Homosexuality and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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The law of chastity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) states that "sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife." In principle, this commandment forbids all homosexual behavior (whether intra-marriage or extramarital). Homosexuality-related violations of the law of chastity may result in church discipline.
Members of the church who experience homosexual attractions, including those who self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, may remain in good standing in the church if they abstain from all homosexual relations (and from heterosexual relations outside of opposite-sex marriage). Though no one, including active homosexuals, is forbidden from LDS Church Sunday worship services, acquiring and maintaining membership in the church and receiving a temple recommend is dependent upon observing the law of chastity's prohibition of sexual relationships outside of a marital relationship between husband and wife.
Although the LDS Church has taught that homosexuality is a curable condition, it now acknowledges that "individuals do not choose to have such attractions." The church teaches that regardless of the cause of same sex attraction, "immoral relationships" must be abjured.
The LDS Church has campaigned against government recognition of same-sex marriage, and the issue of same-sex marriage has been one of the church's foremost political concerns since the 1990s. For example, Mormon church members represented as much as 80 to 90 percent of the early volunteers petitioning voters door-to-door and 50 percent of the campaign funds in support of California Proposition 8 (2008). The LDS Church supported a Salt Lake City ordinance protecting members of the LGBT community against discrimination in employment and housing while at the same time allowing religious institutions to discriminate in hiring or providing university accommodations, stating it remained "unequivocally committed to defending the bedrock foundation of marriage between a man and a woman."
In November 2015, the church updated its policies regarding those in legal same-sex unions, stating that such couples are apostates from the church. Its new policies also bar such couples' children—either adopted or biological—from being baptized, confirmed, ordained and participating in mission service without permission from church leaders.
- 1 History and background
- 2 Current theology and policy
- 3 Publications and speeches
- 4 Mixed-orientation marriage
- 5 Political involvement
- 6 Brigham Young University
- 7 Conversion therapy
- 8 Homosexual Mormons
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
History and background
The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, two publications that the LDS Church considers to be scripture, are silent on subjects specific to homosexuality. Sexual immorality, coupled with forsaking one's ministry which led to the destruction of faith of others, was described in the Book of Mormon as the "most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost."
The LDS Church teaches that the Bible forbids homosexuality,[non-primary source needed] when it states, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible clarifies the KJV translation of Paul's condemnation of homosexual practices, as found in the Epistle to the Romans.
D. Michael Quinn has suggested that early church leaders had a more tolerant view of homosexuality, but apostle Gordon B. Hinckley has stated that prophets have always considered any immoral sexual conduct, including homosexual behavior, as a "grievous sin."
The first church leader to publicly use the term "homosexuality" was First Presidency member J. Reuben Clark in 1952. In an address to the General Relief Society Conference entitled, "Home, and the Building of Home Life," he said "the person who teaches or condones the crimes for which Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed—we have coined a softer name for them than came from old; we now speak of homosexuality, which it is tragic to say, is found among both sexes."
Valeen Avery suggested that Joseph Smith's son, David Hyrum Smith (1844–1904), may have had homosexual tendencies. During the early days of the church, when gay or lesbian intercourse was discovered, the accused was sometimes disfellowshipped or excommunicated, beginning with the first known case in 1841 involving alleged bisexuality by church leader John C. Bennett.
As an illness
In 1959, in response to a rash of arrests of gay men in Utah and Idaho, church president David O. McKay assigned apostles Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Petersen to work on curing gays within the church. At the time, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classified homosexuality as a mental illness, and Kimball was adamant that it could be cured. Speaking to church educators and LDS psychiatrists in 1965, Kimball said, citing a Medical World News article, that "[w]e know such a disease is curable," and that ex-gay Mormons had emerged from the church's counseling programs cured, although the cure was "like the cure for alcoholism subject to continued vigilance". In 1970, Kimball was involved in creating an LDS publication for church leaders to "assist them to effect a cure and ... become normal again". The pamphlet taught that church leaders may assist gay members by reciting scripture; appealing to their reason; encouraging them to abandon gay lovers and associates; praying with them; and encouraging them to replace their gay lifestyle with positive action and straight dating. The pamphlet emphasized that "[h]omosexuality CAN be cured".
As a tendency
In 1992, when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from list of mental illnesses classified by the International Classification of Diseases, the church produced a booklet for leaders entitled Understanding and Helping Those With Homosexual Problems, which removed all reference to homosexuality as a disease. The church frequently references contemporary scientific research, but explains that this should not be taken as an official church position on "scientific questions," such as the cause of homosexuality.
Proposed historical tolerance
D. Michael Quinn has suggested that early church leaders had a more tolerant view of homosexuality. He argues that during the 19th century, the church (like American society as a whole) was relatively tolerant of same-sex intimate relationships, although many such relationships had no sexual component, and among those that did the evidence is usually circumstantial.
Quinn also claims that some active and prominent members of the church in Utah were not disciplined after publicizing that they were living in intimate relationships with their same-sex domestic partners, although there is no clear evidence these relationships involved sex. These included Evan Stephens, who had been director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir until 1916 and is the author of numerous standard church hymns, who remained single but had intimate relationships and shared the same bed with a series of male domestic partners and traveling companions. Some of these relationships were described under a pseudonym in The Children's Friend. Also notable were Louise B. Felt and May Anderson, the church's first two general presidents of the Primary, who lived together in the same bedroom for decades and were referred to by Primary leaders as the "David and Jonathan" of Primary.
Two LDS writers have called Quinn's interpretations a distortion of LDS history. They deny that previous leaders of the church tolerated or accepted of homosexuality and state that the position of the current leadership "is entirely consistent with the teachings of past leaders and with the scriptures." They disagree with Quinn's theory that Stephens was involved in intimate relationships with other men or that the article in The Children's Friend was about these relationships, stating that Stephens was "known only as a strictly moral Christian gentleman." They also note that Anderson originally came to Felt's house at the request of her husband to be with his wife during her illness, and they argue that there was not any sexual component to their relationship.
Current theology and policy
In 1999, Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the church, officially welcomed gay people in the church, and in an interview affirmed them as "good people": "Now we have gays in the church. Good people. We take no action against such people—provided they don't become involved in transgression, sexual transgression. If they do, we do with them exactly what we'd do with heterosexuals who transgress". The church teaches that homosexual problems can be overcome "through faith in God, sincere repentance, and persistent effort." "Homosexual relations" is included on the church's list of "serious transgressions" that may result in a disciplinary council and, if the person does not desist, excommunication. The church defines "serious transgressions" to include "murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations (especially sexual cohabitation), deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, theft, embezzlement, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, and false swearing".
In November 2015, the church clarified that its members who are in a same-sex marriage are in apostasy and would be subject to church discipline. Prior to this, local leadership had more discretion in whether or how far to pursue church disciplinary action for members in same-sex marriages. Local church leaders still have discretion for same-sex couples who are cohabiting but not married. While explicitly including same-sex marriage in the church's definition of apostasy, the November 2015 update also addressed children of same-sex couples. In the updated policy, children living in a same-sex household may not receive a name and a blessing, nor be baptized until at least 18 years of age, and must disavow same-sex marriage and no longer be living with a parent who is, or has been, in a same-sex relationship.
Terminology used by the church
Although there is no official policy to this effect, some church leaders have stated that "homosexual", "lesbian", and "gay" should be used as adjectives to describe thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, and never as nouns to describe people. Not all leaders adhere to this approach. For example, Hinckley once stated in a public interview that "we have gays in the church". Those leaders who adopt this position argue that using these words to denote a person rather than a feeling would imply a person has no choice in regards to their sexual behavior. Church leaders and organizations have made reference to homosexuality as a sexual orientation but have not directly addressed bisexuality. According to apostle Dallin H. Oaks, church references condemning homosexuality are to be interpreted as a condemnation of sexual behavior, not of the people who have certain sexual feelings.
"Homosexual problems", according to popular church vernacular, are defined as "homoerotic thoughts, feelings, or behaviors." In describing people with homosexual feelings, the church and its members will often refer to "same-gender attractions". This is used in contrast to people who have problems with opposite-gender attraction. "Marriage" is defined by the church as being between a man and a woman. To many in the church, same-sex marriages are not considered a legitimate form of marriage, and the church supports the notion of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The church does not condemn what it calls "susceptibilities," "inclinations", or "temptations" of any type that are not acted upon, pointing to the example of the temptation of Christ. Members with homosexual "inclinations" can participate as all other members of the church and if they remain celibate or heterosexually married, they can participate in the religion to the same extent as straight members. Heterosexual marriage is considered a sacred covenant which should generally not be pursued if homosexual feelings are not under control. Those with same-gender attractions are encouraged to talk to their ecclesiastical leader. They are encouraged not to let their sexual feelings be the sole defining factor in their lives, but to see the whole person, extending their horizons beyond their sexual orientation. They are advised that they should be careful not to blame their parents.
However, church leaders recognize the loneliness and difficulty that those with homosexual inclinations may have and encourage other members to reach out to them. Oaks has said, “All should understand that persons (and their family members) struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction are in special need of the love and encouragement that is a clear responsibility of church members, who have signified by covenant their willingness to bear one another's burden and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The church does not participate in debate on whether homosexual susceptibilities develop from "nature" or "nurture", suggesting that such debates are better left to science. Oaks has admitted that "perhaps such susceptibilities are inborn or acquired without personal choice" and "may have some relationship to inheritance," citing some scientific research. However, the church teaches that these inclinations will not continue beyond death and that gender and gender roles are an eternal and essential characteristic of a soul.
The church teaches that all members should take responsibility in bridling their thoughts, attitudes, feelings, desires, and passions. All members are taught to avoid any talk or activity that may arouse immoral sexual feelings. Members are taught to "let virtue garnish [their] thoughts unceasingly." Apostle Richard G. Scott has taught that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, all desire to sin can be changed and individuals can experience lasting peace.
For those with same-gender attractions, church leaders counsel that "the line of prudence is between the susceptibility and the feelings." The church teaches that everyone has feelings they did not choose, and homosexual feelings can be powerful and difficult to control but "regardless of the causes, these problems can be controlled and eventually overcome." Even though there is no church discipline for homosexual thoughts or feelings, the church teaches they should learn to accept responsibility for homosexual feelings and cite examples of how those born with inclinations to alcoholism, anger, or other undesirable traits have been able to control their thoughts and actions. With better understanding of moral law, they teach these problems will be able to be fixed "routinely."
The church teaches that members should not indulge in activities that will intensify homosexual feelings, such as viewing pornography, masturbating, or participating in homosexual behavior. "Unhealthy" relationships, such as those with people that encourage homosexual behavior, should be cut off, and the very appearance of evil should be avoided. Bishops of the church are counseled to be careful to avoid creating circumstances in which those with homosexual problems are exposed to temptations.
In 1991, the church issued a statement that read:
Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife appropriately expressed within the bonds of marriage. Any other sexual contact, including fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior is sinful .... We plead with those involved in such behavior to forsake it.
The church has also taught that homosexual behavior distorts loving relationships, undermines the divinely created institution of the family and can become an addiction. Church discipline for homosexual activity is similar to that for members involved in heterosexual activity. For example, pre-marital sex of either kind may permanently bar a person from serving as a church missionary.
There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just "that way" and can only yield to those desires. It is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life ... Boys are to become men—masculine, manly men—ultimately to become husbands and fathers.
Although church leaders condemn the sin of homosexual behavior, they teach love for the men and women who experience homosexual attraction, including for those who pursue some form of homosexual lifestyle: "We should reach out with kindness and comfort to the afflicted, ministering to their needs and assisting them with their problems." Church leaders have spoken out against "gay-bashing" and other physical or verbal attacks on those involved in homosexual behavior.
Church president Spencer W. Kimball stated that he finds it hard to believe that one would choose to be homosexual by a conscious decision; instead, he suggested that it might be a spiritual disorder—with its roots in selfishness—resulting in feelings that must be overcome or suppressed. Kimball emphasized that the behavior is changeable, and if not repented of, may result in church discipline including excommunication under the direction of the bishop. Kimball maintained that the cure comes through following the basic rules for moral and spiritual health for a long period of time with undeviating determination.
Packer addressed youth in the church dealing with homosexual attractions and stated:
We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you. You may even feel that we do not love you. That also is not true. Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy.
The church pamphlet "God Loveth His Children" acknowledges that some gays "have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love." It criticizes those members, and challenges gays to show love and kindness so the members can "change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully."
Publications and speeches
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In 1965, apostle Spencer W. Kimball addressed homosexuality in his speech "Love vs Lust." He called it a "heinous" sin, but taught those with homosexual "desires and tendencies" could overcome it "the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery." He taught that although everyone is subject to temptations, "the difference between the reprobate and the worthy person is generally that one yielded and the other resisted." In 1969, he expanded this talk in the Miracle of Forgiveness, in which he teaches that masturbation can lead to the act of homosexuality. Kimball viewed many homosexuals as "basically good people who have become trapped in sin" and that "some totally conquer homosexuality in a few months." However, he also claimed that homosexual behavior can lead to sex with animals:
Sin in sex practices tends to have a "snowballing" effect. As the restraints fall away, Satan incites the carnal man to ever-deepening degeneracy in his search for excitement until in many instances he is lost to any former considerations of decency. Thus it is that through the ages, perhaps as an extension of homosexual practices, men and women have sunk even to seeking sexual satisfactions with animals.
Although Kimball makes clear the book is only his personal opinion and "absolves" the church from any errors in the book, he later gave several speeches over the pulpit at general conference as the church's prophet, seer and revelator in which he made similar claims about masturbation leading to homosexuality. For example, in 1974, Kimball stated that "[e]very form of homosexuality is sin. Pornography is one of the approaches to that transgression." Over half a decade later in a special message to all members of the church, Kimball stated that "[s]ometimes masturbation is the introduction to the more serious sins of exhibitionism and the gross sin of homosexuality."
In 1973, the church published a guide for bishops and stake presidents titled "Homosexuality: Welfare Services Packet 1" which posited that "homosexual behavior begins in various ways. Some young children are molested by strangers, acquaintances, or even relatives ... however, not all who are molested become homosexual." Also that "a traditional explanation of homosexuality is that the child has a domineering mother and a passive father." As well as, "misunderstandings of sexuality among LDS people can contribute to homosexuality." As far as changing the sexual orientation of the person the packet says that the lesbian “needs to learn feminine behavior”, and the gay man "must be introduced to and learn the heterosexual or 'straight' way of life ... and what a manly priesthood leader and father does"
In 1976, the church issued "To Young Men Only", a pamphlet for young men reproducing a sermon by apostle Boyd K. Packer, which counseled against immorality and included a section condemning homosexual acts. In the sermon, Packer commended a missionary who was upset after he "floored" his assigned male companion in response to unwanted sexual advances. In 1978, Packer followed this up with "To the One", a sermon that was also published as a pamphlet, which characterized homosexual interaction as a perversion and presented the possibility that it had its roots in selfishness and could be cured with "unselfish thoughts, with unselfish acts".:6 He states that the church had not previously talked more about homosexuality because "some matters are best handled very privately":3 and "we can very foolishly cause things we are trying to prevent by talking too much about them".:19
In July 2007, the church published the booklet "God Loveth His Children", which is addressed to Latter-day Saints with same-gender attraction and sets out the church's doctrine and policies on homosexuality.
In December 2012, the church launched the website titled "Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction" at mormonsandgays.org "in an effort to encourage understanding and civil conversation about same-sex attraction."
Boyd K. Packer
Quinn has pointed to apostle Packer's "To Young Men Only" as evidence of problematic attitudes in the LDS Church towards homosexuals. In the sermon, Packer encourages teenage boys to avoid immoral activities, which he says includes viewing pornography, masturbating, participating in homosexual behavior, and participating in sexual relations outside of marriage. Packer encourages young Latter-day Saints to "vigorously resist" any males "who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts." Packer cites the example of a male missionary he had known who punched his missionary companion for making romantic advances. Packer says he told the missionary, "Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn't be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way." After telling the story, Packer comments, "I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself." Packer has offered a similar warning against heterosexual advances, but without the threat of violence in return: "Never let anyone handle you or touch those very personal parts of your body which are an essential link in the ongoing of creation"
Quinn has argued that the obliqueness of these vague comments constitute an endorsement of gay bashing by Packer, and that the church itself endorses such behavior by continuing to publish Packer's speech in pamphlet form. However, in 1995, Oaks said, "Our doctrines obviously condemn those who engage in so-called 'gay bashing'—physical or verbal attacks on persons thought to be involved in homosexual or lesbian behavior."
Hinckley declared that heterosexual "marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices, which first should clearly be overcome with a firm and fixed determination never to slip to such practices again."
Unless this is done, a person who has had homosexual feelings cannot enter marriage in good faith and doing so can damage the lives of others. Church leaders are warned that encouraging members to cultivate heterosexual feelings generally leads to frustration and discouragement. They speak against those who enter into marriages under false pretense.
The church maintains that it is possible to overcome same-sex relationships. It notes that some have reported that heterosexual feelings can emerge once freed from homosexual problems. It would be appropriate for those with homosexual feelings to get married if they "have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity." Several members of the church have dealt with their attractions sufficiently to get married.
Some gay and lesbian members of the LDS Church have thought that they should get married because of the church's doctrines on marriage. The church teaches that heterosexual marriage is one of several requirements for entry into the "highest degree of glory" of the celestial kingdom, the highest level of heaven. Marriage between a man and a woman is considered an essential part in the LDS belief of attaining that heaven. Therefore, the LDS Church teaches that the family is the fundamental unit of society in this life and in heaven. However, the church has taught that such a family must not come about through deceit or lies. Those who do not have an opportunity to be married in this life have been promised that they will have an opportunity to do so in the afterlife; this promise has been reiterated with respect to those with homosexual attractions. Leaders have said that homosexual attractions will not continue past death, and that if the individual is faithful in this life, they will receive every blessing in the eternities, including eternal marriage.
The LDS Church reserves the right to become involved in political matters if it perceives that there is a moral issue at stake. Apostle M. Russell Ballard has said the church is "locked in" if anything interferes with the principle of marriage being between a man and a woman, and a very careful evaluation is made to determine what is appropriate and what is not. In February 2003, the LDS Church said it did not oppose a hate-crimes bill, which included sexual orientation, then under consideration in the Utah state legislature. The church opposes same-sex marriage, but does not object to rights regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference. In November 2008, the day after California voters approved Proposition 8, the LDS Church stated that it does not object to domestic partnership or civil union legislation as long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches. Following two months of negotiations between top Utah gay rights leaders and mid-level church leaders, the church supported a gay rights bill in Salt Lake City which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and employment, calling them "common-sense rights". The law does not apply to housing or employment provided by religious organizations. Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland argued that it could be a model for the rest of the state. After the passage of Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the U.S. Senate, the LDS Church has not taken a position on the act.
Although the church has previously stated that it will end its nine-decade-long affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America if homosexual conduct is permitted, it now supports the BSA's 2013 policy change that permits membership to youth regardless of sexual orientation. The LDS Church is the largest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, the LDS Church began to focus its attention on the issue of same-sex marriages. In 1993, the Supreme Court of Hawaii held that discrimination against same-sex couples in the granting of marriage licenses violated the Hawaiian constitution. In response, the church's First Presidency issued a statement on February 13, 1994 declaring the church's opposition to same-sex marriage, and urging its members to support efforts to outlaw gay and lesbian marriages. With the assistance of the LDS Church and several other religious organizations, the Hawaii legislature enacted a bill in 1994 outlawing same-sex marriages.
In response to the defeat of the church on Hawaii's same-sex marriage passage, the LDS Church released "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" in a 1995 statement by church president and prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, which reaffirmed the LDS Church's doctrinal stance that marriage is between a man and a woman. This stance has been called into question by LGBT activists[who?] due to the LDS Church's history of polygamy.
In 2004, the church officially endorsed an amendment to the United States Constitution banning marriage except between a man and a woman. The church also officially announced its opposition to political measures that "confer legal status on any other sexual relationship" than "a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife." Although the statement was directed specifically to gay marriage, the statement could also be read to encompass political opposition by the church to recognizing civil unions, common-law marriages, plural marriages, or other family arrangements. Support of an amendment in California has caused Mark Leno to question whether the church's tax-exempt status should be revoked.
On August 13, 2008, the church released an article further elaborating why it teaches that gay marriage will be detrimental to society; the letter also encouraged church members living in California to use resources necessary in support of Proposition 8, which proposed defining marriage as only a union between one man and one woman. The church asked its membership to donate time and money towards the initiative. Church members accounted for 80 to 90 percent of the volunteers who campaigned door-to-door and as much as half of the nearly $40 million raised. The church's political involvement and stance on homosexuality was denounced by the 2010 documentary film 8: The Mormon Proposition. The church was criticized for its involvement by non-members and by some of its members, and in 2010, general authority Marlin K. Jensen personally apologized to church members in California for the church's role.
On December 20, 2013, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down the Utah ban on same-sex marriage, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. In response, the church released instructions to leaders regarding same-sex marriage in Utah. It stated that, while the church disagrees with the court ruling, those who obtain same-sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully. However, church officers are prohibited from employing their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages, and meetinghouses or other properties are not allowed to be used for ceremonies, receptions or other activities associated with same-sex marriages.
In November 2015, the church clarified that its members who are in a same-sex marriage are in apostasy and may be subject to church discipline. Children of parents who are in same-sex relationships must wait until they are 18 years old and disavow homosexual relationships before they can be baptized.
Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University (BYU) is the largest religious university in North America and is the flagship educational institution of the LDS Church's Church Educational System. In order to attend BYU, students must abide by the school's Honor Code. The Honor Code was recently reworded after several students argued that the previous wording was confusing and unclear, restricting sexual identity instead of lifestyle. Advocacy of homosexuality and the promotion of homosexual relations as being morally acceptable was explicitly mentioned as being "against the honor code" until a change of the Code in early 2011. It is now explicit that sexual orientation is not an honor code issue.
In the 1970s, a student at BYU, Max Ford McBride, published a dissertation that included several experiments in the use of aversion therapy to treat ego-dystonic homosexuality. It is unknown whether the LDS Church was aware of these experiments. At the time, homosexuality was considered by the medical community as a psychiatric condition, and aversion therapy was one of the more common methods used to try to cure it. In 1966, Martin Seligman had conducted a study at the University of Pennsylvania that demonstrated positive results, which led to "a great burst of enthusiasm about changing homosexuality [that] swept over the therapeutic community." In one experiment, volunteers that attended BYU were shown pornographic photos of men while being shocked with self-chosen amounts of voltage. One participant was Don Harryman, who wrote that he experienced "burns on [his] arms and ... emotional trauma". Additionally 'Rocky' Connell O'Donovan describe the attempts by the University to 'cure' his homosexuality' through vomit-inducing aversion therapy as well as Raymond King describing the use of electroshock aversion therapy at BYU in the 1996 short documentary Legacies. The documentary 8:The Mormon Proposition also contains an interview wherein Bruce Barton claims BYU blackmailed him into vomit aversion therapy, as well as electroshock therapy later precipitating in his suicide attempt. In 2011 BYU admitted to the past use of electroshock therapy but denies that it has never used vomit-inducing therapy "in the BYU Counseling Center" in the Wilkinson Student Center, but the survivors claim the vomit therapy took place in the Joseph F. Smith Family Living Center building, home of the Psychology department until it was demolished in 1990. After flaws were demonstrated in Seligman's experiments, aversion therapy fell out of popularity and in 1994, the American Medical Association issued a report that stated "aversion therapy is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians."
In 1997, BYU president Merrill J. Bateman was "unable to verify" that electric shock therapies took place at the school and requested documentation to support the allegations despite a copy of the August 1976 Max Ford McBride BYU PhD thesis "Effects of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy" being available in the campus library. The thesis documents the use of "Electrical Aversion Therapy" on 14 homosexual men using a "phallometric" apparatus, "barely tolerable" shocks, and "nude male visual-cue stimuli". One faculty member is quoted in a "question and answer" article on the BYU website as stating that aversion therapy may have taken place at BYU when he was an undergraduate student, but only in rare circumstances.
In 2011, a group called "Understanding Same-Gender Attraction," consisting of BYU students and other members of the Provo community, began meeting on campus to discuss issues relating to homosexuality and the LDS Church. However, by December 2012, USGA was told it could no longer hold meetings on BYU's campus, and though the BYU leadership claims to not know about this request it has been confirmed by all the members of the USGA leadership to have come from the LDS church leadership and not from BYU.
When asked the church's position on conversion therapy, Wickman responded: "It may be appropriate for that person to seek therapy. Certainly the Church doesn't council against that kind of therapy." Oaks continued, "[t]he Church rarely takes a position on which treatment techniques are appropriate." They emphasize that from the church's standpoint, the clinical side is not the most important thing, but the recognition that the individual has their own agency to control what their own actions. Wickman and Oaks cautioned against potentially abusive practices, such as aversion therapy.
In general, the church discourages member participation in groups that "challenge religious and moral values," "foster physical contact among participants," or "encourage open confession or disclosure of personal information normally discussed only in confidential settings." It has stated that "although participants may experience temporary emotional relief or exhilaration, old problems often return, leading to added disappointment and despair."
Several church members have been involved in the therapy for people with homosexual inclinations. A. Dean Byrd has published several articles in professional magazines and in the Ensign on the subject of homosexuality. Beckstead and Morrow analyzed the experience of 50 Mormon men undergoing conversion therapy.
Jeff Robinson interviewed seven heterosexually married Mormon men who had been through conversion therapy and previously identified as gay. The seven men believe they had a spiritual transformation and that their orientation was changed. They were no longer troubled by emotional attraction to men, sexual attraction to men, feeling bad about same-sex desires, social isolation, or compulsive sexual thoughts and behaviors. Robinson found that their change came from a new understanding that prior same-sex attractions did not require them to "be" gay.
There are no official numbers for how many members of the LDS Church identify as gay or lesbian. LDS Family Services estimates that there are, on average, four or five members per church ward who experience same-sex attraction. The most recent external study, conducted in 1972, shows that between 10–13 percent of college-aged Mormon men reported past experimentation with homosexual behavior, which was similar to the percentage of non-Mormon men who similarly reported. The study did not tabulate the number of homosexuals who had never had a homosexual experience. Gary Watts, former president of Family Fellowship, estimates that only 10 percent of homosexual Mormons remain in the church. Others dispute that estimate, saying numbers in support groups for active Latter-day Saints and for self-identified gay Mormons are comparable. Many of these individuals have come forward through different support groups or websites stating their homosexual attractions and concurrent church membership. A number of personal accounts were published in A Place in the Kingdom: Spiritual Insights from Latter-day Saints about Same-Sex Attraction. Other personal experiences are documented on the LDS SSA Resources and People Can Change websites. Others have shared their stories through the Ensign, through the Evergreen International website and blogs. There is a variety of terminology used, including "Moho", to refer to a Mormon homosexual. The following are some of the more prominent individuals within the gay and "ex-gay" Mormon community:
- Ty Mansfield served as a missionary in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission, graduated from BYU, and taught two religion classes in the summer of 2013 at BYU as an adjunct faculty member. He chronicled his coming to terms with his sexuality in a co-authored book with Fred and Marilyn Matis, In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-gender Attraction, published by Deseret Book in 2004. Mansfield later married and recently published another book on homosexuality, also by Deseret Book, in 2011, titled Voices of Hope: Latter-day Saint Perspectives on Same-gender Attraction—An Anthology of Gospel Teachings and Personal Essays.
- Tom Christofferson is the brother of Apostle D. Todd Christofferson and has returned to activity in the church after leaving decades ago. He serves in Affirmation leadership.
- David Matheson admitted to himself that he was attracted to men when he was 22 and married. Following seven years of therapy, he claimed to have changed his sexual orientation. He has since become a licensed professional counselor and has made his clinical focus to be "helping men who want to diminish unwanted homosexuality and feel whole as men." He is the clinical director of the Center for Gender Wholeness, co-creator of the Journey into Manhood weekend, and a director of People Can Change. He has written the Evergreen International Workbook for Men, Four Principles of Growth, and has made several media appearances talking about overcoming homosexual attractions. He says that he is not completely straight, but "straight enough."
- H. Stuart Matis, a celibate homosexual, stated that "straight members have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up gay in this church. It is a life of constant torment, self-hatred and internalized homophobia." Matis committed suicide at an LDS Church meetinghouse in Los Altos, California. After two of his gay friends also committed suicide, Affirmation members began to hold suicide vigils around the country to raise awareness about suicide prevention and the destructive consequences of what they considered to be homophobic treatment by other church members. Suicide victims are posted on its website. Matis's story is described in the book In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction and was later inspired and created into the play "Missa Solemnis; or, The Play About Henry" written by non-Mormon playwright Roman Feeser. Matis's death was described in the 2010 documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition.
- Mitch Mayne, a celibate homosexual member in San Francisco, served as of 2011 as executive secretary to the bishop in the local Bay Ward. Mayne has promoted family acceptance of LGBT youth and hopes to serve as a bridge to the gay community. He has also promoted the idea that all people with homosexual feelings, including those who are involved in homosexual behavior, should be welcomed into the church with no consequences for their sexual choices. He has said that he is not committed to church teachings about homosexuality and could well enter a gay relationship in the future. He claims that church leaders are mistaken in their teachings about homosexuality.
- Jason Park admitted his homosexual feelings at the age of 31 after being married for four years. After founding and participating in the original Evergreen International support group and going through therapy, he has since ceased his homosexual behavior and found peace with his feelings and happiness in his family life. He has since written 3 books concerning homosexuality (Resolving Homosexual Problems: A Guide for LDS Men; Understanding Male Homosexual Problems: An Introduction for Latter-day Saints; Helping LDS Men Resolve their Homosexual Problems: A Guide for Family, Friends, and Church Leaders) and a scholarly paper Overcoming Male Homosexual Problems. He is a popular speaker at Evergreen International conferences.
- Rich Wyler was excommunicated from the church due to his homosexual behavior, but has since rejoined the church. He was married and then widowed. He is the founder and executive director of People Can Change and co-creator and leader of Journey into Manhood. He established Higher Path Life Coaching and began coaching professionally in 2005. He leads telephone-based coaching group called "A Wife's Journey: Caring for Yourself and Your Family When Your Husband Struggles With Homosexuality or Addiction."
- Tyler Glenn is the lead vocalist of the American rock band Neon Trees and came out as a gay Mormon in Rolling Stones magazine in March 2014, but has since stopped identifying as Mormon since at least April 2016.
- Bruce Bastian served as a church missionary to Italy, graduated from BYU, and married in a church temple before coming out. He and a BYU professor developed and co-founded WordPerfect software for word processing. He currently serves on the Board of the Human Rights Campaign, America's largest lesbian and gay rights political action committee. In 2008, Bastian donated $1 million to fight California Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
- Martha Nibley Beck, daughter of Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley and author of bestseller Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith.
- Dustin Lance Black is a gay writer for the HBO Series Big Love about a fictitious polygamous Mormon sect in Utah. In 2008, he won an Academy Award for writing the screenplay for Milk, a movie about the slaying in 1978 of gay civil rights leader and San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk. Black is now a widely respected gay civil rights advocate.
- John Cameron is a former BYU student who participated in electro-shock aversion therapy sessions on campus in 1976 with the goal of changing his sexual orientation. The controversial therapy was conducted by PhD student Max Ford McBride under the direction of Dr. D. Eugene Thorne of the Psychology Department. While hooked to electrodes, the subjects were shown pornographic images of men while simultaneously being shocked. The experience was so traumatic for Cameron that he left Mormonism. In 2006, he finished writing a play about his experience, titled 14, in reference to the number of men who were the subjects of this particular experiment. The play was first staged at the University of Iowa in 2007.
- Michael Glatze is a former gay rights activist and publisher of Young Gay America's YGA Magazine. Glatze abandoned his homosexuality and was baptized into the LDS Church. He stated that "Jesus, however, is what, ultimately, changed me." Glatze left the church within two years of his conversion and now considers himself a conservative Christian.[not in citation given]
- Sonia Johnson, prominent radical feminist and supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.
- Kate Kendell is a lesbian lawyer from Utah who currently serves as the Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. She graduated from the University of Utah in 1988 and became the first staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. Kate and her partner, Sandy Holmes, live in San Francisco with their two children, as well as Kendall's daughter from a previous marriage.
- Leonard Matlovich, first U.S. military service member to intentionally announce his homosexuality in opposition to the military ban.
- D. Michael Quinn is a well-known historian of Mormonism and former professor of history at BYU. He was excommunicated in September 1993 for publishing historical accounts he claimed revised traditional Mormon history. He then came out of the closet as gay and published Same Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example in 1996. He currently resides in Los Angeles.
- Benji Schwimmer, the winner of the 2006 So You Think You Can Dance show.
The church neither encourages nor discourages support groups for those with same gender attractions. However, it does discourage members from participating in groups that foster homosexual conduct. Even though no support organization is officially sponsored by the church, several organizations have begun who have adopted theories and philosophies they believe are in line with church policy. Several church members have also joined ex-gay organizations. Some church members who identify as LGBT have also joined other support groups that seek changes in church doctrine, and greater church tolerance and awareness regarding LGBT issues. Several support groups are listed below:
- Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons is a support group originally organized in 1977 to "work for the understanding and acceptance of gays and lesbians as full, equal and worthy persons within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and society, and to help them realize and affirm self-worth." However, the group has expanded its mission to include bisexuals, transgender persons, and intersex persons. The group opposes the church's position against homosexuality.
- ALL Arizona LDS LGBT & Friends & Family is an Arizona-based group unaffiliated with North Star or Affirmation. ALL is a supportive middle ground for anyone with an LDS background. They have a yearly conference around April and monthly get togethers along with scripture study for those who feel that church is unwelcoming. They also have a young adult get together and a parent support meeting. Their "hope is to build and strengthen a community of Latter-day saints where LGBT/SSA Mormons feel loved and supported through what can be a challenging experience—being gay and being Mormon." They do not limit support to just gay members but all members that fall into the LGBT+ spectrum. They have a secret Facebook group that anyone can join by contacting them.
- North Star is an organization whose mission is to "provide a place of community for Latter-day Saints who experience homosexual attraction or gender identity incongruence, as well as their family, friends, and ecclesiastical leaders." The group supports the church’s position that sexual relations are to be reserved for marriage between a man and woman, and aims to provide spiritual and social support for individuals and families who desire to live in harmony with church teachings. The organization takes "no official position on the origin or mutability of homosexual attractions or gender identity incongruence", and does not "endorse political causes or join political coalitions, including those officially sanctioned by the institutional Church."
- MoHo Directory is a global listing of over 100 gay Mormons and their blogs.For many, the MoHo Directory functions as a family of choice—a committed relationship network bound by friendship rather than blood.
- Mormons Building Bridges is a decentralized grassroots group, composed primarily of members of the LDS Church, who seek to improve the attitudes between members of the church and the LGBT community.
- Disciples2 is an organization to provide support for what it calls male and female "strugglers," "who have chosen or may someday choose to be in harmony with our Heavenly Father and His laws as set forth by modern-day prophets and apostles."[non-primary source needed]
- Family Fellowship is for family members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender members and does not generally support church teachings about homosexuality.
- LDS Reconciliation affirms the spirituality of gays and lesbians and contradicts LDS teachings on the subject. It has organized protests against BYU and its policies.
- Evergreen International was an organization for "people who want to diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior." It "sustains the doctrines and standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without reservation or exception." In January 2014, Evergreen announced it would close and refer its clients to North Star.
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