Anti-Gay LDS Activities
In God's Name: The Treatment of Homosexuals by the Christian Church
By Terry Hiscox
Over several millennia, homosexuals (or any
other appellation ascribed to this community) have enjoyed various degrees of
acceptance or tolerance within broader society. During the golden age of Greece, acceptance would likely have
been the correct terminology. During
the early Middle Ages tolerance may have applied, and later hatred came into
vogue. Coming to the closing decades of
the twentieth century, acceptance of homosexuality is gaining momentum again.
However, for almost two millennia, one large and powerful institution has been
vociferous in denouncing homosexual practices. This institution is the Christian church. Of course, there are some
exceptions to this broad generalization, but, in the main, overall condemnation
continues to hold sway.
This paper delineates atrocities, committed
in God's name, against the homosexual community. A cross-section of Christian groups is named, and particular
practices, both from their past and contemporaneously, are laid bare. Sampling
is proffered from the Catholic, Protestant, and Mormon Church traditions. In particular, this paper examines some
traditions of the "early" church, and the vitriolic rhetoric promulgated by the
Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas citing the scriptural imperative that
dominates their thinking militated against homosexual behaviour.
Following this analysis, this paper will
explore, from early Christian history, scholarship suggesting that the early
church solemnized same-sex marriage, and then will examine the views of
contemporary Christendom. Of particular interest will be the current political
posturing by various Christian groups against the potential legalization, in
1998, of same-sex marriages in the State of Hawaii. Moving from same-sex
marriage, an explication of the efforts by certain Christian groups to
"convert" gay people into heterosexuals is scrutinized. Various "ex-gay"
ministries are reviewed together with their claims of success.
This paper concludes with an explication of
the treatment of gay and lesbian students and teachers on the campus of Brigham
Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah. This university, commonly referred to by the Mormon community as the
"Lord's" university, is wholly owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon or LDS Church. From the
late 1950s to the present, the LDS Church has had a continuous policy to root
out all unrepentant homosexuals on its campus, leading to psychological trauma
and suicide — all of which will be critiqued. In addition, the strident efforts of the Mormon Church to, using
another's term, "torture" adherents into a heterosexual orientation are examined.
Germane to this paper is a review of the
theological underpinnings of Mormon dogma that is necessary so that the reader
may understand the particular trauma that a homosexual acolyte of that
particular faith may undergo because of their belief. A brief history follows:
In Mormon lore, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the
"restored" gospel and church government established by Christ originally. They
accomplished this through a "latter-day" prophet named Joseph Smith. The Mormon church's explication of how this
came about has been canonized into scripture in a book called The Pearl of
Great Price under the rubric of "Joseph Smith, 2." In this book the reader
finds the story of Smith's "calling" as a prophet. Smith explains that God and his son Jesus, in their respective
persons, visited him in answer to his prayer of what church he should
join. According to Smith, God advised
him, in 1820, that he must join none of them because all the churches of
Christendom were an "abomination in his sight" because of their creeds, and that
all their ministers were corrupt.
This history goes on to state that Joseph was the instrument that God ordained
to "restore" the gospel of Christ in its original purity.
From The Pearl of Great Price one
learns that in Mormon theology all Christian churches are of the Devil and that
the Mormon Church is Christ's one-and-only "true" church through which one's
salvation can be gained. This dogma has
great power over those that believe in the gospel as established by Joseph
Smith. For example, if the Mormon
Church excommunicates a believer for homosexual activity they are doomed for
eternity. To quote a modern-day prophet
of the Mormon Church, Spencer Kimball states, "As an excommunicant [sic], he is
in a worse situation than he was before he joined the Church. He has lost . . . his claim upon eternal
life. This is about the saddest thing
which could happen to an individual. A
true Latter-day Saint would far prefer to see a loved one in his bier than
excommunicated from the Church."
Although patriarchy is nothing new to
Christendom, the Mormon Church perhaps represents the apogee or ne plus ultra
in top-down management. Women have no
standing in the hierarchical management of the church. The priesthood is solely
a male function often referred to by female Mormon liberals as the
penishood. The president / prophet of
the Mormon Church, his two counselors, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
are the presiding authority in this church. The membership sustain them as
"Prophets, Seers, and Revelators." It is a commonly held belief, by rank-
and-file Mormons, that the Saviour meets with this illustrious group of men in
the Salt Lake City temple weekly and conducts the affairs of His Church — such
is Mormon folklore.
Joseph Fielding Smith, one of the twelve
apostles and later church president, said in 1945 to all members of the Mormon
Church: "When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they
propose a plan — it is God's Plan. When
they give directions, it should mark the end of controversy, God works in no
other way." (my emphasis). A more contemporary church apostle and
member of the First Presidency said in 1979, "When the Prophet speaks the
debate is over." These
statements are an epiphany to those that study Mormon psychology. In effect,
they expect ordinary Mormons to abrogate any pretense towards critical thinking
and subrogate their agency to that of 'the Prophet'. Based on these statements, it is easy to see how a homophobic
leadership could easily influence anti gay thinking among true believing
members of this church when they construe their prophetic pronouncements to be
the mind and will of the Mormon god.
The aforementioned thinking and theological
dogma have brought forth some interesting musings by various church apostles and
prophets that many members of this church accept as the "gospel" and must be
practiced to be in full fellowship with the Church. To wit, Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote, "Loss of virtue is too
great a price to pay even for the preservation of one's life — better dead
clean, than alive unclean." What McConkie is referring to is that dying
while trying to defend oneself from a rapist, is better for a woman than to
submit to her attacker and lose her virtue. McConkie continues in his book, Mormon Doctrine, to quote other
Mormon apostles and prophets. Quoting
from Joseph F. Smith's book, Gospel Doctrine, Smith said, "'We hold that
sexual sin is second only to the shedding of innocent blood in the category of
personal crimes. . . .'"
It is hard for most rational humans to understand a mindset that equates sex as
second only to murder if done outside of the bonds of matrimony.
Into this miasma of guilt comes Spencer W.
Kimball, another apostle and later a long serving prophet / president during
the 1960s and 1970s. He wrote a book,
published in 1969, called The Miracle of Forgiveness. This book is
long on condemnation and has a paucity of anything much related to the
forgiveness of sin. The book enumerates
a litany of crimes against the so-called gospel of Christ and His Church. From chapter six, which falls under the
rubric "Crimes Against Nature," one finds the following theological gems to
contemplate. After a long treatise on
the evils of masturbation, Apostle Kimball posits that masturbation "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
thence into total homosexuality."
Kimball calls homosexuality "a sin of the
ages" and suggests that "perhaps as an extension of homosexual practices, men
and women have sunk even to seeking satisfaction with animals."(my
Continuing his rant against homosexuality, he denounces those homosexuals who
"attempt to justify oneself in this perversion" by stating that "'God made them
that way.'" He calls this blasphemy, saying that man is made in the image of
God, and that God is not a "pervert." Speaking of other perversions in another
section of his book he denounces immodesty in dress, stating that this is
analogous to exhibitionism.
The Mormon Church has long believed that it
has been persecuted for its beliefs. This is not without some justification,
inasmuch as they were run out of the United States into the territory now known
as Utah for some of their peculiar religious practices such as polygamy. However, it is interesting to hear the
contemporary views of one of its apostles and a prophet Boyd K. Packer of the
Council of Twelve. In May 1993 he gave
a speech to the "All-Church Coordinating Council." In this speech he outlined
the greatest threat to the Church today. Subsequently, this talk has gained fame as the 'Three Enemies Speech'.
There are three areas where members of the Church, influenced by social
and political unrest, are being caught up and led away. I chose these three because they have made
major invasions into the membership of the Church. In each, the temptation is for us to turn about and face the
wrong way, and it is hard to resist, for doing it seems so reasonable and
right. The dangers I speak come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist
movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge
from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.
It was clear from this address that these three distinct and diverse
groups do not enjoy favour within Mormon culture.
Against these antecedents respecting the
theological underpinnings of the Mormon Church, it is expedient to move onto a
cursory view of the early Christian church and how homosexuals were treated in
that earlier period.
In speaking to the issue of homosexuality in
the early church John Boswell, an assistant professor of history at Yale
University, makes some interesting observations about the source of early
Christian ethics in his 1980 book Christianity, Social Tolerance, and
Homosexuality. It should be noted that most Christians today, in their
advocacy against homosexuality, quote only the handful of scriptures in today's
Bible that speak to homosexuality. Boswell reminds his readers that the bible, as contemporary society
knows it, only came into existence in the sixteenth century. Therefore, the "Bible" was not the main or
only source of early Christian morality. He posits, "It is, moreover, quite clear that nothing in the Bible would
have categorically precluded homosexual relations among early Christians." He explains that "the word 'homosexual' does
not occur in the Bible: no extant text or manuscript, Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, or
Aramaic, contains such a word."
Boswell acknowledges that the famous story
about the destruction of Sodom in the Old Testament has been interpreted as
punishment for homosexual behaviour by the inhabitants of the city. However, he notes that interpretation is of
relatively recent in origin and that the destruction was based on the
"inhospitable treatment of visitors sent from the Lord." To buttress his argument further, Boswell
points out that "Sodom is used as a symbol of evil in dozens of places, but not
in a single instance is the sin of the Sodomites specified as homosexuality."
In the book of Leviticus, which does
proscribe against mankind lying with a man as with a woman, Boswell states that
this is a misinterpretation of the original text and that the meaning is
As he states, "Almost no early Christian writers appealed to Leviticus as authority against homosexual acts."
Concluding his book, Boswell makes the
following observations: Roman society
in the first century did not make any particular distinction between gay and
straight sex. It was just part of
normal sexuality. He posits that the early Christian church did not pay any
particular attention towards homosexual behaviour. It was only from the third to the sixth century, as the Roman
Empire deteriorated, that hostility towards homosexuality became
noticeable. Boswell states that
homosexuality enjoyed widespread acceptance by the eleventh century and then
waned during the twelfth century and then degenerated further during the times
of the Crusades and the Inquisition of the thirteenth and fourteen centuries.
Having inadequately covered almost two
millennia of Christian attitudes towards homosexuals in a few short paragraphs,
it is time to move to modern twentieth century attitudes, or at least the
attitudes of a particular Protestant denomination in Kansas.
Westboro Baptist Church
Repeating the thesis of this paper, it is an
exploration of the treatment of the gay community by the Christian church. It is this writer's opinion that the
Westboro Baptist Church does not represent mainstream Christian thought, but
certainly it represents one of the more vociferous views and is therefore
worthy of scrutiny. This church takes
great pride in having had their views presented on such shows as "20/20",
"Eye on America," "Ricki Lake," and on PBS, Fox, BBC and a litany of worldwide
electronic and print media. This church
Perceiving the modern militant homosexual movement to pose a clear and
present danger to the survival of America, exposing our nation to the wrath of
God as in 1898 B.C. at Sodom and Gomorrah WBC [Westboro Baptist Church] has
conducted some 10,000 such demonstrations during the last five years at
homosexual parades and other events (including funerals of impenitent
In this church's published tracts, they
freely state that the Christian god they worship "hates fags," that fags are
"freaks of nature," that AIDS is "god's cure for fags" and that the homosexual
lifestyle is both soul-destroying and nation-destroying. The obvious comment, "Is not God a god of
love and that one should love one's neighbor as oneself" is discounted in this
church. The leadership of the church states that the Bible preaches hate. They excoriate preachers that are soft on
homosexuals. They believe such rhetoric
to be "damming this world to hell." They suggest that these preachers are
telling their listeners what they want to hear rather than what they need to
hear. In their view, what is needed to
be heard is that "God hates people, and that your chances of going to heaven
are nonexistent, unless you repent. What you need to hear is a little fire and
brimstone preaching, like Jesus preached."
The Westboro Baptist Church believes that
AIDS is a gift from God. It is God's
will and even people who contract AIDS from a blood transfusion, including
babies or other innocents, should not complain because it is God's will and the
populace must understand that God's ways are not our ways. They point out that God is not to be held to
"humanistic standards of justice."
According to Westboro Baptist Church's Web
page, this group revels in picketing the funerals and grave sites of those that
have died of AIDS. When asked if they
have any evidence of "fags" having repented as a direct result of their
picketing a spokesperson replied, "Who cares? Our job is to preach, and by our
preaching we hope that people will be saved. However, Jesus is the Savior, not us. He will call His sheep." They go on to point out that, "We're not
saying 'We hate fags' — we're saying 'God hates fags'." This appellation became the name of their
There is no empirical way one can measure how
much influence this group has. However,
given the amount of media coverage this group "enjoys" it makes one fear for
the homosexual community. This leads to the next subject of interest — gay
marriage. It may not fall within the sanctity of the church, but it may fall
under the purview of the law in 1998.
Is It a New Phenomenon of the Late Twentieth Century?
Many people believe that gay marriage is a
phenomenon of the 1990s. According
to the scholarship of Yale professor John Boswell, this paradigm is not
true. In the August 11, 1998-edition of
the Irish Times, writer and historian Jim Duffy reviews some findings of
John Boswell from Boswell's book The Marriage of Likeness: Same Sex Unions
in Pre-Modern Europe. According to the Duffy article, Boswell posits that
same-sex marriage was solemnized by the early Christian church. Boswell points to a religious icon in a Kiev
art museum that came from a monastery on Mount Sinai. This icon depicts the image of two Roman Christian martyrs, St.
Serge and St. Bacchus being married in the Christian tradition. In addition, "the icon has Christ himself as
their pronubus, their best man overseeing their 'marriage'." Duffy goes on to state that
Boswell "has discovered that a type of Christian homosexual 'marriage' did
exist as late as the 18th century."
In addition, Boswell has found that the
sacrament of marriage "has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but
has evolved both as a concept and as a ritual."
Besides finding documentation about heterosexual marriage rites he also found
documents relating to certain ceremonies under the rubrics of — "Office of Same
Sex Union" from the tenth and eleventh centuries and the "Order for Uniting Two
men" dating from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. He also lists the details associated with
these same-sex unions emanating from ancient liturgical documents. Not only did he find evidence of same-sex
union in Kiev but from archives in the Vatican, St. Petersburg, Paris,
Istanbul, and from the Sinai. These
archives are from the eighth through the eighteenth centuries.
Duffy concludes his Irish Times article stating, "That evidence shows
convincingly that what the modern church claims has been its constant
unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is in fact nothing of the sort."
Despite the findings of John Boswell, it is
not likely that mainstream Christianity will readily accept this evidence. Moving to the twentieth century, this paper
will examine the potential of same-sex marriage in the State of Hawaii being
proclaimed into law, along with the political machinations surrounding this
initiative. To provide a brief chronology of this issue in the Aloha state,
Richley Crapo of Utah State University gives insight into the position of the
LDS Church from his 1997 paper titled, "LDS Doctrinal Rhetoric and the Politics
of Same-Sex Marriage." Following this chronology the position of the Hawaii
Christian Coalition is examined which is fronted by well-known television
evangelist Dr. Pat Robertson of the 700 Club.
Crapo points out that a number of
denominations / religions, such as certain branches of the Buddhist religion
and Judaism perform same-sex marriages. The Metropolitan Community Church and the Unitarian Universalists will
solemnize same-sex unions. Even two
offshoots of the Mormon Church will perform same-sex marriages.
What precipitated the current imbroglio was a
1990 court case in Hawaii where Baehr vs. Lewin filed a suit in Hawaii to get
the state to recognize marriages where the partners are of the same sex. Initially the Circuit Court found against
their petition but on appeal the Supreme Court of Hawaii set aside that
decision stating that unless the State of Hawaii could show "compelling state
interest" against same-sex marriage such marriages would be legal. The state was unable to prove compelling state
interest; this determination brought the matter before the state legislature.
In 1995 the LDS Church sued the Circuit Court
in order to be named as a co-defendant in this case. The church claimed that its church membership would be adversely
affected by a ruling in favour of same-sex union. The Circuit Court dismissed
this suit as did the Supreme Court upon appeal. Now that the process has
reverted to the political realm, the Mormon Church is lobbying hard in trying
to defeat the motion in the State Legislature. November 5, 1998 the people get to decide this issue on Election
Crapo found that it is ironic that the Mormon
Church is relying on the government to impose its view on marriage, which is in
keeping with the values of the Mormon Church. Only a century before, the Mormon
Church had vigorously opposed the authority of government to impose its
peculiar definition of marriage and to limit the Church in its practice of
polygamy. Even in LDS dogma, secular
marriage has no effect in the eternities unless performed by the LDS Church in
one of its temples, which is only available to certain "worthy" members of its
congregation. In effect, the Mormon
Church does not recognize secular marriage as efficacious before God.
Still, the Mormon Church fights the state
sanctioned same-sex marriage proposal in Hawaii. In 1996, Gordon Hinckley, the current Mormon president / prophet,
made a special trip to Hawaii to rally the faithful in helping to defeat this
legislative proposal. Hinckley "told a meeting of 20,000 people that they were
enough to stop unwanted social change in Hawaii." Hinckley also curried the favour of the
Roman Catholic Bishop of Hawaii, Francis X. Dilorenzo, in a private meeting to
plot a common campaign against same-sex marriage. "Affirmation," a gay and lesbian support group, found irony in
this meeting pointing out that "the Catholic church officially refuses to
recognize the power of the state to perform valid marriages or even to grant divorce,
yet it purports to tell Hawaiian citizens what marriage and family in the civil
sphere should be about."
Chastity Bono, a prominent lesbian activist, succinctly states the gay
community's view of Christianities bias towards same-sex union: "'People even
think of the actual word — marriage — as a straight institution.'"
In February 1996 the Mormon Church engaged a
Hawaiian marketing agency, Hill and Knowlton, to serve the church as its
official lobbying group. To maintain the pretext of the separation of church
and state, the LDS church used its wholly-owned property management company,
Hawaii Reserves, to actually contract the Hill and Knowlton agency. They gave this lobby group "'unlimited
funds'" to conduct their business in behalf of Hawaii Reserves a.k.a. the
Not only did the Catholic and Mormon churches
commit to a common front against same-sex marriage in Hawaii, the
aforementioned Pat Robertson's group is conducting their own campaign. In an
open letter to Christians, the Hawaii Christian Coalition is campaigning hard
to raise $1,200,000 with which to mount a media blitz to fight this "moral
decline." Their literature delineates five reasons why good people should contribute to the fight. The reasons are —
Robertson's group reminds its readers, "Remember, all that is necessary
for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing!"
- The Bible condemns gay sex.
- Marriage, as we know it, created by God,
- Gays will recruit children to their
- Some homosexuals are pedophiles who want the
consent laws for sex removed.
- The same thing could happen to Hawaii that
happened to Sodom, by God's wrath.
Having briefly reviewed some literature on
the same-sex marriage proposal in Hawaii, attention will now be focused on
other Christian groups believe that they can "convert" homosexuals into
heterosexuals through the gospel of Jesus Christ. If successful, God renders same-sex marriage moot. That is the next sub-text for analysis.
Until recently, ex-gay ministries have been
relatively unknown. They have come out of the closet, so-to-speak. Ex-gay ministries are nondenominational
Christian fellowships that attempt to minister the gospel to the gay community
with the idea of "converting" gays into heterosexuals through the grace of
God. Exodus International, established
in 1976, is one of the largest groups in the United States. Newsweek called them "one of the
better-kept secrets in the American church"
in their August 17 edition. No longer is Exodus unknown; on July 13 this group
started taking out full-page ads in the larger newspapers in the United
States. As recently as August 16, 1998
the television show Sixty Minutes ran a twenty minute segment on Exodus.
As might be expected, condemnation was swift
from the gay community and the psychiatric community. The gay community responded that Exodus is trying "'to make
homophobia acceptable.'" And, the psychiatric community reminded the public
that there is no basis in science to believe that such conversion could take
place. They also reiterated that the
psychological associations in America, in the 1970s, affirmed that
homosexuality is not a disease or disorder and they expunged such descriptions
from their literature. However, in a new poll conducted by Newsweek "56
percent said gays could become straight; 11 percent of gays agreed."
Exodus International does not believe that
homosexuality has a biological basis. They posit that homosexuality is caused
by absentee parenting. For boys it is
the absence of a father figure, and for girls the absence of a mother during
their formative years. This absence may
be simply an overworked father or mother. Because of this absence males and females seek fulfillment with others
of their own sex.
Exodus' method of converting homosexuals is
to "encourage gay men to 'butch up' through sports, and lesbians to unleash
their inner heterosexuality through dress and makeup."
As far as success rates are concerned Exodus claims thirty percent, but have no
long-term data to back up their claims. Embarrassing also to Exodus is the fact that thirteen of their
ministries had to be closed because the director returned to a gay "lifestyle."
On August 4, The Village Voice ran an
article titled "When Gays Go Hetero, the Consequences Can Be Anything But
news piece tells of a male, twenty-nine, that never had sex before. Then, after his first sexual encounter, with
a man, he joined Homosexuals Anonymous and Desert Stream, a fundamentalist
ministry. After a grueling twenty-week
program they awarded him a certificate of achievement but as he later stated,
"'I felt absolutely no different inside.'"
How sincere are the leaders of these ex-gay ministries in their desire to
'convert'? In a celebrated moment of
television hypocrisy, Janet Folger, a leader in the ex-gay movement, admitted
on Nightline that she "supports laws that criminalize homosexual sex,
allowing gay men and lesbians to be imprisoned for making love even in the
privacy of their homes."
The Village Voice article relates the
experiences of a seventeen-year-old Mormon. His parents sent him to a Mormon psychologist for 'the cure'. This professional advised his patient that
he was under the influence of Satan and that "Satan was deceiving him into
thinking he couldn't change."
The psychologist then advised his parents that they should time his showers so
that he would not have a chance to masturbate and to remove magazines from
their house that might show men in their underwear that could arouse their son.
There has been a lot said about the
homophobic practices of the Mormon Church in this paper. This is not unexpected
as there is a virtual cornucopia of information about this church's unusual
beliefs, which are readily available both in print and on the Internet. Its
homophobic attitude is palpable. For
the final sub-text, this paper now scrutinizes the treatment of homosexuals on
the campus of Brigham Young University — the Lord's University.
BYU and the Homosexual
As mentioned earlier, BYU is wholly owned and
operated by the Mormon Church. Its
faculty, students, and staff are subject to the edicts of the university's
board. This board is made up of the
First Presidency and the Council of Twelve Apostles that manage all the
temporal and spiritual affairs of the Church. Therefore, what BYU does "is" the
will of the apostles and prophets of the Mormon Church and in Mormon theology
this is, therefore, the mind and will of the Lord. Ergo, if the board denounces
homosexuality this is only God's will in Mormon-think.
April 28, 1997 Connell O'Donovan gave a
lecture at the University of California at the Santa Cruz campus. He titled his address, "Private Pain, Public
Purges: A History of Homosexuality at Brigham Young University (BYU)."
This address, a video (legacies) of students that were subject to BYU's
aversion therapy, and the writings of the psychiatrist, Jeffery R. Jensen, M.D.
will be reviewed in this final segment.
O'Donovan prefaced his remarks with a statement
of intent, to wit: "I am here to document and publicize the hypocrisy of an
institution that publicly proclaims 'family values', compassion, honor, and
love while privately destroying the lives of tens of thousands of people
because they happen to love those of their own sex." BYU is a private school, it sets the
standards of who may attend. In the
Mormon world, the local ecclesiastical leader (the bishop) of a potential
student must send the university a "recommend" attesting to the moral suitability
of the applicant. Mormon bishops are
also the leaders to whom the penitents confess their sins. Ostensibly, these confessions are private
and confidential. In 1967 that changed,
Ernest L. Wilkinson president of BYU had a plan approved by his board (the
Church) to require Mormon bishops to identify those students that at some point
in the past had confessed to the sin of homosexuality and other sins of moral
turpitude — so much for the sanctity of the confessional. This new policy had a
disastrous effect upon the gay population at BYU. A witch-hunt began and this policy of breaking the sanctity of
the confessional is still in effect today.
In the subsequent purge, BYU dismissed
teachers, and students were asked to leave. They told students that if they
made a fuss their transcripts would be placed on hold — effectively preventing
them from transferring to another university.
To dispel any doubt about the homophobic
attitudes of the administration of BYU, the following address by this
university's president, Ernest Wilkinson, to the entire student body should
suffice. Wilkinson said,
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.
This speech by President Wilkinson was given in 1967; the "Witch Hunts"
for Gay Mormons was started in earnest in 1968.
O'Donovan's address then itemizes several
cases that BYU security investigated and how some students were co-opted into
helping church administration by revealing names of other gays at BYU so as to
help absolve these individuals of their sins.
BYU security had many methods of rooting out gay students. They created student spy networks where
other students "ratted" on those they suspected of homosexual tendencies under
the university's Honor Code.
Not content with the efficacy of their spy
network, BYU security would visit known gay bars in Salt Lake City and note the
license plate number of cars that had a BYU parking sticker on the
windshield. Once identified, these
students were invited to appear before the university's Standards Council. Also, decoys were used in washrooms in an
attempt to entrap gay students. Even
college credit was granted to those who functioned as decoys. If they enrolled in Justice Administration
299r, they gained credit for acting as informers.
Nineteen-seventy-five (1975) saw another
purge of queers on campus. Security swooped down on the Fine Arts Centre and
removed all the drama students from their classes. Security then proceeded to
interrogate these students for the names of those they suspected of homosexual
activity. Five "outed" students were
expelled from BYU and then excommunicated. These five subsequently committed suicide. A year later a professor caught in this purge committed suicide.
Others they caught became subjects for
"aversion" therapy. This therapy lasted
an average of three months. Those subjected to this 'treatment' were required
to sign a waiver absolving the university of all liability. The release form informed them that "'damage
to tissues or organs may occur'" during treatment. This 'treatment' included both vomit and electroshock
therapy. This type of treatment has now
been largely disavowed as ineffective by the psychological community, but not
by the LDS Church. In a recent publication the Mormon Church made the following
LDS Social Services, however, tends to approach homosexuality as a
pathological condition and advocates reparative therapy. This means that LDS Social Services'
approach to homosexuality represents a minority view rejected by most (though
not all) psychologists in this country.
Maintaining their cavalier attitude, the Church further states — "This fact does not
necessarily invalidate LDS Social Services' approach, since the minority
view could be correct."
The Mormon Church must still, of course,
still live in the real world. In 1992
BYU's Counselling Center came up for re-accreditation by the American
Psychological Association. According to
O'Donovan, "All staff members at the Counselling Center were told during a
staff meeting to destroy and/or falsify all records pertaining to homosexual
clients, so that the Center could maintain its accreditation."
Accreditation by the American Psychological
Association is not the only problem facing BYU currently. Academic freedom is
allegedly a problem according to the American Association of University
In the September 15, 1997 issue of the Denver Post, an article stated
that the AAUP has found academic freedom at BYU seriously deficient. The AAUP
said, "The climate for academic freedom at Brigham Young University is
'distressingly poor' and infringements widespread." The AAUP is a national association of
college professors committed to the principle of academic freedom on American
campuses. In a report to its membership
it stated that there are a disproportionate number of cases against BYU
claiming violations of academic freedom. The report concludes that this suggests that "a widespread pattern of
infringements on academic freedom in a climate of oppression and fear of
likely. The report further posits that
the university's administration takes extraordinary measures to protect
orthodoxy particularly when it comes to feminist issues and Mormon studies
These measures are considered a hindrance for professors that wish to remain
current in their particular disciplines.
In the literature there is ample evidence
that if certain facts are not "faith promoting" the Church tries to suppress
such information reaching the general church membership and students. This is
plainly seen in a statement by apostle Boyd K. Packer. Packer stated, "'I have come to believe that
it is the tendency of many members of the Church who spend a great deal of time
in academic research to begin to judge the Church, its doctrine, organization,
and leadership, present and past, by the principles of their own profession. .
. .In my mind it ought to be the other way around . . . '"
He later quipped that "'Some things that are true are not very useful.'" This
statement, to put it into context, was made when he was upbraiding an
individual for giving out certain information to those who had not been
sufficiently indoctrinated enough in Mormon mythology and may question their
beliefs. Packer blamed the Devil's influence saying, "'In an effort to be
objective, impartial, and scholarly, a writer or a teacher may unwittingly be
giving equal time to the adversary. . . .'"
The Denver Post article brought to the
reader's attention that the AAUP report also castigated BYU for firing a professor
because he was not attending church on Sundays. This professor, Steven Epperson, "said he spent that time with
his family feeding homeless people in Salt Lake City. Sometime in 1998 the AAUP will vote on whether officially to
censure BYU and recommend to its membership whether BYU is an appropriate place
to teach. If censure is enacted, it would not affect BYU's accreditation, but
would certainly "be a blow to its prestige in the academic community.
Referring back to the "aversion" treatments
that BYU inflicted on those students who were not expelled from this college,
knowing exactly what took place is important. In fact, one did not even have to be a student at BYU to obtain this
treatment. Ecclesiastical leaders were sometimes known to refer their
confessors to the college for conversion therapy. A video is available titled Legacies, a documentary by Sean
Weakland. In this video four participants are interviewed about this
treatment. Rocky, one of the
participants, said that he spent ten years negotiating his way "through the
Mormon church's torturous program for reorienting or curing homosexuals —
trying to turn us into heterosexuals."
His bishop told Rocky, at the age of fifteen,
that he needed to take this therapy at BYU, and that it would help him into
becoming a heterosexual. This is how
Rocky explained the procedure: "They explained to me that they would place a
heparin lock in my wrist and hook an I.V. up to that, and I would be put in a
room alone with a phlethesmograph on my penis that would measure my physical
arousal so that when I got an erection they would know."
At this point they would show him gay pornography while they would introduce a
drug into the I.V. that produced vomiting. Next, they would show him heterosexual pornography and a euphoric drug
was injected. In this manner they hoped
to have him prefer women to men. It did
not work. In the video the interviewer asked Rocky, since he was only fifteen
at the time, if he had ever seen pornography of any kind before his session at
BYU — Rocky admitted, "No."
Val's experience was different. He saw a Dr. Card at the university and was
subjected to electroshock therapy, however Dr. Card preferred to call it
biofeedback therapy. In this therapy
the patient got to shock themselves by pressing a button; they also got to set
the level of electricity used to shock. When the treatment did not work on Val, Dr Card said, "If you really
wanted to change, you'd set the level higher."
Val deduced from this experience that the process was analogous to having a
cold shower. "It was just a stimulus that made you think about something else
for a while until the arousal went away."
With Drew, Dr. Card tried hypnotism. The
doctor believed he could find the homosexual part of his psyche and then remove
it. At some point in the first hypnotic
session Drew became agitated. At this
point Dr. Card "raised his hand to the square and commanded the devils to
depart my soul. Of course nothing
happened so he came over and shook me." Then Dr. Card explained to Drew "that at a
younger age when I was nervous about going out and growing up and being timid
about life that I had invited Satan into my life, and that is why I am gay and
that those spirits are still with me and that is who he had spoken to in this
session." Drew ultimately told the good doctor "that
he was full of shit."
Ray was not a patient. He was one of the technicians administering
treatment of a different kind. He
explained that as BYU security caught people in "compromising positions" they
had the choice of being kicked out of school and their parents would be
notified why, or they could take therapy. It is amazing the coercive power of this institution. Ray explained that
the patient would sit in a chair, 'the electric chair', and he would tape
electrodes to their groin, thigh, chest, and armpits. Another machine monitored
heart and breathing. If the heart rate
increased when looking at homosexual pornography, he would zap the patient. As he said, "From the reaction that I saw there
were muscle spasms which looked very painful." In fact, he noted that on some "you could
see burn marks on the skin. . . ." Then Ray would show heterosexual pornography
showing men and women having sex. For
this sequence soothing music was piped into the room so that the patient could
relate heterosexuality with pleasant music.
These patients ultimately told school
authorities that the treatment was successful. "[E]veryone said that they had completely changed" but as Ray notes,
they only said this because "they were desperate to get their degree and get
out of the institution. They had been
blackmailed into the situation in the first place."
Ray adds, "No, we never changed anyone from gay to straight." However, one can bet that BYU statistics
would indicate otherwise.
Concluding this section, relative to BYU and
homosexuality, are two papers presented at the 1996 and 1997 Sunstone
conferences by Jeffery R. Jensen M.D. Dr. Jensen specializes in psychiatry. Jensen refers to a publication produced in 1995 by LDS Social Services
(LDS-SS) under the heading "Understanding and Helping Individuals with
He points out that this document is steeped in fallacy and working from an
"erroneous premise" long since abandoned by the mental heath profession. The LDS Church believes that dysfunctional
families have caused homosexuality, and it is therefore treatable. He denounces
attempts by LDS-SS "to require" unethical professional behaviour from the
psychotherapists dealing with homosexual church members.
Jensen points out that this document presents
a negative stereotypical view of homosexuals and their 'dysfunctional
families'. By doing so this publication is contributing to the propagation of
homophobic views within the mental health community associated with LDS-SS
professionals and that this is against the ethical guidelines established by
the profession to eliminate prejudice from their professional work. He accused this agency of the church with
"maintaining the illusion of social order based on heterosexual male rule." Jensen concluded his 1996 address with the
statement that "we are obligated morally to weed-out of society and the church
lies which perpetuate attitudes and actions of hate."
In Jensen's 1997 Sunstone paper titled, "We
See What We Believe: The Heterosexualization of Gay Men and Lesbians in the LDS
much is learned. In this paper he states, "LDS church leaders tell LDS mental
health professionals what to believe about gay men and lesbians and some
LDS mental health professionals put the religious beliefs into psychological
jargon which is then quoted by church leaders in support of their 'official'
positions." Here is the classical self-fulfilling
prophecy syndrome. This is antithetical to professionalism, it is role
reversal. The health professional should be advising the ecclesiastical
leadership as to the nature of homosexuality.
There are several results of incorrect
thinking that often impacts in tragedy in the lives of LDS believers. Because the Mormon Church believes that
homosexuality is curable, often its church leadership counsels gay believers
that they should get married to a member of the opposite sex and it is likely
they will be cured when their "true" orientation emerges.
It does not take mental giant to see the fallacy of this logic, the irreparable
harm that is likely to result to extended families, and the social costs
Jensen points out another logical
fallacy. Church leaders often point out
the Genesis command of 'be fruitful and multiply' to Eve and Adam. Jensen calls this the "reproductive
Obviously, gay sex is not reproductive put he draws his listener's attention to
the fact that the vast majority of heterosexual activity is equally non
reproductive. In other words, homosexuals are doing the same thing as the
heterosexual community — "giving and receiving pleasure."
Jensen's paper is pregnant with what is
wrong, from a psychological perspective in the Mormon Church. However, it is incumbent to bring this paper
to a close with an amusing observation Jensen made. He points out that one of the great problems in the LDS church is
the insufferable patriarchy. He notes
that the most important possession that a member could have is a penis. For it is the possession of a penis that
priesthood power emanates. This is the power to rule over the church and one's
family. Anecdotally, he drew attention
to the church's "most visible symbol representing the power of the worldwide
church organization is the distinctly phallic Church Office Building, pointing
erect toward God."
This paper started with an agenda to
chronicle some ways that Christianity, over the last two millennia, has treated
the homosexual community. The bulk of this paper dealt with the twentieth
century. The treatment of homosexuals
has been, as explicated, at best tolerant during certain time periods. Still, in the main, intolerance still holds
sway. The record of the Christian
church has been abysmal in this writer's view.
It is probably obvious to the reader that
some bias has been displayed in this paper. In the social sciences, bias is
difficult to expunge. Therefore it
needs to be acknowledged to the reader. Bias is particularly inevitable, in my
view, when it comes to the subject of religion. I have been exposed to Christianity most of my life and have seen
the psychological carnage that some religions visit upon their acolytes. For
that reason, and since I find labels useful, my belief system is as one
following the path of an egalitarian, existentialist, deist with Carl Sagan as
high-priest. May he rest in peace!
Despite my biases, I believe this paper set
out what it stated — to follow, in some logical order, certain salient aspects
by certain Christian groups issues affecting the gay community and, indeed,
affecting the world at large. It is
hoped that the reader may feel the same.
. Note: the Mormon Church does not consider itself to be a Protestant denomination but a "restored" gospel.
. The Pearl of Great Price., Joseph Smith, 2:19, Extracts From The History Of Joseph Smith, The Prophet, (Official LDS Canon), Salt Lake City, The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints, 1966.
. Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), 329.
. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd Ed., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 700.
. Anonymous, "When Our Leaders Speak, The Thinking Has Been Done," n.d.
. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 124.
. Kimball, The Miracle, 78.
. John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), 92.
. John Leland and Mark Miller, "Can Gays Convert?," Newsweek
(17 Aug. 1998).
. Richley Crapo, "LDS Doctrinal Rhetoric and the Politics of Same-Sex Marriage," (1997), Dave Coombs personal e-mail to Terry Hiscox (23 July 1998).
Leland and Miller, "Can Gays Convert?," Newsweek.
. Mark Schoofs, "When Gays Go Hetero, the Consequences
Can Be Anything But Redemptive," The Village Voice: News,
(04 Aug. 1998).
. Connell O'Donovan, "Private Pain, Public Purges: A History of Homosexuality at Brigham Young University," (28 April 1997).
. O'Donovan, "Private Pain, Public Purges"
. Kristen Moulton, "Profs Say BYU Short On Academic Freedom,"
Denver Post, (15 Sept. 1997).