“I was originally a Mormon missionary; I baptised 65 people,” he says. “[But then I became] a missionary for marriage equality, a missionary for LGBTIQ+ rights.” Mr Harker is from a sixth-generation Mormon family and was an ardent follower of the faith, but after decades of being “taught to live a lie”, he came out as gay in 2011. He is one of about 12 former and current Mormons who will march as part of the “Peacock Mormons” float at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.
Mr Harker says like other Christian groups, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the official name of the Mormon church) has a history of espousing anti-LGBTQIA+ teachings.
“Historically, they would produce anti-gay literature, they would have books on how not to be gay, they’d teach you not to be gay, that it was a sin,” he says. “Basically, it was Satan’s territory. You were taught, if you were gay, to have shame and to lie.”
Mr Harker married twice and had four children before he came out. He went on to marry his partner Scott, and says his children continue to be “very supportive” of his journey. “I now just want to advocate that being gay is OK,” he says. “We can be visible, not invisible.”The Peacock Mormons
The Mormon church, headquartered in the US state of Utah, says it has about 150,000 members in Australia. It has strict rules around sexuality and “sexual purity,” with church material saying, “sexual relations between a man and woman who are not married, or between people of the same sex, violate one of our Father in Heaven’s most important laws and get in the way of our eternal progress”. In regard to homosexuality, church material says, “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.”gainst this backdrop, Brisbane-based Mr Harker is still officially a Mormon, but no longer practises. He calls himself a “Peacock Mormon”.Since coming out, he has been lobbying the church to be more accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community.
This included organising the Peacock Mormons group and its first float in the 2018 Mardi Gras parade, where dozens of former and current Mormons dressed in black-and-white missionary attire with name tags reading “Elder Equality”. “I feel like I betrayed the [LGBTQIA+] community because I was closeted and when I came out, I felt that I never want to betray them again,” he says.
Mr Harker was part of a global push that saw the church recently remove two of its policies.In 2019, the church announced it would no longer characterise Mormons in same-sex marriages as “apostates”, and removed a ban on baptising children of LGBTQIA+ couples. But rather than feeling bitterness towards the church, Mr Harker says now is a time for “forgiving each other and being able to move on together”.
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