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

Jun 20, 2019

Please note: this book (and consequently, this review) reflects some of my beliefs on a sensitive topic. I know not everyone will hold the same view, and that's okay. I believe that discussing different viewpoints in a mutually respectful way brings greater compassion and empathy. I was grateful for the way this book expanded my heart just a little bit more.

Tom Christofferson grew up as the youngest of five boys. His parents were devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and so was he. He had a strong testimony of the Gospel, served a faithful mission, and even got married in the temple. But he was also gay. And the more he tried to fit into this preconceived idea of a "good" member of the Church, the more it didn't work for him. He couldn't get the two sides of himself (his faith and his sexual identity) to line up, and eventually, he left the Church.

He stayed away from the Church for over twenty-five years. During that time, his mother and father and four older brothers remained a constant source of strength and support in his life. Even though the rest of the them stayed strong in their religious convictions and standards (his oldest brother, Todd, was even called as an Apostle), they didn't let that stop them from loving Tom unconditionally.

And eventually, he came back. This book describes that process, but it is also a reflection on how we can be inclusive of all of our brothers and sisters, regardless of their beliefs and actions, and it is also Tom's own opinions on how he now fits into the Church as someone who is still gay but also faithfully keeping his covenants.

I really loved Tom's warm and kind personality, which came through so beautifully in this book.  But I also loved the way he was so candid and honest with his experience. After he decided to make a full return to the Church, he broke off his relationship with his partner of more than twenty years. That was extremely difficult for him (understandably so!), and one friend asked him why he couldn't find a way to be with his partner again. Tom answered, "The way I feel now, the way I experience the influence of the Holy Ghost, is powerful and delicious to me, and I don't ever want to live without it again." I thought that was a really interesting perspective from someone who had always lived a good life with high standards but who saw a noticeable difference in his ability to feel the Spirit when he resumed keeping the commandments. I know that this idea will be hard for some outside of my faith to understand and that Tom's decision might even rub them the wrong way. It might seem unfair or even wrong for Tom to have to hold back one part of himself in order to gain something else.

But his example of moving forward with faith through the questions and the doubts inspired me. This quote is a long one, but I still want to include it here to help me remember it in the future:
"I draw a parallel between my situation and that of the people of King Benjamin, who lived 120 years before the Savior was born. As they listened to their prophet-king, and through the power of the Spirit, they were converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They likely understood that Jesus embodied the higher law of the gospel, which would subsume and replace the law of Moses. And yet, for the rest of their lives, while being converted to Christ they continued to live the Mosaic law. I feel similarly, that more fulsome and more expansive ways to understand all our relationships and connections may be forthcoming, but meanwhile it is my determination to live the law I have.
Even though my challenges and questions may be different from Tom's, I have them just the same, and this is the kind of attitude and perspective I want to have--one of faith and trust: that God loves me perfectly and that His plan is grander and more expansive than my limited vision. There are many things that don't make sense to me, and sometimes these things pull me back and impede my progress because I don't know how to move forward without answers. But this is the answer: trust that there is more; trust that my knowledge isn't complete; trust that God loves all of His children.

Tom's mom seems like she must have been quite an amazing lady. When Tom was still just a baby, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. She underwent many radiation treatments, and one day, she said to her mother, "I can't stand having 16 more of those treatments." Her mother said, "Can you go today?" She replied, "Yes," and then her mother said, "Well, honey, that's all you have to do today." Tom applied that advice to his own life, and I like to think I can use it in my life as well. I just have to do the best that I can today. I don't have all of the answers, but I do have some answers, and so I can take one day at a time, trusting that with each step, I will gain a little more ground.

Tom quoted Joseph Smith, who said, "When you climb up a ladder, you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave." I liked the idea that this progression will continue beyond this life and into the next. Little by little, the picture will gradually become more complete.

I was so glad to have read this book. I'm sure it took a certain amount of courage and bravery for Tom to be vulnerable and write about his experiences, but I'm so grateful he did. I know I have room to be more inclusive and kind, and I am working on it. In a world where it is so easy to say the wrong thing or have it be interpreted the wrong way, this book gave me hope that reaching out in love and compassion is always the right answer.


  1. I've heard so many great reviews of this one---I really need to pick it up soon. Loved your thoughts here.

  2. What a great review. :) I love stories like this--not necessarily about homosexuality, but just just about making sacrifices for one's faith in general.

    I recently heard someone say, when asked why he abstained from certain activities because of his faith, that THAT is what religion does--it asks us to overcome our desires (whether they are same-sex attraction, alcoholism, anger, etc) and make sacrifices! I'm not Mormon (or a Jew, which this person was) but I think the principle is the same. Any belief system asks (or SHOULD ask) something from us. It's up to us to listen. :)

    1. I totally agree with you, Catie. And I think in our world today, it is a growing trend for people to believe that they shouldn't be asked ANYTHING by ANYONE but that they should only do what they want to do. But there is power in sacrifice and in giving up something for a greater purpose. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. This sounds like a beautiful and fascinating read! I guess I would struggle the most with the idea of leaving a partner for one's religion, because breaking promises seems a hard thing to reconcile with the idea of reconciliation. I guess I'll have to read the book to see how that worked out. But if loving someone and loving God are incompatible, then you have to choose one.

    1. You bring up a good point, Beth. If you end up reading this book, I'd love to hear your thoughts (even, or maybe especially, if they're different from mine).


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