Criticisms of Dallin H. Oaks

Criticisms of Dallin H. Oaks

Did Dallin H. Oaks know about homosexual conversion therapy at BYU?

President Oaks was president of BYU from 1971 to 1980. During that time, psychology graduate student Max McBride conducted research on aversion therapy, or the use of weak electric shocks to the arm to decrease unwanted homosexual attraction. McBride’s research was overseen by BYU professor Eugene Thorne.[1]

The research on aversion therapy was thoroughly mainstream at the time of Thorne’s practice and McBride’s study. Aversion therapy research was still being conducted by numerous secular and religious practicing psychologists and researchers, and was still considered a mainstream treatment for unwanted sexual attraction leading to unwanted behavior.

There is no evidence President Oaks had knowledge of the research during his time as president of BYU. During President Oaks' tenure, BYU enrolled about 26,000 students per year,[2] many of which were graduate students conducting a variety of research. It would be unreasonable to assume that a university president knows about every graduate student research project being conducted at their university. Further, there is no reason why President Oaks would have known about the research, and no evidence that he did know.

FAIR has prepared a detailed review of the history and documents: Aversion Therapy at BYU.


  1. The content in this section is summarized from Aversion Therapy at BYU, FAIR.
  2. "BYU through the years," Deseret News, 4 September 2003.