Monday, December 27, 2010

Chapter 1: A Case For Compassion

I've decided to post my book (Homsexuality: A Straight BYU Student's Perspective) one chapter at a time.  You can access the whole beast in .docx and .pdf at (   I think many will find the .pdf format the most readable.  Also, I'd be happy to sell you a hard copy if interested.  Feedback welcome!

 Chapter 1: A Case For Compassion

I've thought a lot on this topic over the past few years ever since one of my cousins came home from his mission, came "out of the closet," and subsequently left the church. I've always thought of homosexuality to be one of the toughest challenges anyone could be faced with when simultaneously believing in the gospel of Christ where a heterosexual marriage and resulting family are so resoundingly central.
- Sara Johnson*

Though the statements below bear on related issues (such as causation, mutability, and same-sex marriage), my purpose in this chapter is only to argue that LDS members should have compassion on homosexually oriented people in and out of the church; I intend to discuss related issues in other chapters.  If your heart is touched by the plight of many homosexually oriented people, my purpose for this chapter is accomplished. 
My argument is two-fold: LDS members should have compassion on homosexually oriented people in and out of the church because 1) church doctrine compels it and 2) homosexually oriented people have it rough. 
1) Church Doctrine Compels Compassion:
Religion’s power lies not so much in the sermon as it does in the believers capacity to bring to fruition through ethical and moral action the spoken or written word of God.[1]
From the Church’s pamphlet, God Loveth His Children, written for homosexually oriented members: “God does indeed love all His children. Many questions, however, including some related to same-gender attractions, must await a future answer, even in the next life. But… He loves all His children, and because He loves you, you can trust Him.[2]
Irrespective of one’s conclusions as to the sinfulness of homosexual orientation and/or behavior, it is clear that the LDS church should be a hospital for sinners rather than a mansion for perfected saints.  In addition to the above reminder of God’s love, I could provide several more authoritative quotes.    However, though abundant, they don't depart significantly from this clearly articulated one-
Member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Oaks: “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.[3]
I add to these two excerpts a third quote from a previous mission president, former BYU biology professor, and current active Latter-day Saint, Bill Bradshaw-
"Greater sensitivity and a reduction in hurtful disapproval might also be achieved as we review and evaluate pertinent LDS doctrines. I would like to suggest that it is appropriate for members of the Church to withhold judgment about the implications of some religious principles in humble recognition of the uncertainty that accompanies our relative ignorance. . . .  The ideals we espouse provide wonderful general guidelines for the heterosexual majority in their quest for exaltation, without ruling out the possibility that there will be equivalent eternal possibilities for the homosexual minority… it would seem most appropriate to love and support our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in their efforts in this mortal sphere to acquire as much as they can of godliness.
It is also my belief that our Heavenly Father has in store special blessings for his homosexual children in recognition of the successes they have made of their mortal lives in the face of undeserved hostility.[4]
Last, I quote Carol Lynn Pearson, whose words apply especially to this chapter:
“What if we are in that archery class, all of us, practicing for perfection, rehearsing for heaven? And what is the bull’s eye, that desired point for which we aim?  No secret there.  Love.  That is made clear in every sacred text that has graced this planet.  Jesus said that the center point, the greatest commandment, is to love God and your neighbor (as well as yourself).  “Love one another, as I have loved you…” Perhaps many of us respond to our fellow students’ learning with a righteous zeal that causes us to miss love and land on judgment, fear, hate… Perhaps some of us see the mote that is in our brother’s eye and are not aware of the beam that is in our own.  Perhaps our Teacher would like us to be one another’s cheerleaders rather than one another’s judges…
“everything that comes from love is a miracle” and brings about oneness.  Whatever does not come from love comes from fear and contributes to the illusion of “separation,” separation from God and from one another.
Can we be “kind” to others when we see them as a different “kind”?  We can be polite to our homosexual brothers and sisters, but we are not being “kind” unless we acknowledge them as “kin,” not as “the other,” but as our very own kind.
In this book I introduce you to your kin, your own kind.  There’s an old Jewish Saying: An enemy is someone whose story you do not know.  Storytelling is part of my calling, and as you read the following stories, I have full confidence that your understanding and compassion will increase, that you will respond from the place of love, of kindness, and that together we will create miracles.[5]
2) They Have It Rough:
To paint this “they have it rough” picture, I will quote a few studies and share several stories illustrating facets of the story of what it’s like to be homosexually oriented and LDS.  It is my hope that the reader will thoughtfully consider whether and how any of his/her past or future attitudes or actions contribute to the experience of homosexually oriented people.  In this as in other chapters, the stories shared will present a diversity of views, including occasionally views critical of some teachings of church leaders.  I include these excerpts not necessarily because I agree with any particular view, but because I feel that a candid presentation of many diverse perspectives adds value to our pursuit of understanding. 

Negative attitudes toward homosexuality harm:
Attitudes about homosexuality are not without heavy consequences.  Many homosexually oriented people have experienced depression and/or committed suicide because of misunderstanding and maltreatment from others because of their homosexual orientation: 
"According to a national survey conducted in 2000, 74 percent of [gay persons] and bisexuals reported having been subjected to verbal abuse because of their sexual orientation and 32 percent reported being the target of physical violence.[6]"  ; see also D. Satcher, supra ("[a]veraged over two dozen studies, 80 percent of gay [persons] had experienced verbal or physical harassment on the basis of their orientation, 45 percent had been threatened with violence, and 17 percent had experienced a physical attack")[7].

I'd imagine many homosexually oriented people also appropriately crave being open, being authentic, being loved as they are[8]:

Look at me
You may think you see
Who I really am
But you'll never know me
Every day
It's as if I play a part
Now I see
If I wear a mask
I can fool the world
But I cannot fool my heart

Who is that girl I see
Staring straight back at me?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?

I am now
In a world where I
Have to hide my heart
And what I believe in
But somehow
I will show the world
What's inside my heart
And be loved for who I am

Who is that girl I see
Staring straight back at me?
Why is my reflection
Someone I don't know?
Must I pretend that I'm
Someone else for all time?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?

There's a heart that must be
Free to fly
That burns with a need to know
The reason why

Why must we all conceal
What we think, how we feel?
Must there be a secret me
I'm forced to hide?
I won't pretend that I'm
Someone else for all time
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?

Though I don't know how representative the following experience is, this 1999 letter of one father illustrates the depths of difficulty many LDS individuals and families have faced in dealing with homosexual orientation[ix]:
(when I first read this letter, I was deeply moved by the experience of this man and his family.  Though some of his comments can seem accusatory, please try to understand his writing primarily for what it is: one person’s authentic feelings and experiences.)
“I need to inform you of the personal heartache and damage you have to some degree been responsible for visiting upon my immediate family as the author of To the One [a talk given by Elder Boyd K. Packer in 1978 that was subsequently distributed by the church as a frequently used pamphlet]... my wife and I have been referred to it numerous times as we have come to grips with this issue over the past few years.  As one who has always been mindful of my Temple covenants, an unwavering believer, and a follower of my Priesthood leaders, this is not an easy letter to write.  For me it represents an anguished "Crossing of the Rubicon."  I hope you will take the time to read it, for in it I have invested my very soul.
Early on a Saturday morning six weeks ago, I watched as our car pulled away with my wife driving our eldest son to a new city, a new community, and a new school to complete his senior year of high school.  Ever since that morning, I have grown progressively angrier that to protect our son's life and sense of self worth, we are compelled to send him away from our home and family. You see, this community of "Saints" we live in is so steeped in ignorance, fear, loathing, judgment and qualified "love" towards our son and those who like him face the challenge of homosexuality, he twice arrived at the point where he was devoid of hope and felt he had no alternative but to take his own life.  Fortunately, he did not succeed.  My son is not manic-depressive, nor was he ever before suicidal.  He simply understands too well the Gospel and believed what his Seminary teachers and Priesthood leaders taught him about homosexuality, based upon the doctrine set forth in To The One.
My wife and I are the parents of six children - two daughters and four sons - ranging in age from twenty-three to eight.  Our oldest son at age thirteen had the courage to come to us with his growing fear that he had no attraction whatsoever to girls - the thought in fact disgusted him - but that he was very attracted to those of his same sex.  That he would come to us without fear or shame, confide in us, and seek our counsel attests to the strong relationship my wife and I have both always had with our son...
This son was always spiritually mature for his age.  He is the finest young man I have ever known - giving, loving, supportive, honest, reliable.  Most definitely unselfish.  A leader among his peers in his school and primary classes and in his Priesthood quorums.  Since he was old enough to talk and walk, we were very much aware of certain differences that concerned us.  He carried himself differently, walking and running.  When we could get him to pick up a ball, he threw it differently.  He spoke differently.  He was not in the least interested in sports (in spite of countless practices and Saturdays we spent supporting him in sporting events that utterly disinterested him).  He loved dolls and playing house.  He loved music, literature, drama and poetry. He made friends easily with girls, but very rarely with boys.  Carlie and I listened with hope to LDS counselors and leaders who dismissed or downplayed all of this as merely a "phase."  We believed in and relied on them. 
The years passed, but the "phase" didn't - this in spite of our doing everything recommended to us by LDS counselors, Priesthood leaders and, of course, the teachings of the General Authorities... While we were assured by LDS counselors that this was little more than a correctable Pavlovian response and that "nothing could be easier to cure," and took hope in your confident statement in To The One: "When we understand fundamental moral law better than we do, we will be able to correct this condition routinely. . . ," matters went from bad to worse.  One evening in 1997, while I was out of town and my wife was being assured by our well-meaning Stake President at his office that "if we just keep it quiet - the same as if someone in your family had committed adultery [our son had done nothing]- it will all be just fine, trust me . . . ," our son slit his wrists in his room at home.  Earlier in the day, it had been the "Sodom and Gomorrah" lesson in Seminary.
As bishop of a student Ward at the University of Utah working with homosexual returned missionaries, I came to the painful realization that the “reparative therapy” practiced by LDS Social Services and organizations such as Evergreen (whose board of directors I then served on) was not merely ineffective, it was terribly damaging.  In every instance I found that this "therapy" accomplished little more than driving these earnest brothers and sisters, desperate to believe that they would "change," deeper into self-loathing and despondency.
Their failure to "change" as promised them by you and other Priesthood leaders - a failure ultimately arrived at by each and every one of these young men and women who were honest with his or her situation - left only three realistic alternatives: (1) practice deceit as long as possible to remain in good standing with Church and family, (2) give up completely, abandon Church and family, and turn to the only community that will accept you - the gay community, or (3) commit suicide...
In To The One you preach that homosexuality is not innate, but is a curable condition. Your fundamental proof: God wouldn't make a mistake like this. By preaching this, you set the impossible goal of "cure" as the standard to which my son must hold himself responsible, as must his family and all other Church members.  Until he chooses to do what he must to be "cured," he hasn't done enough.  He will never have done enough.  He will always come up failing in the most fundamental aspect of his entire existence as a child of his Heavenly Father.  He is a pervert, an aberration, and an abomination... How would you deal with this if you were him?...
Last week a dear friend (formerly a bishop) reassured us that he still loved our son "even if he has made a choice to be this way."  My son did not choose to be this way.  This type of "love" born of duty and pity for his abominable choice acts like a slow but virulent cancer on our son's self-esteem.   It is for this reason we have found it necessary to send our son away from the community of the "Saints."
As the Church "progresses" on this issue, what we are hearing more and more from Priesthood leaders today is the idea that our son is acceptable so long as he practices life-long chastity.  That is, of course, actually called celibacy, and while it's a convenient idea to advance, in practice it is virtually impossible to live... You may recall that in his somewhat recent newspaper interview in California, President Hinckley compared the plight of homosexuals to that of the single sisters in the Church.  To paraphrase, he said that the Church doesn't ask homosexuals to do anything it doesn't also ask of its other single adult members - to live chaste lives. But this simply isn't true.  As a former bishop I have firsthand experience.  We openly love and support our single brothers and sisters.  We give them important callings - especially with our youth and children.  We urge them to date, to flirt, to get crushes, to fall in love, to marry.  We sponsor Ward and Stake activities and dances to get them together to accomplish this.  We ask them to be chaste - until they find someone to share their life and intimacy with.  We go out of our way to give them something of immeasurable value in the struggle to keep the law of chastity - hope - hope that no matter how difficult this emotional and physical loneliness is, it is temporary.  For those with the least control over their situation, our single sisters, we give special encouragement and hope that they will find love, emotional intimacy and fulfillment in this life - and if not, certainly in the next.
We do not knowingly give homosexuals important callings - especially not with our youth or children who would be at risk of being infected and recruited. We forbid them ever to flirt, to date, to get crushes, to fall in love, to have a legally-recognized monogamous relationship.  The image of a Tri-Stake Gay and Lesbian Gold-and-Green Ball is amusing.  We ask them to be chaste - forever. No hope at all.  The question of sexual intimacy aside - can you imagine having being denied the ability to become attracted to, flirt with, get a crush on, hold hands with, steal a kiss from, or fall in love with your wife?  With all trace of romantic love and emotional intimacy denied you, with what would you fill the void to hold at bay a life of loneliness, emptiness, and despair? 
We do have at least one historic example to look to.  The Catholic Church has attempted to enforce celibacy on its clergy throughout the ages with success at some level (although we will never know what level).  With what did they replace the emotional void?  They had the love and adulation of the church membership, and authority and power.   They were, in fact, the Bishops, Stake Presidents, and General Authorities.  They were held next to deity - and their record is less than stellar.  Imagine the celibacy success rate of a group defined by a loathsome and abominable "condition."
Imagine also, for a moment, if you were to stand up in front of the freshman class at BYU and announce that everyone present was being given a special calling to live a celibate life from then on.  How many do you think would really be able to do it?  How many empty and guilty lives and suicides would result?  The Church has never taught the principle of celibacy.  As a parent, I don't have the slightest idea how to begin teaching it.  There are no manuals, no courses, no "For the Strength of Celibate Youth" cards to carry.  There are no Priesthood, Relief Society, Sunday School, or Primary lessons on celibacy. On the other hand, following the teachings of the Church, we have raised our children in a home filled with open love, intimacy, loyalty and commitment between a couple.  Our children know Carlie and I adore each other, and they want and need the same thing in their lives.
I never thought I would say this, but as a father given the choice between (a) my son's suicide, (b) his complete abandonment of the Church and embracing of the extreme gay culture with its emotionally debilitating and physically dangerous practice of anonymous casual sex, or (c) living in a committed, monogamous relationship for the rest of his life practicing the Gospel virtues of love, commitment, and fidelity we have taught in our home, I would have to pick the latter.  The Church, however, is now doing all in its power to prevent that...
Then again, perhaps my son is simply a casualty of war - acceptable "collateral damage" in an eternal plan and struggle in which by the luck of the draw he has no relevance or place.  The Gospel has always been easy to have faith in and follow because it made real sense and worked in our lives. This would make no sense.  And the current doctrine, as set forth in To The One is not working for our family.  I can't tell you how strange and difficult this is.  It's like we woke up one morning on a different planet. In our greatest time of need as a family, the Church has failed us and abandoned us - and through the convenient but hurtful doctrine of parental causation, complicity and guilt it directly promotes (evidence the article in September’s Ensign), it kicks us while we are down... We live in this issue twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and must raise our children through it by our best lights.   And there are many more like us in the Church.  Parents like us are ultimately forced to make a hopeless decision: abandon our homosexual children, or turn from the Church.   "Not so," you say. You would never know unless you walked in our shoes...”

David Eccles Hardy

From a homosexually oriented LDS member in 2010:
“Before I even knew what sex was or conceptualized the word gay or knew of the hostility the world—especially my world—had towards such a concept, I was attracted to my same gender.  I was gay.  I remember vividly my first crush in third grade.  I didn’t choose to have that crush, it just happened.
There was no struggle with that attraction and I certainly wasn’t suffering from it. There was no value judgment of superiority or inferiority.  It just was.
Unnatural. Unclean. Abomination. Next to murder. Ungodly. Unworthy. Immoral.
It wasn’t until these words were preached to my young heart from persons I was raised to hold in the highest esteem and the highest authority that the suffering and struggling started.  Church leaders spoke of those who struggle and suffer with these attractions, and because I knew I was the target of their words, I too started to stuffer.
I remember intentionally souring personal relationships with people in my life because they expressed romantic interest and I dared not simply decline out of immense fear that this would somehow give me away as one with “unclean desires”.  And so I was mean.  I was hurtful.  I pushed people away—away from me, and away from my secret.  Indeed there was pain and suffering! Oh the regret.
I remember the nights where I would lock my bedroom door, crawl into my closet, and behind the safety of the closet doors plead aloud “Lord why me? Why hast thou forsaken me? I feel so alone.  If thou will provide a way, any way, to overcome this I will do all that you ask.”
I remember waking at 4:30 am every Tuesday morning to show God my commitment and faithfully going to the Temple to do baptisms for the dead.  I remember through the grogginess of my tired eyes being able to see the love gleaming from the eyes of the senior couples who braved the early hours to give service to their faith and realizing that my church had condemned me to never feel the joy of such a partnership.
I remember the spiritual wrestling match going thousands of rounds over hundreds of nights.
I remember so vividly each hot tear as it burned streaks down my face in the darkest hours of too many nights.
I remember once looking at my pillow one Saturday afternoon as I exchanged the used pillow case for a new freshly laundered one.  The cradle of my head was so soiled and stained, not from nocturnal drooling, but from thousands of tears consciously and unconsciously shed.  Its yellowed stained appearance as physically appalling as the spiritual angst that created it.
Just as my church leaders had prophesied, my sexual attractions did bring much suffering...
I still struggle when I see an institution that has preached so much emphasis on the family woefully and inadequately prepare its members with the resources necessary to cope with such a difficult conflict between their familial love and their religious teachings.
I still struggle when I hear the news of those who were tired of the fight and choose to bow out far before their time.
I still struggle when in the darkest hours of the night the tears come again as my phone rings with a sobbing friend on the other end of the line who can barely express through their own tears their weariness, despair, and “struggle and suffering” with their attractions.
I still struggle when I see friends and loved ones who are not gay but are reviled as apostates because their consciences, life experiences, and relationships with their fellow man tell them that their church leaders are wrong on this issue…
So yes, my greatest blessing continues to be my greatest struggle.  However, that suffering has evolved from one of internalized self conflict to a struggle of my heart reaching out in compassion to those I love and to those who lack understanding.[x]

A 21-year old Gay Mormon:
“I have adhered to and lived by the Church's counsel and guidelines most of my life, while at the same time being tormented by something inside me that countered some of the Church's most steadfast rules. Something that defied change and quietly but stubbornly rebelled against everything that it was claimed to be by President Kimball in his seemingly endless and merciless damnation of it. Something that has caused me endless nights of lost sleep and endless days of struggle, denial, guilt and tears. Something defined as homosexuality.
I suppose I am, and have been for a number of years (if not always), a homosexual.
The events which led up to my going on a mission for the Mormon Church are another chapter entirely. Perhaps, as much as anything, it was hope and faith which harboured the rationale of 2 years devoted service to the Lord in exchange for the withdrawal of that something which President Kimball never failed to blacklist.
If I have accepted my sexuality, it has not been out of defiance, pride (or shame), adventure, or understanding. Merely surrender. After years of hope, prayer, faith, work, and unending anguish, I cannot go on playing Don Quixote fighting a windmill for which there is no conquering…[xi]

Andrew Sullivan, a religious gay man[xii]:
“In my adolescence and young adulthood, the teaching of the Church was merely a silence, an increasingly hollow denial even of the existence of homosexuals, let alone a credible ethical guide to how they should lead their lives.  It is still true that in over thirty years of weekly churchgoing, I have never heard a homily that attempted to explain how a gay man should live, or how his sexuality should be expressed.  I have heard nothing but a vast and endless and embarrassed silence, an awkward, unexpressed desire for the simple nonexistence of such people, for their absence from the moral and physical universe, for a word or phrase, like ‘objective disorder,’ that could simply abolish the problem they represented and the diverse humanity they symbolized.  The teaching I inherited was a teaching that, in the best of all possible worlds, I simply would not exist.  And it was hard to disobey this; since it was not an order, it was merely a wish.
If articulated, I suppose, the order was abstinence.  Abstinence forever; abstinence always; abstinence not for the sake of something else, but for its own sake; abstinence not just from sex, but from love and love’s hope and the touch of a lover’s embrace.  Abstinence even from recognition, acknowledgment, family.  Some were honest enough to describe this fate as emblematic of Jesus’ suffering on the cross, and they invited you to participate in it and told you to embrace it.  And they did so with a sympathy that was no less cruel for being genuine.  But Jesus’ suffering on the cross was at least for something, for forgiveness, for universal redemption, remaining in his desperate isolation on the cross a symbol of human brokenness who opened his pinioned arms to everyone.  It was an act of eternal solidarity with the suffering, not an arbitrary invitation to the ordeal, let alone a glorification of it… [N]o other group of people was told that although they did not choose their condition, it precluded them from the most sacred and sustaining relationships know to man.  The infertile was prayed for, and married, and embraced; the sick and wounded were celebrated and invoked as models; the pariahs were welcomed into the fold; the prodigal sons were counted more joyously than the regular parishioners.  But the homosexuals were unmentioned and unmentionable.”

Cloy Jenkins, a BYU student, wrote:
“Let me tell you briefly of a young man who recently successfully completed this treatment at BYU under the direction of Dr. Ford McBride, whose work you are familiar with. He is, according to Dr. McBride, one of his "star cases." As a young boy, he came to realize his strong attraction to the other boys. As a teenager, he began to experience the sexuality of his attraction but also learned that it was regarded as wrong and resolved to change. He was popular and a good student but troubled by this problem that wouldn't go away. He was devoted to the Church, but his talks with the Church authorities only served to confuse him as he was already following the particular steps which they said would cure him. Nevertheless, he was faithful to the commandments, and not once did he have any kind of sexual experience with another person. He entered the mission field confident that his missionary work would produce the answer to his faithful prayers. After completing a successful mission, he returned to BYU as homosexual as before. He dated, socialized and studied hard, but his desires were becoming increasingly insistent in spite of his vigorous efforts to put them behind. Try as he might, the advice given him by the Church was totally without any effect. He knew under the circumstances that he could not marry. With trepidation, he finally went to the counseling service. He was given a battery of tests and interviews, then was set up on a conditioning therapy program coupled with hypnosis and supportive counseling. He was sent to Salt Lake to magazine stores to find pictures of naked men that excited him. These were made into slides and flashed on a screen while he sat in a chair with electrodes strapped to his arms. As the pictures were shown, he was given a shock; the purpose being to couple the pain of the shock with the stimulating picture in order to condition him so that he not only disliked the shock but also the picture. This was the first time he had ever looked at pictures of naked men. He was given a dial to determine the strength of the shock, and was soon keeping it on full strength, as he was determined to be cured as quickly as possible. He came out of these sessions nauseated, shaking, and with mild burns on his arms. He was hypnotized and told he would no longer think homosexual thoughts but would instead have heterosexual ones. The therapy sessions progressed well, and he was sent again to Salt Lake to find pictures of nude girls which were shown to him without the shock. He was counseled to let his imagination have free play on these pictures and was to let them be the basis of his sexual fantasies. He understood what they meant.

For nearly two years this therapy lasted, during which time he felt confident that he was changing and that homosexuality was behind him. His therapist was extremely pleased and had him write a letter, stating that he was now cured through these reconditioning techniques.

Shortly after this, a girl friend introduced him to a friend whom I shall call Bob. Bob was talented, intelligent, and handsome. He was about to leave for a mission. Immediately upon his introduction to Bob, he knew that nothing really had changed. He felt so intensely attracted that he could no longer deny the fact to himself…
To you, his feelings for Bob may seem strange or repulsive, but for him it was a deeply satisfying, warm, loving expression of how he really felt towards another person and the first such experience in his life. It was not easy for him to accept, however, as he had to examine it against all that the Church has to say on the subject and against all of his own built-up prohibitions. But he could no longer deny the truth of who he was and what his experience had been. As he told me, "No one wanted to change more than I did. I did everything within my power to change, and it didn't alter my homosexuality one whit. All I had learned to do was suppress much of my personality largely through preoccupying my mind and energy with other distractions. I suddenly realized how much of my life I was shutting down, turning off, and how absolutely lonely I was becoming. I was avoiding even innocent non-sexual rapport with other men for fear it might turn sexual. I was making my life miserable by a pervasive denial of who I am. It isn't easy now, especially because of the Church which means so much to me…
This young man's experience, like many others, including my own, discredits the proposition of reconditioning the homosexual… This young man, like many others, had never had a homosexual experience prior to therapy. Nothing could be misconstrued as conditioning him for homosexuality. Everything points to the contrary. He chose not to be homosexual, he systematically refused to attend to homosexual fantasies, he chose and had those experiences that would reward heterosexual interests and extinguish homosexual ones. His two years of therapy were the epitome of rewards and punishments scientifically calculated to destroy homosexuality and evoke heterosexuality. His subconscious was massaged through hypnotic techniques, his conscious efforts were strongly supported and his spiritual efforts were absolute. According to conditioning and "appetitional" theories, he should have become heterosexual. His therapist and the counseling department believe him to be; they have his letter to prove it. He knows differently. His story can be and is duplicated over and over. Right now, young men are going into the Smith Family Living Center to be strapped with electrodes and shocked out of homosexuality [please remember this is an older quote that does not reflect current LDS church practice].

A young convert recently told me of how, as a teenager, he had tried drinking hot mustard water to destroy his homosexual urges. He can laugh at himself now, but at the time it was distressing. Many kinds of self-punishment have been attempted from drinking raw eggs to burning oneself. In some cases, death has resulted. For many, the self-torture is more subtle, a sort of mental self-mutilation and is carried on for a lifetime with not so observable but equally disastrous results. Typical of this is a professor who finally decided to go ahead and get married. Now, when he walks down the hall, he keeps his eyes straight ahead, not looking at anyone. He has several children, but the life has gone out of him.[xiii]” 

Hans explains why he has found success being gay and a LDS[xiv]:
“I feel that I have reached a sustainable level of success on my journey through same gender attraction…
I questioned God. I questioned his Prophets. I questioned the principles of the gospel and the commandments. I allowed myself to doubt the reality of it all. I did everything in my power to get rid of those feelings, but failed at every turn. Gratefully, I never stopped praying or studying the scriptures, even when I felt that there was no benefit in doing so. After a particularly difficult period of introspection and despair, I finally felt humble enough to seek help.
I confided in my parents and a few very close friends. I asked my bishop for help. I obtained professional counseling to help me talk through my thoughts and feelings in productive, healthy ways. As I have come to terms with my feelings, my understanding of God's plan for me has increased dramatically. My heart has become full of gratitude for a trial that lowered me enough to feel the full weight of my need for the Savior…
I have been through the hell of abandonment, loneliness, misunderstanding, confusion, frustration, and despair that accompanies same gender attraction. My soul has shattered from the sheer torture of it. I believe that each and every one of God's children must experience those feelings in this life, maybe even more than once. As unpleasant as they may be, they teach us compassion and love, patience and charity.
As one who experiences SGA, I don't see myself as any different from those who don't experience it. As difficult as it was to accept, in my heart of hearts I view SGA as trial that came about because of the fallen world we live in. Just as Jesus Christ offers love, healing, and the marvelous gift of change to those afflicted with all kinds of difficulties, so He offers those precious gifts to me.
I have decided to join my voice to those who believe success is possible and offer hope to any and all afflicted with this struggle.”
Wrote Ty Mansfield (an author of well-known In Quiet Desperation):
“I believe that even with an experience of same-gender attraction – which in a mortal, fallen world a minority of people may come to feel, for a myriad of reasons- individuals can find real peace with what we have been taught through the Lord’s prophets concerning the importance of marriage and family.  Despite the challenge of same-gender attraction, they can reconcile their challenge with a life completely faithful to Christ and to His Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints… Even though the challenge of this experience has often felt unbearable, I do now feel hope- the kind of hope that comes with eternal perspective and faith in God.  And I now feel peace, a kind of peace I have felt only through the Spirit of the Lord when I have diligently strived to follow His word given through ancient and modern prophets.[xv]
Other LDS homosexuals also report living happy and/or successful lives in the church[xvi].  Some of these homosexuals are friends of mine, both single and heterosexually married.  In light of Otterson[xvii] and Uchtdorf's[xviii] October 2010 comments, many think the church is becoming more and more a healthy place for a greater number of gay members.  On 28 November 2010 in Provo, Utah’s Oak Hills 8th Ward, *Jennifer Matthews spoke about treatment of same-gender attracted people.  Many listening came up to the speaker afterward to thank her for what she said, affirming the need for such an address.  One very touched gay man in the congregation told me about the talk (and I confirmed subsequently[xix] with the speaker):
“Michael Otterson who works for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter - Day Saints Public Affairs Department was the one who delivered the church's media response to the controversy over President Packer's remarks. Here is that statement:
‘This Church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history, when we were too few in numbers to adequately protect ourselves and when society's leaders often seemed disinclined to help. Our parents, young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable in society.... This is particularly so in our own Latter -day Saint congregations. Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions toward others properly reflects Jesus Christ's second great commandment- to love one another.’
Elder Marvin Jensen about two months ago, met with a group of gay and straight LDS members in the Oakland, CA stake. Those present spoke of the pain they had experienced during the Prop 8 campaign. People cried, and Elder Jensen cried with them. One person who had experienced something extremely difficult, said he felt the church owed him an apology. Elder Jensen rose and said ‘to the full extent of my capacity, I say that I'm sorry... I know that many very good people have been deeply hurt, and I know that the Lord expects better from us.’
About a year ago a gay member of the Oakland, CA stake, gave a talk and it was given and read for him by someone else.
In it, he makes the following plea, which I personally think sums up what a lot of members of the LDS church who are dealing with Same Gender Attraction are silently asking for from their straight LDS counterparts. In his talk he states the following:
‘You know who I am. You have been seated next to me in meetings. You have greeted me with enthusiasm when you have seen me in church. You have heard my voice in prayer. Yet, I wonder how many of you would treat me less kindly if you knew the truth. I wonder if you would judge me- however mildly, however inadvertently, however silently. I don’t want pity. To pity me is to make me a victim. I want understanding. To understand me, is to love me as an equal. I don’t want tolerance. If I’m tolerated, I am disliked or feared in some way. I want respect as a fellow striving child of God - an equal in his eyes. I don’t want acceptance. To accept me is to graciously grant me the favor of your company. To accept me is to marginalize me with the assumption that I am less than you. I am your peer. I am neither above nor below you. I don't want judgment.  My path may be different than yours, but it is a plan built for me by a power greater than anyone of us in this room. To judge me, is to judge the designer of that path. I do not want to be viewed as a mistake. My path on this Earth was prescribed uniquely for me, just as yours was. It was designed to give me the experiences I need to grow as a child of my Heavenly Father. To view me as a mistake is to view Him as a maker of mistakes. On a cosmetic level, we are very different, you and I.   You have spouses, or the opportunity for spouses. I do not. You have children, or the opportunity for children, I do not. You are attracted to those of the opposite gender, I am attracted to those of my same gender. What I want most of all is for you to look past the cosmetic. I want you to look at what makes us the same: the simple fact that we are all children of our Heavenly Father, and we are struggling day to day to understand how to best do his will, and how to return to Him. It is that similarity, brothers and sisters, that weighs more than all the cosmetic differences in the world.’
Other examples to me are my aunt and uncle. After their son *Brant came out gay a few years ago, they met him at a restaurant for his birthday.  He introduced them to his boyfriend. My uncle just went up to the man and embraced him. The boyfriend broke down in tears, saying " I never thought that a man from Utah County would ever hug me."
Another example, a son came out to his mother and told her that he was gay. They were worried about how his father would take the news. so he decided to write his father a letter.  After receiving the letter, the father became very depressed, crying and moping around the house for several days. Finally his wife became worried and spoke to her husband, saying, ‘Our son is still our son, and we need to love and support him for who he is and not for who we wish he was’ He looked at her and said, ‘I'm not upset about what you think I'm upset about. I'm not sad or angry that our son is gay - I will always love him the same. What I'm sad about is that I just found out that my son has been suffering all these years alone, and he didn't feel comfortable enough to come to me so I could be there to support him through this…’
We do know gay people, we just may not know that we know gay people…
Now, I could imagine what it must like to be gay. I could imagine what it must like to be a gay member of the church. But the truth is, I really have NO idea what it’s like. We just do not know what those around us are dealing with.
Do we make jokes and off-hand comments when we think we’re just with our friends? Do we pass along stereotypes about gay people and how we think they are or what we think they’re like? Do we make comments in church and write things on the internet that we would never say to someone’s face? If we had a friend who was gay and we didn’t know it, would they feel safe enough to tell us and come to us for support? Some gay people have been rejected by their families, and their ward family IS their only support.
When we were baptized as members of this church, we made a covenant to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn, and to comfort those in need of comfort.” (Mosiah 18) If we are to be like our Savior and show unconditional love, it means just that—love without any conditions placed on it.”
Carol Lynn Pearson, describing the experience of her husband coming out to her[xx]:
“Gerald thought a moment, then went on.  ‘I was not being dishonest with you when we married.  I loved you.  You were wonderful and I really did love you.  I thought that the problem would be taken care of.  They told me it would be.  I did everything they said to do.  And I thought for a few months that everything was changed.’
‘But, Gerald,’ I interrupted, ‘we were- I was- happy!’
‘And I was too, in many, many ways.  Blossom, this in not your fault.   Maybe you think it is, but it has nothing to do with you, only with me.  Yes, we were happy.  I liked being with you.  I even liked being with you physically.  But to me it was like… like we were such good friends that we shared everything with each other, even sex.  It was never quite like… like lovers.  There is this other thing in me, Blossom, and it has never gone away and I know now that it never will.  There is this thing in me that needs, that insists that my strongest feelings be for a man.  It is a need that seems to be as deep in me as my need for food and breath.  I tried to beat it to death, to strangle it, to smother it.  And it has not died.  Blossom, I know the anguish you’ve been through this last week.  Can you understand that I have been in anguish too?  And for more than a week.
‘Gerald,’ I said, ‘it’s wrong!’
‘Wrong!’ Gerald put his face into his hands and then looked up.  ‘I have taken that word and uside it like a whip on myself.  I have flagellated myself with that word until I’m bloody.  But it does not change things.  I have fasted, I have prayed.  How many thousands of prayers I have prayed!  And it does not change things.  If my homosexuality is wrong, then I am wrong, the fact of my being is wrong.  Because that’s what I am!’”

Another account of a mixed orientation LDS marriage, by Gordon Miller[xxi]:
“Finally at a late age, I married, hoping that might be the step which would “cure” me of my homosexuality.  From what I have observed, I was eminently successful in hiding my sexual feelings from everyone, including my wife.
During the course of twelve years of marriage, my wife and I parented four beautiful children.  Our marriage went well except in our sexual relations.  This was the only matter concerning which we ever argued and had hard feelings… I was never moved to initiate sexual relations with my wife.  She was always dominant in that area, and if she didn’t make an issue of it, there were no relations.  As time went on sexual relations became much more infrequent… I found from the outset of marriage that I had difficulty spending time alone with my wife.  The children provided a great escape in this area of our relations.  I could be out of town and not miss my wife but always missed the children immensely.
I found myself in the situation of constantly having to feign the small but necessary verbal and physical demonstrations of affection which really are vital to a loving relationship.  I would more often than not be remiss in that department, and only at the behest of my wife would I revive my feigning hypocrisy.  I always wished that I could really demonstrate spontaneously all of the things my wife needed and often asked for, but I couldn’t, and it was very painful.  Every time we were with another couple or I saw another couple who were spontaneous in their verbal and physical public demonstrations of affection, I felt a great deal of pain.  It constantly reminded me of those things I did not feel for a woman and that I was denying my wife- things she wanted, needed, and deserved.”

Counselors and Psychologists

I’ve also had the opportunity recently to speak with the director of BYU’s Counseling Center.  He noted how extraordinarily difficult life often is for homosexually oriented people in the church.  I illustrate some of this heart-wrenching hardship by quoting Beverly Shaw, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and since 1982 has practiced psychotherapy.  She’s also a life-long active Latter-day Saint and has been President of the Association for Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists.  Her quote matches what the director expressed to me: 
“During the years I have been in practice I have had men and women in my office with just about every variation of homosexual issue – from those who are open about their orientation to those for whom I was the only one who knew. I’ve seen individuals who are repressing their attractions in order to remain acceptable in church environs, and those who left the church feeling they have been unjustly labeled as evil, dirty, and/or perverse. I have seen those who are in committed same-sex relationship working on the same types of issues as heterosexual couples and those who have tried or are trying to make a heterosexual marriage work in order to ‘change those aberrant feelings.’ I have seen women and men who desperately wanted a family and were absolutely heart-broken that they would never have it, those who accepted or had no interest in having children, and those who have actively pursued alternative approaches such as single parent adoption. I have seen everything from the stereotypical leather-wearing gay biker to the (apparently) ‘straight’ recommend-holding Priesthood leader. . . .I can say with some amount of surety that probably the most challenging and heart rending therapy experiences that I have shared is the pain of those individuals who are/were devoted members of the LDS church and who are also homosexual. The anguish they feel at having a part of themselves completely at odds with what they hold sacred is indescribable and unfortunately is usually compounded by feelings of abandonment by God – that He has rejected their pleadings for help. An interesting paradox that I have noticed is that the majority of the individuals I have seen have not been the rebellious, rule-breaking, defiant, anti-gospel individuals one might expect. Almost without exception they have been spiritually devoted to the gospel, and possessed very strong testimonies. . . . most of them have ended up sorrowfully leaving the Church because they feel spiritually and emotionally battered and bruised when there. . . . I can say without reservation that none of them chose this orientation, none of them accepted it with a blase attitude, and none escaped the heart-rending ‘Why me?’ Not one has ever given any indication it was something chosen or desired. . .[xxii]
In August of 2010, the following article was published in the Deseret News:
SALT LAKE CITY — As the number of suicides among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations continues to increase across the nation, concern among the Utah LGBT community has begun to push the issue into the spotlight.
In July, Utah's LGBT community lost at least three members to suicide, including a 28-year-old man whose death was mourned by more than 300 people during a candlelight vigil on the steps of the state Capitol.
Two other suicides of well-known members of the LGBT community, also gay men, have occurred in the past month... "This is a serious problem in general," said Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, "and it's a serious problem in Utah... Over my 10 years here, every year we've had people (in the local LGBT community) who have killed themselves," she said.
Jacob Jacquez was among those at the state Capitol recently who paid his respects to his deceased friend.
"Unfortunately, this tragedy that has happened to my family impacts so many others the same way," said Jacquez, who had been in a relationship with the man. "Suicide, especially in the LGBT community, just happens too much.[xxiii]"
For some historical evidence of elevated homosexuality-related suicide rates, see August 13, 1975 The Advocate article, “Outside the Temple Gates- the Gay Mormon.[xxiv] 

Religiosity Correlated to Rejection, and Rejection Correlated to Suicide and Drug Use:
Here’s an irony: the more religious a family is, the more likely they are to reject their gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth:
“Childhood religious affiliation was linked to family acceptance; participants who reported a childhood religious affiliation reported lower family acceptance compared with those with no religious affiliation in childhood. Childhood family religiosity was also linked to family acceptance; highly accepting families reported low religiosity compared with the high religiosity among low accepting families… There are clear links between family acceptance in adolescence and health status in young adulthood. Young adults who reported high levels of family acceptance scored higher on all three measures of positive adjustment and health: self-esteem, social support, and general health. For the measures of negative health outcomes, young adults who reported low levels of family acceptance had scores that were significantly worse for depression, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation and attempts. Half as many participants from highly accepting families reported suicidal thoughts in the past 6 months compared with those who reported low acceptance (18.5% versus 38.3%). Similarly, the prevalence of suicide attempts among participants who reported high levels of family acceptance was nearly half (30.9% versus 56.8%) the rate of those who reported family acceptance.[xxv]
Another study corroborated:
“Higher rates of family rejection were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes. On the basis of odds ratios, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.[xxvi]

Studies Evidencing the Appalling Rates of Suicide Amongst Youth
“What is it about young gay Mormons?
 We must find a solution because too many lights are going out[xxvii].”

·         Every fourth gay or bisexual woman and every tenth man has attempted suicide… Our survey shows a doubled and in some cases a trebled risk for impaired psychological well-being, stress, severe anxiety and suicidal thoughts among young sexual minorities.[xxviii]
·         “The odds for GLB high school students having attempted suicide in the past year were 3.9-times greater than for heterosexual students.[xxix]
·         LGBT "young adults whose families were highly rejective [sic] of their identity during adolescence were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide at least once, compared with those who received no or low levels of family rejection during adolescence.[xxx]
·         “Mental health professionals have long-known that gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) teens face significantly elevated risks of mental health problems, including suicidal thoughts and suicidal attempts. However, a group of McGill University researchers in Montreal has now come to the conclusion that self-identity is the crucial risk-factor, rather than actual sexual behaviours.[xxxi]
·         “A 1999 German study of 217 homosexual individuals (age = 15-27) reported that 18% had attempted suicide.[xxxii]
·         “Utah leads the entire nation in suicides among men aged 15 to 24… up to 30% of completed youth suicides are committed by gay and lesbian youth… it is clear that many suicides among young Mormon homosexuals, as well as gay people in other religions, can be traced directly to a hostile social and religious environment.[xxxiii]
·         I could go on and on, but the consensus is the same: “Studies suggest that gay and bisexual teens may be at 2 to 4 times the risk of committing suicide.[xxxiv] 

I hope that these studies strike the reader as more than merely numbers.  One faithful, celibate Latter-day Saint (Stuart Matis) wrote shortly before his suicide: “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.[xxxv]  His and the abundant suicides and attempted suicides referenced above represent people.  Stuart also said: “In the end, remember, Clay, that we gay people are your family.  We are your brothers and sisters.  We are your sons and daughters.[xxxvi]  Imagine your best friend, your spouse, your sister or brother, your child- in a place where they would consider taking their own life.  I once had someone very, very close to me attempt suicide by slicing her arteries longways for the length of both forearms.  I’m not a big crier, but when I saw those wounds- I bawled for hours with wracking sobs in a way I’ve never done before or since.  Even now in writing the account I can’t stop weeping at the memory.  Some people, upon becoming aware that an individual is in a place where she would consider taking her own life, would cast aside their tasks, abandon their pursuits, and run to help that person.  If this response does not describe you, please- at least feel compassion for them. For my part, it is for them that this book is written- and to them that it is dedicated. 

[1] George Handley, "The environmental ethics of mormon belief," BYU Studies 40: 2 (2001) pg. 206.
[3] Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 1995, 7.
[4] Bill Bradshaw, “The evidenced for a biological origin of homosexuality” pg. 43. Available at
[5] Carol Lynn Pearson, No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones pg. 21-22.
[6] [See also] ... "Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Inside-Out: A Report on the Experiences of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals in America and the Public's View on Issues and Policies Related to Sexual Orientation (2001) pp. 3-4...."
[7] Compare Partners Against Hate, "2000 Federal Bureau of Investigation Hate Crime Statistics," with Partners Against Hate, "  Crime statistics http://www.statemaster.%20com/graph/cri_hat_cri_sex_ori_rel-hatecrimes-sexualorientation-related."
[8] Christina Aguilera, “Reflection” 1999.
[x] Personal friend of the author, pasted from a Facebook note circa October 2010.
[xi] Anonymous letter to the editor, The Open Door, September 1978, vol 2. no. 9, p. 5.
[xii] Andrew Sullivan, Love Undetected: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival 1998. 
[xiii] Cloy Jenkins, “Prologue: An examination of the Mormon attitude towards homosexuality.” 1978.  Available at
[xiv], see also
[xv] Ty Mansfield, In Quiet Desperation 68-69. 
[xvi] See e.g.
[xix] Sam Westfahl, friend of the author, used with permission.  Talk received from the speaker (also with permission) and in possession of the author, 3 December 2010.  Author’s references- Michael Otterson statement: Elder Marvin K. Jensen: Oakland, CA Stake talk by anonymous gay church member (he has since revealed himself—scroll down to the talk by Mitch Mayne):
Also: Son who wrote letter to father:
[xx] pp pg. 70-71.   
[xxi] Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-sex Attraction, edited by Ron Schow, Wayne Schow, and Marybeth Raynes, 1991, pg. 90-91. 
[xxii] Bill Bradshaw, “The Evidence for a Biological Origin of Homosexuality,” available at pg. 29.
[xxiii] Available at
[xxiv] Pg. 14, available at
[xxv] Caitlin Ryan, Stephen T. Russell, David Huebner, Rafael Diaz, and Jorge Sanchez, “Family Acceptance in Adolescence and the Health of LGBT Young Adults,” Volume 23, Number 4, November 2010, Journal of Child and Psychiatric Nursing, pg. 208.
[xxvi] Caitlin Ryan, David Huebner, Rafael M. Diaz and Jorge Sanchez, “Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults,” published online December 29, 2008, PEDIATRICS: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Vol. 123 No. 1 January 2009, pg. 346.
[xxvii] Laura,, July 21, 2010.
[xxviii] Swedish National Institute of Public Health, based on review of people aged 16-29 between 2005 and 2008.
[xxxi] February 2010, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
[xxxiii] Carol Lynn Pearson, No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones pg. 37.  See also “Deadly taboo: Youth suicide an epidemic that many in Utah prefer to ignore.” Published: Monday, April 24, 2006 12:37 p.m. MDT By Lucinda Dillon Kinkead and Dennis Romboy, Deseret Morning News.
[xxxiv] Suicide in Gay/Bisexual Youth, list of resources available at
[xxxv] Stuart Matis, Letter to a Cousin, February 2000, available at
[xxxvi] Stuart Matis, letter to his cousin Clay in 2000, quoted on page 55 of Carol Lynn Pearson’s No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones.

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