Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Ginormous Stackrank of Human Experiences

I've decided to accouche an idea that began over four years ago.

Back then, I was freshly emerging from the ethics-heavy portion of my graduate education. The moral reasoning models I was learning copulated with the decision analysis tools I was exposed to, and my brain conceived The Carmack Vector Addition Theory of Ethics: Advancing the Ball.

In its first trimester, the idea was mostly geared toward enabling a more rigorous mathematical approach to ethical decision making. As the idea continued to gestate, I developed some alternative titles for the approach: "Mathematizing Morality" or "Quantifying Compassion." I also debated various designs and objectives. Eventually though, the example of Facemash from The Social Network (Mark Zuckerberg developed a website that allowed visitors to compare two student pictures side-by-side and let them choose who was “hot” and who was “not”) prevailed due to it's simplicity. My intention now is to create a giant stack rank of human experiences.

How would the system work? I'll go into greater detail below, but the crux of the system is pretty simple: users choose which experience they prefer out of a pair. For example, you might be asked, "Which do you prefer?" between (A) graduating from college and (B) falling in love. You select one, then move on to the next pair the system feeds you and repeat. The end result after millions of selections is a giant, robust stack rank of human experiences.

Below I detail (1) Rules, (2) Approach, (3) Next Steps, (4) Problems/Solutions, (5) Initial List, and (6) Further Commentary.


  1. You can only select between experiences you've actually had
  1. No experience in the list can exceed a "2" level of detail
    1. 1=Having coffee
    2. 2=Having coffee with a friend
    1. 3=Having coffee with a friend in the morning

  1. You must answer honestly


A user clicks on a link and arrives on the landing page/app home. There are two options: "View the List" or "Participate." If the user chooses "View the List", they are taken to the stackrank where they can search and browse.

If the user chooses "Participate," he or she is given a Batch (40 experiences). The experiences all have three options: "I have experienced this", "I haven't experienced this", or "this experience doesn't qualify, e.g. it exceeds the level of detail or is not an actual human experience" (the last option is for quality control). The default, "I haven't experienced this", is selected for all. The user selects the appropriate option for all 40 experiences, based on his/her own past.

The user is then fed a set of between 10 & 100 experience pairs (only experiences the user indicated s/he has had are presented to the user). Each pair has two options. For example, the pair is (A) graduating from college and (B) falling in love. The user selects A or B, and is then shown the next pair as well as a progress bar (e.g. pair 2 of 100). At the end of the set of pairs, the user is given the option to add a question of his/her own. If s/he chooses "no thanks," they are returned to the landing page/app home. If s/he chooses "add a question," they are taken to a screen where they submit a question (some brief submission guidelines display).

The system randomly-ish presents the new submissions to subsequent participants, and uses the results to update G-SHE (Ginormous Stackrank of Human Experiences) in real time, much as a chess ranking system would. The system also feeds pairs in a strategic way (e.g. doesn't often ask participants if they'd rather fall in love vs. lose your child) in order to elicit the most differential inputs, similar to the methodology for pairing opponents in large-bracket sport competitions.

Next steps

  1. Determine if G-SHE (or a list substantially like it) is already out there in the world somewhere. If so, consider abandoning or redirecting the effort
  2. Decide which ratings system to use 
  3. Most common- used to rank chess players
    Elo + ratings reliability
    Glicko + ratings volatility
    1. There may be a better rating system - these are just the first three I've researched so far
    2. I'm thinking Glicko 2
  4. Identify an existing list of human experiences to start with
  5. Develop the tool
  6. Distribute the tool
  7. Manage the tool


This effort will doubtlessly run into numerous problems as it proceeds; I'll start capturing them in this expandable table.

Candidate solutions

Similar experiences submitted (duplicates)
-Use existing tech to detect similar submissions and have a human decide whether they're essentially duplicates, then merge if yes
-Whatever approach is taken to solve this problem in comparable settings, such as user feedback fora

Too little participation
-Could display leaderboards - e.g. who's submitted the most qualifying questions, who's submitted the most selections, etc.
-Could pay folks on mechanical turk to participate
-Could ask volunteers or ethics students to participate
-Could display the full list only if the user participates (only give a sample of the list until the user participates)
-Could exchange statistical analysis of the results for participation
-Whatever other solutions survey firms use to solve this problem

Quality of questions
-Enable a button on the selection screen for "recommend removing this experience (usually because it (1) is not an actual human experience or (2) exceeds a "2" level of detail)
-Enable a button on the "have you had this experience" screen to recommend removal
- enable Wiki-style comments, or some crowd-based moderation approach used in comparable settings such as wikipedia

Bots complete batches
Leverage existing human-detection tech and restrict participation to humans

Same person selects between the same pair 2+ times
Authenticate the users, or require a sign-in that signals the system not to present a pair to that user if that user has seen that pair in the past

Participant lies
    • Have the system refrain from including in the effective data set, all results that come from participants whose selection profiles vary more than 3 standard deviations from the median
    • Use some other "smart" techniques to detect likely liars and underweight or eliminate their responses from the calculations
    • Require a set amount of time on each question (similar to completing the blood donation questionnaire) to disincentivize speeding through the questions

Participant tires due to quantity of pairings
    • Allow users to complete a certain number of pairs per day/week
    • Allow completion in batches that don't exceed a  defined number of pairs

Initial List

I hope to find an existing list of human experiences that comply with rule #2, so I don't have to reinvent the wheel. However, the approach is scalable even if I do have to start from scratch. Here's a candidate initial list:

Being displaced due to a civil war
Waking up after a good sleep
Having sex
Giving birth
Mastering a foreign language
Being tortured for over six months
Losing a life partner
Going fishing
Having an accomplishment recognized at work
Eating lunch
Reading a book for pleasure
Your child dying
Voting in a meaningful government election
Having coffee with a friend
Taking a nap
Falling in love

Further commentary

  • I hope this list will be a useful tool for preference utilitarians. Though I'm not 100% sure yet of all the applications for this stack rank, I expect creative applications will be identified and developed by those who become acquainted with the result. I can imagine think tanks, policy analysts, ethicists, and others being interested in the data; demographers might collect rich data on the participants, then categorize and analyze the results. I also think the average person would be fascinated by the list itself- how interesting it would be to browse and see how various experiences rank! 
  • Q. Why the "2" level of detail? A. To engender consistency and simplicity. The greater the complexity, the more difficult (and potentially less reliable) the preferences become. Plus, constraining the base unit worked well for Twitter... 
  • Q. As sales and marketing professionals will tell you, people's actual choices are better measures of their preferences than what they choose in survey responses. How do you solve for that? A. I don't: that's a weakness in my approach. However, since not all experiences are chosen (say, being raised Catholic), my approach enables a comparison of a greater breadth of human experience than would be possible with a choice-based approach. 
  • Q. Your baby has a long way to go before it matures into a robust, mature adult. How will you get this effort there, given your limited expertise? A. I'm convinced that once smart people see what I'm going for, they'll identify and share improvements. I believe we only need a strong proof of concept to inspire better future versions (like how thefacebook.com of 2004 inspired the far more sophisticated version we now know in 2014 as Facebook).
  • In future iterations I'd like to provide a more sophisticated approach to letting the participant choose the experiences they've had, which populates the pool from which their presented pairings are drawn. 
  • I'd like to capture the data from the batch phase where participants indicate whether they've had the experience. That data element itself is interesting, in addition to being a useful basis for the system to decide what experience pairs to present to a participant (e.g. present several pairs that include rare experiences to participants who have had that experience).
  • So far the best title I have is "The Ginormous Stackrank of Human Experiences", acronym G-SHE; lmk if you have a catchier one.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Response to Bruce Hafen's Feb 2014 attack on gay marriage

In case my comment gets removed, below is my response to Bruce Hafen's attack on gay marriage.

He starts the attack at about 44:10 in the video.

"Fantastic points about the positive social and individual consequences of marriage. I agree with his emphasis "that although building a marriage is difficult and demanding, it is also sanctifying and satisfying: through a lifetime of sacrificing for our marriage partner, we can become like Jesus Christ and realize "the abundant life of authentic joy." Supporting and protecting marriage culturally and legally can bring substantial benefits to marriage partners as well as society as a whole.

Elder Hafen's demonstrated understanding of the importance and meaning of marriage stands out in stark contrast to his position on gay marriage. Elder Hafen decried unmarried cohabitation: the 1 million+ children around the world who are being raised by unmarried cohabiting same-sex parents stand to gain from their parents' marriage. Elder Hafen emphasized the abundant life of authentic joy that can come from a lifetime of sacrificing for a marriage partner: that is no less true for married same-sex couples that it is for infertile opposite-sex ones. Elder Hafen discussed the social consequences of marriage, one of which is the caretaking role spouses play for each other: these benefits are as likely to accrue to society and marital partners for gay couples as they are for straight ones.

Despite appealing to "society's interest in marriage and children," Elder Hafen fails to show how gay marriage fails to advance those interests, let alone harm them, relative to opposite-sex couples. Homosexually oriented folks are generally cut out for marrying someone of same sex, just as heterosexually oriented folks are generally cut out to marry someone of the opposite sex. A more consistent position for Elder Hafen to take is to promote gay marriage, so that the same types of benefits we see from marriage of straight folks will be realized from marriage of gay folks." 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Response to "Religious Freedom is Our First Freedom"

In case my comment is removed from the video, I paste below my response to:

What a touching video! This three minute clip from the J. Reuben Clark Law Society's channel drives home compelling points about religious people. I noted these:

  • We love what is good in the world
  • We live to make it better
  • We follow what we feel in our hearts
  • We express intelligence
  • We share truth
  • We serve others
  • We care for our families

I would make an important observation here that is relevant to religious freedom as a first freedom: all these points describe those who leave their religion as well. There is a growing population of people around the world who have exercised their freedom of religion by  either changing to a different religion, or by leaving religion entirely. These people share the attributes identified above.

This observation is especially important for the J. Reuben Clark Law Society, since the J. Reuben Clark Law School  (BYU Law) does not respect the religious freedom of a particular religious minority: those who leave the LDS faith. As I and others have amply demonstrated and argued in recent years (freebyu.org contains some of our writings), LDS BYU students who exercise their first freedom by leaving the LDS church, whether to follow Mohammed or join the ranks of the atheists or any other religious choice, are categorically (1) expelled from the university, (2) terminated from their on campus employment, and (3) evicted from their BYU-contracted homes, The current Honor Code singles out "former LDS" as being ineligible to attend BYU or leave the LDS church while living in BYU contract housing.

As a licensed attorney I have personally given legal advice to just such a victim of BYU's active persecution of a religious minority in its community. In 2013, this young man "followed what he felt in his heart," to use the video's language, and formally left the LDS church. Within a week the Honor Code office expelled him from the university, terminated his on-campus employment, and directed the young man's landlord to begin the process leading to the young man's eviction from his apartment (which the landlord proceeded to do- in violation of the Fair Housing Act, but that's another post). Ironically, the video cites a housing authority "giving the boot" and driving religious groups off campus, yet these are precisely the behaviors BYU enacts today on the unpopular religious minority that is former-LDS students. This stands in bitter contrast to the video's call that individuals enjoy the "freedom to think, to act, to follow our beliefs, to speak out." Even law students at BYU Law must muzzle their true religious beliefs on pain of expulsion from the law school, as they are subject to the same policy. 

As a member of the JRCLS, I hope that more JRCLS members will join me in encouraging BYU to reform its policy to reflect the LDS commitment to religious freedom. There are few things more unsightly than an institution that loudly talks the talk, but fails to walk the walk within its own walls. I'm convinced we can do far better. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My response to "Clay Christensen on Religious Freedom"

The BYU Law channel recently posted a video from Clay Christensen about religious freedom:

Vacuous scare tactic or good point?


I don't know whether my submitted comment will be posted, so I paste my response below.

"Clay's point that the democratic function relies heavily upon the compliance of the majority is well taken. A state where the majority does not voluntarily obey the majority of the substantive laws would  be inefficient at best, and dysfunctional at worst.

His second point, though, is poorly supported at best, and inaccurate and insulting at worst.  He said
"If you take away religion, you can't hire enough police," and explicitly drew a positive correlation between weekly church attendance + a belief in accountability to God, and obedience to laws.  I think a rather large proportion of those who either do not attend church or do not believe they are accountable to God would balk, despite the persuasive mellow tones playing in the background, at the suggestion that the only leash holding them back from law-breaking is the threat of police enforcement.  Religious folks don't have a corner on the moral market, and I am not aware of evidence that they are, on average, any more or less law-abiding than their non-church attending, non-theistic counterparts.

Though not acquainted with the relevant literature myself, I would also be unsurprised to find a lack of empirical evidence supporting Clay's claim- I can think of some relatively godless countries with much lower crime rates than some highly religious ones, for example. I would speculate that other factors (the corruptness of the government, the economic security of the actor, the efficiency and fairness of the country's laws, the cost of compliance, etc.) are more predictive of voluntary compliance with laws than one's church attendance.  If your aim truly is a functioning democracy, then you should focus on the factors that most powerfully predict that functionality: like economic opportunity, an efficient and accessible justice system, a strong and stable central government, etc.

Regardless of whether I've speculated well, what Clay's done is inappropriate: used the fear of law-breaking masses in order to promote religion, bereft of compelling evidence."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lest We Forget: God's Message to Homosexuals in 69 Authoritative LDS Quotes

I can't remain silent any longer.

Yesterday, I saw an article on my BBC News app: "Same-sex marriage now legal as first couples wed."  The story was about same-sex "marriages" being performed in England and Wales, now that the practice is legal there.

Peter McGraith and David Cabreza's "wedding" in Islington

That was the straw that broke the camel's back. It doesn't matter how much the world moves toward accepting homosexual relationships: God's truth does not change.  Foreseeing our day, God has spoken through His anointed servants over and over again on this issue. His message has been clear and consistent. Though it is becoming more and more the norm to tolerate and accept gay relationships, we have to risk our reputations, our means, whatever it takes- to defend the Lord's position.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Too many of us are doing too little to oppose the advance of immorality in our communities! How will we feel when we meet these gay people in the afterlife, and we said nothing? We knew God's warning message, and did not tell them or discourage them from their sinful path. They may have smiles for the camera now- but rest assured, they will not be smiling later. As President Kimball said regarding those who chose to enter gay relationships: "there is no future for a homosexual… the day will come in his life when there is nothing left but chaff and dust and barrenness and desolation."  Happiness cannot come from immorality: instead, it comes from obedience to God's law as spoken by His chosen servants.

God's mouthpiece has said: "Important as it is, building stronger homes is not enough in the fight against rising permissiveness. We therefore urge Church members as citizens to lift their voices, to join others in unceasingly combating, in their communities and beyond... the shocking developments which encourage the old sins of Sodom and Gomorrah."  I feel called to do my part to combat this attack on the family, and its attendant incursion on religious freedom. I'm convinced that the single best thing we (and I) can do, is to preach God's truth on this issue without fear, and without reservation. The Holy Ghost will do the work of changing hearts that are prepared to hear the word: to us is the obligation to open our mouths.

To that end, I've compiled 69 authoritative quotes from God's mouthpieces to remind the world of the truth about homosexuality. Whether spoken 20 years ago or 2000, God's message does not change: these statements are as true today as when they were first uttered.

1.      “To the ‘misinformed’ who believe ‘God make them that way’… This is as untrue as any other of the diabolical lies Satan has concocted.  It is blasphemy.  Man is made in the image of God.  Does the pervert think God to be ‘that way?[i]’”
2.      “There appears to be a consensus in the world that it is natural, to one degree or another, for a percentage of the population.  Therefore, we must accept it as all right. However, when you put a moral instrument on it, the needle immediately flips to the side labeled "wrong." It may even register "dangerous…" The answer: It is not all right. It is wrong! It is not desirable; it is unnatural; it is abnormal; it is an affliction.  When practiced, it is immoral.[ii]
3.      “Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Father.[iii]” 
4.      “Satan tells his victims that it is a natural way of life; that it is normal; that perverts are a different kind of people born ‘that way’ and that they cannot change.  This is a base lie.  All normal people have sex urges and if they control such urges, they grow strong and masterful.  If they yield to their carnal desires and urges, they get weaker until their sins get beyond control.  ‘The knowledge that homosexuality can be effectively treated must be made more generally known, to offset the effect of organized groups of homosexuals who would have society accept homosexuality and relieve them of the pressure to undergo the changes that can be effected through appropriate treatment… It can be overcome and the case of difficulty of overcoming depends largely upon the strength or weakness of the individual, the depth of his entrenchment, the quality and quantity of his desire and determination.’”[iv]
5.      “Some continue until, when the changing gets difficult, they admit their inability to cope with it and yield.  They rationalize that they are of another class of people; that the Lord made them that way; that they cannot change.  The powerful Lucifer has had his day.”[v] 
6.      “’God made me that way,’ some say, as they rationalize and excuse themselves for their [homosexual] perversions.  ‘I can’t help it,’ they add.  This is blasphemy.  Is man not made in the image of God, and does he think God to be ‘that way’?”[vi]
7.      “God made no man a pervert.  To blame a weakness and transgression upon God is cowardly.”[vii] 
8.      “Do not be misled by those who whisper that it is part of your nature and therefore right for you. That is false doctrine![viii]
9.      “It was not God who made them [homosexuals] that way....He gave all mankind free agency.[ix]” 
10.  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. That is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil.[x]
11.  “God did not make men evil.  He did not make people ‘that way.’”[xi] 
12.  “Since homosexuals have become a nationwide entity, and have come out of hiding to demand their place in the sun, many of them claim that they are what they are because they were born that way and cannot help it.  How ridiculous is such a claim.  It was not God who made them that way, any more than He made bank robbers the way they are[xii]
13.   “There is some widely accepted theory extant that homosexuality is inherited. How can this be? No scientific evidence demonstrates absolutely that this is so. Besides, if it were so, it would frustrate the whole plan of mortal happiness. Our designation as men or women began before this world was. In contrast to the socially accepted doctrine that homosexuality is inborn, a number of respectable authorities contend that homosexuality is not acquired by birth. The false belief of inborn sexual orientation denies to repentant souls the opportunity to change and will ultimately lead to discouragement, disappointment, and despair.[xiii]
14.  “When I say this is sin, I am quoting the Creator of the world.  Truth is truth and needs no eloquent tongue nor brilliant brain to portray it.”[xiv] 
15.  “Next to the crime of murder comes the sin of sexual impurity as expressed in its many manifestations: adultery, fornication, homosexuality and related transgressions.   Man is created in the image of God and prostitutes his God-given powers and image in such practices.  No amount of rationalization can really neutralize the pollution.  The death penalty was exacted in the days of Israel for such wrong-doing.”[xv]
16.  "Homosexuality is an ugly sin, but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved with it, it must be brought into the open. It is the sin of the ages....[xvi]
17.  “Reason might also be employed to convince the individual that there is no future for a homosexual… the day will come in his life when there is nothing left but chaff and dust and barrenness and desolation.”[xvii]
18.  “First, far less is known about the causes of same-gender attraction than is claimed to be known.  Preliminary findings are touted as proven facts while retractions or contradicting evidence about the same issue receive little, if any, attention. The result is an abundance of untruth and distortions worthy of Isaiah’s warning: ‘Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil…[xviii]
19.  "homosexuals can be assured that in spite of all they may have heard from other sources, they can overcome and return to normal, happy living.[xix]” 
20.   “If someone seeking your help says to you, ‘I am a homosexual,’ or, ‘I am lesbian,’ or, ‘I am gay,’ correct this miscasting… it is simply not true. To speak this way seeds a doubt and deceit about who we really are.[xx]
21.  “Please notice that I use [homosexual] as an adjective, not as a noun: I reject it as a noun. I repeat, I accept that word as an adjective to describe a temporary condition. I reject it as a noun naming a permanent one.[xxi]
22.  “First, it is important to understand that homosexuality is not innate and unchangeable. Research has not proved that homosexuality is genetic. Even more important, many researchers whose studies have been used to support a biological model for homosexuality have determined that their work has been misinterpreted. What is clear is that homosexuality results from an interaction of social, biological, and psychological factors. These factors may include temperament, personality traits, sexual abuse, familial factors, and treatment by one’s peers.[xxii]
23.  “Today we are aware of great problems in our society. The most obvious are sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, drug abuse, alcoholism, vandalism, pornography, and violence.  These grave problems are symptoms of failure in the home—the disregarding of principles and practices established by God in the very beginning.[xxiii]
24.  “For centuries men have sought to find the cause of this condition… but it is not a physical disorder. A most extensive physical examination will not reveal one shred of evidence that it is. Physicians have never located any tangible control center in the body that can be adjusted by medical or surgical means to change this condition. The next obvious place to look is the emotional or psychological part of our nature. Here we come closer.[xxiv]
25.  “There is a reason why we in the Church do not talk more openly about this subject. Some matters are best handled very privately. With many things, it is easy - very easy - to cause the very things we are trying to avoid. On one occasion, with a friend of mine, I went to the medical center of a large university to see another friend who was a doctor there. In the waiting room before us was a low table covered with pamphlets describing various diseases. My friend observed: ‘Well, there they are. Read enough about it and you'll think you've got it…’ and I have already said that we can very foolishly cause things we are trying to prevent by talking too much about them.[xxv]"
26.   “Is this tendency impossible to change? Is it preset at the time of birth and locked in? Do you just have to live with it? For example, the shutter of an expensive camera is calibrated at the factory and cannot be adjusted in the field. If such a camera, by chance, is thrown out of calibration or damaged, it cannot be fixed locally. It must eventually go back to the factory, for only there can it be put in order. Is perversion like that? The answer is a conclusive no! It is not like that. Some so-called experts, and many of those who have yielded to the practice, teach that it is congenital and incurable and that one just has to learn to live with it. They can point to a history of very little success in trying to put whatever mechanism that causes this back into proper adjustment. They have, to support them, some very convincing evidence. Much of the so-called scientific literature concludes that there really is not much that can be done about it. I reject that conclusion out of hand.[xxvi]
27.  “The chief psychiatrist at one of Washington’s largest hospitals says, ‘A normal 12- or 13-year-old boy or girl exposed to pornographic literature could develop into a homosexual.’[xxvii]
28.  “Having same-gender attraction is NOT in your DNA…[xxviii]
29.  “First is the misconception that same-gender attraction is an inborn and unalterable orientation. This untrue assumption tries to persuade you to label yourselves and build your entire identity around a fixed sexual orientation or condition.[xxix]
30.  “Some who become tangled up in this disorder become predators. They proselyte the young or the inexperienced. It becomes very important for them to believe that everyone, to one degree or another, is "that way"… Do not be deceived. If you are one of the few who are subject to this temptation, do not be misled into believing that you are a captive to it. That is false doctrine![xxx]
31.  “There are said to be millions of perverts who have relinquished their natural affection and bypassed courtship and normal marriage relationships. This practice is spreading like a prairie fire and changing our world. They are without ‘natural affection’ for God, for spouses, and even for children.[xxxi]
32.   “Every form of homosexuality is sin. Pornography is one of the approaches to that transgression.[xxxii]
33.  “[A]nimals do not pair up with their own gender to satisfy their mating instincts.[xxxiii]
34.  “Now it is not all that unusual for a boy or a girl, in a moment of childish play with someone of the same gender, to enter into some mischief… two young men or two young women, motivated by some attraction or responding to a desire for affection - any kind of affection - sometimes are drawn almost innocently into unnatural behavior. They can be drawn into some circumstances that makes them, for the moment, doubt their identity. Do not be deluded into thinking that such thoughts and feelings are normal for you. Just because you experience some period of confusion, do not make of that thing something that it is not. Do not order your life to conform to a transient thought or experience[xxxiv].”
35.  “Find a therapist who can help you identify the unmet emotional needs that you are tempted to satisfy in false sexual ways[xxxv].”
36.  “There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior. However, such thoughts and feelings, regardless of their causes, can and should be overcome and sinful behavior should be eliminated. This can be achieved through faith in God, sincere repentance, and persistent effort.[xxxvi]” 
37.  “Children learn how to love in a stable, healthy family. Parents need to know that lack of proper affection in the home can result in unnatural behavior in their children such as homosexuality or inability to be an effective parent when the time comes.[xxxvii]
38.  “"We are told that as far back as Henry the VIII, this vice was referred to as 'THE ABOMINABLE AND DETESTABLE CRIME AGAINST NATURE… We know such a disease is curable… and promise him if he will stay away from the haunts and the temptations, and the former associates, he may heal himself, cleanse his mind and return to his normal pursuits and a happy state of mind.  The cure for this malady lies in self mastery…[xxxviii]
39.   “We talked of the influences that had put [a young gay man] where he is, of the home from which he came, of associations with other young men, of books and magazines read, of shows seen.[xxxix]
40.  “It is easy to hypothesize that inheritance plays a role in sexual orientation. However it is important to remember, as conceded by two advocates of this approach, that ‘the concept of substantial heritability should not be confused with the concept of inevitable heritability. ... Most mechanisms probably involve interactions between constitutional predispositions and environmental events… Satan “seeks to undermine the principle of individual accountability, to persuade us to misuse our sacred powers of procreation, to discourage marriage and childbearing by worthy men and women, and to confuse what it means to be male or female.[xl]
41.  “Thus prophets anciently and today condemn masturbation....While we should not regard this weakness as the heinous sin which some other sexual practices are, it is of itself bad enough to require sincere repentance.  What is more, it too often leads to grievous sin, even to that sin against nature, homosexuality.  For, done in private, it evolves often into mutual masturbation – practiced with another person of the same sex – and then into total homosexuality…. 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 consideration 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 gratification with animals[xli].”
42.  “If an individual tries to receive comfort, satisfaction, affection, or fulfillment from deviate physical interaction with someone of his own gender, it can become an addiction! At first it may fill a need and give comfort of some kind, but, when that has faded, feelings of guilt and depression follow. A greater need soon emerges.[xlii]
43.  “It should go without saying that many of these problems would be alleviated if parents would spend more time teaching and rearing their children. Related to the story that I gave at the beginning of my talk is evidence of a clinical researcher who, after studying 850 individual cases, stated: “Homosexuality would not occur where there is a normal, loving father-and-son relationship.” Any of our people living in righteousness would normally avoid being involved in these problems.[xliii]” 
44.  “The Lord defined some very basic differences between men and women. He gave the male what we call masculine traits and the female feminine traits. He did not intend either of the sexes to adopt the other’s traits but, rather, that men should look and act like men and that women should look and act like women. When these differences are ignored, an unwholesome relationship develops, which, if not checked, can lead to the reprehensible, tragic sin of homosexuality. In other words, we have a responsibility as priesthood bearers to be examples of true manhood.[xliv]
45.  “There are some circumstances in which young men may be tempted to handle one another…  When a young man is finding his way into manhood, such experiences can misdirect his normal desires and pervert him not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well.[xlv]
46.   “Normal desires and attractions emerge in the teenage years; there is the temptation to experiment, to tamper with the sacred power of procreation. These desires can be intensified, even perverted, by pornography, improper music, or the encouragement from unworthy associations. What would have only been a more or less normal passing phase in establishing gender identity can become implanted and leave you confused, even disturbed.  If you consent, the adversary can take control of your thoughts and lead you carefully toward a habit and to an addiction, convincing you that immoral, unnatural behavior is a fixed part of your nature. With some few, there is the temptation which seems nearly overpowering for man to be attracted to man or woman to woman. The scriptures plainly condemn those who “dishonour their own bodies between themselves … ; men with men working that which is unseemly” or “women [who] change the natural use into that which is against nature…” The gates of freedom, and the good or bad beyond, swing open or closed to the password choice. You are free to choose a path that may lead to despair, to disease, even to death.”[xlvi]
47.  “Important as it is, building stronger homes is not enough in the fight against rising permissiveness. We therefore urge Church members as citizens to lift their voices, to join others in unceasingly combatting, in their communities and beyond, the inroads of pornography and the general flaunting of permissiveness. Let us vigorously oppose the shocking developments which encourage the old sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and which defile the human body as the temple of God.[xlvii]
48.  “Freedom from this kind of enslavement is up to a trail that an individual must walk alone. If you stumble, get up and move on. Soon your bruises will heal. You will grow stronger. Your battle is two-thirds won, or three-fourths or four-fifths won, when you take charge of your identity.  Accept yourself as belonging in the tabernacle that God has provided for you. Your body was provided as an instrument of your mind. It has the purpose to bless others. Don't be mixed up in this twisted kind of self-love.[xlviii]
49.  “A 1977 Sacramento Bee article “gave expert evidence that homosexuals certainly are not born – they are made – further defusing claims that they ‘can’t help it.’[xlix]””
50.  “The Church refutes the idea that homosexual orientation is genetically determined.…Furthermore, a genetic/biological cause of homosexual attraction has not found support in the scientific literature. “Science has never proved a genetic link to sexual orientation. Moreover, the Church repeatedly, in nearly every statement about homosexual relations, teaches that homosexual attraction is not inherent to a person's particular genetic make-up and that they are quite able to change.[l]
51.  “BYU does not intend ‘to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly; and if you will be honest enough to let us know the reason, we will voluntarily refund your tuition. We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence.’[li]
52.  “[BYU] will never knowingly enroll an unrepentant person who follows these practices nor tolerate on its campus anyone with these tendencies who fails to repent and put his or her life in order.[lii]
53.   “Once the carnal in man is no longer checked by the restraints of family life and by real religion, there comes an avalanche of appetites which gathers momentum that is truly frightening. As one jars loose and begins to roll down hill, still another breaks loose, whether it is an increase in homosexuality, corruption, drugs, or abortion. Each began as an appetite that needed to be checked but which went unchecked.[liii]
54.  “'Homosexuality can be cured if the battle is well organized and pursued vigorously and continuously.' [This obviously refers to the condition of sexual attraction to persons of the same sex.][liv]”  
55.  “The words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns [or pronouns] to identify particular conditions or specific persons. . . . It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.[lv]” 
56.  “Usually, there will be some resistance, particularly with the abandonment of the people for many perverts will claim to have great "love" for some with whom they have been involved, especially where there has been a sustained relationship, but since the problem is in the mind more than in the body, it is necessary to find a new climate and to make possible the elimination of the evil thoughts which drive him back to his trouble.[lvi]
57.  “Sexual immorality creates a barrier to the influence of the Holy Spirit with all its uplifting, enlightening, and empowering capabilities. It causes powerful physical and emotional stimulation. In time that creates an unquenchable appetite that drives the offender to ever more serious sin. It engenders selfishness and can produce aggressive acts such as brutality, abortion, sexual abuse, and violent crime. Such stimulation can lead to acts of homosexuality, and they are evil and absolutely wrong.[lvii]
58.  “When one projects himself in some confused role-playing way with those of the same gender in an effort to become more masculine or more feminine, something flips over and precisely the opposite results. In a strange way, this amounts to trying to love yourself. A male, in his feelings and emotions, can become less masculine and more feminine and confused. A female can become, in her emotions, less feminine and more masculine and confused. Because the body cannot change, the emotional part may struggle to transform itself into the opposite gender. Then an individual is on a hopeless, futile quest for identity where it can never be achieved.[lviii]
59.  “Only be the destruction of those who practice them. Why, if a little nest of them were left that were guilty of these things, they would soon corrupt others, as some are being corrupted among us... how can this [sodomy] be stopped?  Not while those who have knowledge of these filthy crimes exist. The only way, according to all that I can understand as the word of God, is for the Lord to wipe them out, that there will be none left to perpetuate the knowledge of these dreadful practices among the children of men. And God will do it, as sure as He has spoken by the mouths of His prophets.[lix]
60.  “When we understand fundamental moral law better than we do, we will be able to correct this condition routinely.[lx]
61.  “Be choosy about the professionals you enlist. Many are proponents of the “you were born that way” philosophy. Ensure that the counseling is consistent with gospel principles.[lxi]
62.   “Now it is not all that unusual for a boy or a girl, in a moment of childish play with someone of the same gender, to enter into some mischief that should remain essentially innocent and meaningless and should be forgotten. And two young men or two young women, motivated by some attraction or responding to a desire for affection - any kind of affection - sometimes are drawn almost innocently into unnatural behavior. They can be drawn into some circumstances that makes them, for the moment, doubt their identity. Do not be deluded into thinking that such thoughts and feelings are normal for you. Just because you experience some period of confusion, do not make of that thing something that it is not. Do not order your life to conform to a transient thought or experience.  And just because someone has stubbed his toe a bit, or just because someone did not watch carefully where he was going and got off the track into some unnatural behavior, or just because he may have fallen victim to some clever predator, that is no reason to jump off the cliff into spiritual oblivion[lxii].” (1978)
63.  “begin the ruinous practice of perversion through curiosity and then become entangled in its tentacles.[lxiii]” 
64.  “First, it is important to understand that homosexuality is not innate and unchangeable. Research has not proved that homosexuality is genetic.[lxiv]
65.  “Many questions, however, including some related to same-gender attractions, must await a future answer, even in the next life.[lxv]
66.  “The cause of this disorder has remained hidden for so long because we have been looking for it in the wrong place. When the cause is discovered, it may be nothing so mysterious after all. It may be hidden because it is so obvious.  Have you explored the possibility that the cause when found, will turn out to be a very typical form of selfishness - selfishness in a very subtle form? Now - and understand this - I do not think for a minute that the form of selfishness at the root of perversion is a conscious one, at least not to begin with. I am sure it is quite the opposite. Selfishness can attach itself to an individual without his being aware that he is afflicted with it. It can become imbedded so deeply and disguised so artfully as to be almost indistinguishable.  It is hard to believe that any individual would, by a clear, conscious decision or by a pattern of them, choose a course of deviation. It is much more subtle than that. If one could even experiment with the possibility that selfishness of a very subtle nature may be the cause of this disorder, that quickly clarifies many things. It opens the possibility of putting some very sick things in order… When one has the humility to admit that a spiritual disorder is tied to perversion and that selfishness rests at the root of it, already the way is open to the treatment of the condition. It is a painful admission indeed that selfishness may be at the root of it, but we do not have much evidence that one can cure perversion by trying to cure perversion. If unselfishness can effect a cure, we ought to be desperate enough by now at least to experiment with the possibility. I repeat, we have had very little success in trying to remedy perversion by treating perversion. It is very possible to cure it by treating selfishness... you can understand unselfishness and selfishness. You can learn to cure perversion. [lxvi]
67.  “In the event that you have members who have homosexual tendencies or activities, it will be your privilege and responsibility to assist them to effect a cure and bring their lives back into total normalcy.  This dread practice is becoming widespread in the country and there is some of it even among our members which we deeply regret.”[lxvii]
68.   “The entrenched homosexual has generally and gradually moved all of his interests and affections to those of his own sex rather than to the opposite sex and herein is another step.  When you feel he is ready, he should be encouraged to date and gradually move his life toward the normal. If they will close the door to the intimate associations with their own sex and open it wide to that of the other sex, of course in total propriety, and then be patient and determined, gradually they can move their romantic interests where they belong… Homosexuality CAN be cured.” [lxviii]    
69.  “You might be able for a time to deceive your associates and leaders.  But, you cannot lie to yourself nor to your lord, for in spite of all the rationalization, you know deep in your heart what you are.  You may be able to convince your mind that it is not so wrong but deep in your heart, you will always be uneasy and unhappy and know that your sin is vicious and base.  Remember there are no rooms with such tight windows or with blinds so heavy but that the Lord and his angels know what is going on.”[lxix] 

[i] Spencer W. Kimball, August 13, 1975
[ii] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[iii] Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Cleansing the Inner Vessel” October 3 2010.  I report the version I heard from his lips when I watched General Conference.
[iv] Horizons for Homosexuals, published by the church in 1971.
[v] Horizons for Homosexuals, published by the church in 1971.
[vi] Spencer W. Kimball, Church President,  “President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality”, Ensign, November 1980, p. 97.
[vii] Horizons for Homosexuals, published by the church in 1971.
[viii] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[ix] Mark E. Petersen, Apostle, December 16, 1978, “Sin is No Excuse”, Church News, p. 16.
[x] Boyd K. Packer, “To Young Men Only,” General Conference Priesthood Session, October 2, 1976.
[xi] Horizons for Homosexuals, published by the church in 1971.
[xii] Mark E. Petersen, Apostle, December 16, 1978, “Sin is no excuse,” Church News, p. 16.
[xiii] James E. Faust, “Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil,” Ensign, Sep 1995, 2.
[xiv] Horizons for Homosexuals, published by the church in 1971.
[xv] Horizons for Homosexuals, published by the church in 1971.
[xvi] “The Foundations of Righteousness,” General Conference, Spencer Kimball 1977.
[xvii] Hope for Transgressors, published by the church in 1970.
[xviii] Bishop Keith McMullin, Evergreen International Annual Conference, Saturday, September 18, 2010.
[xix] First Presidency Circular Letter, March 19, 1970, LDS Church Archives.
[xx] Bishop Keith McMullin, Evergreen International Annual Conference, Saturday, September 18, 2010.
[xxi] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[xxii] A. Dean Byrd, “When a Loved One Struggles with Same-Sex Attraction,” Ensign, Sep 1999, 51.
[xxiii] Ezra Taft Benson, Presiding Apostle November 1982, “Fundamentals of Enduring Family Relationships”, Ensign, p. 59.
[xxiv] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[xxv] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978 and published in 1978 by “Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”, popularly distributed afterward in this pamphlet form. 
[xxvi] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[xxvii] Victor L. Brown Sr., 2nd Counselor in Presiding Bishopric, April 4, 1970, Conference Reports, April 1970, p. 31.
[xxviii] Elder Bruce C. Hafen,  Evergreen International Annual Conference, 19 September 2009.  Available at http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/article/elder-bruce-c-hafen-speaks-on-same-sex-attraction
[xxix] Elder Bruce C. Hafen,  Evergreen International Annual Conference, 19 September 2009.  Available at http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/article/elder-bruce-c-hafen-speaks-on-same-sex-attraction
[xxx] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[xxxi] Spencer W. Kimball, Delivered April 3, 1971, “Voices of the Past, of the Present, of the Future, Ensign, June 1971, p. 16.
[xxxii] Spencer W. Kimball, Church President, October 4, 1974,”God Will Not Be Mocked”, Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 4.
[xxxiii] Boyd K. Packer, “Our Moral Environment,” Ensign, May 1992, 66.
[xxxiv] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[xxxv] Elder Bruce C. Hafen,  Evergreen International Annual Conference, 19 September 2009.  Available at http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/article/elder-bruce-c-hafen-speaks-on-same-sex-attraction
[xxxvi] Office of the First Presidency, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, November 14, 1991.  To: All Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Dear Brethren and Sisters: Standards of Morality and Fidelity.  Available at http://institute.lds.org/manuals/eternal-marriage-student-manual/m2-morality-4.asp
[xxxvii] Victor L. Brown Jr., BYU Instructor, “Two Views of Sexuality”, Ensign, July 1975, p. 50.
[xxxviii] Spencer W. Kimball, July 10, 1964, “A Counseling Problem in the Church” – BYU Devotional for LDS Seminary & Institute Instructors.
[xxxix] Gordon B. Hinckley, “Opposing Evil”, Ensign, November 1975, p. 38.
[xl] Dallin H. Oaks, Apostle, October 1995, “Same-Gender Attraction”, Ensign, pp. 7-8.
[xli] “The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature: A Revised History of Homosexuality and Mormonism, 1840-1980” by Connell O’Donovan.  Available at http://www.connellodonovan.com/abom.html  Quoting chapter six, “The Crime Against Nature,” of The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer Kimball, pg. 77-78.
[xlii] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[xliii] J. Richard Clarke, 2nd Counselor in Presiding Bishopric, “Ministering to Needs through LDS Social Services”, Ensign, May 1977, p. 85.
[xliv] Victor L. Brown Sr., 2nd Counselor in Presiding Bishopric “The Meaning of Morality”, Ensign, June 1971, p. 55.
[xlv] Boyd K. Packer, “To Young Men Only,” General Conference Priesthood Session, October 2, 1976.
[xlvi] Boyd K. Packer, Acting Presiding Apostle, October 8, 2000, “Ye Are the Temple of God”, Ensign, Nov. 2000, p. 72.
[xlvii] Spencer W. Kimball, Church President, “The Foundations of Righteousness, Ensign, November 1977, p. 4.
[xlviii] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[xlix] Mark E. Petersen, Apostle, January 14, 1978, “The strong delusions”, Church News, p. 16.
[l] Dean Byrd, October 2001, Homosexuality and the Church of Jesus Christ: Understanding Homosexuality According to the Doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cedar Fort Press.
[li] Ernest L. Wilkinson, “Make Honor Your Standard”, Deseret News, Church News supplement, November 13, 1965, p. 11.
[lii] Spencer Kimball, “Love versus Lust,” 5 January 1965, later published in BYU Speeches of the Year.
[liii] Spencer W. Kimball, Church President, “Listen to the Prophets,” Ensign, May 1978, p. 76.
[liv] Dallin H. Oaks, "Principles to Govern Possible Public Statement on Legislation Affecting Rights of Homosexuals," Memo proposing “general principles to guide those who prepare the text of a public statement if one is needed”, 7 August 1984, http://affirmation.org/pdf/oaks_paper_02.pdf.
[lv] Dallin Oaks, Apostle, Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 1995, 9.
[lvi] Spencer Kimball, Hope for Transgressors, pamphlet published by the church in 1970.
[lvii] Richard G. Scott, “Making the Right Choices,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 37.
[lviii] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[lix] D. Michael Quinn, Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996) p. 417; and O’Donovan, “Abominable”, p. 144- George Q. Cannon, 1897.  Also available on pg. 53, The year of jubilee: A full report of the proceedings of the fiftieth annual conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in the large tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Utah, April 6th, 7th and 8th, A. D. 1880 ; Also a report of the exercises in the Salt Lake Assembly Hall, on the Sunday and Monday just preceding the conference, Volume 1.  Also October 1897, Report of the 68th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 65-66.
 By Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, George F. Gibbs, John Irvine (reporter).
[lx] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[lxi] A. Dean Byrd, “When a Loved One Struggles with Same-Sex Attraction,” Ensign, Sep 1999, 51.
[lxii] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[lxiii] Spencer Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals pamphlet, 1971.
[lxiv] A. Dean Byrd, “When a Loved One Struggles with Same-Sex Attraction,” Ensign, Sep 1999, 51.
[lxv] http://lds.org/topics/pdf/GodLovethHisChildren_04824_000.pdf (2007).
[lxvi] Elder Boyd K. Packer, To the One, delivered at 12-stake regional conference March 5, 1978.
[lxvii] Hope for Transgressors, published by the church in 1970.
[lxviii] Hope for Transgressors, published by the church in 1970.
[lxix] Horizons for Homosexuals, published by the church in 1971.

Search This Blog