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The LDS Church (Mormons) & homosexuality

Church statements: 1976 to 1999

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Church statements and positions on homosexuality (1976 to 1999):

bullet1976: The LDS Church was one of the major players among the religious organizations fighting against the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment). That amendment would have given equal rights to all women in the US. The LDS President at the time, Spencer Kimball, said that a main concern was that if the ERA were approved, it would lead to changes in civil rights laws to give equal rights to gays and lesbians.

bullet1976: The LDS Church changed its excommunication rules to allow termination of membership of persons with homosexual orientation. Previously, members could only be excommunicated for homosexual acts. This policy was later reversed.

bullet1976: Church Apostle Boyd K. Packer delivered a speech on 1976-OCT-2 which was directed to "young men of Aaronic Priesthood age"; i.e. to young men. 1 His talk dealt with sexuality and the young male. It was widely distributed throughout the LDS church at the time. Packer was the acting president of the Quorum of 12 Apostles, and is now the president. With reference to homosexual activities, he is reported as saying:

"I repeat, very plainly, physical mischief with another man is forbidden. It is forbidden by the Lord.

There are some men who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts. If you are ever approached to participate in anything like that, it is time to vigorously resist.

While I was in a mission on one occasion, a missionary said he had something to confess. I was very worried because he just could not get himself to tell me what he had done.

After patient encouragement he finally blurted out, "I hit my companion."

"Oh, is that all," I said in great relief.

"But I floored him," he said.

After learning a little more, my response was "Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn't be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way"

I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself."

This message has been interpreted in different ways:

bulletMany in the homosexual community believe that it is inexcusable for a senior official in the LDS church to imply that physical violence can be an appropriate response to an approach by a same-sex individual. A simple "No thanks; I am a heterosexual" would probably have sufficed.

bulletAt least one Mormon believes that Packer's message was that anti-gay violence is justified, but only if absolutely needed to avoid becoming a victim of homosexual rape.

Packer went on to state that the belief that sexual orientation is unchangeable is a "malicious lie."


bullet1981: LDS President Kimball wrote:

"The unholy transgression of homosexuality is either rapidly growing or tolerance is giving it wider publicity. … The Lord condemns and forbids this practice....'God made me that way,' some say, as they rationalize and excuse themselves...'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'?" 2

bullet1988: Ezra Taft Benson wrote that the Mormon male: "...will not commit adultery 'nor do anything like unto it' (D&C 59:6). This means fornication, homosexual behavior, self-abuse, child molestation, or any other sexual perversion." 3 "Self-abuse" is a term rarely used today to refer to masturbation.

bullet1989: A group of eleven men struggling with homosexuality (and perhaps bisexuality) organized "Evergreen, to help Mormons control their same-sex behavior. It is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. but it does follow its teachings. They "provide training to hundreds of stake and ward leaders each year." They also provide support to friends and families of homosexuals and bisexuals, as well as to counselors and religious leaders.

bullet1990: A pamphlet sponsored by the First Presidency and titled "For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God" said:

"The Lord specifically forbids certain behaviors, including all sexual relations before marriage, petting, sex perversion (such as homosexuality, rape and incest), masturbation or preoccupation with sex in thought, speech or action....Homosexual and lesbian [sic] activities are sinful and an abomination of the Lord (see Romans 1:26-27, 31). Unnatural affection including those toward persons of the same gender are counter to God's eternal plan for his children. You are responsible to make right choices. Whether directed toward those of the same or opposite gender, lustful feelings and desires may lead to more serious sins. All Latter-day Saints must learn to control and discipline themselves."

This statement was modified in a more inclusive direction during 2001. (See below)

bullet1991: The First Presidency of the LDS Church stated on NOV-14:

"Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife appropriately expressed within the bonds of marriage. Any other sexual contact, including fornication, adultery, and homosexuality and lesbian [sic] behavior, is sinful. Those who persist in such practices or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline...."

"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."

bullet1992: Evergreen changed its name to "Evergreen International." It has affiliates throughout the United States, and in Australia and Spain. Other groups in Europe and South America are being formed. Most of their affiliates are for men only. However, they have one small affiliated group in Salt Lake City, UT for lesbians and female bisexuals, and a few affiliates in the U.S. for families and friends of homosexuals and bisexuals.

bullet1994: The First Presidency issued statements condemning same-sex unions and urging its members to do what they could to oppose extending marriage equality to gays and lesbians.

bullet1994: (approximate date) A prominent LDS leader, John A Hoag, became the leader of a new group, Hawaii's Future Today (HFT). This was the main organization which fought against legalizing same-sex marriages in Hawaii. It was composed mainly of Mormon and Roman Catholic members. Many professors from Brigham Young University, a Mormon institution, testified in court in defense of a ban on such marriages.

bullet1995: Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote a definitive article in the magazine Ensign, titled "Same Gender Attraction".  Some points stated in his article were:
  1. God created attraction between men and women in order to promote marriage.

  2. Any sexual activity other than that between a married opposite-sex couple are grave sins.

  3. God permits Satan to tempt humans to "choose evil and commit sin".

  4. The terms "homosexual, lesbian, and Gay are adjectives, (as in "homosexual feelings", or "lesbian behavior") and should not be used as nouns to describe people.

  5. Some homosexual feelings appear to be caused by genes; others by experiences; others by a complex interaction between "nature and nurture".

  6. A person can "resist and reform" their feelings through:
    bulletfasting,
    bulletprayer,
    bulletadsorbing the truths of the gospel,
    bulletchurch attendance and service,
    bulletobtaining the counsel of inspired leaders, and
    bulletprofessional assistance.

    [Note: These beliefs are at variance with the near consensus of human sexuality researchers. Many deeply devout Mormon and other Christian gays and lesbians have fought against their homosexual feelings and have prayed for "deliverance" for decades without success. The success rate of persons attempting to change their sexual orientation appears to be less than 1%.]

  7. The church and its members should "love the [homosexual] sinner, condemn the sin"

  8. Church membership is open to homosexuals who are honestly trying to resist and change their feelings; it is closed to sexually active homosexuals.

  9. "Our doctrines obviously condemn those who engage in so-called 'gay bashing'--physical of verbal attacks on persons thought to be involved in homosexual or lesbian behavior."

  10. Homosexuality is not based on genetics. If it were, then 100% of identical twins of gays would also be gay. [Studies show that it is a little over 60%]  He admitted that he had no specialized scientific knowledge in this area, but relied on other experts. Apparently he was misinformed by his consultants; they were apparently unaware of a function of genes called "penetrance." 4

bullet1995: A group of parents of gay/lesbian children sent a letter to President Hinckley and the Quorum of the Twelve. 5 The parents mentioned:

"The 1992 church brochure entitled 'Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems' seemed to moderate the position taken by the church as it relates to the parent's role as an etiological factor in homosexuality. A 1995 document, however, published by LDS Social Services for LDS counselors and psychotherapists, attempts to re-establish the position taken by the 1981 church publication on homosexuality which placed most of the blame for homosexuality on poor parenting, i.e. an absent or weak father and a dominant mother."

The 1995 document stated, in part: "It is in the three-way relationship between the parents and the child that the homosexual's family background is commonly dysfunctional. Homosexuality is, in part, a symptom of some type of relational deficit." 6 A critique of the document is available online. 7

bullet1997: Three Brigham Young University students conducted a student poll at the university. 

One question asked which of four statements best describes the LDS church's stand on homosexuality. Responses were:

bullet41% chose "Accepts homosexually oriented persons as long as they change their sexual orientation."

bullet33% selected "Accepts in full fellowship homosexually oriented persons who live the Church's law of chastity." 

bullet10% believed that the church excommunicates gays and lesbians regardless of whether they are celibate or sexually active.

bullet10% marked "other."

Another question asked whether they knew a gay or lesbian student at BYU. 13% did.

80% said that they would not share a room with a gay or lesbian roommate. 

42% felt that gays and lesbians should not be allowed at BYU, even if they are celibate. The BYU honor code prohibits homosexual behavior, but does not mention homosexual orientation. 8 This is fairly common among religious conservatives; many do not differentiate between sexual orientation and behavior.

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Church statements from the year 2000 until now are in separate essays

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Boyd K. Packer, "To Young Men Only," at: http://www.iperform.net/
  2. "President Kimball Speaks Out," Deseret Book Co., (1981), Page 10.
  3. E.T. Benson, "The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson," Bookcraft, Inc., (1988)
  4. Dallin H. Oaks, "Same Gender Attraction", Ensign, 1995-OCT; P. 7-14. A copy can be read at:  http://www.geocities.com/
  5. The text of a letter from parents of gays to the LDS Church is at: http://www.rpi.edu/
  6. "Understanding and Helping Individuals with Homosexual Problems," LDS Social Services document, 1995, Page 11.
  7. Jeffery R. Jensen, "Homosexuality: A Psychiatrist's Response to LDS Social Services," http://www.geocities.com/
  8. "BYU student poll: Ban gay students," Salt Lake Tribune, 1997-MAR-22. Online at http://www.california.com/

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Copyright © 1998 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-OCT-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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