In last month’s BYU devotional, Elder Ballard responded to a question about LGBT members of the Church by stating:

I want anyone who is a member of the Church who is gay or lesbian to know I believe you have a place in the kingdom and I recognize that sometimes it may be difficult for you to see where you fit in the Lord’s Church, but you do.

It was good to see an apostle actually affirm that gay members “have a place in the Kingdom,” and acknowledge that it may be difficult to see how they fit in the Church, but they do. The problem with this response is that they really only fit so long as they are willing to sacrifice a fundamental aspect of their core humanity. For gay people, that means giving up love and companionship with the person they are naturally attracted to. For trans people, that means giving up living in a way that harmonizes their outward/physical appearance with their inward/mental conception of their true gender identity.

As if to make this clear, he concluded his response with the disclaimer church leaders usually give whenever they talk about LGBT issues:

When we love God, we make and strive to keep our sacred covenants. I testify that living gospel commandments brings anyone untold blessings, allowing us to become our very best selves—exactly who God wants us to be.

In other words, if you are LGBT, you really only fit in the Church if you live the way we think God wants you to live. If you choose differently, desiring in good faith and with all integrity to have the same blessings of love and companionship, or congruent gender identity, that your straight and cis-gendered counterparts have, there really is no place for you. In fact, per official church policy, you are apostate.

Somewhat confusingly, at the same time, the Church, through Deseret Book and LDS Living, has been widely publicizing Tom Christofferson’ new book, which points out how his ward and stake leaders welcomed him and his partner with open arms, even asking Tom to teach occasional lessons in the high priests group.

So the follow-up question for Elder Ballard is: do all LGBT members have a place in the Church, even if they have a partner as Tom Christofferson did when he first returned to church? Should they be treated as apostates per official Church policy, or should they be welcomed with open arms as Tom was by his Bishop and Stake President? Until a church apostle can answer this unequivocally – and not just through less official channels like Deseret Book – LGBT members will continue to wonder if and how they have a place in the Church. And they will continue to be subject to the vagaries of their local leaders (also known as “leader roulette”), many of whom would not be as daring and educated as Tom’s local leaders were.[1]

[1] Tom’s Bishop “was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs who, a couple of years earlier, had been asked to head their human resources department, including their diversity programs. In that role, he had come to know and respect LGBT colleagues in his firm.”  Christofferson, Tom. That We May Be One: A Gay Mormon’s Perspective on Faith and Family (Kindle Locations 1365-1367). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.