When he was a teenager, Connell O'Donovan opened up to his Mormon seminary teacher and said that he was gay. O'Donovan was greeted with kindness — and a prescription to chart the frequency of his sexual thoughts; fasting and praying when the urges came were suggested as a means of willing them away. ''He didn't know what to do,'' O'Donovan said of his teacher, who is now a church elder. ''He was a super-nice guy, but just misinformed and all he had was the church handbook to go by.'' Raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, O'Donovan, a writer and historian, served a church mission and married in the church's Salt Lake City Temple. He came out in 1985 and eventually left the faith, unable to reconcile his gay identity with the teachings of the church.
''I had to throw the baby out with the bath water. I started from scratch and rebuilt myself,'' he said in an interview with The Associated Press last week. ''I decided that I can use the word grace, but in a different way.'' Last Sunday, the 43-year-old O'Donovan gave the keynote address at the 30th anniversary of Affirmation, a support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Mormons in Salt Lake City.