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The LDS Church & homosexuality

Church statements: Year 2000 to 2007

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Previous church statements are described in a separate essay

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Church statements and positions on homosexuality (2000 to 2007):

bullet2000: In advance of the annual General Conference in Salt Lake City, UT, some Mormon parents asked the LDS Church to review a group of 20 to 30 year-old pamphlets which they feel condemn their children as "latter-day lepers."  Four brochures mentioned are: "To Young Men Only," "To The One," "Letter to a Friend," and "For the Strength of Youth."

According  David Hardy, a Salt Lake City attorney and former LDS bishop, the pamphlets "engenders fear and loathing" toward gays and lesbians. They also convince "parents to condemn and turn against their gay children, destroying real families, and drive our gay children to self-loathing, despair and suicide."  He noted that the "To Young Men Only" pamphlet described, without condemnation, a gay bashing incident. Hardy commented that it is "inflammatory, insensitive and troubling."

Gary and Milie Watts of Provo, UT said that "these pamphlets... characterize our children and other gay and lesbian youth as selfish, perverted, abominable and under the control of Lucifer."  Former LDS Church President Spencer Kimball has written that "it were better that such a man [a homosexual] were never born."  Another tract places homosexuality as a perversion on par with the crimes of rape and incest. The "To The One" pamphlet describes it as "unnatural," "abnormal" and "an affliction."

The parents told reporters,

"We ask the church leadership to specifically address these pamphlets...and either endorse them and everything they say as current, correct and official, or cease their publication and distribution and instruct local church leaders to throw them away." 1

The LDS church issued a statement saying:

"These are individuals who are children of God. We love them; we respect them. This church is a church of inclusion, not exclusion, and we welcome them and want them to be a part of the church." 2

bullet2001: A new revision to pamphlet sponsored by the First Presidency and titled "For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God" says

"Homosexual activity is a serious sin. If you find your-self struggling with same-gender attraction, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you."

bullet2002: An article in the FEB-25 edition "The Nation" by Katherine Rosman titled "Mormon Family Values" described a two LDS pamphlets and one speech on homosexuality by a Mormon leader:
bulletOne pamphlet allegedly says that "Homosexuality Is Sin: Next to the crime of murder comes the sin of sexual impurity."
bulletAnother pamphlet, available only to church leaders, states: "God has promised to help those who earnestly strive to live his commandments." It mentions that if homosexuals repent enough, "heterosexual feelings emerge."
bulletA former (unidentified) LDS president and prophet has stated: "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...it were better that such a man were never born."

Harold Brown, the church's official spokesman on homosexuality at the time, is quoted as saying about the LDS pamphlets:

bullet"I wouldn't even want to suggest that they were outdated or not in use. [However] If you [take] the whole context of what has been written in the church, I think you'll find it's a voice of love and concern for people...What we teach are the standards of morality that we believe will lead to happiness."

The article also quotes LDS president Gordon B. Hinckley as stating that:

"People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God."

There were a number of letters to the editor in response to this article. Three were:

bulletFrom K. Lamonte John of Burke, VA.:

"As a former LDS bishop I can tell you I have met church members who have succeeded in reparation therapy. Of course, they have not rid themselves of same-sex attraction but have learned to not act on those feelings. While the church holds fast to its belief that same-sex attraction is not in accordance with moral behavior, just as premarital or extramarital sex is not condoned, the position of the church is to counsel these members from a perspective of love and concern, not condemnation. I agree that church leaders have made harsh remarks about homosexuality in the past, but I also believe that Gordon B. Hinckley has spoken more supportively of those with same-sex attraction than any other church president.  His comments may not satisfy gay rights activists, but they have turned the corner on the ignorant positions of the past."
 

bulletFrom Brad R. Torgersen of Seattle, WA:
"As a Latter Day Saints Church member, I think I can speak for a lot of middle-of-the-road Mormons when I say that I am tired of the bashing. If the Olympics had been held in Riyadh or Kabul or Medina, would The Nation gratify us with an anti-Islamic expos‚ on how badly gays are mistreated by Muslims? I am a proud member of a new generation of LDS people born in the seventies and raised in the eighties who have no problem at all meshing our devout faith with the realities of the world around us. I have gay friends; my wife and I have been to gay weddings; we love and support these people as just that: people. The fact that our religion says homosexuality is wrong in no way impacts our ability to be friends with, or even to love, people who choose this lifestyle. And we are happy and content in our religion, strict as it may seem to some on the outside. The fact of the matter is, we didn't decide that homosexuality is wrong, God did. What's perhaps most galling is that the LDS Church is a unique minority in America. I thought 'The Nation' would rush to take up the defense of any minority, especially one so misunderstood as the Mormon faith. I thought wrong." (Typo corrected)
 
bulletJay Bell, Salt Lake City, UT:
"As a gay Mormon, I grew up with the 'love,' 'respect' and 'inclusion' the Mormon Church says it practices. Some people do practice this toward gay members, but most don't. Growing up, I couldn't, and I still can't, take a same-sex date to a congregational social activity – especially a dance. That's a bad example for the youth. I know of teens who have tried this and have been threatened with excommunication."

"
I researched what current Mormon material says about homosexuality. The result shocked me; there are eighty-eight pieces of homophobic material readily available for church members. Here's an example, from a manual for 13-to-18-year-olds:
'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. ... This is blasphemy. Is man not made in the image of God, and does he think God to be ‘that way'?" "

"I found three pieces encouraging self respect for gays."

"
The Mormon Church has no official support groups for its gay members and will only refer gays to groups or individuals who practice reparation therapy. Anyone who doesn't fit its mold is doctrinally or socially ostracized. This is a sad commentary on a people who were once excluded from the national social fabric for practicing a unique form of marriage."
 

bullet

2002: Harold Brown, the church's official spokesman on homosexuality discussed the possibility of a third revelation from God: He noted that God had revealed to the LDS Church on two occasions the need for a sudden change of church policy: The first was in 1890 when he instructed the Church to outlaw polygamy. The second was in 1978 when he instructed the Church to stop prohibiting ordination to the Mormon priesthood for African Americans.

Brown said that no amount of press coverage or activism is going to influence God to change the rules about homosexuality. He said:

"Being black is not a sin. ... Being immoral is." 5

That is a surprising comment, because in the past, the Church had taught that African Americans were given dark skins by God as punishment for sins that they had committed before being born on Earth. So "being black" had been viewed by the church as a direct result of sinful behavior.

bullet

2007-APR-17: Brigham Young University revised policy on sexuality: Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, UT is owned and operated by the LDS Church. According to Wikipedia, 98% of the students at BYU are Mormons. 3

The Princeton Review has stated:

"BYU is consistently ranked one of the most unfriendly campuses for LGBT students in the United States."

Soulforce, a gay-positive advocacy organization, sponsored a two-month Equality Ride. The "riders" are 50 young adults who are visiting Christian college and university campuses across the U.S., in an attempt to address the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students.

They were forbidden to talk to the BYU administration. According to Soulforce, on 2007-MAR-22:

"Mormon Equality Rider Kourt Osborn, and his mother, Karel Allen, were arrested for trespassing on the BYU campus as they attempted to deliver a list of community concerns regarding university policies and the campus climate for LGBT students. Equality Riders and Utah community members marched around the perimeter of the campus for six hours to dramatize the oppressive silence that surrounds LGBT students at BYU."

Will Carson, Policy and Strategy Coordinator for Equality Utah, stated in a letter to Soulforce:

"As a result of your visit, several students contacted the administration of BYU to ask about the University's Honor Code. Because of those questions and concerns, BYU has changed the code in significant ways."

The BYU's previous code stated that:

"any behaviors that indicate homosexual conduct, including those not sexual in nature" as violations of the honor code."

The new code states that:

"Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or orientation and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards. ... One's stated sexual orientation is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity. ... homosexual behavior or advocacy of homosexual behavior are inappropriate and violate the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings. Advocacy includes seeking to influence others to engage in homosexual behavior or promoting homosexual relations as being morally acceptable."

Carson's letter continued.

"BYU's policy can now be summarized as 'Do ask, do tell, don't do.' This is an important step in the path toward equal rights because it is only through dialogue that we can eliminate fear and achieve a fair and just Utah. Thank you for helping to open the door a bit further."

Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender students still have no freedom of speech to advocate for equal treatment; they cannot freely dialog with others; they are prohibited from even holding hands in public. However, as Haven Herrin, Co-director of the westbound bus, said:

"The energy around this issue and the pressure provided by our presence were certainly a factor in changing this policy from being the worst in the nation to being on par with most other anti-gay schools." 4

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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. AANEWS for 2000-OCT-7.
  2. Katherine Rosman, "Mormon Family Values," The Nation, 2002-FEB-25, Page 3. Online at: http://www.thenation.com/
  3. "Brigham Young University." Wikipedia, as modified at 2007-MAR-26, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  4. Brandon Kneefel, "Brigham Young University Revises Policy on Sexuality; Discriminatory Policy Revisited After Soulforce Equality Riders Visit," SoulForce, 2007-APR-17, at: http://www.soulforce.org/
  5. Brenda Loews, "EIDOS Newsletter," Fall/Winter 2002-2003, at: http://www.eidos.org/

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Copyright © 2000 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-JAN-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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