always show him love and support. He had loving brothers who never distanced themselves from him. He had a loving bishop in Connecticut and a loving ward who welcomed him with open arms as well as his partner, as he began his journey back to full membership within the Church. There were challenges, and there were bumps in the road, but overall, this love was so crucial to him and the choices he made.
I love that, while he talks about this love, he clarifies that this love he received from others never seemed like they were condoning the sin. I can’t do this part justice like he did. It was simply beautiful. Sometimes we talk in the Church about hating the sin, and loving the sinner. We use this to justify some of the things we do, like not including a loved one’s partner in family events. That was something his family never did, and he was grateful. He is careful to emphasize this was his family’s course of action, and may not be right for everyone. However, he wonders if those kinds of actions just drive a wedge between family members. He always knew where his family stood as far as the gospel, even though he and his partner were still included in activities. Like i said, I can’t do this justice, so just read the book.
What This Book Isn’t
This book is not a how to guide for priesthood leaders or parents to “deal” with LGBTQ members of their wards or families. It is still a book every priesthood leader or parent should read. I think what it does is help to open the door for understanding between everyone. Any time we can take the time to understand someone who is different, I think, it makes us better.
This book is not a how to guide for members of the Church who identify as LGBTQ to live as a Mormon. This is the story of how one man who identifies as both Mormon and LGBTQ has chosen to live. His life and his choices. However, I think if you are someone who identifies as both, I would recommend reading this book. If for no other reason, it will help you to see that you are not alone.
This is not a book that avoids all of the tough issues. He talks about the LGBTQ teen suicide rate within the Church. He flat-out says we need to do better to save our youth. I agree. I have the opportunity to work with the youth in my own ward. I love each and every one of them, and it would break my heart to lose any of them to suicide for any reason. This book made me feel like I need to let them know that more. He talks about his reaction and feelings to Proposition 8 in California. He discusses his reaction to “the policy” and the conversations he had with his brother Elder Christofferson. The author also discusses marriage with a heterosexual spouse of the other gender, and how difficult a choice this is for both parties. He does not go out of his way to not talk about these things, and that is a good thing. We need to stop avoiding the tough conversations with each other.
A Personal Note
One of the reasons I wanted to read this book is because my own family had a member come out recently. It was hard on the family. I won’t go into details, because their story is not my story, so it is theirs to share, not mine. This isn’t me trying to say, “look how accepting I am. I have a gay family member.” I am trying to say, I wanted to understand them more. I wanted to understand some of their struggles and some of their difficulties. I wanted to support them more. This book helped me with that in one way, more than any other. It helped me realize I was doing it all wrong. I need to do more to reach out and support. If I want to know their struggles, I need to have those conversations with them. I need to communicate to them that I want to support them and be there for them. It made me realize I need to do better.
Overall, if you are wondering if you should read this book, I would say read it. It is worth your time. You can find it at any Deseret Book location, or pick it up online. Tom Christofferson’s story will also be featured between sessions during General Conference this weekend.
If you have any feedback on this post, please feel free to share it in the comments below. Please be respectful to each other. Any comments that are not respectful in any way, will be deleted. The point of this book, and this review is that we all take more steps to understand and love each other. That we work at becoming one.
If you are someone who is LGBTQ and not sure what to do next, please know that you are not alone. You are loved. There are resources to help. Here are a couple of sites you can check out that may help in your journey: Encircle is a project and group that the author of this book has been a big part of (I think he may have been one of the founders, not sure) and then there is the LDS Church’s website, Mormon and Gay .