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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “05 – The Miracle of Forgiveness”

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05 – The Miracle of Forgiveness


[p. 281] in 1947, a new member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Spencer W. Kimball, was assigned to handle interviews with members involved in sexual transgressions, including homosexuality. These experiences prompted him to make admonishments of chastity a frequent theme of his sermons. While many church authorities have compared homosexuality to the other sexual sins of fornication and adultery, they usually go further and referred to homosexuality as a ‘perversion’ or a ‘crime against nature’ in addition to a sin. Fornication and adultery are perceived to be heterosexual, and thus more understandable, sins. In 1959, Kimball and another apostle, Mark E. Petersen, received a special assignment to counsel homosexuals. The church hierarchy had noticed that this problem was appearing more and more frequently.

(Eric Gottfrid Swedin, “‘You are healing souls:’ A History of Psychotherapy Within the Modern Latter-day Saint Community,” PhD dissertation, Case Western Reserve University, January 1996)


“I am persuaded to consider briefly another area of trouble which has been more in the background but which now is being written about in many magazines and is being brought out into the limelight.  The group of psychiatrists mentioned above especially requested to know of our work with regard to certain unholy practices.  They asked about those deviates called ‘peeping toms,’ exhibitionists, homosexuals, and perverts in other areas.

Perhaps you can also be helpful in these areas as you indoctrinate in the preventive spiritual medicine.

When quite a number of men were being arrested for these ugly practices, the presidents called one of my colleagues and myself in and charged us with the responsibility of helping these people on a church level.  Naturally, our work was limited largely to the Northern Utah area, though in a limited way we have helped some people afar through their bishops and stake presidents.…

Our helper bishops and our program of rehabilitation are known now to the police, the courts and the judges who refer many cases directly.  When cases come to us, we usually interview the person then refer him to our special assistant.…

Our associate is not a trained psychiatrist nor does he pretend to be a trained social worker, but he is a humble servant of the Lord applying to the cases love, understanding and righteous principles.… There have been numerous cures.

Through the years, we have heard that homosexuality was an incurable disease but now many authorities agree that one is recoverable from its clutches.…

The same report … states that these people are formally organized with a central office and a magazine of their own and that ‘They are determined to be accepted not as lawbreakers, sinners, or even as sick people, but as a different kind of people leading an acceptable kind of life.’  The committee quotes these deviates as claiming theirs is a ‘noble, preferable way of life, and the perfect answer to the population explosion.’…

We know such a disease is curable.…

The cure for this malady lies in self mastery which is the fundamental basis of the whole gospel program.”  (Spencer W. Kimball, “A Counselling Problem in the Church,” BYU, July 10, 1964)


“[p. 271] In 1947 when Elder Charles Callis had died, President [J. Reuben] Clark had asked Elder [Spencer] Kimball to help fill the gap.  There began for him a disturbing flow of interviews with Church members involved in fornication or adultery or homosexuality, cases which formerly had been directed to Elder Callis.…

[p. 381] Although heterosexual sex offenses provided a constant stream of distressing interviews over the years, a changing pattern emerged from homosexuality.  In the early years of Elder Kimball’s ministry these problems rarely surfaced, if they existed.  But in the 1960s a growing number of cases came to his attention, partly because he, along with Mark E. Petersen, had received special assignment in 1959 to counsel homosexuals.”  (Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1977))


“9:00 a.m.

Held a meeting with Presidents Tanner, Smith, and Dyer. President Brown was absent.


At the beginning of the meeting we met with Elders Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve and discussed the report which they had presented at a recent meeting of the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve regarding an assignment that had been given them by me about eight years ago to develop a program to help those of our people who are involved in homosexual and perversion practices.

I was greatly shocked and dismayed to learn of the extent of the penetration of this dreaded practice, which has spread even to the membership of the Church. Elder Kimball mentioned that this problem has grown all over the world, and that it has now come out in the open, whereas formerly it was undercover. Now, an effort is being made to make this perversion respectable, and the newspapers and magazines deal with the question almost constantly.

Elder Kimball said that if their assignment is to be continued, they need much more help; that he and Brother Petersen cannot carry the program without additional help with all the other responsibilities they have.

After a discussion of this matter, Elder Kimball said their recommendation would be that a Church Committee be appointed, and if it were preferred to rotate the assignment and choose some of the other Brethren to take care of this matter, they would welcome such a change.

There ensued a discussion wherein President Dyer felt that any continuation of investigation into this matter, and the consultations to be had with those so afflicted, could perhaps be set up in a correlated manner through the Church organization with a certain few being given the responsibility and called to direct the work; that it be handled through the Stake Presidents and Bishops. However, President Tanner and Elders Kimball and Petersen felt that it is best to let the Committee continue on by adding some ten or twelve others to it to carry on the work, exclusive of any direct connection whatsoever with Stakes and Wards, only as the Committee may want to consult with the Bishops.…

It was agreed, therefore, that Elders Kimball and Petersen should continue to go forward with this work and they were authorized to submit a list of names for approval of the brethren, (perhaps one or two sisters), whom they would recommend be asked to assist them in this work. It was also suggested that Elder Kimball and Elder Petersen report to me at least once every six months. It was indicated that they would need at least ten other people to assist them to commence with, and that as the work developed and the program increased, they could give consideration to the recommendation that it be brought under the Correlation Committee.”  (David O. McKay diary, December 11, 1968)


“Ironically, Kimball’s “definitive” statement against homosexuality in The Miracle of Forgiveness came out just as the “Gay liberation movement” gained national attention with the watershed “Stonewall Riots” in New York City, beginning on June 27, 1969.… June 27th is now regarded and celebrated internationally as “Gay Pride Day”.… (Connell O’Donovan, “’The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature’: A Revised History of Homosexuality & Mormonism, 1840-1980,” 2004)


“Crime Against Nature – Chapter Six

[p. 78] While we should not regard this weakness [masturbation] 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—practiced with another person of the same sex—and then into total homosexuality.…

[Homosexuality] is embarrassing and unpleasant as a subject for discussion but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved with it, it is discussed in this chapter.…

It is a sin of the ages.… As far back as Henry the Eighth this vice was referred to as ‘the abominable and detestable crime against nature.’

Thus it is that through the ages, perhaps as an extension of homosexual practices, men and women have sunk even to seeking sexual satisfactions with animals.… 

[p. 79]  This ‘liberalizing’ process is reflected in the United States by communities of homosexuals in our larger cities who demand acceptance of their deviate beliefs and practices as ‘normal,’ who sponsor demonstrations and draw up petitions to this end, who are formally organized, and who even print their own perverted journals.…

If all the people in the world were to accept homosexuality, as it seems to have been accepted in Sodom and Gomorrah, the practice would still be deep, dark sin.

Those who would claim that the homosexual is a third sex and that there is nothing wrong in such associations can hardly believe in God or in his scriptures.  If God did not exist, such an unnatural and improper practice might be [p. 80] viewed differently, but one could never justify it while accepting the holy scriptures.…

Of the adverse social effects of homosexuality none is more significant than the effect on marriage and home.…

[p. 81]  Let it therefore be clearly stated that the seriousness of the sin of homosexuality is [p. 82] equal to or greater than that of fornication or adultery; and that the Lord’s Church will as readily take action to disfellowship or excommunicate the unrepentant practicing homosexual as it will the unrepentant fornicator or adulterer.…”  [Note that later, Kimball endorsed excommunication for merely being homosexual.] 

“[p. 82] Recognizing the seriousness of this problem in modern society and the need which offenders have to be assisted back to normal living, the Church has appointed two of its General Authorities [Spencer Kimball and Mark Petersen] to help on a Church level.… The success of this rehabilitation program has become known to the police, the courts and the judges, who refer many cases directly to the two Brethren, sometimes on a probation basis.…

Certainly it can be overcome, for there are numerous happy people who were once involved in its clutches and who have since completely transformed their lives.  Therefore to those who say that this practice or any other evil is incurable, I respond: ‘How can you say the door cannot be opened until your knuckles are bloody, till your head is bruised, till your muscles are sore?  It can be done.’…

[p. 83] Accordingly some totally conquer homosexuality in a few months, others linger on with less power and require more time to make the total comeback.…

Of all the numerous people who have come through this special Church program, very few have been excommunicated.…”

[p. 85] “Next in seriousness to nonrecognition of the sin is the attempt to justify oneself in this perversion.  Many have been misinformed that they are powerless in the matter, not responsible for the tendency, and that ‘God made them that way.’  This is as untrue as any other of the diabolical lies Satan has concocted.  It is blasphemy.  Man is made in the image of God.  Does the pervert think God to be ‘that way’?…

[p. 86] But let this individual repent of his perversion, force himself to return to normal pursuits and interests and actions and friendships with the opposite sex, and this normal pattern can become natural again.”  (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), chapter six)


“There is much concern on the part of the brethren concerning the apparent increase in homosexuality and other deviations, and we call to your attention a program designed to assist those who are thus afflicted.  Two of the Council of the Twelve have been appointed to direct a program to help those who may be involved in these devastating patterns of behavior.…

If additional assistance is required, it can be requested from President Spencer W. Kimball and Elder Mark E. Petersen who will send material and give counsel.”  (First Presidency Circular Letter, March 19, 1970, signed by Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee and N. Eldon Tanner)


“[p. 4] There must be positive action.  Mere abandonment of the evil is only a first step in restoration.  There must be substitution.  The person should purge out the evil and then fill his life with constructive positive activities and interests.  He will throw away his pornographic materials and will have ceased reading articles about homosexuality and will substitute therefor the scriptures and worthy books and articles which will give the mind proper occupation.…

[p. 5] The entrenched homosexual has generally and gradually moved all of his interests and affections to those of his own sex rather than to the opposite sex and herein is another step.  When you feel he is ready, he should be encouraged to date and gradually move his life toward the normal.…

[p. 6] If they will close the door to the intimate associations with their own sex and open it wide to that of the other sex, of course in total propriety, and then be patient and determined, gradually they can move their romantic interests where they belong.  Marriage and normal life can follow.…

[p. 7] If you find some cases extra difficult and you feel that additional assistance and suggestions are necessary, feel free to contact the brethren who have been appointed to assist in this important phase of the church work—President Spencer W. Kimball and Elder Mark E. Petersen.…

REMEMBER: Homosexuality CAN be cured, if the battle is well organized and pursued vigorously and continuously.


Now let us assure you that you are not permanently trapped in this unholy practice if you will exert yourself.  Though it is like an octopus with numerous tentacles to drag you to your tragedy, the sin is curable and you may [p. 11] totally recover from its tentacles.…

[p. 32] REMEMBER: Homosexuality CAN be cured, if the battle is well organized and pursued vigorously and continuously.””  (Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Petersen {?}, Hope for Trangressors (Church . . ., 1970))


“[p. 5] Next to the crime of murder comes the sin of sexual impurity as expressed in its many manifestations: adultery, fornication, homosexuality and related transgressions.…

[p. 11] Satan tells his victims that it is a natural way of life; that it is normal; that perverts are a different kind of people born ‘that way’ and that they cannot change.  This is a base lie. [italics in original]…

[p. 13] They rationalize that they are of another class of people; that the Lord made them that way; that they cannot change.  The power Lucifer has had his day.  He whispers into their ears: ‘This is no sin.  You are no transgressor.  I am no devil.  There is no Evil One.  There is no black—all is white for you.’…

[p. 20] Pure logic also outlaws this practice.  The world cannot survive through this ugly practice.  Imagine if you can, the total race skidding down in this practice like Sodom did—no more marriages, no more children, no more family life—just one generation of gratification of lusts and the end.…

[p. 33] God did not make men evil.  He did not make people ‘that way.’” (Spencer W. Kimball, New Horizons for Homosexuals (Church . . ., 1971))


“’Every form of homosexuality is sin,’ said Spencer W. Kimball, head of the 3.3-million-member denomination.”  (The Advocate, November 6, 1974, p. 15)


“Sometimes masturbation is the introduction to the more serious sins of exhibitionism and the gross sin of homosexuality.  We would avoid mentioning these unholy terms and these reprehensible practices were it not for the fact that we have a responsibility to the youth of Zion that they be not deceived by those who would call bad good and black white.

This unholy transgression seems to be rapidly growing.  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.

Again contrary to the belief and statement of many people, this sin, like fornication, is overcomable and forgivable, but again, 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.”  (Spencer W. Kimball, “Love vs. Lust,” BYU Publications, 1975, p. 9)


“The president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Friday singer Anita Bryant is ‘doing a great service’ by attacking the homosexual rights movement.

However, President Spencer W. Kimball, asked if the Mormon Church ‘endorses’ Miss Bryant’s national crusade against gays, said, ‘I don’t know if I would say that.’

The LDS leader’s comments about Miss Bryant came during a backstage press conference prior to a special convocation speech in Weber State College’s Fine Arts Center auditorium.

‘As any woman she (Miss Bryant) has a right to do as she pleases,’ President Kimball said, his wife at his side.  ‘She (Miss Bryant) is doing a great service.’

Miss Bryant recently founded an organization, Save Our Children, that successfully overturned an ordinance in Dade County, Fla., that prohibited discrimination against homosexuals.

‘We feel the homosexual program is not a natural and normal way of life,’ President Kimball said.…”  (“LDS Leader Hails Anti-Gay Stand,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 5, 1977, p. D3)

[In 4056, p. 281]

Despite the frequent claim by homosexuals that they had no control over their sexual orientation, Spencer [Kimball] believed that this problem, like all others, would yield to the consistent prayerful exercise of self-restraint. He pointed out that homosexuals rarely were excommunicated for their past acts but usually only for their unwillingness to make the effort to change. (Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints {SLC: Bookcraft, 1977}, p. 381)


“Homosexuality in men and lesbianism in women violate the moral code of the Church.  Common judges should keep this in mind when conducting worthiness interviews.

Enclosed for your information and use in counseling those who have these problems are several copies of Letter to a Friend by President Spencer W. Kimball and To the One by Elder Boyd K. Packer.”  (Circular letter to all stake, mission, and district presidents, bishops and branch presidents, May 8, 1978, signed by Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner and Marion G. Romney.)


“[p. 2] For those just beginning in the practice of homosexuality or those deeply entrenched, there is hope.…

[p. 3] Next to the crime of murder comes the sin of sexual impurity as expressed in its many manifestations: adultery, fornication, homosexuality and related transgressions.…

[p. 8] It Is Curable

Now let us assure you that you are not permanently trapped in this unholy practice if you will exert yourself.…

Satan tells his victims that it is a natural way of life; that it is normal; that perverts are a different kind of people born ‘that way’ and that they cannot change.  This is a base lie.…

‘The knowledge that homosexuality can be effectively treated must be made more generally known.…’ [quoting Psychiatric Spectator, 2(4), Jan., 1965]

[p. 9] Homosexuality certainly is a leaky cistern.  It means waste of power, an end to the family and to the civilization.  One generation of it would depopulate the world leaving it a dry well as Peter described. (Read 2 Peter 2.)…

[p. 11] … you can recover, and you can become the man your Heavenly Father created you to be.

[p. 18] From the beginning, the Lord has commanded mankind to multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it.  And from that day until now, the prophets have denounced and condened any of the unnatural and improper practices that make multiplying impossible and kill that which is the basis of true civilization—the home and family.”  (Spencer W. Kimball, A Letter to a Friend, Revised edition [May] 1978)


“The unholy transgression of homosexuality is either rapidly growing or tolerance is giving it wider publicity.… 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.

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.…

This heinous homosexual sin is of the ages.  Many cities and civilizations have gone out of existence because of it.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality.  Special Message to All Latter-day Saints,” Ensign, November, 1980, p. 97)


“I received my mission call to the Georgia Atlanta Mission, where I spent the next two years leading the life of a typical Mormon Missionary.…

I was convinced that my sexual orientation was a punishment from God for something that I had done wrong, though I did not know what it was. By now I was becoming very depressed, and began to search the scriptures and books by the General Authorities to see if I could find answers to my questions about homosexuality. I read a book by President Spencer W. Kimball titled, “The Miracle of Forgiveness.” He seemed to insinuate that homosexuality was brought upon a person through lesser sins, that “snowballed” into what he called “a crime against nature … an ugly sin, repugnant to those who find no temptation in it …” He continued that homosexuality is “curable, and forgivable.” This cure that I was reading about piqued my interest, and I diligently searched the rest of his book for this cure. Unfortunately, the advice that I found was what I had already been doing most of my life, but I vowed to continue to put evil thoughts out of my mind, and replace them with good, wholesome thoughts. I vowed to continue dating good, wholesome young women who were members of the Church. I vowed to obey the commandments, and to live my life in accordance with the Gospel. But I was already doing all of this, and so I was even more confused as to why I was plagued with these feelings. I wanted desperately to repent, but I did not know what I needed to repent of. I shed many tears on my bed as I knelt in prayer to the Lord in a desperate search for answers. 

Finally I decided that I was not worthy of life, and after many hours of prayer, and searching President Kimball’s book, I concluded that I must end my life. On May 1, 1985, I took an overdose of several different types of sleeping pills in an attempt to do just that. Fortunately, this attempt was unsuccessful, but for five days I was unconscious in intensive care. As I recovered during the next month, I received counseling from psychologists who diagnosed my condition as depression, put me on anti-depressant medication, and suggested further counseling. Through that counseling, my homosexuality was made known. For the first time in my life I admitted it to another person, my counselor, and with her help I was able to feel better about myself, and admit to my family why I tried to commit suicide. Fortunately, they were very supportive and understanding and did not condemn me in any way. 

My activity in the Church has decreased, and although I have not resolved all of the conflicts, I continue to have very strong feelings and beliefs toward the Gospel, and have a very strong testimony of it. Somehow through all of this, I also believe in myself, and have accepted my homosexuality as a part of myself as a worthy child of God.”  (David Malstrom, “A Son’s Story,” Reunion: The Family Fellowship Newsletter, Winter 1997, p, 3)


“Acknowledgment of the presence of Gay and Bisexual Mormons became so significant that in 1959 church president David O. McKay assigned Apostles Spencer Kimball and Mark E. Petersen, to “help” Gays overcome their “homosexual problems”. This assignment for the two Apostles came about because “quite a number of [Mormon] men were being arrested” at that time for being “‘peeping toms’, exhibitionists, homosexuals, and perverts in other areas” (no doubt referring to the recent arrests of Gays in Rexburg, Boise, and Salt Lake). It should be acknowledged that this assignment was only a reinforcement of what Kimball had already been doing for many years. Four years after Kimball was made an Apostle in 1943, Elder Charles A. Callis died and J. Reuben Clark “asked Elder Kimball to fill the gap.…

Besides being formally assigned to deal with homosexuality in 1959, Kimball decided that year that the church was in great need of “an extensive treatise on repentance” and thus began “jotting down scriptures for people to study…[and] developed some lists for recurring problems”, including homosexuality. These general notes became the basis for The Miracle of Forgiveness, while his notes on homosexuality eventually resulted in four major works (as well as numerous minor works or statements): “A Counselling Problem in the Church” (1964); “The Crime Against Nature” chapter of The Miracle of Forgiveness (1969); “Hope for Transgressors” (1970), which was written for church leaders; and a year later Kimball wrote a pamphlet directly addressing the Gay Mormon as “New Horizons for Homosexuals” (1971) which was then reprinted as “A Letter to a Friend” in 1978.…

Although dealing with various problems in Mormon society, the largest portion of “A Counselling Problem in the Church” deals with homosexuality and became the basis for all subsequent homophobic discourse in the Mormon Church.…

Spencer Kimball culled most of the information for his grossly-misinformed, homophobic speeches from popular tabloids and magazines, such as Life magazine and Medical World News (and even from a “circular” published by the Bank of Montreal!) Anti-Gay articles had appeared in both of these magazines during the month before Kimball’s speech at BYU. As the historian John D’Emilio documents, “the notion of homosexuality as mental illness was receiving greater dissemination during the early 1960s” and for Gay radicals and activists in larger cities like New York, this negative “medical model of homosexuality hung like a millstone around the [homosexual] movement’s neck”. Both Irving Bieber’s 1962 psychoanalytic study Homosexuality and the New York Academy of Medicine’s 1964 report, which argued that “homosexuality was an acquired illness susceptible to cure”, received extensive media attention and gave Kimball fodder for his negative attitude toward and teachings on homosexuality. (Kimball, for example, echoes the medical model when he writes that “this disease is curable”, and even briefly quotes from the statement made by the New York Academy of Medicine.) While these reports promulgated homophobic views built on “loose reasoning…poor research…[and] examination of non-representative samplings”, it broke the media’s (and church’s) silence on homosexual issues. Kimball’s homophobic ideas went on to influence fellow church leaders and hundreds of thousands of followers. Thus Kimball, like Mormon leaders before and since, was affected by mainstream homophobic views, which he then intensified through his ecclesiastical authority.…

On January 5, 1965, Kimball again spoke at BYU, this time to the student body, harshly condemning homosexuality in “Love versus Lust”, later published in BYU Speeches of the Year. This talk drew heavily from his “Counselling Problem” speech of the previous year. The following is a brief quote from the address:

… Good men, wise men, God-fearing men everywhere… denounce the practice as being unworthy of sons of God; and Christ’s Church denounces it and condemns it so long as men have bodies which can be defiled. This heinous homosexual sin is of the ages. Many cities and civilizations have gone out of existence because of it.…

This is a most unpleasant subject to dwell upon, but I am pressed to speak it boldly so that no student in this University, nor youth in the Church, will ever have any question in his mind as to the illicit and diabolical nature of this perverse program.…

“Hope for Transgressors”

… I must point out that the LDS priesthood leader is not once instructed to feel or demonstrate love or compassion for the homosexual. In fact the only time the word love occurs in this entire pamphlet is when the leader is promised that homosexuals “will love your for all eternity for your help to them”!

“New Horizons for Homosexuals” (later aka “A Letter to a Friend”)

A year after “Hope for Transgressors” was distributed to bishops and stake presidents, Kimball published “New horizons for Homosexuals” through Deseret News Press, for distribution throughout the church to all members who were dealing with homosexuality. Written initially for a close relative of Kimball’s, either on December 12, 1965 or sometime during 1966, it was revised in 1971 for a more general audience, but retained its “letter” format and saccharine, ingratiating paternalism.…

Finally in this pamphlet Kimball does state that “[t]he Lord, His Church, and we, His leaders, love you.” However this single affirmation of ecclesiatical “love” rings completely hollow when compared with the rest of the 34 pages of condemnatory language in which Gays and their desires are described as utterly despicable and completely controlled by Satan.…

When Kimball “personally reported” to President David O. McKay in 1968 on his and Petersen’s work in counseling male and female homosexual Mormons, McKay “agreed to an enlarged committee”. Kimball then lamented, “We have lost some who did not cooperate and were belligerent and went to the large cities to hide, but I feel there are many happy people today because of the work that Brother Petersen and I have done through the years”.…

Several other Gays I have interviewed also told me that they had been sent or personally given similar letters to sign as “proof” that they were “cured” of homosexuality. All signed them in order to decrease ecclesiastical surveillance and punishment.

After ten years of preparation, Kimball finally published in 1969 his classic treatise on sin and repentance, The Miracle of Forgiveness. In chapter six, “The Crime Against Nature”, he detailed his absurd theory that masturbation leads to homosexuality, which in turn, can lead to bestiality. He also claimed that “the sin of homosexuality is equal to or greater than that of fornication or adultery,” effectively placing homosexuality next to murder in the Mormon hierarchy of sins. As Kimball’s biography states, while preparing the text of The Miracle of Forgiveness for publication, he believed that homosexuality “would yield to consistent prayerful exercise of self-restraint. He pointed out that homosexuals rarely were excommunicated for their past acts but usually only for their unwillingness to make the effort to change” their sexual orientation.

Kimball and Petersen were formally released in 1972 from their assignment to “assist” homosexuals in changing their sexual orientation and repenting of their “sinfulness”. The assignment was turned over to the “Personal Welfare Service of LDS Social Services”. By 1978, the “church director” in charge of working with homosexuals in LDS Social Services was a man named Kent Petersen. However, Kimball continued to make homosexuality a priority and went out of his way to counsel LGBT Mormons. In 1977, Victor L. Brown Jr. (of the Values Institute) told Duane Jeffrey, BYU Zoology professor, that as of 1976, Kimball had extensive files on some 1500 homo-, bi-, and transsexual Mormons.

During the October 1977 General Conference Kimball gave a speech called, “The Foundations of Righteousness” in which once again he severely attacked homosexuality. Kimball told the faithful that “Homosexuality is an ugly sin, but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved with it, it must be brought into the open. It is the sin of the ages….There is today a strong clamor to make such practices legal by passing legislation….We do not hesitate to tell the world that the cure for these evils is not in surrender….As we think back upon the experiences of Nineveh, Babylon, Sodom and Gomorrah, we wonder – will history repeat itself?”…” (Connell O’Donovan, “’The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature’:  A Revised History of Homosexuality & Mormonism, 1840-1980,” 2004)


“From July 1977 to July 1979, Apostle Mark E. Petersen wrote six extremely harsh editorials for the Mormon Church News attacking the national Gay rights movement. For Petersen, homosexuality was “a menace to the population at large”. According to him, Lesbian and Gay pleas for tolerance and legal recourse for discrimination “should disgust every thinking person”. The following are quotes from five of Petersen’s editorials, highlighting his homophobic viewpoint:

  • “Newsweek Magazine says that there are 20 million homosexuals in the United States.  A 37 year-old woman, Anita Bryant of Miami, Fla., is waging a determined fight to keep this evil from spreading, by legal acceptance, through society….Every right thinking person will sustain Miss Bryant, a prayerful, upright citizen for her stand.  Righteous people everywhere also should look to their own neighborhoods to determine to what extent the ‘gay’ people have infiltrated their areas….Immorality between the sexes has become a national disgrace.  It raises a stench in the nostrils of every right-thinking person.  But immorality WITHIN the sexes is at least as repulsive and disgusting and is severely condemned by Almighty God.  When the Lord places sex sin next to murder in its seriousness, he most certainly included homosexual offenses.  They are against every right principle.”  (“Unnatural, without excuse,” July 9, 1977, p. 16)
  •  “The homosexuals claim that God made them that way and hence are powerless to change, which is a complete fabrication and a deep delusion, for it was the Lord who provided the death penalty for these people in ancient times.” (“The strong delusions”, January 14, 1978, p. 16)
  • “Every right thinking person should wholeheartedly battle the tendency to make unclean things and habits appear to be clean and respectable.  The furore [sic] now arising over the homosexual issue is but one example.  Legislators, like everyone else, must recognize that the unclean is unclean regardless of the attire in which it appears…Then on what basis do the adherents to this practice demand special privilege?  Who are they that they should parade their debauchery and call it clean?  They even form their own churches and profess to worship the very God who denounces their behavior – and they do not repent.  They form their own political groups and seek to compel the public to respect them.  Do other violators of the law of God receive special consideration?…Any reader of Leviticus (Chapters 18 and 20) knows the answer [referring to executing Gays].”  (“Calling the kettle clean, ” March 18, 1978, p. 16)
  • “The persistent drive to make homosexuality an ‘accepted’ and legal way of life should disgust every thinking person….Homosexuality is a menace to the population at large.  It is especially so to young people, even to children.  In the interest of protecting the rights of ALL the people it should be classed not only as a threat to the rest of the population but as a crime which can and does involve many others, bringing distress, sorrow and corruption in its wake.” (“Is it a menace?” and July 29, 1979, p. 16)
  • “Since homosexuals have become a nationwide entity, and have come out of hiding to demand their place in the sun, many of them claim that they are what they are because they were born that way and cannot help it.  How ridiculous is such a claim.  It was not God who mad them that way, any more than He made bank robbers the way they are.  (“Sin is no excuse,” December 16, 1978, p. 16)

Petersen, like Kimball, actually drew the “expert evidence” for his editorials from popular media sources, such as Newsweek, Time, and the Sacramento Bee newspaper.” (Connell O’Donovan, “’The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature’:  A Revised History of Homosexuality & Mormonism, 1840-1980,” 2004)


“Preying upon the homophobia of church members, the church’s official statement claimed that passage of the ERA would bring about an “encouragement of those who seek a unisex society, an increase in the practice of homosexual and lesbian activities, and other concepts which could alter the natural, God-given relationship of men and women.” These and other anti-Gay phobias were reiterated in subsequent anti-ERA propaganda published by the church in 1979 and 1980. In June 1979, AP reporter David Briscoe interviewed Mormon President Spencer Kimball on the ERA and noted in a subsequent article for Utah Holiday that his “personal impression after the interview was that the ‘homosexual issue’ is a major factor in President Kimball’s opposition” to the amendment.” (Connell O’Donovan, “’The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature’:  A Revised History of Homosexuality & Mormonism, 1840-1980,” 2004)


“The book filled in need, as evidenced by the printing of 425,000 copies in English between its publication in 1969 and his death in 1985. The Church distributed a great many more copies in 16 other languages.…

He spent unaccountable hours over 10 years including the summer ‘vacations’ from conference assignments to produce a massive manuscript, enough for two volumes.…

The Miracle of Forgiveness set in demanding standard, and Spencer later seemed to wish he had adopted a gentler tone. In 1977 he invited Lyle Ward, the former Bishop of his home ward, and Lyle’s wife, Virginia, to his office, where he called them to preside over the Washington, DC, mission. In the course of the visit, he showed them many interesting gifts and artifacts in his office. Coming to a bookshelf holding the many translations of the Miracle of Forgiveness, he paused and pulled a copy out to the edge of the shelf, saying, ‘Sometimes I think I might have been a little too strong about some of the things I wrote in this book.’ His manner, according to Bishop Ward, indicated he had given the matter considerable thought.…

Indeed, it was a book more on sin and repentance then on forgiveness.…” (Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride, Working Draft, 2005, p. 79)


“[p. 87] I went in and talked to Spencer W. Kimball. He sat down and asked me for every intimate detail of every sexual experience I had ever had…He would ask me what positions we were in, what kind of lubrication did we use, and that kind of stuff—just amazing questions, he wanted to know every single detail. 

Then I told him I had decided to join the church…and so we kind of negotiated and he said he would think about letting me back in on probation to BYU. Then he knelt down with me at this little chair to say a prayer. I remember I wasn’t real comfortable with who he was because the whole church thing was kind of new to me, and the idea that he was an apostle was something that was still kind of bizarre… 

He said this little prayer, and we stood up and he walked me to the door, this had to be two and a half hours later, and he said, ‘There are two other pieces of advice I want to give you: One, when you find a woman who you want to marry, don’t ever tell her that this happened, and two, talk in a deeper voice.’ (Rick Pace [pseudonym] interview)

[p. 88] In 1959, however, after a period of relative silence toward homosexuality and vague admonitions against ‘immorality,’ Spencer W. Kimball issued a statement claiming that LDS President David O. McKay viewed homosexuality ‘as worse than (heterosexual) immorality, that it is a filthy and unnatural habit.… 

[p. 91] Spencer W. Kimball took notice in a 1964 BYU devotional speech citing a report from the New York Academy of Medicine: 

These deviates ‘are at least more open and obtrusive’ than they were in the past. [The report] states that these people are formally organized with a central office and a magazine of their own and that ‘they are determined to be accepted not as lawbreakers, sinners, or even as sick people, but as a different kind of people leading an acceptable kind of life.’ 

[p. 98] When Evan Thompson experienced anxiety over his homosexual feelings in the 1950s, he sought advice from LDS Apostle Mark E. Petersen, who shared Spencer W. Kimball’s special assignment to provide counsel in such matters. Evan asked if his homosexuality resulted from something he did in the ‘preexistence’ and Petersen replied no, that it was ‘a thing of this world, it’s like being born with a club foot.’ He advised Evan to distract himself with other interests and discouraged consideration of marriage… 

[p. 99] While unrepentant gays faced disfellowship or excommunication, Kimball described them as men who were ‘rebellious and unyielding, and practically asked for and demanded such action….Everyone who suffers this humiliation and deprivation must blame it on himself for every opportunity is [p. 100] given him to change and mold his life in an acceptable manner. Although church authorities continued to invoke free agency, sexual ‘transgressors’ were under severe pressure to conform, and it was difficult to reconcile free agency and personal responsibility with biologically-determined gender roles or coercive interventions such as aversion therapy. Application of behaviorist treatment methods by church-sanctioned doctors suggested sexual orientation was not a conscious choice, but those who refused ‘opportunities to change’ were deemed culpable and disciplined accordingly.…

When only the illness model of homosexuality prevailed among psychiatrists, who considered it a ‘progressive’ position compared to sin and criminality, homosexuality was contested between psychiatrists and conservative religious leaders. However, when a more ‘progressive’ generation of psychiatrists defended homosexuality as a normal human sexual variation, LDS leaders embraced the illness model and aligned themselves with orthodox psychiatrists.…

[p. 103] [Spencer] Kimball also promoted missionary work and marriage as ‘remedies’ for homosexuality, hi his public statements, Kimball employed the concepts of sin and sickness with equal facility, and his ‘treatment’ for ‘mental and physical sin’ included constructive activity ‘so full of good works there is no time nor thought for evil.’…

[p. 105] For evidence that homosexuality was treatable, Kimball turned to a recent piece in the Medical World News. ‘Therapeutic Hope for Homosexuals.’ The article described a study by Dr. Irving Bieber which unequivocally defined homosexuality as a disease and claimed 27 percent of a group of 106 homosexuals achieved heterosexual orientation through psychoanalysis. The report also defined homosexuals as emotionally immature individuals who had not acquired ‘a normal capacity to develop satisfying heterosexual relationships.’ Kimball repeated the article’s claim that ‘effectiveness of therapy depends on the depth of entrenchment of the perversion, as well as the strength of the patient’s desire to modify it,’ but he ignored its qualification that ‘therapy is difficult and…the prognosis must be guarded.’ Nor did he address situations where homosexuality was indeed deeply entrenched and, according to his stated logic, incurable. In such cases, free agency seemed irrelevant and disciplinary sanctions unjust. 

When Richard Tierlink discussed his homosexuality with his LDS mission president in the early 1960s, the latter advised him to avoid psychological literature on the subject because it contained ideas that were ‘the philosophy of men and not the Lord,’ and he should never seek psychological counsel ‘from anyone but the Brethren.’ [p. 106] Similarly, Rick Pace’s bishop advised him against majoring in Psychology because it was ‘like the devil’s tool’ and warned him about the evils of Sigmund Freud. Church leaders’ refusal to leave such matters to chance was not groundless, as more psychiatrists held the view that suppressing homosexuality was more damaging than accepting it.… Wayne Hewitt’s BYU therapist advised him that ‘all I needed to do was have sex with a woman and then everything would switch.’ After Wayne transferred to the University of Utah, however, a counselor there told him that ‘what the BYU therapist was doing, having me go with women and go to the point of petting with them was useless, that I was of a gay nature and I should accept that I was gay.’

[p. 107] Lack of psychiatric consensus on homosexuality made it easier for LDS psychiatrists to accommodate the church’s position; in this regard, Kimball’s address to the Mormon psychiatrists is noteworthy because the doctors sought his advice on the issue rather than vice versa.…

[p. 115] However, [Spencer] Kimball unwittingly created an expanding grapevine, soliciting information on gay sexual practices and meeting places from men he advised, then relaying it to others. During their sessions, Kimball provided clues about ‘cruising’ that Rick explored at BYU: 

He asked me if I ever noticed the guy peeing next to me in a bathroom, in other words, did I cruise public restrooms, and I remember thinking, ‘No, but what a good idea!’ I hadn’t thought of that before, my sexual experiences had always been because we were in a situation where it was [p. 116] already private and we could play around with each other.…

[p. 212] In a rhetorical passage soon belied by gays’ response to AIDS Kimball advised, 

Think for yourself what would these persons do for you should you suddenly fall victim to an incurable disease. Suppose your body shriveled; suppose you could no longer satisfy sexually; suppose you could no longer be ‘used.’ How long would the alleged friendship and the distorted so-called ‘love’ last?

[p. 236] During the church’s Fall 1977 General Conference, Kimball stated that ‘Homosexuality is an ugly sin, but because of its prevalence, the need to warn the uninitiated, and the desire to help those who may already be involved with it, it must be brought into the open.’…” (Douglas A. Winkler, “Lavender Sons of Zion: A History of Gay Men in Salt Lake City, 1950-79,” PhD Dissertation, University of Utah, May 2008)


“[p. 87] Early in his ministry, Spencer and Mark E. Petersen had been given special responsibility for counseling homosexual Church members. Over a period of many years Spencer had more experience on this subject than other Church leaders and more to say.…” (Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, Working Draft, Salt Lake City: Benchmark Books, 2009)

“[p. 87, fn. 30] Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Petersen to First Presidency and the Twelve, November 6, 1968, reported that between 1961 and 1968 they had counseled almost one thousand individuals, nearly all in Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Provo. They employed Harold I. Bowman to assist them. They asked for more help and suggested training for bishops and stake and mission presidents, and establishment of policies for handling situations. They expressed their ‘willingness’ to relinquish the time-consuming work.” (Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, Working Draft, Salt Lake City: Benchmark Books, 2009)

“[p. 88] His influential 1969 book The Miracle of Forgiveness, written as an apostle, described homosexual acts as an ugly sin, a perversion, an abomination. He believed homosexual orientation could be shifted by effort and faith and that, even in a case where the inclination did not change, conduct could and should be controlled. To those who said that ‘this practice . . . is incurable,’ he responded that they had simply not tried hard enough. His logic was simple: homosexual acts are sinful and, since sin can be overcome with God’s help and sufficient effort, failure to overcome is a moral shortcoming.” (Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, Working Draft, Salt Lake City: Benchmark Books, 2009)

“[p. 88] Spencer‘s first major reference to homosexuality came after nine months as president of the Church when he said in October 1974 General Conference, ‘Every form of homosexuality is [p. 89] sin.’” (Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, Working Draft, Salt Lake City: Benchmark Books, 2009)

“[p. 89] Four months later at October conference 1977 President Kimball asked for Church members as citizens ‘to lift their voices, to join others in unceasingly combatting . . . permissiveness. . . . There is today a strong clamor to make such [homosexual] practices legal by passing legislation. . . . We do not hesitate to tell the world that the cure for these evils is not in surrender.’” (Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, Working Draft, Salt Lake City: Benchmark Books, 2009)

“[p. 90] Between 1977 and 1979 Elder Petersen wrote six editorials in the Church News decrying homosexual conduct. President Kimball asked Elder Packer to address the issue of homosexuality at a BYU fireside in March 1978. Feeling inadequate, Elder Packer first responded, ‘President, I just couldn’t do it.’ But after soul-searching he concluded he could not refuse ‘an assignment from the prophet’ and gave a very direct talk.” (Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, Working Draft, Salt Lake City: Benchmark Books, 2009)

“[p. 90] The Church objected to the Equal Rights Amendment in part because its language prohibiting sex discrimination might be interpreted as relating to psychosexual orientation, rather [p. 91] than gender, creating a basis for arguing that the Constitution required approval of same-sex marriage.” (Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, Working Draft, Salt Lake City: Benchmark Books, 2009)


“Kors: I understand the film [‘8: The Mormon Proposition’] started out as a look at Utah’s extraordinary number of homeless gay youths, kids kicked out of their families for coming out.

Black: Yeah, a lot of the homeless youths are gay. The suicide rate for gay kids is also four times that of heterosexual kids — more than eight times if they’re rejected by their families. I’m on the board of the Trevor Project, which runs a helpline for gay kids in crisis. We’re a safety net. And a lot of these teens, they need help immediately. … You have to understand: it was really hard growing up. I knew I was gay. We’d go to church on Sundays, and beamed in every Sunday was President [of the Mormon Church Spencer W.] Kimball, the seer, the one who knows — who speaks the word directly for the Lord — and he would tell us how next to the sin of murder is the sin of impurity: homosexuality. When you’re told from the age of 8 that you’re criminal, you’re wrong in God’s eyes, that breaks your spirit. A gay boy isn’t going to be able to heal from that without help.

Kors: Were you ever suicidal?

Black: Oh, sure. (Black pauses, laughs.) I don’t mean to say it so casually. It’s just, the majority of gay teens go through that suicidal stage. With this recent fight over Prop. 8, I found myself thinking back to those times, those nights where you sit and debate whether life is worth living. You’re told that you’re here to do good in God’s eyes. But then you’re told your very nature is evil. It’s very isolating. This thing that’s inherent in you dooms you. So then, why is life worth living? It’s a logical progression.” (Joshua Kors, ‘Oscar Winner Dustin Lance Black on Mormonism, Prop 8, Sarah Palin and the Challenges of Being Gay,’ HuffPost Politics, August 26, 2010)


“That same year [1946] George [Albert Smith] called 52-year-old Mormon Apostle Spencer Kimball to a special assignment to counsel Mormon men—who, like the former patriarch [Joseph Fielding Smith], had homosexual desires or experiences. This was the first time the Mormon Church set up a department to deal specifically with homosexuality.…” (Ben Williams, “The birth of Mormon homophobia,” Q Salt Lake, September 1, 2011)


“I grew up quite poor and the Mormon Church was always there for us, as a family. I have a disabled mother and she was raising three boys by herself, and they always made sure that we felt taken care of and that we had presents under the tree at Christmas. And there was a real community and I miss a lot of it. I still work closely with the church. I have family that’s in the church. I think that they need to move on gay and lesbian issues, and I keep those channels of communication open in hopes that we can understand each other better and create that change. I mean that’s the sort of political side of my life. But I feel like it is a religion that has shown an ability to change with the times, and I hope they do so on gay and lesbian issues ’cause I think, you know, they’ve hurt a lot of young people in this country. They certainly hurt me with the words I heard in church on Sundays and I know that that needs to stop, and I think with understanding it can.…

When I was a little boy I heard – they would broadcast on Sundays, they would broadcast the president of the church at the time, it was Spencer W. Kimball, and they would broadcast his speech across the country sometimes. And he said that next to the crime, next to the sin of murder, comes the sin of sexual impurity, homosexuality. And I’m paraphrasing maybe just a tad there, but it was comparing being gay to being a murderer and saying that that was an equal in terms of sin and would be punished thusly. And when you’re a little kid and you know that that’s what’s in your heart and it’s something you can’t change, even if you wanted to, it’s really frightening and it makes you question your worth on this planet. And I think, sadly, a lot of kids heard that sort of message and decided to take their lives.…

The whole promise of the afterlife in the Mormon religion is eternal family, that’s what heaven is, is to be with your family forever. That might sound like torture for some people but, you know, I actually liked my family and I didn’t want to be taken away from them, and I was six years old to 10 years old, and I’m hearing these messages and that’s terrifying.…” (Dustin Lance Black, interviewed by Terry Gross, “Fresh Air,” npr.org, December 6, 2011)


“By the end of December 1973, Harold B. Lee, the president of the church died and Spencer W. Kimball assumed the position of prophet, seer and revelator. At that point everything changed for homosexuals in the church. Kimball had a book published four years earlier called the ‘Miracle of Forgiveness.’ Once he assumed the presidency, his words took on added weight and his book became a bestseller, which foreshadowed things to come. At the 1974 Fall General Conference, Kimball announced that ‘every form of homosexuality is sin.’ The gears of the Mormon bureaucracy were reworked to ferret out homosexuality among members.

At first, it was hard to see the change Kimball’s presidency would bring, but church talk openly began to condemn homosexuality. It began to be framed as a disease, a contagion that had to be not only curtailed but rooted out. Exterminated.

Under BYU’s President, Dallin Oaks, campus security was instructed to find homosexual students and bring them before standards to be treated or expelled.…” (Ben Williams, “One-way ticket to Provo,” Q Salt Lake, October 23, 2014)


“The book, which now has sold at least 1.6 million copies, was routinely distributed to departing Mormon missionaries, engaged LDS couples and members disciplined for ‘sexual sin.’

The hardcover version of ‘Miracle’ is now out of print, according to Deseret Book marketing manager Dave Kimball (a distant relative of the late Mormon prophet), and the paperback is listed as ‘out of stock indefinitely.’…

‘Miracle’ was ‘written by a beloved apostle, then president of the church,’ says Erika Munson, co-founder of Mormons Building Bridges, which works to improve ties between the LDS and LGBT communities, ‘but it is not in alignment with current LDS Church doctrine and policy that being gay is not a choice and not a sin.’…

For decades, the book has been handed out ‘by well-meaning bishops,’ Munson says, ‘but has caused a lot of pain on the part of LGBT Mormons, their families and allies.’

Kimball’s instruction that ‘if you pray hard enough, fast hard enough, and are a good enough Mormon, your sexual orientation will change or go away,’ she says, ‘has caused incredible pain and has even cost lives.’

Several gay-support groups have seen LGBT Mormons who were kicked out of their homes, battled self-loathing and even committed suicide over beliefs such as these.…

Even the late Mormon prophet had second thoughts about the book, based on his many years counseling LDS youths.

‘The book’s tone, tougher than Spencer’s in-person counseling, reflected his belief that people rationalize sin too quickly and consider repentance easy,’ writes the Mormon leader’s son, Edward L. Kimball’s in a popular 2005 biography of his father, ‘Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball.’

Indeed, writes the son, ‘Miracle’ was a book ‘more on sin and repentance than on forgiveness.’

Kimball ‘later seemed to wish he had adopted a gentler tone,’ Edward Kimball writes.…

Allen Bergin, a retired Brigham Young University psychologist, says he has read ‘the ugly chapter on homosexuality … many times.’

‘There are some good things in it that are useful,’ says Bergin, former president of the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists. ‘But they are overshadowed by a host of negatives and also outdated policies that the church itself doesn’t even endorse any more.’…

‘He did some wonderful personal things for me that I will always treasure. He was truly a great person,’ Bergin says. ‘It is unfortunate that his reputation for goodwill is obscured by some extreme adjectives he used 45 years ago.’…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “LDS classic ‘Miracle of Forgiveness’ fading away, and some Mormon say it’s time,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 25, 2015)


“As many of you are probably aware, the Church has had some interest in providing assistance in this area for some time.  President David O. McKay in 1961 assigned Brother [Spencer] Kimball and Brother [Mark] Petersen to this assignment to try and see what they could do to assist those individuals who wished to overcome the problem and put it behind them.  This assignment remained with these two brethren until 1972 at which time it was turned over to Personal Welfare Service or LDS Social Services.  The attempt at that time was to have an office with volunteers who act as counselors.  These men were not professionals but were men who had served in the Church and who did the work.  President Kimball himself has done the work continuously until about the time he became the President of the Church and was not able to continue that assignment as such.”

(Robert L. Blattner, “Counseling the Homosexual in a Church Setting,” AMCAP Journal 1:6, 1975)


“As President [Harold B.] Lee came into the First Presidency, you recall that there was quite a weeding out process take place.  The questioning and personal worthiness interviews took on a great dimension.  This policy has not changed with President Kimball.  I believe, as I mentioned in my priesthood talk last time, there is a purging.…”

(Vaughn J. Featherstone, “Transgression,” AMCAP Journal 1:40, 1975.  Note that at the time he gave this speech, Featherstone was Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric.)


“President Kimball says in the Miracle of Forgiveness: ‘If adultery or fornication (and I say parenthetically, homosexuality, because it squares with the First Presidency statement) justified the death penalty in the old days, is the sin any less today because the laws of the land do not access death penalty for it?  Is the act less grievous?  There must be a washing, a purging, a changing of attitudes, a strengthening towards self-mastering.…’”

(Victor L. Brown, Jr., “Truth, Sin, Guilt, Punishment, and Redemption,” AMCAP Journal 1:43, 1975)


[30] “President Kimball’s son wrote:

The Miracle of Forgiveness set a demanding standard, and Spencer later seemed to wish he had adopted a gentler tone.  In 1977 he invited Lyle Ward, the former bishop of his home ward, and [31] Lyle’s wife, Virginia, to his office …. In the course of the visit, he showed them many interesting gifts and artifacts …. Coming to a bookshelf holding the many translations of The Miracle of Forgiveness, he paused and pulled a copy out to the edge of the shelf, saying, “Sometimes I think I might have been a little too strong about some of the things I wrote in this book.” His manner, according to Bishop Ward, indicated he had given the matter considerable thought.

Believing that the harshest language in that book occurs in the section on homosexuality, I contacted Edward Kimball and asked if he had any more information on his father’s feelings around that subject. He responded:

I wish I could add something to the statement on page 80 of Lengthen Your Stride about misgivings Dad had concerning the tough language in The Miracle of Forgiveness, but I cannot. If I ever had a discussion with him about homosexuality (aside from expressions of regret that individuals with whom he had counseled had been unable to succeed in their efforts to change), I have forgotten it.”

(Carol Lynn Pearson, No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones (Walnut Creek, CA: Pivot Point Books, 2007)


“[p. 90] Advocates insisted that homosexuality is an identity—inborn, natural, and hence beyond moral judgment—and that sexual expression of that nature is as acceptable as in the marriage relationship. The Church insisted, to the contrary, that homosexuality is unnatural and that in any event homosexuals’ behavior was as subject to the control of the will as the behavior of heterosexuals.” (Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, Working Draft, Salt Lake City: Benchmark Books, 2009)


Bergin: I don’t know if you saw my remarks in the Salt Lake Tribune about President Kimball’s book, The Miracle of Forgiveness.

Prince: I saw Peggy’s article, but I don’t remember what you said in it.

Bergin: Well, I haven’t gotten any heat over it.  I just said that I loved President Kimball, and Victor Brown and I had a close relationship with President Kimball.  He was very interested in human behavior and he was a very wonderful, kind man.  Peggy quoted me saying, “I really loved President Kimball and he had a great influence on my life, but I was really sad about”—I can’t remember the unfortunate adjective I used, but it was something like “cruel remarks” that he made in his book, The Miracle of Forgiveness, about gays.

Prince: I hear comments to this day from gays talking about how difficult that book has made their lives.

Bergin: Yes, and yet he was very tender toward gays.  He suffered and counseled with them.  I can tell you one thing, and you can quote this if you want.  He said—this was when he was president; he was really old, but he said, “If I could have a chance to rewrite that book, I would change my language.”  He had learned that he had hurt people.  He was so tender—the longer he was the prophet, the more tender he became and the more liberal he became in his views—or liberating or empathic.

(Allen Bergin, September 27, 2015)

Boyer: I think we have to start with Spencer Kimball’s declaration that homosexuality was akin to bestiality, worse than murder, and blah, blah, blah.  It was one of his decrees that went out, and I think that kind of set the tone for all the—I hate to say hatred, but I think that that just set the tone.  “Here we are, and you are lesser than anything.”  That caused so much pain for so many people.  So many LDS youth couldn’t reconcile their homosexuality with church doctrine.  They were absolute pariahs, and it was coming from the head of the church down.  That went all through the 70s, and it was fueled by the AIDS outbreak.  The Church came out with a small statement that it was God’s punishment for the gays.  I’m sorry, but it’s a disease!  It’s a medical issue.  It’s not a moral issue.

(Nikki Boyer, July 25, 2015)

Tom Kimball mentioned your attempt to have The Miracle of Forgiveness removed from print.  Can you describe your attempts and any responses from Deseret Book or church leaders?

As I listened to the LGBTQ community (particularly the LDS LGBTQ community), a certain book title was commonly mentioned, President (apostle at the time) Spencer W. Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness as a source of much pain. One gay BYU student told me directly during a suicide awareness workshop that his first suicide attempt was about a month after reading The Miracle of Forgiveness. I was later told that this book was a standard in Mormon homes and that it’s common for local leaders to keep copies in their office and hand them out to members who have morality issues. {Jump to a few months ago, 2014: an LDS friend of mine here in AF who had been pretending to be straight and in a traditional marriage came out to her bishop. He gave her a copy of The Miracle of Forgiveness. So, this practice is still being done.}

(Gina Crivello email correspondence with GAP, January 20, 2015)

Gustav: So, The Miracle of Forgiveness.  I read it probably when I was about sixteen years old.  I had figured out that I was gay at the age of fourteen.

Prince: When were you born?

Gustav: I was born in 1963.

Prince: OK, so it had been around for quite a while by the time you got around to reading it.

Gustav: Yes.

Prince: It came out in 1969.

Gustav: Right.  I was actually reading quite a few books that I was using to try to sort things out in my own head and try to figure out how to deal with this.  For example, one of the books that I read that actually had quite an impact on me was The Spiritual Roots of Human Relations, by Stephen R. Covey.

Prince: That was the foundation of his Seven Habits book.  He just shifted three degrees and went out and made millions.

Gustav: That book by Covey was given to me by a seminary teacher.  I made that the foundation of my life at that point.  That was the book that I used to prepare myself to serve a mission for the Church.  At some point, I read The Miracle of Forgiveness to try to figure out what to do about being gay.  Obviously, I paid particular attention to that one chapter.  I read the whole book, from cover-to-cover, but that one chapter in particular.  Basically, I came out of reading that book with a sense that there must have been something I did wrong, and in my mind the culprit was masturbation—that it was probably my fault that I was gay because I had masturbated.

Prince: Had you had that feeling before reading the book, that this was somehow your fault?

Gustav: No.  I was aware of the feelings and the thoughts from the time I was about ten years old.  That was the first time that I remember that I was having conscious fantasies that were same-sex related.  But it wasn’t until I was fourteen years old, after a sleepover with a friend—it’s not that anything happened at the sleepover, but it’s that I was aware, the whole time I was with him, of feeling very attracted to him.  The next day I looked up the word “homosexual” in a dictionary, and then I said, “OK, that’s what I am.”  So I had kind of figured this out.  I was trying to use that book, and he [Spencer Kimball] claimed that there were certain things that could cause it, like masturbation.  I guess that gave me an extra layer of guilt about the masturbation.

Prince: My recollection is that there wasn’t even a concession that there might be a biological component [to homosexuality], that this was just an evil choice.

Gustav: My recollection of that was that he said it was an illusory thing, something not real in your head, and so once you marry somebody and have real sex, then it goes away because you are no longer fixating on this illusory thing.  You are getting the real thing and that cures you of it.  There were things in there that he said about engaging in “masculine activity.”  For example, I remember the day that I read that chapter, I had read the chapter in the morning, and that afternoon I was scheduled to go out and work on a church farm with my dad.  I remember thinking, “This is good for me!  This good, physical labor is the kind of thing that I should be doing to help overcome this.”

The other thing that came out of it was just intense shame, a feeling that this was the worst possible thing that could happen to me.  It just increased my sense of desperation about having these feelings.  I think that more than anything else, it was that book that put into my head that, “If I live faithfully, if I pray, if I study the scriptures, if I serve my callings faithfully, if I serve a faithful mission, if I do all this stuff, then it will fix this.  This will go away.”  I think that was how I pretty much had it in my head that, “Once I complete a faithful mission, then I’m going to be clear of this.  Then I’ll be able to marry and have kids.”

Prince: Did he, in essence, make that a promise in the book?

Gustav: In my mind, yes.  Definitely.  That’s why post-mission becomes this shattering disappointment.

Prince: Because you had filled in all the boxes.

Gustav: Because I had had filled in all the boxes, I had done everything I was supposed to do, and not only did it not go away, it was worse than ever.  I’m at BYU, and my sense of a same-sex attraction was that it was stronger than it had ever been.

Prince: Did you see that strengthening during your mission?

Gustav: Yes.  That was probably one of the biggest struggles of my mission.  From the moment I arrived in the Missionary Training Center, I was surrounded by very attractive young men.  When I was there—and I understand this has changed now—they had group showers.  They had a big post in the middle of this big, open space.  So you’d go and shower, and you’d be standing next to two guys on either side of you.  I couldn’t cope with that, and so I would get up an hour earlier than everybody else and go shower by myself, before everybody else was awake.  That was how I coped with it.

I worked extra-hard at the MTC.  I worked extra-hard in the mission field.  If we were supposed to be out tracting until 5 p.m., I wanted to be out until 6 p.m.  I wanted to go the extra mile in everything I did, because I thought I just needed to work that much harder.  I had that kind of a reputation in the mission, that I was this really serious, super-hard-working Elder.  My nickname in the MTC was “The Walking Dictionary.”  I was very intense with my studies.  I could take a vocabulary list and read through it two or three times, and have it memorized.  So I was very respected in the mission field as somebody who really knew the language, who was really hardworking; and all the time I was struggling with this sense of inferiority, that I had this thing that I had to overcome.  I was attracted to every single one of my companions. 

My first night in the mission field was interesting.  I thought, “Here I am, serving the Lord, and so the Lord is going to bless me by taking this away.”  I expected to arrive at the mission field and have this no longer be an issue.  My first night in the mission field, my companion and I settled down in the evening.  It was his practice to take all his clothes off except for his garments, and then the two of us would sit there, ready for bed, just wearing our garments, and study the scriptures together, and then say our evening prayer together.  I remember sitting at the table with him, being aroused and feeling horribly guilty about it.  After he had gone to bed, I got out of bed, fell to my knees, and just wept.  I said, “I don’t think I can do this.  I think I have to call my mission president tomorrow and tell him I have to go home.”  I was just weeping there.  As I prayed, there was this sweet peace that came over me, and the Spirit said to me, “You are worthy, and you can do this.”  That experience did actually help me, and I was able to put it aside for most of my mission.

But then I thought, “OK, now it’s going to be gone when I get back from my mission.”  But it didn’t go away.  So that was the beginning of the downward spiral at BYU.  I had two more years at BYU, and by the end of my junior year I was ready to commit suicide.  I just thought, “I can’t do the rest of my life this way.”

Prince: And the starting point of that spiral was reading the book?

Gustav: Yes, the book set those expectations for me, and the book painted a picture of homosexuality that was so dark, that was so evil and terrible that it literally felt to me like life or death—like I had to overcome this or I was the worst of the worst.  The book made the penalty of failure seem that much larger, and then it set an expectation of being able to overcome this that was just impossible.  So I think, in some ways, that that book contributed very directly to my suicidality.

(John Gustav-Wrathall, October 18, 2015)

Gary: This is probably an offshoot of what you really want to do, but in my view the problem with the Church and homosexuality goes all the way back to the early 1940s.  You probably know your history well enough to know that Spencer W. Kimball was called to be an apostle in the October General Conference of 1943.  It was in the spring of 1944 that Joseph F. Smith, the Acting Patriarch of the Church, was sort of caught in his dalliances.  Also, there was an apostle, Richard Lyman, who was excommunicated at the same time, for adultery.  Those two incidents happened within the first year of Spencer W. Kimball’s call as an apostle.  He was the junior apostle, and he was observing all of this going on.  My feeling was that he was struck by the embarrassment to the Church and by the dastardly deeds that Joseph F. Smith and Richard R. Lyman did, and then he developed his own view about homosexuality.  I think a lot of his thinking grew out of that experience as an apostle.  Then, you know the history of Kimball.

Greg: And I think he had the “gay portfolio.”

Gary: When you say the “gay portfolio,” what do you mean?

Greg: Cases involving homosexuality would be referred to him

Gary: Oh, yes.  He and Mark E. Petersen were assigned to be the front people for the Church on homosexuality.

Greg: Wasn’t it Dallin Oaks and Jeff Holland later?

Gary: Yes, same idea, but Oaks and Holland were much more civil about the situation.  But they are strapped in.  Kimball, with The Miracle of Forgiveness, did so much to entrench this idea that homosexuality was chosen and was changeable, and these people were of the devil, and so forth.  That becomes a hard change for institutions to overcome, when you have a president of the Church who was respected the way Kimball was, and who had written all the stuff he had.

Greg: Even though he wrote The Miracle of Forgiveness before he became president.

Millie: That’s right.

Greg: His becoming president sealed the deal.

(Gary and Millie Watts, August 8, 2014)

Williams: It was terrifying being a gay kid, growing up gay in the 80s and becoming a teenager when the Plague was hitting so hard.  That was my future, that was my destiny?  I was terrified to be gay.  Then, my sister sat down with me, as a teenager, worried that I was gay, and so she handed me The Miracle of Forgiveness.  There it was!

I told this story to Michael Purdy during my first meeting with him.  He [Spencer Kimball] makes that inference that if you masturbate, you’re going to be gay.  And then, by the next page, if you are gay, the next sin is bestiality.  There is this causal link from masturbation to bestiality.  That was the most terrifying, horrifying thing to imagine.

(Troy Williams, March 30, 2015)