Twice rejected, Mormon family faces painful decision about resignation

Print More
From left to right, Alex, Kyleigh, Paul, Morgan, Riley, and Ric take a selfie at the Statue of Liberty in 2014. Photo courtesy of the Sautter-Walkers

From left to right, Alex, Kyleigh, Paul, Morgan, Riley, and Ric take a selfie at the Statue of Liberty in 2014. Photo courtesy of the Sautter-Walkers

(RNS) Paul Sautter-Walker knows what it’s like to turn away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has walked that path before.

Two decades ago he left because he felt the church rejected him when he came out as gay. Now, at 37, with a husband and four children, he wonders if his return to the church of his youth was ill-fated to begin with.

The church’s recent policy regarding same-sex marriage greatly impacts the Sautter-Walker family. The policy states that any Mormon in a same-sex marriage is considered to be in apostasy, and any children who live primarily in a home with same-sex parents are not eligible for baptism.

Three of Paul and husband Ric’s four children have already been baptized into the LDS church. But their youngest, Morgan, turns 8 next year and was preparing for his baptism at a church near their home in East Greenbush, N.Y., a suburb of Albany.

Under the new policy, Morgan won’t be allowed to partake in the rite until he turns 18, and even then, he’d have to disavow his fathers.

“This tears our family apart,” said Ric, 47.

The new policy means Paul, a lawyer, and Ric, a stay-at-home dad, could be excommunicated, too. The couple have been together for 19 years. They celebrated a commitment ceremony in 1999 and were legally married on Jan. 9.


READ: Hundreds rally against new Mormon policy; many file forms to quit the faith


Left to right, Ric, Morgan, Alex, Riley, Paul, and Kyleigh at the Brooklyn Bridge Park in 2013. Photo courtesy of the Sautter-Walkers

Left to right, Ric, Morgan, Alex, Riley, Paul and Kyleigh at the Brooklyn Bridge Park in 2013. Photo courtesy of the Sautter-Walkers

Hundreds of active and inactive Mormons have tendered their resignations in recent weeks in protest over last month’s policy, and more resignations are likely.

“We don’t want to see anyone leave the church, especially people who have been struggling with any aspect of their life,” said church spokesman Eric Hawkins. “The church exists to build people and help them heal, and there isn’t one of us who doesn’t need help at some point in our lives. We hope that recent guidance from church leaders and the additional commentary will help provide understanding and context to some who may be considering resigning their membership.”

But Paul has been down this road before. In fact, his dilemma is saturated with a heavy sense of deja vu.

When Paul came out to his parents at age 17, they directed him to a therapist who recommended electric shock aversion therapy.

For almost six weeks, Paul said, he was hooked up to electrodes and shown pictures of people in pornographic settings. He was jolted by electricity every time homosexual men aroused him and every time a heterosexual couple did not.


READ: Thank you, Ken Jennings, for speaking out against new Mormon policies on same-sex families 


After this experience, Paul quit going to church and severed all ties with his family. He met Ric in 1997 through a mutual friend, and the two have been a couple since.  All four of their children were adopted through the foster care system.

Ten years ago, when Paul and Ric’s eldest daughter, Alex, was 3, the couple decided to return to the LDS church.

“We thought we’d really like to be able to raise them with some sense of religious understanding or some sense of spiritual knowledge,” said Paul.

Plus, he added: “It’s cultural for us; it’s part of our identity.” Paul can trace his Mormon ancestors back to a foster child adopted by Joseph Smith.

As their family grew, Paul and Ric took their children to church on Sundays, first in Arizona and then in upstate New York, where they now live.

Over time, they felt the LDS church was shifting its views on LGBT acceptance. Paul also started repairing the relationship with his parents.


READ: The ‘war’ on Christmas — what would Santa think?


Then came the “riptide,” as they called it. In April, Mormon leaders spoke about defending traditional families against the threat of “counterfeit and alternative lifestyles.” Ric said he did not appreciate being called a “counterfeit” family.

Then came the new handbook policy against same-sex marriage.

Mitch Mayne, an openly gay Mormon who has dedicated himself to welcoming LGBT people back to the Mormon church, said the disappointment is profound.

“I sit and think about the hundreds of LGBT people that I’ve met with across the country and told ‘Yes, it’s safe, you can go back to church and bring your partner.’ I think, ‘My gosh, I invited these people back to church and now they’re probably going to be excommunicated.’”

Mayne said that while he has spoken to many LGBT people who feel deeply hurt and continuously betrayed by the LDS church, these feelings are not limited to people in the LGBT community.

“These are not faceless, nameless statistics we are calling apostates now,” said Mayne. “These are friends, family, neighbors.”

Ric and Paul, like many other LGBT Mormons, are struggling with what to do next.

The Sautter-Walkers have filled out their resignation forms but have not decided whether to mail them.

Paul said he’d prefer to resign rather than to be excommunicated. Ric, however, said he’d prefer excommunication.

“I want them to look me square in the eye with all of the hatred they can muster and excommunicate me,” he said. “Here I am — a good, upstanding individual — and they want to kick me out the door.”

But if asked to appear in front of the disciplinary council, the two have agreed they will likely send in their resignations to avoid dragging their children through that experience.

Regardless of whether they resign or are excommunicated, Ric said he is doubtful the family would return to the church, unless the church’s leadership underwent a complete overhaul.

“You can only be kicked down so many times before you get up and go in a different direction.”


READ: Faith-based groups earn millions on refugee loan commissions


Mayne said that Mormons feeling wounded by the new policy can seek support via the Mormon Mental Health Association, which provides a list of therapists across the U.S. where Mormons can seek treatment.

But he didn’t sugarcoat the dilemma for these families.

“Being gay and being Mormon is very much like being in an abusive relationship,” said Mayne. “If you think about it, what the First Presidency has said to LGBT people and to their children is very much in line to what the abusive spouses say to the one being abused. That sentence is, ‘I hit you because I love you.’”

He said he understands why people who feel like they’ve been betrayed one too many times may never return to the LDS church once they leave.

“This isn’t an audience we get a lot of second chances with, nor should we,” Mayne said. “We may have alienated a portion of what could be really amazing Latter-day Saints.”

(Lorena O’Neil is a contributor to RNS.)

  • Larry

    I always question the sanity of people willing to stay in churches which have stated their goal is to never treat them with respect or decency.

    The LDS has made it clear that it not going to treat gays or anyone associated with them with the even most basic level of dignity. The only reason why Paul and family had to struggle with the personal issues involving the church is because the church could not be bothered to treat him like a human being. He was justified in leaving it. It was a mistake to bring his children into such a toxic environment.

  • ben in oakland

    “For almost six weeks, Paul said, he was hooked up to electrodes and shown pictures of people in pornographic settings. He was jolted by electricity every time homosexual men aroused him and every time a heterosexual couple did not.”

    Torture. church and parent approved torture. And who picked out the porn photos? Who watched them with Paul?

    ““We thought we’d really like to be able to raise them with some sense of religious understanding or some sense of spiritual knowledge,” said Paul.

    There are plenty of churches. find a better class of church to join, one that doesn’t support torture of children, and a better class of people. Find one that doesn’t visit the sins” of the parents on the children.

    ““Being gay and being Mormon is very much like being in an abusive relationship,” said Mayne.

    finally, someone telling the truth.

    ““You can only be kicked down so many times before you get up and go in a different direction.”

    Once should have done it.

  • Des

    Maybe you should share that sentiment with every single parent family as well, because after al, don’t those kids need a mother and father too? Go tell women who were abused and finally divorced their abusive husbands that they should give up their children or just find another guy who might do the same. Go tell widows or widowers that they should just get over the death of their spouse and marry someone else quickly, so their children have a mother and a father. Then provide plenty of evidence that’s not biased and very clear that shows gay and lesbian parents are always awful parents. GO AHEAD. DO ALL OF THAT.

  • Larry

    It is common sense that children raised by gay families generally have one of two choices which you do not understand:
    1. Not existing at all (as with surrogates and IVF)
    2. Not having any parents to care for them

    Your need to tell people how to live their lives and whom they can and should raise is being selfish. You should stop repeating brain dead anti-gay memes.

  • Ben in oakland

    It should be common sense, but then very little that is common sense actually is common sense. Including antigay prejudice.

    Every child deserves a mother and a father? Trashing gay people will certainly accomplish that, far more so than outlawing divorce, requiring heterosexuals with children to marry, and getting serious about child abandonment. But all of that would seriously inconvenience heterosexuals, so we won’t see that happen.

    So you are saying that a woman makes a lousy father? I can assure you, a great many fathers make lousy fathers.

    So let’s trash gay people who are parents. Nothing says selfish more than committing yourself to loving and raising a child for 18 to 25 years, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sitting up with that child when she is sick or in despair.

  • Pingback: Are Mormons villains, or just people with a different story about their identity? | openDemocracy | Leadingchurch.com()

  • Me

    It’s called Stockholm Syndrome & it is very very sad. These people seriously need to break the brainwashing bonds of this awful institution & get their children as far away as possible.

    Do not let another generation be intoctrinated into this hate.

  • Harper

    What the heck? ? Please tell me you are kidding me. Families come in all sorts of configurations. Wow. You’re kidding, right?!

  • David

    Maybe you should read the recent study about gender talked about in Washington Post about how the brains of men and women are more of a spectrum and not so similar. Thus when it comes to things like gender, the only real difference is social conditioning and the anatomy of the parent.

    So you are saying that kids need two parents with different anatomy even if there is no measurable difference in their brains? I have known gay couples with kids. The irony is that a lot of them had kids when they were Mormon and married in other relationships. Those gay couples often have one partner who offers the kids more of the motherly nurturing than their own mothers.

    The nurturing role can be played by people with male or female anatomy. There are abusive straight mothers and abusive straight fathers. One gay couple I know has kids from straight parents who went to prison and they were related so the gay couple has cared for them. Straight people are not always the best parents. Get…

  • Katrin

    Nowhere does it say that the shock treatment was “church approved”. That was his parents’ choice only.
    The LDS teachings never included being gay as something they accept – as with other Christian religions. This isn’t anything new.
    Why would anyone be part of a religion that doesn’t accept one’s life style? If you don’t believe that church’s teachings, what are you doing there?
    This can shed some clarification on the matter. I never form an opinion without hearing both sides:
    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/handbook-changes-same-sex-marriages-elder-christofferson

  • Bill

    Katrina: Your claim about shock therapy not being “church approved” is incorrect. One of the therapy offices, where BYU students were sent for electric-shock treatment, was in the basement of the Smith Family Living Center on campus and administered by the BYU Psychology department.

    “…the earliest experiments with aversive therapies [including electric-shock therapy] at BYU to “cure” homosexuality date to the mid-1960s and were spearheaded by D. Eugene Thorne, head of BYU’s Psychology Dept. By 1968, he had gained enough information to report his findings from BYU in a paper given in San Francisco that year for the annual convention of the American Psychological Association. Then in 1969, school administration became more careful in its use of controversial therapies for treating “sexual deviancy” as they put it. The administration publicly claimed that use of such therapies had been curtailed but unofficially they continued unabated.”

    http://www.connellodonovan

  • ben in oakland

    “The LDS teachings never included being gay as something they accept – as with other Christian religions. This isn’t anything new.”

    Other Christian religions? I thought there was only one, or at least, only one that’s true.

    But of course, there are plenty of churches, ministers and entire denominations that have no problem with gay people. and even the Mormons claim they don’t have a problem with gay people, just uppity gay people who don’t know their place.

    As for acceptance? The policy is about not accepting the kids based upon the parents, ummm, errrr, “lifestyle.” I’m, told– repeatedly– that Mormons don’t visit the sins of the parents upon the children.

    And then:

    AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

    Must have been Fake Jesus.

  • ThomasT

    Nature strongly disagrees with you–Nature insists on both a male and female to make a child. Apparently Nature is not sexist and refuses to discriminate against one or the other, but requires both. Two parents, one of each sex. Why 21st Century Americans think they are so much smarter than God, Nature, or the vast majority of nations and generations before them on this issue is another issue. Obviously this is not about somebody just “playing a role” as a nurturer. There is obviously some doctrine and some purpose to life and to the reason for Creation having gender and procreation that these “nurturers,” who are mad at the prophets if they do not agree with him, may be missing.

  • Richard Rush

    ThomasT, of all the qualifications that make for good parenting, simply being a child’s biological mom and dad isn’t even near the top of the list. The talking point, “every child deserves a mom and a dad,” has been used repeatedly and deceptively, particularly by NOM, to attack gay people’s quest for marriage rights, and their ability to be good parents.

    Throughout human history until recently, large numbers of women died during childbirth due to either God killing them, or God allowing them to die. If “every child deserves a mother and a father,” why did God do that?

  • Cory

    Shock treatment was performed at BYU, among other universities. Please see the following article. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/mormon-gay-cures-reparative-therapies-shock-today/story?id=13240700

  • Ben in oakland

    Nature is quite clear– you need a sperm and an egg, maybe attached to a male and a female to make a Baby. It’s what they call biology.

    After that, nature isn’t clear. There is nothing about being a man or a woman, or a man AND a woman, that qualifies you to be a parent. The jails, gangs, drug rehab centers and Congress are full of the products of people that should never have had children, having them anyway. Stalin had Parents. Alexander Borgia had parents. Caligula had parents.

    No one except for Christianists are claiming to be smarter than God. gAy people exist, we are as good or bad as human beings as everyone else. We participate in society in all roles, whether you like it or not.

    And therein lies the issue. you don’t.

    I’ll believe the “every child deserves a vagina and a weenie” When I see the political campaigns directed at divorced heterosexuals, adulterous heterosexuals, promiscuous heterosexuals, and illegitimate parent heterosexuals.

  • Ben in oakland

    Now, Karla, you shouldn’t attack other people’s Christianity as being somehow less valid than your own.

  • Lauri

    Wow..what a unique family. I have never met an openly gay practicing Mormon. It seems they just have significant differences with the LDS teachings. How could they teach their children 2 opposing lifestyles and belief systems? I’m confused by that. It would be like being Mormon and Catholic too. The doctrine of each is very different. I teach LDS Sunday school for teens. We teach that marriage is only to be between a man and a woman legally wed. We teach sex outside a legal marriage between a man and a woman is wrong..is a sin..needs to be repented of. This is not new. I think maybe the gay community was confused because LDS leaders were encouraging kindness, compassion, and human rights for LGBT people. LGBT must repent from their breaking commandments as do all of us. We must show love and respect for people. All are made in His image …of course we will love all people, especially sinnes. We are all sinners.

  • Karen

    I liked your comments, Lauri. I agree with what you said. Thank you for posting.

  • Jennifer

    What do you teach them about marriage practices of the church’s first hundred+ years? When sex between one man and multiple women, even though illegal, was sanctioned? No, it didn’t end with the manifesto. Heber J. Grant was a polygamist. He was the president of the church from 1918 till his death in 1945. Was his polygamy a sin? He never repented of it.

  • Jennifer

    Not true. As an adoptive parent, I can tell you that the vast majority of children that gay parents adopt have literally thousands of heterosexual couples who would have adopted them in a heartbeat. I’m not saying that one type of couple is better than another, but your statement is NOT common sense, and has nothing to do with “brain dead anti-gay memes”.

  • Jennifer

    Not true. As an adoptive parent, I can tell you that the vast majority of children that gay parents adopt have literally thousands of heterosexual couples who would have adopted them in a heartbeat. I’m not saying that one type of couple is better than another, but your statement is NOT common sense, and has nothing to do with “brain dead anti-gay memes”.

  • Then came the “riptide,” as they called it. In April, Mormon leaders spoke about defending traditional families against the threat of “counterfeit and alternative lifestyles.”

    The Mormon religion itself is counterfeit, as well as the Jesus of Mormonism:

    http://downtownministries.blogspot.ca/2015/09/a-different-jesus.html

  • Paul and his family are welcome to worship with us, we use the same scriptures as the LDS Church, but we love and welcome all.

    http://cjccf.org

  • larry

    Not even close to true.

    There is no shortage of children waiting for adoption from any couple, gay or straight. Outside of adoption at birth, children in the US generally wait years to find adoptive parents. For the most part gays are adopting children considered undesirable by most couples. Few are willing to adopt children over the age of 4, or sibling pairs.

    Your whole premise that gay couples are taking children from straight couples is complete nonsense. You are definitely saying straight couples are more deserving of children, so that makes two 1ies in your postings so far.

    Plus straight couples gave access to international adoption avenues unavailable to gay couples (Modern Family is a work of fiction)

  • larry

    Anyone using “a child needs a mother and a father” as an argument against gay couples or families is brain dead as a matter of course. It is the anti gay meme considered most offensive to the sensibilities of people who are not gay.

    It is a deliberate misrepresentation of what we know about children raised in single/two parent homes.

    It’s an argument made completely based on the idea that gays must be treated as lesser people unworthy of parenthood.

  • Jyl

    I feel bad that you are teaching the youth and you don’t have a better understanding of this subject. I really hope you don’t have LGBT kids in your class.

  • Pingback: Sarah's Mormon Musings()

  • Ben in oakland

    @Jenifer

    And that’s why there are so many children still in foster care, still in orphanages. Black kids, older kids, kids coming from drug addicted parents.

    Because all of those hetero couples who would have adopted them. They,re just waiting.

    Probably for Godot.

  • Do you even know what your “religion” believes? I was Jewish for 45 years. As I sought out Jesus I spent several years researching other beliefs. I chose to follow Jesus. Mormons and many others do not. If it works for you fine. I guess if you like the comic book aspect and your sons really think a planet in the milky way sounds cool, have at it. Don’t however do the Christmas or Easter celebrations.

  • Chris

    This is NOT a lifestyle!!! It is biological. Read from the church’s website:

    Where the Church stands:
    The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

    Being LDS is a chose and a lifestyle.

  • James Sneak

    The gay community certainly was confused. Mistakenly believed that Mormons were Christians , they’re not. Mistakenly believed that Mormons had been taught basic manners, they haven’t. Mistakenly thought that Mormons would treat you as you treat them, they don’t. It’s the Mormon church and people like you, Lauri, that need to repent. You need to go before God and plead for your eternal soul because of the evil you are teaching about some of God’s favored children.

  • Jay

    The Mormon church messed up when they people living sinful lives have full fellowship. Now they have to back track and hurt people with doublespeak…

  • Derek

    Abraham never repented of it either.

  • Jamie

    The Church of Jesus Christ in Christian Fellowship, I read the information on the website and I
    “Contact[ed you at] info@cjccf.com, to learn where there will be a meeting close to you that you may worship with us.”
    However, “Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently: info@cjccf.com” 🙁

  • Do you have a meeting house in Cache County in Utah?

  • Sharron

    James, why do you suppose the “Mormons” is a slang term and that the church’s name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The Church believes in the same doctrine as Christ ministered on this earth two millennia ago. Get your facts straight before you say that “Mormons” are not Christians.