Homosexuality and the Church of Jesus Christ/Aversion therapy performed at BYU

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Homosexual aversion therapy performed at BYU in the 1970's

Summary: What was the history of BYU and aversion therapy for treating homosexuality in the 1970's? How did that relate to medical and psychological science as understood at that time? What was the role of the Church in BYU's treatments?

Aversion Therapy at BYU - Information regarding aversion therapy, Brigham Young University (BYU), and President Dallin H. Oaks


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General questions about identity

Can a person identify as gay or lesbian and still be a member of the Church in good standing?

The Church does not reject those who are attracted to those of their own sex. If such attraction leads to an intimate physical relationship, then this is considered sinful, just as sexual acts outside of marriage are for heterosexuals.

In 1998, President Hinckley said:

People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves ... gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.[1]

In 1999, President Hinckley taught:

"As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church."[2]

While President Hinckley avoided directly labeling anyone as gay or lesbian, he was directing his welcome to those who did make use of the label. He did not say that only those who shun the label are welcome, but specifically said that those who considered themselves to be gay could move forward as all other members do. There was no request for them to hide their identity or to change their vocabulary.

In general, Church leaders recommend against labeling anyone, including yourself. Labels detract from our divine nature as children of God. President Russell M. Nelson has counselled us about such things in areas far beyond sexual desire or orientation:

Russell nelson official portrait 2018.jpeg
I believe that if the Lord were speaking to you directly tonight, the first thing He would make sure you understand is your true identity. My dear friends, you are literally spirit children of God. ...

Labels can be fun and indicate your support for any number of positive things. Many labels will change for you with the passage of time. And not all labels are of equal value. But if any label replaces your most important identifiers, the results can be spiritually suffocating. ...

Who are you? First and foremost, you are a child of God.

Second, as a member of the Church, you are a child of the covenant. And third, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Tonight, I plead with you not to replace these three paramount and unchanging identifiers with any others, because doing so could stymie your progress or pigeonhole you in a stereotype that could potentially thwart your eternal progression.

For example, if you are identified mainly as an American, those who are not Americans may think, “I know everything there is to know about you” and attribute erroneous beliefs to you.

If you identify yourself by your political affiliation, you will instantly be categorized as having certain beliefs—though I don’t know anyone who believes everything that their preferred political party presently embraces.

We could go on and on, rehearsing the constraints of various labels that we put on ourselves or that other people place upon us. ...

How tragic it is when someone believes the label another person has given them. ...

[Satan] rejoices in labels because they divide us and restrict the way we think about ourselves and each other. How sad it is when we honor labels more than we honor each other.

Labels can lead to judging and animosity. Any abuse or prejudice toward another because of nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender, educational degrees, culture, or other significant identifiers is offensive to our Maker! Such mistreatment causes us to live beneath our stature as His covenant sons and daughters!

There are various labels that may be very important to you, of course. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that other designations and identifiers are not significant. I am simply saying that no identifier should displace, replace, or take priority over these three enduring designations: “child of God,” “child of the covenant,” and “disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Any identifier that is not compatible with these three basic designations will ultimately let you down. Other labels will disappoint you in time because they do not have the power to lead you toward eternal life in the celestial kingdom of God.

Worldly identifiers will never give you a vision of who you can ultimately become. They will never affirm your divine DNA or your unlimited, divine potential.[3]

This counsel can also apply to using the label "straight" or "gay" to refer to children of God. In 1995, Elder Oaks taught:

We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.

Feelings are another matter. Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of "nature and nurture." All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior. [4]

The way we think about such things can determine whether we apply a theological lens to them, as Bishop Keith B. McMullin taught in 2010:

When I was a youngster, my mother discouraged me from using common language when speaking of sacred or special things. For example, instead of referring to an expectant mother as being pregnant, she encouraged me to say "she is expecting a baby." In Mother’s view, the latter description was more respectful and reverential, the former more clinical and common. Her teachings have had a salient effect upon me. The older I become, the more meaningful is her wisdom. The more we see and speak of intimate things as mere biology, the less likely we are to view and understand them in the context of exalting theology.

Church leaders have, therefore, consistently emphasized that such temptations and desires do not form a core or irreducible part of our nature. As Elder Boyd K. Packer said:

And so, now to the subject. To introduce it I must use a word. ... Please notice that I use it as an adjective, not as a noun; I reject it as a noun. I speak to those few, those very few, who may be subject to homosexual temptations. I repeat, I accept that word as an adjective to describe a temporary condition. I reject it as a noun naming a permanent one. [5]

This explains why Latter-day Saints often refer to homosexual/gay/lesbian issues with such terms as "same-sex attraction"

Latter-day Saint doctrine emphasizes that people are not the sum of their desires, temptations, or sins. Secular evidence suggests that those who self-identify with their desires in this way are more likely to engage in acts which the gospel of Christ teaches are sinful.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks pointed out a natural human tendency to use a single facet of our personality or experience as a large part of a self-definition:

I think it is an accurate statement to say that some people consider feelings of same-gender attraction to be the defining fact of their existence. There are also people who consider the defining fact of their existence that they are from Texas or that they were in the United States Marines. Or they are red-headed, or they are the best basketball player that ever played for such-and-such a high school. People can adopt a characteristic as the defining example of their existence and often those characteristics are physical.

We have the agency to choose which characteristics will define us; those choices are not thrust upon us.

The ultimate defining fact for all of us is that we are children of Heavenly Parents, born on this earth for a purpose, and born with a divine destiny. Whenever any of those other notions, whatever they may be, gets in the way of that ultimate defining fact, then it is destructive and it leads us down the wrong path. [6]

Our choice of terminology should not be construed to deny others the privilege of choosing their own acts or self-labels

When labels such as "homosexual," or "heterosexual", and labels such as "gay," "lesbian," or "straight" are used by members of the Church, this terminology should be understood to:

  • reflect the self-understanding of those referred to; or
  • serve as an adjective (e.g., "gay activists" are those working politically on behalf of those who self-identify as gay; or "heterosexual marriage" is a marriage between two people of the opposite sex regardless of sexual orientation).

The language used to describe people or phenomena influences how we perceive or think about them.

Definition of sexual orientation

The American Psychological Association {APA) gives the following definition for sexual orientation:

"Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person's sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions." [7]

The term sexual orientation in and of itself is ambiguous. There are many members of the Church who are primarily attracted to the same sex, but their sense of identity and community is more closely connected to a heterosexual lifestyle. Depending on which definition of sexual orientation that being used, the same person may have a homosexual or a heterosexual orientation.

The APA notes further: "Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Individuals may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors." [8]

Thus having same-sex attractions, participating in same-sex relationships, and identifying as gay or lesbian are three separate things.

A study by the Social Organization of Sexuality found that 60% of men and 68% of women who were attracted to the same sex have never engaged in homosexual behavior. Of those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, only 13% of men and 4% of women who so identified have never engaged in homosexual behavior. [9] This lead the researchers to conclude that sexual identity (i.e., how people label and conceive of themselves) was a stronger indicator of sexual behavior than sexual orientation (i.e., the feelings or inclinations which people have). </blockquote>

Identity and behavior

Some use a self-identity as "homosexual" to imply or argue that acting on homosexual desires is an inevitable or proper outcome, since it is simply "who I am." The Church teaches, rather, that our temptations, unhealthy desires, or sins do not define who we are as children of God.

Definition of homosexuality, homosexual, and gay

In regards to the terms homosexual, lesbian and gay, Elder Oaks stated:

We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.

In regards to the term homosexuality, Elder Oaks stated:

the First Presidency's letters condemning homosexuality are, by their explicit terms, directed at the practices of homosexuality.[10]

How does this compare with the dictionary? The American Heritage Dictionary defines homosexual as someone exhibiting homosexuality. It defines homosexuality as:

  1. Sexual orientation to persons of the same sex.
  2. Sexual activity with another of the same sex. [11]

Both the dictionary and Elder Oaks illustrate that homosexual can refer to thoughts or behaviors. Latter-day Saints may wish to communicate one thing about their thoughts, but quite another by their behavior. They therefore often choose language that makes this distinction clear.

Avoiding using gay as a noun

With regards to using gay as a noun, Elder Oaks said:

We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.[12]

The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style gives a similar warning against using gay as a noun:

Gay is often considered objectionable when used as a noun to refer to particular individuals, as in "There were two gays on the panel"; here phrasing such as "Two members of the panel were gay" should be used instead. [13]

According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media reference guide, many newspapers have also advised their newspaper writers to avoid using gay as a noun. [14] They cite the following examples:

New York Times:

Do not use gay as a singular noun. Gays, a plural noun, may be used only as a last resort, ordinarily in a hard-to-fit headline.

Washington Post:

When it is necessary to mention it, gay may be used as an adjective but not as a noun, except as a plural: gay man, gay woman, gay people, gays. Not a gay ...

Often, simply reporting the facts obviates the need for labels. Describing a slaying, for instance, should suffice without referring to it as a homosexual slaying. Ask yourself if you would use the term heterosexual slaying. In a recent story, a man "charged" that his former wife "was a lesbian" as if it were a slur, when simply alleging an affair between the ex-wife and the other woman would suffice.

Be wary of using homosexual as a noun. In certain contexts, it can be seen as a slur.

What have Church leaders taught about the distinction between desires, feelings, or inclinations, and sexual acts?

Those who claim that the Church has long condemned those who had homosexual feelings or inclinations regardless of whether they acted upon such feelings have not accurately reflected the long-standing teaching of the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles. Recent teaching of this doctrine is not a novelty, but merely an emphasis of that which has been long taught.

We are held accountable for things that we can choose. We are not held accountable for things outside of our control

This principle applies to sexual thoughts and actions. Church leaders have always taught that we need to learn to control our sexual actions. Our sexual natures are sacred, and should only be shared between a husband and a wife. But this law is not limited to sexual acts, but includes sexual feelings. The church teaches members to "never do anything outside of marriage to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage". It is the intentional stimulation of sexual feelings that is prohibited, not merely having sexual feelings. This standard applies equally to all.

D&C

In a revelation given to William E. McLellin, the Lord reveals some of the feelings of McLellin:

Commit not adultery—a temptation with which thou hast been troubled. (D&C 66꞉10)

Even though he had been troubled with thoughts of adultery (there is no indication whether it was homosexual or heterosexual in nature) the Lord still gave the following praise:

Behold, thus saith the Lord unto my servant William E. McLellin—Blessed are you, inasmuch as you have turned away from your iniquities, and have received my truths, saith the Lord your Redeemer, the Savior of the world, even of as many as believe on my name. (D&C 10꞉1)

1980

President Spencer W. Kimball, in one of the first extensive treatments of this topic by a President of the Church regarding homosexual acts, was clear about the difference between the temptation and the act. That distinction has persisted in LDS discourse and teaching ever since:

The unholy transgression of homosexuality is either rapidly growing or tolerance is giving it wider publicity. If one has such desires and tendencies, he overcomes them the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery. The Lord condemns and forbids this practice with a vigor equal to his condemnation of adultery and other such sex acts. And the Church will excommunicate as readily any unrepentant addict.[15]

We note that homosexuality is compared to acts such as petting, fornication, or adultery. Those who are excommunicated are those who are unrepentant persist as "addicts": i.e., those who will not desist.

Again, contrary to the belief and statement of many people, this sin, like fornication, is overcomable and forgivable, but again, only upon a deep and abiding repentance, which means total abandonment and complete transformation of thought and act. The fact that some governments and some churches and numerous corrupted individuals have tried to reduce such behavior from criminal offense to personal privilege does not change the nature nor the seriousness of the practice. Good men, wise men, God-fearing men everywhere still denounce the practice as being unworthy of sons and daughters of God; and Christ’s church denounces it and condemns it so long as men and women have bodies which can be defiled.[16]

Again, the "behavior," and "practice" are that which is condemned.

President Kimball continued:

James said: 'A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. … 'Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

'Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

'But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

'Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

'Do not err, my beloved brethren' (James 1:8,12-16).

Again, one is tempted but it requires a sinful response to temptation from our own lust to "bring...forth sin."

'God made me that way,' some say, as they rationalize and excuse themselves for their perversions. 'I can’t help it,' they add. This is blasphemy. ... Man is responsible for his own sins. It is possible that he may rationalize and excuse himself until the groove is so deep he cannot get out without great difficulty, but this he can do. Temptations come to all people. The difference between the reprobate and the worthy person is generally that one yielded and the other resisted. It is true that one’s background may make the decision and accomplishment easier or more difficult, but if one is mentally alert, he can still control his future. That is the gospel message—personal responsibility. ...

"Be wise in the days of your probation," said Mormon, "strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God" (Moron 9꞉28).[17]

President Kimball emphasizes that some may be more vulnerable or susceptible to this temptation (or any other temptation) but emphasizes that one is only unworthy (or sinful) if he yields to temptation.

President Kimball had high hopes that people could overcome the practice of homosexuality, but warned that the feelings could well remain and need to be controlled on an on-going basis. He said:

In a few months, some have totally mastered themselves ... We realize that the cure is no more permanent than the individual makes it so and is like the cure for alcoholism subject to continued vigilance.

1987

President Gordon B. Hinckley:

Prophets of God have repeatedly taught through the ages that practices of homosexual relations, fornication, and adultery are grievous sins. ... Mankind has been given agency to choose between right and wrong. ... Mental control must be stronger than physical appetites or desires of the flesh. As thoughts are brought into complete harmony with revealed truth, actions will then become appropriate.[18]

1988

In 1988, Elder Dalin H. Oaks said:

Most of us are born with [or develop] thorns in the flesh, some more visible, some more serious than others. We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so our thoughts and actions must be controllable by our agency. Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim ‘I was born that way’ does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal.

God has promised that he will consecrate our afflictions for our gain (see 2 Nephi 2꞉2). The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited [or developed] weakness build a spiritual strength that will serve us throughout eternity. Thus, when Paul prayed thrice that his ‘thorn in the flesh’ would depart from him, the Lord replied, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Obedient, Paul concluded:

‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

‘Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong’ (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Whatever our susceptibilities or tendencies [feelings], they cannot subject us to eternal consequences unless we exercise our free agency to do or think the things forbidden by the commandments of God. For example, a susceptibility to alcoholism impairs its victim’s freedom to partake without addiction, but his free agency allows him to abstain and thus escape the physical debilitation of alcohol and the spiritual deterioration of addiction. ...

Beware the argument that because a person has strong drives toward a particular act, he has no power of choice and therefore no responsibility for his actions. This contention runs counter to the most fundamental premises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Satan would like us to believe that we are not responsible in this life. That is the result he tried to achieve by his contest in the pre-existence. A person who insists that he is not responsible for the exercise of his free agency because he was ‘born that way’ is trying to ignore the outcome of the War in Heaven. We are responsible, and if we argue otherwise, our efforts become part of the propaganda effort of the Adversary.

Individual responsibility is a law of life. It applies in the law of man and the law of God. Society holds people responsible to control their impulses so we can live in a civilized society. God holds his children responsible to control their impulses in order that they can keep his commandments and realize their eternal destiny. The law does not excuse the short-tempered man who surrenders to his impulse to pull a trigger on his tormentor, or the greedy man who surrenders to his impulse to steal, or the pedophile who surrenders to his impulse to satisfy his sexual urges with children. …

There is much we do not know about the extent of freedom we have in view of the various thorns in the flesh that afflict us in mortality. But this much we do know; we all have our free agency and God holds us accountable for the way we use it in thought and deed. That is fundamental.[19]

1991

The First Presidency wrote in 1991:

There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior.[20]

1994

Elder Richard G. Scott:

Some bad thoughts come by themselves. Others come because we invite them by what we look at and listen to. ... The mind can think of only one thing at a time. Use that fact to crowd out ugly thoughts. Above all, don’t feed thoughts by reading or watching things that are wrong. If you don’t control your thoughts, Satan will keep tempting you until you eventually act them out.[21]

1995

In 1995, Elder Oaks stated:

Applying the First Presidency’s distinction to the question of same-sex relationships, we should distinguish between (1) homosexual (or lesbian) "thoughts and feelings" (which should be resisted and redirected), and (2) "homosexual behavior" (which is a serious sin)....

Persons cannot continue to engage in serious sin and remain members of the Church. And discipline can be given for encouraging sin by others. There is no Church discipline for improper thoughts or feelings (though there is encouragement to improve them), but there are consequences for behavior. ...

[W]e should always distinguish between sinful acts and inappropriate feelings or potentially dangerous susceptibilities. We should reach out lovingly to those who are struggling to resist temptation. The First Presidency did this in their 14 November 1991 letter. After reaffirming the sinful nature of "fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior," the Presidency added: "Individuals and their families desiring help with these matters should seek counsel from their bishop, branch president, stake or district president. We encourage Church leaders and members to reach out with love and understanding to those struggling with these issues. Many will respond to Christlike love and inspired counsel as they receive an invitation to come back and apply the atoning and healing power of the Savior."[22]

Gordon B. Hinckley:

Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and our sisters. However, we cannot condone immoral practices on your part any more than we can condone immoral practices on the part of others.[23]

2000

In 2000, President Boyd K. Packer taught:

That may be a struggle from which you will not be free in this life. If you do not act on temptations, you need feel no guilt. They [the feelings or temptations] may be extremely difficult to resist. But that is better than to yield and bring disappointment and unhappiness to you and those who love you.[24]

2003

In 2003, President Boyd K. Packer taught:

In the Church, one is not condemned for tendencies or temptations. One is held accountable for transgression. (See D&C 101꞉78; A+of+F 1꞉2). If you do not act on unworthy persuasions, you will neither be condemned nor be subject to Church discipline.[25]

2006

In 2006, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:

The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear. It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted.

The New Testament affirms that God has given us commandments that are difficult to keep. It is in 1 Corinthians 16꞉16: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."[26]

2007

In October 2007, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland published an article in the Ensign, which read in part:

A pleasant young man in his early 20s sat across from me. He had an engaging smile, although he didn’t smile often during our talk. What drew me in was the pain in his eyes.

"I don’t know if I should remain a member of the Church," he said. "I don’t think I’m worthy."

"Why wouldn’t you be worthy?" I asked.

"I’m gay."

I suppose he thought I would be startled. I wasn’t. "And … ?" I inquired.

A flicker of relief crossed his face as he sensed my continued interest. "I’m not attracted to women. I’m attracted to men. I’ve tried to ignore these feelings or change them, but …"

He sighed. "Why am I this way? The feelings are very real."

I paused, then said, "I need a little more information before advising you. You see, same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is—just as it would be with heterosexual feelings. Do you violate the law of chastity?"

He shook his head. "No, I don’t."

This time I was relieved. "Thank you for wanting to deal with this," I said. "It takes courage to talk about it, and I honor you for keeping yourself clean.

"As for why you feel as you do, I can’t answer that question. A number of factors may be involved, and they can be as different as people are different. Some things, including the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life. But knowing why you feel as you do isn’t as important as knowing you have not transgressed. If your life is in harmony with the commandments, then you are worthy to serve in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with the members, attend the temple, and receive all the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement."

He sat up a little straighter. I continued, "You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you.

"What’s more, I love you. My Brethren among the General Authorities love you. I’m reminded of a comment President Boyd K. Packer made in speaking to those with same-gender attraction. ‘We do not reject you,’ he said. ‘… We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you.’ "

We talked for another 30 minutes or so. Knowing I could not be a personal counselor to him, I directed him to his local priesthood leaders. Then we parted. I thought I detected a look of hope in his eyes that had not been there before. Although he yet faced challenges to work through—or simply endure—I had a feeling he would handle them well.[27]

He went on to emphasize: "[L]et me make it clear that attractions alone, troublesome as they may be, do not make one unworthy. ... If you do not act on temptations, you have not transgressed."

In a Church booklet published in 2007, the Church taught:

Many people with same-gender attraction respect the sacredness of their bodies and the standards God has set—that sexuality be expressed "only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife" ("The Family: A Proclamation to the World," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). The lives of these individuals are pleasing to our Father in Heaven. Some, however, cross this boundary and indulge in immoral conduct. The desire for physical gratification does not authorize immorality by anyone. ...

An understanding of eternal truths is a powerful motivation for righteous behavior. You are best served by concentrating on the things you can presently understand and control, not wasting energy or enlarging frustration by worrying about that which God has not yet fully revealed. Focus on living the simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Same-gender inclinations may be very powerful, but through faith in the Atonement you can receive the power to resist all improper conduct, keeping your life free from sin.[28]

2009

D. Todd Christopherson:

All of us experience temptations. So did the Savior, but He "gave no heed unto them" (D&C 20꞉22). Similarly, we do not have to yield simply because a temptation surfaces. We may want to, but we don’t have to. An incredulous female friend asked a young adult woman, committed to living the law of chastity, how it was possible that she had never "slept with anybody." "Don’t you want to?" the friend asked. The young woman thought: "The question intrigued me, because it was so utterly beside the point. … Mere wanting is hardly a proper guide for moral conduct."

In some cases, temptation may have the added force of potential or actual addiction. I am grateful that for an increasing number of people the Church can provide therapeutic help of various kinds to aid them in avoiding or coping with addictions. Even so, while therapy can support a person’s will, it cannot substitute for it. Always and ever, there must be an exercise of discipline—moral discipline founded on faith in God the Father and the Son and what They can achieve with us through the atoning grace of Jesus Christ. In Peter’s words, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations" (2 Peter 2:9).[29]

Bruce C. Hafen:

You may not have consciously chosen to have same-gender attraction, but you are faithfully choosing to deal with it. Sometimes that attraction may make you feel sinful, even though the attraction alone is not a sin if you do not act on it. Sometimes you may feel frustration or anger or simply a deep sadness about yourself. But as hard as same-gender attraction is, your feeling that attraction does not mean that your nature is flawed. Whenever the adversary tries to convince you that you are hopelessly "that way," so that acting out your feelings is inevitable, he is lying. He is the father of lies...

It’s true that the law of chastity forbids all sexual relations outside the bonds of a married heterosexual relationship. And while same-gender attraction is not a sin, you need to resist cultivating immoral, lustful thoughts toward those of either gender. It’s no sin if a bird lands in your tree, just don’t let him build a nest there. ... if you feel an attraction you didn’t seek and haven’t acted on, you have nothing to repent of.[30]

2010

On 12 October 2010, Michael Otterson (head of Church Public Affairs) noted:

None of us is limited by our feelings or inclinations. Ultimately, we are free to act for ourselves.

The Church recognizes that those of its members who are attracted to others of the same sex experience deep emotional, social and physical feelings. The Church distinguishes between feelings or inclinations on the one hand and behavior on the other. It’s not a sin to have feelings, only in yielding to temptation

There is no question that this is difficult, but Church leaders and members are available to help lift, support and encourage fellow members who wish to follow Church doctrine. Their struggle is our struggle.[31]

The 2010 version of the Church's Handbook of Instructions notes:

Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance.

If members engage in homosexual behavior, Church leaders should help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth.

While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.

If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinance.[32]

What does science have to say about this?

According to the American Psychological Association: "Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Individuals may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors."

As discussed above,[citation needed] self-identity determines behavior more than sexual orientation. Not only are there significant differences between a person's sexual orientation and their chosen behavior, but such things can change over time. The study indicated that of the 4.9% of men and 4.1% of women who have ever had a homosexual experience since the age of 18, only 2.7% of men and 1.3% of women had one in the last year. Some people change their sexual behavior based on religious beliefs. Others reported that they were no longer attracted to the same sex. The American Psychiatric Association has stated "Some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime."[33] The way this develops varies from person to person. A report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health states that, "For some people, sexual orientation is continuous and fixed throughout their lives. For others, sexual orientation may be fluid and change over time."[34]

The Religions Dimension

Many people have testified that through the atonement of Christ, they no longer are attracted to people of the same gender. Others have also had faith in Christ, but still have same-sex attractions. Elder Holland taught: "Through the exercise of faith, individual effort, and reliance upon the power of the Atonement, some may overcome same-gender attraction in mortality and marry. Others, however, may never be free of same-gender attraction in this life."[35]

We are freed from some temptations over time, and must bear with others our whole lives.


Scripture and homosexual behavior—Old Testament

Why wasn't the prohibition against same-sex relationships rescinded when the rest of the law of Moses was rescinded?

As Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to be guided by modern revelation. We do not need to limit our understanding to what has been written in ancient texts. However, some critics have asserted that our stance on same-sex relationships should have been recinded with the rest of the law of Moses.

Unlike some of the surrounding pagan cultures in the ancient near east,

The Levitical laws, however, criminalized not only the behavior of all homosexual rapists but also the behavior of both partners in a consensual act of same-sex intercourse. Both have committed an abominable act. They also applied the same sanctions to Israelite and resident alien alike and made no concessions for homosexual intercourse with a person of unequal social status. ...

The level at which the Levitical laws stigmatize and criminalize all homosexual intercourse, while not discontinuous with some trends elsewhere, goes far beyond anything else currently known in the ancient near east. ...

The question of homosexual orientation was surely irrelevant to the denunciation of same-sex intercourse [in Israelite scripture], just as any debate about an orientation toward incest (or bestiality) would have been irrelevant. It was the act that mattered. ...

In our own cultural context we think that the banning of male cult prostitution does not take into account consensual, non-cultic, loving homosexual relationships. In the cultural context of the ancient Near East the reasoning has to be reversed: to ban homosexual cult prostitutes was to ban all homosexual intercourse. In any case, the authors of Lev 18꞉22 could have formulated the law more precisely by making specific reference to the [cultic prostitutes] (as in Deut 23꞉17-18), if it had been their intent to limit the law's application. That they did not do so suggests that they had a broader application in mind. Moreover, the Levitical rejection of same— sex intercourse depends on Canaanite practices for its validity about as much as the rejection of incest, adultery, and bestiality. [36]:69, 80-81, 132

Adultery, which includes all sexual relationships outside that of a husband and a wife, was forbidden under the 10 commandments

Exodus 20꞉14 reads: "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

Leviticus expands on what types of relationships qualify as adultery. As with much of the Old Testament, it was written for a male audience. Sexual relationships between females was not specifically condemned in Leviticus, but is covered in the 10 commandments. Leviticus 18꞉22 reads:

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Leviticus 20꞉13:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

There are aspects of the Leviticus commands that involve ritual uncleanness (e.g., avoiding sexual intercourse during menstruation). However, the way Leviticus discusses and describes those commands—which were rescinded in the Christian era—and the commands about adultery, incest, beastiality, and homosexual behavior—which remained in force, are quite different.

The word toebah [= abomination] is restricted in Leviticus to forms of sexual immorality that can be characterized in three ways: (1) a sexual act regarded by Yahweh as utterly detestable and abhorrent; (2) a sexual act which rendered the individual participants liable to the death penalty or being "cut off from God's people"; (3) a sexual act which, if left unpunished by the nation, put the entire nation at risk of God's consuming wrath, God's departure from the midst of the people, and expulsion of the people from the land of Canaan (18:22, 26-30; 20:13). Homosexual intercourse is singled out among other abominable sexual acts in Leviticus 8 and 20 as a form of sexual misconduct particularly worthy of the designation toebah. It is dificult to see how one can speak of this or other acts in Leviticus 1 8 and 20 as "ceremonially unclean rather than inherently evil".[36]:118-119

This author then quotes another expert, who writes[37]:

Leviticus does recognize forms of ritual uncleanness that are not morally condemned, e.g., childbirth, seminal emission, heterosexual intercourse, and menstruation. Purification from these pollutions is accomplished quite simply through bathing and sacrifice. The word toevah is not used to refer to these conditions, nor are they punished. ... Idolatry was not simply unclean; it was a grave offense. ... That intercourse with a menstruating woman is also classified as an abomination along with homosexuality is an indication not, as Boswell suggests, that the latter offense [homosexuality] was considered trivial, but rather that the former was considered extremely grave.

So for an Israelite was there no difference between sex with a menstruating woman and homosexuality? No—the punishment for homosexual offenses was death, unlike the penalty for having sexual relations with a menstruating woman. In the latter case,

The menstrual period was the time that God had given women to cleanse their bodies from impurity as a prelude to renewing a cycle of fertility (a sabbath of sorts from sex). It was not the time for men to intrude with procreative designs. Deliberate intercourse during a menstrual period not only had the effect of "wasting seed" but also of putting one's own desires at cross-purposes with God's timing. Men were required to exercise self-restraint and wait for divinely created processes to run their course.[36]:138

By contrast, homosexual acts were part of a very small group of behaviors for which capital punishment could be imposed, as Gagnon points out:

in Leviticus 0, the only other acts that are specifically connected with the death penalty are:

[a] child sacrifice (20:2),
[b] cursing one's parents (20:9),
[c] adultery (20:10),
[d] some forms of incest (20:11-12), marriage to a wife and her mother (20:14), and
[e] bestiality (20:15-16).[36]:195n182

He continues:

most of Leviticus 8꞉20 can be thought of as an expanded commentary on the ten commandments, with prohibitions against idolatry and witchcraft, stealing and lying, adultery and incest; and commands to honor one's parents, keep the sabbath, and to "love one's neighbor as oneself" (Lev 19꞉18). Ritual and moral, eternal and contingent, are combined in the profile of holiness developed in Leviticus 7꞉26. Christians do not have the option of simply dismissing an injunction because it belongs to the Holiness Code [of Leviticus].[36]:123

Therefore, as one biblical scholar noted:

One might then counter, "Okay, these biblical authors were opposed to male, same-sex cult prostitution. But that only tells us what the author believed about consensual homosexual practice conducted in the context of idolatrous cults and prostitution, not the kind of loving expressions of homosexuality we witness today." Such a rationale would overlook the ancient Near Eastern context. The Mesopotamian evidence ... makes clear that the most acceptable form of same-sex intercourse—not the least acceptable was precisely same-sex intercourse conducted in a [pagan] religious context. Otherwise, for a man to want to be penetrated by another man was generally regarded as disgraceful. ...

When the biblical authors rejected homosexual cult prostitutes ... they were in effect rejecting the whole phenomenon of homosexual practice. They were repudiating a form of homosexual intercourse that was the most palatable in their cultural context. If they rejected that particular form of homosexual practice, how much more all other forms? Certainly the prohibition against cross-dressing in Deut 22꞉5 [which cultic prostitutes engaged in] puts this beyond doubt (any obscuring of male-female sexual differences is "an abomination [toebah] to Yahweh your God, everyone who does these things"), as does the absolute form of the prohibition in Lev 18꞉22 and 13.[36]:112-113


Scripture and homosexual behavior: New Testament

Jesus and the gospels

Did Jesus say anything about homosexual acts?

Some try to minimize the seriousness of homosexual acts by pointing out that Jesus did not preach against them specifically. This stance completely misunderstands and misrepresents the situation in Jesus' day.

First, how did Jews in Jesus' day understand homosexual acts? Because of the Leviticus Holiness Code, they were completely opposed to them: "early Judaism was unanimous in its rejection of homosexual conduct. We are unaware of any dissenting voice."[36]:215 In fact, "given the severe stance against homosexual intercourse in the Levitical laws, it is inconceivable that any non-apostate Jew in antiquity would argue for the legitimacy of male-male sexual intercourse."[36]:217-218

The Jewish world in which Jesus lived set a very strict moral standard, especially against the backdrop of the infamous promiscuity of the Greeks and Romans. Sexual relationships were absolutely forbidden outside of marriage. Christ validated these teachings, by teaching against adultery and fornication (Matthew 19꞉18, Matthew 15꞉19)

Second, Jesus tended to intensify or strengthen commandments about sexual matters, not loosen them. Rather than not committing adultery, his followers were not to even lust after someone, for "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery already in his heart" (Matthew 5꞉28). The law of Moses made provision for divorce, but Jesus taught against it except in cases of sexual infidelity ()19꞉8-9.

All sexual relations outside of marriage were sinful in Judaism, and Jewish marriage presupposed a male/female marriage, as Jesus emphasized:

For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matt 19꞉5-6)

Jesus did differ with the Judaism of his day on some points, but on these matters he was clear and direct about his opposition. Without him saying anything about same-sex behavior, none of his audience would have assumed anything except that such things were grave sins:

The univocal stance against homosexual conduct, both in ancient Israel and the Judaism of Jesus' day, makes it highly unlikely that Jesus' silence on the issue ought to be construed as acceptance of such conduct. Jesus was not shy about expressing his disapproval of the conventions of his day. Silence on the subject could only have been understood by his disciples as acceptance of the basic position embraced by all Jews. If Jesus had wanted to communicate afi‘irmation of same-sex unions he would have had to state such a view clearly since first—century Judaism, so far as we know, had no dissenting voices on the matter. Without a clear statement none of his disciples would have made such a logical leap.[36]:249-250

In short,

the silence of Jesus on the subject, combined with other factors, makes Jesus' opposition to same-sex intercourse historically probable. Indeed, the word "silence" can only be used in a very constricted sense. Jesus made no direct or explicit comments on samesex intercourse, just as he made no direct comments about many other important subjects. In a larger sense, though, Jesus was not silent about same-sex intercourse inasmuch as the inferential data speaks loud and clear about Jesus' perspective. ... [T]he ways in which Jesus integrated demands for mercy and righteous conduct in his teaching and ministry do not lend support for the view that Jesus might have taken a positive or neutral approach to same-sex intercourse.[36]:249

Jesus also did not mention other sexual sins also listed in the Holiness Code (e.g., incest, bestiality). We would not, however, conclude from that that he thought such behavior was acceptable.

The portrayal of a Jesus as a first-century Palestinian Jew who was open to homosexual practice is simply ahistorical. All the evidence leads in the opposite direction. Why, then, did Jesus not make an explicit statement against homosexual conduct? The obvious answer is that Jesus did not encounter any openly homosexual people in his ministry and therefore had no need to call anyone to repentance for homosexual conduct. He also did not address other sexual issues such as incest and bestiality, but that hardly indicates a neutral or positive stance on such matters. What is clear from the evidence that the texts do offer is that the historical Jesus is no defender of homosexual behavior. To the contrary, Jesus, both in what he says and what he fails to say, remains squarely on the side of those who reject homosexual practice.[36]:286


Scripture and homosexual behavior: New Testament

The early Church and the apostles

The law of Moses was fulfilled, but Christianity still required converts abstain from porneia

Christ fulfilled the law of Moses, but the early Christians were not sure what this meant. At the beginning, the Christians continued to follow the law of Moses, including prohibitions against same-sex relationships. Then Peter had a vision where he saw a sheet containing four-footed beasts, which were ritually unclean under the law of Moses. He was commanded to eat, but he resisted, because of the ritual laws. The Lord responded:

What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. (Acts 10꞉15)

Later Peter was invited to eat with a Gentile names Cornelious, which was also against the law of Moses. Peter understood the revelation meant that it was no longer necessary to follow the law of Moses in such matters. (See Acts 0 for the whole story) However, the question remained—what parts of the law were rescinded, and which needed to be followed by Gentiles who converted to Christianity?

The Jerusalem council

Of particular concern was whether circumcision was necessary—this is partly because of the physical pain which adult males might fear, but also because Gentile culture tended to regard circumcision as a barbarous practice. The apostles met in conference at Jerusalem, and concluded:

For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you [Gentile Christian converts] no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. (Acts 15꞉28-29)

The word translated "fornication" is porneia—it had a broader sense even than "fornication". (The word "porno-graphy" comes from porenia.) Jesus had taught against porneia, and the apostles repeated it:

In Mark 7꞉21-23, Jesus interprets his saying about what defiles a person as follows: "for it is from . . . the human heart that evil intentions come: sexual immoralities (porneiai) . . . adulteries . . . licentiousness . . . . All these evil things come from within and defile a person." No first- century Jew could have spoken of porneiai (plural) without having in mind the list of forbidden sexual offenses in Leviticus 8 and 20 (incest, adultery, same-sex intercourse, bestiality). The statement underscores that sexual behavior does matter. If Jesus made this remark, he undoubtedly would have understood homosexual behavior to be included among the list of offenses.[36]:251-252

Incest condemnation

There can be little doubt that the early Christians would have understood this—for example, Paul cited Christ's teachings on fornication to condemn and excommunicate a man who had sex with his father's wife (1 Corinthians 5꞉1-5). This was a form of incest condemned by the Holiness Code in Leviticus just as homosexual acts were.

Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs

This is further illustrated by the first to second century A.D. text Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. A historian of the radical differences between Jewish/Christian sexual ethics and the pagan ethics of the Romans wrote:

[In] the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs ... porneia has become the "mother of all evils." The Testament is invaluable because its unusual detail confirms that porneia could be used to describe a whole array of improper sexual configurations: incest, prostitution, exogamy, homosexuality, and unchastity.

The apostles therefore made it clear that most of the Mosaic laws were no longer operative—but the sexual restrictions of the Holiness Code remained a key part of Christian life.


Scripture and homosexual behavior: New Testament

Paul

The New Testament's most detailed condemnation of same-sex acts comes from Paul, however, in Romans 1. This too is a good example of how Jesus and other devout Jews would have understood matters.

Paul uses the example of same-sex behavior in an interesting way. He is attempting to demonstrate that pagans are sinners and require atonement to reconcile them to God. This is something that no first century Jew would have doubted.

But, we might ask, why would pagans/gentiles be condemned for not living the law of Moses, which they had not received? Paul agreed. He therefore chose two areas which knew he and his audience would agree that all people on earth were bound by.[36]:198n185

The first command—no idolatry

Paul starts with the first such command—the command not to worship idols. Paul argues that even Gentiles have had this revealed to them:

[18] The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, [19] since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. [20] For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

[21] For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles (Romans 1꞉18-23, NIV).

The second command—no homosexual sin

As a second bit of evidence of the gentiles' need to repent, Paul offers—homosexual acts. "Therefore," he writes, [because they became fools and made idols], "God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. ... Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts" (Romans 1꞉24,26, NIV):

[26] Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. [27] In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error (Romans 1꞉26-27, NIV, (italics added).

Paul also argues that even a pagan should be able to tell that this is a sinful act, since it requires using the body in an "unnatural" way—in a way that God did not intend. That does not mean (and it would not have meant to Paul) that some people do not naturally have such desires.

Instead, Paul is appealing to something that "even a gentile" can see. They might not have Torah, they might not have the Law of Moses, they might not be Christians—but even they should be able to see that male and female organs are intended to go together, to "fit." In the same way, Paul was arguing that it was obvious that males and males were not "designed" for sexual relations.

And, Paul uses this as both evidence for the gentiles' wilfull blindness, and as the punishment for their wilfull blindness about the nature of God as greater than their idols:

The power of Paul's argument lies precisely in its simplicity: if one disregards the book of Leviticus and asks oneself what clues existing in nature might aid in discerning the Creator's will for sexual expression, then human anatomy and procreative function comprise the most unambiguous indications of divine intent. One can debate the "naturalness" of homosexual urges. Many human emotions (for example, lust, anger, jealousy, covetousness) obviously run counter to God's intended design for nature and cannot be pronounced good simply because they are felt. Paul attributes such sinful impulses to the fall of Adam (Rom 5꞉12-21). However, anatomy is not quite as skillful a deceiver and for that reason is a more effective mediator of the truth. All of this explains why Paul selects female and male homosexual conduct as "exhibit A" of culpable gentile depravity. First and foremost, along with idolatry, same-sex intercourse represents one of the clearest instances of conscious suppression of revelation in nature by gentiles, inasmuch as it involves denying clear anatomical gender differences and functions (leaving them "without excuse").§ Second, it stakes out the common ground between Paul and his imaginary Jewish [audience] since for Jews in antiquity homosexual conduct was a particularly repulsive example of gentile depravity.[36]:339

These represent all gentile sins

Paul thus chooses homosexual acts as a stand-in for all of the evils for which gentiles are known. It functions as something of a symbol, and he expands its application in the next verses:

[29] They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, [30] slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; [31] they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. [32] Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1꞉29-32).

Springing the trap on his Jewish listeners

Up to this point, Paul's Jewish audience would be nodding along. These examples are intended to be "no brainers," sins so dramatic and obvious that no one doubts them—of course the gentiles sin in these ways. We see it all around us!

But Paul's intent is not to simply "pile onto" idolaters or homosexuals. Instead, he starts from a place that he knows that his entire audience will agree. He then extends his condemnation out further, to all gentile sins. Even to here, a Jewish audience would be in agreement. But then, Paul springs his trap:

[1] You [Jewish listener], therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. [2] Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. [3] So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? [4] Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

[5] But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. [6] God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” [7] To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. [8] But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. [9] There will be trouble and distress for every human being [Jews and Gentiles!] who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; [10] but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. [11] For God does not show favoritism.

[12] All who sin apart from the law [Gentiles] will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law [Jews] will be judged by the law (Romans 2꞉1-12, NIV).

Paul's trap is clever but clear—just as all Gentiles are under condemnation, so are all Jews! Everyone is a sinner, everyone needs repentance, and all need Christ.

These verses, then, are not intended—and we should not use them—as a reason to harshly condemn or ridicule or shun those who commit homosexual sin. After all, Paul points out, we are all in the same boat.

But if we are trying to decide if Jesus and the early Christians and the scriptures were opposed to all same-sex sexual acts, then we must acknowledge that Paul used such acts as an example and metaphor for all sin because he was so certain that his audience would understand how serious they are.

Porneia again

Paul's condemnation applies to us all—but his symbolism shows how seriously homosexual sin was regarded. Like all porneia he saw it as a particularly serious problem:

"Flee porneia! Every (other) sin, whatever a man does, is outside of the body; but the one who commits porneia (ho porneudn) sins into/against (eigfi) his own body" (1 Cor 6꞉18).[36]:369

And, of anyone, Paul was the apostle most concerned about not imposing the Mosaic Law's ritual requirements on Christians—he even fought with Peter about it! [citation needed] If Paul is concerned about porenia, then we cannot decide that it simply a ritual matter. Instead, it is a vital part of the Christian life and sexual ethic.

Did Paul have any examples of "healthy" gay relationships?

Some have claimed that since the Roman empire's homosexual acts were largely pederasty (i.e., older men having sex with young boys) or rape (masters against slaves) that this condemnation does not apply today.

As we have seen, the Holiness Code and Jesus' doctrine make that reading extraordinarily unlikely. But the claim that Paul and the early Christians had no "positive" models to draw on is simply false:

Even on the surface of it, the notion that mutually caring same-sex relationships first originated in modern times sounds absurd. Are we to believe that nobody with homosexual or lesbian urges in all of antiquity was able to provide a healthy example of same-sex love? In fact, moving statements [472] about the compassionate and beautiful character of same-sex love can be found in Greco-Roman literature. Among the examples are the speeches in Plato's Symposium. ...

Indeed, one might expect to see in the homosexual community a negative reaction against stereotyping all expressions of homoerotic behavior in antiquity as sordid, since such a stereotype would deprive the homosexual community of ancient precedents for healthy homoerotic relationships. ... [480]

There were certainly instances of exploitative homosexual relationships in antiquity and pederasty was the most common form of homoerotic expression. Yet that is a far cry from making the case that homosexuality in Greco-Roman society was inherently exploitative or that it was so prone to exploitation that Jews and Christians could not make the distinction between exploitative and non-exploitative forms. Victimization simply did not factor significantly in the arguments that Jews and Christians made in the ancient world. All forms of homosexual and lesbian conduct were wrong simply because of what it was not: natural sexual intercourse with the opposite sex.[36]:471


Scripture and homosexual behavior—New Testament—The early Christians

The early Christian church was a beleaguered minority. It was unpopular and persecuted. Their opposition to same-sex acts were not, then, an accidental or small thing. They were not simply "following their culture"—in fact, they were swimming and struggling against it.

The Roman emperor Hadrian (ruled AD 117–138) had a male lover who was mourned over the entire empire and granted divine status upon his death. As Kyle Harper, a student of the change in sexual ideals from Rome to Christianity wrote:

Nothing belies the claim that pederastic discourse lost its vitality like the relationship between Hadrian and his Bithynian favorite, Antinous. Possibly a slave, Hadrian’s beloved died on the Nile under clouded circumstances. Hadrian’s sorrow was demonstrative, but what still defies easy comprehension is the paroxysm of empire-wide mourning that ensued. A city was founded at the site of his death; Hadrian believed reports that a new star had appeared in the sky, and Antinous was worshipped as a god or hero; statues of Antinous proliferated until his face was a universal image, known "across the inhabited world." Indeed, the haunting image of Antinous ranks behind only Augustus and Hadrian in the number of sculptures extant today. Dozens of cities issued coinage in his honor; games were being founded in his memory decades after Hadrian was in the grave. Provincial sycophancy and credulous paganism do not suffice to explain such an uncontrolled efflux of grief. The image and story of Antinous resonated in powerful and unexpected ways.[38]:551

So once again, the Christians did not lack examples of loving or devoted homosexual couples. Despite this, they remained true to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles about porneia, including same-sex acts.

Harper continues:

Regardless, in no sense should early Christian sexual morality be construed as an offshoot of Roman conservatism. The ideas about sex emanating from the new religion marked a discrete and categorical rupture. For the community of the faithful, the pleasures of the flesh became caught in a cosmic battle between good and evil. New rules, more interesting and less predictable than sometimes argued, formed. Porneia, fornication, went from being a cipher for sexual sin in general to a sign for all sex beyond the marriage bed, and it came to mark the great divide between Christians and the world. Same-sex love, regardless of age, status, or role, was forbidden without qualification and without remorse. Unexpectedly, sexual behavior came to occupy the foreground in the landscape of human morality, in a way that it simply never had in classical culture. "Above all else take thought for chastity; for fornication has been marked out as an exceedingly terrible thing in God’s eyes."[38]:1673

Conclusion—Jesus, New Testament, and early Christians

In sum:

the odds of any major positive figure connected with earliest Christianity having either no opinion or a positive opinion about homosexual conduct in any form is extremely remote. To assert otherwise is to lose all touch with the historical personalities behind [554] the texts and to foster an arbitrary, gnostic exegesis. The burden of proof is decidedly on anyone who would want to argue that Jesus or any New Testament writer would have been open to same- sex intercourse. Textual silence cannot be equated with neutrality or openness, let alone support, without grossly distorting history. ...

In short, the universal silence in the Bible regarding an acceptable same-sex union, when combined with the explicit prohibitions, speaks volumes for a consensus disapproval of homosexual conduct. To say that there are only a few texts in the Bible that do not condone homosexual conduct is a monumental understatement of the facts. The reverse is a more accurate statement: there is not a single shred of evidence anywhere in the Bible that would even remotely suggest that same-sex unions are any more acceptable than extramarital or premarital intercourse, incest, or bestiality. [36]:553-556

That Paul or others did not mention these sins frequently is no surprise, and does not tell us that they were taken lightly. Their sinfulness was known by all. There is only a single reference to the sinfulness of incest in the entire New Testament in 1 Corinthians—and it is only there because Paul was condemning a member guilty of this sin. But we do not conclude thereby that incest does not matter, even if it is a loving relationship between equals.


Latter-day Scripture

God and Christ repeated the definition of marriage between a man and a woman in this dispensation in Doctrine and Covenants 49꞉15-17

Doctrine and Covenants 49꞉15-17 announces:

And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation; And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.

This revelation was given in answer to the Shakers who rejected marriage and believed in being totally celibate for their lives. Therefore what we have here is not simply a temporary definition of marriage, but a full restatement of what marriage is and why. Look at why marriage is ordained of God in these verses: it is because marriage fulfills the end of our creation. What creation? The creation announced in Genesis 1, Moses 3꞉24, and Abraham 5꞉18—the creation that made man and woman the ideal partner for each other.

Doctrine and Covenants 131꞉1 states:

In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. (emphasis added)


Early Latter-day Saint history

Were Joseph Smith and other nineteenth century Latter-day Saints not strenuously opposed to same-sex acts or intimacy?

The evidence does not indicate that nineteenth-century Church members regarded homosexual acts with anything but abhorrence

It is claimed that Joseph Smith and other nineteenth century Latter-day Saints were not strenuously opposed to same-sex acts or intimacy, and that the modern Church's opposition to homosexual conduct is a later aberration. [39]

The evidence does not suggest that nineteenth-century Mormons regarded homosexual acts with anything but abhorrence. Attempts to prove otherwise seem largely founded on agenda-driven writing and a distortion of the historical evidence.

D. Michael Quinn's book, Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example is responsible for this claim, though some later, agenda-driven works cite him as evidence without addressing the numerous problems with his work. Quinn's methodology and conclusions are shoddy, he distorts and ignores evidence, and has been severely criticized by LDS and non-LDS historians.

The FAIR Wiki contains an analysis of this book's claims, with links to further reviews and resources: here.


Challenges

What are some of the unique challenges or difficulties faced by Latter-day Saints with same-sex attraction?

A theology that, without question, favors heterosexual relationships over homosexual relationships

Latter-day Saints have always believed that men and women were designed to be together in marriage. The Lord told Joseph Smith in 1831 (D&C 49꞉15-17) that

And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation; And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.

Thus, for Latter-day Saints, men and women are a sexual binary, and were intended to be together sexually and maritally. This design and plan began before earth life, and will continue after it.

Church leaders have encouraged members to be particularly kind and compassionate to those struggling with homosexual feelings or inclinations

Elder Bruce C. Hafen in 2009:

During a recent stake conference in Europe, I asked the stake president if Sister Hafen and I might visit one or two of his stake members who could use a little encouragement. As we visited one young man, a single returned missionary, we found that he cared deeply about the Church but was also very troubled. When we asked how he was doing, he began to cry and, with a look of real anguish he said, "I suffer from same-gender attraction." My heart went out to him. The longer we talked, the more compassion I felt, as I learned that the operative word for him really was "suffer."[40]

Are Latter-day Saints with same-sex attraction encouraged to be closeted or lie about their attractions?

Honesty, inclusion, and fellowship are core values to the Church

It is claimed that:

  • Members are encouraged to lie about their sexual orientation
  • This encourages dishonesty
  • This isolates them from other members

There is no counsel or necessity to hide, lie, or isolate oneself from others. At the same time, members do not have to make their sexual feelings the subject of unnecessary attention in order to be honest with themselves and with others. As discussed above, members are discouraged from allowing any identity or group to which they belong supercede or interfere with their role as children of God, disciples of Christ, and covenant-keeping members of the Church.

Scripture repeatedly commands that we are to be one. D&C 38꞉27 reads:

I say unto you, be one; and if you are not one ye are not mine.

Isolating yourself interfers with the process of being one.

President Monson taught:

It is important that we eliminate the weakness of one standing alone and substitute for it the strength of people working together. [41]

Elder Robert D. Hales taught:

Why is it that some of us fail to learn the very critical point that we did not come to this life to live it alone? You can’t hide your actions from self and others. Polonius’ advice to his son, Laertes:

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Hamlet, I, iii, 78-80

is valid, but must be qualified and expanded to include the concern for how to be true to yourself and your fellowman. The "isolated self" shut off from the Light of Christ makes us become fallible—open to delusion. The balance and perspective which come from caring about others and allowing others to care for us form the essence of life itself. [42]

Not only are members counseled to care for others, but to allow others to care for them. Part of being one is mourning with those that mourn, and comforting those that stand in need of comfort.(Mosiah 18꞉8) This applies equally to those who have struggled with their sexual desires that cannot now be satisfied, regardless of the orientation. Elder Oaks teaches:

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 burdens"[43]

Isolating yourself from others and carrying your burdens by yourself intefers with these other commandments. Not only are members allowed to disclose their sexual feelings to others, they are encouraged to share their feelings with their bishop if needed.

Are members encouraged to lie about their sexual feelings?

The counsel not to give sexual feelings undue attention is very different than lying about them or completely ignoring them. There is a difference between being prudent in disclosing sensitive topics and being dishonest. It would also be inappropriate to divert attention from the worship of the Savior (such as in a sacrament meeting) with talk of sexual struggles or desires. This is true whatever one's orientation. Not every subject is appropriate at every time—but that is not an encouragement to lie.

Honesty with others and with oneself has always been taught and encouraged in the church. In D&C 97꞉8, the Lord says the only ones that are acceptable before Him are those who are honest in heart. The 13th Article of Faith teaches that we believe in being honest and true. President Monson taught:

The oft-repeated adage is ever true: "Honesty [is] the best policy." A Latter-day Saint young man lives as he teaches and as he believes. He is honest with others. He is honest with himself. He is honest with God. He is honest by habit and as a matter of course. [44]

In the same way, the Church teaches against the consumption of alcohol. Alcoholics or those tempted by alcohol are not forbidden from disclosing that they struggle with alcohol. But, they should not define themselves solely by their addiction. Nor should they talk of nothing but their addiction, or distract meetings focused on other purposes by instigating a discussion about their addiction.

Do Church leaders teach that people with same-sex attraction should not associate with each other?

No. As with any temptation, it may be wise not to associate too closely with those who have tempted us in the past, or with whom we have made serious mistakes.

With any behavioral change, sometimes people need to give themselves distance from old associates and friends, and find a new social circle that will support, rather than hinder, their ability to keep the commandments.

In the same way, the Church teaches against the consumption of alcohol. Alcoholics or those tempted by alcohol are not forbidden from associating with other alcoholics—but if they find that such associations lead to a preoccupation with alcohol that increases the temptation they experience, it may be wise to withdraw somewhat. An alcoholic seeking to remain sober might well go to Alcoholics Anonymous—he would be unwise, however, to go to a bar.

Many members with same-sex attraction associate with each other through Evergreen

Many members with same-sex attraction associate with each other through Evergreen. While the Church is not officially affiliated with Evergreen, it sends a general authority to its annual conference, and many bishops refer their members to Evergreen and attend themselves.

The Church's pamphlet God Loveth His Children counsels:

In addition to filling your garden with positive influences, you must also avoid any influence that can harm your spirituality. One of these adverse influences is obsession with or concentration on same-gender thoughts and feelings. It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion. It is better to choose as friends those who do not publicly display their homosexual feelings. The careful selection of friends and mentors who lead constructive, righteous lives is one of the most important steps to being productive and virtuous. Association with those of the same gender is natural and desirable, so long as you set wise boundaries to avoid improper and unhealthy emotional dependency, which may eventually result in physical and sexual intimacy. There is moral risk in having so close a relationship with one friend of the same gender that it may lead to vices the Lord has condemned. Our most important relationships are with our own families because our ties to them can be eternal.

There are many with same-sex attraction who lead constructive, righteous lives and are not inappropriate in their display of sexual feelings. (In like way, there are many heterosexually attracted people who likewise moderate their sexual desires and keep discussion and display of them within appropriate bounds.)

This is not advice to refuse association with anyone who has same-sex attraction. In a similar fashion, it would not be wise to spend time with someone who is obsessed with or flaunts their tendency towards pornography or heterosexual promiscuity, especially if you are struggling with those tendencies yourself. There is a difference between associating with people who have a common tendency and who are working on overcoming that tendency, and associating with people who indulge in that tendency.

Just because it is better to have close friends with similar standards does not mean that we cannot ever associate with people who have different standards than we do. We are commanded to be "in the world, but not of the world" ([citation needed]). Even if we have a family member, friend, or coworker who is inappropriate in their sexual display, that does not mean that we cannot ever associate with that person. There is a way to maintain our own integrity while interacting with people who have different standards. We simply need judgment and self-awareness to know which influences will be unhelpful for us at certain times of our lives.


Causes of homosexuality

What have past and present Church leaders taught about why some people are attracted to the same sex?

The Church does not have an official position on the causes for same-sex attraction

Many Church leaders have indicated that we do not know the cause(s), and that this is a question for science. This is not to be confused with teachings on the practice of homosexuality, which is a behavior.

Many leaders have also indicated that discerning a cause for this (or any other) temptation is, in a sense, immaterial—given that one has such a temptation, what ought one to do about it? Below are collected a variety of quotes; most deal with same-sex attraction specifically, while a few speak in more general terms about weakness, frailties, or other mortal afflictions. All of these principles apply to a wide variety of sins, weaknesses, and temptations.

1980

President Spencer W. Kimball

The unholy transgression of homosexuality is either rapidly growing or tolerance is giving it wider publicity. If one has such desires and tendencies, he overcomes them the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery. The Lord condemns and forbids this practice with a vigor equal to his condemnation of adultery and other such sex acts. And the Church will excommunicate as readily any unrepentant addict....

Temptations come to all people. The difference between the reprobate and the worthy person is generally that one yielded and the other resisted. It is true that one’s background may make the decision and accomplishment easier or more difficult, but if one is mentally alert, he can still control his future. That is the gospel message—personal responsibility. [45]

1987

Boyd K. Packer

Obedience is powerful spiritual medicine. It comes close to being a cure-all. ... Some frustrations we must endure without really solving the problem. Some things that ought to be put in order are not put in order because we cannot control them. Things we cannot solve, we must survive. [46]

1988

Dallin H. Oaks

Most of us are born with [or develop] thorns in the flesh, some more visible, some more serious than others. We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so our thoughts and actions must be controllable by our agency. Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim ‘I was born that way’ does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal.

God has promised that he will consecrate our afflictions for our gain (see 2 Nephi 2꞉2). The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited [or developed] weakness build a spiritual strength that will serve us throughout eternity. Thus, when Paul prayed thrice that his ‘thorn in the flesh’ would depart from him, the Lord replied, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Obedient, Paul concluded:

‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

‘Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong’ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Whatever our susceptibilities or tendencies [feelings], they cannot subject us to eternal consequences unless we exercise our free agency to do or think the things forbidden by the commandments of God. For example, a susceptibility to alcoholism impairs its victim’s freedom to partake without addiction, but his free agency allows him to abstain and thus escape the physical debilitation of alcohol and the spiritual deterioration of addiction. ...

Beware the argument that because a person has strong drives toward a particular act, he has no power of choice and therefore no responsibility for his actions. This contention runs counter to the most fundamental premises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Satan would like us to believe that we are not responsible in this life. That is the result he tried to achieve by his contest in the pre-existence. A person who insists that he is not responsible for the exercise of his free agency because he was ‘born that way’ is trying to ignore the outcome of the War in Heaven. We are responsible, and if we argue otherwise, our efforts become part of the propaganda effort of the Adversary.

Individual responsibility is a law of life. It applies in the law of man and the law of God. Society holds people responsible to control their impulses so we can live in a civilized society. God holds his children responsible to control their impulses in order that they can keep his commandments and realize their eternal destiny. The law does not excuse the short-tempered man who surrenders to his impulse to pull a trigger on his tormentor, or the greedy man who surrenders to his impulse to steal, or the pedophile who surrenders to his impulse to satisfy his sexual urges with children. …

There is much we do not know about the extent of freedom we have in view of the various thorns in the flesh that afflict us in mortality. But this much we do know; we all have our free agency and God holds us accountable for the way we use it in thought and deed. That is fundamental. [47]

1990

Boyd K. Packer

All of us are subject to feelings and impulses. Some are worthy and some of them are not; some of them are natural and some of them are not. We are to control them, meaning we are to direct them according to the moral law. ...

We receive letters pleading for help, asking why should some be tormented by desires which lead toward addiction or perversion. They seek desperately for some logical explanation as to why they should have a compelling attraction, even a predisposition, toward things that are destructive and forbidden.

Why, they ask, does this happen to me? It is not fair! They suppose that it is not fair that others are not afflicted with the same temptations. They write that their bishop could not answer the "why," nor could he nullify their addiction or erase the tendency.

We are sometimes told that leaders in the Church do not really understand these problems. Perhaps we don’t. There are many "whys" for which we just do not have simple answers. But we do understand temptation, each of us, from personal experience. Nobody is free from temptations of one kind or another. That is the test of life. That is part of our mortal probation. Temptation of some kind goes with the territory. ...

It is not likely that a bishop can tell you what causes these conditions or why you are afflicted, nor can he erase the temptation. But he can tell you what is right and what is wrong. If you know right from wrong, you have a place to begin. That is the point at which individual choice becomes operative. That is the point at which repentance and forgiveness can exert great spiritual power…. [48]

1993

Boyd K. Packer

Doctrines teach us how to respond to the compelling natural impulses which too often dominate how we behave…. After the Fall, natural law had far-reaching sovereignty over mortal birth. There are what President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., called "pranks" of nature, which cause a variety of abnormalities, deficiencies, and deformities. However unfair they seem to man’s way of reasoning, they somehow suit the purposes of the Lord in the proving of mankind. [49]

1994

Richard G. Scott

It is important to understand that His healing can mean being cured, or having your burdens eased, or even coming to realize that it is worth it to endure to the end patiently, for God needs brave sons and daughters who are willing to be polished when in His wisdom that is His will.

Recognize that some challenges in life will not be resolved here on earth. Paul pled thrice that "a thorn in the flesh" be removed. The Lord simply answered, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." He gave Paul strength to compensate so he could live a most meaningful life. He wants you to learn how to be cured when that is His will and how to obtain strength to live with your challenge when He intends it to be an instrument for growth. In either case the Redeemer will support you.

That is why He said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Don’t say, "No one understands me; I can’t sort it out, or get the help I need." Those comments are self-defeating. No one can help you without faith and effort on your part. Your personal growth requires that. Don’t look for a life virtually free from discomfort, pain, pressure, challenge, or grief, for those are the tools a loving Father uses to stimulate our personal growth and understanding. As the scriptures repeatedly affirm, you will be helped as you exercise faith in Jesus Christ. That faith is demonstrated by a willingness to trust His promises given through His prophets11 and in His scriptures, which contain His own words. [50]

1995

Dallin H. Oaks

Feelings are another matter. Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of "nature and nurture." All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior.

Different persons have different physical characteristics and different susceptibilities to the various physical and emotional pressures we may encounter in our childhood and adult environments. We did not choose these personal susceptibilities either, but we do choose and will be accountable for the attitudes, priorities, behavior, and "lifestyle" we engraft upon them.

Essential to our doctrinal position on these matters is the difference between our freedom and our agency. Our freedom can be limited by various conditions of mortality, but God’s gift of agency cannot be limited by outside forces, because it is the basis for our accountability to him. The contrast between freedom and agency can be illustrated in the context of a hypothetical progression from feelings to thoughts to behavior to addiction. This progression can be seen on a variety of matters, such as gambling and the use of tobacco and alcohol.

Just as some people have different feelings than others, some people seem to be unusually susceptible to particular actions, reactions, or addictions. Perhaps such susceptibilities are inborn or acquired without personal choice or fault, like the unnamed ailment the Apostle Paul called "a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (2 Corinthians 12:7). One person may have feelings that draw him toward gambling, but unlike those who only dabble, he becomes a compulsive gambler. Another person may have a taste for tobacco and a susceptibility to its addiction. Still another may have an unusual attraction to alcohol and the vulnerability to be readily propelled into alcoholism. Other examples may include a hot temper, a contentious manner, a covetous attitude, and so on.

In each case (and in other examples that could be given) the feelings or other characteristics that increase susceptibility to certain behavior may have some relationship to inheritance. But the relationship is probably very complex. The inherited element may be nothing more than an increased likelihood that an individual will acquire certain feelings if he or she encounters particular influences during the developmental years. But regardless of our different susceptibilities or vulnerabilities, which represent only variations on our mortal freedom (in mortality we are only "free according to the flesh" [2 Nephi 2꞉27]), we remain responsible for the exercise of our agency in the thoughts we entertain and the behavior we choose. [51]

Richard G. Scott

It is so hard when sincere prayer about something we desire very much is not answered the way we want. It is especially difficult when the Lord answers no to that which is worthy and would give us great joy and happiness. Whether it be overcoming illness or loneliness, recovery of a wayward child, coping with a handicap, or seeking continuing life for a dear one who is slipping away, it seems so reasonable and so consistent with our happiness to have a favorable answer. It is hard to understand why our exercise of deep and sincere faith from an obedient life does not bring the desired result. ...

When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, "Please let me know Thy will" and "May Thy will be done," you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father.

This life is an experience in profound trust—trust in Jesus Christ, trust in His teachings, trust in our capacity as led by the Holy Spirit to obey those teachings for happiness now and for a purposeful, supremely happy eternal existence. To trust means to obey willingly without knowing the end from the beginning (see Proverbs 3:5-7). To produce fruit, your trust in the Lord must be more powerful and enduring than your confidence in your own personal feelings and experience. ...

How grateful I am personally that our Savior taught we should conclude our most urgent, deeply felt prayers, when we ask for that which is of utmost importance to us, with "Thy will be done" (Matthew 26:42). Your willingness to accept the will of the Father will not change what in His wisdom He has chosen to do. However, it will certainly change the effect of those decisions on you personally. That evidence of the proper exercise of agency allows His decisions to produce far greater blessings in your life. I have found that because of our Father’s desire for us to grow, He may give us gentle, almost imperceptible promptings that, if we are willing to accept without complaint, He will enlarge to become a very clear indication of His will. This enlightenment comes because of our faith and our willingness to do what He asks even though we would desire something else….

Please learn that as you wrestle with a challenge and feel sadness because of it, you can simultaneously have peace and rejoicing. Yes, pain, disappointment, frustration, and anguish can be temporary scenes played out on the stage of life. Behind them there can be a background of peace and the positive assurance that a loving Father will keep His promises. You can qualify for those promises by a determination to accept His will, by understanding the plan of happiness, by receiving all of the ordinances, and by keeping the covenants made to assure their fulfillment. [52]

1996

Richard G. Scott

You are here on earth for a divine purpose. It is not to be endlessly entertained or to be constantly in full pursuit of pleasure. You are here to be tried, to prove yourself so that you can receive the additional blessings God has for you. The tempering effect of patience is required. Some blessings will be delivered here in this life; others will come beyond the veil. The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. That progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether initially it be to your individual liking or not. When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience. If you question everything you are asked to do, or dig in your heels at every unpleasant challenge, you make it harder for the Lord to bless you….

Find the compensatory blessings in your life when, in the wisdom of the Lord, He deprives you of something you very much want. To the sightless or hearing impaired, He sharpens the other senses. To the ill, He gives patience, understanding, and increased appreciation for others’ kindness. With the loss of a dear one, He deepens the bonds of love, enriches memories, and kindles hope in a future reunion. You will discover compensatory blessings when you willingly accept the will of the Lord and exercise faith in Him. [53]

Neal A. Maxwell

Of course our genes, circumstances, and environments matter very much, and they shape us significantly. Yet there remains an inner zone in which we are sovereign, unless we abdicate. In this zone lies the essence of our individuality and our personal accountability. ...

[W]e become the victims of our own wrong desires. Moreover, we live in an age when many simply refuse to feel responsible for themselves. Thus, a crystal-clear understanding of the doctrines pertaining to desire is so vital because of the spreading effluent oozing out of so many unjustified excuses by so many. ...

Some seek to brush aside conscience, refusing to hear its voice. But that deflection is, in itself, an act of choice, because we so desired. Even when the light of Christ flickers only faintly in the darkness, it flickers nevertheless. If one averts his gaze therefrom, it is because he so desires. ...

What we are speaking about is so much more than merely deflecting temptations for which we somehow do not feel responsible. Remember, brothers and sisters, it is our own desires which determine the sizing and the attractiveness of various temptations. We set our thermostats as to temptations. [54]

1999

Henry B. Eyring

A second truth about our accountability is to know that we are not the helpless victims of our circumstances. The world tries to tell us that the opposite is true: imperfections in our parents or our faulty genetic inheritance are presented to us as absolving us of personal responsibility. But difficult as circumstances may be, they do not relieve us of accountability for our actions or our inactions. Nephi was right. God gives no commandments to the children of men save He prepares a way for them to obey. However difficult our circumstances, we can repent.

Similarly, the world might be willing to excuse our bad behavior because those around us behave badly. It is not true that the behavior of others removes our responsibility for our own. God’s standards for our behavior are unchanged whether or not others choose to rise to them…. [55]

2000

Neal A. Maxwell

Yet there are other fixed limitations in life. For instance, some have allotments including physical, mental, or geographic constraints. There are those who are unmarried, through no fault of their own, or yearning but childless couples. Still others face persistent and unreconciled relationships within their circles of loved ones, including offspring who have "[become] for themselves," resistant to parental counsel (3 Nephi 1꞉29). In such and similar situations, there are so many prickly and daily reminders.

Being content means acceptance without self-pity. Meekly borne, however, deprivations such as these can end up being like excavations that make room for greatly enlarged souls.

Some undergo searing developments that cut suddenly into mortality’s status quo. Some have trials to pass through, while still others have allotments they are to live with. Paul lived with his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Suffice it to say, such mortal allotments will be changed in the world to come. The exception is unrepented sin that shapes our status in the next world. [56]

2006

Dallin H. Oaks

A man wrote a General Authority about how the power of the Atonement helped him with his problem of same-gender attraction. He had been excommunicated for serious transgressions that violated his temple covenants and his responsibilities to his children. He had to choose whether to attempt to live the gospel or whether to continue a course contrary to its teachings.

"I knew it would be difficult," he wrote, "but I didn’t realize what I would have to go through." His letter describes the emptiness and loneliness and the incredible pain he experienced from deep within his soul as he sought to return. He prayed mightily for forgiveness, sometimes for hours at a time. He was sustained by reading the scriptures, by the companionship of a loving bishop, and by priesthood blessings. But what finally made the difference was the help of the Savior. He explained:

"It [was] only through Him and His Atonement. … I now feel an overwhelming gratitude. My pains have been almost more than I could bear at times, and yet they were so small compared to what He suffered. Where there once was darkness in my life, there is now love and gratitude."

He continues: "Some profess that change is possible and therapy is the only answer. They are very learned on the subject and have so much to offer those who struggle … , but I worry that they forget to involve Heavenly Father in the process. If change is to happen, it will happen according to the will of God. I also worry that many people focus on the causes of [same-gender attraction]. … There is no need to determine why I have [this challenge]. I don’t know if I was born with it, or if environmental factors contributed to it. The fact of the matter is that I have this struggle in my life and what I do with it from this point forward is what matters" (letter dated Mar. 25, 2006). [57]

Discussion with Church Public Affairs by Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: You’re saying the Church doesn’t necessarily have a position on ‘nurture or nature’

ELDER OAKS: That’s where our doctrine comes into play. The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn’t have a position on.

ELDER WICKMAN: Whether it is nature or nurture really begs the important question, and a preoccupation with nature or nurture can, it seems to me, lead someone astray from the principles that Elder Oaks has been describing here. Why somebody has a same-gender attraction… who can say? But what matters is the fact that we know we can control how we behave, and it is behavior which is important. [58]

2007

Church booklet produced in 2007 notes

Despair is another adverse influence. It often results from a lack of understanding and trust in God’s continuing love as made available through the power of the Atonement. You can find hope in the fact that every blessing contemplated by Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness remains available for each of His children. Despair and doubt may lead to withdrawal, fault-finding, and impatience that all answers and resolutions for life’s problems are not immediately forthcoming. The Spirit of God brings good cheer and happiness. Trust the Lord. Do not blame anyone—not yourself, not your parents, not God—for problems not fully understood in this life. [59]

Jeffrey R. Holland

If you are a parent of one with same-gender attraction, don’t assume you are the reason for those feelings. No one, including the one struggling, should try to shoulder blame. Nor should anyone place blame on another-including God.

I too affirm that God loves all His children and acknowledge that many questions, including some related to same-gender attraction, must await a future answer, perhaps in the next life. Unfortunately, some people believe they have all the answers now and declare their opinions far and wide. Fortunately, such people do not speak for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [60]

Further research will hopefully shed more light on the subject, but whatever reason science gives for same-sex attraction, it does not affect Church doctrine.

What if same-sex attraction is genetic?

Let us suppose that it was shown that same-sex attraction is genetic. Would this be a doctrinal problem for the Law of Chastity? No—even if same-sex attraction were enitrely biological, the Church still teaches we should overcome the natural man. Anger or violence are likewise natural tendencies with deep biological roots. We are still required to control and master them, and we are also not to express them in unrighteous ways. For many, this is a great challenge, but the Lord does not excuse us from that challenge. He promises to help us and to change us so that we can, with his help, behave as he would.

Many people experience opposite-sex desires that seem natural, but remain sinful. The church does not lift restrictions on practicing these behaviors either. Elder Packer spoke of a husband who expressed his heterosexuality by viewing pornography. Elder Packer explains why this expression of heterosexuality can be overcome:

Pornography will always repel the Spirit of Christ and will interrupt the communications between our Heavenly Father and His children and disrupt the tender relationship between husband and wife.

The priesthood holds consummate power. It can protect you from the plague of pornography—and it is a plague—if you are succumbing to its influence. If one is obedient, the priesthood can show how to break a habit and even erase an addiction. Holders of the priesthood have that authority and should employ it to combat evil influences.

We raise an alarm and warn members of the Church to wake up and understand what is going on. Parents, be alert, ever watchful that this wickedness might threaten your family circle.

We teach a standard of moral conduct that will protect us from Satan’s many substitutes or counterfeits for marriage. We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. From the Book of Mormon we learn that "wickedness never was happiness."

Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.[61]

Just as improper expressions of heterosexuality can be overcome, the same is true for expressing homosexuality in improper ways.

Understanding explanations of homosexuality

In the past, when leaders have spoken about homosexuality or homosexual orientation, they may not have been referring to same-sex attraction. Elder Oaks has stated:

"The First Presidency's letters condemning homosexuality are, by their explicit terms, directed at the practices of homosexuality (italics added)."

When President Kimball spoke on homosexuality, he often clarified that he was talking about the "sexual act" and said that those attractions would often never go away, even in the repentant.

Does the Church deny the reality of a persistent orientation, which minimizes the effect the law of chastity has on people with a minority orientation?

The Church believes everyone has a the freedom to choose their actions. However, actions are very different from orientation. The Church teaches that same-sex attractions can run deep, and form a significant part of how a person experiences life. They are not, however, the only part.

Quotes from leaders

Speaking of same-sex attraction, Elder Packer said in 2000:

That may be a struggle from which you will not be free in this life.[6]

Elder Wickman was asked in an interview about how to respond to a son who said that he was gay. He responded:

We live in a society which is so saturated with sexuality that it perhaps is more troublesome now, because of that fact, for a person to look beyond their gender orientation to other aspects of who they are. I think I would say to your son or anyone that was so afflicted to strive to expand your horizons beyond simply gender orientation. Find fulfillment in the many other facets of your character and your personality and your nature that extend beyond that. There’s no denial that one’s gender orientation is certainly a core characteristic of any person, but it’s not the only one.[7]

Elder Holland expressed a similar feeling when he said:

Same-gender attractions run deep, and trying to force a heterosexual relationship is not likely to change them.[8]


Post-mortal states

Does the Church teach that same-sex attraction will persist in the next life?

Multiple LDS leaders have taught that same-sex attraction and homosexual desire will not persist beyond death

All Latter-day Saints anticipate being transformed and perfected in the resurrection. The weaknesses, failings, imperfections, and unholy desires that we all have will be removed. This includes any sexual desire or temptation not in accord with God's purposes for us.

Examples of such teachings include those listed below.

A 2007 official Church publication on same-sex attraction reassured readers that:

While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life. However, the perfect plan of our Father in Heaven makes provision for individuals who seek to keep His commandments but who, through no fault of their own, do not have an eternal marriage in mortal life. As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children.

Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. All of Heavenly Father’s children desire to love and be loved, including many adults who, for a variety of reasons, remain single. God assures His children, including those currently attracted to persons of the same gender, that their righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing. [62]

The Church's official website quoted Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman telling Church Public Affairs:

ELDER WICKMAN: One question that might be asked by somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is, "Is this something I’m stuck with forever? What bearing does this have on eternal life? If I can somehow make it through this life, when I appear on the other side, what will I be like?"

Gratefully, the answer is that same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.

The good news for somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is this: 1) It is that ‘I’m not stuck with it forever.’ It’s just now. Admittedly, for each one of us, it’s hard to look beyond the ‘now’ sometimes. But nonetheless, if you see mortality as now, it’s only during this season. 2) If I can keep myself worthy here, if I can be true to gospel commandments, if I can keep covenants that I have made, the blessings of exaltation and eternal life that Heavenly Father holds out to all of His children apply to me. Every blessing — including eternal marriage — is and will be mine in due course.

ELDER OAKS: Let me just add a thought to that. There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities. [63]

In a 2007 PBS special, Elder Holland said about same-sex attraction:

I do know that this will not be a post-mortal condition. It will not be a post-mortal difficulty. [64]

In 2009, the Church's official website published Elder Bruce C. Hafen's remarks. He taught:

If you are faithful, on resurrection morning—and maybe even before then—you will rise with normal attractions for the opposite sex. Some of you may wonder if that doctrine is too good to be true. But Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said it MUST be true, because "there is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband and wife, and posterity." And "men (and women) are that they might have joy." [65]


Legal protections

Since the Church teaches that homosexual conduct is sinful, does this mean it opposes efforts to protect those who engage in homosexual acts?

The Church has not opposed measures which grant all the civil or secular benefits of marriage to other domestic partnerships

The Church sees the institution of marriage in religious terms. Theologically, the Church cannot accede to a redefinition of marriage.[66] The Church has not, however, opposed measures which grant all the civil or secular benefits of marriage to other domestic partnerships (see California FAMILY.CODE SECTION 297-297.5). As the Church indicated during its opposition to the redefinition of marriage in California:

The focus of the Church’s involvement is specifically same-sex marriage and its consequences. The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.[67]

The Church sustains the principle that all citizens are equal before the law

The Church sustains the principle that all citizens are equal before the law. Members of the Church are particularly sensitized to this issue because of their long history of persecution at the hands of private citizens and government agents in the nineteenth century. Even though Church members may disagree with the choices made by those who engage in homosexual acts, the Church has endorsed various measures to ensure fair treatment for them and others with same-sex attractions.

For example, Michael Otterson (managing director of the Church Public Affairs department) addressed the Salt Lake City Council meeting on 10 November 2009 and said:

The nondiscrimination ordinances being reviewed by the city council concern important questions for the people of this community.

Like most of America, our community in Salt Lake City is comprised of citizens of different faiths and values, different races and cultures, different political views and divergent demographics. Across America and around the world, diverse communities such as ours are wrestling with complex social and moral questions. People often feel strongly about such issues. Sometimes they feel so strongly that the ways in which they relate to one another seem to strain the fabric of our society, especially where the interests of one group seem to collide with the interests of another.

The issues before you tonight are the right of people to have a roof over their heads and the right to work without being discriminated against. But, importantly, the ordinances also attempt to balance vital issues of religious freedom. In essence, the Church agrees with the approach which Mayor Becker is taking on this matter.

In drafting these ordinances, the city has granted common-sense rights that should be available to everyone, while safeguarding the crucial rights of religious organizations, for example, in their hiring of people whose lives are in harmony with their tenets, or when providing housing for their university students and others that preserve religious requirements.

The Church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage. They are also entirely consistent with the Church’s prior position on these matters. The Church remains unequivocally committed to defending the bedrock foundation of marriage between a man and a woman.

I represent a church that believes in human dignity, in treating others with respect even when we disagree – in fact, especially when we disagree. The Church’s past statements are on the public record for all to see. In these comments and in our actions, we try to follow what Jesus Christ taught. Our language will always be respectful and acknowledge those who differ, but will also be clear on matters that we feel are of great consequence to our society. Thank you.[68]


Suicide

Is there an "epidemic" of suicide among gay Latter-day Saints?

if you or someone you know is thinking or talking about suicide, please get help. Suicide is preventable, and there are many resources.

In the United States and Canada, dial 9-8-8 anytime to get help.

As we have seen above, the Church recognizes that being a member of the church and having same-sex attraction can be very difficult.

It has long been known that suicide rates are higher for those with same-sex attraction.

Critics charge that:

  • Church doctrine and teaching causes these higher suicide rates; and
  • there is an "epidemic" of suicide among gay Latter-day Saints

These charges are without scientific foundation. They are not surprising, since warnings of such supposed dangers are a common strategy from those targeting unpopular social groups.[69]

For example, some have claimed that the Church's policy of requiring First Presidency clearance for the baptism of children of gay couples caused a spike in suicide. These claims were fiction—in Utah "the year after the November policy saw a 21 percent decrease in youth suicide and a small decrease in suicide of those eighteen to sixty-four years old."[70]

There are three studies that have looked at precisely this quesiton—in all cases, those with same-sex attraction who were members of the Church had lower suicide rates than those with same-sex attraction outside the Church.

Because this is such an important issue, we will consider these points in detail.

Background risk

To answer questions about the Church’s impact, if any, we have to know first about background risk. If you were going to study the effects of, say, smoking on cancer, first you have to know how likely cancer is in people who don’t smoke. It doesn’t do much good to point out that 10% of people who smoke die of cancer, if 10% of people who don’t do too. Sadly, we’ve known for decades that LGBTQ people have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts, and probably higher rates of actual suicide too.[71] This is one of the great constants in research over decades.

Denmark

In Denmark, for example, a 2011 study showed that gay men in registered domestic partnerships (Denmark’s version of “gay marriage,” which they have had since 1990) were still almost eight times more likely to commit suicide as married or divorced heterosexuals. Divorce and singleness are risk factors for suicide, and so of all LGBTQ people, those in legal same-sex partnerships should have the best numbers because they are “wired in” to a close social support such as a spouse.

Denmark is an extremely secular country—it seems unlikely that religious doctrine or persecution can explain this massive disparity in suicide rates.

Norway

A Norwegian study found that when compared to heterosexual youth, youth who were attracted to the same sex and/or self-identified as LGB were no more likely to attempt suicide. Only homosexual behavior was associated with an increased rate of suicide attempt, and “[t]he increased odds [of suicidality] could not be attributed to GLB students' greater exposure to risk factors for suicide attempt.”[72]

So, even in two of the most tolerant, non-religious, secular societies, there are some prominent risks. We might think of this as something of a “best case scenario” for tolerance and acceptance. We aren’t likely to produce a society in or out of the Church more open to same-sex behavior than Denmark and Norway. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still work to bring these suicide rates down, but it might suggest that insisting that others need to be more "tolerant" of homosexual behavior may not provide huge gains.

Suicide in Utah?

The Church is often blamed for an "epidemic" of gay suicdes in Utah. But, Utah's state expert (who is himself gay) insists that there is no such epidemic:

Michael Staley [who is openly gay himself], who works for Utah’s medical examiner and ranks among the most respected researchers on this topic, said in an interview with Q Salt Lake, a Utah LGBT magazine, his initial findings do not support the narrative that Utah youth suicides are rising as a result of the Church’s traditional teachings on sexuality or LGBT issues. “There’s no data to show that, period,” Staley said. “The people who are driving that narrative are going to be disappointed.”[73]

Why might people be “disappointed”? Isn’t that good news? Well, it isn’t if you are trying to use suicide as a weapon to shame a religion and push it to change.

So, the claim that Utah suffered an explosion of gay suicide turns out not to be true. But people continue to say it—which suggests that either they are misinformed, or their goal may be something other than the truth.

Suicide in the Church

It is well known that religion is generally protective against suicide—so isolating someone from their religious group probably doesn’t help make them safer, all else being equal.[74]

We will now look at the three studies who examined suicidality in Latter-day Saint LGBTQ members.

First study - Cranney (2017)

This data from 2012–2014, published in Journal of Homosexuality:

LGB Mormons have more days of poor mental health than their non-LGB Mormon counterparts, but fewer than their LGB non-Mormon counterparts. When weights are applied, the only significant health difference found between LGB Mormons and any other group is a significantly higher number of days of poor mental health than non-LGB Mormons (6 days versus 3 days, p = .01 [in the last 30]); all other health comparisons are statistically insignificant. ...

[H]owever they do it, the LGB Mormon population’s reconciliation of particular facets of their sexual and religious identities does not lead them to having discernibly worse mental or physical health than their non-LBG Mormon and LGB non-Mormon counterparts.[75]

So, LGB in the Church do have more days of poor mental health—but their mental health is still better than LGB outside the Church.

Separating those who are struggling from the Church may, then, not be helpful and might even be harmful.

Second study - Dyer, Goodman, and Wood (2022)

The second study is from the 2019 Utah Prevention Needs Assessment, done as part of the Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) survey by Utah's Department of Human Services.[76]

Discussion Graph
We look first at depression rates in all members, regardless of sexual orientation (Chart 1).

Stars mark statistically significant results compared to Latter-day Saints. So, Latter-day Saints have statistically significant lower rates of depression than the other groups.

Chart 1: Figure 2A from Dyer, Goodman, and Wood. This chart shows depression rates for all participants by religion. Latter-day Saints are the left hand bar. Stars mark statistically significant results compared to Latter-day Saints. So, Latter-day Saints have statistically significant lower rates of depression than the other groups.
What about LGBTQ Latter-day Saints? We see in Chart 2 that they too are less likely to be depressed than LGBTQ members of other faiths.
Chart 2: Figure 4A from Dyer, Goodman, and Wood. This chart shows depression rates for LGBTQ by religion. Latter-day Saints are the left hand bar. Stars mark statistically significant results compared to Latter-day Saints. So, Latter-day Saints LGBTQ have statistically significant lower rates of depression than the other groups.
What about actually considering or attempting suicide? Chart 3 shows that Latter-day Saints are less likely to experience this, and it is statistically significant.
Chart 3: Figure 1A from Dyer, Goodman, and Wood. This chart shows suicidality rates for all participants by religion. Latter-day Saints are the left hand bar. Stars mark statistically significant results compared to Latter-day Saints. So, Latter-day Saints have statistically significant lower rates of suicidality than the other groups.
Finally, we come to LGBTQ who consider or attempt suicide. Chart 4 shows that LGBTQ members again have lower rates of suicidality.
Chart 4: Figure 3A from Dyer, Goodman, and Wood. This chart shows suicidality rates for LGBTQ by religion. Latter-day Saints are the left hand bar. Stars mark statistically significant results compared to Latter-day Saints. So, LGBTQ Latter-day Saints have statistically significant lower rates of suicidality than the other groups.





Why does the Church do better?

Chart 5: Figure 3B from Dyer, Goodman, and Wood. Once social connectedness, family connectedness, and drug use is adjusted for, the suicidality rates are not statistically different for any group.

There are many known risk factors for suicidality. For example, those who abuse alcohol or other substances are more likely to feel depressed, contemplate suicide, and attempt suicide. So, if the Church kept you from drinking, that would probably lower your suicide risk.

This study decided to adjust for known benefits. So, they then looked at LGBTQ suicide rates once family connectedness, social connectedness, and drug use was taken into consideration.

When that is done, there is then no difference between Latter-day Saints and other religious groups' rates of suicidality. So, one plausible hypothesis is that (1) being in the Church makes you more socially connected; (2) Families in the Church may have better connections; and (3) the Church discourages drug use.

We must remember that these are averages. There will undoubtedly be terrible families in the Church whose behavior increases their children's risk of depression, suicide, and other mental health problems. And there are also certainly equally strong families in other faiths, or in families of no faith.

On average, however, an LGBTQ person is better off in terms of depression and suicidality in the Church than out of it.

At the very least, it is dishonest and unfair to blame the Church for suicides in LGBTQ members. There is simply no evidence that the Church is to blame, and considerable evidence that on balance it is helpful.

Individuals may have different experiences, and certainly some families or people in the Church do things contrary to Church doctrine which could make things much worse. But that is not the Church's fault.

Third study - McGraw et al. (2023)

Looking at the same dataset as the second study,[77] the non-LDS authors concluded:

LGBTQ participants’ reports of higher family conflict and lower parental closeness were tied to higher depression, self-harm, and substance misuse, and these three factors were, in turn, associated with higher levels of STBs for LGBTQ youth in Utah. This path model did not differ significantly due to LDS versus non-LDS religious affiliation. ...

Among LGBTQ youth, non-LDS youth had higher mean levels of STBs, family conflict, depressive symptoms, self-harm, substance misuse, a lower mean level of parental closeness. ... [Slide 27–31] Non-LDS LGBTQ youth reported the highest STBs, family conflict, depressive symptoms, self-harm, and substance misuse scores, and had a lower [average] level of parental closeness scores, followed by LDS LGBTQ, non-LDS heterosexual … youth, and then LDS heterosexual … youth

So again, family conflict, lower family closeness, and substance misuse led (unsurprisingly) to more suicidal experience and behavior. These problems on balance were better in the LDS group than the non-LDS group, but when controlled for religion did not make a significant difference.

Suicide contagion

All of this matters a great deal, and the biggest problem is not that the Church and its members and leaders are slandered and tarred with causing the deaths of their LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

The reason this matters is that there is a phenomenon known as "suicide contagion." This is a well-recognized phenomenon whereby people's tendency to suicide can be increased or decreased based on how media and other voices talk about suicide.[78]

Psychiatric, psychologic, and suicide prevention agencies have done a great deal to publicize these risks, and have provided guides for media to talk about suicide in a helpful, not harmful.

A non-LDS expert on LGBTQ youth made this point very strongly:

For me, first off, scientifically it's not true. That is that, as a developmental psychologist, when we look at the wide population of youth who identify as gay or who have same-sex attractions, it appears to me when I look at the data that they're actually just as healthy, and just as resilient, and just positive about their life as are straight youth. … So from a scientific perspective, there is certainly no gay suicide epidemic. But the more problematic aspect for me is that I worry a great deal about the image that we are giving gay-identified youth.[79]

Telling gay youth that there is an epidemic breaks one of the cardinal rules of suicide prevention: Messages linking particular groups with high rates of suicide or mental illness.[80] Not only is this not true, as the quote above notes, but telling people the falsehood makes it more likely to happen!

Other messaging rules that the Church's critics often engage in include:

Don't include personal details

  • "Don’t include personal details of people who have died by suicide." - Sadly, many LGBTQ advocates think they are helping by telling tragic, dramatic, tear-jerking stories about specific suicides. Each suicide is a tragedy and a devastating outcome for family and friends. But publicizing the suicide in this way just makes it more likely that other depressed teens may identify with the victim, and thus be more likely to immitate them.

Don't portray suicide as more common than it is or a typical way of coping

  • "Don’t portray suicidal behavior as more common than it is or as a typical way of coping with adversity." - Again, when LGBTQ advocates insist that the Church's policies or doctrines lead to a great many suicides, and that nothing can stop this until the Church changes its doctrines, they ironically increase the risk of that happening. As the suicide prevention group cautions:
While we don’t want to minimize the magnitude of the suicide problem, we also don’t want to imply that suicidal behavior is what most people do in a given circumstance. The vast majority of people who face adversity, mental illness, and other challenges—even those in high risk groups—do not die by suicide, but instead find support, treatment, or other ways to cope.

Don't use language or data to suggest suicide is inevitable or unsolvable

  • Don’t use data or language that suggests suicide is inevitable or unsolvable - Calling suicides "an epidemic" (especially when there is no epidemic) plays right into this problem.

Don't oversimplify

  • Don’t oversimplify causes - Suicide is a complex subject. It is not helpful—in fact, it is downright harmful—to use a suicide death to tell a simple cause-and-effect story, such as "The Church opposed gay marriage, and so John killed himself." Suicide is almost always accompanied by significant mental illness, and mental illness almost by definition involves choices and thoughts that are not rational or reasonable.

Hurting when intending to help

Many of those who spread these rumors or propaganda probably think that they are helping solve a serious problem. If you are approaching the issue in this way, we encourage you to stop spreading false rumors, and to especially stop talking about this subject in ways that increases the risk of a mentally ill person acting on a suicidal thought or plan.

And, if you or someone you know is thinking or talking about suicide, please get help. Suicide is preventable, and there are many resources.

In the United States and Canada, dial 9-8-8 anytime to get help.

Reducing suicide risk

Steps that can help reduce suicidal thoughts and actions include some of the following encouraged by the Church:

Church encouragement to seek medical and mental health treatment

  • "The Church finds situations when the trained (mental health professional) is called in for assistance. There is a proper place for these professionally trained specialists. The Church has an organization for this purpose. It is called LDS Social Services. There are also other faithful Latter-day Saints who are in public or private practice and who can be called upon as a bishop feels the need."[9]

Church encouragement to develop conflict resolution skills

  • "Each of us is an individual. Each of us is different. There must be respect for those differences...We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse. Concerning these you and I may disagree. But we can do so with respect and civility." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 661, 665).

Church encouragement to develop and maintain strong family ties

  • 1999: "Keep in mind that this is the same person you have always known: a child of God. Be grateful that this individual is willing to share his or her burden with you...Let it be understood that you value him or her and that this difficult journey will not have to be traveled alone."[10]
  • 2007: "I’d begin by recognizing the courage that brought your son, daughter, sibling, or friend to you. I’d recognize the trust that person has extended. Discussing the issue with someone of trust is a healthy first step to dealing with confusing feelings, and it is imperative that these first steps be met with compassion. Above all, keep your lines of communication open. Open communication between parents and children is a clear expression of love, and pure love, generously expressed, can transform family

ties."[11]

Church counsel regarding others' behavior toward members with same-sex attraction

  • 1974: "To "persecute" homosexuals would be wrong, just as it would be wrong for us to persecute anyone. We must try to understand why they have chosen this way of life."[12]
  • 1991 Letter from the First Presidency: "We encourage Church leaders and members to reach out with love and understanding to those struggling with these issues."[13]
  • 1995: "We should reach out lovingly to those who are struggling to resist temptation...[Letters from those with same-sex attraction expressing feelings of isolation and non-acceptance] surely show the need for improvement in our communications with brothers and sisters who are struggling with problems—all types of problems. Each member of Christ’s church has a clear-cut doctrinal responsibility to show forth love and to extend help and understanding."[14]
  • 1998: "We love them as sons and daughters of God. ... We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties."[15]
  • 2004: "Equal to my fears of going to the bishop were my feelings of unworthiness to be at church with people who were living good lives and had not indulged in the sins I had committed. I was sure the first Sunday I returned to church that everyone would see right into my soul and know what I was guilty of and the feelings I was struggling with. Instead, my anxieties were put to rest when members of the ward welcomed me back with loving fellowship."[16]
  • 2007: "You are a son or daughter of God, and our hearts reach out to you in warmth and affection. Notwithstanding your present same-gender attractions, you can be happy during this life, lead a morally clean life, perform meaningful service in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with your fellow Saints, and ultimately receive all the blessings of eternal life." [17]

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Do Church teachings against homosexual acts lead to bullying of gay youth or unchristian treatment of members or non-members with same-sex attraction?

Some members have, through ignorance or malice, doubtless used the sinful nature of homosexual acts to justify their decision to disparage, neglect, or mistreat those who are tempted toward such acts

Like members of all faiths, all Latter-day Saints do not live up to their ideals and principles perfectly. Some members have, through ignorance or malice, doubtless used the sinful nature of homosexual acts to justify their decision to disparage, neglect, or mistreat those who are tempted toward such acts. Such behavior is sinful, and requires repentance.

In this, as in all else, the example of Jesus is paramount

In this, as in all else, the example of Jesus is paramount. When brought a woman taken in adultery, Jesus refused to stone her:

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the lastand Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn theego, and sin no more. (John 8:7-11)

It is important to recognize, however, that it is not cruel to teach that homosexual acts are sins—just as the adulterous woman would not have been well served if Jesus had winked at her sin. The Church and its members will continue to teach that homosexual acts are not worthy of those who are children of God. As the Church observed, "Tolerance as a gospel principle means love and forgiveness of one another, not 'tolerating' transgression."[81]

The Church has consistently taught that all people are children of God, and ought to be treated with love, dignity, and respect. This includes those with same-sex attraction, or those who commit homosexual sins.

1980s

In 1987, President Gordon B. Hinckley said of the AIDS/HIV epidemic:

There is a plague of fearsome dimensions moving across the world. Public health officials are greatly concerned, and everyone else should be. The Surgeon General of the United States has forecast an AIDS death toll of 170,000 Americans in just four years. The situation is even more serious in some other areas of the world.

AIDS is a commonly fatal malady caused primarily from sexually transmitted disease and secondarily from drug abuse. Unfortunately, as in any epidemic, innocent people also become victims.

We, with others, hope that discoveries will make possible both prevention and healing from this dread affliction. But regardless of such discoveries, the observance of one clearly understandable and divinely given rule would do more than all else to check this epidemic. That is chastity before marriage and total fidelity after marriage. ...

Having said this, I desire now to say with emphasis that our concern for the bitter fruit of sin is coupled with Christlike sympathy for its victims, innocent or culpable. We advocate the example of the Lord, who condemned the sin, yet loved the sinner. We should reach out with kindness and comfort to the afflicted, ministering to their needs and assisting them with their problems.[82]

1990s

In discussing this issue, Elder Dallin H. Oaks quoted the First Presidency:

"We are asked to be kinder with one another, more gentle and forgiving. We are asked to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We are asked to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. We are called upon to be true disciples of Christ, to love one another with genuine compassion, for that is the way Christ loved us."[83]

He then said:

Kindness, compassion, and love are powerful instruments in strengthening us to carry heavy burdens imposed without any fault of our own and to do what we know to be right.[84]

Elder Oaks also taught:

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

Despite such invitations and assurances, the Church and its members continue to experience misunderstandings about our positions on these matters....

A recent letter is illustrative:

"Another concern we have is the way in which our sons and daughters are classified as people who practice deviant and lascivious behavior. Perhaps some do, but most do not. These young men and women want only to survive, have a spiritual life, and stay close to their families and the Church. It is especially damaging when these negative references are spoken from the pulpit. We believe such talks only create more depression and a tremendous amount of guilt, shame, and lack of self-worth, which they have endured throughout their entire lives. There is sometimes a real lack of the pure love of Christ expressed to help them through their ordeals. We will all appreciate anything you can do to help with the plight of these much misunderstood children of our Father in Heaven. If some of the General Authorities could express more sensitivity to this problem, it would surely help to avoid ... schisms that are caused within families. Many simply cannot tolerate the fact that Church members judge them as ‘evil people,’ and they, therefore, find solace in gay-oriented lifestyles."

These communications surely show the need for improvement in our communications with brothers and sisters who are struggling with problems—all types of problems. Each member of Christ’s church has a clear-cut doctrinal responsibility to show forth love and to extend help and understanding. Sinners, as well as those who are struggling to resist inappropriate feelings, are not people to be cast out but people to be loved and helped (see 3 Nephi 18꞉22-23,30,32). At the same time, Church leaders and members cannot avoid their responsibility to teach correct principles and righteous behavior (on all subjects), even if this causes discomfort to some.[85]

President Hinckley taught: "Nevertheless, and I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group."[86]

Each holder of the priesthood also watches to "see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking." (D&C 20꞉54).

2000s

In October 2000 conference, while speaking about people in same-sex relationships, President Boyd K. Packer taught:

We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you (see Heb. 12꞉6-9; Rom. 3꞉19; Hel. 15꞉3; D&C 95꞉1).

You may even feel that we do not love you. That also is not true. Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy.

Elder Jeffry R. Holland reiterated the need for a warm and supportive atmosphere at Church toward those with SSA:

Someone said that if we plant a garden with good seed, there will not be so much need of the hoe. Likewise, if we fill our lives with spiritual nourishment, we can more easily gain control over inclinations. This means creating a positive environment in our homes in which the Spirit is abundantly evident. A positive environment includes consistent private and public worship, prayer, fasting, scripture reading, service, and exposure to uplifting conversation, music, literature, and other media.

This same environment extends to experiences at church. Some with same-gender attractions have unresolved fears and are offended at church when no offense is intended. On the other hand, some members exclude from their circle of fellowship those who are different. When our actions or words discourage someone from taking full advantage of Church membership, we fail them—and the Lord. The Church is made stronger as we include every member and strengthen one another in service and love (see D&C 84꞉110).[87]

A booklet prepared by the Church in 2007 noted the need for improved kindness from Church members:

Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant. As you show love and kindness to others, you give them an opportunity to change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully.[88]

In 2009, Elder Bruce C. Hafen spoke on this subject, and his address was placed on the Church's official website:

Remember President Hinckley’s confidence in you: "Our hearts reach out to [you]. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and sisters." And President Packer has echoed, "We do not reject you… We cannot reject you… We will not reject you, because we love you." With that kind of leadership, I pray that all Church members are learning to be more compassionate and understanding.[89]

2010s

In 2010, the Church issued an official statement:

...we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men. We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society.

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 and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness toward those who are attracted to others of the same sex. 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 reflect Jesus Christ’s second great commandment - to love one another.

As a church, our doctrinal position is clear: any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman. However, that should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down.

Further, while the Church is strongly on the record as opposing same-sex marriage, it has openly supported other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment.[90]

In October 2012 general conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:

When we consider the dangers from which children should be protected, we should also include psychological abuse. Parents or other caregivers or teachers or peers who demean, bully, or humiliate children or youth can inflict harm more permanent than physical injury. Making a child or youth feel worthless, unloved, or unwanted can inflict serious and long-lasting injury on his or her emotional well-being and development.9 Young people struggling with any exceptional condition, including same-gender attraction, are particularly vulnerable and need loving understanding—not bullying or ostracism.[91]

Did Elder Boyd K. Packer's talk "To Young Men Only" encourage physical assaults on gay people?

Violence is not usually the best response to a problem, but everyone is entitled to protect themselves (or others) against sexual harassment or sexual assault by any means necessary—including violence

It is claimed that Elder Boyd K. Packer's talk "To Young Men Only" encourages "gay bashing" or physical assaults on gay people.

The Church does not teach that violence is the best response to problems. However, everyone is entitled to protect themselves (or others) against sexual harassment or sexual assault by any means necessary—including violence. This applies to all: men and women, gay and straight. As Wikipedia notes, often the victim is blamed for the harasser's acts:

Retaliation and backlash against a victim are very common, particularly a complainant. Victims who speak out against sexual harassment are often labeled troublemakers who are on their own power trips, or who are looking for attention. Similar to cases of rape or sexual assault, the victim often becomes the accused, with their appearance, private life, and character likely to fall under intrusive scrutiny and attack.[17] They risk hostility and isolation from colleagues, supervisors, teachers, fellow students, and even friends. They may become the targets of mobbing or relational aggression....

In this case, it is Elder Packer and all members of the Church who come in for criticism and attack because the unacceptable sexual harassment was homosexual. Readers should ask themselves how they would react if the story was about a woman sexually harassed by a man.

Critics who make this claim are either ignorant of the contents of then-Elder Packer's talk, or are deliberately misrepresenting it for polemical gain.

To understand, we will consider four aspects:

  1. The relevant full text of Elder Packer's remarks will be provided.
  2. Some background information will be provided. Some non-members may not understand the context of the experience described by Elder Packer (missionary companions on a full-time mission for the Church), and so this will be explained.
  3. We will then analyze the story and advice he gives, recognizing that the critics have misrepresented it almost beyond recognition.
  4. Some broader issues which this charge raises will be considered.

#1 Elder Packer's Remarks

Elder Packer said:

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 [homosexual] 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. [92]

#2: Background information

Missionary companions

Males in the Church serve full-time missions for two years. During this time, they are expected to dedicate themselves to full-time service of the Lord, His Kingdom, and people in and out of the Church. Missionaries are forbidden from dating or engaging in any romantic activities during this period of time. Furthermore, each missionary is assigned a "companion"—this is another missionary with whom the young man lives and works.

Missionaries are forbidden to go anywhere without their companion. Companions live in the same apartment, sleep in the same room, and go everywhere together. When out of the apartment, missionaries are taught that they are never to be alone or unaccompanied by their companion (save for trips to the bathroom and the like). Keeping missionaries together in this way serves at least two purposes:

  1. Missionaries are protected from temptation, and it is hoped that they will also avoid behavior which might reflect poorly upon their mission and the Church
  2. Perhaps more importantly, missionaries are protected against false accusations. No missionary will ever be alone, and so there will always be another witness to his acts or behavior. Thus, if a missionary were (for example) falsely charged by a malicious witness with a crime, the missionary would have both his own and his companion's testimony regarding his innocence.

A missionary who intentionally leaves his companion may be in serious trouble, and could be sent home from his mission.

Missionary covenants

All members of the Church are expected to observe the law of chastity. This means that no sexual activity outside of marriage is permitted. Furthermore, missionaries attend the temple prior to going on their missions, where they reaffirm this commitment. [93] As noted above, missionaries further promise to not even engage in dating or other romantic activity while in full-time Church service.

#3: Examining the story

We are now able to examine the story told by Elder Packer.

  • They story is not about people with same-sex attraction, but about people who are trying to have sex with you against your will.
  • Elder Packer talked about "physical mischief with another man", "men who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts", and "If you are ever approached to participate in anything like that". Elder Packer has long made a distinction between sexual acts and sexual attraction. He has repeatedly said sexual attraction is not a sin and those with same-sex attraction "need feel no guilt".[94]
  • The response only makes sense in the context of an act: "it is time to vigorously resist" and "You must protect yourself". How do you vigorously resist someone else having same-sex attraction? This story is about a missionary who wanted an unwilling companion in a compromised position to join him in homosexual activity, not about a companion who simply confessed that he was gay.
  • The extent of the attempt to have sex with the missionary is not disclosed, but at the least it was sexual harassment, while potentially up to and including sexual assault and attempted rape. Either case warrants self-defense.
  • The missionary was in a compromised position. As detailed above, he was supposed to stay in close quarters with his companion. He could not simply say "No thanks, I don't want to have sex with you" and walk away. He lived with the person sexually harassing him. We are not told for how how long the sexual harassment continued.
  • The story is not about members of the Church going out and beating up gay people. Elder Packer is also clear that he does not "recommend" the physical response which the missionary launched on his companion—it was not an ideal response. But, he does not "omit it" if necessary to "protect yourself."
  • Thus, it is clear that the missionary did what he did to defend himself against a sexual advance. This was not a matter of the companion saying, "By the way, I'm gay, I hope you can love and accept me anyway."

Sexual harassment

  • Elder Packer has given similar advice to heterosexual members of the Church both before and after this talk, and Church magazines have also published multiple articles discussing self-defense courses and the legitimacy of self-defense in cases where there is a sexual threat.
  • Sexual harassment of any sort is completely unacceptable. The United Nations defines sexual harassment against women as:
such unwelcome sexually determined behavior as physical contact and advances, sexually colored remarks, showing pornography and sexual demands, whether by words or actions. Such conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and safety problem.[95]

The European Union notes that harassment is:

unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of women and men at work. This includes unwelcome physical, verbal or nonverbal conduct. ... [96]

There is absolutely no context in Church mission life where any sort of romantic attachment or engagement would be appropriate—with a companion or someone else, of the same gender or someone else. Thus, any sexual advance is unwelcome and utterly inappropriate, and the guilty party would know that unequivocally. By definition, such behavior must be sexual harassment at a minimum, and might be sexual assault depending upon the details. Furthermore, the guilty party would have expressly promised never to engage in such behavior or anything like it.

This is made worse when the offender is a companion, someone who has promised to protect and look out for the spiritual and physical well-being of the companion.

  • Missionaries are expected to be together at all times. The work and live together. They can never be apart. Any invitation to homosexual sex would be an extremely intimidating situation. (This ignores the fact that there could have been an element of attempted force or coercion in the story—we are not told, though this is suggested when Elder Packer says that he does not omit the option of physical violence if necessary to protect oneself.)
  • The story did not recommend violence, even if you are solicited for sex. Elder Packer clearly pointed out that he "was not recommending" the physical attack which the missionary launched on his companion—it is not an ideal response. But, he does not "omit it" if necessary to "protect yourself." You wouldn't use the term "protect" to promote gay-bashing, but to make it clear that the missionary did what he did to defend himself against a sexual advance.
  • Elder Packer was speaking in the 1970s; during this time period few young members (like most young Americans) would have had much exposure to even the idea of homosexuality. The missionary in question could well have been entirely naive about such things, and not even known that such behavior existed. To be suddenly confronted by encouragement to act in such a way, by someone who was supposed to be a second witness of his own faithfulness to Church doctrine and mission rules, would have been incredibly shocking, and even terrifying. If the Elder forces him into acts, who will believe him? To whom can he go for help? (We see, in the story, how difficult it was for him even to describe the experience to Elder Packer, who had to spend considerable time before he would tell the story.)

In short, it is false and extremely unfair to characterize Elder Packer's story as advocacy of "gay beating" or violence against homosexuals simply because of their desires or inclinations, or their decision to have consensual sex with others. Instead, it is a sad but realistic admission that at times even violence may be necessary, as a last resort, to protect oneself.

#4: Further thoughts to conclude

Sexual harassment is unacceptable

The bias against men in the critics' version of this story is disappointing. The matter is perhaps easier to understand if we change the roles a bit. How would we react if an LDS young woman was on a mission, and told that she must spend every minute of the day with an LDS man? They must travel together, sleep in the same room, live together in what are generally cramped quarters. Now, let us imagine that the man propositions the young woman, and urges her to violate the law of chastity—would we think her out of line if she struck him?

Sexual harassment is unacceptable, regardless of whether men or women are the target. It does not matter if the harasser is homosexual or heterosexual—such behavior is everywhere and always wrong.

Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment can attest that it is an extremely frightening and oppressive experience. It is understandable that faced with such a situation—especially one which the missionary probably have never dreamed he would encounter from another male, much less his missionary companion—that the reaction would be terror and a panicked decision to do whatever it took to make sure he was safe.

No critic would dare say anything if an LDS sister missionary defended herself against the sexual suggestions, advances, or aggression of a male LDS missionary, because such a charge's bigotry against the victim is too blatant. But, as soon as the victim is a male and the aggressor seeking homosexual gratification, suddenly the aggressor becomes the victim, and those who support the victim in self-defense are vilified.

This double standard would not exist if the gender roles were altered. This suggests that the critics are not trying to look at the situation fairly, but are simply trying to score points against the Church and its leaders.

Men can be victims of sexual harassment

Some believe that since the missionary was a male, he could not have been a victim of sexual abuse. They argue that men only have sex when they want to and this missionary was in no real danger from his companion. This is not the case. Studies estimate that one in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse.[18] All forms of sexual abuse, including sexual harassment, can have a lasting negative impact on the victims, even males. The web site Male Survivor says this about the effects of sexual abuse:

While some studies have found males to be less negatively affected, more studies show that long term effects are quite damaging for either sex. Males may be more damaged by society's refusal or reluctance to accept their victimization, and by their resultant belief that they must "tough it out" in silence.[19]

Critics who insist that the Elder should not have protected himself against the sexual advances of his companion not only do a disservice to this Elder, but to the millions of men who have experienced sexual abuse. It is important that men know that they are not at fault if they are victims of sexual abuse. They must know that they have the right to vigorously resist unwelcomed sexual advances. Elder Packer's advice is a refreshing reversal of society's apathy towards male victims of sexual assault.

Church teachings on the right to self-defense

Boyd K. Packer

  • "Do not let anyone at all touch or handle your body, not anyone!" - Boyd K. Packer, "Why Stay Morally Clean," New Era (July 1972): {{{pages}}}. off-site
  • "Never allow others to touch your body in a way that would be unworthy, and do not touch anyone else in any unworthy way." - Boyd K. Packer, Ensign (May 2009). off-site

Church magazines

  • There is a good chance that many women will at some time need to know how to avoid rape, mugging, robbery, or any of numerous other violent crimes. We cannot turn away from facts; these assaults occur regularly in public places and in private homes. A certain amount of preparation, a "healthy paranoia," might very well save a life....If you decide you must fight back, use your keys, purse, feet, or fingernails as weapons to throw the attacker off guard or to get free. Although it sounds cruel, always strike for the eyes and face. The momentary stunning effect of wounds to the face will give you the chance you need to run." Esther R. Tutt, "Random Sampler: Protect Yourself," Ensign (September 1987). off-site
  • "We need to be absolutely clear that there is such a thing as justified self-defense. You have the right to protect yourself against physical harm if you are attacked. You have a right to use physical force to protect virtue, family, freedom." - Larry A. Hiller, "Somebody's Going to Get Hurt!," Ensign (September 1997). off-site
  • If someone is attempting to hurt us physically—even to destroy us—shouldn’t we resist in self-defense? The Doctrine and Covenants says "that all men are justified in defending themselves … from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded" (D&C 134꞉11). Larry E. Dahl, "The Higher Law," Ensign (August 1999). off-site
  • Self-defense courses for youth are suggested in the New Era in at least 1980, 1982, and 1992.


Are Church family members taught to reject their LGBT children, thereby forcing many of them to become homeless?

Homelessness among LGBT youth in America is considered "an epidemic"

Reports have appeared in the American media stating that large portions of the homeless youth in Utah are gay. Critics imply that the substantial LDS population in this area explains these high numbers of homeless youth. It’s inferred that LDS families force children with non-heterosexual orientations out of their homes.

Homelessness among LGBT youth in America is considered "an epidemic." LGBT youth are homeless more often than straight youth all over the country, not just in Utah. A recent survey of LGBT youth in America found that while feeling more disconnected from peers and communities than youth across the country, LGBT youth in Utah actually enjoyed better and more supportive and accepting connections to family than youth nationwide. No statistics have ever been generated to show causal links between LDS affiliation and homelessness among LGBT youth.

Parents have a duty to love and take care of their children

Furthermore, believing in a moral code does not automatically result in the rejection of those who struggle with the code or who break the code. Parents have a duty to love and take care of their children. However, some parents may ignore the counsel of Church leaders and the scriptures and force LGBT children out of their homes. The Church is clear that this is not in harmony with the gospel, and that such parents are not worthy to hold temple recommends. The teachings of the Church help family members love and respect their children, regardless of sexual orientation or behavior. This love and respect leads to an increase of the child's mental and physical health.[97]

There are several problems with the assertion that LDS families in Utah reject and expelled LGBT children from their homes:

1) Rates of homelessness among gay youth in Utah are similar to those found in other areas of the US. The high incidence is not limited to states with large LDS communities.

2) A national survey of LGBT youth in America found that youth in Utah actually enjoy better support from adults and family members than national averages. However, the youth reported more problems with peers and larger social structures and the media focused on these negative statistics. So far, the media have ignored the positive numbers on family support.

3) A causal connection between homelessness among gay youth and the LDS Church has never been substantiated with data. It remains merely an assertion and an expression of prejudice.

4) Church leaders and scriptures explicitly teach that children have claim on their parents for support. In addition to this responsibility, parents and other family members are instructed to extend unconditional love regardless of individual behaviors.

While reports of homelessness among gay youth are sad and startling, they aren’t out of line with other data collected in other US states

Statistics on sexual orientation among homeless youth in Utah are typically derived from a survey given to youth ages 15 to 22 who access services for the homeless in Utah. It’s a written survey administered by Volunteers of America Utah. VOAU regularly surveys homeless youth using their facilities, inquiring about many factors including sexual orientation, the reasons for homelessness, and family background. In news items from 2, a VOAU vice-president is quoted saying a recent survey revealed 42% of homeless youth using VOAU services self-identified as LGBT.[98]

While reports of homelessness among gay youth collected by VOAU are sad and startling, they aren’t out of line with other data collected in other US states.

The percentage of homeless youth throughout all of the US who self-identify as LGBT moves between 20 and 40 percent.[99] Most of the time, Utah posts rates of homeless gay youth at around one third, in the middle of the national range.[100] The finding of 42% is a high point. All gay youth, not just those in states with large LDS populations, experience homelessness at rates disproportionate to the rest of the population. Nationwide, the problem has been called "an epidemic." [101] This doesn’t diminish the tragedy of the Utah figures but it does strengthen the notion that the Utah findings are typical of American society and are not aberrations arising from subcultures like the LDS Church.

In 2008, the homeless rate for LGBT youth in Utah rose above the national average

In 2008, the homeless rate for LGBT youth in Utah rose above the national average. When questioned about the 2008 numbers, one manager of a program for homeless youth suggested it might have resulted from a change in the way youth were asked about their sexuality. Instead of asking them to identify themselves as straight, gay, lesbian, or transgendered, respondents were allowed to choose "other than heterosexual." [102] It’s an option respondents might have been more comfortable with since many of them feel they’re still forming their identities and resist narrower definitions.

Family Support for LGBT Youth in Utah

In 2012, the Washington D.C. based Human Rights Campaign released the partial results of an online survey of LGBT youth from across America. The survey recruited respondents through online social media and at places described as "LGBT youth centers." [103] 10,030 LGBT youth between the ages of 13 and 17 responded and their data were compared to those of 510 "straight" youth who were already members of online panels used in market research. HRC acknowledges issues with sampling place limitations on the survey data. The report on the survey explains, "Traditional measures of margin of error do not apply and the results here may not be representative of this population as a whole." [104]

Setting aside concerns with the methodology, the survey does yield some interesting results. When the survey first appeared in the media, emphasis was placed on differences between national averages and averages of youth in Utah. Most repeated were figures showing Utah youth were more likely to be verbally harassed and feel like they didn’t "fit in" in their communities.

However, the media seem to have ignored data showing LGBT youth in Utah were better connected to support from adults and family members than national averages.

Utah youth replied that they were "happy" 38% of the time while the national number, though close, is slightly lower at 37%.

When asked if they had "no adult to turn to" 29% of LGBT youth nationwide agreed while only 24% of Utah youth agreed. In Utah, LGBT youth are more likely to have an adult they can rely on involved in their lives.

LGBT youth inside Utah and across the country reported being "out" to immediate family at similar level with Utah youth being slightly more open at 58% instead of the national average of 56%. However, Utah youth were more open with their extended families. 34% of Utah youth were "out" with their extended families while on the national level only 25% of youth were "out" with their extended families.

When asked if they had an adult they could go to when worried or sad, 59% of Utah youth said "yes." That’s far more than the 49% of youth across the country who report having access to this kind of emotional support from adults.

It’s possible that these supportive adults could be social workers or other non-family members. However, two factors point away from this possibility. The first is that Utah youths report greater than average feelings of animosity between themselves and the local and state governments that would be funding and supporting social agencies. The second factor is that, when asked if their families were "not accepting" of their LGBT identity, youth in Utah were less likely (29%) to say they were not accepted than their peers in the rest of the US (33%).[105]

Utah youth tend to feel more accepted in their families than other LGBT American youth

According to the HRC survey data, Utah youth tend to feel more accepted in their families than other LGBT American youth, not less. This finding runs counter to the assumption that LDS homes are more prone to break off ties with non-heterosexual children.

The results of the HRC survey depict Utah as a state where LGBT youth tend to feel more comfortable and connected to adults in general and to their families in particular than other LGBT American youth. Whether reported in the media or not, the data can speak for themselves to defy critics’ assertions and prejudices.

Failing to report on areas where Utah performs better in caring for LGBT youth than the nation as a whole is not the only foul committed by media outlets. They have also mistakenly reported a direct connection between being LGBT and being homeless because of being "kicked out" by intolerant parents. Either due to ignorance or perhaps for more cunning reasons, media covering the story have made statements claiming the 42% of homeless youth in Utah who are LGBT "report experiencing family rejection and being kicked out of their homes." [106] This is simply wrong. The 42% figure refers only to the proportion of homeless youth who self-identify as LGBT. It says nothing about the reasons why this 2% are homeless. The youths' reasons for leaving home are as complex and varied as they are. Apart from not being borne out by any data, the idea that such a perfect correlation could exist between any two social factors (including factors like being LGBT and being kicked out of one's home) is highly unlikely.

Nothing yet released in any of the data collected definitively links LDS affiliation with homelessness in LGBT youth

Nothing yet released in any of the data collected by VOAU or HRC definitively links LDS affiliation with homelessness in LGBT youth. When asked about the causes of homelessness in LGBT youth, a VOAU vice-president told the Salt Lake Tribune the reasons for homelessness were mixed. He named economic factors (especially since the recession began), lapses in foster care, and abuse as well as irreconcilable differences between parents and children about sexual orientation.[107]

Even when sexual orientation was the most commanding issue, it is sometimes the children, not the parents who insist on the separation that makes the child homeless.

And, as always, there are other faith groups in Utah besides the LDS Church. They also have children who identify as LGBT. In the Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage of the story in June 2012, the young woman interviewed about her experience of being kicked out of her home due to her sexual orientation was from a religious background that was not LDS.[108] It’s just one anecdotal shred of evidence but it does reveal a problem with the assumption that all homeless LGBT youth in Utah are being victimized by the LDS Church.

Should the case arise where an LDS parent did force a child to leave home because of that child's sexuality, the teachings of the Church are quick to denounce the parent's behavior

Should the case arise where an LDS parent did force a child to leave home because of that child's sexuality, the teachings of the Church are quick to denounce the parent's behavior. LDS scripture makes clear that parents have a duty to care for their children regardless of the circumstances. D&C 83꞉4 reads:

All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age.

Luke 17:2 reads:

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

In 1992, the Church issued a statement to Church leaders saying:

If a person with homosexual problems chooses not to change, family members may have difficulty maintaining feelings of love and acceptance toward the person. Encourage them to continue loving the person and hoping that he or she may repent.[109]

In 1995, The Family: A Proclamation to the World taught:

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127꞉3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations... Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.[110]

In 2007, Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman had an interview in which they were asked what they would do if they had a child who decided to be in a same-sex relationship. Elder Oaks responded:

It seems to me that a Latter-day Saint parent has a responsibility in love and gentleness to affirm the teaching of the Lord through His prophets that the course of action he is about to embark upon is sinful. While affirming our continued love for him, and affirming that the family continues to have its arms open to him, I think it would be well to review with him something like the following, which is a statement of the First Presidency in 1991: "The Lord’s law of moral conduct is abstinence outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage. Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife, appropriately expressed within the bonds of marriage. Any other sexual conduct, including fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior is sinful. Those who persist in such practices or influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline.

My first responsibility as a father is to make sure that he understands that, and then to say to him, "My son, if you choose to deliberately engage in this kind of behavior, you’re still my son. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is powerful enough to reach out and cleanse you if you are repentant and give up your sinful behavior, but I urge you not to embark on that path because repentance is not easy. You’re embarking on a course of action that will weaken you in your ability to repent. It will cloud your perceptions of what is important in life. Finally, it may drag you down so far that you can’t come back. Don’t go that way. But if you choose to go that way, we will always try to help you and get you back on the path of growth...

Surely if we are counseled as a body of Church membership to reach out with love and understanding to those ‘struggling with these issues,’ that obligation rests with particular intensity on parents who have children struggling with these issues... even children who are engaged in sinful behavior associated with these issues.[111]

In the same interview, Elder Wickman responded:

With all, it needs to be done in the spirit of love and welcoming that, as Elder Oaks mentioned, ‘You’re always my son.’ There’s an old maxim which is really true for every parent and that is, ‘You haven’t failed until you quit trying.’ I think that means both in terms of taking appropriate opportunities to teach one’s children the right way, but at all times making sure they know that over all things you’ll love them...

That is to say we continue to open our homes and our hearts and our arms to our children, but that need not be with approval of their lifestyle. Neither does it mean we need to be constantly telling them that their lifestyle is inappropriate.[112]

Families with members with same-sex attractions, including those in same-sex relationships, are strengthened through living the principles of love and respect taught by Jesus Christ. The sister of a woman (Leigh) who is involved in a sexual relationship with another woman wrote an "Ensign" article in which she describes how the Church has helped her with her relationship with her sister:

I know the best thing I can do to have a close relationship with my sister is to have a close relationship with Heavenly Father and His Son. Leigh recently commented that it has been through the way our family has loved her that she has felt what she understood to be God’s love." [113]

While we are taught to love and treat everyone with kindness, the Church puts particular weight on the way we treat our family members, including those who are attracted to the same sex. In order to enter into the temple, a member must first answer this question:

Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?

If there is anything that is not in harmony with the teachings, they are not worthy to hold a temple recommend.

Further citations which illustrate these same principles include:

Elder Quentin L. Cook in 2009:

It is equally important that we be loving and kind to members of our own faith, regardless of their level of commitment or activity. The Savior has made it clear that we are not to judge each other. This is especially true of members of our own families. Our obligation is to love and teach and never give up. The Lord has made salvation "free for all men" but has "commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance." [114]

Introduction to Criticism

Did Church leaders ever teach that masturbation can cause someone to have a homosexual orientation?

Critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aver that President Spencer W. Kimball asserted that masturbation causes one to be attracted to the same sex in his 9 book Miracle of Forgiveness.

President Kimball wrote the following:

Most youth come into contact early with masturbation. Many would-be authorities declare that it is natural and acceptable, and frequently young men I interview cite these advocates to justify their practice of it. To this we must respond that the world's norms in many areas—drinking, smoking, and sex experience generally, to mention only a few—depart increasingly from God's law. The Church has a different, higher norm.
Thus prophets anciently and today condemn masturbation. It induces feelings of guilt and shame. It is detrimental to spirituality. It indicates slavery to the flesh, not that mastery of it and the growth toward godhood which is the object of our mortal life. Our modern prophet has indicated that no young man should be called on a mission who is not free from this practice.

While we should not regard this weakness as the heinous sin which some other sexual practices are, it is of itself bad enough to require sincere repentance. What is more, it too often leads to grievous sin, even to that sin against nature, homosexuality. For, done in private, it evolves often into mutual masturbation—and thence into homosexuality.[115]

This article will examine this charge and conclude that the notion that masturbation causes one to have a homosexual orientation is not and never has been taught by the Church.

Response to Criticism

Masturbation, according to President Kimball, may lead to the practice of homosexuality rather than a homosexual orientation

Commenting on President Kimball's claims above, Gregory L. Smith wrote:

This purported link between self-stimulation and homosexuality has often been ridiculed. O’Donovan refers to Kimball’s "absurd theory that masturbation leads to homosexuality."[116] And, such skepticism is justified if one reads homosexuality as homosexual orientation in the modern sense. Most people masturbate sometime, and few of these are gay.
Such an analysis assumes and relies on modern definitions, however. As I have shown, leaders’ use of the term homosexuality in this period — especially the homosexuality that they sought to discourage — was almost exclusively concerned with behavior.[117]
Seen in this light, Kimball’s claim becomes both more plausible and more understandable. It is important to remember that he had long experience counseling practicing homosexuals (19, 68-70).[118] He would likely have learned that solo masturbation while entertaining homosexual fantasies would often precede acting on those fantasies with another person. From that perspective, Kimball’s claim is less controversial and may even be valid.
Kimball was not alone in these realizations. Clinicians with exposure to the homosexual demi-monde had long remarked that homosexual masturbatory practices tended to precede homosexual acts with others, though the former did not always lead to the latter.
At the turn of the twentieth century, early sexologist Havelock Ellis wrote of a correspondent "who went to a French school, [and] told me that all the older boys had younger accomplices in mutual masturbation. … At my school, manual masturbation was both solitary and mutual; and sometimes younger boys, who had not acquired the habit, were induced to manipulate bigger boys. … In after-life they showed no signs of inversion [i.e., homosexuality]."[119]
In Albert Moll’s Sexual Life of the Child (1912), he wrote:

It is an indisputable fact that many boys … readily take to sexual practices with others. Examples of this constantly occur in [same-sex] boarding schools … they begin sexual practices very early in life (mutual masturbation and intimate physical contact, especially contact involving the genital organs).[120]

In an effort to reassure the reader that co-education of boys and girls would not be unduly risky, Moll pointed out that "even if we believe that in isolated instances coeducation may lead to unfortunate results in the way of [hetero]sexual practice. … We have to think of the fact that by the separation of the sexes during childhood we may favor the development of homosexuality."[121]
Moll and Havelock evidently did not think that masturbation inevitably lead to homosexual behavior, much less what is today called orientation. But, Moll would draw precisely the same conclusion as Kimball regarding behavior in the dry prose of academic German science:

The German Imperial Criminal Code … assert[s] that homosexual tendencies appearing in the child necessarily indicate the future development of permanent homosexuality. [Moll disagrees.] …
The chief danger associated with the appearance of sexual perversions lies in the fact that the child thus affected … endeavors again and ever again to revive these pleasurably-toned sensations … and … as soon as the genital organs are sufficiently mature, the boy or girl obtains sexual gratification by masturbating simultaneously with the imaginative contemplation of perverse ideas. Such perverse psychical onanism, accompanied or unaccompanied by physical masturbatory acts, is eminently adapted to favor the development of the perversion. Obviously, the actual performance of the corresponding perverse sexual act will be just as dangerous as its perversely associated masturbation. Thus, a boy who is homosexually inclined may masturbate while allowing his imagination to run riot upon homosexual ideas; or he may take to homosexual acts with one or more other male persons. Every sort of gratification that is associated with perverse images is dangerous; and no less dangerous is the spontaneous cultivation of such perverse sexual images.[122]

Moll saw a risk related to masturbation among the "homosexually inclined" — it would encourage unwanted behavior, but not create most inclination to that behavior.[123] Kimball, with more brevity, would write "masturbation too often leads to grievous sin, even to … homosexuality. For, done in private, it evolves often into mutual masturbation — practiced with another person of the same sex — and thence into total homosexuality."[124]
This was, in fact, precisely what a study of "non-patient" adult male homosexuals "drawn from the community" found in the same year that The Miracle of Forgiveness was published:

Of the homosexual men, all of them had practiced self-masturbation at some time during their lives. … Even during the peak of their sexual outlet by homosexual means between the ages of 20 and 29, almost all of the subjects (97%) were engaged in self-masturbation...
Homosexual behavior

Cognitional Rehearsals — Those were reported in almost all of the men (99%). In 97% it was stated that cognitional rehearsals had already started before age 20. …

The majority of the subjects (86%) had already had homosexual contacts before the age of 15. …

Of the men that were engaged in homosexual activity before age 15, the large majority (93%) practiced mutual masturbation … [and] a minority (19%) practiced [homosexual] intercourse. …

Mutual masturbation was abandoned by the majority of the subjects after the age of 29. Even those who practiced it between the of 20 and 29, tended to engage in it only occasionally.[125]

For this population, Kimball was right — one started with fantasies ("cognitional rehearsals") ultimately accompanied by masturbation, progressed to mutual masturbation, and eventually abandoned that for greater intimacies. One can quibble about whether masturbation "caused" these homosexual acts in a technical sense, but it is hard to see the behaviors as utterly unrelated. And behavior was what concerned Kimball.
In fact, he would have said that the person chose solo acts that simply made it easier to later choose other acts with someone else — one sin "leads to" another (71). He did not see the relationship as deterministic:[126]
Small indiscretions evolve into larger ones and finally into major transgressions which bring heavy penalties. … Warning signals and guidelines are given to reduce the danger of one’s being blindly enticed into forbidden paths. …
Those who yield to evil are usually those who have placed themselves in a vulnerable position.[127]
And, he saw other similar sins as preludes to heterosexual ones in the same way: "My beloved young folks, do not excuse petting and body intimacies. I am positive that if this illicit, illegal, improper, and lustful habit of ‘petting’ could be wiped out, that fornication would soon be gone from our world."[128][129]

Smith cites "a present-day queer studies author" that further contextualizes how President Kimball understood homosexuality:

Once the patient’s will-power or reason was compromised by masturbation [it was thought] … "reversion" to the primordial bestial type would be the result. … the slide from masturbation to homosexuality seems bizarre from a twenty-first century perspective. However, that is partly because current definitions of masturbation are very narrow compared to the definitions operative in the nineteenth century. We think of masturbation as self-stimulation only," while the nineteenth century did not consider anything but intercourse to be a homosexual act, even if it involved same-sex genital play.[130]

The same author observes that nineteenth-century thinkers thought that

There were two categories of inverts [i.e., homosexuals]. First, there were those whose condition was a result of self-induced degeneracy through willful vice. … However, increasingly influenced by the personal disclosures of inverts themselves, many nineteenth century physicians began to believe there was a second group. … Maybe some people are born with the gonads and genitalia of one sex but the brain and neurological system of the other. …

But it might not be fair to punish [these] congenital inverts, many physicians and sexologists believed, because their actions were not truly voluntary. As James Kiernan put it, "There can be no legal responsibility where free determination of the will is impaired." Congenital inverts were naturally weak of will … unable to resist the perverse urges that their degenerate condition aroused. Such individuals might undergo episodic periods of organically produced sexual furor during which they were entirely devoid of self-control.[131]

Thus, as Smith concludes:

If these distinctions are understood, then Kimball’s argument makes further sense. Some believed that those with an in-born attraction for the same sex could not control their actions. Other homosexuals "learned" such behavior via a free-will choice to engage in masturbation, which, in some, could progress to group masturbation and ultimately to homosexuality (i.e., intercourse).
The nineteenth century theorists might not condemn those who were "innate" homosexuals who had not brought their habit upon themselves through masturbatory habits. But they did not believe this group could control themselves either — their compulsive activity would be almost a type of madness. (By analogy, today’s society would not condemn a schizophrenic for her hallucinations, though it might well institutionalize her against her will if she sought to harm others as a result of those hallucinations.)
Church doctrine, however, revolted at the idea that any normal person was unable to control their behavior, however they might be tempted.[132] So Kimball focused on avoiding the acts that could strengthen temptation and lead to further unwanted behavior.
Like Kimball, neither Ellis nor Moll saw same-sex mutual masturbation as fully "homosexual," per se but observed that it could (in some cases) precede homosexual intercourse. This is a different conceptual world than ours.[133]

Conclusion

Thus, President Kimball is not saying that masturbation causes one to have a homosexual orientation. President Kimball says that masturbation could lead to the practice of homosexuality. The church rarely (if ever) talks about the causes of a particular sexual orientation. The church is much more interested in learning to control our thoughts, feelings and behaviors rather than sexual orientation. Many other leaders have also cautioned about preoccupation with sex and about arousing sexual feelings that should only be expressed in marriage. Masturbation arouses sexual feelings outside of marriage. This could lead to sexual acts performed outside of marriage. If a person has opposite-sex attractions, it may lead to the practice of heterosexuality outside of marriage, which is considered just as much of a sin as the practice of homosexuality.

Do Church leaders recommend marriage as "therapy" for those with same-sex attraction?

The prophets and general authorities have, in their written statements, long been clear that marriage is not to be seen as a "treatment" for same-sex attraction

It is claimed that Church leaders have advocated that those with same-sex attraction marry those of the opposite sex as part of the "therapy" for overcoming their same-sex desires or inclinations.

Like members of all faiths, all Latter-day Saints do not live up to their ideals and principles perfectly. Some members and leaders have doubtless encouraged some people with same-sex desires to marry someone before they were ready. Such a practice has been discouraged by statements by the Church's highest authorities.

As with all decisions relating to marriage, such matters are ultimately the responsibility of the parties involved.

1970s

President Kimball wrote a pamphlet entitled "Hope for Transgressors", in which he addressed leaders who were helping men who were involved in homosexual behavior. He said:

When you feel he is ready, he should be encouraged to date and move his life towards the normal. It is proper that a girl should be interested in a boy and a boy should be interested in a girl.

While marriage was mentioned as a possibility, it was not presented as a part of the repentance process or a cure. The idea of marriage was to be introduced only when the young man was ready, not as a means to be ready. There have been disastrous marriages that have resulted from people getting married before they were ready, but there are many marriages that have been very successful, especially those who have headed President Kimball's advice to wait until after you are ready before marriage.

1980s

In 1986, Elder Oaks had an interview with CBS. This was the discussion:

CBS: The Church has recommended in the past marriage as a part of repentance, when you're engaging in homosexual...

ELDER OAKS: I don't know whether that has been recommended by individual bishops or priesthood leaders counseling persons in individual circumstances. I just don't know that. Marriage is not usually thought of as an act of repentance.

CBS: As part of repentance from ...there have been several cases cited of when a homosexual who wants to remain within the fold and is fighting his feelings will go to a bishop or will go for counsel and what is recommended is that you repress those feelings and get married and have children and that will set you on a better path. Is that foreign to you? Does that sound...

ELDER OAKS: I don't know whether that has been recommended or not because the counseling sessions you refer to are very confidential counseling sessions and when the bishop comes out of that counseling session he doesn't report to anyone. When the person he's talking to comes out of that session they're free to talk to anyone and say anything without fear of contradiction. So I don't know. I just don't know what has been said in such sessions. [134]

In 1987, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

The Lord has proclaimed that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and is intended to be an eternal relationship bonded by trust and fidelity. Latter-day Saints, of all people, should marry with this sacred objective in mind. Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices, which first should clearly be overcome with a firm and fixed determination never to slip to such practices again. [135]

1990s

In Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems, the Church stated:

Marriage should not be viewed as a way to resolve homosexual problems. The lives of others should not be damaged by entering a marriage where such concerns exist. Encouraging members to cultivate heterosexual feelings as a way to resolve homosexual problems generally leads them to frustration and discouragement. However, some people have reported that once they are freed from homosexual problems, heterosexual feelings have gradually emerged. [136]

2006

Elder Oaks said:

We are sometimes asked about whether marriage is a remedy for these feelings that we have been talking about. President Hinckley, faced with the fact that apparently some had believed it to be a remedy, and perhaps that some Church leaders had even counseled marriage as the remedy for these feelings, made this statement: "Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices." To me that means that we are not going to stand still to put at risk daughters of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith.

On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity - that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate. [137]

2007

Elder Holland said:

For various reasons, marriage and children are not immediately available to all. Perhaps no offer of marriage is forthcoming. Perhaps even after marriage there is an inability to have children. Or perhaps there is no present attraction to the opposite gender... Recognize that marriage is not an all-purpose solution. Same-gender attractions run deep, and trying to force a heterosexual relationship is not likely to change them. [138]

How do Mormons view the issue of heterosexual marriage for people with same-sex attraction?

The Church does not recommend marriage for everyone with same-sex attraction

The Church does not recommend marriage for everyone with same-sex attraction. They recommend being and open and honest before marriage, which correlates with scientific evidence for successful marriages. Even outside the church, people with same-sex attraction are marrying an opposites sex partner at rates higher then those who are committing to a same-sex partner.

The Church encourages all of its members to be open and honest with their spouse

The Church encourages all of its members to be open and honest with their spouse. (See Same-sex attraction/Honesty) In particular, they have discouraged members with same-sex attraction from using marriage as personal therapy or from lying in order to get married. However, they have said marriage can be appropriate in certain situations. Elder Oaks stated:

"We are sometimes asked about whether marriage is a remedy for these feelings that we have been talking about. President Hinckley, faced with the fact that apparently some had believed it to be a remedy, and perhaps that some Church leaders had even counseled marriage as the remedy for these feelings, made this statement: "Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices." To me that means that we are not going to stand still to put at risk daughters of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith. (See Same-sex attraction/Marriage as therapy)

On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.

President Hinckley said that marriage is not a therapeutic step to solve problems."[20]

Some critics have argued that by creating a culture which allows people with same-sex attraction to enter a marriage with a member of the opposite sex, the Church sets up its members for failure and heart-ache.

Some people have never had an attraction to the opposite sex, but develop an attraction for their spouse

Some critics have claimed that it is impossible for a man with same-sex attraction to develop a "great attraction" for a daughter of God (or a woman with same-sex attraction to develop a great attraction for a son of God) and therefore marriage is impossible and the Church should stop talking about it.

We know from anecdotal evidence that many people with same-sex attractions have developed an attraction for their spouse. Some people have never had an attraction to the opposite sex, but develop an attraction for their spouse. Other people have always had some level of opposite-sex attraction. (The term same-sex attraction can be applied to anyone who is attracted to the same sex, regardless of intensity or presence of opposite-sex attractions.) Other people have done all they could and have never been able to develop an attraction for the opposite sex. There is a great variety of ways people experience their sexuality, but regardless of the attractions a person experiences now or in the future, everyone can live the gospel, either through marriage or celibacy. To say no one with same-sex attraction can develop an attraction for a potential spouse denies the experience of many people. It would be just as naive as saying everyone with same-sex attraction can develop an attraction for a potential spouse.

Marriages where one spouse is attracted to the same sex are more prone to divorce and dissatisfaction

Marriages where one spouse is attracted to the same sex are more prone to divorce and dissatisfaction. The Church does not recommend marriage in all cases. For example, the Church recommends being open and honest with a spouse before marriage. Research by Buxton found that if a man with same-sex attraction were to enter a marriage without disclosing their attractions, the marriage had a 85% chance of failure within three years after the sexual attractions were discovered.

Most often, the couple choose not to stay together after the disclosure. However, for those who did try to make their marriages work, they found relatively high success rates after being open and honest. The study concluded:

"The significant finding is that about half of those who tried to make their marriages work succeeded, an important figure for couples who are dismayed by the fifteen percent figure to keep in mind. This low figure is based on all marriages where the husband came out."[21]

On the other hand, research by Kays found that open and honest communication lead to higher rates of stability and satisfaction in marriage. They found that some of the couples "report having a highly satisfying and stable relationship, similar to that of heterosexual marriages."[22]

Prevalence of marriages

According to the Straight Spouse Network, there are two million opposite-sex marriages in the United States where one of the spouses is attracted to the same sex. According to The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, 3.5% of men married to women and 2.1% of women married to men reported same-sex attraction. Those are people who are actually married. Compare that with US Census Bureau's estimate that there are 646,464 same-sex couples in the United States. This includes both those who consider themselves married and those who do not. While marriage may not work for everyone with same-sex attraction, it seems that even in modern America, more people with same-sex attraction choose committed relationships with people of the opposite sex than with those of the same sex.

It is important to note that these figures include everyone who self-reported having same-sex attraction. It does not include those who did not self report same-sex attraction, nor did it report the degree of same-sex attraction. Same-sex attraction includes both those who only attracted to the same sex as well as those who have attraction to both sexes.


This section is a chronology of statements from primary and secondary sources. Sources may be viewed by following the citation links.

Is it hypocritical for the Church to oppose same-sex marriage, when its members practiced plural marriage?

There is a significant difference between laws prohibiting polygamy and laws prohibiting same-sex marriage

Critics of Mormonism argue that it is hypocritical for the LDS Church to oppose same-sex marriage, when the Church itself had an alternative form of marriage.

The Church supports all of the rights for same-sex couples that they sought for polygamous families plus some. Same-sex marriage is doing more than extending rights to same-sex couples, but is setting a new standard that excludes people with same-sex attraction who are living the gospel standards. The Church never sought to force polygamy on other people, yet the Supreme Courts and many gay right organizations are seeking to take away rights from people who do not live up to the new standards.

There is a significant difference between laws prohibiting polygamy and laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. Anti-polygamy laws did not allow men to live with their wives. Men were arrested for living in the homes where their children lived so that they could fulfill their parental responsibiliies. However, even where laws do not allow for same-sex marriage, same-sex couples may form a family and live together. They may even choose to hold their own "marriage" ceremony and introduce each other as husband or wife.

The Church has supported rights for all people to pursue their own happiness according to the dictates of their own consciences, both for themselves and for others

The Church has supported rights for all people to pursue their own happiness according to the dictates of their own consciences, both for themselves and for others. The church never sought for polygamy to be held up as a national standard, requiring all citizens to accept a moral equivalence between polygamy and monogamy. In fact, the Church has already championed rights for people with same-sex attractions that go beyond any right they ever sought for themselves in their practice of polygamy. The right to set a new standard for marriage that would apply to the rest of the United States was not a right that the Church sought for polygamous families. It should not be a right that same-sex couples should seek for themselves.

Different levels of rights

Often, when we talk about rights, different kinds of rights get lumped together into one group. Everyone knows that humans have certain inalienable rights, but we often don't discuss what happens when those rights conflict. There are several different kinds of rights associated with sexual practices.

One basic right is the right to practice your desired sexual relationship. In most modern societies, any number or gender of consenting adults can usually practice their desired relationship without fear of legal retribution. But, even in the most liberal societies, this right is generally tempered by the right of other people to disagree about the morality of that relationship.

Another right is the right to legal protection from discrimination. This would include laws that would penalize people for treating you differently because of your sexual practices. For example, in most countries, it is illegal to treat an inter-racial couple or a same-sex couple differently when it comes to housing or employment. The church has been a strong supporter of protection against discrimination in housing and employment for people with same-sex attraction, including same-sex couples.

Another set of rights includes government help in maintaining your family. This would include legal recognition of your relationship and associated rights such as visitation rights. It may also help subsidize the cost of your relationships, through tax breaks and other benefits. Some modern societies have extended these rights to same-sex couples, and the church has publicly stated that they do not oppose these rights.

A final right that might be discussed is to have your government adopt your sexual relationship as a model, requiring it to be taught in schools as the moral equivalent of traditional marriage. The church is strongly opposed to this infringement of their religious right to determine their own standards of sexual morality according to the dictates of their own consciences.

Rights associated with plural marriage

When the church supported plural marriage, they were seeking for that most basic of rights - the right to practice their religion. They were not seeking for the United States to recognize their plural marriages, to subsidize their relationships with tax breaks, or to force all citizens to accept it as the moral equivalent of their own monogamous traditions. They only sought to be left to practice their religion in peace.

But the federal government would not allow them even this most basic of rights. Husbands were forcibly separated from their wives and children. Men who tried to sneak into their homes to provide food for their families were arrested, if they were caught. Some moved to other countries so they could continue to be with their families.

Rights for same-sex couples

There are many rights that same-sex couples do not have. The church has publicly supported many rights and have pressed for changes in legal system to afford these rights to same-sex couples. The rights that the church supports for same-sex couples goes BEYOND any right that they have ever sought for polygamous families.

The Church has no problem with people living life as they see fit when it doesn't interfere with other rights. However, as is often the case, when some rights expand, others diminish. For example, while supporting the rights of people with same-sex attraction to be free from discrimination in employment and housing, the church was in essence restricting the rights of landlords to choose their tenants and employers to choose their employees.

Many people think legalizing same-sex marriage is a necessary step to ensure that same-sex couples have the rights they need to protect their families from discrimination. They do not understand why they Church would be opposed to these rights. As stated earlier, the Church is not opposed to these rights, but adopting same-sex marriage as a national standard equivalent to opposite-sex marriage goes beyond simply living peacefully with those who choose to live a different standard. It is disregarding the old standard and replacing it with a new standard. This will have a detrimental effect on those who do not live up to the new standard.

New standard being introduced with same-sex marriage

The movement to legalize same-sex marriage is setting a dangerous standard of what is expected for people with same-sex attractions. It used to be that society expected people with same-sex attraction to get married to people of the opposite-sex. This type of expectation can cause damage for people with same-sex attraction who are not ready for marriage, and has been opposed by the Church for decades. (See Same-sex attraction/Marriage as therapy

Now, a new expectation is beginning to form that people with same-sex attraction can't have a fulfilling and faithful marriage with someone of the opposite sex and that they must marry someone of the same sex. Expectations of any sort are dangerous and hurt people who do not meet those expectations. About half of faithful members of the Church with same-sex attraction are heterosexually married, and many others have found fulfillment in celibacy. The new standard being adopted by several courts does not have room for these faithful members.

For example, the California Supreme Court ruled that, for people with same-sex attraction, their "choice of a life partner will, by definition, be a person of the same sex", and that was what their "true identity" should be. Later, Judge Walker ruled that the marriages of many members of the church with same-sex attraction was "unrealistic". The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that these relationships were "unappealing" and was "no right at all".

While many same-sex marriage supporters do not wish to harm those who follow the law of chastity, many major organizations have actively sought to take away rights from those people who do not live up to the new standard. For example, the Human Rights Campaign has actively opposed anti-discrimination employment rights for gay people who do not have gay sex.[23] It is ironic that while the Church has been actively lobbying to extend employment rights for all LGBT people, the Human Rights Campaign has worked and has succeeded in taking away those exact same rights from LGBT people who live Church standards.

By the Supreme Courts encoding this new standard into law, people with same-sex attraction who do not live up to the standard can be discriminated against in the private sector. For example, Apple recently removed an app from its iTune collection because the organization who put it up was composed of gay Christians who lived the law of chastity. A spokesperson for Apple explained that having an app for gay people who live the law of chastity "violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people". [24][25][26] There is a difference between seeking for the right to live an alternative lifestyle and taking away rights from those who do not choose your lifestyle because you find it "offensive". It is interesting to note this organization has made a statement supporting people's right to choose same-sex relationships.[27]

Isn't the Church's opposition to same-sex marriage hypocritical, considering that they used to ban black from holding the priesthood until 1978?

The Law of Chastity is doctrine with scriptural precedent, whereas the priesthood ban was a practice that was always said to be temporary

President McKay taught:

There is not now, and there never has been a doctrine in this church that the negroes are under a divine curse. There is no doctrine in the church of any kind pertaining to the negro. We believe that we have a scriptural precedent for withholding the priesthood from the negro. It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice someday will be changed. And that's all there is to it. (Sterling M. McMurrin affidavit, March 6, 1979. See David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Greg Prince and William Robert Wright. Quoted by Genesis Group)[28]

The priesthood ban was not based on a choice

Just because a black man was denied the priesthood before 1978, does not mean he did anything wrong. It was a practice that was applied to all black men and had nothing to do with the choices of the individual person. Being black was not a choice that he made. Following the law of chastity is a choice. Everyone can follow the law of chastity, regardless of sexual orientation. If someone chooses to have sexual relationships outside of a heterosexual marriage, that is a worthiness issue and is a choice that they are making.

It was prophesied that the priesthood ban would be reversed

It was prophesied that the priesthood ban would be reversed, whereas we are told the law of chastity would always be in place.

For example, in reference to black people, Brigham Young taught:

"The time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of and more."[139]

The prohibition on homosexual behavior has repeatedly been declared as a never-changing standard.

President Hinckley taught:

Prophets of God have repeatedly taught through the ages that practices of homosexual relations, fornication, and adultery are grievous sins.[140]

A cursory review of the historical record confirms his view:

1983

Likewise, make it clear to your students what the gospel cannot do. Once individuals or nations have departed from the prescribed path, their behavior may be legalized, but it cannot be and will not be legitimized by the Lord. For example, the gospel can cure, but it cannot condone, homosexuality. It can cure mortals from the need to pursue heedless abortion, but once they have left the straight and narrow path, it cannot guide them through the dark thicket of inconsistent alternatives which lie on either side of that path.[141]

2012

Do not tamper with the life-giving powers in your body alone or with members of either gender. That is the standard of the Church, and it will not change. As you mature, there is a temptation to experiment or explore immoral activities.[142]

2013

Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to the Lord’s doctrine and crucial to God’s eternal plan. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fulness of life on earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood, or misconstrued. Not if you want true joy.....Regardless of what civil legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed.[143]

What we do know is that the doctrine of the Church—that sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married—has not changed and is not changing.[144]

Outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman, all uses of our procreative powers are to one degree or another sinful and contrary to God’s plan for the exaltation of His children…. [L]aws legalizing so-called "same-sex marriage" do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities—even those becoming popular in our particular time and place.[145]

Central to God’s plan, the doctrine of marriage between a man and woman is an integral teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and will not change." "If it is being suggested that the church’s doctrine on this matter [same sex marriage] is changing, that is incorrect. Marriage between a man and a woman is central to God’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. As such, traditional marriage is a foundational doctrine and cannot change.[146]

But man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority—to love and serve God—requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior. For example, we remain under divine command not to commit adultery or fornication even when those acts are no longer crimes under the laws of the states or countries where we reside. Similarly, laws legalizing so-called "same-sex marriage" do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities—even those becoming popular in our particular time and place.[147]

2015

When pressed on whether he’s leaving any room for movement [on same sex marriage or acts] in the future, Christofferson simply said, "No."[148]

2016

There is no change in the Church’s position of what is morally right. But what is changing—and what needs to change—is helping Church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere.[149]

Central to God’s plan, the doctrine of marriage between a man and woman is an integral teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and will not change:

As a doctrinal principle, based on the scriptures, the Church affirms that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The Church also affirms that God’s law defines marriage as the legal and lawful union between a man and a woman.

Only a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife should have sexual relations. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same sex, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family.[150]

2019

These changes [to policies regarding same-sex marriage and children raised in such marriages] do not represent a shift in Church doctrine related to marriage or the commandments of God in regard to chastity and morality. The doctrine of the plan of salvation and the importance of chastity will not change.[151]

2020

McKay Coppins, a Latter-day Saint writing for The Atlantic, quoted Russell M. Nelson (then president of the Church):

But while some of these changes have been celebrated as signs of progress, Nelson has not budged on key issues. When I asked him what he’d say to LGBTQ people who feel that the Church doesn’t want them, he told me, "God loves all his children, just like you and I do," and "There’s a place for all who choose to belong to his Church." But when I asked whether the prohibition on same-sex relationships might someday be lifted, he demurred. "As apostles of the Lord, we cannot change God’s law," he said. "We teach his laws. He gave them many thousands of years ago, and I don’t expect he’ll change them now."[152]

2022

President Dallin H. Oaks:

Those who do not fully understand the Father’s loving plan for His children may consider this Family Proclamation no more than a changeable statement of policy. In contrast, we affirm that the Family Proclamation, founded on unchangeable doctrine, defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur.[153]

The priesthood ban needed to be reversed so all of God's children could have the blessings of the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, whereas the Law of Chastity, as it stands, already allows all people these blessings.

Scriptural precedence

  • Jesus Christ taught that marriage is between a man and a woman, whereas He did not teach blacks would not receive the priesthood. (See Christ's teachings on homosexuality)
  • The Law of Chastity has scriptural precedence, whereas the priesthood ban did not.

It's cruel to create a false expectation that the doctrine will change.

As a final contention, it is cruel to create a false expectation that the doctrine will change. Creating such just fosters more disappointment, depression, possible suicidality, etc. in the person with same-sex attraction each time they hear that the Church's doctrine won't change. It's advisable that we, as members of the Lord's Church, not make promises that can't be kept. We need to "mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort." That is true; but we also need to "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death[.]"[154] As Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught, "[t]here’s no kindness in misdirecting people and leading them into any misunderstanding about what is true, what is right, what is wrong, what leads to Christ and what leads away from Christ."[155]

In the Church of Jesus Christ, what are the ramifications from denying a gay identity?

No harm has been demonstrated in not having a homosexual orientation identity

Critics of Mormonism argue that in order to be happy and healthy, a person with same-sex attraction needs to identify as gay and have a same-sex relationship.

No harm has been demonstrated in not having a homosexual orientation identity, and in some cases, it may even prove beneficial. There are, of course, many questions about homosexuality that have not been studied scientifically, but Latter-day Saints nevertheless can be sure about the wisdom of following the example and teaching of the Lord's chosen servants. Not only can members with same-sex attraction be content rejecting a gay identity, but they can gain greater clarity about things and find great joy in preparing themselves for all of the eternal blessings the Lord promises them through His Gospel.

The church encourages members to view themselves as sons and daughters of God

The church encourages members to view themselves as sons and daughters of God, and discourages any identity that interferes with that identity. Members who refer to themselves as straight, gay or lesbian are free to go on as all other members, but are advised not to identify themselves primarily by their sexual feelings.

See also: LGBT identity

Taking on a sexual identity, whether gay or straight, has not been shown to have any benefit over those who choose not to assume a sexual identity. Most of the people with same-sex attractions who have not had a homosexual experience also do not identity as gay.[156] Critics argue that it is not healthy for homosexual people to reject a gay identity or suppress their homosexual attractions. They argue that the only way to be well-adjusted is to come out as a gay person. Many faithful members of the church as well as other Christians have found peace and joy in rejecting a gay identity. Others have incorporated a gay identity into a lifestyle of celibacy or heterosexual marriage.

Because of the massive opposition to people who want to reject a gay identity, a task force set up by the APA investigated the matter. They found that there is no clear harm in denying a gay identity. They found that for some people, a religious identity was stronger than their sexual identity, and instructed counselors not to preclude the goal of celibacy, but to help clients determine their own goals in therapy, and that together with support groups, the therapy can change a client's sexual orientation identity. Dr. Glassgold, the leader of the taskforce, summarized the findings by saying that there has been little research about the long-term effects of rejecting a gay identity, but there is "no clear evidence of harm" and "some people seem to be content with that path."[157]

Due to the results of this study, the task force recommended sexual orientation identity exploration for clients with unwanted same-sex attractions. Psychologists are recommended to help clients explore which sexual orientation identity best suits their needs and values. It is then recommended that psychologists help clients transition to their new identity. They list as possible new sexual orientation identities for people with same-sex attractions as:

  1. Heterosexual
  2. LGBT
  3. Disidentify from LGBT (such as ex-gay)
  4. No specific sexual orientation identity[158]

A person could assume any of these identities and still be a member of the Church in good standing. None of these identities have been found to cause any harm.

Effects of adopting a gay identity

While there is no evidence that the failure to adopt a gay identity is harmful for people with same-sex attractions, there is evidence that adopting a gay identity may lead to undesired results for some people.

There is a strong correlation between identifying as gay or lesbian and having gay sex. This is an important part for members who want to follow the law of chastity. A study by the Social Organization of Sexuality found that 60% of men and 68% of women who were attracted to the same gender have never engaged in homosexual behavior. This number differs from those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. For them, only 13% of men and 4% of women have never engaged in homosexual behavior.[159] This lead the researchers to conclude that sexual identity (i.e., how people label and conceive of themselves) was a stronger indicator of sexual behavior than sexual orientation (i.e., the feelings or inclinations which people have).

Dr. Gary Remafedi, the director of the Youth and AIDS Projects at the University of Minnesota, did a study on people with same-sex attraction. He found that those who adopted a gay or bisexual identity at an earlier age were more likely to attempt suicide than those that did not.[160]It is not clear why this is the case. Another study on Norwegian adolescents found that when sexual attraction, identity and behavior were factored together, only homosexual behavior was predictive of suicide.[161] It may be that those who adopt a gay identity at a younger age are more likely for suicide simply because they are more likely to have gay sex, and not because of their sexual identity in and of itself. Another possible explanation may be because of increased exposure to bullying and intimidation of people who identify as gay, which bullying the Church strongly opposes. Whatever the reason, it seems that youth with same-sex attractions who do not adopt a gay identity may be less prone to suicide.

Research by Schneider found that for some married me with same-sex attraction, a strong homosexual identity was associated with difficulties in marital satisfaction.[162] Other research by Yarhouse found that the sexual identity of a spouse with same-sex attraction was an important resilient factor in helping marriages succeed.[163]

Research seems to indicate that adopting a gay identity may have a negative impact on youth and married men.

If same-sex attraction is something that occurs naturally, why can't God and the Church accept it by allowing sealings of LGBT couples?

Introduction to Question

Some have brought up the sensitive question of why gay marriage and other LGBT relationships can't be accepted by God and the Church if the characteristic is innate. Some struggle to find a purpose in the command to not engage in homosexual behavior. Some secularist critics and even members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who support same-sex marriage co-opt this issue as a means of openly and directly challenging the Church's opposition to same-sex relationships and marriages. This article examines that sensitive question/criticism.

It must be understood that some people are very sincere when asking these questions and that the questions deserve to be treated as such when sincerity is sensed. Others simply want to emotionally manipulate people into faith crisis over this issue. Great discernment is needed to know whether one is the former or latter in any given situation.

Response to Question

Feelings are Not Being

It is important to remember that just because something occurs naturally, that doesn't mean that it is therefore a good thing. This is what is known as the Is-Ought Fallacy in philosophy. There are plenty of things that occur naturally that we don't consider good such as depression, anxiety, and so forth. Many animals kill each other after mating.[164]

Brigham Young University professor Ty Mansfield pointed out something important in regard to feelings not forming identity:

"Being gay" is not a scientific idea, but rather a cultural and philosophical one, addressing the subjective and largely existential phenomenon of identity. From a social constructionist/constructivist perspective, our sense of identity is something we negotiate with our environment. Environment can include biological environment, but our biology is still environment. From an LDS perspective, the essential spiritual person within us exists independent of our mortal biology, so our biology, our body is something that we relate to and negotiate our identity with, rather than something that inherently or essentially defines us. Also, while there has likely been homoerotic attraction, desire, behavior, and even relationships, among humans as long as there have been humans, the narratives through which sexuality is understood and incorporated into one’s sense of self and identity is subjective and culturally influenced. The "gay" person or personality didn’t exist prior to the mid-20th century.

In an LDS context, people often express concern about words that are used—whether they be "same-sex attraction," which some feel denies the realities of the gay experience, or "gay," "lesbian," or "LGBT," which some feels speaks more to specific lifestyle choices. What’s important to understand, however, is that identity isn’t just about the words we use but the paradigms and worldviews and perceptions of or beliefs about the "self" and "self-hood" through which we interpret and integrate our various experiences into a sense of personal identity, sexual or otherwise. And identity is highly fluid and subject to modification with change in personal values or socio-cultural context. The terms "gay," "lesbian," and "bisexual" aren’t uniformly understood or experienced in the same way by everyone who may use or adopt those terms, so it’s the way those terms or labels are incorporated into self-hood that accounts for identity. One person might identify as "gay" simply as shorthand for the mouthful "son or daughter of God who happens to experience romantic, sexual or other desire for persons of the same sex for causes unknown and for the short duration of mortality," while another person experiences themselves as "gay" as a sort of eternal identity and state of being.

An important philosophical thread in the overall experience of identity, is the experience of "selfhood"—what it means to have a self, and what it means to "be true to" that self. The question of what it means to be "true to ourselves" is a philosophical rather than a scientific one. In her book Multiplicity: The New Science of Personality, Identity, and the Self, award-winning science and medical writer Rita Carter explores the plurality of "selves" who live in each one of us and how each of those varied and sometimes conflicting senses of self inform various aspects of our identity(ies). This sense seems to be universal. In the movie The Incredibles, there’s a scene in which IncrediBoy says to Mr. Incredible, "You always, always say, ‘Be true to yourself,’ but you never say which part of yourself to be true to!"[165]

Thus, there is big difference between feelings and the meaning or labels that we assign to feelings. Thank goodness that feelings are not being. Couldn't we imagine a time where someone would want to change feelings that they didn't feel described their identity such as impulses for pornography, drugs, or violence? This does not mean that the author is comparing sexual orientation to bad impulses, this is simply to point out that feelings do not inherently control identity. We assign identity to feelings.

The Latter-day Saint Argument for Marriage

We should turn to Latter-day Saint scripture to figure out why the Church values marriage as much as it does and why is refuses to acknowledge same-gender sexual behavior and romantic relationships.

In 1831, Joseph Smith gave a revelation to the Shakers living in Ohio regarding some of their beliefs. As part of their religious system, they forbade people to marry and made them celibate. This revelation reissues the Lord's definition of marriage to the Shakers:

15 And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.
16 Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;
17 And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.

This revelation makes several crucial points about the Latter-day Saint position on marriage:

  1. Marriage is ordained of God
  2. Marriage is defined as being between one man and woman
  3. We were designed by God to be married this way.
  4. Our design is not shown in the sexual orientation we have but our biological gender.
  5. We were designed in the pre-mortal existence to be married man and woman.

We might ask why this marriage arrangement is the ideal one? We believe that it is because the Lord endorses the conjugal view of marriage. What is the conjugal view of marriage? Another website explains:

The conjugal view holds that marriage is a union between a man and a woman who share a domestic life oriented towards child-bearing and child-rearing. In other words, procreation (creating new human life) is the unifying good of a marriage relationship. A "unifying good" is that activity that most completely unites the partners in the relationship — the purpose towards which they coordinate their joint activities.
Let’s illustrate what this means: Consider a boyfriend and a girlfriend who share a deep emotional connection and enjoy spending time with each other. They have no particular plans for the future, and have made no commitments to each other. They may be united by many things, including mutual enjoyment, or whatever shared hobbies they pursue. Imagine that the girlfriend suddenly becomes pregnant. At that moment, their futures change completely — a whole host of duties suddenly arise that fundamentally changes their relationship.

They are now united by something more than just mutual enjoyment and emotional connection — they are united by an innocent human person, who physically embodies their union. While their relationship may still involve love and a deep emotional connection, raising the child becomes that thing that most completely unites them. This is what it means to say that child-raising is the unifying good of the relationship. They will probably consider getting married, because that is what marriage is about. In fact, if they don’t get officially married, but continue to live together and raise their kids together, many governments will still consider them married anyway (in what is called "common law marriage").

The change that occurred in their relation strikes at the heart of marriage, from the conjugal view. Marriage is when a man and a woman say to each other, in essence, "Let us extend our emotional union into something more permanent, by starting a family together." That is, a married couple arranges their lives and joins their families in anticipation of child-birth and child-raising. A pregnancy may be an unexpected interruption to a boyfriend and girlfriend, which fundamentally changes their relationship. However, as much as a child might change the lives of a married couple, she does not change the nature of their relationship. Marriage creates that difference from the get-go (before children are ever conceived), by enwrapping the relationship in norms (expectations) of permanence and fidelity. This is because marriage is oriented towards procreation. It points couples that direction.[166]

There are some objections that people have raised to this that we address below.

Latter-day Saint scripture also provides some evidence that the union of man and woman creates the spirits people in the next life (D&C 132꞉63).

Objections to Church Standard

The Argument from Personal Revelation

There are often claims from members of the Church who identify as LGBTQAIP+ and other members of the Church who support same-sex marriage that they have received personal revelation that the Church is wrong about this issue and that it will eventually accept LGBT sealings, relationships, and so on in the future. Since this is a topic that involves the ontological makeup of the entire human family as well as their eternal destiny, this type of revelation does not lie within the stewardship of those that identify as LGBT or those that support same-sex marriage, but with the prophet of God (Doctrine and Covenants 28꞉2-4; 42:53-60; 112:20). The Savior told us that the one way we could protect ourselves against deception is to hold to his word (JS-Matthew 1꞉37) and he announces himself as the source of the revelation declaring that our telos as men and women is to be united maritally and sexually (Doctrine and Covenants 49꞉28). Thus, it is likely that these individuals, if they have indeed felt revelation occur, have been deceived by false Spirits (Doctrine and Covenants 50꞉1-2) and their testimonies should be disregarded. If someone were to receive a revelation like this, it would be given to them for their own comfort and instruction. They would also be placed under strict commandment to not disseminate their revelation until it accords with the revelation of the prophets, God's authorized priesthood channels (Alma 12꞉9).

The Argument from Priesthood Restriction

As an additional means of justifying opposition to the Church's position on same sex marriage, some point to the pre-1978 restrictions on people of African descent from holding the Church's priesthood or officiating in temple ordinances, including the Church's disavowed explanations for the restrictions. If the Church was wrong about their explanations for that, could it be wrong about this issue? This has been examined in another article on the FairMormon wiki.

Conclusion

Many LGBT members of The Church of Jesus Christ do not need to hear the points listed in this article. Many understand these points clearly but may simply need someone to love and empathize with their struggle. Members of the Church are placed under covenant at baptism to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort (Mosiah 18꞉8-9) and should be open to helping these good men and women when they need it most.

Alternatively, there may be some that begin to debate against the Church's position out of sincere frustration and sadness or simple spite. First, those who wish to help these individuals will need to dig deep and find out why these individuals are debating against the Church's position. Some may still need to simply have someone love them and empathize with them. Others may be past that and be debating, as mentioned, out of simple spite and emotional manipulation. In these instances, members of the Church should follow the other part of their baptismal covenant as outlined in Mosiah 18꞉8-9 and "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in[.]"

As a final word which we wish to emphasize:

FairMormon joins The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in unequivocally condemning the discrimination of any of God's children based upon gender (or gender identity), race, sexual identity and/or orientation, and/or religious affiliation..

2010 ================================================= On October 10, 2010, President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke during the Church's semi-annual general conference.

Portions of President Packer's talk caused a firestorm of protest and, often, misrepresentation. This article examines President Packer's address, and compares it to past talks given by President Packer. It is meant as an examination, not an interpretation. FAIR does not seek to provide official interpretation for the words of our leaders. However, we believe that President Packer's address has been misunderstood and misrepresented, and hope that our analysis will show that.

Critics have claimed:

  • President Packer's talk was just about homosexuality;
  • Calls to overcome inclinations towards illicit sexual behavior was a call to change sexual orientation;
  • President Packer made statements at variance with official Church policy;
  • President Packer was "muzzled" by other members of the LDS "hierarchy";
  • President Packer's address has been "censored," or otherwise "suppressed" because of public outcry.
  • President Packer believes or claims that homosexual feelings/temptations are chosen by those so afflicted.
  • President Packer is guilty of "hypocrisy," unchristian conduct, and/or contributing to the suicides of homosexuals.
  • President Packer teaches that the "only option" for "sexual minorities" is "to become heterosexual."
  • President Packer is not "trying to be like Jesus," since he is wrong to teach that "there is no such thing as a godly homosexual relationship."

President Packer did not specifically mention same-sex attractions or same-sex relationships during his talk. He did reference substitutions for marriage, with a very strong reference towards same-sex relationships, but everything he said should and could be applied equally toward illicit heterosexual behavior. There was no reference in his talk which condemned same-sex attractions, and such an interpretation would conflict with numerous previous statements made by President Packer.

Such tactics are nothing new in politics, and are certainly not new when directed at members of the Church. As President Packer once indicated, he is more concerned about communicating his message than worrying about those who will intentionally misrepresent him:

While we must act peaceably, we need not submit to unfair accusations and unjustified opposition…As I grow older in age and experience, I grow ever less concerned over whether others agree with us. I grow ever more concerned that they understand us. If they do understand, they have their agency and can accept or reject the gospel as they please.[167]

And, while even a few members of the Church will reject the united voice of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve on the sinful nature of homosexual acts, as well as all other sexual acts outside of marriage, President Packer once remarked:

There are those within the Church who are disturbed when changes are made with which they disagree or when changes they propose are not made. They point to these as evidence that the leaders are not inspired.
They write and speak to convince others that the doctrines and decisions of the Brethren are not given through inspiration.
Two things characterize them: they are always irritated by the word obedience, and always they question revelation. It has always been so.[168]

The core of President Packer's message has been ignored and obscured—that core is that God will reveal to those who desire above all else to do his will how they should choose and how they should act. Obedience—a sign of faith—must always come before revelation and knowledge. But, only both revelation and faith can resolve this issue outside of politics, polemics, and propaganda tactics.

Our temptations and weaknesses do not define who we are, nor do they dictate our acts and choices. President Packer has been misrepresented and sometimes vilified in part so listeners will not even seriously consider the fundamental question—does God speak to prophets and apostles in our day? And, if so, has he spoken to them about what all would agree is a vital matter?

But then, as now, the world did not believe. They say that ordinary men are not inspired; that there are no prophets, no apostles; that angels do not minister unto men—not to ordinary men. That doubt and disbelief have not changed. But now, as then, their disbelief cannot change the truth. We lay no claim to being Apostles of the world—but of the Lord Jesus Christ. The test is not whether men will believe, but whether the Lord has called us—and of that there is no doubt. We do not talk of those sacred interviews that qualify the servants of the Lord to bear a special witness of Him, for we have been commanded not to do so. But we are free, indeed, we are obliged, to bear that special witness.[169]
Regardless of the opposition, we are determined to stay on course. We will hold to the principles and laws and ordinances of the gospel. If they are misunderstood either innocently or willfully, so be it.

   —President Boyd K. Packer, October 2010 General Conference

President Packer's talk was presented to a world-wide audience. The original audio and visual files continue to be available on the Church's official website. The originals have also been provided to those who produce material for the blind and print disabled, a clear sign that the Church does not intend to "suppress" or repudiate them.

Misrepresentation and misunderstanding began soon after the talk was delivered. (Ironically, though President Packer did not mention same sex attraction specifically—and despite the fact that he both opened and closed his talk with a discussion of pornography—many listeners applied his wording and reasoning solely to issues of homosexual temptation.) The resulting flurry of comment and complaint led a Church spokesman to indicate that President Packer's meaning had been clarified in the published version of the talk:

The Monday following every General Conference, each speaker has the opportunity to make any edits necessary to clarify differences between what was written and what was delivered or to clarify the speaker’s intent. President Packer has simply clarified his intent.[170]

The published version is now available on-line. The key passage of interest is compared in the table below.

Spoken Version Edited Print Version
Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, He is our Heavenly Father. Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.

Clearly, the Church cannot be intending to suppress or hide President Packer's original comments, since it continues to make his original address available. Church spokesmen have also pointed out directly to the media that the printed version has been clarified. This would be a strange way to run a cover-up.

It is also clear in context that President Packer's meaning in the original talk is reflected in the edited print version. For example, in both his spoken and printed version, immediately following the above phrases, President Packer said/wrote:

Paul promised that "God . . . will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer an addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church. As Alma cautioned, we must "watch and pray continually."
Isaiah warned, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"

In context, President Packer was clearly speaking about being able to resist temptation. His use of the word "tendencies" led some to assume that he was arguing that such inborn temptations could be eliminated. But, such a reading is inconsistent with the scriptural citation which he uses to prove his point—Paul does not argue that Christians will be freed from temptation, but rather that they need not yield to temptation. It would indeed make little sense for God to allow us to have temptations we could not resist—such a state contradicts the core LDS doctrine of moral agency (see D&C 101꞉78).

The same scripture was used in a discussion of same-gender attraction by Elder Dallin H. Oaks in 2006:

The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear. It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted.
The New Testament affirms that God has given us commandments that are difficult to keep. It is in 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 13: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (emphasis added)[171]

Subject of the talk

President Packer never mentioned same-sex relationships or same-sex attractions even once during the entire talk. That has been inserted later by critics of the church. During his talk, he had one concrete example, and that was of a husband looking at pornography. There is no doubt that his words were meant to be applied to same-sex relationships as well, especially given references to legalizing immorality and the recent battle over Proposition 8. However, it would be inaccurate to say he was singling out same-sex relationships or that what he said only applied to same-sex relationships.

By starting off with a the heterosexual example of unnatural affection towards pornography, he made sure that those with opposite-sex attractions were not under the false assumption that they were off the hook. Any inclination towards the impure and unnatural, including pornography, fornication, adultery, prostitution, or rape with either gender by either gender can be overcome, whether it is homosexual or heterosexual in nature. There is no reason to assume that his comments only referred to those with same-sex attraction and did not apply equally to those who struggle with the improper expression of opposite-sex attractions. Many people with opposite-sex attractions incorrectly believe they are "preset" to indulge in illicit behavior. His talk was about overcoming any type of temptation, not just those of a homosexual nature.

Feelings vs. acts

Another area of confusion is whether by asking people to overcome inclinations towards the impure, Elder Packer was asking them to change their sexual orientation. Answering this requires us to understand that his comments were directed towards both those with same-sex attractions and those with opposite-sex attractions.

The man who had a problem with pornography did not need to lose all attraction to the opposite sex in order to overcome his tendency towards pornography. A single member with opposite-sex attractions does not need to lose all attraction to the opposite sex in order to overcome his or her tendency towards pre-marital sex. Likewise, a member with same-sex attractions does not need to lose all attraction to the same-sex in order to overcome tendencies towards same-sex acts.

It is easy to think that because Elder Packer had references to Proposition 8, that he was referring only to same-sex attractions. Proposition 8 was about same-sex relationships or acts, not about same-sex attraction. The Church's leaders in general, President Packer in particular, have made a very strong distinction between the two. While President Packer is clearly teaching that you can choose not to be in a same-sex relationship, he is not saying you can choose not to have same-sex attractions. Same-sex relationships would be considered a counterfeit for marriage. Same-sex attraction would not. Interpreting his message to mean that same-sex attraction can be changed in this life contradicts his long- and frequently-expressed stance that experiencing same-sex attraction is not a sin and may not ever be overcome in this life.[172]

Speaking of same-sex attractions, he said:

"That may be a struggle from which you will not be free in this life. If you do not act on temptations, you need feel no guilt."[173]

President Packer's talk continued a long tradition of emphasizing the difference between sinful acts (including, but not limited to, homosexual ones), and those individuals tempted to commit such acts because of strong desires or feelings. These include multiple talks given by Pres. Packer over a period of thirty years.

The message of the gospel has never been that if you pray hard enough or had enough faith that God would take away all trials and temptations in this life. The message is that we are free to choose good or evil, not that we can avoid ever being enticed by the evil in the first place. The emphasis of the church has always been on controlling behavior by overcoming temptations, not by eliminating all temptations from our lives.

The emphasis on actions is even clearer when put together with the surrounding paragraphs. As printed in the Ensign, the section reads:

We teach a standard of moral conduct that will protect us from Satan’s many substitutes or counterfeits for marriage. We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. From the Book of Mormon we learn that "wickedness never was happiness."
Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.
Paul promised that "God … will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." 14 You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer an addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church. As Alma cautioned, we must "watch and pray continually."

There are many things that fall under the category of "counterfeits for marriage", such as pornography, prostitution, same-sex relationships, and so forth, but same-sex attraction would not be included in that group. His message seems to be that no one is preset to enter into any type of sexual relationship, and that any tendency or temptation to do anything impure (such as pornography or be in a same-sex relationship) can be overcome so that the impure act is not performed. Same-sex attractions is not a relationship, nor an act. President Packer has been very clear in distinguishing the two, while critics tend to blur the difference.

The usage of overcome in other scriptures

Many people have had issues with the usage of the word "overcome" in conjunction with desires to enter immoral relationships. Overcoming is an important part of the Church's teachings. Bishop McMullin taught:

"But as with all mortal conditions, if the inclination of same- or opposite-gender attraction leads a person to violate the laws of God or to mar one’s immortal possibilities, this inclination needs to be controlled and overcome."[174]

Learning to overcome is prevalent throughout scripture, and has been generally applied to everyone, without singling out any particular sexual orientation.

Revelations 3:21

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

D&C 75꞉16

And he who is faithful shall overcome all things, and shall be lifted up at the last day.

D&C 76꞉53

And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

D&C 63꞉47

He that is faithful and endureth shall overcome the world.

D&C 64꞉2

For verily I say unto you, I will that ye should overcome the world; wherefore I will have compassion upon you.

D&C 76꞉58-60

Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God — Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. And they shall overcome all things.

D&C 63꞉20

Nevertheless, he that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome, and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguration shall come.

Here are some scriptures showing if you do not overcome, but instead are overcome, you will not make it into heaven.

D&C 52꞉18

And again, he that is overcome and bringeth not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me.

D&C 50꞉8

But the hypocrites shall be detected and shall be cut off, either in life or in death, even as I will; and wo unto them who are cut off from my church, for the same are overcome of the world.

2 Peter 2:19

For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

Past talks on the same issue

It would be unlikely for President Packer espouse a position on issues of same sex attraction or other sexual sins which differed from his long-expressed position. He has long emphasized that although the attractions might not be reversed, the sin can be overcome.

(These talks are compared in table form on a separate page, and discussed by their date of delivery below.)

1978

In 1978, at President Spencer W. Kimball's request, then-Elder Packer addressed BYU on the subject of homosexual temptation.[175] It is clear from this early talk that Elder Packer regarded such temptations as deep, and relatively fixed. He even went so far as to indicate that those thus afflicted might have to spend the rest of their lives resisting such temptations. This view is in keeping with both his original address of October 2010, and the clarification issued in print.

Significantly, in neither case does it match with the claim which critics wish to put in President Packer's mouth—that temptations to homosexual acts can, in all cases, be eliminated from one's life. President Packer taught precisely the opposite more than thirty years earlier. He made it very clear that in at least some cases, the member might well struggle for their entire life to resist these temptations or tendencies. After having compared such struggles to the need to undergo serious surgery, he said:

[194] And yet our hospitals are full to overflowing with patients. They count it quite worthwhile to submit to treatment, however painful. They struggle through long periods of recuperation and sometimes must be content with a limited life-style thereafter, in some cases in order just to live. Is it not reasonable that recuperation from this disorder might be somewhat comparable?...
[195] Now, I hope I will not disappoint you too much if I say at once that I do not know of any quick spiritual cure-all. Setting aside miracles for the moment, in which I firmly believe, generally I do not know of some spiritual shock treatment that will sear the soul of an individual and instantly kill this kind of temptation-or any other kind, for that matter. No spiritual wonder drug that I know of will do it. The cure rests in following for a long period of time, and thereafter continually, some very basic, simple rules for moral and spiritual health....Establish a resolute conviction that you will resist for a lifetime, if necessary, any deviate thought or deviate action. Do not respond to those feelings; suppress them. Suppression is not a very popular word with many psychologists. Look what happened to society when it became unpopular!...
[196] Bad thoughts often have to be evicted a hundred times, or a thousand. But if they have to be evicted ten thousand times, never surrender to them. You are in charge of you. I repeat, it is very, very difficult to eliminate a bad habit just by trying to discard it. Replace it. Read in Matthew, chapter 12, verses 43 to 45, the parable of the empty house. There is a message in it for you....
[197] With physical ailments we always want a quick cure. If a prescription hasn't worked by sundown, we want to get another one. For this ailment there is no other prescription that I know about. You will have to grow away from your problem with undeviating—notice that word—undeviating determination. The longer you have been afflicted, or the more deeply you have been involved, the more difficult and the longer the cure. Any relapse is a setback. But if this should happen, refuse to be discouraged. Take your medicine, however bitter it tastes.
[198]...you yourself can call upon a power that can renew your body. You yourself can draw upon a power that will reinforce your will. If you have this temptation-fight it!...
[198]...Oh, if I could only convince you that you are a son or a daughter of Almighty God! You have a righteous spiritual power-an inheritance that you have hardly touched. You have an Elder Brother who is your Advocate, your Strength, your Protector, your Mediator, your Physician. Of Him I bear witness. The Lord loves you! You are a child of God. Face the sunlight of truth. The shadows of discouragement, of disappointment, of deviation will be cast behind you.[176]

1990

In 1990 General Conference, then-Elder Packer said:

My message is to you who are tempted either to promote, to enter, or to remain in a life-style which violates your covenants and will one day bring sorrow to you and to those who love you.
Growing numbers of people now campaign to make spiritually dangerous life-styles legal and socially acceptable. Among them are abortion, the gay-lesbian movement, and drug addiction…For Latter-day Saints, morality is one component which must not be missing when these issues are considered—otherwise sacred covenants are at risk! Keep your covenants and you will be safe. Break them and you will not….
Several publications are now being circulated about the Church which defend and promote gay or lesbian conduct. They wrest the scriptures attempting to prove that these impulses are inborn, cannot be overcome, and should not be resisted; and therefore, such conduct has a morality of its own. They quote scriptures to justify perverted acts between consenting adults….
All of us are subject to feelings and impulses. Some are worthy and some of them are not; some of them are natural and some of them are not. We are to control them, meaning we are to direct them according to the moral law….
We receive letters pleading for help, asking why should some be tormented by desires which lead toward addiction or perversion. They seek desperately for some logical explanation as to why they should have a compelling attraction, even a predisposition, toward things that are destructive and forbidden.
Why, they ask, does this happen to me? It is not fair! They suppose that it is not fair that others are not afflicted with the same temptations. They write that their bishop could not answer the "why," nor could he nullify their addiction or erase the tendency.
We are sometimes told that leaders in the Church do not really understand these problems. Perhaps we don’t. There are many "whys" for which we just do not have simple answers. But we do understand temptation, each of us, from personal experience. Nobody is free from temptations of one kind or another. That is the test of life. That is part of our mortal probation. Temptation of some kind goes with the territory.
What we do know is where these temptations will lead. We have watched these life-styles play themselves out in many lives. We have seen the end of the road you are tempted to follow. It is not likely that a bishop can tell you what causes these conditions or why you are afflicted, nor can he erase the temptation. But he can tell you what is right and what is wrong. If you know right from wrong, you have a place to begin. That is the point at which individual choice becomes operative. That is the point at which repentance and forgiveness can exert great spiritual power….
A tempter will claim that such impulses cannot be changed and should not be resisted. Can you think of anything the adversary would rather have us believe?
The Lord warned, "Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." (Mark 9:42.)
Now, in a spirit of sympathy and love, I speak to you who may be struggling against temptations for which there is no moral expression. Some have resisted temptation but never seem to be free from it. Do not yield! Cultivate the spiritual strength to resist—all of your life, if need be....
You may wonder why God does not seem to hear your pleading prayers and erase these temptations. When you know the gospel plan, you will understand that the conditions of our mortal probation require that we be left to choose. That test is the purpose of life. While these addictions may have devoured, for a time, your sense of morality or quenched the spirit within you, it is never too late.
You may not be able, simply by choice, to free yourself at once from unworthy feelings. You can choose to give up the immoral expression of them.
The suffering you endure from resisting or from leaving a life-style of addiction or perversion is not a hundredth part of that suffered by your parents, your spouse or your children, if you give up. Theirs is an innocent suffering because they love you. To keep resisting or to withdraw from such a life-style is an act of genuine unselfishness, a sacrifice you place on the altar of obedience. It will bring enormous spiritual rewards.[177]

Clearly, the same themes of a distinction between temptations and acts and the potential need for life-long resistance to unworthy temptations are present.

1995

In 1995 General Conference, Elder Packer said:

Save for those few who defect to perdition after having known a fulness, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness…. You may tell yourself that your transgressions are not spiritually illegal. That will not work; neither will rebellion, nor anger, nor joking about them. You cannot do that. And you don’t have to do it….
I repeat, save for the exception of the very few who defect to perdition, there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no apostasy, no crime exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness. That is the promise of the atonement of Christ.
How all can be repaired, we do not know. It may not all be accomplished in this life. We know from visions and visitations that the servants of the Lord continue the work of redemption beyond the veil….
Some members wonder why their priesthood leaders will not accept them just as they are and simply comfort them in what they call pure Christian love.
Pure Christian love, the love of Christ, does not presuppose approval of all conduct. Surely the ordinary experiences of parenthood teach that one can be consumed with love for another and yet be unable to approve unworthy conduct.
We cannot, as a church, approve unworthy conduct or accept into full fellowship individuals who live or who teach standards that are grossly in violation of that which the Lord requires of Latter-day Saints.
If we, out of sympathy, should approve unworthy conduct, it might give present comfort to someone but would not ultimately contribute to that person’s happiness.[178]

2000

In 2000, President Packer taught:

If you consent, the adversary can take control of your thoughts and lead you carefully toward a habit and to an addiction, convincing you that immoral, unnatural behavior is a fixed part of your nature.

Here we see the same idea expressed in Pres. Packer's 2010 talk—immoral behavior is not a fixed, unalterable part of one's nature. One can choose behavior, despite strong inclinations and temptations, as he goes on to explain:

With some few, there is the temptation which seems nearly overpowering for man to be attracted to man or woman to woman....
The gates of freedom, and the good or bad beyond, swing open or closed to the password choice. You are free to choose a path that may lead to despair, to disease, even to death (see 2 Ne. 2꞉26-27).
Do not experiment; do not let anyone of either gender touch your body to awaken passions that can flame beyond control. It begins as an innocent curiosity, Satan influences your thoughts, and it becomes a pattern, a habit, which may imprison you in an addiction, to the sorrow and disappointment of those who love you (see John 8꞉34; 2 Pet. 2꞉12-14, 18-19).
Pressure is put upon legislatures to legalize unnatural conduct. They can never make right that which is forbidden in the laws of God (see Lev. 18꞉22; 1 Cor. 6꞉9; 1 Tim. 1:9-10).
Sometimes we are asked why we do not recognize this conduct as a diverse and acceptable lifestyle. This we cannot do. We did not make the laws; they were made in heaven "before the foundation of the world" (D&C 132꞉5; D&C 124꞉41; see also Alma 22꞉13). We are servants only….
We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you (see Heb. 12꞉6-9; Rom. 3꞉19; Hel. 15꞉3; D&C 95꞉1).
You may even feel that we do not love you. That also is not true. Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy.
We did not make the rules; they were revealed as commandments. We do not cause nor can we prevent the consequences if you disobey the moral laws (see D&C 101꞉78). In spite of criticism or opposition, we must teach and we must warn.
When any unworthy desires press into your mind, fight them, resist them, control them (see James 4꞉6-8; 2 Ne. 9꞉39; Mosiah 3꞉19). The Apostle Paul taught, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10꞉13; see also D&C 62꞉1)....:Some think that God created them with overpowering, unnatural desires, that they are trapped and not responsible (see James 1꞉13-15). That is not true. It cannot be true. Even if they were to accept it as true, they must remember that He can cure and He can heal (see Alma 7꞉10-13; Alma 15꞉8).

Here again, President Packer uses the same scripture from Paul to illustrate that temptations do not inevitably translate into acts. He goes on to teach that some temptations and inclinations will not be overcome in this life:

That may be a struggle from which you will not be free in this life. If you do not act on temptations, you need feel no guilt. They may be extremely difficult to resist. But that is better than to yield and bring disappointment and unhappiness to you and those who love you.[179]

We note again that those who do not act on such temptations are not guilty of any sin—just as Pres. Packer taught in his 0 talk, and as the clarifications (not alterations) to the meaning of that talk argued.

2003

In 2003, President Packer again taught these same ideas, including the principle that only acts make one a sinner or subject to Church discipline:

There are words we would rather not say. They describe things that we would rather not think about. But you are inescapably exposed to temptations in connection with fornication, adultery, pornography, prostitution, perversion, lust, abuse, the unnatural, and all that grows from them....
Some work through political, social, and legal channels to redefine morality and marriage into something unrestrained, unnatural, and forbidden. But they never can change the design which has governed human life and happiness from the beginning. The deceiver preys upon some passion or tendency or weakness. He convinces them that the condition cannot be changed and recruits them for activities for which they never would volunteer....
In the Church, one is not condemned for tendencies or temptations. One is held accountable for transgression. (D&C 101꞉78; A+of+F 1꞉2) If you do not act on unworthy persuasions, you will neither be condemned nor be subject to Church discipline.[180]

2006

In 2006, President Packer again taught against the idea that we must inevitably sin because of temptations or tendencies:

It is a wicked, wicked world in which we live and in which our children must find their way. Challenges of pornography, gender confusion, immorality, child abuse, drug addiction, and all the rest are everywhere. There is no way to escape from their influence.
Some are led by curiosity into temptation, then into experimentation, and some become trapped in addiction. They lose hope. The adversary harvests his crop and binds them down....
The angels of the devil convince some that they are born to a life from which they cannot escape and are compelled to live in sin. The most wicked of lies is that they cannot change and repent and that they will not be forgiven. That cannot be true. They have forgotten the Atonement of Christ.[181]

(These talks are compared in table form on a separate page.)

Editing an apostle?

Some few have expressed surprise or disappointment that an apostle's remarks would be edited for publication. Others have assumed that such editing represented a "reigning in" of President Packer by other members of the "Mormon hierarchy." Such an uncharitable reading is inconsistent with the evidence that President Packer's views on this issue have not changed.

Furthermore, it is relatively common practice—in and out of the Church—to edit talks after their presentation prior to publication. President Packer himself expressed his appreciation for those of his fellow leaders or Church employees who, in the past, have suggested changes in his wording to avoid confusion:

I was asked to write an article for the Improvement Era. It was returned with the request that I change some words. I smarted! The replacement words didn't convey exactly what I was trying to say. I balked a bit, and was told that Richard L. Evans, then of the Seventy and magazine editor, had asked that the changes be made....Now, though that article is piled under thirty-five years of paper, I'm glad, very glad, that if someone digs it out, I was "invited" to change it.
After one of my first general conference talks, I received a call from Joseph Anderson [secretary to the First Presidency]. In a very polite way he said that President McKay and his counselors suggested that I add one word to the text of my talk. Would I mind doing that? Actually the word was in my text, I just failed to read it at the pulpit. A most embarrassing lesson—the First Presidency! It was easier when Elder Evans corrected my work; even easier when one of my associates was kind enough to do it.
Only last Friday while putting together some things for a presentation, I read part of it to some brethren from BYU. I noticed they looked at one another at one place in my reading, and I stopped and asked if there was a problem. Finally one of them suggested that I not use a certain scripture that I had included even though it said exactly what I wanted to convey. How dare they suppose that a member of the Twelve didn't know his scriptures! I simply said, "What do you suggest?" He said, "Better find another scripture," and he pointed out that if I put that verse back in context, it was really talking about another subject. Others had used it as I proposed to use it, but it was not really correct. I was very glad to make a change.
Now you may not need a correlating hand in what you do, but I certainly do. This brother lingered after the meeting to thank me for being patient with him. Thank me! I was thankful to him. If I ever make that presentation, it will only be after some of our Correlation staff have checked it over for me.[182]

President Packer's message was clear to many who heard it.[183] Some honestly misunderstood him, and some seem to have actively sought a hostile reading. In this context, a clarification was appropriate so there can be no excuse for mistaking his meaning.

Propaganda and tactics

Many people could have innocently misunderstood President Packer's comments. The idea that just because you have certain feelings does not mean you have to act upon them is becoming more and more foreign to people outside the church. If someone does not understand this distinction, they could easily interpret a call to avoid illicit sexual relationships, including a strong reference to same-sex relationships, as a call to change your sexual orientation. Unfortunately, that misinterpretation seems to have spread, making it harder to understand Elder Packer's real intent.

It is important that those with same-sex attractions do not feel guilt for same-sex attractions, and this type of misrepresentation of the Church's teachings only compounds the problem. While many might not understand the distinction the Church makes, many people do understand the distinction but insist on perpetuating the misunderstanding. Making it sound like President Packer is trying to tell people they have to change their sexual orientation garners more sympathy towards their cause than making it sound like President Packer was telling people they can choose not to have gay sex.

This tactic is harmful, and so it is no surprise that those opposed to the Church's teachings resort to it. President Packer is an apostle of God and many members with same-sex attraction sustain him as such. If they come under the false impression that an apostle of God is telling them they can change their sexual orientation, then they will feel more pressure to do so, which can result in guilt and depression—or (as the Church's critics likely hope will happen) members with same-sex attraction will conclude that President Packer is not to be heeded because his "advice" to change their orientation doesn't succeed. He is not, they will then conclude, inspired or directed by God in his counsel. This misunderstanding, fostered by some enemies of the Church's teachings and doctrines, would then drive people away from keeping their covenants, continued faith in the atonement of Christ, and sustaining the prophets and apostles.

The actual message delivered by the Church and President Packer that "if you do not act on temptations, you need feel no guilt" can easily become lost among the misrepresentation and misunderstanding.

Blurring the distinction between gay sex and same-sex attractions is not a new tactic. They match techniques which some have long advocated.

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources
  • Affirmation [LBGT group of current, former Mormons who disagree with Church teachings about chastity], "Boyd K. Packer's Homophobia," (large website banner with links to various articles)
  • Laura Compton, "Edits to Boyd K. Packer's Talk," mormonsformarriage.com (blog post) (8 October 2010; 07h53)
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Affirmative Psychotherapist Guild of Utah, "An Open Letter To Members of the LDS Community," (October 2010).
  • 'Dallin', "Thoughts on the revisions to Pres. Packer’s talk," prolusionsix (blog post) (9 October 2010).
  • Dave Hoen, "Edits to Boyd K. Packer's Talk," mormonsformarriage.com (blog post) (8 October 2010; 11h00)
  • Human Rights Campaign, press release, "HRC to Mormon Apostle: Your Statements Are Inaccurate and Dangerous: Mormon Leader’s Inaccurate Statements Yesterday Fuel Anti-LGBT Violence, Teen Suicides," (4 October 2010).
  • Jana Rieses, "LDS Apostle Boyd K. Packer Is Wrong About Homosexual Relationships," Flunking Sainthood (beliefnet.org blog), (4 October 2010).
  • Peggy Fletcher Stakc, "Apostle: Same-sex attraction can change," The Salt Lake Tribune (4 October 2010).
  • Peggy Fletcher Stack, "Packer talk jibes with LDS stance after tweak," The Salt Lake Tribune (11 October 2010) off-site

Critics' direputable tactics

Given that same-sex attraction is a charged issue with political overtones, it is not surprising that some sincerely misunderstood President Packer's talk. Hopefully the clarification offered addressed their concerns.

Just as there are those who could sincerely misunderstand President Packer's talk, there are those who choose, for whatever reason, to purposely misunderstand. Certainly, not all with same-sex attraction, who categorize themselves as homosexuals, or who are supportive of homosexual relationships are in this latter group, but there are some who consider themselves leaders of the gay community or gay activists who do fall into this category. For them, it is not politically expedient to accept any clarifications that may be offered because they disagree with the theological categorization of homosexual acts as "sinful." The actions taken by such individuals as a reaction to clarification was noted by the Deseret News:

Instead of seeking genuine common ground around issues of mutual concern, activists began this week with a grossly misguided caricature of the LDS Church's support of traditional morality.
The tactic is now all-too familiar: take a statement out of context, embellish it with selective interpretation, presume hostile intent, and then use the distortion to isolate an entire group, in this case a church.[184]

Such tactics (pulling statements out of context, interpreting selectively, presuming hostile intent, and stereotyping) are not new in the battle for public perception and support. In fact, tactics such as this have been specifically encouraged in the gay activist community. In 1993, two gay activists wrote a call-to-arms to their community, in which they outlined the strategies that they felt would be most successful in securing societal tolerance of homosexual acts as normal and appropriate. Among other techniques, they suggested "a propaganda campaign" (xxviii):

There's a naive notion among folks in general—especially among gays—that you can argue a person out of a prejudice (such as homohatred) by overwhelming him with facts and logic about the group he hates. This is untrue....
Logically speaking, nothing whatever is either disgusting or sinful, except as one feels it to be so...
...if we're going to enter into arguments with [those who disagree with us] we'd better have a strong emotional appeal in our back pocket.
...it gets a little tiresome to keep seeing and hearing [gays who]... damn all proposals as politically incorrect to precisely the degree that they rely upon cunning manipulation rather than pugnacity....
...thus, propagandistic advertising can depict homophobic and homohating bigots as crude loudmouths...who are 'not Christian.' It can show them being criticized, hated, shunned. It can depict gays experiencing horrific suffering as the direct result of homohatred—suffering of which even most bigots would be ashamed to be the cause....Note that the bigot need not actually be made to believe that he is such a heinous creature, that others will now despise him, and that he has been the immoral agent of suffering....Rather, our effect is achieved without reference to facts, logic, or proof....
...The objection will be raised...that we would 'Uncle Tommify' the gay community; that we are exchanging one false sterotype for another equally false; that our ads are lies; that that is not how all gays actually look; that gays know it, and bigots know it. Yes of course—we know it, too. But it makes no difference that the ads are lies; not to us, because we're using them to ethically good effect, to counter negative stereotypes that are every bit as much lies, and far more wicked ones....[185]

These tactics, outlined with such clarity, seemed to be almost a script for the reaction to President Packer's talk from organizations that promote homosexual relationships. Simply put, many dislike talk of sin, and are angered by those who claim to warn against it with divine authority. Many realize that they have not prevailed via a reasoned, rational discussion of the facts, and know that an emotional appeal is the only way of achieving their goals.

It is not surprising, then, that some activists have responded to President Packer's warning by attacking the messenger, reading him in a hostile light, caricaturing his message, reading his mind, and ascribing a variety of distasteful or even evil motives to him or the Church and its members. This should be recognized for what it is—an effort to vilify the messenger, downplay the totality of the message, and shame those who might listen to it, all part and parcel of political machinations.[186]

Table comparing Boyd K. Packer talks on homosexual behavior over time

Element 1978 1990 1995 2000 2003 2006 2010

Unsought feelings, thoughts, or temptations are not sins.

Is sexual perversion wrong?

There appears to be a consensus in the world that it is natural, to one degree or another, for a percentage of the population. Therefore, we must accept it as all right….

The answer: It is not all right. It is wrong! It is not desirable; it is unnatural; it is abnormal; it is an affliction. When practiced, it is immoral. It is a transgression

You may not be able, simply by choice, to free yourself at once from unworthy feelings. You can choose to give up the immoral expression of them.

We cannot, as a church, approve unworthy conduct or accept into full fellowship individuals who live or who teach standards that are grossly in violation of that which the Lord requires of Latter-day Saints

With some few, there is the temptation which seems nearly overpowering for man to be attracted to man or woman to woman.... If you do not act on temptations, you need feel no guilt.

In the Church, one is not condemned for tendencies or temptations. One is held accountable for transgression. (See D&C 101꞉78; A of F 1:2.) If you do not act on unworthy persuasions, you will neither be condemned nor be subject to Church discipline.

If you are bound by a habit or an addiction that is unworthy, you must stop conduct that is harmful. Angels will coach you, and priesthood leaders will guide you through those difficult times…. You can, if you will, break the habits and conquer an addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church.

One may have to resist for a lifetime.

Establish a resolute conviction that you will resist for a lifetime, if necessary, any deviate thought or deviate action. Do not respond to those feelings…[I]f they have to be evicted ten thousand times, never surrender to them….

No spiritual wonder drug that I know of will do it. The cure rests in following for a long period of time, and thereafter continually, some very basic, simple rules for moral and spiritual health.

Some have resisted temptation but never seem to be free from it. Do not yield! Cultivate the spiritual strength to resist—all of your life, if need be....

How all can be repaired, we do not know. It may not all be accomplished in this life.

That may be a struggle from which you will not be free in this life.

There is no quick cure.

I do not know of any quick spiritual cure-all…[to] instantly kill this kind of temptation-or any other kind, for that matter

It is not likely that a bishop can tell you what causes these conditions or why you are afflicted, nor can he erase the temptation…

Every soul confined in a prison of sin, guilt, or perversion has a key to the gate. The key is labeled "repentance." If you know how to use this key, the adversary cannot hold you. The twin principles of repentance and forgiveness exceed in strength the awesome power of the tempter.

1 Corinthians 10:13 cited (no temptation above what one can bear)

The Apostle Paul taught, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10꞉13; see also D&C 62꞉1).

Paul promised that "God . . . will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

Some falsely claim that such acts are inevitable.

It is not unchangeable. It is not locked in. One does not just have to yield to it and live with it…. If you are one of the few who are subject to this temptation, do not be misled into believing that you are a captive to it. That is false doctrine!... You have a God-given right to be free and to choose. Refuse the unnatural; choose the moral way. You will know, then, where you are going. Ahead is but the struggle to get there.

A tempter will claim that such impulses cannot be changed and should not be resisted.

If you consent, the adversary can take control of your thoughts and lead you carefully toward a habit and to an addiction, convincing you that immoral, unnatural behavior is a fixed part of your nature.

Some think that God created them with overpowering, unnatural desires, that they are trapped and not responsible (see James 1꞉13-15). That is not true. It cannot be true. Even if they were to accept it as true, they must remember that He can cure and He can heal (see Alma 7꞉10-13; Alma 15꞉8).

The angels of the devil convince some that they are born to a life from which they cannot escape and are compelled to live in sin. The most wicked of lies is that they cannot change and repent and that they will not be forgiven. That cannot be true. They have forgotten the Atonement of Christ

There is also an age-old excuse: "The devil made me do it." Not so! He can deceive you and mislead you, but he does not have the power to force you or anyone else to transgress or to keep you in transgression….

Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies ["temptations" in print version] toward the impure and unnatural. Not so!

Those who so sin are not rejected.

Oh, if I could only convince you that you are a son or a daughter of Almighty God! You have a righteous spiritual power-an inheritance that you have hardly touched. You have an Elder Brother who is your Advocate, your Strength, your Protector, your Mediator, your Physician. Of Him I bear witness. The Lord loves you! You are a child of God. Face the sunlight of truth. The shadows of discouragement, of disappointment, of deviation will be cast behind you…. God bless you, the one. You are loved of Him and of His servants.

Now, in a spirit of sympathy and love, I speak to you who may be struggling against temptations for which there is no moral expression….While these addictions may have devoured, for a time, your sense of morality or quenched the spirit within you, it is never too late.

Pure Christian love, the love of Christ, does not presuppose approval of all conduct. Surely the ordinary experiences of parenthood teach that one can be consumed with love for another and yet be unable to approve unworthy conduct.

We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you

Did the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) ever conduct aversion therapy?

Aversion Therapy at BYU - Detailed information regarding aversion therapy,

The Church never conducted aversion therapies of any sort. However, aversion therapy was conducted at BYU in the 1970s

The Church never conducted aversion therapies of any sort. They never recommended it, and they never mandated it However, like many other places in the western world, aversion therapy was conducted at BYU in the 1970s. At this time, aversion therapy was applied to a number of behaviors. At BYU the therapy was conducted following standards published by professional societies and unlike other places, it was only conducted on adults who gave their permission. The Church does not oversee research at BYU.

In this particular case, a graduate student and his faculty mentor at Brigham Young University conducted a clinical study in the use of aversion therapy to treat ego-dystonic homosexuality

The Church is a religious body, not a medical institution. People who are members of the Church or go to BYU do a great variety of things. The Church does not take responsibility for everything done by a member or for everything done by someone at BYU (despite what one might think, not everyone at BYU is a member of the Church).

In this particular case, a graduate student and his faculty mentor at Brigham Young University conducted a clinical study in the use of aversion therapy to treat ego-dystonic homosexuality. Ego-dystonic homosexuality is a condition where an individual's same-sex attraction is in conflict with his idealized self-image, creating anxiety and a desire to change. At the time, the American Psychiatric Society considered ego-dystonic homosexuality to be a mental illness, and aversion therapy was one of the standard treatments. Experiments were only run on those who had expressed a desire for the therapy, and all of the subjects indicated they had improved as a result of the therapy. The experiments adhered to the professional standards of the time. As stated in the paper that reported the results of this research, the research was never endorsed by BYU.

Church leadership does not dictate nor oversee the details of scientific research at Brigham Young University. Like many universities, there are many different research projects going on with many different views on many different subjects. The Church is not responsible for every view held by one of its researchers. The church itself has never recommended aversion therapy.

The church has posted on its website an interview with the following quote:

"The Church rarely takes a position on which treatment techniques are appropriate for medical doctors or for psychiatrists or psychologists and so on. The second point is that there are abusive practices that have been used in connection with various mental attitudes or feelings. Over-medication in respect to depression is an example that comes to mind. The aversive therapies that have been used in connection with same-sex attraction have contained some serious abuses that have been recognized over time within the professions. While we have no position about what the medical doctors do (except in very, very rare cases — abortion would be such an example), we are conscious that there are abuses and we don’t accept responsibility for those abuses. Even though they are addressed at helping people we would like to see helped, we can’t endorse every kind of technique that’s been used."

President Kimball once cited reputable medical sources indicating that the practice of homosexuality could be abandoned through treatments, but he did not specify any treatments by name. The point President Kimball wanted to make, and that the church still makes, is that sexual actions can and must be controlled.

The church does not direct or oversee scientific research at BYU and does not mandate what experiments are to be done or not to be done

The church does not direct or oversee scientific research at BYU and does not mandate what experiments are to be done or not to be done. At BYU, as at other universities, students and professors have a variety of opinions and approaches and have significant freedom to pursue their own academic interests.

As an example, retired BYU professor William Bradshaw has presented biological evidence supporting his view that homosexuality is not an acquired tendency and lifestyle.[29] Bradshaw is free to share this view at BYU even though the church does not have a particular position on the causes of same-sex attraction and certainly believes that the lifestyles we follow represent a choice.

In the 1970's, there were a variety of opinions about how to treat mental disorders. Some professors and students were partial to the behaviorist movement to treat mental illnesses while others focused on verbal therapy. Today, the APA recommends cognitive therapies to help people who feel distress about their sexual orientation, but, in the 1970s, it was unclear which approach was best. If a professor or a graduate student favored one approach over another, it was because they favored that approach, not because it was mandated by the Church.

Academic freedom at BYU

The fact is that every member of the BYU community is free to espouse his or her own theories. As long as they remain in line with standards published by the professional societies and with the school’s academic freedom policy, all are free to pursue their own line of thinking. Actually, this situation is one of the requirements for university accreditation, and BYU is an accredited university.

It should also be remembered that, contrary to the popular caricature of the church, Latter-Day Saints are encouraged to think for themselves and find their own answers to questions, without coercion from church leadership. Doctrine and Covenants 58꞉26 reads:

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

And it was Joseph Smith himself who famously said:

I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. [History of the Church 5:340]

======================= AVERSION ==================================

What was the history of BYU and aversion therapy for treating homosexuality?

Aversion Therapy at BYU - Detailed information regarding aversion therapy,

In the mid-1970s a graduate student, Max McBride, conducted a study entitled Effect of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy

In the mid-1970s a graduate student, Max McBride, conducted a study entitled Effect of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy. It appears that the study was conducted during 1974 and 1975 with the average length of treatment during the study being three months. The results of this study were published in August 1976 as McBride's PhD dissertation in the BYU Department of Psychology. McBride's research has recently been sensationalized and several incorrect claims have been made about his study. The following facts need to be kept in mind as the study is evaluated.

Basis for the study. BYU did not pioneer the use of aversion therapy as a treatment for homosexuality and it ceased use of the therapy decades before the APA stopped recommending the practice. BYU was one of many places where research in this area was done. McBride's dissertation contains over 17 pages of documentation discussing other studies from across the discipline in which aversion therapy had previously been applied to male homosexuality. In fact, the purpose of the McBride's study was not to determine the effectiveness of aversion therapy in treating homosexuality. That question was generally accepted, at the time, to have been satisfactorily answered in the positive as a result of previous studies at other institutions.

Supervision. The study was conducted under the supervision of Dr. D. Eugene Thorne, who also served as McBride's PhD committee chairman. All study procedures followed common medical practice. McBride acknowledges the assistance of medical professionals at the Salt Lake City Veterans Hospital in designing the study and completing the statistical analysis.

Population. The study was limited to ego-dystonic homosexuality and did not involve any treatment of ego-syntonic homosexuality. The volunteers for McBride's study were all men whose same-sex attraction was contrary to their desires and who wanted to change their sexual orientation.

Subjects. McBride discusses the subjects chosen in the following excerpt from his dissertation:

Seventeen male subjects were used in the study, 14 completed treatment. Selection was on the basis of clinical evidence of homosexuality; absence of psychosis (no prior history); desire for treatment; no history of epilepsy, alcoholism or drug addiction.

Disclosure. McBride describes the procedures used to ensure full disclosure of what the subjects were to expect. We quote from his dissertation:

It was mandatory that all subjects chosen to participate sign and have witnessed a prepared statement explaining (a) the experimental nature of the treatment procedure, (b) the use of aversive electric shock, (c) the showing of 35 mm slides that might be construed by subject as possibly offensive, and (d) that Brigham Young University was not in any direct way endorsing the procedures used. This was to insure that all subjects were in full agreement and understanding as to what the treatment procedure would involve, provide and demand from them.

Nature of the study. The techniques used by McBride followed the standard aversion therapy procedures of the time. The volunteers were subjected to electric shocks applied to their upper arms while being shown both clothed and nude pictures of men. They were able to choose to end the shocks by switching to nude and clothed pictures of women.

Materials. The materials used in the study consisted of nude pictures of men and women and pictures of clothed men and women taken from current fashion magazines. None of the pictures displayed or even implied sexual acts. In fact, the thing being investigated in McBride’s study was not the effectiveness of aversion therapy, but the relative value of clothed versus nude pictures in this type of therapeutic procedure.

In the years since the study, some of the study participants have talked publicly about their experiences

In the years since the study, some of the study participants have talked publicly about their experiences. Many of these reports are troubling to read, as are similar reports from participants in studies at other universities and facilities of the time. While it seems likely that the McBride study was traumatic to some of the individuals involved, it must be remembered that participation in the study was voluntary, each participant had a clear explanation beforehand what the study would entail, and participants could leave the study at any time they wanted. Indeed, three of the seventeen participants in the study did not remain to its completion. These points are not mentioned to minimize the experiences of these participants in any manner; they are only made so that the professional and ethical context of the study can be properly evaluated.

It is also important to note that aversion therapy as a treatment for homosexuality was not a major element of BYU research. In the APA task force report, BYU's contribution to the field of aversion therapy was not covered. This is probably because BYU's involvement was too minor to include. Other universities had more participants and many conducted their studies later than BYU.

Did BYU ever use vomiting as part of aversion therapy?

Aversion Therapy at BYU - Detailed information regarding aversion therapy,

Vomiting was not used

McBride's thesis thoroughly describes the methods used to induce aversion. He did not use vomiting. This fact is verified in the interview with Dr. Thorne, available as the FAIR podcast referenced above, as well as by a specific statement to this effect from BYU:

The BYU Counseling Center never practiced therapy that would involve chemical or induced vomiting.[30]

Most of the accusations of using induced vomiting come from: 1) a person who admits that he never underwent therapy and 2) from the "documentary" 8: The Mormon Proposition (which contains several false accusations as detailed here). These two accounts are not consistent with each other. In short, there is no reliable documentation of the use of induced vomiting at BYU.

Did BYU ever force students to undergo aversion therapy?

Aversion Therapy at BYU - Detailed information regarding aversion therapy,

Participation was voluntary

Aversion therapy was completely voluntary at BYU. Participants could enter and leave as they wish. In an interview with FAIR, Dr. Thorne explained that the voluntary nature was essential to get scientific results. He said any type of pressure for the participants to give certain answers would jade the results of the study. For this reason, they would not have accepted referrals from the Honor Code office even if they had been given. There was also a strict separation between what they did and what the honor code office knew about so as to remove any possibility of "pretending" to have certain results to please the honor code office. As reported in the thesis, participants could drop out at any time for whatever reason, as evidenced by the fact that some did.

How does aversion therapy performed at BYU in the 1970s relate to medical and psychological science as understood at that time?

Aversion Therapy at BYU - Detailed information regarding aversion therapy,

Aversion therapy is a standard technique that is still used today for a variety of treatments

Aversion therapy is still used today for a variety of treatments, such as gambling, smoking, alcoholism, and violence. A 2010 article in Psychology Today states "To date, aversion therapy using shock and nausea is the only technique of quitting [smoking] that offers decent gambling odds." [187] The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders has this entry for aversion therapy:

A patient who consults a behavior therapist for aversion therapy can expect a fairly standard set of procedures. The therapist begins by assessing the problem, most likely measuring its frequency, severity, and the environment in which the undesirable behavior occurs. Although the therapeutic relationship is not the focus of treatment for the behavior therapist, therapists in this tradition believe that good rapport will facilitate a successful outcome. A positive relationship is also necessary to establish the patient's confidence in the rationale for exposing him or her to an uncomfortable stimulus. The therapist will design a treatment protocol and explain it to the patient. The most important choice the therapist makes is the type of aversive stimulus to employ. Depending upon the behavior to be changed, the preferred aversive stimulus is often electric stimulation delivered to the forearm or leg. [188]

Over the years, the methods have been refined and approved. Today, we have decades of research that were not available in the 1970s

Over the years, the methods have been refined and approved. Today, we have decades of research that were not available in the 1970s, giving us a better understanding of where aversion therapy would be effective and where it would not be effective. The methods of the 1970s may seem crude compared to today's standards, but today's standards will probably seem crude in another 40 years. Forms of aversion therapy are still used today by mainstream psychologists to treat a variety of conditions.

History of therapy and homosexuality

Homosexuality was once illegal in many countries, and those convicted were forced into various therapies against their wills.[31]

In 1966, Martin E.P. Seligman conducted a study at the University of Pennsylvania which showed positive results in applying aversion therapy to help people stop engaging in homosexual behavior. According to Seligman, this led to "a great burst of enthusiasm about changing homosexuality [that] swept over the therapeutic community." [189] Research was conducted by researchers at many institutions, including universities like Harvard and King's College in London.

Historically, there were two types of homosexuality that were treated, ego-dystonic homosexuality and ego-syntonic homosexuality. Ego-dystonic homosexuality is a condition where an individual's same-sex attraction is in conflict with his idealized self-image, creating anxiety and a desire to change. Ego-syntonic homosexuality describes a situation where the subject is content with his or her sexual orientation. Ego-dystonic homosexuality was considered a mental illness by the American Psychological Association (APA) until 1987, and an ego-dystonic sexual orientation is still considered a mental illness by the World Health Organization (F66.1). [190]

Even after the APA declassified ego-dystonic homosexuality as mental illness, aversion therapy could still be used to treat distress over sexual orientation, though not the sexual orientation itself. Persistent and marked distress about sexual orientation is still classified as a sexual disorder in the DSM-IV under Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (302.9). It was not until 1994, that the American Medical Association issued a report that stated "aversion therapy is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians" [191] and it was not until 2006 that using aversion therapy to treat homosexuality became a violation of the codes of conduct and professional guidelines of the American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association.

In 2009, a task force was commissioned by the American Psychological Association to investigate therapies used to treat homosexuality, including aversion therapy. They reported:

Early research on efforts to change sexual orientation focused heavily on interventions that include aversion techniques. Many of these studies did not set out to investigate harm. Nonetheless, these studies provide some suggestion that harm can occur from aversive efforts to change sexual orientation...

We conclude that there is a dearth of scientifically sound research on the safety of SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts]. Early and recent research studies provide no clear indication of the prevalence of harmful outcomes among people who have undergone efforts to change their sexual orientation or the frequency of occurrence of harm because no study to date of adequate scientific rigor has been explicitly designed to do so. Thus, we cannot conclude how likely it is that harm will occur from SOCE. However, studies from both periods indicate that attempts to change sexual orientation may cause or exacerbate distress and poor mental health in some individuals, including depression and suicidal thoughts. The lack of rigorous research on the safety of SOCE represents a serious concern, as do studies that report perceptions of harm (cf. Lilienfeld, 2007). [192]

Ego-syntonic homosexuality was not addressed in the BYU studies, though it was a subject of research performed at other institutions. Furthermore, BYU only treated adults. Other institutions, such as UCLA, treated children as young as 6.[32]

Aversion therapy at other institutions

A significant number of hospitals and universities historically offered aversion therapy as a way to treat homosexuality. It would be impossible to list all of them, but here are a few of the major places where people were involved in research using aversion therapy to treat homosexuality:

Author Year Number Institution Type Publication References and Notes
Max

1935

?

New York University

Aversion therapy

Psychological bulletin

  • Max, Louis William. "Breaking Up a Homosexual Fixation by the Conditioned Reaction Technique: A Case Study," Psychological Bulletin (Washington, D.C.), Vol. 32 (1935): p. 734·
Freund

1960

67

University of Toronto

Aversion apomorphine therapy

Adult sexual interest in children

  • Kurt Freund, "Assessment of pedophilia," in Cook, M. & Howells, K. (eds.), Adult sexual interest in children, London: Academic Press, 1981, pp. 139-179.
James

1962

1

Glenside Hospital (Bristol, U.K.)

Aversion apomorphine therapy

British Medical Journal

Miller

1963

4

Howard University

Hypnotic-Aversion

Journal of the National Medical Association

Thorpe, Schmidt, Brown, Castell

1964

-

Banstead Hospital

Imaginary aversive therapy

Behavior Research Therapy

Golda, Neufelda

1964

39

Guy's Hospital

Imaginary aversive therapy

Behavior Research Therapy

McGuire, Vallance

1965

39

Southern General Hospital

Aversive shock therapy

British Medical Journal

MacCulloch, Pinschof & Feldman

1965

4

Crumpsall Hospital, Manchester, UK

Anticipatory avoidance with aversion shock therapy

Behavior Research and Therapy

  • MacCulloch, M. J., Feldman, M. P. and Pinschof, J. M., "The application of anticipatory avoidance learning to the treatment of homosexuality—III : The sexual orientation method,"] Behaviour Research and Therapy Volume 4, Issue 4, November 1966, Pages 289-299
Solyom & Miller

1965

6

Allan Memorial Institute

Aversion shock therapy

Behavior Research and Therapy

  • Solyom, L., & Miller, S. (1965) A differential conditioning procedure as the initial phase of the behavior therapy of homosexuality. Behavior Research and Therapy, 3, 147-160.
MacCulloch & Feldman

1967

43

Crumpsall Hospital (Manchester, U.K.)

Anticipatory avoidance with aversion shock therapy

British Medical Journal

Bancroft & Marks

1968

-

Institute of Psychiatry and Maudsley Hospital

Electric aversion therapy

Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine

Fookes

1969

27

?

aversion shock therapy

British Journal of Psychiatry

Bancroft

1969

16

?

aversive shock therapy

The British Journal of Psychiatry

McConaghy

1969

40

The University of New South Wales

aversion apomorphine therapy

The British Journal of Psychiatry

Barlow

1973

-

The University of Mississippi

Variety

Behavior Therapy

Birk, Huddleston, Miller, & Cohler

1971

18

Joint project from Harvard and University of Chicago

Aversive shock therapy vs. associative conditioning

Archives of General Psychiatry

  • Lee Birk, MD; William Huddleston, JD; Elizabeth Miller; Bertram Cohler, PhD, "Avoidance Conditioning for Homosexuality," Archives of General Psychiatry. 1971;25(4):314-323. This study, published in 1971, involved eight treated subjects and eight placebo subjects. A follow-up study was conducted two years after the original treatment. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Feldman, MacCulloch, & Orford

1971

63

Crumpsall Hospital

Aversive therapy

-

  • Feldman, M. P., MacCulloch, M. J., & Orford, J. E (1971) Conclusions and speculations. In M. P. Feldman & M. J. MacCulloch, Homosexual behaviour: Therapy and assessment (pp. 156-188), New York: Pergamon Press.
Colson

1972

1

Illinois State University

Olfactory aversion therapy

Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry

  • Charles E. Colson, "Olfactory aversion therapy for homosexual behavior," Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry Volume 3, Issue 3, September 1972, Pages 185-187. Concluded that olfactory aversion therapy provides many advantages over more traditional forms.
Segal & Sims

1972

1

Murray State University

Covert Sensitization

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology

Hallam & Rachman

1972

7

King's College, London

aversion shock therapy

Behaviour Research and Therapy

Hanson & Adesso

1972

1

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Desensitization and aversive counter-conditioning

Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry

  • Richard W. Hanson, and Vincent J. Adesso, "A multiple behavioral approach to male homosexual behavior: A case study", Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry Volume 3, Issue 4, December 1972, Pages 323-325. This study took place in 1972, involved a single male subject, and included a follow-up six months from the original treatment. The study was published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.
McConaghy, Proctor, & Barr

1972

40

Prince Henry Hospital (Sydney, Australia)

Apomorphine aversion conditioning

Archives of Sexual Behavior

Callahan & Leitenberg

1973

23

Carmarillo State Hosp., California

aversion shock therapy

The Journal of Abnormal Psychology

McConaghy & Barr

1973

46

University of New South Wales, Institute of Psychiatry of New South Wales

Classical conditioning, avoidance conditioning

The British Journal of Psychiatry

Tanner

1974

16

Center for Behavior Change

aversion shock therapy

Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry

McConaghy

1975

31

University of New South Wales

Aversion shock therapy

Behaviour Research and Therapy

  • N. McConaghy, "Aversive and positive conditioning treatments of homosexuality", Behaviour Research and Therapy Volume 13, Issue 4, October 1975, pages 309-319 This study used both aversive conditioning against homosexuality and also positive conditioning toward heterosexuality. It concluded that the positive conditioning was ineffective.
Tanner

1975

16

Northeast Guidance Center

Aversion shock therapy

Behavior Therapy

Freeman & Meyer

1975

9

University of Louisville

Aversion shock therapy

Behavior Therapy

McConaghy

1976

157

University of New South Wales

Aversion apomorphine therapy

The British Journal of Psychiatry

James

1978

40

Hollymoor Hospital, England

Anticipatory avoidance, desensitization, hypnosis, anticipatory avoidance

Behavior Therapy

McConaghy, Armstrong, & Blaszczynski

1981

20

University of New South Wales

Aversive therapy

Behavior Research and Therapy

Purpose of psychological therapy

The purpose of therapy is to help patients towards their desired goals. One of the fundamentals in the field is patient self-determination. It is the patient who sets the goals, not the therapist. Aversion therapy, which is still administered today to help smokers, is not administered as a way to torture the subjects for smoking, but to help them achieve their goal of being smoke-free. Similarly, the therapy at BYU was administered to people who felt distress about their sexual lives. The purpose of the therapy was to relieve that stress. The volunteers for the study sought help to change their homosexuality and medical associations of that time recommended this therapy as just one among several.

An analysis of similar aversion therapy studies indicate that they may have caused or exacerbated distress and poor mental health, especially depression and suicidal thoughts. (For more information on suicides, see Same-sex attraction/Suicide.) Whether or not these effects were experienced by the participants at the studies run at BYU could not be determined. There is an inherent risk in therapy for mental illnesses. As with many experiments, the risks were not fully understood at the time they were being run.


Notes

  1. [citation needed]
  2. [citation needed]
  3. Russell M. Nelson, "Choices for Eternity," Worldwide Devotional for Young Single Adults, 15 May 2022 {[link|url=https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/broadcasts/worldwide-devotional-for-young-adults/2022/05/12nelson?lang=eng}}
  4. Dallin H. Oaks, "Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 1995): 9.
  5. "To The One," address given to twelve-stake fireside, Brigham Young University (5 March 1978); reprinted in Boyd K. Packer, That All May Be Edified (Bookcraft, 1982), pp. 186–200, emphasis added; italics in original. GL direct link
  6. Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman, "Same Gender Attraction," interview with Church Public Affairs (2006). off-site
  7. "Orientation," American Psychological Association (last accessed 27 November 2010).
  8. [citation needed]
  9. Laumann, Edward O. , The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States 299
  10. [citation needed]
  11. Definition of Homosexuality, dictionary.reference.com, s.v. "homosexuality," (last accessed 27 November 2010).
  12. [citation needed]
  13. [American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005), 201.
  14. Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media reference guide (last accessed 27 November 2010).
  15. [citation needed], (emphasis added)
  16. [citation needed], (emphasis added)
  17. Spencer W. Kimball, "President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality," New Era (October 1980): 39.
  18. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Reverence and Morality," General Conference (April 1987).
  19. Dallin H. Oaks, "Free Agency and Freedom," Brigham Young University 1987-88 Devotional and Fireside Speeches (Provo: BYU Publications, 1988), 46-47; an edited version is available in Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, The Doctrinal Structure (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1989), 13-15.
  20. First Presidency, letter, 14 November 1991.
  21. Richard G. Scott, "Making the Right Choices," General Conference (October 1994)., (emphasis added)
  22. Dallin H. Oaks, "Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 1995): 9.
  23. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Stand Strong Against the Wiles of the World," General Conference (Women's Meeting, Sept 1995).
  24. Boyd K. Packer, "Ye Are The Temple of God," General Conference (November 2000).
  25. Boyd K. Packer, "The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected," General Conference (October 2003).
  26. Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman, "Same Gender Attraction," interview with Church Public Affairs (2006). off-site
  27. Jeffrey R. Holland, "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 2007): 42-45.
  28. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, God Loveth His Children (Intellectual Reserve, 2007).
  29. G. Todd Christopherson, "Moral Discipline," General Conference (October 2009).
  30. Bruce C. Hafen, "Elder Bruce C. Hafen Speaks on Same-Sex Attraction," report of address given to Evergreen International annual conference, 19 September 2009.
  31. Michael Otterson, "Church Responds to HRC Petition," (12 October 2010).
  32. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Handbook 2: Administering the Church—2010 (Intellectual Reserve, 2010). Selected Church Policies and Guidelines 21.4.6
  33. American Psychiatric Association (May 2000). "Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues". Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists.
  34. [citation needed]
  35. "Helping Those Who Struggle," 42-45.
  36. 36.00 36.01 36.02 36.03 36.04 36.05 36.06 36.07 36.08 36.09 36.10 36.11 36.12 36.13 36.14 36.15 36.16 Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermaneutics (Abingdon Press, 2010).
  37. David F. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 195-196.
  38. 38.0 38.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named harper
  39. D. Michael Quinn, Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example (University of Illinois Press, 2001), 1– ( Index of claims )
  40. Bruce C. Hafen, "Elder Bruce C. Hafen Speaks on Same-Sex Attraction," report of address given to Evergreen International annual conference, 19 September 2009.
  41. As quoted by Adam Olson in Maintaining the Course
  42. [citation needed]
  43. {{NC||
  44. [citation needed]
  45. Spencer W. Kimball, "President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality," New Era (October 1980): 39.
  46. Boyd K. Packer, "Balm of Gilead," General Conference (October 1987).
  47. "Free Agency and Freedom," Brigham Young University 1987-88 Devotional and Fireside Speeches (Provo: BYU Publications, 1988), 46-47; the edited version printed here is found in Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, The Doctrinal Structure (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1989), 13-15.; cited in Dallin H. Oaks, "Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 2005): 9.
  48. Boyd K. Packer, "Covenants," General Conference (October 1990).
  49. Boyd K. Packer, "For Time and All Eternity," General Conference (October 1993).
  50. Richard G. Scott, "To Be Healed," General Conference (April 1994). (italics in original)
  51. Dallin H. Oaks, "Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 1995): 9.
  52. Richard G. Scott, "Trust in the Lord," General Conference (October 1995).
  53. Richard G. Scott, "Finding Joy in Life," General Conference (April 1996).
  54. Neal A. Maxwell, "According to the Desires of [Our Hearts]," General Conference (October 1996).
  55. Henry B. Eyring, "Do Not Delay," General Conference (October 1999).
  56. Neal A. Maxwell, "Content With The Things Allotted Unto Us," General Conference (April 2000).
  57. Dallin H. Oaks, "He Heals the Heavy Laden," General Conference (October 2006).
  58. Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman, "Same Gender Attraction," interview with Church Public Affairs (2006). off-site
  59. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, God Loveth His Children (Intellectual Reserve, 2007).
  60. Jeffrey R. Holland, "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 2007): 42-45.
  61. Boyd K. Packer, "Cleansing the Inner Vessel," Ensign (October 2010).
  62. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, God Loveth His Children (Intellectual Reserve, 2007). (italics added)
  63. Interview With Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Lance B. Wickman: "Same-Gender Attraction," (undated).
  64. The Mormons, Interviews: Jeffrey R. Holland, pbs.org (30 April 2007).
  65. Address given by Elder Bruce C. Hafen at the Evergreen International annual conference, 19 September 2009.
  66. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "The Divine Institution of Marriage," (13 August 2008).
  67. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "The Divine Institution of Marriage," (13 August 2008).
  68. Michael Otterson, Statement to SLC Council, 10 November 2009.
  69. rich Goode and Nachman Ben-Yehuda, Moral Panics: The Social Construction of Deviance (Wiley-Blackwell, 1994), 147.
  70. W. Justin Dyer, "book review," Brigham Young University Studies 59 no. 1 (2020), 226.
  71. Ryan M. Hill and Jeremy W. Pettit, “Suicidal Ideation and Sexual Orientation in College Students: The Roles of Perceived Burdensomeness, Thwarted Belongingness, and Perceived Rejection Due to Sexual Orientation,” Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 42/5 (October 2012): 567, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1943-278X.2012.00113.x.
  72. Lars Wichstrøm and Kristinn Hegna, “Sexual orientation and suicide attempt: a longitudinal study of the general Norwegian adolescent population,” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 112/1 (February 2003): 144–151, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12653422/.
  73. Layne Williams, Amy Fife, Hal Boyd, “No correlation between youth suicide and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Idaho Statesman (22 September 2019), https://www.idahostatesman.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article235270667.html
  74. Thomas Joiner, Lonely at the Top: The High Cost of Men's Success, kindle loc. 4114-16. See also his Why People Die By Suicide, loc 1720. Evan M. Kleiman and Richard T. Liu, “Prospective Prediction of Suicide in a Nationally Representative Sample: Religious Service Attendance as a Protective Factor,” The British Journal of Psychiatry 204 (2014): 262, https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.113.128900; Tyler J. VanderWeele et al., “Association between Religious Service Attendance and Lower Suicide Rates among US Women,” JAMA Psychiatry 73/8 (2016): 845–851, https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1243. Leilani Greening and Laura Stoppelbein, “Religiosity, Attributional Style, and Social Support as Psychosocial Buffers for African American and White Adolescents’ Perceived Risk for Suicide,” Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 32/4 (Winter 2002): 404–417, https://doi.org/10.1521/suli.32.4.404.22333; Tobias Teismann and others, “Religious Beliefs Buffer the Impact of Depression on Suicide Ideation,” Psychiatry Research 257 (1 November 2017): 276–278, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2017.07.060. Erminia Colucci and Graham Martin, “Religion and Spirituality along the Suicidal Path,” Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 38/2 (April 2008): 229–244, https://doi.org/doi:10.1521/suli.2008.38.2.229.The academic sources here are from Dyer, Goodman, and Wood cited below.
  75. Stephen Cranney, "The LGB Mormon Paradox: Mental, Physical, and Self-Rated Health among Mormon and Non-Mormon LGB Individuals in the Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Homosexuality 64/6 (2017): 731–744, https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2016.1236570.
  76. Justin Dyer, Michael Goodman, and David Wood, "Religion and Sexual Orientation as Predictors of Utah Youth Suicidality," BYU Studies Quarterly 61/2 (2022), off-site
  77. James S. McGraw, Meagan Docherty, Jay R. Chinn, and Annette Mahoney, “Family, Faith, and Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors (STBs) Among LGBTQ Youth in Utah," Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity 20/2 (2023): 257-258, https://doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000517
  78. Joiner, Why People Die of Suicide, loc. 1846–49.
  79. Ritch Savin Williams, interview, “A Look At The Lives of Gay Teens,” All Things Considered, National Public Radio (21 October 2010), http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130732158.
  80. “The Messaging ‘Don’ts’,” suicidepreventionmessaging.org (accessed 23 January 2024), https://suicidepreventionmessaging.org/safety/messaging-donts
  81. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "The Divine Institution of Marriage," (13 August 2008).
  82. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Reverence and Morality," General Conference (April 1987).
  83. "An Easter Greeting from the First Presidency," Church News (15 April 1995), 1.
  84. Dallin H. Oaks, "Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 2005): 9.
  85. Dallin H. Oaks, "Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 2005): 9.
  86. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Why We Do Some of the Things We Do," Ensign (Nov 1999): 52. off-site
  87. Jeffrey R. Holland, "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 2007): 42-45.
  88. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, God Loveth His Children (Intellectual Reserve, 2007).
  89. Bruce C. Hafen, "Elder Bruce C. Hafen Speaks on Same-Sex Attraction," report of address given to Evergreen International annual conference, 19 September 2009.
  90. Michael Otterson, "Church Responds to HRC Petition," (12 October 2010).
  91. Dallin H. Oaks, "Protect the Children," Ensign (November 2012).
  92. Boyd K. Packer, "To Young Men Only," priesthood session, general conference, 2 October 1976. (emphasis added)
  93. See Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1980), 162. ISBN 0884944115.; James E. Talmage, The House of the Lord: a study of holy sanctuaries, ancient and modern (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Deseret News, 1912), 100.
  94. http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2000/10/ye-are-the-temple-of-god
  95. United Nations General Recommendation 19 to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women; cited at "What Is Sexual Harassment?" (accessed 10 March 2012) (emphasis added)
  96. As cited at "What Is Sexual Harassment?" (accessed 10 March 2012) (emphasis added)
  97. Family Acceptance in Adolescence and the Health of LGBT Young Adults
  98. Jessica Gail, "Utah, one of the worst places to be LGBT and homeless," Utah Public Radio, June 11, 2012. Online version accessed Aug 10, 2012. http://upr.org/post/utah-one-worst-places-be-lgbt-and-homeless
  99. Nicholas Ray, "Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth: an epidemic of homelessness," National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and the National Coalition for Homelessness, 2006. Online version accessed Aug 9, 2012. http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/HomelessYouth.pdf
  100. "Throw-Away Kids," originally published in qSaltLake, Aug 12,2008. Online copy at affirmation.org accessed Aug 9, 2012. http://www.affirmation.org/homelessness/throw-away_kids.shtml.
  101. Nicholas Ray, "Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth: an epidemic of homelessness," National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and the National Coalition for Homelessness, 2006. Online version accessed Aug 9, 2012. http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/HomelessYouth.pdf
  102. "Throw-Away Kids," originally published in qSaltLake, Aug 12,2008. Online copy at affirmation.org accessed Aug 9, 2012. http://www.affirmation.org/homelessness/throw-away_kids.shtml.
  103. "Growing up LGBT in America: HRC Youth Survey Report, Key Findings," Human Rights Campaign, 2012. Online version accessed Aug 9, 2012. http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/Growing-Up-LGBT-in-America_Report.pdf.
  104. "Growing up LGBT in America: HRC Youth Survey Report, Key Findings," Human Rights Campaign, 2012. Online version accessed Aug 9, 2012. http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/Growing-Up-LGBT-in-America_Report.pdf.
  105. Rebecca Trounson, "Gay teens less likely to be happy, nationwide survey finds," The Salt Lake Tribune. June 7, 2012. Online version accessed Aug 9 2012. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/world/54262370-68/gay-percent-lgbt-survey.html.csp.
  106. Melinda Rogers, "LGBT youth find safe haven at homeless drop-in shelter," The Salt Lake Tribune. June 11, 2012. Online version accessed Aug 10 2012. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54274630-78/lgbt-utah-youths-center.html.csp.
  107. Melinda Rogers, "LGBT youth find safe haven at homeless drop-in shelter," The Salt Lake Tribune. June 11, 2012. Online version accessed Aug 10 2012. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54274630-78/lgbt-utah-youths-center.html.csp.
  108. Melinda Rogers, "LGBT youth find safe haven at homeless drop-in shelter," The Salt Lake Tribune. June 11, 2012. Online version accessed Aug 10 2012. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54274630-78/lgbt-utah-youths-center.html.csp.
  109. Understanding and Helping Those With Homosexual Problems
  110. "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," General Conference ({{{date}}}).
  111. "Same-Gender Attraction," General Conference (2006).
  112. "Same-Gender Attraction," General Conference (2006).
  113. "The Best Thing I Can Do for Leigh," General Conference (2009).
  114. Quinton L. Cook, "Our Father’s Plan—Big Enough for All His Children," General Conference (April 2009).
  115. Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), 77–78.
  116. Connell "Rocky" O’Donovan, "‘The Abominable and Detestable Crime against Nature’: A Revised History of Homosexuality and Mormonism, 1840-1980," Connell O’Donovan (website), last revised 2004, http://www.connellodonovan.com/abom.html. This is a revised version of Connell "Rocky" O’Donovan, "‘The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature’: A Brief History of Homosexuality and Mormonism, 1840-1980," in Multiply and Replenish: Mormon Essays in Sex and Family, Essays on Mormonism Series, No. 7, ed. Brent Corcoran (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 138-40. In that earlier version, he omits the word "absurd."
  117. Compare Welfare Services Packet 1, 8: "homosexuality is possible only with others."
  118. See also Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, ix–x.
  119. Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vol. I (1905; repr., New York: Random House, 1942), 240, italics in original, https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.179937/page/n287/mode/2up.
  120. Albert Moll, The Sexual Life of the Child, trans. Eden Paul (1912; repr., London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd: 1923), 265, https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.200468/page/n275/mode/2up.
  121. Ibid, 267, italics added.
  122. Ibid, 313-14, emphasis added.
  123. A[lbert] Moll, Les perversions de l’instinct genital: étude sur l’inversion sexuelle basée sur des documents officiels, 6ième edition, traduit par Pactet et Romme (Paris: Georges Carré et C. Naud, 1897), 197, 200, 207-209, https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_tpoaAAAAYAAJ/page/n249/mode/2up.
  124. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 78. Taylor Petrey's Tabernacles of Clay claims that because of Kimball’s views, LDS Social Services needed to "offer some clarification." But masturbation can hardly "lead … to homosexuality" if Kimball believed it to be a homosexual act in itself. Even mutual masturbation, for Kimball, is only a stepping stone to "total homosexuality."
  125. Marcel T. Saghir, Eli Robins, and Bonnie Walbran, "Homosexuality: II. Sexual Behavior of the Male Homosexual," Archives of General Psychiatry 21 (August 1969): 219-23, underlining in original represents a subject heading.
  126. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 215.
  127. Ibid., x, 15.
  128. Kimball, "Love Versus Lust," BYU Speeches of the Year 1965, 30.
  129. Gregory L. Smith, "Feet of Clay: Queer Theory and the Church of Jesus Christ," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 43 (2021): 209–213.
  130. Ladelle McWhorter, "From Masturbator to Homosexual: The Construction of the Sex Pervert," in Cyd Cipolla et al, eds., Queer Feminist Science Studies: A Reader (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017), 118.
  131. McWhorter, "From Masturbator to Homosexual," 120, emphasis added.
  132. Smith, "Feet of Clay," 225–27.
  133. Smith, "Feet of Clay," 214–15.
  134. An Interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks on Homosexuality and AIDS
  135. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Reverence and Morality," General Conference (April 1987).
  136. Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems
  137. Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman, "Same Gender Attraction," interview with Church Public Affairs (2006). off-site
  138. Jeffrey R. Holland, "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction," Ensign (October 2007): 42-45. off-site
  139. Brigham Young, Speech given in Joint Session of the Utah Legislature, February 5, 1952 in Fred Collier, The Teachings of President Brigham Young (Salt Lake City, UT: Collier's Publishing, 1987), 43.
  140. [1]
  141. Neal A. Maxwell, "Those Seedling Saints Who Sit Before You," CES Symposium on the Old Testament, August 1983, https://si.lds.org/library/talks/ces-symposium-addresses/those-seedling-saints-who-sit-before-you. [Note that here Elder Maxwell follows usage of homosexuality that was then current, especially among Church leaders: they saw homosexuality as behavior not as an orientation. Thus homosexual sin can be cured—for homosexual temptation or orientation is not a sin. (Though it is a burden for many that might be lightened or removed in accord with the Lord’s will.)]
  142. Boyd K. Packer, "How To Survive in Enemy Territory," address on the centennial of Seminary program, 22 January 2012, http://seminary.lds.org/history/centennial/eng/how-to-survive-in-enemy-territory/.
  143. Russell M. Nelson, "Decisions for Eternity," general conference, October 2013 [footnotes make it clear he is speaking of same-sex marriage; these have been omitted here.
  144. Dallin H. Oaks, "Leadership Training: Chastity and Fidelity," video, [1:01-1:14 timestamp] https://www.lds.org/pages/lt/hwb84sun4af0o2tjwwyt?lang=eng.
  145. Dallin H. Oaks, "No Other Gods," general conference, October 2013, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/no-other-gods.p27.
  146. Church statement, cited in Tad Walsh, "LDS Church responds to inquiries about Harry Reid comment," Deseret News (7 November 2013), https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865590140/LDS-Church-responds-to-inquiries-about-Harry-Reid-comment.html. See also "Church Responds to Inquiries on ENDA, Same-Sex Marriage," press release (11 November 2013), http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-responds-to-inquiries-on-enda—same-sex-marriage
  147. Dallin H. Oaks, "No Other Gods," Ensign (November 2013), https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/no-other-gods?lang=eng.
  148. Daniel Woodruff, "LDS apostle explains church's evolution on LGBT issues, says members' politics may differ from doctrine," KUTV (14 March 2015), http://www.kutv.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/Tonight-at-10-LDS-apostle-opens-up-on-evolution-of-church-s-support-for-new-antidiscrimination-law-102821.shtml#.VQZN9i6zFQB.
  149. Dallin H. Oaks, "Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction," https://mormonandgay.lds.org/articles/love-one-another-a-discussion-on-same-sex-attraction.
  150. "Church Leaders," <https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/topics/gay/leaders?lang=eng> (21 October 2020). This comes from the Church's official website on same-sex attraction and the same statement remains there today.
  151. Church Newsroom, "April 2019 General Conference News and Announcements," (3 April 2019), https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/first-presidency-messages-general-conference-leadership-session-april-2019#oaks
  152. McKay Coppins, "The Most American Religion," <https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/01/the-most-american-religion/617263/> (18 December 2020).
  153. Church News Staff, "President Dallin H. Oaks: ‘Divine Love in the Father’s Plan’," Church News, April 3, 2022, https://www.thechurchnews.com/general-conference/2022-04-03/president-oaks-april-2022-general-conference-gods-love-salvation-eternal-marriage-248346.
  154. Mosiah 18꞉9.
  155. "Church Provides Context on Handbook Changes Affecting Same-Sex Marriages," <https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/handbook-changes-same-sex-marriages-elder-christofferson> (21 October 2020).
  156. Laumann, Edward O. , The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States 299 link
  157. A New Therapy on Faith and Sexual Identity: Psychological Association Revises Treatment Guidelines to Allow Counselors to Help Clients Reject Their Same-Sex Attractions
  158. [citation needed] was footnoted as "task.force"
  159. Laumann, Edward O. , The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States 299
  160.  [needs work] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/87/6/869
  161.  [needs work] http://psycnet.apa.org/?&fa=main.doiLanding&doi=10.1037/0021-843X.112.1.144
  162. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2079706 [citation needed]
  163. http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a923933982~db=all~jumptype=rss [citation needed]
  164. Katherine Ellen Foley, "Some animals kill each other after sex because their distinction between hungry and flirty is blurred," last modified February 14, 2017, https://qz.com/909885/some-animals-kill-each-other-after-sex-because-their-distinction-between-hungry-and-flirty-is-blurred/.
  165. Ty Mansfield, "'Mormons can be gay, they just can’t do gay': Deconstructing Sexuality and Identity from an LDS Perspective," (presentation, FairMormon Conference, Provo, UT, 2014).
  166. "The Conjugal vs. Revisionist Views of Marriage," Discussing Marriage, accessed May 4, 2021, https://discussingmarriage.org/the-conjugal-vs-revisionist-views-of-marriage/#.YJG5gkhKjRZ.
  167. An address given at the Church Educational System fireside at BYU on 1 February 1998; reproduced in Boyd K. Packer, "The Peaceable Followers of Christ," Ensign (April 1998): 62.
  168. Boyd K. Packer, "Revelation in a Changing World," Ensign (November 1989): 16.
  169. Boyd K. Packer, "A Tribute to the Rank and File of the Church," Ensign (May 1980): 65.
  170. Scott Taylor, "Mormon youths support President Packer through Facebook," Deseret News (11 October 2010) off-site
  171. Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman, "Same Gender Attraction," interview with Church Public Affairs (2006). off-site
  172. Gregory L. Smith, "Shattered Glass: The Traditions of Mormon Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Encounter Boyd K. Packer," Mormon Studies Review 23/1 (2011): 61–85. off-site wiki
  173. Boyd K. Packer, "Ye Are The Temple of God," General Conference (November 2000).
  174. Bishop Keith B. McMullin, "Remarks," given at 20th annual Evergreen International conference held in Salt Lake City, 18 September 2010.
  175. "I was asked on one occasion by President Kimball if I would care to talk to the students at Brigham Young University on the subject of perversion. I begged him to excuse me from doing it, for I thought myself incapable of talking on that subject to a mixed audience. Later I repented of having declined the invitation and worked with great care to do as he had asked me to do. While "To the One" was given before a large audience at a Brigham Young University fireside, I singled out the afflicted individual for help, and also tried to inform and guide anyone who might have responsibility to help "the one" find his way." - Boyd K. Packer, That All May Be Edified (Bookcraft, 1982), 154.
  176. "To The One," address given to twelve-stake fireside, Brigham Young University (5 March 1978); reprinted in Boyd K. Packer, That All May Be Edified (Bookcraft, 1982), 186-200, emphasis added; italics in original.
  177. Boyd K. Packer, "Covenants," General Conference (Oct 1990). (emphasis added)
  178. Boyd K. Packer, "The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness," General Conference (October 1995). (emphasis added)
  179. Boyd K. Packer, "Ye Are The Temple of God," General Conference (November 2000). (emphasis added) (italics in original)
  180. Boyd K. Packer, "The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected," General Conference (October 2003). (emphasis added)
  181. Boyd K. Packer, "I Will Remember Your Sins No More," General Conference (April 2006). (emphasis added)
  182. Boyd K. Packer, "Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council," (18 May 1993).
  183. See, for example, (Gay) Mormon Guy, "President Packer's Talk... From a (Gay) Mormon Perspective," blog post (14 October 2010) off-site
  184. Editorial, "A call for civility following Mormon Apostle Boyd K. Packer’s address," Deseret News (10 October 2010).
  185. Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's (Plume, 1990), 112, 139-141, 151-154. ISBN 0452264987
  186. For extensive examples and a discussion, see Gregory L. Smith, "Shattered Glass: The Traditions of Mormon Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Encounter Boyd K. Packer," Mormon Studies Review 23/1 (2011): 61–85. off-site wiki
  187. Nigel Barber, Ph.D., "Smoking: Most effective quitting technique little known," February 17, 2010
  188. "Aversion Therapy," Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders
  189. Seligman, Martin E.P., What You Can Change and What You Can't: The Complete Guide to Self Improvement Knopf, 1993; ISBN 0-679-41024-4, p. 156
  190. "Mental and behavioural disorders," International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision Version for 2007
  191. "Health Care Needs of Gay Men and Lesbians in the U.S.," American Medical Association Report, 1994
  192. "APA Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation." (2009). Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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General questions about identity

Can a person identify as gay or lesbian and still be a member of the Church in good standing?

The Church does not reject those who are attracted to those of their own sex. If such attraction leads to an intimate physical relationship, then this is considered sinful, just as sexual acts outside of marriage are for heterosexuals.

In 1998, President Hinckley said:

People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves ... gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.[1]

In 1999, President Hinckley taught:

"As I said from this pulpit one year ago, our hearts reach out to those who refer to themselves as gays and lesbians. We love and honor them as sons and daughters of God. They are welcome in the Church."[2]

While President Hinckley avoided directly labeling anyone as gay or lesbian, he was directing his welcome to those who did make use of the label. He did not say that only those who shun the label are welcome, but specifically said that those who considered themselves to be gay could move forward as all other members do. There was no request for them to hide their identity or to change their vocabulary.

In general, Church leaders recommend against labeling anyone, including yourself. Labels detract from our divine nature as children of God. President Russell M. Nelson has counselled us about such things in areas far beyond sexual desire or orientation:

Russell nelson official portrait 2018.jpeg
I believe that if the Lord were speaking to you directly tonight, the first thing He would make sure you understand is your true identity. My dear friends, you are literally spirit children of God. ...

Labels can be fun and indicate your support for any number of positive things. Many labels will change for you with the passage of time. And not all labels are of equal value. But if any label replaces your most important identifiers, the results can be spiritually suffocating. ...

Who are you? First and foremost, you are a child of God.

Second, as a member of the Church, you are a child of the covenant. And third, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Tonight, I plead with you not to replace these three paramount and unchanging identifiers with any others, because doing so could stymie your progress or pigeonhole you in a stereotype that could potentially thwart your eternal progression.

For example, if you are identified mainly as an American, those who are not Americans may think, “I know everything there is to know about you” and attribute erroneous beliefs to you.

If you identify yourself by your political affiliation, you will instantly be categorized as having certain beliefs—though I don’t know anyone who believes everything that their preferred political party presently embraces.

We could go on and on, rehearsing the constraints of various labels that we put on ourselves or that other people place upon us. ...

How tragic it is when someone believes the label another person has given them. ...

[Satan] rejoices in labels because they divide us and restrict the way we think about ourselves and each other. How sad it is when we honor labels more than we honor each other.

Labels can lead to judging and animosity. Any abuse or prejudice toward another because of nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender, educational degrees, culture, or other significant identifiers is offensive to our Maker! Such mistreatment causes us to live beneath our stature as His covenant sons and daughters!

There are various labels that may be very important to you, of course. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that other designations and identifiers are not significant. I am simply saying that no identifier should displace, replace, or take priority over these three enduring designations: “child of God,” “child of the covenant,” and “disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Any identifier that is not compatible with these three basic designations will ultimately let you down. Other labels will disappoint you in time because they do not have the power to lead you toward eternal life in the celestial kingdom of God.

Worldly identifiers will never give you a vision of who you can ultimately become. They will never affirm your divine DNA or your unlimited, divine potential.[3]

This counsel can also apply to using the label "straight" or "gay" to refer to children of God. In 1995, Elder Oaks taught:

We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.

Feelings are another matter. Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of "nature and nurture." All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior. [4]

The way we think about such things can determine whether we apply a theological lens to them, as Bishop Keith B. McMullin taught in 2010:

When I was a youngster, my mother discouraged me from using common language when speaking of sacred or special things. For example, instead of referring to an expectant mother as being pregnant, she encouraged me to say "she is expecting a baby." In Mother’s view, the latter description was more respectful and reverential, the former more clinical and common. Her teachings have had a salient effect upon me. The older I become, the more meaningful is her wisdom. The more we see and speak of intimate things as mere biology, the less likely we are to view and understand them in the context of exalting theology.

Church leaders have, therefore, consistently emphasized that such temptations and desires do not form a core or irreducible part of our nature. As Elder Boyd K. Packer said:

And so, now to the subject. To introduce it I must use a word. ... Please notice that I use it as an adjective, not as a noun; I reject it as a noun. I speak to those few, those very few, who may be subject to homosexual temptations. I repeat, I accept that word as an adjective to describe a temporary condition. I reject it as a noun naming a permanent one. [5]

This explains why Latter-day Saints often refer to homosexual/gay/lesbian issues with such terms as "same-sex attraction"

Latter-day Saint doctrine emphasizes that people are not the sum of their desires, temptations, or sins. Secular evidence suggests that those who self-identify with their desires in this way are more likely to engage in acts which the gospel of Christ teaches are sinful.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks pointed out a natural human tendency to use a single facet of our personality or experience as a large part of a self-definition:

I think it is an accurate statement to say that some people consider feelings of same-gender attraction to be the defining fact of their existence. There are also people who consider the defining fact of their existence that they are from Texas or that they were in the United States Marines. Or they are red-headed, or they are the best basketball player that ever played for such-and-such a high school. People can adopt a characteristic as the defining example of their existence and often those characteristics are physical.

We have the agency to choose which characteristics will define us; those choices are not thrust upon us.

The ultimate defining fact for all of us is that we are children of Heavenly Parents, born on this earth for a purpose, and born with a divine destiny. Whenever any of those other notions, whatever they may be, gets in the way of that ultimate defining fact, then it is destructive and it leads us down the wrong path. [6]

Our choice of terminology should not be construed to deny others the privilege of choosing their own acts or self-labels

When labels such as "homosexual," or "heterosexual", and labels such as "gay," "lesbian," or "straight" are used by members of the Church, this terminology should be understood to:

  • reflect the self-understanding of those referred to; or
  • serve as an adjective (e.g., "gay activists" are those working politically on behalf of those who self-identify as gay; or "heterosexual marriage" is a marriage between two people of the opposite sex regardless of sexual orientation).

The language used to describe people or phenomena influences how we perceive or think about them.

Definition of sexual orientation

The American Psychological Association {APA) gives the following definition for sexual orientation:

"Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person's sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions." [7]

The term sexual orientation in and of itself is ambiguous. There are many members of the Church who are primarily attracted to the same sex, but their sense of identity and community is more closely connected to a heterosexual lifestyle. Depending on which definition of sexual orientation that being used, the same person may have a homosexual or a heterosexual orientation.

The APA notes further: "Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Individuals may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors." [8]

Thus having same-sex attractions, participating in same-sex relationships, and identifying as gay or lesbian are three separate things.

A study by the Social Organization of Sexuality found that 60% of men and 68% of women who were attracted to the same sex have never engaged in homosexual behavior. Of those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, only 13% of men and 4% of women who so identified have never engaged in homosexual behavior. [9] This lead the researchers to conclude that sexual identity (i.e., how people label and conceive of themselves) was a stronger indicator of sexual behavior than sexual orientation (i.e., the feelings or inclinations which people have). </blockquote>

Identity and behavior

Some use a self-identity as "homosexual" to imply or argue that acting on homosexual desires is an inevitable or proper outcome, since it is simply "who I am." The Church teaches, rather, that our temptations, unhealthy desires, or sins do not define who we are as children of God.

Definition of homosexuality, homosexual, and gay

In regards to the terms homosexual, lesbian and gay, Elder Oaks stated:

We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.

In regards to the term homosexuality, Elder Oaks stated:

the First Presidency's letters condemning homosexuality are, by their explicit terms, directed at the practices of homosexuality.[10]

How does this compare with the dictionary? The American Heritage Dictionary defines homosexual as someone exhibiting homosexuality. It defines homosexuality as:

  1. Sexual orientation to persons of the same sex.
  2. Sexual activity with another of the same sex. [11]

Both the dictionary and Elder Oaks illustrate that homosexual can refer to thoughts or behaviors. Latter-day Saints may wish to communicate one thing about their thoughts, but quite another by their behavior. They therefore often choose language that makes this distinction clear.

Avoiding using gay as a noun

With regards to using gay as a noun, Elder Oaks said:

We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.[12]

The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style gives a similar warning against using gay as a noun:

Gay is often considered objectionable when used as a noun to refer to particular individuals, as in "There were two gays on the panel"; here phrasing such as "Two members of the panel were gay" should be used instead. [13]

According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media reference guide, many newspapers have also advised their newspaper writers to avoid using gay as a noun. [14] They cite the following examples:

New York Times:

Do not use gay as a singular noun. Gays, a plural noun, may be used only as a last resort, ordinarily in a hard-to-fit headline.

Washington Post:

When it is necessary to mention it, gay may be used as an adjective but not as a noun, except as a plural: gay man, gay woman, gay people, gays. Not a gay ...

Often, simply reporting the facts obviates the need for labels. Describing a slaying, for instance, should suffice without referring to it as a homosexual slaying. Ask yourself if you would use the term heterosexual slaying. In a recent story, a man "charged" that his former wife "was a lesbian" as if it were a slur, when simply alleging an affair between the ex-wife and the other woman would suffice.

Be wary of using homosexual as a noun. In certain contexts, it can be seen as a slur.

What have Church leaders taught about the distinction between desires, feelings, or inclinations, and sexual acts?

Those who claim that the Church has long condemned those who had homosexual feelings or inclinations regardless of whether they acted upon such feelings have not accurately reflected the long-standing teaching of the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles. Recent teaching of this doctrine is not a novelty, but merely an emphasis of that which has been long taught.

We are held accountable for things that we can choose. We are not held accountable for things outside of our control

This principle applies to sexual thoughts and actions. Church leaders have always taught that we need to learn to control our sexual actions. Our sexual natures are sacred, and should only be shared between a husband and a wife. But this law is not limited to sexual acts, but includes sexual feelings. The church teaches members to "never do anything outside of marriage to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage". It is the intentional stimulation of sexual feelings that is prohibited, not merely having sexual feelings. This standard applies equally to all.

D&C

In a revelation given to William E. McLellin, the Lord reveals some of the feelings of McLellin:

Commit not adultery—a temptation with which thou hast been troubled. (D&C 66꞉10)

Even though he had been troubled with thoughts of adultery (there is no indication whether it was homosexual or heterosexual in nature) the Lord still gave the following praise:

Behold, thus saith the Lord unto my servant William E. McLellin—Blessed are you, inasmuch as you have turned away from your iniquities, and have received my truths, saith the Lord your Redeemer, the Savior of the world, even of as many as believe on my name. (D&C 10꞉1)

1980

President Spencer W. Kimball, in one of the first extensive treatments of this topic by a President of the Church regarding homosexual acts, was clear about the difference between the temptation and the act. That distinction has persisted in LDS discourse and teaching ever since:

The unholy transgression of homosexuality is either rapidly growing or tolerance is giving it wider publicity. If one has such desires and tendencies, he overcomes them the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery. The Lord condemns and forbids this practice with a vigor equal to his condemnation of adultery and other such sex acts. And the Church will excommunicate as readily any unrepentant addict.[15]

We note that homosexuality is compared to acts such as petting, fornication, or adultery. Those who are excommunicated are those who are unrepentant persist as "addicts": i.e., those who will not desist.

Again, contrary to the belief and statement of many people, this sin, like fornication, is overcomable and forgivable, but again, only upon a deep and abiding repentance, which means total abandonment and complete transformation of thought and act. The fact that some governments and some churches and numerous corrupted individuals have tried to reduce such behavior from criminal offense to personal privilege does not change the nature nor the seriousness of the practice. Good men, wise men, God-fearing men everywhere still denounce the practice as being unworthy of sons and daughters of God; and Christ’s church denounces it and condemns it so long as men and women have bodies which can be defiled.[16]

Again, the "behavior," and "practice" are that which is condemned.

President Kimball continued:

James said: 'A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. … 'Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

'Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

'But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

'Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

'Do not err, my beloved brethren' (James 1:8,12-16).

Again, one is tempted but it requires a sinful response to temptation from our own lust to "bring...forth sin."

'God made me that way,' some say, as they rationalize and excuse themselves for their perversions. 'I can’t help it,' they add. This is blasphemy. ... Man is responsible for his own sins. It is possible that he may rationalize and excuse himself until the groove is so deep he cannot get out without great difficulty, but this he can do. Temptations come to all people. The difference between the reprobate and the worthy person is generally that one yielded and the other resisted. It is true that one’s background may make the decision and accomplishment easier or more difficult, but if one is mentally alert, he can still control his future. That is the gospel message—personal responsibility. ...

"Be wise in the days of your probation," said Mormon, "strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God" (Moron 9꞉28).[17]

President Kimball emphasizes that some may be more vulnerable or susceptible to this temptation (or any other temptation) but emphasizes that one is only unworthy (or sinful) if he yields to temptation.

President Kimball had high hopes that people could overcome the practice of homosexuality, but warned that the feelings could well remain and need to be controlled on an on-going basis. He said:

In a few months, some have totally mastered themselves ... We realize that the cure is no more permanent than the individual makes it so and is like the cure for alcoholism subject to continued vigilance.

1987

President Gordon B. Hinckley:

Prophets of God have repeatedly taught through the ages that practices of homosexual relations, fornication, and adultery are grievous sins. ... Mankind has been given agency to choose between right and wrong. ... Mental control must be stronger than physical appetites or desires of the flesh. As thoughts are brought into complete harmony with revealed truth, actions will then become appropriate.[18]

1988

In 1988, Elder Dalin H. Oaks said:

Most of us are born with [or develop] thorns in the flesh, some more visible, some more serious than others. We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so our thoughts and actions must be controllable by our agency. Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim ‘I was born that way’ does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal.

God has promised that he will consecrate our afflictions for our gain (see 2 Nephi 2꞉2). The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited [or developed] weakness build a spiritual strength that will serve us throughout eternity. Thus, when Paul prayed thrice that his ‘thorn in the flesh’ would depart from him, the Lord replied, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Obedient, Paul concluded:

‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

‘Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong’ (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

Whatever our susceptibilities or tendencies [feelings], they cannot subject us to eternal consequences unless we exercise our free agency to do or think the things forbidden by the commandments of God. For example, a susceptibility to alcoholism impairs its victim’s freedom to partake without addiction, but his free agency allows him to abstain and thus escape the physical debilitation of alcohol and the spiritual deterioration of addiction. ...

Beware the argument that because a person has strong drives toward a particular act, he has no power of choice and therefore no responsibility for his actions. This contention runs counter to the most fundamental premises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Satan would like us to believe that we are not responsible in this life. That is the result he tried to achieve by his contest in the pre-existence. A person who insists that he is not responsible for the exercise of his free agency because he was ‘born that way’ is trying to ignore the outcome of the War in Heaven. We are responsible, and if we argue otherwise, our efforts become part of the propaganda effort of the Adversary.

Individual responsibility is a law of life. It applies in the law of man and the law of God. Society holds people responsible to control their impulses so we can live in a civilized society. God holds his children responsible to control their impulses in order that they can keep his commandments and realize their eternal destiny. The law does not excuse the short-tempered man who surrenders to his impulse to pull a trigger on his tormentor, or the greedy man who surrenders to his impulse to steal, or the pedophile who surrenders to his impulse to satisfy his sexual urges with children. …

There is much we do not know about the extent of freedom we have in view of the various thorns in the flesh that afflict us in mortality. But this much we do know; we all have our free agency and God holds us accountable for the way we use it in thought and deed. That is fundamental.[19]

1991

The First Presidency wrote in 1991:

There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior.[20]

1994

Elder Richard G. Scott:

Some bad thoughts come by themselves. Others come because we invite them by what we look at and listen to. ... The mind can think of only one thing at a time. Use that fact to crowd out ugly thoughts. Above all, don’t feed thoughts by reading or watching things that are wrong. If you don’t control your thoughts, Satan will keep tempting you until you eventually act them out.[21]

1995

In 1995, Elder Oaks stated:

Applying the First Presidency’s distinction to the question of same-sex relationships, we should distinguish between (1) homosexual (or lesbian) "thoughts and feelings" (which should be resisted and redirected), and (2) "homosexual behavior" (which is a serious sin)....

Persons cannot continue to engage in serious sin and remain members of the Church. And discipline can be given for encouraging sin by others. There is no Church discipline for improper thoughts or feelings (though there is encouragement to improve them), but there are consequences for behavior. ...

[W]e should always distinguish between sinful acts and inappropriate feelings or potentially dangerous susceptibilities. We should reach out lovingly to those who are struggling to resist temptation. The First Presidency did this in their 14 November 1991 letter. After reaffirming the sinful nature of "fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior," the Presidency added: "Individuals and their families desiring help with these matters should seek counsel from their bishop, branch president, stake or district president. We encourage Church leaders and members to reach out with love and understanding to those struggling with these issues. Many will respond to Christlike love and inspired counsel as they receive an invitation to come back and apply the atoning and healing power of the Savior."[22]

Gordon B. Hinckley:

Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and our sisters. However, we cannot condone immoral practices on your part any more than we can condone immoral practices on the part of others.[23]

2000

In 2000, President Boyd K. Packer taught:

That may be a struggle from which you will not be free in this life. If you do not act on temptations, you need feel no guilt. They [the feelings or temptations] may be extremely difficult to resist. But that is better than to yield and bring disappointment and unhappiness to you and those who love you.[24]

2003

In 2003, President Boyd K. Packer taught:

In the Church, one is not condemned for tendencies or temptations. One is held accountable for transgression. (See D&C 101꞉78; A+of+F 1꞉2). If you do not act on unworthy persuasions, you will neither be condemned nor be subject to Church discipline.[25]

2006

In 2006, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:

The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear. It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted.

The New Testament affirms that God has given us commandments that are difficult to keep. It is in 1 Corinthians 16꞉16: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."[26]

2007

In October 2007, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland published an article in the Ensign, which read in part:

A pleasant young man in his early 20s sat across from me. He had an engaging smile, although he didn’t smile often during our talk. What drew me in was the pain in his eyes.

"I don’t know if I should remain a member of the Church," he said. "I don’t think I’m worthy."

"Why wouldn’t you be worthy?" I asked.

"I’m gay."

I suppose he thought I would be startled. I wasn’t. "And … ?" I inquired.

A flicker of relief crossed his face as he sensed my continued interest. "I’m not attracted to women. I’m attracted to men. I’ve tried to ignore these feelings or change them, but …"

He sighed. "Why am I this way? The feelings are very real."

I paused, then said, "I need a little more information before advising you. You see, same-gender attraction is not a sin, but acting on those feelings is—just as it would be with heterosexual feelings. Do you violate the law of chastity?"

He shook his head. "No, I don’t."

This time I was relieved. "Thank you for wanting to deal with this," I said. "It takes courage to talk about it, and I honor you for keeping yourself clean.

"As for why you feel as you do, I can’t answer that question. A number of factors may be involved, and they can be as different as people are different. Some things, including the cause of your feelings, we may never know in this life. But knowing why you feel as you do isn’t as important as knowing you have not transgressed. If your life is in harmony with the commandments, then you are worthy to serve in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with the members, attend the temple, and receive all the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement."

He sat up a little straighter. I continued, "You serve yourself poorly when you identify yourself primarily by your sexual feelings. That isn’t your only characteristic, so don’t give it disproportionate attention. You are first and foremost a son of God, and He loves you.

"What’s more, I love you. My Brethren among the General Authorities love you. I’m reminded of a comment President Boyd K. Packer made in speaking to those with same-gender attraction. ‘We do not reject you,’ he said. ‘… We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you.’ "

We talked for another 30 minutes or so. Knowing I could not be a personal counselor to him, I directed him to his local priesthood leaders. Then we parted. I thought I detected a look of hope in his eyes that had not been there before. Although he yet faced challenges to work through—or simply endure—I had a feeling he would handle them well.[27]

He went on to emphasize: "[L]et me make it clear that attractions alone, troublesome as they may be, do not make one unworthy. ... If you do not act on temptations, you have not transgressed."

In a Church booklet published in 2007, the Church taught:

Many people with same-gender attraction respect the sacredness of their bodies and the standards God has set—that sexuality be expressed "only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife" ("The Family: A Proclamation to the World," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). The lives of these individuals are pleasing to our Father in Heaven. Some, however, cross this boundary and indulge in immoral conduct. The desire for physical gratification does not authorize immorality by anyone. ...

An understanding of eternal truths is a powerful motivation for righteous behavior. You are best served by concentrating on the things you can presently understand and control, not wasting energy or enlarging frustration by worrying about that which God has not yet fully revealed. Focus on living the simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Same-gender inclinations may be very powerful, but through faith in the Atonement you can receive the power to resist all improper conduct, keeping your life free from sin.[28]

2009

D. Todd Christopherson:

All of us experience temptations. So did the Savior, but He "gave no heed unto them" (D&C 20꞉22). Similarly, we do not have to yield simply because a temptation surfaces. We may want to, but we don’t have to. An incredulous female friend asked a young adult woman, committed to living the law of chastity, how it was possible that she had never "slept with anybody." "Don’t you want to?" the friend asked. The young woman thought: "The question intrigued me, because it was so utterly beside the point. … Mere wanting is hardly a proper guide for moral conduct."

In some cases, temptation may have the added force of potential or actual addiction. I am grateful that for an increasing number of people the Church can provide therapeutic help of various kinds to aid them in avoiding or coping with addictions. Even so, while therapy can support a person’s will, it cannot substitute for it. Always and ever, there must be an exercise of discipline—moral discipline founded on faith in God the Father and the Son and what They can achieve with us through the atoning grace of Jesus Christ. In Peter’s words, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations" (2 Peter 2:9).[29]

Bruce C. Hafen:

You may not have consciously chosen to have same-gender attraction, but you are faithfully choosing to deal with it. Sometimes that attraction may make you feel sinful, even though the attraction alone is not a sin if you do not act on it. Sometimes you may feel frustration or anger or simply a deep sadness about yourself. But as hard as same-gender attraction is, your feeling that attraction does not mean that your nature is flawed. Whenever the adversary tries to convince you that you are hopelessly "that way," so that acting out your feelings is inevitable, he is lying. He is the father of lies...

It’s true that the law of chastity forbids all sexual relations outside the bonds of a married heterosexual relationship. And while same-gender attraction is not a sin, you need to resist cultivating immoral, lustful thoughts toward those of either gender. It’s no sin if a bird lands in your tree, just don’t let him build a nest there. ... if you feel an attraction you didn’t seek and haven’t acted on, you have nothing to repent of.[30]

2010

On 12 October 2010, Michael Otterson (head of Church Public Affairs) noted:

None of us is limited by our feelings or inclinations. Ultimately, we are free to act for ourselves.

The Church recognizes that those of its members who are attracted to others of the same sex experience deep emotional, social and physical feelings. The Church distinguishes between feelings or inclinations on the one hand and behavior on the other. It’s not a sin to have feelings, only in yielding to temptation

There is no question that this is difficult, but Church leaders and members are available to help lift, support and encourage fellow members who wish to follow Church doctrine. Their struggle is our struggle.[31]

The 2010 version of the Church's Handbook of Instructions notes:

Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance.

If members engage in homosexual behavior, Church leaders should help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth.

While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.

If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinance.[32]

What does science have to say about this?

According to the American Psychological Association: "Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Individuals may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors."

As discussed above,[citation needed] self-identity determines behavior more than sexual orientation. Not only are there significant differences between a person's sexual orientation and their chosen behavior, but such things can change over time. The study indicated that of the 4.9% of men and 4.1% of women who have ever had a homosexual experience since the age of 18, only 2.7% of men and 1.3% of women had one in the last year. Some people change their sexual behavior based on religious beliefs. Others reported that they were no longer attracted to the same sex. The American Psychiatric Association has stated "Some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime."[33] The way this develops varies from person to person. A report from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health states that, "For some people, sexual orientation is continuous and fixed throughout their lives. For others, sexual orientation may be fluid and change over time."[34]

The Religions Dimension

Many people have testified that through the atonement of Christ, they no longer are attracted to people of the same gender. Others have also had faith in Christ, but still have same-sex attractions. Elder Holland taught: "Through the exercise of faith, individual effort, and reliance upon the power of the Atonement, some may overcome same-gender attraction in mortality and marry. Others, however, may never be free of same-gender attraction in this life."[35]

We are freed from some temptations over time, and must bear with others our whole lives.


Scripture and homosexual behavior—Old Testament

Why wasn't the prohibition against same-sex relationships rescinded when the rest of the law of Moses was rescinded?

As Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to be guided by modern revelation. We do not need to limit our understanding to what has been written in ancient texts. However, some critics have asserted that our stance on same-sex relationships should have been recinded with the rest of the law of Moses.

Unlike some of the surrounding pagan cultures in the ancient near east,

The Levitical laws, however, criminalized not only the behavior of all homosexual rapists but also the behavior of both partners in a consensual act of same-sex intercourse. Both have committed an abominable act. They also applied the same sanctions to Israelite and resident alien alike and made no concessions for homosexual intercourse with a person of unequal social status. ...

The level at which the Levitical laws stigmatize and criminalize all homosexual intercourse, while not discontinuous with some trends elsewhere, goes far beyond anything else currently known in the ancient near east. ...

The question of homosexual orientation was surely irrelevant to the denunciation of same-sex intercourse [in Israelite scripture], just as any debate about an orientation toward incest (or bestiality) would have been irrelevant. It was the act that mattered. ...

In our own cultural context we think that the banning of male cult prostitution does not take into account consensual, non-cultic, loving homosexual relationships. In the cultural context of the ancient Near East the reasoning has to be reversed: to ban homosexual cult prostitutes was to ban all homosexual intercourse. In any case, the authors of Lev 18꞉22 could have formulated the law more precisely by making specific reference to the [cultic prostitutes] (as in Deut 23꞉17-18), if it had been their intent to limit the law's application. That they did not do so suggests that they had a broader application in mind. Moreover, the Levitical rejection of same— sex intercourse depends on Canaanite practices for its validity about as much as the rejection of incest, adultery, and bestiality. [36]:69, 80-81, 132

Adultery, which includes all sexual relationships outside that of a husband and a wife, was forbidden under the 10 commandments

Exodus 20꞉14 reads: "Thou shalt not commit adultery."

Leviticus expands on what types of relationships qualify as adultery. As with much of the Old Testament, it was written for a male audience. Sexual relationships between females was not specifically condemned in Leviticus, but is covered in the 10 commandments. Leviticus 18꞉22 reads:

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Leviticus 20꞉13:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

There are aspects of the Leviticus commands that involve ritual uncleanness (e.g., avoiding sexual intercourse during menstruation). However, the way Leviticus discusses and describes those commands—which were rescinded in the Christian era—and the commands about adultery, incest, beastiality, and homosexual behavior—which remained in force, are quite different.

The word toebah [= abomination] is restricted in Leviticus to forms of sexual immorality that can be characterized in three ways: (1) a sexual act regarded by Yahweh as utterly detestable and abhorrent; (2) a sexual act which rendered the individual participants liable to the death penalty or being "cut off from God's people"; (3) a sexual act which, if left unpunished by the nation, put the entire nation at risk of God's consuming wrath, God's departure from the midst of the people, and expulsion of the people from the land of Canaan (18:22, 26-30; 20:13). Homosexual intercourse is singled out among other abominable sexual acts in Leviticus 8 and 20 as a form of sexual misconduct particularly worthy of the designation toebah. It is dificult to see how one can speak of this or other acts in Leviticus 1 8 and 20 as "ceremonially unclean rather than inherently evil".[36]:118-119

This author then quotes another expert, who writes[37]:

Leviticus does recognize forms of ritual uncleanness that are not morally condemned, e.g., childbirth, seminal emission, heterosexual intercourse, and menstruation. Purification from these pollutions is accomplished quite simply through bathing and sacrifice. The word toevah is not used to refer to these conditions, nor are they punished. ... Idolatry was not simply unclean; it was a grave offense. ... That intercourse with a menstruating woman is also classified as an abomination along with homosexuality is an indication not, as Boswell suggests, that the latter offense [homosexuality] was considered trivial, but rather that the former was considered extremely grave.

So for an Israelite was there no difference between sex with a menstruating woman and homosexuality? No—the punishment for homosexual offenses was death, unlike the penalty for having sexual relations with a menstruating woman. In the latter case,

The menstrual period was the time that God had given women to cleanse their bodies from impurity as a prelude to renewing a cycle of fertility (a sabbath of sorts from sex). It was not the time for men to intrude with procreative designs. Deliberate intercourse during a menstrual period not only had the effect of "wasting seed" but also of putting one's own desires at cross-purposes with God's timing. Men were required to exercise self-restraint and wait for divinely created processes to run their course.[36]:138

By contrast, homosexual acts were part of a very small group of behaviors for which capital punishment could be imposed, as Gagnon points out:

in Leviticus 0, the only other acts that are specifically connected with the death penalty are:

[a] child sacrifice (20:2),
[b] cursing one's parents (20:9),
[c] adultery (20:10),
[d] some forms of incest (20:11-12), marriage to a wife and her mother (20:14), and
[e] bestiality (20:15-16).[36]:195n182

He continues:

most of Leviticus 8꞉20 can be thought of as an expanded commentary on the ten commandments, with prohibitions against idolatry and witchcraft, stealing and lying, adultery and incest; and commands to honor one's parents, keep the sabbath, and to "love one's neighbor as oneself" (Lev 19꞉18). Ritual and moral, eternal and contingent, are combined in the profile of holiness developed in Leviticus 7꞉26. Christians do not have the option of simply dismissing an injunction because it belongs to the Holiness Code [of Leviticus].[36]:123

Therefore, as one biblical scholar noted:

One might then counter, "Okay, these biblical authors were opposed to male, same-sex cult prostitution. But that only tells us what the author believed about consensual homosexual practice conducted in the context of idolatrous cults and prostitution, not the kind of loving expressions of homosexuality we witness today." Such a rationale would overlook the ancient Near Eastern context. The Mesopotamian evidence ... makes clear that the most acceptable form of same-sex intercourse—not the least acceptable was precisely same-sex intercourse conducted in a [pagan] religious context. Otherwise, for a man to want to be penetrated by another man was generally regarded as disgraceful. ...

When the biblical authors rejected homosexual cult prostitutes ... they were in effect rejecting the whole phenomenon of homosexual practice. They were repudiating a form of homosexual intercourse that was the most palatable in their cultural context. If they rejected that particular form of homosexual practice, how much more all other forms? Certainly the prohibition against cross-dressing in Deut 22꞉5 [which cultic prostitutes engaged in] puts this beyond doubt (any obscuring of male-female sexual differences is "an abomination [toebah] to Yahweh your God, everyone who does these things"), as does the absolute form of the prohibition in Lev 18꞉22 and 13.[36]:112-113


Scripture and homosexual behavior: New Testament

Jesus and the gospels

Did Jesus say anything about homosexual acts?

Some try to minimize the seriousness of homosexual acts by pointing out that Jesus did not preach against them specifically. This stance completely misunderstands and misrepresents the situation in Jesus' day.

First, how did Jews in Jesus' day understand homosexual acts? Because of the Leviticus Holiness Code, they were completely opposed to them: "early Judaism was unanimous in its rejection of homosexual conduct. We are unaware of any dissenting voice."[36]:215 In fact, "given the severe stance against homosexual intercourse in the Levitical laws, it is inconceivable that any non-apostate Jew in antiquity would argue for the legitimacy of male-male sexual intercourse."[36]:217-218

The Jewish world in which Jesus lived set a very strict moral standard, especially against the backdrop of the infamous promiscuity of the Greeks and Romans. Sexual relationships were absolutely forbidden outside of marriage. Christ validated these teachings, by teaching against adultery and fornication (Matthew 19꞉18, Matthew 15꞉19)

Second, Jesus tended to intensify or strengthen commandments about sexual matters, not loosen them. Rather than not committing adultery, his followers were not to even lust after someone, for "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery already in his heart" (Matthew 5꞉28). The law of Moses made provision for divorce, but Jesus taught against it except in cases of sexual infidelity ()19꞉8-9.

All sexual relations outside of marriage were sinful in Judaism, and Jewish marriage presupposed a male/female marriage, as Jesus emphasized:

For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. (Matt 19꞉5-6)

Jesus did differ with the Judaism of his day on some points, but on these matters he was clear and direct about his opposition. Without him saying anything about same-sex behavior, none of his audience would have assumed anything except that such things were grave sins:

The univocal stance against homosexual conduct, both in ancient Israel and the Judaism of Jesus' day, makes it highly unlikely that Jesus' silence on the issue ought to be construed as acceptance of such conduct. Jesus was not shy about expressing his disapproval of the conventions of his day. Silence on the subject could only have been understood by his disciples as acceptance of the basic position embraced by all Jews. If Jesus had wanted to communicate afi‘irmation of same-sex unions he would have had to state such a view clearly since first—century Judaism, so far as we know, had no dissenting voices on the matter. Without a clear statement none of his disciples would have made such a logical leap.[36]:249-250

In short,

the silence of Jesus on the subject, combined with other factors, makes Jesus' opposition to same-sex intercourse historically probable. Indeed, the word "silence" can only be used in a very constricted sense. Jesus made no direct or explicit comments on samesex intercourse, just as he made no direct comments about many other important subjects. In a larger sense, though, Jesus was not silent about same-sex intercourse inasmuch as the inferential data speaks loud and clear about Jesus' perspective. ... [T]he ways in which Jesus integrated demands for mercy and righteous conduct in his teaching and ministry do not lend support for the view that Jesus might have taken a positive or neutral approach to same-sex intercourse.[36]:249

Jesus also did not mention other sexual sins also listed in the Holiness Code (e.g., incest, bestiality). We would not, however, conclude from that that he thought such behavior was acceptable.

The portrayal of a Jesus as a first-century Palestinian Jew who was open to homosexual practice is simply ahistorical. All the evidence leads in the opposite direction. Why, then, did Jesus not make an explicit statement against homosexual conduct? The obvious answer is that Jesus did not encounter any openly homosexual people in his ministry and therefore had no need to call anyone to repentance for homosexual conduct. He also did not address other sexual issues such as incest and bestiality, but that hardly indicates a neutral or positive stance on such matters. What is clear from the evidence that the texts do offer is that the historical Jesus is no defender of homosexual behavior. To the contrary, Jesus, both in what he says and what he fails to say, remains squarely on the side of those who reject homosexual practice.[36]:286


Scripture and homosexual behavior: New Testament

The early Church and the apostles

The law of Moses was fulfilled, but Christianity still required converts abstain from porneia

Christ fulfilled the law of Moses, but the early Christians were not sure what this meant. At the beginning, the Christians continued to follow the law of Moses, including prohibitions against same-sex relationships. Then Peter had a vision where he saw a sheet containing four-footed beasts, which were ritually unclean under the law of Moses. He was commanded to eat, but he resisted, because of the ritual laws. The Lord responded:

What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. (Acts 10꞉15)

Later Peter was invited to eat with a Gentile names Cornelious, which was also against the law of Moses. Peter understood the revelation meant that it was no longer necessary to follow the law of Moses in such matters. (See Acts 0 for the whole story) However, the question remained—what parts of the law were rescinded, and which needed to be followed by Gentiles who converted to Christianity?

The Jerusalem council

Of particular concern was whether circumcision was necessary—this is partly because of the physical pain which adult males might fear, but also because Gentile culture tended to regard circumcision as a barbarous practice. The apostles met in conference at Jerusalem, and concluded:

For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you [Gentile Christian converts] no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. (Acts 15꞉28-29)

The word translated "fornication" is porneia—it had a broader sense even than "fornication". (The word "porno-graphy" comes from porenia.) Jesus had taught against porneia, and the apostles repeated it:

In Mark 7꞉21-23, Jesus interprets his saying about what defiles a person as follows: "for it is from . . . the human heart that evil intentions come: sexual immoralities (porneiai) . . . adulteries . . . licentiousness . . . . All these evil things come from within and defile a person." No first- century Jew could have spoken of porneiai (plural) without having in mind the list of forbidden sexual offenses in Leviticus 8 and 20 (incest, adultery, same-sex intercourse, bestiality). The statement underscores that sexual behavior does matter. If Jesus made this remark, he undoubtedly would have understood homosexual behavior to be included among the list of offenses.[36]:251-252

Incest condemnation

There can be little doubt that the early Christians would have understood this—for example, Paul cited Christ's teachings on fornication to condemn and excommunicate a man who had sex with his father's wife (1 Corinthians 5꞉1-5). This was a form of incest condemned by the Holiness Code in Leviticus just as homosexual acts were.

Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs

This is further illustrated by the first to second century A.D. text Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. A historian of the radical differences between Jewish/Christian sexual ethics and the pagan ethics of the Romans wrote:

[In] the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs ... porneia has become the "mother of all evils." The Testament is invaluable because its unusual detail confirms that porneia could be used to describe a whole array of improper sexual configurations: incest, prostitution, exogamy, homosexuality, and unchastity.

The apostles therefore made it clear that most of the Mosaic laws were no longer operative—but the sexual restrictions of the Holiness Code remained a key part of Christian life.


Scripture and homosexual behavior: New Testament

Paul

The New Testament's most detailed condemnation of same-sex acts comes from Paul, however, in Romans 1. This too is a good example of how Jesus and other devout Jews would have understood matters.

Paul uses the example of same-sex behavior in an interesting way. He is attempting to demonstrate that pagans are sinners and require atonement to reconcile them to God. This is something that no first century Jew would have doubted.

But, we might ask, why would pagans/gentiles be condemned for not living the law of Moses, which they had not received? Paul agreed. He therefore chose two areas which knew he and his audience would agree that all people on earth were bound by.[36]:198n185

The first command—no idolatry

Paul starts with the first such command—the command not to worship idols. Paul argues that even Gentiles have had this revealed to them:

[18] The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, [19] since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. [20] For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

[21] For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles (Romans 1꞉18-23, NIV).

The second command—no homosexual sin

As a second bit of evidence of the gentiles' need to repent, Paul offers—homosexual acts. "Therefore," he writes, [because they became fools and made idols], "God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. ... Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts" (Romans 1꞉24,26, NIV):

[26] Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. [27] In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error (Romans 1꞉26-27, NIV, (italics added).

Paul also argues that even a pagan should be able to tell that this is a sinful act, since it requires using the body in an "unnatural" way—in a way that God did not intend. That does not mean (and it would not have meant to Paul) that some people do not naturally have such desires.

Instead, Paul is appealing to something that "even a gentile" can see. They might not have Torah, they might not have the Law of Moses, they might not be Christians—but even they should be able to see that male and female organs are intended to go together, to "fit." In the same way, Paul was arguing that it was obvious that males and males were not "designed" for sexual relations.

And, Paul uses this as both evidence for the gentiles' wilfull blindness, and as the punishment for their wilfull blindness about the nature of God as greater than their idols:

The power of Paul's argument lies precisely in its simplicity: if one disregards the book of Leviticus and asks oneself what clues existing in nature might aid in discerning the Creator's will for sexual expression, then human anatomy and procreative function comprise the most unambiguous indications of divine intent. One can debate the "naturalness" of homosexual urges. Many human emotions (for example, lust, anger, jealousy, covetousness) obviously run counter to God's intended design for nature and cannot be pronounced good simply because they are felt. Paul attributes such sinful impulses to the fall of Adam (Rom 5꞉12-21). However, anatomy is not quite as skillful a deceiver and for that reason is a more effective mediator of the truth. All of this explains why Paul selects female and male homosexual conduct as "exhibit A" of culpable gentile depravity. First and foremost, along with idolatry, same-sex intercourse represents one of the clearest instances of conscious suppression of revelation in nature by gentiles, inasmuch as it involves denying clear anatomical gender differences and functions (leaving them "without excuse").§ Second, it stakes out the common ground between Paul and his imaginary Jewish [audience] since for Jews in antiquity homosexual conduct was a particularly repulsive example of gentile depravity.[36]:339

These represent all gentile sins

Paul thus chooses homosexual acts as a stand-in for all of the evils for which gentiles are known. It functions as something of a symbol, and he expands its application in the next verses:

[29] They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, [30] slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; [31] they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. [32] Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1꞉29-32).

Springing the trap on his Jewish listeners

Up to this point, Paul's Jewish audience would be nodding along. These examples are intended to be "no brainers," sins so dramatic and obvious that no one doubts them—of course the gentiles sin in these ways. We see it all around us!

But Paul's intent is not to simply "pile onto" idolaters or homosexuals. Instead, he starts from a place that he knows that his entire audience will agree. He then extends his condemnation out further, to all gentile sins. Even to here, a Jewish audience would be in agreement. But then, Paul springs his trap:

[1] You [Jewish listener], therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. [2] Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. [3] So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? [4] Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

[5] But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. [6] God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” [7] To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. [8] But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. [9] There will be trouble and distress for every human being [Jews and Gentiles!] who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; [10] but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. [11] For God does not show favoritism.

[12] All who sin apart from the law [Gentiles] will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law [Jews] will be judged by the law (Romans 2꞉1-12, NIV).

Paul's trap is clever but clear—just as all Gentiles are under condemnation, so are all Jews! Everyone is a sinner, everyone needs repentance, and all need Christ.

These verses, then, are not intended—and we should not use them—as a reason to harshly condemn or ridicule or shun those who commit homosexual sin. After all, Paul points out, we are all in the same boat.

But if we are trying to decide if Jesus and the early Christians and the scriptures were opposed to all same-sex sexual acts, then we must acknowledge that Paul used such acts as an example and metaphor for all sin because he was so certain that his audience would understand how serious they are.

Porneia again

Paul's condemnation applies to us all—but his symbolism shows how seriously homosexual sin was regarded. Like all porneia he saw it as a particularly serious problem:

"Flee porneia! Every (other) sin, whatever a man does, is outside of the body; but the one who commits porneia (ho porneudn) sins into/against (eigfi) his own body" (1 Cor 6꞉18).[36]:369

And, of anyone, Paul was the apostle most concerned about not imposing the Mosaic Law's ritual requirements on Christians—he even fought with Peter about it! [citation needed] If Paul is concerned about porenia, then we cannot decide that it simply a ritual matter. Instead, it is a vital part of the Christian life and sexual ethic.

Did Paul have any examples of "healthy" gay relationships?

Some have claimed that since the Roman empire's homosexual acts were largely pederasty (i.e., older men having sex with young boys) or rape (masters against slaves) that this condemnation does not apply today.

As we have seen, the Holiness Code and Jesus' doctrine make that reading extraordinarily unlikely. But the claim that Paul and the early Christians had no "positive" models to draw on is simply false:

Even on the surface of it, the notion that mutually caring same-sex relationships first originated in modern times sounds absurd. Are we to believe that nobody with homosexual or lesbian urges in all of antiquity was able to provide a healthy example of same-sex love? In fact, moving statements [472] about the compassionate and beautiful character of same-sex love can be found in Greco-Roman literature. Among the examples are the speeches in Plato's Symposium. ...

Indeed, one might expect to see in the homosexual community a negative reaction against stereotyping all expressions of homoerotic behavior in antiquity as sordid, since such a stereotype would deprive the homosexual community of ancient precedents for healthy homoerotic relationships. ... [480]

There were certainly instances of exploitative homosexual relationships in antiquity and pederasty was the most common form of homoerotic expression. Yet that is a far cry from making the case that homosexuality in Greco-Roman society was inherently exploitative or that it was so prone to exploitation that Jews and Christians could not make the distinction between exploitative and non-exploitative forms. Victimization simply did not factor significantly in the arguments that Jews and Christians made in the ancient world. All forms of homosexual and lesbian conduct were wrong simply because of what it was not: natural sexual intercourse with the opposite sex.[36]:471


Scripture and homosexual behavior—New Testament—The early Christians

The early Christian church was a beleaguered minority. It was unpopular and persecuted. Their opposition to same-sex acts were not, then, an accidental or small thing. They were not simply "following their culture"—in fact, they were swimming and struggling against it.

The Roman emperor Hadrian (ruled AD 117–138) had a male lover who was mourned over the entire empire and granted divine status upon his death. As Kyle Harper, a student of the change in sexual ideals from Rome to Christianity wrote:

Nothing belies the claim that pederastic discourse lost its vitality like the relationship between Hadrian and his Bithynian favorite, Antinous. Possibly a slave, Hadrian’s beloved died on the Nile under clouded circumstances. Hadrian’s sorrow was demonstrative, but what still defies easy comprehension is the paroxysm of empire-wide mourning that ensued. A city was founded at the site of his death; Hadrian believed reports that a new star had appeared in the sky, and Antinous was worshipped as a god or hero; statues of Antinous proliferated until his face was a universal image, known "across the inhabited world." Indeed, the haunting image of Antinous ranks behind only Augustus and Hadrian in the number of sculptures extant today. Dozens of cities issued coinage in his honor; games were being founded in his memory decades after Hadrian was in the grave. Provincial sycophancy and credulous paganism do not suffice to explain such an uncontrolled efflux of grief. The image and story of Antinous resonated in powerful and unexpected ways.[38]:551

So once again, the Christians did not lack examples of loving or devoted homosexual couples. Despite this, they remained true to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles about porneia, including same-sex acts.

Harper continues:

Regardless, in no sense should early Christian sexual morality be construed as an offshoot of Roman conservatism. The ideas about sex emanating from the new religion marked a discrete and categorical rupture. For the community of the faithful, the pleasures of the flesh became caught in a cosmic battle between good and evil. New rules, more interesting and less predictable than sometimes argued, formed. Porneia, fornication, went from being a cipher for sexual sin in general to a sign for all sex beyond the marriage bed, and it came to mark the great divide between Christians and the world. Same-sex love, regardless of age, status, or role, was forbidden without qualification and without remorse. Unexpectedly, sexual behavior came to occupy the foreground in the landscape of human morality, in a way that it simply never had in classical culture. "Above all else take thought for chastity; for fornication has been marked out as an exceedingly terrible thing in God’s eyes."[38]:1673

Conclusion—Jesus, New Testament, and early Christians

In sum:

the odds of any major positive figure connected with earliest Christianity having either no opinion or a positive opinion about homosexual conduct in any form is extremely remote. To assert otherwise is to lose all touch with the historical personalities behind [554] the texts and to foster an arbitrary, gnostic exegesis. The burden of proof is decidedly on anyone who would want to argue that Jesus or any New Testament writer would have been open to same- sex intercourse. Textual silence cannot be equated with neutrality or openness, let alone support, without grossly distorting history. ...

In short, the universal silence in the Bible regarding an acceptable same-sex union, when combined with the explicit prohibitions, speaks volumes for a consensus disapproval of homosexual conduct. To say that there are only a few texts in the Bible that do not condone homosexual conduct is a monumental understatement of the facts. The reverse is a more accurate statement: there is not a single shred of evidence anywhere in the Bible that would even remotely suggest that same-sex unions are any more acceptable than extramarital or premarital intercourse, incest, or bestiality. [36]:553-556

That Paul or others did not mention these sins frequently is no surprise, and does not tell us that they were taken lightly. Their sinfulness was known by all. There is only a single reference to the sinfulness of incest in the entire New Testament in 1 Corinthians—and it is only there because Paul was condemning a member guilty of this sin. But we do not conclude thereby that incest does not matter, even if it is a loving relationship between equals.


Latter-day Scripture

God and Christ repeated the definition of marriage between a man and a woman in this dispensation in Doctrine and Covenants 49꞉15-17

Doctrine and Covenants 49꞉15-17 announces:

And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation; And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.

This revelation was given in answer to the Shakers who rejected marriage and believed in being totally celibate for their lives. Therefore what we have here is not simply a temporary definition of marriage, but a full restatement of what marriage is and why. Look at why marriage is ordained of God in these verses: it is because marriage fulfills the end of our creation. What creation? The creation announced in Genesis 1, Moses 3꞉24, and Abraham 5꞉18—the creation that made man and woman the ideal partner for each other.

Doctrine and Covenants 131꞉1 states:

In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. (emphasis added)


Early Latter-day Saint history

Were Joseph Smith and other nineteenth century Latter-day Saints not strenuously opposed to same-sex acts or intimacy?

The evidence does not indicate that nineteenth-century Church members regarded homosexual acts with anything but abhorrence

It is claimed that Joseph Smith and other nineteenth century Latter-day Saints were not strenuously opposed to same-sex acts or intimacy, and that the modern Church's opposition to homosexual conduct is a later aberration. [39]

The evidence does not suggest that nineteenth-century Mormons regarded homosexual acts with anything but abhorrence. Attempts to prove otherwise seem largely founded on agenda-driven writing and a distortion of the historical evidence.

D. Michael Quinn's book, Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example is responsible for this claim, though some later, agenda-driven works cite him as evidence without addressing the numerous problems with his work. Quinn's methodology and conclusions are shoddy, he distorts and ignores evidence, and has been severely criticized by LDS and non-LDS historians.

The FAIR Wiki contains an analysis of this book's claims, with links to further reviews and resources: here.


Challenges

What are some of the unique challenges or difficulties faced by Latter-day Saints with same-sex attraction?

A theology that, without question, favors heterosexual relationships over homosexual relationships

Latter-day Saints have always believed that men and women were designed to be together in marriage. The Lord told Joseph Smith in 1831 (D&C 49꞉15-17) that

And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man. Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation; And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.

Thus, for Latter-day Saints, men and women are a sexual binary, and were intended to be together sexually and maritally. This design and plan began before earth life, and will continue after it.

Church leaders have encouraged members to be particularly kind and compassionate to those struggling with homosexual feelings or inclinations

Elder Bruce C. Hafen in 2009:

During a recent stake conference in Europe, I asked the stake president if Sister Hafen and I might visit one or two of his stake members who could use a little encouragement. As we visited one young man, a single returned missionary, we found that he cared deeply about the Church but was also very troubled. When we asked how he was doing, he began to cry and, with a look of real anguish he said, "I suffer from same-gender attraction." My heart went out to him. The longer we talked, the more compassion I felt, as I learned that the operative word for him really was "suffer."[40]

Are Latter-day Saints with same-sex attraction encouraged to be closeted or lie about their attractions?

Honesty, inclusion, and fellowship are core values to the Church

It is claimed that:

  • Members are encouraged to lie about their sexual orientation
  • This encourages dishonesty
  • This isolates them from other members

There is no counsel or necessity to hide, lie, or isolate oneself from others. At the same time, members do not have to make their sexual feelings the subject of unnecessary attention in order to be honest with themselves and with others. As discussed above, members are discouraged from allowing any identity or group to which they belong supercede or interfere with their role as children of God, disciples of Christ, and covenant-keeping members of the Church.

Scripture repeatedly commands that we are to be one. D&C 38꞉27 reads:

I say unto you, be one; and if you are not one ye are not mine.

Isolating yourself interfers with the process of being one.

President Monson taught:

It is important that we eliminate the weakness of one standing alone and substitute for it the strength of people working together. [41]

Elder Robert D. Hales taught:

Why is it that some of us fail to learn the very critical point that we did not come to this life to live it alone? You can’t hide your actions from self and others. Polonius’ advice to his son, Laertes:

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Hamlet, I, iii, 78-80

is valid, but must be qualified and expanded to include the concern for how to be true to yourself and your fellowman. The "isolated self" shut off from the Light of Christ makes us become fallible—open to delusion. The balance and perspective which come from caring about others and allowing others to care for us form the essence of life itself. [42]

Not only are members counseled to care for others, but to allow others to care for them. Part of being one is mourning with those that mourn, and comforting those that stand in need of comfort.(Mosiah 18꞉8) This applies equally to those who have struggled with their sexual desires that cannot now be satisfied, regardless of the orientation. Elder Oaks teaches:

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 burdens"[43]

Isolating yourself from others and carrying your burdens by yourself intefers with these other commandments. Not only are members allowed to disclose their sexual feelings to others, they are encouraged to share their feelings with their bishop if needed.

Are members encouraged to lie about their sexual feelings?

The counsel not to give sexual feelings undue attention is very different than lying about them or completely ignoring them. There is a difference between being prudent in disclosing sensitive topics and being dishonest. It would also be inappropriate to divert attention from the worship of the Savior (such as in a sacrament meeting) with talk of sexual struggles or desires. This is true whatever one's orientation. Not every subject is appropriate at every time—but that is not an encouragement to lie.

Honesty with others and with oneself has always been taught and encouraged in the church. In D&C 97꞉8, the Lord says the only ones that are acceptable before Him are those who are honest in heart. The 13th Article of Faith teaches that we believe in being honest and true. President Monson taught:

The oft-repeated adage is ever true: "Honesty [is] the best policy." A Latter-day Saint young man lives as he teaches and as he believes. He is honest with others. He is honest with himself. He is honest with God. He is honest by habit and as a matter of course. [44]

In the same way, the Church teaches against the consumption of alcohol. Alcoholics or those tempted by alcohol are not forbidden from disclosing that they struggle with alcohol. But, they should not define themselves solely by their addiction. Nor should they talk of nothing but their addiction, or distract meetings focused on other purposes by instigating a discussion about their addiction.

Do Church leaders teach that people with same-sex attraction should not associate with each other?

No. As with any temptation, it may be wise not to associate too closely with those who have tempted us in the past, or with whom we have made serious mistakes.

With any behavioral change, sometimes people need to give themselves distance from old associates and friends, and find a new social circle that will support, rather than hinder, their ability to keep the commandments.

In the same way, the Church teaches against the consumption of alcohol. Alcoholics or those tempted by alcohol are not forbidden from associating with other alcoholics—but if they find that such associations lead to a preoccupation with alcohol that increases the temptation they experience, it may be wise to withdraw somewhat. An alcoholic seeking to remain sober might well go to Alcoholics Anonymous—he would be unwise, however, to go to a bar.

Many members with same-sex attraction associate with each other through Evergreen

Many members with same-sex attraction associate with each other through Evergreen. While the Church is not officially affiliated with Evergreen, it sends a general authority to its annual conference, and many bishops refer their members to Evergreen and attend themselves.

The Church's pamphlet God Loveth His Children counsels:

In addition to filling your garden with positive influences, you must also avoid any influence that can harm your spirituality. One of these adverse influences is obsession with or concentration on same-gender thoughts and feelings. It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion. It is better to choose as friends those who do not publicly display their homosexual feelings. The careful selection of friends and mentors who lead constructive, righteous lives is one of the most important steps to being productive and virtuous. Association with those of the same gender is natural and desirable, so long as you set wise boundaries to avoid improper and unhealthy emotional dependency, which may eventually result in physical and sexual intimacy. There is moral risk in having so close a relationship with one friend of the same gender that it may lead to vices the Lord has condemned. Our most important relationships are with our own families because our ties to them can be eternal.

There are many with same-sex attraction who lead constructive, righteous lives and are not inappropriate in their display of sexual feelings. (In like way, there are many heterosexually attracted people who likewise moderate their sexual desires and keep discussion and display of them within appropriate bounds.)

This is not advice to refuse association with anyone who has same-sex attraction. In a similar fashion, it would not be wise to spend time with someone who is obsessed with or flaunts their tendency towards pornography or heterosexual promiscuity, especially if you are struggling with those tendencies yourself. There is a difference between associating with people who have a common tendency and who are working on overcoming that tendency, and associating with people who indulge in that tendency.

Just because it is better to have close friends with similar standards does not mean that we cannot ever associate with people who have different standards than we do. We are commanded to be "in the world, but not of the world" ([citation needed]). Even if we have a family member, friend, or coworker who is inappropriate in their sexual display, that does not mean that we cannot ever associate with that person. There is a way to maintain our own integrity while interacting with people who have different standards. We simply need judgment and self-awareness to know which influences will be unhelpful for us at certain times of our lives.


Causes of homosexuality

What have past and present Church leaders taught about why some people are attracted to the same sex?

The Church does not have an official position on the causes for same-sex attraction

Many Church leaders have indicated that we do not know the cause(s), and that this is a question for science. This is not to be confused with teachings on the practice of homosexuality, which is a behavior.

Many leaders have also indicated that discerning a cause for this (or any other) temptation is, in a sense, immaterial—given that one has such a temptation, what ought one to do about it? Below are collected a variety of quotes; most deal with same-sex attraction specifically, while a few speak in more general terms about weakness, frailties, or other mortal afflictions. All of these principles apply to a wide variety of sins, weaknesses, and temptations.

1980

President Spencer W. Kimball

The unholy transgression of homosexuality is either rapidly growing or tolerance is giving it wider publicity. If one has such desires and tendencies, he overcomes them the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery. The Lord condemns and forbids this practice with a vigor equal to his condemnation of adultery and other such sex acts. And the Church will excommunicate as readily any unrepentant addict....

Temptations come to all people. The difference between the reprobate and the worthy person is generally that one yielded and the other resisted. It is true that one’s background may make the decision and accomplishment easier or more difficult, but if one is mentally alert, he can still control his future. That is the gospel message—personal responsibility. [45]

1987

Boyd K. Packer

Obedience is powerful spiritual medicine. It comes close to being a cure-all. ... Some frustrations we must endure without really solving the problem. Some things that ought to be put in order are not put in order because we cannot control them. Things we cannot solve, we must survive. [46]

1988

Dallin H. Oaks

Most of us are born with [or develop] thorns in the flesh, some more visible, some more serious than others. We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so our thoughts and actions must be controllable by our agency. Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim ‘I was born that way’ does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal.

God has promised that he will consecrate our afflictions for our gain (see 2 Nephi 2꞉2). The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited [or developed] weakness build a spiritual strength that will serve us throughout eternity. Thus, when Paul prayed thrice that his ‘thorn in the flesh’ would depart from him, the Lord replied, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Obedient, Paul concluded:

‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

‘Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong’ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Whatever our susceptibilities or tendencies [feelings], they cannot subject us to eternal consequences unless we exercise our free agency to do or think the things forbidden by the commandments of God. For example, a susceptibility to alcoholism impairs its victim’s freedom to partake without addiction, but his free agency allows him to abstain and thus escape the physical debilitation of alcohol and the spiritual deterioration of addiction. ...

Beware the argument that because a person has strong drives toward a particular act, he has no power of choice and therefore no responsibility for his actions. This contention runs counter to the most fundamental premises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Satan would like us to believe that we are not responsible in this life. That is the result he tried to achieve by his contest in the pre-existence. A person who insists that he is not responsible for the exercise of his free agency because he was ‘born that way’ is trying to ignore the outcome of the War in Heaven. We are responsible, and if we argue otherwise, our efforts become part of the propaganda effort of the Adversary.

Individual responsibility is a law of life. It applies in the law of man and the law of God. Society holds people responsible to control their impulses so we can live in a civilized society. God holds his children responsible to control their impulses in order that they can keep his commandments and realize their eternal destiny. The law does not excuse the short-tempered man who surrenders to his impulse to pull a trigger on his tormentor, or the greedy man who surrenders to his impulse to steal, or the pedophile who surrenders to his impulse to satisfy his sexual urges with children. …

There is much we do not know about the extent of freedom we have in view of the various thorns in the flesh that afflict us in mortality. But this much we do know; we all have our free agency and God holds us accountable for the way we use it in thought and deed. That is fundamental. [47]

1990

Boyd K. Packer

All of us are subject to feelings and impulses. Some are worthy and some of them are not; some of them are natural and some of them are not. We are to control them, meaning we are to direct them according to the moral law. ...

We receive letters pleading for help, asking why should some be tormented by desires which lead toward addiction or perversion. They seek desperately for some logical explanation as to why they should have a compelling attraction, even a predisposition, toward things that are destructive and forbidden.

Why, they ask, does this happen to me? It is not fair! They suppose that it is not fair that others are not afflicted with the same temptations. They write that their bishop could not answer the "why," nor could he nullify their addiction or erase the tendency.

We are sometimes told that leaders in the Church do not really understand these problems. Perhaps we don’t. There are many "whys" for which we just do not have simple answers. But we do understand temptation, each of us, from personal experience. Nobody is free from temptations of one kind or another. That is the test of life. That is part of our mortal probation. Temptation of some kind goes with the territory. ...

It is not likely that a bishop can tell you what causes these conditions or why you are afflicted, nor can he erase the temptation. But he can tell you what is right and what is wrong. If you know right from wrong, you have a place to begin. That is the point at which individual choice becomes operative. That is the point at which repentance and forgiveness can exert great spiritual power…. [48]

1993

Boyd K. Packer

Doctrines teach us how to respond to the compelling natural impulses which too often dominate how we behave…. After the Fall, natural law had far-reaching sovereignty over mortal birth. There are what President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., called "pranks" of nature, which cause a variety of abnormalities, deficiencies, and deformities. However unfair they seem to man’s way of reasoning, they somehow suit the purposes of the Lord in the proving of mankind. [49]

1994

Richard G. Scott

It is important to understand that His healing can mean being cured, or having your burdens eased, or even coming to realize that it is worth it to endure to the end patiently, for God needs brave sons and daughters who are willing to be polished when in His wisdom that is His will.

Recognize that some challenges in life will not be resolved here on earth. Paul pled thrice that "a thorn in the flesh" be removed. The Lord simply answered, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." He gave Paul strength to compensate so he could live a most meaningful life. He wants you to learn how to be cured when that is His will and how to obtain strength to live with your challenge when He intends it to be an instrument for growth. In either case the Redeemer will support you.

That is why He said, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Don’t say, "No one understands me; I can’t sort it out, or get the help I need." Those comments are self-defeating. No one can help you without faith and effort on your part. Your personal growth requires that. Don’t look for a life virtually free from discomfort, pain, pressure, challenge, or grief, for those are the tools a loving Father uses to stimulate our personal growth and understanding. As the scriptures repeatedly affirm, you will be helped as you exercise faith in Jesus Christ. That faith is demonstrated by a willingness to trust His promises given through His prophets11 and in His scriptures, which contain His own words. [50]

1995

Dallin H. Oaks

Feelings are another matter. Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of "nature and nurture." All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior.

Different persons have different physical characteristics and different susceptibilities to the various physical and emotional pressures we may encounter in our childhood and adult environments. We did not choose these personal susceptibilities either, but we do choose and will be accountable for the attitudes, priorities, behavior, and "lifestyle" we engraft upon them.

Essential to our doctrinal position on these matters is the difference between our freedom and our agency. Our freedom can be limited by various conditions of mortality, but God’s gift of agency cannot be limited by outside forces, because it is the basis for our accountability to him. The contrast between freedom and agency can be illustrated in the context of a hypothetical progression from feelings to thoughts to behavior to addiction. This progression can be seen on a variety of matters, such as gambling and the use of tobacco and alcohol.

Just as some people have different feelings than others, some people seem to be unusually susceptible to particular actions, reactions, or addictions. Perhaps such susceptibilities are inborn or acquired without personal choice or fault, like the unnamed ailment the Apostle Paul called "a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure" (2 Corinthians 12:7). One person may have feelings that draw him toward gambling, but unlike those who only dabble, he becomes a compulsive gambler. Another person may have a taste for tobacco and a susceptibility to its addiction. Still another may have an unusual attraction to alcohol and the vulnerability to be readily propelled into alcoholism. Other examples may include a hot temper, a contentious manner, a covetous attitude, and so on.

In each case (and in other examples that could be given) the feelings or other characteristics that increase susceptibility to certain behavior may have some relationship to inheritance. But the relationship is probably very complex. The inherited element may be nothing more than an increased likelihood that an individual will acquire certain feelings if he or she encounters particular influences during the developmental years. But regardless of our different susceptibilities or vulnerabilities, which represent only variations on our mortal freedom (in mortality we are only "free according to the flesh" [2 Nephi 2꞉27]), we remain responsible for the exercise of our agency in the thoughts we entertain and the behavior we choose. [51]

Richard G. Scott

It is so hard when sincere prayer about something we desire very much is not answered the way we want. It is especially difficult when the Lord answers no to that which is worthy and would give us great joy and happiness. Whether it be overcoming illness or loneliness, recovery of a wayward child, coping with a handicap, or seeking continuing life for a dear one who is slipping away, it seems so reasonable and so consistent with our happiness to have a favorable answer. It is hard to understand why our exercise of deep and sincere faith from an obedient life does not bring the desired result. ...

When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, "Please let me know Thy will" and "May Thy will be done," you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father.

This life is an experience in profound trust—trust in Jesus Christ, trust in His teachings, trust in our capacity as led by the Holy Spirit to obey those teachings for happiness now and for a purposeful, supremely happy eternal existence. To trust means to obey willingly without knowing the end from the beginning (see Proverbs 3:5-7). To produce fruit, your trust in the Lord must be more powerful and enduring than your confidence in your own personal feelings and experience. ...

How grateful I am personally that our Savior taught we should conclude our most urgent, deeply felt prayers, when we ask for that which is of utmost importance to us, with "Thy will be done" (Matthew 26:42). Your willingness to accept the will of the Father will not change what in His wisdom He has chosen to do. However, it will certainly change the effect of those decisions on you personally. That evidence of the proper exercise of agency allows His decisions to produce far greater blessings in your life. I have found that because of our Father’s desire for us to grow, He may give us gentle, almost imperceptible promptings that, if we are willing to accept without complaint, He will enlarge to become a very clear indication of His will. This enlightenment comes because of our faith and our willingness to do what He asks even though we would desire something else….

Please learn that as you wrestle with a challenge and feel sadness because of it, you can simultaneously have peace and rejoicing. Yes, pain, disappointment, frustration, and anguish can be temporary scenes played out on the stage of life. Behind them there can be a background of peace and the positive assurance that a loving Father will keep His promises. You can qualify for those promises by a determination to accept His will, by understanding the plan of happiness, by receiving all of the ordinances, and by keeping the covenants made to assure their fulfillment. [52]

1996

Richard G. Scott

You are here on earth for a divine purpose. It is not to be endlessly entertained or to be constantly in full pursuit of pleasure. You are here to be tried, to prove yourself so that you can receive the additional blessings God has for you. The tempering effect of patience is required. Some blessings will be delivered here in this life; others will come beyond the veil. The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. That progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether initially it be to your individual liking or not. When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience. If you question everything you are asked to do, or dig in your heels at every unpleasant challenge, you make it harder for the Lord to bless you….

Find the compensatory blessings in your life when, in the wisdom of the Lord, He deprives you of something you very much want. To the sightless or hearing impaired, He sharpens the other senses. To the ill, He gives patience, understanding, and increased appreciation for others’ kindness. With the loss of a dear one, He deepens the bonds of love, enriches memories, and kindles hope in a future reunion. You will discover compensatory blessings when you willingly accept the will of the Lord and exercise faith in Him. [53]

Neal A. Maxwell

Of course our genes, circumstances, and environments matter very much, and they shape us significantly. Yet there remains an inner zone in which we are sovereign, unless we abdicate. In this zone lies the essence of our individuality and our personal accountability. ...

[W]e become the victims of our own wrong desires. Moreover, we live in an age when many simply refuse to feel responsible for themselves. Thus, a crystal-clear understanding of the doctrines pertaining to desire is so vital because of the spreading effluent oozing out of so many unjustified excuses by so many. ...

Some seek to brush aside conscience, refusing to hear its voice. But that deflection is, in itself, an act of choice, because we so desired. Even when the light of Christ flickers only faintly in the darkness, it flickers nevertheless. If one averts his gaze therefrom, it is because he so desires. ...

What we are speaking about is so much more than merely deflecting temptations for which we somehow do not feel responsible. Remember, brothers and sisters, it is our own desires which determine the sizing and the attractiveness of various temptations. We set our thermostats as to temptations. [54]

1999

Henry B. Eyring

A second truth about our accountability is to know that we are not the helpless victims of our circumstances. The world tries to tell us that the opposite is true: imperfections in our parents or our faulty genetic inheritance are presented to us as absolving us of personal responsibility. But difficult as circumstances may be, they do not relieve us of accountability for our actions or our inactions. Nephi was right. God gives no commandments to the children of men save He prepares a way for them to obey. However difficult our circumstances, we can repent.

Similarly, the world might be willing to excuse our bad behavior because those around us behave badly. It is not true that the behavior of others removes our responsibility for our own. God’s standards for our behavior are unchanged whether or not others choose to rise to them…. [55]

2000

Neal A. Maxwell

Yet there are other fixed limitations in life. For instance, some have allotments including physical, mental, or geographic constraints. There are those who are unmarried, through no fault of their own, or yearning but childless couples. Still others face persistent and unreconciled relationships within their circles of loved ones, including offspring who have "[become] for themselves," resistant to parental counsel (3 Nephi 1꞉29). In such and similar situations, there are so many prickly and daily reminders.

Being content means acceptance without self-pity. Meekly borne, however, deprivations such as these can end up being like excavations that make room for greatly enlarged souls.

Some undergo searing developments that cut suddenly into mortality’s status quo. Some have trials to pass through, while still others have allotments they are to live with. Paul lived with his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7).

Suffice it to say, such mortal allotments will be changed in the world to come. The exception is unrepented sin that shapes our status in the next world. [56]

2006

Dallin H. Oaks

A man wrote a General Authority about how the power of the Atonement helped him with his problem of same-gender attraction. He had been excommunicated for serious transgressions that violated his temple covenants and his responsibilities to his children. He had to choose whether to attempt to live the gospel or whether to continue a course contrary to its teachings.

"I knew it would be difficult," he wrote, "but I didn’t realize what I would have to go through." His letter describes the emptiness and loneliness and the incredible pain he experienced from deep within his soul as he sought to return. He prayed mightily for forgiveness, sometimes for hours at a time. He was sustained by reading the scriptures, by the companionship of a loving bishop, and by priesthood blessings. But what finally made the difference was the help of the Savior. He explained:

"It [was] only through Him and His Atonement. … I now feel an overwhelming gratitude. My pains have been almost more than I could bear at times, and yet they were so small compared to what He suffered. Where there once was darkness in my life, there is now love and gratitude."

He continues: "Some profess that change is possible and therapy is the only answer. They are very learned on the subject and have so much to offer those who struggle … , but I worry that they forget to involve Heavenly Father in the process. If change is to happen, it will happen according to the will of God. I also worry that many people focus on the causes of [same-gender attraction]. … There is no need to determine why I have [this challenge]. I don’t know if I was born with it, or if environmental factors contributed to it. The fact of the matter is that I have this struggle in my life and what I do with it from this point forward is what matters" (letter dated Mar. 25, 2006). [57]

Discussion with Church Public Affairs by Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: You’re saying the Church doesn’t necessarily have a position on ‘nurture or nature’

ELDER OAKS: That’s where our doctrine comes into play. The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn’t have a position on.

ELDER WICKMAN: Whether it is nature or nurture really begs the important question, and a preoccupation with nature or nurture can, it seems to me, lead someone astray from the principles that Elder Oaks has been describing here. Why somebody has a same-gender attraction… who can say? But what matters is the fact that we know we can control how we behave, and it is behavior which is important. [58]

2007

Church booklet produced in 2007 notes

Despair is another adverse influence. It often results from a lack of understanding and trust in God’s continuing love as made available through the power of the Atonement. You can find hope in the fact that every blessing contemplated by Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness remains available for each of His children. Despair and doubt may lead to withdrawal, fault-finding, and impatience that all answers and resolutions for life’s problems are not immediately forthcoming. The Spirit of God brings good cheer and happiness. Trust the Lord. Do not blame anyone—not yourself, not your parents, not God—for problems not fully understood in this life. [59]

Jeffrey R. Holland

If you are a parent of one with same-gender attraction, don’t assume you are the reason for those feelings. No one, including the one struggling, should try to shoulder blame. Nor should anyone place blame on another-including God.

I too affirm that God loves all His children and acknowledge that many questions, including some related to same-gender attraction, must await a future answer, perhaps in the next life. Unfortunately, some people believe they have all the answers now and declare their opinions far and wide. Fortunately, such people do not speak for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [60]

Further research will hopefully shed more light on the subject, but whatever reason science gives for same-sex attraction, it does not affect Church doctrine.

What if same-sex attraction is genetic?

Let us suppose that it was shown that same-sex attraction is genetic. Would this be a doctrinal problem for the Law of Chastity? No—even if same-sex attraction were enitrely biological, the Church still teaches we should overcome the natural man. Anger or violence are likewise natural tendencies with deep biological roots. We are still required to control and master them, and we are also not to express them in unrighteous ways. For many, this is a great challenge, but the Lord does not excuse us from that challenge. He promises to help us and to change us so that we can, with his help, behave as he would.

Many people experience opposite-sex desires that seem natural, but remain sinful. The church does not lift restrictions on practicing these behaviors either. Elder Packer spoke of a husband who expressed his heterosexuality by viewing pornography. Elder Packer explains why this expression of heterosexuality can be overcome:

Pornography will always repel the Spirit of Christ and will interrupt the communications between our Heavenly Father and His children and disrupt the tender relationship between husband and wife.

The priesthood holds consummate power. It can protect you from the plague of pornography—and it is a plague—if you are succumbing to its influence. If one is obedient, the priesthood can show how to break a habit and even erase an addiction. Holders of the priesthood have that authority and should employ it to combat evil influences.

We raise an alarm and warn members of the Church to wake up and understand what is going on. Parents, be alert, ever watchful that this wickedness might threaten your family circle.

We teach a standard of moral conduct that will protect us from Satan’s many substitutes or counterfeits for marriage. We must understand that any persuasion to enter into any relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. From the Book of Mormon we learn that "wickedness never was happiness."

Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father.[61]

Just as improper expressions of heterosexuality can be overcome, the same is true for expressing homosexuality in improper ways.

Understanding explanations of homosexuality

In the past, when leaders have spoken about homosexuality or homosexual orientation, they may not have been referring to same-sex attraction. Elder Oaks has stated:

"The First Presidency's letters condemning homosexuality are, by their explicit terms, directed at the practices of homosexuality (italics added)."

When President Kimball spoke on homosexuality, he often clarified that he was talking about the "sexual act" and said that those attractions would often never go away, even in the repentant.

Does the Church deny the reality of a persistent orientation, which minimizes the effect the law of chastity has on people with a minority orientation?

The Church believes everyone has a the freedom to choose their actions. However, actions are very different from orientation. The Church teaches that same-sex attractions can run deep, and form a significant part of how a person experiences life. They are not, however, the only part.

Quotes from leaders

Speaking of same-sex attraction, Elder Packer said in 2000:

That may be a struggle from which you will not be free in this life.[33]

Elder Wickman was asked in an interview about how to respond to a son who said that he was gay. He responded:

We live in a society which is so saturated with sexuality that it perhaps is more troublesome now, because of that fact, for a person to look beyond their gender orientation to other aspects of who they are. I think I would say to your son or anyone that was so afflicted to strive to expand your horizons beyond simply gender orientation. Find fulfillment in the many other facets of your character and your personality and your nature that extend beyond that. There’s no denial that one’s gender orientation is certainly a core characteristic of any person, but it’s not the only one.[34]

Elder Holland expressed a similar feeling when he said:

Same-gender attractions run deep, and trying to force a heterosexual relationship is not likely to change them.[35]


Post-mortal states

Does the Church teach that same-sex attraction will persist in the next life?

Multiple LDS leaders have taught that same-sex attraction and homosexual desire will not persist beyond death

All Latter-day Saints anticipate being transformed and perfected in the resurrection. The weaknesses, failings, imperfections, and unholy desires that we all have will be removed. This includes any sexual desire or temptation not in accord with God's purposes for us.

Examples of such teachings include those listed below.

A 2007 official Church publication on same-sex attraction reassured readers that:

While many Latter-day Saints, through individual effort, the exercise of faith, and reliance upon the enabling power of the Atonement, overcome same-gender attraction in mortality, others may not be free of this challenge in this life. However, the perfect plan of our Father in Heaven makes provision for individuals who seek to keep His commandments but who, through no fault of their own, do not have an eternal marriage in mortal life. As we follow Heavenly Father’s plan, our bodies, feelings, and desires will be perfected in the next life so that every one of God’s children may find joy in a family consisting of a husband, a wife, and children.

Same-gender attractions include deep emotional, social, and physical feelings. All of Heavenly Father’s children desire to love and be loved, including many adults who, for a variety of reasons, remain single. God assures His children, including those currently attracted to persons of the same gender, that their righteous desires will eventually be fully satisfied in God’s own way and according to His timing. [62]

The Church's official website quoted Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman telling Church Public Affairs:

ELDER WICKMAN: One question that might be asked by somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is, "Is this something I’m stuck with forever? What bearing does this have on eternal life? If I can somehow make it through this life, when I appear on the other side, what will I be like?"

Gratefully, the answer is that same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life. It is a circumstance that for whatever reason or reasons seems to apply right now in mortality, in this nano-second of our eternal existence.

The good news for somebody who is struggling with same-gender attraction is this: 1) It is that ‘I’m not stuck with it forever.’ It’s just now. Admittedly, for each one of us, it’s hard to look beyond the ‘now’ sometimes. But nonetheless, if you see mortality as now, it’s only during this season. 2) If I can keep myself worthy here, if I can be true to gospel commandments, if I can keep covenants that I have made, the blessings of exaltation and eternal life that Heavenly Father holds out to all of His children apply to me. Every blessing — including eternal marriage — is and will be mine in due course.

ELDER OAKS: Let me just add a thought to that. There is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband, a wife, and posterity. Further, men are that they might have joy. In the eternal perspective, same-gender activity will only bring sorrow and grief and the loss of eternal opportunities. [63]

In a 2007 PBS special, Elder Holland said about same-sex attraction:

I do know that this will not be a post-mortal condition. It will not be a post-mortal difficulty. [64]

In 2009, the Church's official website published Elder Bruce C. Hafen's remarks. He taught:

If you are faithful, on resurrection morning—and maybe even before then—you will rise with normal attractions for the opposite sex. Some of you may wonder if that doctrine is too good to be true. But Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said it MUST be true, because "there is no fullness of joy in the next life without a family unit, including a husband and wife, and posterity." And "men (and women) are that they might have joy." [65]


Legal protections

Since the Church teaches that homosexual conduct is sinful, does this mean it opposes efforts to protect those who engage in homosexual acts?

The Church has not opposed measures which grant all the civil or secular benefits of marriage to other domestic partnerships

The Church sees the institution of marriage in religious terms. Theologically, the Church cannot accede to a redefinition of marriage.[66] The Church has not, however, opposed measures which grant all the civil or secular benefits of marriage to other domestic partnerships (see California FAMILY.CODE SECTION 297-297.5). As the Church indicated during its opposition to the redefinition of marriage in California:

The focus of the Church’s involvement is specifically same-sex marriage and its consequences. The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.[67]

The Church sustains the principle that all citizens are equal before the law

The Church sustains the principle that all citizens are equal before the law. Members of the Church are particularly sensitized to this issue because of their long history of persecution at the hands of private citizens and government agents in the nineteenth century. Even though Church members may disagree with the choices made by those who engage in homosexual acts, the Church has endorsed various measures to ensure fair treatment for them and others with same-sex attractions.

For example, Michael Otterson (managing director of the Church Public Affairs department) addressed the Salt Lake City Council meeting on 10 November 2009 and said:

The nondiscrimination ordinances being reviewed by the city council concern important questions for the people of this community.

Like most of America, our community in Salt Lake City is comprised of citizens of different faiths and values, different races and cultures, different political views and divergent demographics. Across America and around the world, diverse communities such as ours are wrestling with complex social and moral questions. People often feel strongly about such issues. Sometimes they feel so strongly that the ways in which they relate to one another seem to strain the fabric of our society, especially where the interests of one group seem to collide with the interests of another.

The issues before you tonight are the right of people to have a roof over their heads and the right to work without being discriminated against. But, importantly, the ordinances also attempt to balance vital issues of religious freedom. In essence, the Church agrees with the approach which Mayor Becker is taking on this matter.

In drafting these ordinances, the city has granted common-sense rights that should be available to everyone, while safeguarding the crucial rights of religious organizations, for example, in their hiring of people whose lives are in harmony with their tenets, or when providing housing for their university students and others that preserve religious requirements.

The Church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage. They are also entirely consistent with the Church’s prior position on these matters. The Church remains unequivocally committed to defending the bedrock foundation of marriage between a man and a woman.

I represent a church that believes in human dignity, in treating others with respect even when we disagree – in fact, especially when we disagree. The Church’s past statements are on the public record for all to see. In these comments and in our actions, we try to follow what Jesus Christ taught. Our language will always be respectful and acknowledge those who differ, but will also be clear on matters that we feel are of great consequence to our society. Thank you.[68]


Suicide

Is there an "epidemic" of suicide among gay Latter-day Saints?

if you or someone you know is thinking or talking about suicide, please get help. Suicide is preventable, and there are many resources.

In the United States and Canada, dial 9-8-8 anytime to get help.

As we have seen above, the Church recognizes that being a member of the church and having same-sex attraction can be very difficult.

It has long been known that suicide rates are higher for those with same-sex attraction.

Critics charge that:

  • Church doctrine and teaching causes these higher suicide rates; and
  • there is an "epidemic" of suicide among gay Latter-day Saints

These charges are without scientific foundation. They are not surprising, since warnings of such supposed dangers are a common strategy from those targeting unpopular social groups.[69]

For example, some have claimed that the Church's policy of requiring First Presidency clearance for the baptism of children of gay couples caused a spike in suicide. These claims were fiction—in Utah "the year after the November policy saw a 21 percent decrease in youth suicide and a small decrease in suicide of those eighteen to sixty-four years old."[70]

There are three studies that have looked at precisely this quesiton—in all cases, those with same-sex attraction who were members of the Church had lower suicide rates than those with same-sex attraction outside the Church.

Because this is such an important issue, we will consider these points in detail.

Background risk

To answer questions about the Church’s impact, if any, we have to know first about background risk. If you were going to study the effects of, say, smoking on cancer, first you have to know how likely cancer is in people who don’t smoke. It doesn’t do much good to point out that 10% of people who smoke die of cancer, if 10% of people who don’t do too. Sadly, we’ve known for decades that LGBTQ people have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts, and probably higher rates of actual suicide too.[71] This is one of the great constants in research over decades.

Denmark

In Denmark, for example, a 2011 study showed that gay men in registered domestic partnerships (Denmark’s version of “gay marriage,” which they have had since 1990) were still almost eight times more likely to commit suicide as married or divorced heterosexuals. Divorce and singleness are risk factors for suicide, and so of all LGBTQ people, those in legal same-sex partnerships should have the best numbers because they are “wired in” to a close social support such as a spouse.

Denmark is an extremely secular country—it seems unlikely that religious doctrine or persecution can explain this massive disparity in suicide rates.

Norway

A Norwegian study found that when compared to heterosexual youth, youth who were attracted to the same sex and/or self-identified as LGB were no more likely to attempt suicide. Only homosexual behavior was associated with an increased rate of suicide attempt, and “[t]he increased odds [of suicidality] could not be attributed to GLB students' greater exposure to risk factors for suicide attempt.”[72]

So, even in two of the most tolerant, non-religious, secular societies, there are some prominent risks. We might think of this as something of a “best case scenario” for tolerance and acceptance. We aren’t likely to produce a society in or out of the Church more open to same-sex behavior than Denmark and Norway. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still work to bring these suicide rates down, but it might suggest that insisting that others need to be more "tolerant" of homosexual behavior may not provide huge gains.

Suicide in Utah?

The Church is often blamed for an "epidemic" of gay suicdes in Utah. But, Utah's state expert (who is himself gay) insists that there is no such epidemic:

Michael Staley [who is openly gay himself], who works for Utah’s medical examiner and ranks among the most respected researchers on this topic, said in an interview with Q Salt Lake, a Utah LGBT magazine, his initial findings do not support the narrative that Utah youth suicides are rising as a result of the Church’s traditional teachings on sexuality or LGBT issues. “There’s no data to show that, period,” Staley said. “The people who are driving that narrative are going to be disappointed.”[73]

Why might people be “disappointed”? Isn’t that good news? Well, it isn’t if you are trying to use suicide as a weapon to shame a religion and push it to change.

So, the claim that Utah suffered an explosion of gay suicide turns out not to be true. But people continue to say it—which suggests that either they are misinformed, or their goal may be something other than the truth.

Suicide in the Church

It is well known that religion is generally protective against suicide—so isolating someone from their religious group probably doesn’t help make them safer, all else being equal.[74]

We will now look at the three studies who examined suicidality in Latter-day Saint LGBTQ members.

First study - Cranney (2017)

This data from 2012–2014, published in Journal of Homosexuality:

LGB Mormons have more days of poor mental health than their non-LGB Mormon counterparts, but fewer than their LGB non-Mormon counterparts. When weights are applied, the only significant health difference found between LGB Mormons and any other group is a significantly higher number of days of poor mental health than non-LGB Mormons (6 days versus 3 days, p = .01 [in the last 30]); all other health comparisons are statistically insignificant. ...

[H]owever they do it, the LGB Mormon population’s reconciliation of particular facets of their sexual and religious identities does not lead them to having discernibly worse mental or physical health than their non-LBG Mormon and LGB non-Mormon counterparts.[75]

So, LGB in the Church do have more days of poor mental health—but their mental health is still better than LGB outside the Church.

Separating those who are struggling from the Church may, then, not be helpful and might even be harmful.

Second study - Dyer, Goodman, and Wood (2022)

The second study is from the 2019 Utah Prevention Needs Assessment, done as part of the Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) survey by Utah's Department of Human Services.[76]

Discussion Graph
We look first at depression rates in all members, regardless of sexual orientation (Chart 1).

Stars mark statistically significant results compared to Latter-day Saints. So, Latter-day Saints have statistically significant lower rates of depression than the other groups.

Chart 1: Figure 2A from Dyer, Goodman, and Wood. This chart shows depression rates for all participants by religion. Latter-day Saints are the left hand bar. Stars mark statistically significant results compared to Latter-day Saints. So, Latter-day Saints have statistically significant lower rates of depression than the other groups.
What about LGBTQ Latter-day Saints? We see in Chart 2 that they too are less likely to be depressed than LGBTQ members of other faiths.
Chart 2: Figure 4A from Dyer, Goodman, and Wood. This chart shows depression rates for LGBTQ by religion. Latter-day Saints are the left hand bar. Stars mark statistically significant results compared to Latter-day Saints. So, Latter-day Saints LGBTQ have statistically significant lower rates of depression than the other groups.
What about actually considering or attempting suicide? Chart 3 shows that Latter-day Saints are less likely to experience this, and it is statistically significant.
Chart 3: Figure 1A from Dyer, Goodman, and Wood. This chart shows suicidality rates for all participants by religion. Latter-day Saints are the left hand bar. Stars mark statistically significant results compared to Latter-day Saints. So, Latter-day Saints have statistically significant lower rates of suicidality than the other groups.
Finally, we come to LGBTQ who consider or attempt suicide. Chart 4 shows that LGBTQ members again have lower rates of suicidality.
Chart 4: Figure 3A from Dyer, Goodman, and Wood. This chart shows suicidality rates for LGBTQ by religion. Latter-day Saints are the left hand bar. Stars mark statistically significant results compared to Latter-day Saints. So, LGBTQ Latter-day Saints have statistically significant lower rates of suicidality than the other groups.





Why does the Church do better?

Chart 5: Figure 3B from Dyer, Goodman, and Wood. Once social connectedness, family connectedness, and drug use is adjusted for, the suicidality rates are not statistically different for any group.

There are many known risk factors for suicidality. For example, those who abuse alcohol or other substances are more likely to feel depressed, contemplate suicide, and attempt suicide. So, if the Church kept you from drinking, that would probably lower your suicide risk.

This study decided to adjust for known benefits. So, they then looked at LGBTQ suicide rates once family connectedness, social connectedness, and drug use was taken into consideration.

When that is done, there is then no difference between Latter-day Saints and other religious groups' rates of suicidality. So, one plausible hypothesis is that (1) being in the Church makes you more socially connected; (2) Families in the Church may have better connections; and (3) the Church discourages drug use.

We must remember that these are averages. There will undoubtedly be terrible families in the Church whose behavior increases their children's risk of depression, suicide, and other mental health problems. And there are also certainly equally strong families in other faiths, or in families of no faith.

On average, however, an LGBTQ person is better off in terms of depression and suicidality in the Church than out of it.

At the very least, it is dishonest and unfair to blame the Church for suicides in LGBTQ members. There is simply no evidence that the Church is to blame, and considerable evidence that on balance it is helpful.

Individuals may have different experiences, and certainly some families or people in the Church do things contrary to Church doctrine which could make things much worse. But that is not the Church's fault.

Third study - McGraw et al. (2023)

Looking at the same dataset as the second study,[77] the non-LDS authors concluded:

LGBTQ participants’ reports of higher family conflict and lower parental closeness were tied to higher depression, self-harm, and substance misuse, and these three factors were, in turn, associated with higher levels of STBs for LGBTQ youth in Utah. This path model did not differ significantly due to LDS versus non-LDS religious affiliation. ...

Among LGBTQ youth, non-LDS youth had higher mean levels of STBs, family conflict, depressive symptoms, self-harm, substance misuse, a lower mean level of parental closeness. ... [Slide 27–31] Non-LDS LGBTQ youth reported the highest STBs, family conflict, depressive symptoms, self-harm, and substance misuse scores, and had a lower [average] level of parental closeness scores, followed by LDS LGBTQ, non-LDS heterosexual … youth, and then LDS heterosexual … youth

So again, family conflict, lower family closeness, and substance misuse led (unsurprisingly) to more suicidal experience and behavior. These problems on balance were better in the LDS group than the non-LDS group, but when controlled for religion did not make a significant difference.

Suicide contagion

All of this matters a great deal, and the biggest problem is not that the Church and its members and leaders are slandered and tarred with causing the deaths of their LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

The reason this matters is that there is a phenomenon known as "suicide contagion." This is a well-recognized phenomenon whereby people's tendency to suicide can be increased or decreased based on how media and other voices talk about suicide.[78]

Psychiatric, psychologic, and suicide prevention agencies have done a great deal to publicize these risks, and have provided guides for media to talk about suicide in a helpful, not harmful.

A non-LDS expert on LGBTQ youth made this point very strongly:

For me, first off, scientifically it's not true. That is that, as a developmental psychologist, when we look at the wide population of youth who identify as gay or who have same-sex attractions, it appears to me when I look at the data that they're actually just as healthy, and just as resilient, and just positive about their life as are straight youth. … So from a scientific perspective, there is certainly no gay suicide epidemic. But the more problematic aspect for me is that I worry a great deal about the image that we are giving gay-identified youth.[79]

Telling gay youth that there is an epidemic breaks one of the cardinal rules of suicide prevention: Messages linking particular groups with high rates of suicide or mental illness.[80] Not only is this not true, as the quote above notes, but telling people the falsehood makes it more likely to happen!

Other messaging rules that the Church's critics often engage in include:

Don't include personal details

  • "Don’t include personal details of people who have died by suicide." - Sadly, many LGBTQ advocates think they are helping by telling tragic, dramatic, tear-jerking stories about specific suicides. Each suicide is a tragedy and a devastating outcome for family and friends. But publicizing the suicide in this way just makes it more likely that other depressed teens may identify with the victim, and thus be more likely to immitate them.

Don't portray suicide as more common than it is or a typical way of coping

  • "Don’t portray suicidal behavior as more common than it is or as a typical way of coping with adversity." - Again, when LGBTQ advocates insist that the Church's policies or doctrines lead to a great many suicides, and that nothing can stop this until the Church changes its doctrines, they ironically increase the risk of that happening. As the suicide prevention group cautions:
While we don’t want to minimize the magnitude of the suicide problem, we also don’t want to imply that suicidal behavior is what most people do in a given circumstance. The vast majority of people who face adversity, mental illness, and other challenges—even those in high risk groups—do not die by suicide, but instead find support, treatment, or other ways to cope.

Don't use language or data to suggest suicide is inevitable or unsolvable

  • Don’t use data or language that suggests suicide is inevitable or unsolvable - Calling suicides "an epidemic" (especially when there is no epidemic) plays right into this problem.

Don't oversimplify

  • Don’t oversimplify causes - Suicide is a complex subject. It is not helpful—in fact, it is downright harmful—to use a suicide death to tell a simple cause-and-effect story, such as "The Church opposed gay marriage, and so John killed himself." Suicide is almost always accompanied by significant mental illness, and mental illness almost by definition involves choices and thoughts that are not rational or reasonable.

Hurting when intending to help

Many of those who spread these rumors or propaganda probably think that they are helping solve a serious problem. If you are approaching the issue in this way, we encourage you to stop spreading false rumors, and to especially stop talking about this subject in ways that increases the risk of a mentally ill person acting on a suicidal thought or plan.

And, if you or someone you know is thinking or talking about suicide, please get help. Suicide is preventable, and there are many resources.

In the United States and Canada, dial 9-8-8 anytime to get help.

Reducing suicide risk

Steps that can help reduce suicidal thoughts and actions include some of the following encouraged by the Church:

Church encouragement to seek medical and mental health treatment

  • "The Church finds situations when the trained (mental health professional) is called in for assistance. There is a proper place for these professionally trained specialists. The Church has an organization for this purpose. It is called LDS Social Services. There are also other faithful Latter-day Saints who are in public or private practice and who can be called upon as a bishop feels the need."[36]

Church encouragement to develop conflict resolution skills

  • "Each of us is an individual. Each of us is different. There must be respect for those differences...We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse. Concerning these you and I may disagree. But we can do so with respect and civility." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 661, 665).

Church encouragement to develop and maintain strong family ties

  • 1999: "Keep in mind that this is the same person you have always known: a child of God. Be grateful that this individual is willing to share his or her burden with you...Let it be understood that you value him or her and that this difficult journey will not have to be traveled alone."[37]
  • 2007: "I’d begin by recognizing the courage that brought your son, daughter, sibling, or friend to you. I’d recognize the trust that person has extended. Discussing the issue with someone of trust is a healthy first step to dealing with confusing feelings, and it is imperative that these first steps be met with compassion. Above all, keep your lines of communication open. Open communication between parents and children is a clear expression of love, and pure love, generously expressed, can transform family

ties."[38]

Church counsel regarding others' behavior toward members with same-sex attraction

  • 1974: "To "persecute" homosexuals would be wrong, just as it would be wrong for us to persecute anyone. We must try to understand why they have chosen this way of life."[39]
  • 1991 Letter from the First Presidency: "We encourage Church leaders and members to reach out with love and understanding to those struggling with these issues."[40]
  • 1995: "We should reach out lovingly to those who are struggling to resist temptation...[Letters from those with same-sex attraction expressing feelings of isolation and non-acceptance] surely show the need for improvement in our communications with brothers and sisters who are struggling with problems—all types of problems. Each member of Christ’s church has a clear-cut doctrinal responsibility to show forth love and to extend help and understanding."[41]
  • 1998: "We love them as sons and daughters of God. ... We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties."[42]
  • 2004: "Equal to my fears of going to the bishop were my feelings of unworthiness to be at church with people who were living good lives and had not indulged in the sins I had committed. I was sure the first Sunday I returned to church that everyone would see right into my soul and know what I was guilty of and the feelings I was struggling with. Instead, my anxieties were put to rest when members of the ward welcomed me back with loving fellowship."[43]
  • 2007: "You are a son or daughter of God, and our hearts reach out to you in warmth and affection. Notwithstanding your present same-gender attractions, you can be happy during this life, lead a morally clean life, perform meaningful service in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with your fellow Saints, and ultimately receive all the blessings of eternal life." [44]

Source(s) of the criticism
Critical sources

Do Church teachings against homosexual acts lead to bullying of gay youth or unchristian treatment of members or non-members with same-sex attraction?

Some members have, through ignorance or malice, doubtless used the sinful nature of homosexual acts to justify their decision to disparage, neglect, or mistreat those who are tempted toward such acts

Like members of all faiths, all Latter-day Saints do not live up to their ideals and principles perfectly. Some members have, through ignorance or malice, doubtless used the sinful nature of homosexual acts to justify their decision to disparage, neglect, or mistreat those who are tempted toward such acts. Such behavior is sinful, and requires repentance.

In this, as in all else, the example of Jesus is paramount

In this, as in all else, the example of Jesus is paramount. When brought a woman taken in adultery, Jesus refused to stone her:

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the lastand Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn theego, and sin no more. (John 8:7-11)

It is important to recognize, however, that it is not cruel to teach that homosexual acts are sins—just as the adulterous woman would not have been well served if Jesus had winked at her sin. The Church and its members will continue to teach that homosexual acts are not worthy of those who are children of God. As the Church observed, "Tolerance as a gospel principle means love and forgiveness of one another, not 'tolerating' transgression."[81]

The Church has consistently taught that all people are children of God, and ought to be treated with love, dignity, and respect. This includes those with same-sex attraction, or those who commit homosexual sins.

1980s

In 1987, President Gordon B. Hinckley said of the AIDS/HIV epidemic:

There is a plague of fearsome dimensions moving across the world. Public health officials are greatly concerned, and everyone else should be. The Surgeon General of the United States has forecast an AIDS death toll of 170,000 Americans in just four years. The situation is even more serious in some other areas of the world.

AIDS is a commonly fatal malady caused primarily from sexually transmitted disease and secondarily from drug abuse. Unfortunately, as in any epidemic, innocent people also become victims.

We, with others, hope that discoveries will make possible both prevention and healing from this dread affliction. But regardless of such discoveries, the observance of one clearly understandable and divinely given rule would do more than all else to check this epidemic. That is chastity before marriage and total fidelity after marriage. ...

Having said this, I desire now to say with emphasis that our concern for the bitter fruit of sin is coupled with Christlike sympathy for its victims, innocent or culpable. We advocate the example of the Lord, who condemned the sin, yet loved the sinner. We should reach out with kindness and comfort to the afflicted, ministering to their needs and assisting them with their problems.[82]

1990s

In discussing this issue, Elder Dallin H. Oaks quoted the First Presidency:

"We are asked to be kinder with one another, more gentle and forgiving. We are asked to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We are asked to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. We are called upon to be true disciples of Christ, to love one another with genuine compassion, for that is the way Christ loved us."[83]

He then said:

Kindness, compassion, and love are powerful instruments in strengthening us to carry heavy burdens imposed without any fault of our own and to do what we know to be right.[84]

Elder Oaks also taught:

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

Despite such invitations and assurances, the Church and its members continue to experience misunderstandings about our positions on these matters....

A recent letter is illustrative:

"Another concern we have is the way in which our sons and daughters are classified as people who practice deviant and lascivious behavior. Perhaps some do, but most do not. These young men and women want only to survive, have a spiritual life, and stay close to their families and the Church. It is especially damaging when these negative references are spoken from the pulpit. We believe such talks only create more depression and a tremendous amount of guilt, shame, and lack of self-worth, which they have endured throughout their entire lives. There is sometimes a real lack of the pure love of Christ expressed to help them through their ordeals. We will all appreciate anything you can do to help with the plight of these much misunderstood children of our Father in Heaven. If some of the General Authorities could express more sensitivity to this problem, it would surely help to avoid ... schisms that are caused within families. Many simply cannot tolerate the fact that Church members judge them as ‘evil people,’ and they, therefore, find solace in gay-oriented lifestyles."

These communications surely show the need for improvement in our communications with brothers and sisters who are struggling with problems—all types of problems. Each member of Christ’s church has a clear-cut doctrinal responsibility to show forth love and to extend help and understanding. Sinners, as well as those who are struggling to resist inappropriate feelings, are not people to be cast out but people to be loved and helped (see 3 Nephi 18꞉22-23,30,32). At the same time, Church leaders and members cannot avoid their responsibility to teach correct principles and righteous behavior (on all subjects), even if this causes discomfort to some.[85]

President Hinckley taught: "Nevertheless, and I emphasize this, I wish to say that our opposition to attempts to legalize same-sex marriage should never be interpreted as justification for hatred, intolerance, or abuse of those who profess homosexual tendencies, either individually or as a group."[86]

Each holder of the priesthood also watches to "see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking." (D&C 20꞉54).

2000s

In October 2000 conference, while speaking about people in same-sex relationships, President Boyd K. Packer taught:

We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you (see Heb. 12꞉6-9; Rom. 3꞉19; Hel. 15꞉3; D&C 95꞉1).

You may even feel that we do not love you. That also is not true. Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy.

Elder Jeffry R. Holland reiterated the need for a warm and supportive atmosphere at Church toward those with SSA:

Someone said that if we plant a garden with good seed, there will not be so much need of the hoe. Likewise, if we fill our lives with spiritual nourishment, we can more easily gain control over inclinations. This means creating a positive environment in our homes in which the Spirit is abundantly evident. A positive environment includes consistent private and public worship, prayer, fasting, scripture reading, service, and exposure to uplifting conversation, music, literature, and other media.

This same environment extends to experiences at church. Some with same-gender attractions have unresolved fears and are offended at church when no offense is intended. On the other hand, some members exclude from their circle of fellowship those who are different. When our actions or words discourage someone from taking full advantage of Church membership, we fail them—and the Lord. The Church is made stronger as we include every member and strengthen one another in service and love (see D&C 84꞉110).[87]

A booklet prepared by the Church in 2007 noted the need for improved kindness from Church members:

Some people with same-gender attraction have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love. No member of the Church should ever be intolerant. As you show love and kindness to others, you give them an opportunity to change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully.[88]

In 2009, Elder Bruce C. Hafen spoke on this subject, and his address was placed on the Church's official website:

Remember President Hinckley’s confidence in you: "Our hearts reach out to [you]. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and sisters." And President Packer has echoed, "We do not reject you… We cannot reject you… We will not reject you, because we love you." With that kind of leadership, I pray that all Church members are learning to be more compassionate and understanding.[89]

2010s

In 2010, the Church issued an official statement:

...we have all witnessed tragic deaths across the country as a result of bullying or intimidation of gay young men. We join our voice with others in unreserved condemnation of acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different – whether those differences arise from race, religion, mental challenges, social status, sexual orientation or for any other reason. Such actions simply have no place in our society.

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 and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness toward those who are attracted to others of the same sex. 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 reflect Jesus Christ’s second great commandment - to love one another.

As a church, our doctrinal position is clear: any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman. However, that should never, ever be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down.

Further, while the Church is strongly on the record as opposing same-sex marriage, it has openly supported other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment.[90]

In October 2012 general conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said:

When we consider the dangers from which children should be protected, we should also include psychological abuse. Parents or other caregivers or teachers or peers who demean, bully, or humiliate children or youth can inflict harm more permanent than physical injury. Making a child or youth feel worthless, unloved, or unwanted can inflict serious and long-lasting injury on his or her emotional well-being and development.9 Young people struggling with any exceptional condition, including same-gender attraction, are particularly vulnerable and need loving understanding—not bullying or ostracism.[91]

Did Elder Boyd K. Packer's talk "To Young Men Only" encourage physical assaults on gay people?

Violence is not usually the best response to a problem, but everyone is entitled to protect themselves (or others) against sexual harassment or sexual assault by any means necessary—including violence

It is claimed that Elder Boyd K. Packer's talk "To Young Men Only" encourages "gay bashing" or physical assaults on gay people.

The Church does not teach that violence is the best response to problems. However, everyone is entitled to protect themselves (or others) against sexual harassment or sexual assault by any means necessary—including violence. This applies to all: men and women, gay and straight. As Wikipedia notes, often the victim is blamed for the harasser's acts:

Retaliation and backlash against a victim are very common, particularly a complainant. Victims who speak out against sexual harassment are often labeled troublemakers who are on their own power trips, or who are looking for attention. Similar to cases of rape or sexual assault, the victim often becomes the accused, with their appearance, private life, and character likely to fall under intrusive scrutiny and attack.[17] They risk hostility and isolation from colleagues, supervisors, teachers, fellow students, and even friends. They may become the targets of mobbing or relational aggression....

In this case, it is Elder Packer and all members of the Church who come in for criticism and attack because the unacceptable sexual harassment was homosexual. Readers should ask themselves how they would react if the story was about a woman sexually harassed by a man.

Critics who make this claim are either ignorant of the contents of then-Elder Packer's talk, or are deliberately misrepresenting it for polemical gain.

To understand, we will consider four aspects:

  1. The relevant full text of Elder Packer's remarks will be provided.
  2. Some background information will be provided. Some non-members may not understand the context of the experience described by Elder Packer (missionary companions on a full-time mission for the Church), and so this will be explained.
  3. We will then analyze the story and advice he gives, recognizing that the critics have misrepresented it almost beyond recognition.
  4. Some broader issues which this charge raises will be considered.

#1 Elder Packer's Remarks

Elder Packer said:

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 [homosexual] 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. [92]

#2: Background information

Missionary companions

Males in the Church serve full-time missions for two years. During this time, they are expected to dedicate themselves to full-time service of the Lord, His Kingdom, and people in and out of the Church. Missionaries are forbidden from dating or engaging in any romantic activities during this period of time. Furthermore, each missionary is assigned a "companion"—this is another missionary with whom the young man lives and works.

Missionaries are forbidden to go anywhere without their companion. Companions live in the same apartment, sleep in the same room, and go everywhere together. When out of the apartment, missionaries are taught that they are never to be alone or unaccompanied by their companion (save for trips to the bathroom and the like). Keeping missionaries together in this way serves at least two purposes:

  1. Missionaries are protected from temptation, and it is hoped that they will also avoid behavior which might reflect poorly upon their mission and the Church
  2. Perhaps more importantly, missionaries are protected against false accusations. No missionary will ever be alone, and so there will always be another witness to his acts or behavior. Thus, if a missionary were (for example) falsely charged by a malicious witness with a crime, the missionary would have both his own and his companion's testimony regarding his innocence.

A missionary who intentionally leaves his companion may be in serious trouble, and could be sent home from his mission.

Missionary covenants

All members of the Church are expected to observe the law of chastity. This means that no sexual activity outside of marriage is permitted. Furthermore, missionaries attend the temple prior to going on their missions, where they reaffirm this commitment. [93] As noted above, missionaries further promise to not even engage in dating or other romantic activity while in full-time Church service.

#3: Examining the story

We are now able to examine the story told by Elder Packer.

  • They story is not about people with same-sex attraction, but about people who are trying to have sex with you against your will.
  • Elder Packer talked about "physical mischief with another man", "men who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts", and "If you are ever approached to participate in anything like that". Elder Packer has long made a distinction between sexual acts and sexual attraction. He has repeatedly said sexual attraction is not a sin and those with same-sex attraction "need feel no guilt".[94]
  • The response only makes sense in the context of an act: "it is time to vigorously resist" and "You must protect yourself". How do you vigorously resist someone else having same-sex attraction? This story is about a missionary who wanted an unwilling companion in a compromised position to join him in homosexual activity, not about a companion who simply confessed that he was gay.
  • The extent of the attempt to have sex with the missionary is not disclosed, but at the least it was sexual harassment, while potentially up to and including sexual assault and attempted rape. Either case warrants self-defense.
  • The missionary was in a compromised position. As detailed above, he was supposed to stay in close quarters with his companion. He could not simply say "No thanks, I don't want to have sex with you" and walk away. He lived with the person sexually harassing him. We are not told for how how long the sexual harassment continued.
  • The story is not about members of the Church going out and beating up gay people. Elder Packer is also clear that he does not "recommend" the physical response which the missionary launched on his companion—it was not an ideal response. But, he does not "omit it" if necessary to "protect yourself."
  • Thus, it is clear that the missionary did what he did to defend himself against a sexual advance. This was not a matter of the companion saying, "By the way, I'm gay, I hope you can love and accept me anyway."

Sexual harassment

  • Elder Packer has given similar advice to heterosexual members of the Church both before and after this talk, and Church magazines have also published multiple articles discussing self-defense courses and the legitimacy of self-defense in cases where there is a sexual threat.
  • Sexual harassment of any sort is completely unacceptable. The United Nations defines sexual harassment against women as:
such unwelcome sexually determined behavior as physical contact and advances, sexually colored remarks, showing pornography and sexual demands, whether by words or actions. Such conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and safety problem.[95]

The European Union notes that harassment is:

unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of women and men at work. This includes unwelcome physical, verbal or nonverbal conduct. ... [96]

There is absolutely no context in Church mission life where any sort of romantic attachment or engagement would be appropriate—with a companion or someone else, of the same gender or someone else. Thus, any sexual advance is unwelcome and utterly inappropriate, and the guilty party would know that unequivocally. By definition, such behavior must be sexual harassment at a minimum, and might be sexual assault depending upon the details. Furthermore, the guilty party would have expressly promised never to engage in such behavior or anything like it.

This is made worse when the offender is a companion, someone who has promised to protect and look out for the spiritual and physical well-being of the companion.

  • Missionaries are expected to be together at all times. The work and live together. They can never be apart. Any invitation to homosexual sex would be an extremely intimidating situation. (This ignores the fact that there could have been an element of attempted force or coercion in the story—we are not told, though this is suggested when Elder Packer says that he does not omit the option of physical violence if necessary to protect oneself.)
  • The story did not recommend violence, even if you are solicited for sex. Elder Packer clearly pointed out that he "was not recommending" the physical attack which the missionary launched on his companion—it is not an ideal response. But, he does not "omit it" if necessary to "protect yourself." You wouldn't use the term "protect" to promote gay-bashing, but to make it clear that the missionary did what he did to defend himself against a sexual advance.
  • Elder Packer was speaking in the 1970s; during this time period few young members (like most young Americans) would have had much exposure to even the idea of homosexuality. The missionary in question could well have been entirely naive about such things, and not even known that such behavior existed. To be suddenly confronted by encouragement to act in such a way, by someone who was supposed to be a second witness of his own faithfulness to Church doctrine and mission rules, would have been incredibly shocking, and even terrifying. If the Elder forces him into acts, who will believe him? To whom can he go for help? (We see, in the story, how difficult it was for him even to describe the experience to Elder Packer, who had to spend considerable time before he would tell the story.)

In short, it is false and extremely unfair to characterize Elder Packer's story as advocacy of "gay beating" or violence against homosexuals simply because of their desires or inclinations, or their decision to have consensual sex with others. Instead, it is a sad but realistic admission that at times even violence may be necessary, as a last resort, to protect oneself.

#4: Further thoughts to conclude

Sexual harassment is unacceptable

The bias against men in the critics' version of this story is disappointing. The matter is perhaps easier to understand if we change the roles a bit. How would we react if an LDS young woman was on a mission, and told that she must spend every minute of the day with an LDS man? They must travel together, sleep in the same room, live together in what are generally cramped quarters. Now, let us imagine that the man propositions the young woman, and urges her to violate the law of chastity—would we think her out of line if she struck him?

Sexual harassment is unacceptable, regardless of whether men or women are the target. It does not matter if the harasser is homosexual or heterosexual—such behavior is everywhere and always wrong.

Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment can attest that it is an extremely frightening and oppressive experience. It is understandable that faced with such a situation—especially one which the missionary probably have never dreamed he would encounter from another male, much less his missionary companion—that the reaction would be terror and a panicked decision to do whatever it took to make sure he was safe.

No critic would dare say anything if an LDS sister missionary defended herself against the sexual suggestions, advances, or aggression of a male LDS missionary, because such a charge's bigotry against the victim is too blatant. But, as soon as the victim is a male and the aggressor seeking homosexual gratification, suddenly the aggressor becomes the victim, and those who support the victim in self-defense are vilified.

This double standard would not exist if the gender roles were altered. This suggests that the critics are not trying to look at the situation fairly, but are simply trying to score points against the Church and its leaders.

Men can be victims of sexual harassment

Some believe that since the missionary was a male, he could not have been a victim of sexual abuse. They argue that men only have sex when they want to and this missionary was in no real danger from his companion. This is not the case. Studies estimate that one in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse.[45] All forms of sexual abuse, including sexual harassment, can have a lasting negative impact on the victims, even males. The web site Male Survivor says this about the effects of sexual abuse:

While some studies have found males to be less negatively affected, more studies show that long term effects are quite damaging for either sex. Males may be more damaged by society's refusal or reluctance to accept their victimization, and by their resultant belief that they must "tough it out" in silence.[46]

Critics who insist that the Elder should not have protected himself against the sexual advances of his companion not only do a disservice to this Elder, but to the millions of men who have experienced sexual abuse. It is important that men know that they are not at fault if they are victims of sexual abuse. They must know that they have the right to vigorously resist unwelcomed sexual advances. Elder Packer's advice is a refreshing reversal of society's apathy towards male victims of sexual assault.

Church teachings on the right to self-defense

Boyd K. Packer

  • "Do not let anyone at all touch or handle your body, not anyone!" - Boyd K. Packer, "Why Stay Morally Clean," New Era (July 1972): {{{pages}}}. off-site
  • "Never allow others to touch your body in a way that would be unworthy, and do not touch anyone else in any unworthy way." - Boyd K. Packer, Ensign (May 2009). off-site

Church magazines

  • There is a good chance that many women will at some time need to know how to avoid rape, mugging, robbery, or any of numerous other violent crimes. We cannot turn away from facts; these assaults occur regularly in public places and in private homes. A certain amount of preparation, a "healthy paranoia," might very well save a life....If you decide you must fight back, use your keys, purse, feet, or fingernails as weapons to throw the attacker off guard or to get free. Although it sounds cruel, always strike for the eyes and face. The momentary stunning effect of wounds to the face will give you the chance you need to run." Esther R. Tutt, "Random Sampler: Protect Yourself," Ensign (September 1987). off-site
  • "We need to be absolutely clear that there is such a thing as justified self-defense. You have the right to protect yourself against physical harm if you are attacked. You have a right to use physical force to protect virtue, family, freedom." - Larry A. Hiller, "Somebody's Going to Get Hurt!," Ensign (September 1997). off-site
  • If someone is attempting to hurt us physically—even to destroy us—shouldn’t we resist in self-defense? The Doctrine and Covenants says "that all men are justified in defending themselves … from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded" (D&C 134꞉11). Larry E. Dahl, "The Higher Law," Ensign (August 1999). off-site
  • Self-defense courses for youth are suggested in the New Era in at least 1980, 1982, and 1992.


Are Church family members taught to reject their LGBT children, thereby forcing many of them to become homeless?

Homelessness among LGBT youth in America is considered "an epidemic"

Reports have appeared in the American media stating that large portions of the homeless youth in Utah are gay. Critics imply that the substantial LDS population in this area explains these high numbers of homeless youth. It’s inferred that LDS families force children with non-heterosexual orientations out of their homes.

Homelessness among LGBT youth in America is considered "an epidemic." LGBT youth are homeless more often than straight youth all over the country, not just in Utah. A recent survey of LGBT youth in America found that while feeling more disconnected from peers and communities than youth across the country, LGBT youth in Utah actually enjoyed better and more supportive and accepting connections to family than youth nationwide. No statistics have ever been generated to show causal links between LDS affiliation and homelessness among LGBT youth.

Parents have a duty to love and take care of their children

Furthermore, believing in a moral code does not automatically result in the rejection of those who struggle with the code or who break the code. Parents have a duty to love and take care of their children. However, some parents may ignore the counsel of Church leaders and the scriptures and force LGBT children out of their homes. The Church is clear that this is not in harmony with the gospel, and that such parents are not worthy to hold temple recommends. The teachings of the Church help family members love and respect their children, regardless of sexual orientation or behavior. This love and respect leads to an increase of the child's mental and physical health.[97]

There are several problems with the assertion that LDS families in Utah reject and expelled LGBT children from their homes:

1) Rates of homelessness among gay youth in Utah are similar to those found in other areas of the US. The high incidence is not limited to states with large LDS communities.

2) A national survey of LGBT youth in America found that youth in Utah actually enjoy better support from adults and family members than national averages. However, the youth reported more problems with peers and larger social structures and the media focused on these negative statistics. So far, the media have ignored the positive numbers on family support.

3) A causal connection between homelessness among gay youth and the LDS Church has never been substantiated with data. It remains merely an assertion and an expression of prejudice.

4) Church leaders and scriptures explicitly teach that children have claim on their parents for support. In addition to this responsibility, parents and other family members are instructed to extend unconditional love regardless of individual behaviors.

While reports of homelessness among gay youth are sad and startling, they aren’t out of line with other data collected in other US states

Statistics on sexual orientation among homeless youth in Utah are typically derived from a survey given to youth ages 15 to 22 who access services for the homeless in Utah. It’s a written survey administered by Volunteers of America Utah. VOAU regularly surveys homeless youth using their facilities, inquiring about many factors including sexual orientation, the reasons for homelessness, and family background. In news items from 2, a VOAU vice-president is quoted saying a recent survey revealed 42% of homeless youth using VOAU services self-identified as LGBT.[98]

While reports of homelessness among gay youth collected by VOAU are sad and startling, they aren’t out of line with other data collected in other US states.

The percentage of homeless youth throughout all of the US who self-identify as LGBT moves between 20 and 40 percent.[99] Most of the time, Utah posts rates of homeless gay youth at around one third, in the middle of the national range.[100] The finding of 42% is a high point. All gay youth, not just those in states with large LDS populations, experience homelessness at rates disproportionate to the rest of the population. Nationwide, the problem has been called "an epidemic." [101] This doesn’t diminish the tragedy of the Utah figures but it does strengthen the notion that the Utah findings are typical of American society and are not aberrations arising from subcultures like the LDS Church.

In 2008, the homeless rate for LGBT youth in Utah rose above the national average

In 2008, the homeless rate for LGBT youth in Utah rose above the national average. When questioned about the 2008 numbers, one manager of a program for homeless youth suggested it might have resulted from a change in the way youth were asked about their sexuality. Instead of asking them to identify themselves as straight, gay, lesbian, or transgendered, respondents were allowed to choose "other than heterosexual." [102] It’s an option respondents might have been more comfortable with since many of them feel they’re still forming their identities and resist narrower definitions.

Family Support for LGBT Youth in Utah

In 2012, the Washington D.C. based Human Rights Campaign released the partial results of an online survey of LGBT youth from across America. The survey recruited respondents through online social media and at places described as "LGBT youth centers." [103] 10,030 LGBT youth between the ages of 13 and 17 responded and their data were compared to those of 510 "straight" youth who were already members of online panels used in market research. HRC acknowledges issues with sampling place limitations on the survey data. The report on the survey explains, "Traditional measures of margin of error do not apply and the results here may not be representative of this population as a whole." [104]

Setting aside concerns with the methodology, the survey does yield some interesting results. When the survey first appeared in the media, emphasis was placed on differences between national averages and averages of youth in Utah. Most repeated were figures showing Utah youth were more likely to be verbally harassed and feel like they didn’t "fit in" in their communities.

However, the media seem to have ignored data showing LGBT youth in Utah were better connected to support from adults and family members than national averages.

Utah youth replied that they were "happy" 38% of the time while the national number, though close, is slightly lower at 37%.

When asked if they had "no adult to turn to" 29% of LGBT youth nationwide agreed while only 24% of Utah youth agreed. In Utah, LGBT youth are more likely to have an adult they can rely on involved in their lives.

LGBT youth inside Utah and across the country reported being "out" to immediate family at similar level with Utah youth being slightly more open at 58% instead of the national average of 56%. However, Utah youth were more open with their extended families. 34% of Utah youth were "out" with their extended families while on the national level only 25% of youth were "out" with their extended families.

When asked if they had an adult they could go to when worried or sad, 59% of Utah youth said "yes." That’s far more than the 49% of youth across the country who report having access to this kind of emotional support from adults.

It’s possible that these supportive adults could be social workers or other non-family members. However, two factors point away from this possibility. The first is that Utah youths report greater than average feelings of animosity between themselves and the local and state governments that would be funding and supporting social agencies. The second factor is that, when asked if their families were "not accepting" of their LGBT identity, youth in Utah were less likely (29%) to say they were not accepted than their peers in the rest of the US (33%).[105]

Utah youth tend to feel more accepted in their families than other LGBT American youth

According to the HRC survey data, Utah youth tend to feel more accepted in their families than other LGBT American youth, not less. This finding runs counter to the assumption that LDS homes are more prone to break off ties with non-heterosexual children.

The results of the HRC survey depict Utah as a state where LGBT youth tend to feel more comfortable and connected to adults in general and to their families in particular than other LGBT American youth. Whether reported in the media or not, the data can speak for themselves to defy critics’ assertions and prejudices.

Failing to report on areas where Utah performs better in caring for LGBT youth than the nation as a whole is not the only foul committed by media outlets. They have also mistakenly reported a direct connection between being LGBT and being homeless because of being "kicked out" by intolerant parents. Either due to ignorance or perhaps for more cunning reasons, media covering the story have made statements claiming the 42% of homeless youth in Utah who are LGBT "report experiencing family rejection and being kicked out of their homes." [106] This is simply wrong. The 42% figure refers only to the proportion of homeless youth who self-identify as LGBT. It says nothing about the reasons why this 2% are homeless. The youths' reasons for leaving home are as complex and varied as they are. Apart from not being borne out by any data, the idea that such a perfect correlation could exist between any two social factors (including factors like being LGBT and being kicked out of one's home) is highly unlikely.

Nothing yet released in any of the data collected definitively links LDS affiliation with homelessness in LGBT youth

Nothing yet released in any of the data collected by VOAU or HRC definitively links LDS affiliation with homelessness in LGBT youth. When asked about the causes of homelessness in LGBT youth, a VOAU vice-president told the Salt Lake Tribune the reasons for homelessness were mixed. He named economic factors (especially since the recession began), lapses in foster care, and abuse as well as irreconcilable differences between parents and children about sexual orientation.[107]

Even when sexual orientation was the most commanding issue, it is sometimes the children, not the parents who insist on the separation that makes the child homeless.

And, as always, there are other faith groups in Utah besides the LDS Church. They also have children who identify as LGBT. In the Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage of the story in June 2012, the young woman interviewed about her experience of being kicked out of her home due to her sexual orientation was from a religious background that was not LDS.[108] It’s just one anecdotal shred of evidence but it does reveal a problem with the assumption that all homeless LGBT youth in Utah are being victimized by the LDS Church.

Should the case arise where an LDS parent did force a child to leave home because of that child's sexuality, the teachings of the Church are quick to denounce the parent's behavior

Should the case arise where an LDS parent did force a child to leave home because of that child's sexuality, the teachings of the Church are quick to denounce the parent's behavior. LDS scripture makes clear that parents have a duty to care for their children regardless of the circumstances. D&C 83꞉4 reads:

All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age.

Luke 17:2 reads:

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

In 1992, the Church issued a statement to Church leaders saying:

If a person with homosexual problems chooses not to change, family members may have difficulty maintaining feelings of love and acceptance toward the person. Encourage them to continue loving the person and hoping that he or she may repent.[109]

In 1995, The Family: A Proclamation to the World taught:

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127꞉3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations... Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.[110]

In 2007, Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman had an interview in which they were asked what they would do if they had a child who decided to be in a same-sex relationship. Elder Oaks responded:

It seems to me that a Latter-day Saint parent has a responsibility in love and gentleness to affirm the teaching of the Lord through His prophets that the course of action he is about to embark upon is sinful. While affirming our continued love for him, and affirming that the family continues to have its arms open to him, I think it would be well to review with him something like the following, which is a statement of the First Presidency in 1991: "The Lord’s law of moral conduct is abstinence outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage. Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife, appropriately expressed within the bonds of marriage. Any other sexual conduct, including fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior is sinful. Those who persist in such practices or influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline.

My first responsibility as a father is to make sure that he understands that, and then to say to him, "My son, if you choose to deliberately engage in this kind of behavior, you’re still my son. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is powerful enough to reach out and cleanse you if you are repentant and give up your sinful behavior, but I urge you not to embark on that path because repentance is not easy. You’re embarking on a course of action that will weaken you in your ability to repent. It will cloud your perceptions of what is important in life. Finally, it may drag you down so far that you can’t come back. Don’t go that way. But if you choose to go that way, we will always try to help you and get you back on the path of growth...

Surely if we are counseled as a body of Church membership to reach out with love and understanding to those ‘struggling with these issues,’ that obligation rests with particular intensity on parents who have children struggling with these issues... even children who are engaged in sinful behavior associated with these issues.[111]

In the same interview, Elder Wickman responded:

With all, it needs to be done in the spirit of love and welcoming that, as Elder Oaks mentioned, ‘You’re always my son.’ There’s an old maxim which is really true for every parent and that is, ‘You haven’t failed until you quit trying.’ I think that means both in terms of taking appropriate opportunities to teach one’s children the right way, but at all times making sure they know that over all things you’ll love them...

That is to say we continue to open our homes and our hearts and our arms to our children, but that need not be with approval of their lifestyle. Neither does it mean we need to be constantly telling them that their lifestyle is inappropriate.[112]

Families with members with same-sex attractions, including those in same-sex relationships, are strengthened through living the principles of love and respect taught by Jesus Christ. The sister of a woman (Leigh) who is involved in a sexual relationship with another woman wrote an "Ensign" article in which she describes how the Church has helped her with her relationship with her sister:

I know the best thing I can do to have a close relationship with my sister is to have a close relationship with Heavenly Father and His Son. Leigh recently commented that it has been through the way our family has loved her that she has felt what she understood to be God’s love." [113]

While we are taught to love and treat everyone with kindness, the Church puts particular weight on the way we treat our family members, including those who are attracted to the same sex. In order to enter into the temple, a member must first answer this question:

Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?

If there is anything that is not in harmony with the teachings, they are not worthy to hold a temple recommend.

Further citations which illustrate these same principles include:

Elder Quentin L. Cook in 2009:

It is equally important that we be loving and kind to members of our own faith, regardless of their level of commitment or activity. The Savior has made it clear that we are not to judge each other. This is especially true of members of our own families. Our obligation is to love and teach and never give up. The Lord has made salvation "free for all men" but has "commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance." [114]

Introduction to Criticism

Did Church leaders ever teach that masturbation can cause someone to have a homosexual orientation?

Critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aver that President Spencer W. Kimball asserted that masturbation causes one to be attracted to the same sex in his 9 book Miracle of Forgiveness.

President Kimball wrote the following:

Most youth come into contact early with masturbation. Many would-be authorities declare that it is natural and acceptable, and frequently young men I interview cite these advocates to justify their practice of it. To this we must respond that the world's norms in many areas—drinking, smoking, and sex experience generally, to mention only a few—depart increasingly from God's law. The Church has a different, higher norm.
Thus prophets anciently and today condemn masturbation. It induces feelings of guilt and shame. It is detrimental to spirituality. It indicates slavery to the flesh, not that mastery of it and the growth toward godhood which is the object of our mortal life. Our modern prophet has indicated that no young man should be called on a mission who is not free from this practice.

While we should not regard this weakness as the heinous sin which some other sexual practices are, it is of itself bad enough to require sincere repentance. What is more, it too often leads to grievous sin, even to that sin against nature, homosexuality. For, done in private, it evolves often into mutual masturbation—and thence into homosexuality.[115]

This article will examine this charge and conclude that the notion that masturbation causes one to have a homosexual orientation is not and never has been taught by the Church.

Response to Criticism

Masturbation, according to President Kimball, may lead to the practice of homosexuality rather than a homosexual orientation

Commenting on President Kimball's claims above, Gregory L. Smith wrote:

This purported link between self-stimulation and homosexuality has often been ridiculed. O’Donovan refers to Kimball’s "absurd theory that masturbation leads to homosexuality."[116] And, such skepticism is justified if one reads homosexuality as homosexual orientation in the modern sense. Most people masturbate sometime, and few of these are gay.
Such an analysis assumes and relies on modern definitions, however. As I have shown, leaders’ use of the term homosexuality in this period — especially the homosexuality that they sought to discourage — was almost exclusively concerned with behavior.[117]
Seen in this light, Kimball’s claim becomes both more plausible and more understandable. It is important to remember that he had long experience counseling practicing homosexuals (19, 68-70).[118] He would likely have learned that solo masturbation while entertaining homosexual fantasies would often precede acting on those fantasies with another person. From that perspective, Kimball’s claim is less controversial and may even be valid.
Kimball was not alone in these realizations. Clinicians with exposure to the homosexual demi-monde had long remarked that homosexual masturbatory practices tended to precede homosexual acts with others, though the former did not always lead to the latter.
At the turn of the twentieth century, early sexologist Havelock Ellis wrote of a correspondent "who went to a French school, [and] told me that all the older boys had younger accomplices in mutual masturbation. … At my school, manual masturbation was both solitary and mutual; and sometimes younger boys, who had not acquired the habit, were induced to manipulate bigger boys. … In after-life they showed no signs of inversion [i.e., homosexuality]."[119]
In Albert Moll’s Sexual Life of the Child (1912), he wrote:

It is an indisputable fact that many boys … readily take to sexual practices with others. Examples of this constantly occur in [same-sex] boarding schools … they begin sexual practices very early in life (mutual masturbation and intimate physical contact, especially contact involving the genital organs).[120]

In an effort to reassure the reader that co-education of boys and girls would not be unduly risky, Moll pointed out that "even if we believe that in isolated instances coeducation may lead to unfortunate results in the way of [hetero]sexual practice. … We have to think of the fact that by the separation of the sexes during childhood we may favor the development of homosexuality."[121]
Moll and Havelock evidently did not think that masturbation inevitably lead to homosexual behavior, much less what is today called orientation. But, Moll would draw precisely the same conclusion as Kimball regarding behavior in the dry prose of academic German science:

The German Imperial Criminal Code … assert[s] that homosexual tendencies appearing in the child necessarily indicate the future development of permanent homosexuality. [Moll disagrees.] …
The chief danger associated with the appearance of sexual perversions lies in the fact that the child thus affected … endeavors again and ever again to revive these pleasurably-toned sensations … and … as soon as the genital organs are sufficiently mature, the boy or girl obtains sexual gratification by masturbating simultaneously with the imaginative contemplation of perverse ideas. Such perverse psychical onanism, accompanied or unaccompanied by physical masturbatory acts, is eminently adapted to favor the development of the perversion. Obviously, the actual performance of the corresponding perverse sexual act will be just as dangerous as its perversely associated masturbation. Thus, a boy who is homosexually inclined may masturbate while allowing his imagination to run riot upon homosexual ideas; or he may take to homosexual acts with one or more other male persons. Every sort of gratification that is associated with perverse images is dangerous; and no less dangerous is the spontaneous cultivation of such perverse sexual images.[122]

Moll saw a risk related to masturbation among the "homosexually inclined" — it would encourage unwanted behavior, but not create most inclination to that behavior.[123] Kimball, with more brevity, would write "masturbation too often leads to grievous sin, even to … homosexuality. For, done in private, it evolves often into mutual masturbation — practiced with another person of the same sex — and thence into total homosexuality."[124]
This was, in fact, precisely what a study of "non-patient" adult male homosexuals "drawn from the community" found in the same year that The Miracle of Forgiveness was published:

Of the homosexual men, all of them had practiced self-masturbation at some time during their lives. … Even during the peak of their sexual outlet by homosexual means between the ages of 20 and 29, almost all of the subjects (97%) were engaged in self-masturbation...
Homosexual behavior

Cognitional Rehearsals — Those were reported in almost all of the men (99%). In 97% it was stated that cognitional rehearsals had already started before age 20. …

The majority of the subjects (86%) had already had homosexual contacts before the age of 15. …

Of the men that were engaged in homosexual activity before age 15, the large majority (93%) practiced mutual masturbation … [and] a minority (19%) practiced [homosexual] intercourse. …

Mutual masturbation was abandoned by the majority of the subjects after the age of 29. Even those who practiced it between the of 20 and 29, tended to engage in it only occasionally.[125]

For this population, Kimball was right — one started with fantasies ("cognitional rehearsals") ultimately accompanied by masturbation, progressed to mutual masturbation, and eventually abandoned that for greater intimacies. One can quibble about whether masturbation "caused" these homosexual acts in a technical sense, but it is hard to see the behaviors as utterly unrelated. And behavior was what concerned Kimball.
In fact, he would have said that the person chose solo acts that simply made it easier to later choose other acts with someone else — one sin "leads to" another (71). He did not see the relationship as deterministic:[126]
Small indiscretions evolve into larger ones and finally into major transgressions which bring heavy penalties. … Warning signals and guidelines are given to reduce the danger of one’s being blindly enticed into forbidden paths. …
Those who yield to evil are usually those who have placed themselves in a vulnerable position.[127]
And, he saw other similar sins as preludes to heterosexual ones in the same way: "My beloved young folks, do not excuse petting and body intimacies. I am positive that if this illicit, illegal, improper, and lustful habit of ‘petting’ could be wiped out, that fornication would soon be gone from our world."[128][129]

Smith cites "a present-day queer studies author" that further contextualizes how President Kimball understood homosexuality:

Once the patient’s will-power or reason was compromised by masturbation [it was thought] … "reversion" to the primordial bestial type would be the result. … the slide from masturbation to homosexuality seems bizarre from a twenty-first century perspective. However, that is partly because current definitions of masturbation are very narrow compared to the definitions operative in the nineteenth century. We think of masturbation as self-stimulation only," while the nineteenth century did not consider anything but intercourse to be a homosexual act, even if it involved same-sex genital play.[130]

The same author observes that nineteenth-century thinkers thought that

There were two categories of inverts [i.e., homosexuals]. First, there were those whose condition was a result of self-induced degeneracy through willful vice. … However, increasingly influenced by the personal disclosures of inverts themselves, many nineteenth century physicians began to believe there was a second group. … Maybe some people are born with the gonads and genitalia of one sex but the brain and neurological system of the other. …

But it might not be fair to punish [these] congenital inverts, many physicians and sexologists believed, because their actions were not truly voluntary. As James Kiernan put it, "There can be no legal responsibility where free determination of the will is impaired." Congenital inverts were naturally weak of will … unable to resist the perverse urges that their degenerate condition aroused. Such individuals might undergo episodic periods of organically produced sexual furor during which they were entirely devoid of self-control.[131]

Thus, as Smith concludes:

If these distinctions are understood, then Kimball’s argument makes further sense. Some believed that those with an in-born attraction for the same sex could not control their actions. Other homosexuals "learned" such behavior via a free-will choice to engage in masturbation, which, in some, could progress to group masturbation and ultimately to homosexuality (i.e., intercourse).
The nineteenth century theorists might not condemn those who were "innate" homosexuals who had not brought their habit upon themselves through masturbatory habits. But they did not believe this group could control themselves either — their compulsive activity would be almost a type of madness. (By analogy, today’s society would not condemn a schizophrenic for her hallucinations, though it might well institutionalize her against her will if she sought to harm others as a result of those hallucinations.)
Church doctrine, however, revolted at the idea that any normal person was unable to control their behavior, however they might be tempted.[132] So Kimball focused on avoiding the acts that could strengthen temptation and lead to further unwanted behavior.
Like Kimball, neither Ellis nor Moll saw same-sex mutual masturbation as fully "homosexual," per se but observed that it could (in some cases) precede homosexual intercourse. This is a different conceptual world than ours.[133]

Conclusion

Thus, President Kimball is not saying that masturbation causes one to have a homosexual orientation. President Kimball says that masturbation could lead to the practice of homosexuality. The church rarely (if ever) talks about the causes of a particular sexual orientation. The church is much more interested in learning to control our thoughts, feelings and behaviors rather than sexual orientation. Many other leaders have also cautioned about preoccupation with sex and about arousing sexual feelings that should only be expressed in marriage. Masturbation arouses sexual feelings outside of marriage. This could lead to sexual acts performed outside of marriage. If a person has opposite-sex attractions, it may lead to the practice of heterosexuality outside of marriage, which is considered just as much of a sin as the practice of homosexuality.

Do Church leaders recommend marriage as "therapy" for those with same-sex attraction?

The prophets and general authorities have, in their written statements, long been clear that marriage is not to be seen as a "treatment" for same-sex attraction

It is claimed that Church leaders have advocated that those with same-sex attraction marry those of the opposite sex as part of the "therapy" for overcoming their same-sex desires or inclinations.

Like members of all faiths, all Latter-day Saints do not live up to their ideals and principles perfectly. Some members and leaders have doubtless encouraged some people with same-sex desires to marry someone before they were ready. Such a practice has been discouraged by statements by the Church's highest authorities.

As with all decisions relating to marriage, such matters are ultimately the responsibility of the parties involved.

1970s

President Kimball wrote a pamphlet entitled "Hope for Transgressors", in which he addressed leaders who were helping men who were involved in homosexual behavior. He said:

When you feel he is ready, he should be encouraged to date and move his life towards the normal. It is proper that a girl should be interested in a boy and a boy should be interested in a girl.

While marriage was mentioned as a possibility, it was not presented as a part of the repentance process or a cure. The idea of marriage was to be introduced only when the young man was ready, not as a means to be ready. There have been disastrous marriages that have resulted from people getting married before they were ready, but there are many marriages that have been very successful, especially those who have headed President Kimball's advice to wait until after you are ready before marriage.

1980s

In 1986, Elder Oaks had an interview with CBS. This was the discussion:

CBS: The Church has recommended in the past marriage as a part of repentance, when you're engaging in homosexual...

ELDER OAKS: I don't know whether that has been recommended by individual bishops or priesthood leaders counseling persons in individual circumstances. I just don't know that. Marriage is not usually thought of as an act of repentance.

CBS: As part of repentance from ...there have been several cases cited of when a homosexual who wants to remain within the fold and is fighting his feelings will go to a bishop or will go for counsel and what is recommended is that you repress those feelings and get married and have children and that will set you on a better path. Is that foreign to you? Does that sound...

ELDER OAKS: I don't know whether that has been recommended or not because the counseling sessions you refer to are very confidential counseling sessions and when the bishop comes out of that counseling session he doesn't report to anyone. When the person he's talking to comes out of that session they're free to talk to anyone and say anything without fear of contradiction. So I don't know. I just don't know what has been said in such sessions. [134]

In 1987, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

The Lord has proclaimed that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and is intended to be an eternal relationship bonded by trust and fidelity. Latter-day Saints, of all people, should marry with this sacred objective in mind. Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices, which first should clearly be overcome with a firm and fixed determination never to slip to such practices again. [135]

1990s

In Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems, the Church stated:

Marriage should not be viewed as a way to resolve homosexual problems. The lives of others should not be damaged by entering a marriage where such concerns exist. Encouraging members to cultivate heterosexual feelings as a way to resolve homosexual problems generally leads them to frustration and discouragement. However, some people have reported that once they are freed from homosexual problems, heterosexual feelings have gradually emerged. [136]

2006

Elder Oaks said:

We are sometimes asked about whether marriage is a remedy for these feelings that we have been talking about. President Hinckley, faced with the fact that apparently some had believed it to be a remedy, and perhaps that some Church leaders had even counseled marriage as the remedy for these feelings, made this statement: "Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices." To me that means that we are not going to stand still to put at risk daughters of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith.

On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity - that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate. [137]

2007

Elder Holland said:

For various reasons, marriage and children are not immediately available to all. Perhaps no offer of marriage is forthcoming. Perhaps even after marriage there is an inability to have children. Or perhaps there is no present attraction to the opposite gender... Recognize that marriage is not an all-purpose solution. Same-gender attractions run deep, and trying to force a heterosexual relationship is not likely to change them. [138]

How do Mormons view the issue of heterosexual marriage for people with same-sex attraction?

The Church does not recommend marriage for everyone with same-sex attraction

The Church does not recommend marriage for everyone with same-sex attraction. They recommend being and open and honest before marriage, which correlates with scientific evidence for successful marriages. Even outside the church, people with same-sex attraction are marrying an opposites sex partner at rates higher then those who are committing to a same-sex partner.

The Church encourages all of its members to be open and honest with their spouse

The Church encourages all of its members to be open and honest with their spouse. (See Same-sex attraction/Honesty) In particular, they have discouraged members with same-sex attraction from using marriage as personal therapy or from lying in order to get married. However, they have said marriage can be appropriate in certain situations. Elder Oaks stated:

"We are sometimes asked about whether marriage is a remedy for these feelings that we have been talking about. President Hinckley, faced with the fact that apparently some had believed it to be a remedy, and perhaps that some Church leaders had even counseled marriage as the remedy for these feelings, made this statement: "Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices." To me that means that we are not going to stand still to put at risk daughters of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith. (See Same-sex attraction/Marriage as therapy)

On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.

President Hinckley said that marriage is not a therapeutic step to solve problems."[47]

Some critics have argued that by creating a culture which allows people with same-sex attraction to enter a marriage with a member of the opposite sex, the Church sets up its members for failure and heart-ache.

Some people have never had an attraction to the opposite sex, but develop an attraction for their spouse

Some critics have claimed that it is impossible for a man with same-sex attraction to develop a "great attraction" for a daughter of God (or a woman with same-sex attraction to develop a great attraction for a son of God) and therefore marriage is impossible and the Church should stop talking about it.

We know from anecdotal evidence that many people with same-sex attractions have developed an attraction for their spouse. Some people have never had an attraction to the opposite sex, but develop an attraction for their spouse. Other people have always had some level of opposite-sex attraction. (The term same-sex attraction can be applied to anyone who is attracted to the same sex, regardless of intensity or presence of opposite-sex attractions.) Other people have done all they could and have never been able to develop an attraction for the opposite sex. There is a great variety of ways people experience their sexuality, but regardless of the attractions a person experiences now or in the future, everyone can live the gospel, either through marriage or celibacy. To say no one with same-sex attraction can develop an attraction for a potential spouse denies the experience of many people. It would be just as naive as saying everyone with same-sex attraction can develop an attraction for a potential spouse.

Marriages where one spouse is attracted to the same sex are more prone to divorce and dissatisfaction

Marriages where one spouse is attracted to the same sex are more prone to divorce and dissatisfaction. The Church does not recommend marriage in all cases. For example, the Church recommends being open and honest with a spouse before marriage. Research by Buxton found that if a man with same-sex attraction were to enter a marriage without disclosing their attractions, the marriage had a 85% chance of failure within three years after the sexual attractions were discovered.

Most often, the couple choose not to stay together after the disclosure. However, for those who did try to make their marriages work, they found relatively high success rates after being open and honest. The study concluded:

"The significant finding is that about half of those who tried to make their marriages work succeeded, an important figure for couples who are dismayed by the fifteen percent figure to keep in mind. This low figure is based on all marriages where the husband came out."[48]

On the other hand, research by Kays found that open and honest communication lead to higher rates of stability and satisfaction in marriage. They found that some of the couples "report having a highly satisfying and stable relationship, similar to that of heterosexual marriages."[49]

Prevalence of marriages

According to the Straight Spouse Network, there are two million opposite-sex marriages in the United States where one of the spouses is attracted to the same sex. According to The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, 3.5% of men married to women and 2.1% of women married to men reported same-sex attraction. Those are people who are actually married. Compare that with US Census Bureau's estimate that there are 646,464 same-sex couples in the United States. This includes both those who consider themselves married and those who do not. While marriage may not work for everyone with same-sex attraction, it seems that even in modern America, more people with same-sex attraction choose committed relationships with people of the opposite sex than with those of the same sex.

It is important to note that these figures include everyone who self-reported having same-sex attraction. It does not include those who did not self report same-sex attraction, nor did it report the degree of same-sex attraction. Same-sex attraction includes both those who only attracted to the same sex as well as those who have attraction to both sexes.


This section is a chronology of statements from primary and secondary sources. Sources may be viewed by following the citation links.

Is it hypocritical for the Church to oppose same-sex marriage, when its members practiced plural marriage?

There is a significant difference between laws prohibiting polygamy and laws prohibiting same-sex marriage

Critics of Mormonism argue that it is hypocritical for the LDS Church to oppose same-sex marriage, when the Church itself had an alternative form of marriage.

The Church supports all of the rights for same-sex couples that they sought for polygamous families plus some. Same-sex marriage is doing more than extending rights to same-sex couples, but is setting a new standard that excludes people with same-sex attraction who are living the gospel standards. The Church never sought to force polygamy on other people, yet the Supreme Courts and many gay right organizations are seeking to take away rights from people who do not live up to the new standards.

There is a significant difference between laws prohibiting polygamy and laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. Anti-polygamy laws did not allow men to live with their wives. Men were arrested for living in the homes where their children lived so that they could fulfill their parental responsibiliies. However, even where laws do not allow for same-sex marriage, same-sex couples may form a family and live together. They may even choose to hold their own "marriage" ceremony and introduce each other as husband or wife.

The Church has supported rights for all people to pursue their own happiness according to the dictates of their own consciences, both for themselves and for others

The Church has supported rights for all people to pursue their own happiness according to the dictates of their own consciences, both for themselves and for others. The church never sought for polygamy to be held up as a national standard, requiring all citizens to accept a moral equivalence between polygamy and monogamy. In fact, the Church has already championed rights for people with same-sex attractions that go beyond any right they ever sought for themselves in their practice of polygamy. The right to set a new standard for marriage that would apply to the rest of the United States was not a right that the Church sought for polygamous families. It should not be a right that same-sex couples should seek for themselves.

Different levels of rights

Often, when we talk about rights, different kinds of rights get lumped together into one group. Everyone knows that humans have certain inalienable rights, but we often don't discuss what happens when those rights conflict. There are several different kinds of rights associated with sexual practices.

One basic right is the right to practice your desired sexual relationship. In most modern societies, any number or gender of consenting adults can usually practice their desired relationship without fear of legal retribution. But, even in the most liberal societies, this right is generally tempered by the right of other people to disagree about the morality of that relationship.

Another right is the right to legal protection from discrimination. This would include laws that would penalize people for treating you differently because of your sexual practices. For example, in most countries, it is illegal to treat an inter-racial couple or a same-sex couple differently when it comes to housing or employment. The church has been a strong supporter of protection against discrimination in housing and employment for people with same-sex attraction, including same-sex couples.

Another set of rights includes government help in maintaining your family. This would include legal recognition of your relationship and associated rights such as visitation rights. It may also help subsidize the cost of your relationships, through tax breaks and other benefits. Some modern societies have extended these rights to same-sex couples, and the church has publicly stated that they do not oppose these rights.

A final right that might be discussed is to have your government adopt your sexual relationship as a model, requiring it to be taught in schools as the moral equivalent of traditional marriage. The church is strongly opposed to this infringement of their religious right to determine their own standards of sexual morality according to the dictates of their own consciences.

Rights associated with plural marriage

When the church supported plural marriage, they were seeking for that most basic of rights - the right to practice their religion. They were not seeking for the United States to recognize their plural marriages, to subsidize their relationships with tax breaks, or to force all citizens to accept it as the moral equivalent of their own monogamous traditions. They only sought to be left to practice their religion in peace.

But the federal government would not allow them even this most basic of rights. Husbands were forcibly separated from their wives and children. Men who tried to sneak into their homes to provide food for their families were arrested, if they were caught. Some moved to other countries so they could continue to be with their families.

Rights for same-sex couples

There are many rights that same-sex couples do not have. The church has publicly supported many rights and have pressed for changes in legal system to afford these rights to same-sex couples. The rights that the church supports for same-sex couples goes BEYOND any right that they have ever sought for polygamous families.

The Church has no problem with people living life as they see fit when it doesn't interfere with other rights. However, as is often the case, when some rights expand, others diminish. For example, while supporting the rights of people with same-sex attraction to be free from discrimination in employment and housing, the church was in essence restricting the rights of landlords to choose their tenants and employers to choose their employees.

Many people think legalizing same-sex marriage is a necessary step to ensure that same-sex couples have the rights they need to protect their families from discrimination. They do not understand why they Church would be opposed to these rights. As stated earlier, the Church is not opposed to these rights, but adopting same-sex marriage as a national standard equivalent to opposite-sex marriage goes beyond simply living peacefully with those who choose to live a different standard. It is disregarding the old standard and replacing it with a new standard. This will have a detrimental effect on those who do not live up to the new standard.

New standard being introduced with same-sex marriage

The movement to legalize same-sex marriage is setting a dangerous standard of what is expected for people with same-sex attractions. It used to be that society expected people with same-sex attraction to get married to people of the opposite-sex. This type of expectation can cause damage for people with same-sex attraction who are not ready for marriage, and has been opposed by the Church for decades. (See Same-sex attraction/Marriage as therapy

Now, a new expectation is beginning to form that people with same-sex attraction can't have a fulfilling and faithful marriage with someone of the opposite sex and that they must marry someone of the same sex. Expectations of any sort are dangerous and hurt people who do not meet those expectations. About half of faithful members of the Church with same-sex attraction are heterosexually married, and many others have found fulfillment in celibacy. The new standard being adopted by several courts does not have room for these faithful members.

For example, the California Supreme Court ruled that, for people with same-sex attraction, their "choice of a life partner will, by definition, be a person of the same sex", and that was what their "true identity" should be. Later, Judge Walker ruled that the marriages of many members of the church with same-sex attraction was "unrealistic". The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that these relationships were "unappealing" and was "no right at all".

While many same-sex marriage supporters do not wish to harm those who follow the law of chastity, many major organizations have actively sought to take away rights from those people who do not live up to the new standard. For example, the Human Rights Campaign has actively opposed anti-discrimination employment rights for gay people who do not have gay sex.[50] It is ironic that while the Church has been actively lobbying to extend employment rights for all LGBT people, the Human Rights Campaign has worked and has succeeded in taking away those exact same rights from LGBT people who live Church standards.

By the Supreme Courts encoding this new standard into law, people with same-sex attraction who do not live up to the standard can be discriminated against in the private sector. For example, Apple recently removed an app from its iTune collection because the organization who put it up was composed of gay Christians who lived the law of chastity. A spokesperson for Apple explained that having an app for gay people who live the law of chastity "violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people". [51][52][53] There is a difference between seeking for the right to live an alternative lifestyle and taking away rights from those who do not choose your lifestyle because you find it "offensive". It is interesting to note this organization has made a statement supporting people's right to choose same-sex relationships.[54]

Isn't the Church's opposition to same-sex marriage hypocritical, considering that they used to ban black from holding the priesthood until 1978?

The Law of Chastity is doctrine with scriptural precedent, whereas the priesthood ban was a practice that was always said to be temporary

President McKay taught:

There is not now, and there never has been a doctrine in this church that the negroes are under a divine curse. There is no doctrine in the church of any kind pertaining to the negro. We believe that we have a scriptural precedent for withholding the priesthood from the negro. It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice someday will be changed. And that's all there is to it. (Sterling M. McMurrin affidavit, March 6, 1979. See David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Greg Prince and William Robert Wright. Quoted by Genesis Group)[55]

The priesthood ban was not based on a choice

Just because a black man was denied the priesthood before 1978, does not mean he did anything wrong. It was a practice that was applied to all black men and had nothing to do with the choices of the individual person. Being black was not a choice that he made. Following the law of chastity is a choice. Everyone can follow the law of chastity, regardless of sexual orientation. If someone chooses to have sexual relationships outside of a heterosexual marriage, that is a worthiness issue and is a choice that they are making.

It was prophesied that the priesthood ban would be reversed

It was prophesied that the priesthood ban would be reversed, whereas we are told the law of chastity would always be in place. </