Homosexuality and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Homosexuality and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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Homosexual acts are prohibited by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Law of Chastity, as well as other sexual acts outside the bonds of marriage.[1] Violating the Law of Chastity may result in excommunication. Members of the church who self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual may remain in good standing in the church if they abstain from homosexual relations and heterosexual relations outside of marriage.[2][3] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints permits all people to attend its local Sunday services.[4] Acquiring and maintaining membership in the church, and receiving a temple recommend, is dependent upon the personal observance of its teachings, including the law of chastity.[5][6]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints historically taught that the practice of homosexuality, meaning sexual behavior with someone of the same sex,[7] was a choice or curable mental illness.[8] Recent leadership has indicated that it may not be a conscious choice and that it may be treatable.[9] The church teaches that regardless of the cause of homosexual orientation, one can and must avoid homosexual relations.[2][10]

The church opposes and campaigns against government recognition of same-sex marriage, believing it would undermine church doctrine and teachings regarding marriage and the family.[11] The issue of same-sex marriage has in recent years become one of the church’s foremost political concerns with church members contributing as much as 50% of the campaign funds to California Proposition 8 (2008).[12]


History and background

Joseph Smith introduced "the new and everlasting covenant" as a temple marriage.

The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, two publications that the church considers to be scripture, are silent on subjects specific to homosexuality. Sexual immorality 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."[13][14]

The LDS Church teaches that the Bible forbids homosexuality, when it states "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."[15] The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is interpreted by some to further clarify the Bible's teachings on homosexuality. In the story of Lot, the translation makes clear the intent of the city of Sodom: "Wherefore they said unto the man, We will have the men, and thy daughters also; and we will do with them as seemeth us good. Now this was after the wickedness of Sodom."[16] D. Michael Quinn, an excommunicated Mormon, has suggested that early church leaders had a more tolerant view of homosexuality, but Gordon B. Hinckley has stated that prophets have always considered homosexuality as a "grievous sin."[17]

The LDS Church emphasizes marriage. The Doctrine and Covenants asserts that in order to reach the highest degree of the Celestial kingdom, men and women must enter the "everlasting covenant of marriage."[18] Sexual relationships outside of marriage were always forbidden.

The first church leader to use the term "homosexuality" was 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."[19]

Early cases

It is unknown to what extent homosexuality was present in early Mormonism. Valeen Avery suggested that Joseph Smith's son, David Hyrum Smith (1844–1904), may have had homosexual tendencies.[20] When gay or lesbian intercourse was discovered, however, the accused were sometimes disfellowshipped or excommunicated, beginning with the first known case in 1841 involving alleged bisexuality by John C. Bennett.[21] Quinn argues that several early church leaders, including Louise B. Felt, May Anderson, Evan Stephens, and Joseph Fielding Smith (presiding patriarch), may have either had homosexual tendencies or been involved in homosexual relationships.[21]

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.[22] 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 "We 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".[23] In 1970, Kimball was involved in creating an LDS publication for church leaders to "assist them to effect a cure and ... become normal again".[24] The pamphlet teaches that church leaders may assist in this regard by reciting scripture, appealing to their reason, encouraging them to abandon gay lovers and associates, pray, and replace their life with positive action and straight dating.[25] The pamphlet made it clear that "Homosexuality CAN be cured".[26][27]

As a tendency

In 1992, when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases as a mental illness,[28] the church produced Understanding and Helping Those With Homosexual Problems,[29] 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 a position on "scientific questions," such as the cause of homosexuality.[2]

Proposed historical tolerance

D. Michael Quinn, an excommunicated Latter-day Saint, hypothesized 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) has been described as 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.[21]

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.[21] 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.[30] Some of these relationships were described under a pseudonym in The Children's Friend.[31] Also notable were Louise B. Felt and May Anderson, the church's first two general Primary presidents, who lived together in the same bedroom for decades and were referred to by primary leaders as the David and Jonathan of Primary.[21]

Several LDS scholars have called Quinn's interpretations a distortion of LDS history. They deny any acceptance from previous leaders of homosexuality, and state the current leadership of the church "is entirely consistent with the teachings of past leaders and with the scriptures."[32] They disagree with Quinn's theory that Evan Stephens was involved in intimate relationships with other men or that the article in The Children's Friend was about these relationships. They state that Stephens "is known only as a strictly moral Christian gentleman."[32] They also note that May originally came to Louise's house at the request of her husband to be with his wife during her illness, but that does not preclude them from thereafter "falling in love" (their words). They argue against any sexual component to their relationship.[32]

Current theology and policy

Gordon B. Hinckley, late president of the church, officially welcomed gay people in the church,[33] and affirmed them as good people in an interview "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".[34] The church teaches that homosexual problems can be overcome "through faith in God, sincere repentance, and persistent effort."[29] "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.[35] The church defines "serious transgressions" to include "murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations, deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, theft, embezzlement, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, and false swearing".[35]

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 conditions or people.[2][36][37] This follows standard usage by the New York Times and Washington Post.[38] Not all leaders follow this. For example, Hinckley has stated that "we have gays in the church".[34] Those leaders adopting this position state that using these words to denote a condition would imply a person has no choice in regards to sexual behavior.[37] Church leaders and organizations have made reference to homosexuality as a sexual orientation[2][39] but have not talked about bisexuality. According to Oaks, references condemning homosexuality are to be interpreted as a condemnation of sexual behavior, not of sexual orientation.[7]

Homosexual problems, according to popular church vernacular, are defined as "homoerotic thoughts, feelings or behaviors."[29] In describing people with homosexual feelings, the church will often say they have same-gender attractions. This is used in contrast to people who have problems with opposite-gender attraction.[40] Marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. To many in the church, same-sex marriages are not considered a form of marriage that is sanctioned by their beliefs, and the church supports the notion of a constitutional amendment in the USA to legally define marriage as being between a man and a woman.[11][41]

Homosexual inclinations

The church uses the example of Jesus Christ being tempted as an example of how homosexuals can avoid sin.

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 Christ’s temptations.[2] Members with homosexual "inclinations" can participate as all other members of the church[3] and if they remain celibate or heterosexually married, they can participate in the religion to the same extent as straight members. Heterosexual marriage is still considered a sacred covenant which should not be pursued if homosexual feelings are not being controlled.[2] Those with same-gender attractions are encouraged to talk to their ecclesiastical leader.[1][42] They are encouraged not to let their orientation be the sole defining factor in their lives, but to see the whole person, extending their horizons beyond their orientation.[2] They should be careful not to blame their parents.

However, church leaders recognize the possible loneliness and difficulty that those with homosexual inclinations may have and encourage members to reach out to them.[11][17] They have 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.[37]

The church does not participate in debate on whether homosexual susceptibilities develop from nature or nurture, saying that such debate is better left to science.[2] They have admitted that "perhaps such susceptibilities are inborn or acquired without personal choice" and "may have some relationship to inheritance," citing some scientific research.[37] However, they teach that these inclinations will not continue beyond death[2] and that gender and gender roles are an eternal and essential characteristic of a soul.[43]

Homosexual thoughts

The church teaches that all members should take responsibility in bridling their thoughts, attitudes, feelings, desires and passions. Members are taught to avoid any talk or activity that may arouse sexual feelings.[1] They are taught to "let virtue garnish [their] thoughts unceasingly."[44] Through the atonement of Jesus Christ, all desire to sin can be changed and individuals can experience lasting peace.[45]

For those with same-gender attractions, they have counseled "the line of prudence is between the susceptibility and the feelings."[2] The church teaches that everyone has feelings they did not choose,[37] and homosexual feelings can be powerful and difficult to control[3] but "regardless of the causes, these problems can be controlled and eventually overcome."[29] Even though there is no church discipline for homosexual thoughts or feelings,[37] the church teaches they should learn to accept responsibility for homosexual feelings[29] 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.[2] With better understanding of moral law, they teach these problems will be able to be fixed "routinely."[36]

Members should not indulge in activities that will intensify homosexual feelings, such as viewing pornography, masturbation, and homosexual behavior.[29][46][47] Unhealthy relationships such as those with people that encourage it should be cut off, and the very appearance of evil should be avoided.[29][36] The bishop should be careful not to create circumstances in which those with homosexual problems are exposed to temptations.[29]

Homosexual behavior

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.[29]

They further say that it distorts loving relationships,[1] undermines the divinely created institution of the family[11] and can become an addiction.[36] Church discipline for homosexual activity is slightly more onerous than for members involved in heterosexual activity. Gay or lesbian sex may permanently bar a person from serving a mission,[48] given the requirement of missionaries of the same gender and approximate age to remain together 24 hours a day. All prophets, modern and ancient, have taught homosexual behavior is a grievous sin.[17] In 1976, Packer taught:

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.[47]

Although church leaders condemn the sin of homosexual behavior, they teach love for the men and women who experience homosexual attraction, including 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."[17]

They have spoken out against "gay-bashing" or any other physical or verbal attack on those involved in homosexual behavior.[37] They have stated that they find it hard to believe that one would choose such course of deviation by a clear, conscious decision; one leader has suggested that it might be a spiritual disorder, with its roots in selfishness and which feelings must be overcome or suppressed.[36] They teach that the behavior is changeable,[36] and if not repented of, may result in church discipline including excommunication under the inspired direction of the bishop.[29] The cure comes through following the basic rules for moral and spiritual health for a long period of time with undeviating determination.[36]


Scott Thumma and Affirmation.org contend that the LDS Church is homophobic.[49][Need quotation to verify][50][unreliable source?]

Packer addressed youth in the church dealing with homosexual attractions and wrote:

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.[51]

God Loveth His Children acknowledges the issues in the church and 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."[52]

A Georgia Tech gay rights manual referred to the church as "anti-gay." After 2 students sued the school for discrimination, a judge ordered that the material be removed.[53][54][55]

Publications and speeches

In 1965, Spencer W. Kimball addressed homosexuality in his talk "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."[23] In 1969, he expanded this talk in the Miracle of Forgiveness, in which he teaches that masturbation can lead to the act of homosexuality. However, he views many homosexuals as "basically good people who have become trapped in sin" and that "some totally conquer homosexuality in a few months." Kimball makes clear the book is only his personal opinion and "absolves" the church from any errors in the book.[46]

In 1970, the church produced Hope for Transgressors[24] and in 1971 New Horizons for Homosexuals,[56] both of which advocated a cure for those with homosexual tendencies.

In 1976, the church issued a widely-circulated pamphlet for young men based on a speech by Boyd K. Packer which strongly condemned gay sex. He commended a missionary who was upset after he "floored" his assigned male companion in response to unwanted sexual advances.[47] In 1978, Packer followed this up with another sermon, published as a pamphlet, characterizing 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" (p. 16).[36] He states that the church had not previously talked more about homosexuality because "some matters are best handled very privately" (p. 3) and "we can very foolishly cause things we are trying to prevent by talking too much about them" (p. 19).[36]

In October 1995, the church published an article titled "Same-Gender Attraction" by Dallin H. Oaks in the October 1995 Ensign magazine.[37]

In April 2007, the Church published an extensive interview with Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman to clarify the church’s stand on homosexuality.[2]

In July 2007, the church published a booklet entitled God Loveth His Children, which is addressed to Latter-day Saints with same-gender attraction and clarifies the church's doctrine and policies.

In October 2007, the church published an article "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction" by Jeffrey R. Holland in the October 2007 Ensign magazine.[57]

Boyd K. Packer

Quinn has pointed to Apostle Boyd K. Packer's LDS General Conference address from October 1976 as evidence of problematic attitudes in the LDS Church towards homosexuals. In the speech, Packer encourages teenage boys to avoid immoral activities, which he says includes viewing pornography, masturbating, participating in homosexual behavior, and participating in heterosexual behavior outside of marriage.[47] 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."[47] After telling the story, Packer comments, "I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself."[47] Packer offers 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"[58]

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.[59] However, in 1995, Apostle Dallin H. Oaks said, "Our doctrines obviously condemn those who engage in so-called 'gay bashing'—(defined as) physical or verbal attacks on persons thought to be involved in homosexual or lesbian behavior."[37]

Mixed-orientation marriage

Homosexuals are discouraged from opposite sex marriage unless they have overcome homosexual inclinations.

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."[17]

Unless this is done, they cannot enter marriage in good faith[2] and doing so can damage the lives of others.[29] Church leaders are warned that encouraging members to cultivate heterosexual feelings generally leads to frustration and discouragement.[29] They speak against those who enter into marriage under false pretense.[2] Several marriages have ended because of inability or unwillingess of one of the parties to suppress his or her sexual orientation.[60]

The church maintains that it is possible to overcome same-sex relationships.[36] They note that some have reported that heterosexual feelings can emerge once freed from homosexual problems.[29] 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."[2] Several members of the church have dealt with their attractions sufficiently to get married.[61]

Many individuals with same-gender attractions have thought that they should get married because of the church's doctrine of marriage. LDS doctrine holds that heterosexual marriage is one of many requirements for entry into the "highest degree of glory" of the Celestial Kingdom, the highest of the three heavens mentioned by Paul in the New Testament. Marriage between a man and a woman is considered an essential part in the LDS belief of attaining that heaven. Therefore, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe a family is the fundamental unit of society in this life and in heaven. However, this family must come about in the Lord's way, not through deceit or lies.[37] Those who do not have an opportunity to get married in this life will get an opportunity to get married in the next,[62][63] including those with same-gender attractions.[37] The attractions will not continue past death, and if they were faithful in this life, they will receive every blessing in the eternities, including eternal marriage.[2]

The Women of Worth is an organization that seeks to help those individuals in opposite-gender relationships whose partner struggles with same-gender attractions. According to their website, the members are "determined to have successful marriages -- through faith, healing and understanding."[64]

Political involvement

The church gets involved politically if there is a perceived moral issue at stake. M. Russell Ballard says the church is "locked in" if anything interferes with the principle of marriage being between man and a woman, and a very careful evaluation is made to determine what is appropriate and what is not.[65] 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.[66] Following two months of negotiations between top Utah gay rights leaders and mid-level church leaders,[67] the church supported a gay rights bill in Salt Lake City which bans discrimination against gay men and lesbians in housing and employment, calling them "common-sense rights". The law does not apply to housing or employment provided by religious organizations.[68][69] Jeffrey R. Holland argued that it could be a model for the rest of the state.[70]

In 1976, the church officially opposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). According to church president Spencer W. Kimball, part of the reason for this opposition was to prevent any constitutional recognition for same-sex marriages. In 1980, the Ensign printed a pamphlet which read: "

Passage of the ERA would carry with it the risk of extending constitutional protection to immoral same-sex—lesbian and homosexual—marriages. The argument of a homosexual male, for example, would be: 'If a woman can legally marry a man, then equal treatment demands that I be allowed to do the same.'[71]

In 1993, Boyd K. Packer called the gay-lesbian movement one of the three areas of danger "where members of the Church, influenced by social and political unrest, are being caught up and led away."[72]

Beginning in the mid-1990s, the church began to focus its attention on the issue of same-sex marriages. In 1993, the Supreme Court of the State 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 its 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 Hawaiian legislature enacted a bill in 1994 outlawing same-sex marriages.

As other states, including Vermont and Massachusetts, began extending legal protections to same-sex couples, the church continued to take an active role in preventing any legal recognition for families other than heterosexual ones. 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."[11] 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.[73]

The president of the LDS Church, Thomas S. Monson, has stated church members can disagree politically with the church's opposition to same-sex marriage, but if the disagreement turns into an apostasy situation, that would be inappropriate.[74]

The church also supports the Boy Scouts of America's ban on homosexual conduct. It is the largest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States and has stated that it will end its nine-decade-long affiliation if homosexual conduct is permitted.[75]

Same-sex marriage

Protesters in front of the Newport Beach California Temple voicing their opposition to the church's support of Prop 8

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained by God and that children are entitled to be raised by a mother and a father who honor their marital vows with complete fidelity.[43] They believe marriage is not primarily a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations, but are an important part of rearing children. They teach that same-sex marriage undermines the purpose of marriage.[66]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not approve of or permit homosexual behavior within the membership of the church. Those who are in a same-sex marriage can be ex-communicated, but are welcome to continue to attend church services.[76] The church has actively opposed efforts to legalize same-sex marriage or civil unions.[3][11] Hinckley has stated that the church does not consider itself "anti-gay" but instead "pro-family."[77] LDS doctrine holds that heterosexual marriage is one of many requirements for entry into the "highest degree of glory" of the Celestial Kingdom, the highest of the three heavens mentioned by Paul in the New Testament. While addressing an Evergreen conference, Bishop Keith B. McMullin, second counselor in the presiding bishopric, said "the cultural adaptations to same-gender marriage will, in time, make the prospect of eternal marriage and family more difficult to attain."[78]

Marriage between a man and a woman is not only required but is considered an essential part in the LDS belief of attaining that heaven. Therefore, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe a family is the fundamental unit of society in this life and in heaven.

On August 13, 2008, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released an article further elaborating why they believe gay marriage to be detrimental to society and encouraging church members living in California to use resources necessary in support of Proposition 8.[66] The church asked its members to participate in the campaign for Proposition 8 on the California ballot, which would define marriage between opposite-sex couples. The church took a great deal of criticism and praise for this action. Regardless, it asked its membership to donate time and money towards the initiative.


Brigham Young University prohibits homosexual activity

Brigham Young University is the largest religious university in North America, and is the flagship educational institution of the LDS Church. Though its practices and policies are not specifically endorsed by the church, it is viewed[who?] as reflective of the church's mindset.

In order to attend Brigham Young University, students must abide by the Brigham Young University Honor Code, which was recently reworded after several students, including gay and lesbian students, thought that the previous wording was confusing and unclear. Lauren Jackson, a lesbian BYU student, commented "If BYU wants celibate students, it has every right to demand that and to limit behavior, but the issue with the Honor Code is not about lifestyle, it's about identity. Not being allowed to express an identity is very damaging."[79] While both homosexuals and heterosexuals must abide by the church's law of chastity, the Honor Code additionally prohibits all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings. There is no similarly spelled out restriction against expressing heterosexual feelings, although the church teaches that intimate heterosexual behaviors such as petting or fornication are unacceptable between unmarried couples. Advocacy of homosexuality and the promotion of homosexual relations as being morally acceptable was explicitly mentioned as "against the honor code" until a quiet change of the Code in early 2011.[80] It does make clear, however, that sexual orientation is not an honor code issue.[39]

Several LGBT rights organizations, including Soulforce, have criticized BYU's Honor Code for its practices.[81][82]

In the 1970s, a student at Brigham Young University conducted a number of experiments in the use of aversion therapy to treat ego-dystonic homosexuality.[83] It is unknown whether the LDS Church was aware of these experiments.[84] At the time, homosexuality was still treated as a psychiatric condition, and aversion therapy was one of the more common methods used to try to cure it.[85] In 1966 Martin E.P. Seligman had conducted a study at the University of Pennsylvania showing positive results, which led to "a great burst of enthusiasm about changing homosexuality [that] swept over the therapeutic community."[86] In Chapter 3 of Max Ford McBride's dissertation, it states that "seventeen male subjects... were used in the study, 14 completed the treatment." The participants on the BYU campus were shown pornographic photos of men while being shocked with increasing amounts of voltage, together with drugs to induce vomiting.[87] They were then shown heterosexual pornographic images while soothing music was played in the background. One of these was Don Harryman, who shared his experience in Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation.[88] After Seligman's results were shown to be flawed, 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."[89]

As of 1997, the president of the university (Merrill J. Bateman) was unable to verify electric shock therapies took place at BYU during this time, and requested documentation to support allegations.[90] One faculty member is quoted in a 'question and answer' article on the Brigham Young University website stating that aversion therapy may have taken place at BYU when he was an undergraduate student, but only in rare circumstances.[91]

The church and conversion therapy

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 "The Church rarely takes a position on which treatment techniques are appropriate." They emphasize that the clinical side is not the most important thing, but the recognition that one has their own agency to control what they do. Church leaders caution about potentially abusive practices, such as aversion therapy.[2]

In general, the church discourages against all 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."[92] They have stated that "although participants may experience temporary emotional relief or exhilaration, old problems often return, leading to added disappointment and despair."[92]

Several church members have been involved in the therapy of homosexuals. 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.[93]

Jeff Robinson interviewed seven heterosexually married Mormon men who had been through Evergreen and previously identified as gay. They believe they had a spiritual transformation and that their orientation was changed. They were no longer troubled by feeling different or rejected by heterosexual men, 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.[94]

Homosexual Mormons

There are no official numbers for how many members of the LDS Church are attracted to their own sex. LDS Family Services estimates that there are on average four or five members per LDS ward who experience same-sex attraction.[95] The most recent outside study, conducted in 1972, shows that between 10-13% of college aged Mormon men reported past experimentation with homosexual behavior, which was similar to the percentage of non-Mormon men who reported past experimentation. The study did not include homosexuals who did not have a homosexual experience.[96] Gary Watts, former president of Family Fellowship, estimates that only 10% of homosexuals stay in the church.[97] Others dispute that estimate, saying numbers in support groups for active Latter-day Saints and for self-identified gay Mormons are comparable.[citation needed] 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 the book A Place in the Kingdom: Spiritual Insights from Latter-day Saints about Same-Sex Attraction.[98] Other personal experiences are documented on the LDS SSA Resources and People Can Change websites. Others have shared their stories through the Ensign,[99] through the Evergreen International website[100] and blogs.[101] There is a variety of terminology used, including "Moho" to refer to a Mormon homosexual.[102] The following are some of the more prominent individuals within the gay and ex-gay Mormon community:

Practicing Mormons

  • Ty Mansfield served a mission in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission, graduated from Brigham Young University, and is currently a family therapist in Texas. 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.[103] Ty 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.
  • 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.[104] 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."[105] He is the clinical director of the Center for Gender Wholeness, co-creator of the Journey into Manhood weekend,[106] and a director of People Can Change.[107] He has written the Evergreen International Workbook for Men, Four Principles of Growth,[108] and has made several media appearances talking about overcoming homosexual attractions. He does not say he is completely straight, but "straight enough."[109]
  • 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."[110] Stuart later committed suicide at an LDS meetinghouse in Los Altos, California.[111] 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 homophobia. Suicide victims are posted on its website.[112] Matis' story is described in the book In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction[113] and was later inspired and created into the play "Missa Solemnis or The Play About Henry"[114] written by non-Mormon playwright Roman Feeser.[115][116] Matis' death was described in the controversial 2010 documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition.[117]
  • Mitch Mayne, a celibate homosexual member in San Francisco, serves as an executive secretary to the LDS bishop in the local Bay Ward (congregation).[102][118] He has promoted family acceptance of LGBT youth and hopes to serve as a bridge to the gay community.
  • Jason Park admitted his homosexual feelings at the age of 31 after being married 4 years. After going through a support group, therapy, and Evergreen International, he has since ceased his homosexual behavior.[119] He has since written 3 books concerning homosexuality (Resolving Homosexual Problems: A Guide for LDS Men;[120] Understanding Male Homosexual Problems: An Introduction for Latter-day Saints;[121] Helping LDS Men Resolve their Homosexual Problems: A Guide for Family, Friends, and Church Leaders[122]) and a scholarly paper Overcoming Male Homosexual Problems.[123] He is a popular speaker at Evergreen International conferences.[124]
  • Rich Wyler was excommunicated, but has since rejoined the LDS Church.[125] 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.[126] 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."[127]

Former Mormons

  • Bruce Bastian served an LDS mission to Italy, graduated from Brigham Young University, and married in the LDS 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 (2008), which officially and legally defined marriage as between a man and a woman within the state of California.
  • Dustin Lance Black is a gay writer for the HBO Series Big Love about a fictitious polygamous 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-revered gay civil rights advocate himself.
    Dustin Lance Black
  • John Cameron is a former Brigham Young University student who participated in electro-shock therapy sessions on campus in 1976, in order to change his sexual orientation to heterosexual. 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 simply 14, in reference to the fourteen men who were the subjects of this particular experiment. The play was first staged at the University of Iowa in 2007.[128]
  • Michael Glatze is a former gay rights activist and publisher of Young Gay America YGA Magazine.[129] Glatze has since left homosexuality and was baptized into the LDS Church. He stresses that "Jesus, however, is what, ultimately, changed me."[130] Glatze left the church within two years after his conversion and considers himself a conservative Christian.[131]
  • 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 Kate's daughter from a previous marriage.[132]
  • D. Michael Quinn is a well-known historian of Mormonism and former professor of History at Brigham Young University. 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 Ninetheenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example in 1996. He currently resides in Los Angeles.

Support organizations

The church neither encourages nor discourages support groups for those with same gender attractions. However, they do discourage groups that foster homosexual conduct.[2] Even though no 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:

  • Evergreen International is an organization for "people who want to diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior."[133] It "sustains the doctrines and standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without reservation or exception."
  • North Star is an organization whose mission is to "provide a place of community for Latter-day Saints who experience homosexual attraction, as well as their family, friends, and ecclesiastical leaders."[134] The group supports the church’s position on homosexuality and aims to provide spiritual and social support for individuals and families who support and desire to live in harmony with church teachings.
  • Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons is a support group originally organized on June 11, 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."[135] However, the group has expanded its mission to include bisexuals, transgender persons, and intersex persons. The group opposes the church's position against homosexuality.
  • 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."[136]
  • Family Fellowship is for family members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender members.[137]
  • GLYA (Gay LDS Young Adults) is "a group of gay LDS guys and girls age 18-30 that get together, socialize and have fun in a positive atomosphere."[citation needed] It provides resources for religious organizations that accept homosexual behavior.[138]
  • LDS Reconciliation affirms the spirituality of gays and lesbians. It has organized protests against BYU and its policies.[139]
  • Gamofites is an organization of Latter-day Saint gay fathers. In its support for the sexuality of its members, Gamofites dissents from the church's official doctrine on homosexuality.
  • The Guardrail foundation seeks to "reach out to young men with questions about homosexuality and to provide them with alternatives that are compatible with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." It promotes therapy called Context Specific Therapy that helps with homosexual "problems."[140]

See also

Portal icon Latter-day Saints portal
Portal icon LGBT portal


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