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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “16 – The Cure, 2.0”

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16 – The Cure, 2.0 – Evergreen, Reparative Therapy


“Larry R. leaves working runs downtown to get a prescription filled before going home. On the way, he passes the office of Dr. Craig Card, the psychologist who performed electroshock therapy on him in an attempt to cure his homosexuality.

Larry describes the treatment: ‘You sit in a dark room, and they have you watch hard-core heterosexual and homosexual pornography. They attach electrodes to your arms, they place a biofeedback apparatus on your head and put a circular electronic center around your penis.

‘If you get an erection while watching the heterosexual pornography, that’s good–a positive response.’ Larry is embarrassed but continues. A biofeedback monitor shows a positive numerical readout. But, if you get an erection while watching the homosexual pornography, you get an electrical shock.’ Larry claims the treatment did not work, but says, ‘I did learn how to control my erections.’” (Mark A. Taylor, “The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name: A Day in the Life,” Utah Holiday, September 1986, p. 43)


1988: The Phoenix Foundation, later called Evergreen Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Mormon men overcome their homosexuality, founded.

(“A Brief History of Lesbians and Gays in Utah,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 27, 1995)


“I have asked Dean Byrd to contact you personally. He may visit with you if you wish and may also provide you with other names. Brother Byrd has had extensive experience in research and providing therapy for those seeking help with these problems.…

You inquired about visiting with someone who is familiar with changing sexual orientation. I mentioned the Evergreen organization. I am enclosing literature on their upcoming conference.”  (Harold C. Brown, Commissioner, LDS Social Services, to Gary Watts, April 20, 1993)


“Some will probably say, ‘It isn’t balanced enough. You only present one perspective.’ Perhaps this is true, but my response is, ‘The professional literature is not balanced. Only one perspective gets published right now–the gay affirmative one. Someone needs to present alternative perspectives.’ The gay affirmative or a gay activist perspective so dominates the professional literature right now that it is very difficult for therapists to consider alternative viewpoints and treatment options for homosexual people. I believe, therefore, that this special issue of the AMCAP Journal on reparative therapy makes a needed and legitimate contribution to the professional literature.” (P. Scott Richards, “Editorial,” AMCAP Journal 19(1):xi, 1993)


“I also recognize that these issues are essentially the same ones we discussed previously, and that neither of us has changed our position.… As you know the position of the Church on homosexuality is based on long-standing eternal principles of moral behavior that are well-supported by research and the experience of many who have made progress and changed. Given our position, if we can help you or your son we will be happy to do so.” (Harold C. Brown, Commissioner, LDS Social Services, to Gary and Mildred Watts, February 10, 1994)


“Consider the plight of those who find their sexual orientation to be same-sex. Current church policy would encourage them to seek psychotherapy from a church-sanctioned psychotherapist who would counsel them that their condition is predominantly psychological, is most likely changeable, and if they are faithful, they may be able to develop heterosexual feelings, marry, and qualify to be in the ideal family setting. While this may be a laudable goal, practically speaking, it is simply unattainable in the great majority of cases. This type of therapy is controversial and not generally supported by most professionals outside the religious setting.

If a homosexual fails in an attempt at reparative therapy and desires to continue as a member of the church what are his/her options? (1) he/she may choose a life of celibacy (2) he/she may still try a heterosexual marriage (3) he/she may stay in the closet and hide his/her homosexual activity.

As long as the church opposes same-sex marriages and/or domestic partnerships we will continue to see the disastrous consequences of those individuals forced to choose one of the options the church sanctions for them. Those who choose celibacy are committed to a loveless life of loneliness. Those who choose a heterosexual marriage are on a hazardous journey that will ultimately affect their unsuspecting spouse and children, and those who choose concealed sexual activity must live a life of deceit.…

As a church member and father of a gay son I urge you to reconsider your position. Present policy is not working for us. We are frustrated, hurt, and feeling maligned. Our desire to participate and be productive members of the church has been significantly altered as a result of our experience.”  (Gary M. Watts to First Presidency, February 15, 1994)


“It frustrates me to see the church align itself with fringe practitioners who still attempt to change orientation through ‘reparative therapy’ when their own professional organizations label such attempts as an ‘abuse and misuse of psychiatry.’ LDS Church Social Services recently invited one such practitioner to visit the BYU campus providing him with a forum and tacit approval despite the fact that mainstream psychologists and psychiatrists give him little or no credibility.…

Church publications generally do a poor job, in my opinion, of clarifying what they mean by change. The 1992 publication response to the question, ‘Can sexual orientation be changed?’ as follows: ‘Change is possible. There are those who have ceased their homosexual behavior and overcome such thoughts and feelings.’ This letter sentence may be interpreted by gays and their family members to mean that one’s sexual orientation can actually be changed. That inevitably creates false hopes for the individuals, their loved ones and their parents, and sets up expectations that simply will not materialize. People can alter the way they respond to their sexuality by disciplining themselves and not acting on their same-sex feelings, but to date, there is no credible scientific evidence that supports the view that sexual orientation can change.”  (Gary Watts, speech at B. H. Roberts Society meeting, May 18, 1995)


“[p. 299] Private associations have also been formed to help the LDS homosexual who wants to change.  One of these organizations, Evergreen International, was founded in 1989 in Salt Lake City by twelve men.

Evergreen is a confidential, independent non-profit organization of homosexual men and women.  Our purpose is to gather and disseminate relevant information and to refer men and women who desire to change to support groups and counselors.  Each member of Evergreen stands personally as a statement that it is possible to overcome homosexuality.”

(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)


“Two weeks ago I sat in a small theater in Olympia, Washington to view a documentary made by a non-Mormon graduate student from Utah. The film, titled, ‘Legacies,’ tells the story of for gay Mormons who had personal experience with LDS Social Services therapy. It was a powerful reminder that above all the rhetoric and theory about homosexuality are human beings struggling to understand the world they live in and what to do with their personal truths.

The first person in this film was a friend of mine.  He spoke of his experience at age fifteen, having confessed his homosexual orientation to his bishop and having been sent to BYU counseling services, without his parents’ knowledge, to be ‘cured’ of his sexual orientation.

Once there the therapists explained their treatment plans to him.  They would insert an IV into a vein in his arm and, while showing him male pornography and the injection of another drug to induce a euphoric state.  This was done, mind you, without his parents’ permission or knowledge.  It was to be done repeatedly.  When he failed to complete the treatment due to his own horror and discomfort (he had never even seen pornography before) he was sent home with a letter to his bishop describing his unwillingness to be cured.  A letter shaming him for his unworthiness and lack of faith.  He was fifteen.

I think of my good friend, who also at BYU confessed his homosexuality.  He, the father of two children, loved his wife and wanted to be cured, wanted to finally be rid of the sexual urges that seemed to be driving him from a normal family life.  He was sent to a private LDS therapist in Provo where for eight months he would view homosexual pornography or discuss his sexual desires after taking the vomit-inducing drug called Ipecac.  EIGHT MONTHS.  He talks to this day of how much anger he holds over this failed treatment, he talks of how much this pained his therapist.  The horror was evident to them both, but the therapist got paid to administer the torture—despite history’s evidence that such aversion therapy only served to wound patients further rather than cure them.…

The reparative theories that LDS Social Services is practicing is about finding blame for one’s sexual mis-development.  It is not about healing.…

Dean Byrd, an administrator in LDS Social Services said in a 1993 interview that reparative therapy is not about blaming parents, yet this handbook is nearly rabid in its attempts to blame the parents or dysfunctional family for the predicament these patients find themselves in.” (Rob Killian, MD, MPH, Sunstone Symposium paper, August 1996)


“Connell O’Donovan: … I was born into the Mormon church. I “came out” to my seminary teacher. I thought that he would be really fair and that he was a friend. I felt like he was a friend that I could go to with a problem and he would somehow help me. If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have done that. I mean he tried really hard, but basically all he did was turn me over to the wolves. He contacted my bishop, my bishop contacted my stake president and that is how it all started…my journey into the belly of the beast–ten years of negotiating my way through the Mormon church’s torturous program for reorienting or curing homosexuals–trying to turn us into heterosexuals.…

It was summer and school was out so they told me that I needed to go down to BYU for this program that would help me to become heterosexual. Of course, I jumped at the chance. They told me and had taught me that heterosexual was the only way to be–I wasn’t, so I wanted to become such. I’m like 15 years old, and I didn’t want my parents to know so they arranged it to look like I was going down for some genealogy research camp. I stayed at the dorms on campus and was supposed to go immediately in and meet with the receptionist, fill out the papers, release forms, etc. I sat down and they kind of explained to me what was going to go on, and I was horrified by the whole prospect of what I found out was going to be vomiting-aversion therapy.

They explained to me that they would place a heparin lock in my wrist and hook an I.V. up to that, and I would be put in a room alone with a plethysmograph on my penis that would measure my physical arousal so that when I got an erection they would know. Then they started showing me gay pornography. I don’t remember if there were films or not, but I do remember stills. I was supposed to go through a stack of photos of nude men and come up with men that I thought were attractive.

Interviewer: Had you seen gay pornography before that?

Rocky: No, I was 15! I was only 15 years old. I mean I’d seen like a Playboy before, but I’d never seen sex before at all. They were going to show me this gay pornography and using the I.V. they would inject a drug into me during the gay pornography to make me start vomiting. Then they would switch the pornography over to heterosexual sex and inject a euphoric drug into me to get me to associate euphoria with heterosexuality. I look back on that and think that I would have taken the electric-shock therapy had I known about it since I’m extremely phobic around vomiting.

I was supposed to come back the next day for treatment, but I just didn’t show up. I called in sick and put them off. They finally said that I had to come down and tell them what was going on. I told them I couldn’t do it, and they gave me a “shame” letter which I had to hand carry back and give to my stake president telling him that I had refused to go through with the Lord’s program for my cure.

That was the same year that Boyd K. Packer gave his talk during priesthood meeting at General Conference. His talk called, “To Young Men Only” which I don’t remember hearing, but it was made into a pamphlet that I was given to read. The talk goes in to the evils of masturbation and it goes into–well, he never calls it homosexuality, but he calls it “physical mischief” between men.…

Val: … I first went through about a year and a half of seeing a counselor. This wasn’t aversion therapy. It seemed pointless to me because we just sat there and talked and there was nothing happening. I said that I heard that there were other kinds of therapy like shock or aversion therapy. He referred me to another doctor who was also LDS that was doing something on the order of what they were doing at BYU although what they were doing at BYU seemed a lot scarier. This Dr. Card was calling it bio-feedback which involved shocking, but the patient held the button themselves so they shocked themselves.…

Ray: A lot of times BYU security would catch people in compromising positions on campus. Those people would have the choice to either be kicked out of school and have their families notified about what they had done or they could go through this therapy. We had quite a few people who were going through it. There were others in the therapy who felt so much guilt for being the way they were or they had been promised that if they underwent the therapy they would be able to marry and have children and they would be turned. Of course they had to have the desire to change, and if the therapy failed which it always did, it was their fault for the failure since they didn’t have enough desire.

Anyway, they would come in usually three times a week. I would be behind a glass one-way mirror, and they would be on the other side of it. They had their choice to look at pornographic magazines or watch porno videos. We would tape electrodes to their groin, thigh, chest and armpits. We had another machine that would monitor their breathing and heart rate. If there was a difference in their heart rate when looking at homosexual pornography, we would turn a dial which would send a current to shock them. If they were a new patient, we would use a very low current. From the reaction that I saw there were muscle spasms which looked very painful.

After that was over, we would switch the pornography over so that it was a man and a woman having sex, and we would play very soothing music in the background to try and get the mind to relate to that. For the people that had been doing the therapy longer we turned the voltage way up so that you could see burn marks on the skin and quite often they would also throw up during the therapy. This is speculation, but most of the students at BYU probably hadn’t even seen pornography before [this experience].

After undergoing that kind of pain over a number of months, everyone said that they had completely changed. They kept records for as long as the people were at BYU. After they had graduated, there was no records kept to see what kind of success rate they had. The BYU statistics were wrong because the people were lying. They were desperate to get their degree and get out of the situation. They had been blackmailed into the situation in the first place.

We did have some people who became completely asexual after undergoing the therapy. But no, we never changed anyone from gay to straight.

I had experiences with Robert Card when he was the overseer at BYU. He was not my professor but he would come down to Provo, and I met him several times when he would oversee the results. I met him again in 1983 when he was doing electro-shock therapy on a lover of mine. At that time, I confronted him with what I knew and how it had not worked in the past. He had nothing to say. He simply denied the results and refused to show me any of his proof.

We had several people who committed suicide during the therapy. We had three different people who hung themselves in the Harris Fine Arts Center on BYU campus. In Mormon theology, you will be eternally punished for committing suicide. If you die as a homosexual, you will be punished all the worse. God will get you good if you don’t follow his rules.”

Endnotes to the documentary…

Dr. Robert Card declined comment for this project. (“Legacies,” a Documentary by Sean Weakland, 1996, http://www.lds-mormon.com/legacies.shtml)


“I read with interest the comment you made about homosexuality at the recent Evergreen Conference. I was out of the state at that time and have been unable to respond until today. I do not have the text of your talk but your statements as quoted in the Tribune concern me. You were quoted in the paper is saying ‘gays must allow the faith’s theology to inoculate them against homosexuality. When the Lord speaks to us, he speaks to our spirits as if we had no body at all. When the adversary speaks to us, he speaks to the flesh. All of the appetites, all of the passions are to enslave us. The trick of overcoming the competing desires of righteousness and sin is to immerse yourself in the true doctrines of the church.’

The implications of such comments are that church members who discover they have same-sex attractions need only to immerse themselves in the true doctrines of the church and that these attractions should disappear. My own experience as a physician and a father of gay children is that such advice is simplistic at best, and, at worst, contributes to the societal stigma, hostility, hatred and isolation already so palpable in the lives of our adolescent members dealing with same-sex attraction. Your use of the word inoculate is unfortunate in my view as it contributes to the mistaken notion that homosexuality is a disease.” (Gary Watts to Jay E. Jensen, late September, 1997)

A Mormon leader told recovering homosexuals and their families Saturday to let the church’s doctrine heal them of the sin of same-sex attraction.

To do that, according to Elder Jay E. Jensen, a general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gays must allow the faith’s theology to ‘inoculate’ them against homosexuality.…

The conference was sponsored by Evergreen International, a group committed to the principles of ‘reparative,’ or ‘conversion’ therapy, in which therapists try to change gays into heterosexuals.  For years, the reparative approach ahs been discredited by most mainstream therapists.

Indeed, the American Psychological Association—the leading society of psychologists—passed a resolution in August that aims to limit the controversial practice of reparative therapy.…

‘Evergreen attests that individuals can overcome homosexual behavior and can diminish same-sex attraction,’ according to the group’s mission statement. ‘Evergreen provides education, guidance and support to those involved in the transition from homosexuality.’…

(Shawn Foster, “A Different Kind of Conversion: LDS Leader Aims to ‘Heal’ Gays,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 14, 1997)


“After spending two years in the mission field and in therapy, I returned home, and my parents immediately got me in to see a psychiatrist. They were going to fix me or change me or heal me at any cost, and I also wanted to change, badly. I wanted to be normal at any cost. And for the rest of my life, I have searched for the cure that I thought must be somewhere out there. I saw the psychiatrist once a week for several months at that time. 

As I was going through psychotherapy, my parents where made aware of a radical new kind of therapy. The technical term for it was “Aversion Therapy.” I call it what it is: Shock Therapy. There are many who believe that it never existed, that it was only rumors that were being circulated. Well, I went through this therapy once a week for almost two years! It was real! It was cruel, barbaric, and I was promised that I would be made better if I stuck with it! I did stick with it. The promise was an illusion, and I became more messed up than when I started. I would like to describe this barbaric therapy so that those who think it was a myth will know differently, and so that those who think that I didn’t want change bad enough will know that one would have to want it desperately to go through this torture for that length of time! 

The therapy was administered by a doctor named Robert Card in a little office on “H” street just off North Temple in Salt Lake. I would be led into a little room about four feet by eight or ten feet with a draped window in the back. In this little room there was a TV against a blank wall at one end, a chair placed close to the other end, and a large machine with meters and dials on it. Next to the machine was a chair and a projector where the doctor sat. After I entered the room I was handed a small, very fine circular clamp (or ring) with an open end that touched very finely together and some wires attached to it. I was asked to drop my pants, place the ring around the shaft of my penis, then carefully replace my clothes loosely and sit down. The doctor would then come back into the room and place cuffs on each arm, from my wrist to my elbow. These cuffs had several electrodes in them running the length of the arm. The doctor would turn out the lights, turn on a small lamp back where he sat, and fire up the machine. He would test a charge of electricity on me and set a level. The more intense the shock, the more aversive the therapy. After I was all set up and had been shocked a couple of times to get my levels, then the real fun would begin. 

The doctor would turn on a very graphic porno video of two or more men having sexual intercourse (and other activities). As I became excited and started to get an erection, the little ring around my penis would measure the slightest growth in circumference. This would then register on the device where the doctor sat, and he would hit me with a few seconds of volts. He would then sharply tell me to control my arousal. After a few minutes he would hit me with a few more seconds of electricity. This would go on for about five to ten minutes. I would get aroused no matter how hard I tried not to, and I would be shocked again and again. 

Then he would turn off the homosexual video and turn on a very graphic heterosexual video. As I watched this, he would instruct me to become aroused and to enjoy what I was looking at. At that point I would think to myself, “Hello! What do you think? That this naked man in all his glory is not arousing to me? That woman is of no consequence, she is just there. I can do this.” Then after five or ten minutes, we would go back to the homosexual video and start again. Week after week, month after month, I would go to this little room and allow myself to be tortured, all for the sake of change! The problem was that the doctor had to keep building up the voltage to get more effect. Like Skinner’s rats, I got used to it to some degree. One day, after nearly two years, the charge was so intense that it kicked me out of my seat. I stood up, pulled off the electrodes, pulled off the little ring, and never went back! I was definitely not cured, just more messed up.” (Lee Olsen, “A Personal History,” Reunion: The Family Fellowship Newsletter, Issue 14, Winter 1998, p. 3)


“During this time, I was asked to visit with Brother Robert E. Wells. He was the General Authority who, at the time, was in charge of the homosexual issue. I made an appointment, drove to Salt Lake and sat down with Brother Wells. We talked about my mission, some companions, and where I was with my issue upon returning. We talked about my marriage and the wonderful woman to whom I was blessed to be sealed. We discussed the different kinds of therapies that I had been through. Finally he told me to go home and have true physical relations with my wife, that this was the only true form of love. If I practiced this, then I would be OK. I looked at him and said, “OK, from this day forward, suppose I were to tell you that making love to women was no longer appropriate or normal, that you must no longer be attracted to, or want to be with women. From now on, you will only have sexual relations with and be in love with men. You must commit yourself to men! Now, I want you to go home and have physical relations with the gardener and only the gardener. That will make you normal. Do think that you can do that?”

He quietly placed his hands together and said to me, “I never thought of it like that.” We sat in silence for several minutes. Then I asked him, “What will happen to me in heaven? If I live as celibate a life as I possibly can, this does not change everything that I feel, think, need or am inside. Though I may not act on it, I am still homosexual. Don’t the scriptures tell us that as we think, we are? What happens to me in heaven? I have to know!” Again he placed his hands together and quietly said, “We don’t have those answers.” I left his office confused, amazed, a little angry, and still wondering where my religious beliefs would take me.” (Lee Olsen, “A Personal History,” Reunion: The Family Fellowship Newsletter, Issue 15, Spring 1998, p. 3)


“[p. 17] Another organization aimed at providing support to people who wish to transition out of homosexuality emerged at the end of the 1980s called Evergreen International. Bringing back into focus the exploration of the historical LDS response to homosexuality, this organization’s mission statement reports that Evergreen International sustains without reservation the standards and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Evergreen also reports it isn’t associated with the LDS church.

According to Evergreen International, its founders were 11 men who felt that a transition group was needed to help them in the process of individual healing. The organization was founded in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1989. Starting with a small group, Evergreen expanded internationally, with affiliates in various locations in the United States and abroad. Providing leadership, support, networking, written materials, and conferences, Evergreen’s philosophy is outlined as follows:

Evergreen views homosexuality as an unintentionally acquired condition that may have biological, developmental, and psychological causes. It is not a predetermined or unchangeable condition, but one that can be altered. The speed and extent of your transition will, to a large degree, be determined by your individual set of challenges.

Evergreen distinguishes between same-sex attraction and homosexuality. Same-sex attraction is an uncommonly intense interest and others of the same gender. This interest may include desires for their attention, friendship, and intimacy, and a fascination with their bodies and other gender [p. 18] traits. Homosexuality is a broader term that includes same-sex attraction as well as erotic thoughts and sexual behavior involving others of the same gender.

Homosexual behavior is out of harmony with God’s intentions for men and women and individuals are responsible for their actions. Same-sex attraction is not a sin but can be very troublesome to those who experience it. Christ’s atonement enables every soul the opportunity to turn away from all conditions that obstruct their temporal and eternal happiness. Healing comes from God.

Jensen [J. R. Jensen, “We see what we believe: The heterosexualization of gay men and lesbians in the LDS Church.” Paper presented at Sunstone, Washington, DC., 1998] reports that the current official position of the church toward homosexuality works in a circular manner with LDS Social Services. The leaders of the church tell the LDS mental health professionals what they should believe about gays and lesbians. Then, some of those LDS mental health professionals use psychological lingo to rephrase these beliefs. Finally, Church leaders quote from such a lingo in order to support their official church position. Jensen points out the prominent LDS mental health professionals (including BYU psychology professors and administrators) are currently recommending that LDS mental health professionals adopt attitudes toward homosexuality that are consistent with those of the church, regardless of any professional ethics and training they may receive elsewhere which would tell them to avoid such bias in their practice and research.” (Kristopher Albert Goodwill, “Religion and the Spiritual Needs of Gay Mormon Men,” M.S.W. thesis, California State University, Long Beach, May, 1999)


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

We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families.



Self-Awareness Group Guidelines

Church member should not participate in groups that:

  1. Challenge religious and moral values or advocate unwarranted confrontation with spouse or family members as a means of reaching one’s potential.
  1. Imitate sacred rites or ceremonies.
  1. Foster physical contact among participants.
  1. Meet late into the evening or in the early-morning hours.
  1. Encourage open confession or disclosure of personal information normally discussed only in confidential settings.
  1. Cause a husband and wife to be paired with other partners.

…” (First Presidency Circular Letter to priesthood leaders in the United States and Canada, June 21, 1999)


“In addition to having counsel from the Lord’s prophet to provide guidance, it is helpful to have accurate information about homosexuality and its development. First, it is important to understand that homosexuality is not innate and unchangeable.  Research has not proved that homosexuality is genetic.…

Other researchers note treatment success rates that exceed 50 percent, which is similar to the success rates for treating other difficulties.…” (A. Dean Byrd, “When a Loved One Struggles with Same-Sex Attraction,” Ensign, September 1999) [NOTE THAT AT THIS TIME, BYRD WAS ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER OF LDS FAMILY SERVICES.]


“I most recently served as bishop of the Salt Lake University 29th Ward, Salt Lake University 5th Stake.…

I write this letter out of the realization that to maintain my own personal integrity, I need to inform you of the personal heartache and damage you have to some degree been responsible for visiting upon my immediate family as the author of To the One.…

One evening in 1997, while I was out of town and my wife was being assured by our well-meaning Stake President at his office that “if we just keep it quiet – the same as if someone in your family had committed adultery [our son had done nothing]- it will all be just fine, trust me . . . ,” our son slit his wrists in his room at home.  Earlier in the day, it had been the ” Sodom and Gomorrah” lesson in Seminary.

As bishop of a student Ward at the University of Utah working with homosexual returned missionaries, I came to the painful realization that the “reparative therapy” practiced by LDS Social Services and organizations such as Evergreen (whose board of directors I then served on) was not merely ineffective, it was terribly damaging.  In every instance I found that this “therapy” accomplished little more than driving these earnest brothers and sisters, desperate to believe that they would “change,” deeper into self-loathing and despondency.

Their failure to “change” as promised them by you and other Priesthood leaders – a failure ultimately arrived at by each and every one of these young men and women who were honest with his or her situation – left only three realistic alternatives: (1) practice deceit as long as possible to remain in good standing with Church and family, (2) give up completely, abandon Church and family, and turn to the only community that will accept you – the gay community, or (3) commit suicide.…

In To The One you make the summary statement that “some forms of these treatments [reparative therapy] are of substantial help in about 25 percent of the cases” without offering any authority for this statistic.  Where did this amazing (though still disheartening) statistic come from?  Undoubtedly it came from the experts at LDS Social Services.  Unfortunately, however, LDS Social Services must not follow-up on their patients over any extended period of time. My experience as bishop of a student Ward, the father of a homosexual son, and a friend and confidant to the many LDS homosexuals I have since become acquainted with, would indicate to me that in some few cases, the terrible guilt associated with reparative therapy and the strong desire to remain in good standing with the Church and one’s family has brought about an ability to repress one’s homosexual desires – for a season. Usually just long enough to get married and ruin a family.  Perhaps this is the 25% you spoke of.  The current publication for ecclesiastical leaders Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems seems to recognize the realistic lack of curability in its statement:

“Marriage should not 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.”

At the crux of the issue of homosexuality and the Church are the three great interrelated beliefs: (1) there is an element of choice involved in becoming and remaining homosexual, (2) it can be cured, and (3) our children and youth can be recruited or enticed into homosexuality.  Every time we have sought out help for our son and family on this issue from Priesthood leaders or General Authorities we have been summarily referred to the experts at LDS Social Services. Because the lives and well-being of so many trusting individuals and family members are at stake here, it would seem that much stock is put in the expertise of LDS Social Services in this matter.  Isn’t it fairly obvious, though, that the “experts” you rely on at LDS Social Services to professionally corroborate and support the doctrine and policy of the Church would support whatever position you have mandated to be the only correct one?  Such is the level of respect for and faith in the office you hold.  In all honesty, to disagree with a member of the Twelve on a matter of doctrine is tantamount to heresy.  I’m sure you are aware that the American Psychiatric Association has denounced “reparative therapy” for treating homosexuals as both ineffective and damaging.  I find it ironic that when a fundamentalist religious group shuns sound medical intervention as a doctrine we find it appalling and backwards – yet when that same sound medical advice denounces the practice of “reparative therapy” we call it “worldly” false doctrine.  I guess it all depends on just whose ox is being gored.

In To The One you preach that homosexuality is not innate, but is a curable condition. Your fundamental proof: God wouldn’t make a mistake like this. By preaching this, you set the impossible goal of “cure” as the standard to which my son must hold himself responsible, as must his family and all other Church members.  Until he chooses to do what he must to be “cured,” he hasn’t done enough.  He will never have done enough.  He will always come up failing in the most fundamental aspect of his entire existence as a child of his Heavenly Father.  He is a pervert, an aberration, and an abomination.  There is nothing left in this life or the next.  How would you deal with this if you were him? Homosexuality is not a “condition” that can be “cured.”   My proof: I have yet to meet even one venerable grandfather with a fine posterity (or anyone else for that matter) who says he was once homosexual but was long ago cured – and my experience as a father observing my son from birth.

Perhaps the most hurtful aspect of To The One is your revelation that the fundamental reason why my son has not been “cured” is because of his selfishness.…

My brother, Ralph, asked me at one point “What would you have the General Authorities do about this issue?”

I wish that someone in authority would have the compassion and the courage simply to own up publicly to the fact that this is a difficult issue about which we just don’t have many answers.…

I wish that someone in authority would recognize that To The One was an effort twenty years ago by a very good man to address a difficult issue in the context of the time in which it was written, and pull it from circulation.…” (David Eccles Hardy to Boyd K. Packer, October 7, 1999)


The Jayce Cox Interview

Courtesy of Gary and Millie Watts

Jayce is a member of the church in Las Vegas where he served not long ago as an Elder’s Quorum President.  He is a returned missionary.  The following account was supplied to Gary and Millie Watts for use on this site.

This is a transcript from an interview between Jayce and his therapist, Ron Lawrence, a licensed marriage and family therapist, Community Counseling Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, Jan. 17, 2000

I’m going to just start out by asking some questions and just a little bit about you. Now, how old are you Jayce?


Twenty-four. How long have you known or dealt with the fact that you’re gay?

I’ve always known, you know. You just always know.…

How is it that you got connected with reparative therapy?

The very first time I ever told a religious leader that I maybe had inappropriate feelings–because that’s what they were labeled–I was 18. And he said, “Don’t worry about it. You haven’t done anything wrong. You haven’t acted upon it. Just date a lot a more.”…

I moved back to Montana and I thought that I had it all under control, and then I decided to go to school in Utah. I was an RA there, which is like a hall director for a floor of a dormitory.

And what school was this?

Weber State University.

And one of the other guys who was an RA and I would kind of … . There were sparks. He was openly gay and that really intrigued me. He would give me gifts and talk to me. Then one night, late at night, we had this kiss and I just freaked out. The next day [I] went to my bishop and he gave me a [telephone] number of somebody down in Salt Lake City with Evergreen International, which is a support group for people trying to overcome their SSA which is, you know, is same-sex attraction.

And when I went there I went to this meeting with this one counselor and he gave me a number of somebody to call that I had to be really discreet about, down in Provo. And so I called him and he had me come down to Provo and meet with him and we talked. We had a two-hour long counseling session. We talked about lack of a strong relationship with my father and the very strong mother figure and he told me that there was a program that we had to be very secretive about, that if I truly wanted to overcome my same-sex attraction that I could participate in, but that it was gonna cost about five, six thousand dollars. But I could do it. I was a candidate for it or whatever, that I qualified.

What were this man’s qualifications? Was he a psychologist, was he a social worker? Do you know?

I’m pretty sure he was a psychologist. So I drove back to Ogden and really thought about it, prayed about it. I went to my bishop and asked ‘im what he thought I should do without giving him much detail because I was told, you know, this needs to be maintained in the strictest confidence and I couldn’t even really explain it to my bishop, [and] especially not my family or friends. He said, “Well, pray about it. And if you think it can help you might as well do it.” And I had savings for college and so I cashed in all my savings bonds and I went back to Provo. [pauses] This is kind of …

It’s hard.

Yeah. This is the first time I ever talked about it.…

And did you indeed spend that sum of money on it?

I spent every dollar I had saved for college.

Six thousand dollars?

Um, hm. Actually, it ended up to be about nine thousand dollars all together. And so I went back to Provo and I would go once a week for the first month. At first we would just talk.

Under the auspices of what group, Jayce?

There was no name attached to it. It was just the Program.

And it was run by whom? The psychologist?

It was at BYU [Brigham Young University].

Oh, it was at BYU.

Uh, huh. But I had to sign waivers that I would never, ever discuss this. That if anything went wrong I was liable and no one else. The church would not be liable, BYU would not be liable, that this professor would not be liable. That I did this of my own volition.

So, there was a professor at BYU?

Um, hm.

And would you care to identify who that person was?

[long pause] Um, his name is Michael Keats. But I don’t know that that’s his real name. ‘Cause I was told not to give my real name.

Do you know what he taught at BYU?

I think he was a professor of psychology.


Um, hm. And the program was called aversion therapy.

And what did they do in this program of aversion therapy?

He had me go into Salt Lake City and go to an adult bookstore and find pornography that I found erotic, or whatever. And then I had to bring it back to him and he … . I don’t know if it was a BYU photo lab or what, but [the pornography] was turned into slides and then they would put electrodes first on my hands–and I have burns.

You have burns on your hands? Oh, I see those burns.

That’s from those. And then they’re on my arm and my torso. At first.

What year was this, Jayce? Give me a time frame.

It was ’94, the last five, six months of 1994.

[long pause] At first we didn’t use the slides or any visual type of stimulation. He just told me to fantasize. And as I was trying to fantasize or whatever, trying to do what he wanted me to do, randomly they would send shocks. And that happened for, like, the first three weeks. And that was about six sessions. And then the slides were ready.

OK, let me see if I understand this. You were told to fantasize male-male eroticism?

Uh, huh.

And then they would send random shocks into your body which caused these scars on your body and on your hands?

Um, hm.

[long pause] Then there would be slides. [long pause] There were more electrodes this time and they were on … . [pause] This is kind of embarrassing. [pause] I mean, they were all … . I was in a position where they could tell if I was being aroused or not. It was very obvious. And then if there was any kind of arousal whatsoever I would be shocked. And then that happened for about two months.

OK. I’m gonna to ask you a really personal question. Did they also have an electrode on your penis?

Um, hm.

And is there scar tissue there?

Uh, huh. [long pause]

That happened for at least eight sessions. Probably actually about sixteen because it was two months that we did just that form. And then the electrodes were all [in] the same places, but then I had the control that when I was being shocked I could press this plunger or button or whatever and a picture of a woman would come up and the electrodes would stop.

OK. Now, this took place on BYU property?

Um, hm.

OK. Where at? Do you know?

It’s the Smith Family Living Center. It was in the basement.

In the basement?

Um, hm.


Um, hm.

The last two months, that’s what we would do. And that was only once a week. And then one day I was driving to Provo and I just couldn’t get off the exit. I couldn’t do it anymore. And so I just turned around and went back to Ogden and told my bishop that I was fine, that I was OK and he said, “If there’s anything left, your mission will fix that.” And so I left for my mission … .

Which was where?

To Minnesota. I served there for about four months in missionary capacity before I became very physically ill. I think it was mostly the emotional trauma of everything that I’d gone through and still knowing that I was still gay, that I was still having these feelings about my companion that I was living with. And I couldn’t do it anymore.…

Anything else you need to tell me about this experience?

The most traumatic part I don’t really think was the electrical part. The aversion therapy. I think going to individual therapy and having the therapist tell you that you can’t do this to your family, that you’re supposed to be a father.

So they’re imposing guilt and shame on you?

Uh, huh. And you have all these spirit children who are waiting to come to earth and how are they going to come to earth if you’re gay? If you can’t procreate.

And this person was a psychologist?

Um, hm. Well, I think so. A counselor or something with Evergreen International. That, I think, for me, was the hardest part. Dealing with all that guilt that’s put upon you and having them always reminding you that the only way to be a valid person is to be a father and a husband and somebody who procreates. And that’s the only way to be saved, is if you’re married.

So, Jayce, are you a valid person?

Um, hm.

Good. Indeed you are.

So that’s been the hardest part to reconcile.

But you see yourself as valid?

Uh, huh.

Good. Because indeed, you are.

Jayce, do you have any idea [if] these things are still happening there?

Oh, yeah.

They are? At BYU?

Uh, huh. I have some really good friends who’ve gone to the program recently.

It’s electric shock and they’re still doing it?

Um, hm.

And is that connected with Evergreen International?

No, they’re separate. They’re separate.

They’re separate? Tell me about that. Does Evergreen International make the referral to that separate program?

That’s how I got the referral.

From Evergreen?

But I don’t think that they do that anymore. I really don’t.

They don’t do what anymore, Jayce?

Make that referral.

Evergreen doesn’t?

Uh, huh. But somehow, the word is still getting out that there’s a program there [at BYU].

And it’s electroshock?

Uh, huh.

And, so, how recently have you heard about it?

I know it was within the last two years.

Within the last two years. So that is still occurring on the campus of Brigham Young University?

I believe that it’s still going on now. I know it is. Because my friend, Jimmy, who went through Evergreen, he’s, like, “No, that doesn’t happen anymore.” A lot of people think that that’s been stopped. But how secretive it was. I’m pretty sure the doctor didn’t give me his real name.

So you’ve heard about it within the past two years?

Um, hm.

It’s still happening?

Um, hm. I know it is. It is.…”

(“BYU Gay Electro Shock Torture,” www.SalamanderSociety.com/sexuality/torture/)


“[p. 51] Lee is a 39-year-old gay man. He went on a mission for the LDS Church and was married for 14 years. Lee spent ‘20-some years in therapy to be straight.’ His attempts to change his sexual orientation included reparative therapy, hypnosis, psychotherapy, drug therapy, and electroshock therapy. When Lee’s wife asked him for a divorce, he ‘went into shock’ and reached a point where suicide seemed the only resolution. At the time of the interview, Lee no longer identified as LDS…

[p. 53] Shawn is a 30-year-old who identifies as ‘homosexual.’ He considered himself to be on a ‘continuum’ with his sexuality, however, having had attractions to both men and women. Shawn married at the age of 19 to ‘become straight.’ During his marriage, Shawn also went through reparative therapy as a means to change his sexual orientation. Nine years and three children later, Shawn’s marriage ended in divorce.…

 “[p. 64] More explicit that simply ‘don’t worry’ about the attractions and they will disappear, 9 participants indicated that they were given messages that they must change their sexual orientation. When Steve disclosed that he was gay 3 years ago, his stake president told Steve that he needed to go for reparative therapy. The stake president also offered to give Steve a blessing that would ‘change’ the ‘protons and neutrons’ in Steve’s brain, thereby changing Steve’s same-sex attractions. Scott also was advised to get reparative therapy by a therapist at BYU who called Scott’s problem a ‘serious sin and difficult situation that required desperate measures.’ Tyler relayed how his stake president [p. 65] performed an ‘exorcism’ on him to change: ‘He was just going to give me a blessing, and he started commanding these demons to leave my soul.’” (Lynda Gail Brzezinski, “Dealing with Disparity: Identity Development of Same-Sex Attracted/Gay Men Raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” PhD dissertation, University of Utah, May 2000)


“Mormons seeking to overcome same-sex orientation are urged to avoid pornography and masturbation, end ‘unhealthy relationships,’ fast, pray, study scripture and listen to inspirational music. And, the booklet [Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems, 1992] advises, help may be needed from ‘qualified therapists who understand and honor gospel principles.’

That is as close as Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems comes to mentioning such groups as Evergreen International, or the school of so-called ‘Reparative Therapy’ it embraces.

While the LDS Church does not officially endorse Evergreen, the group’s membership is heavily Mormon and LDS Family Services occasionally makes referrals to therapists from the group.

Reparative Therapy, also known as Conversion Therapy, insists homosexuality is a learned behavior, not truly an orientation.  What can be learned, RT enthusiasts maintain, can be unlearned; homosexuals can be cured through counseling, prayer and support groups.

The success of such therapy is anecdotal, with no conclusive long-term research available.  Most psychologists view RT as ineffective at beast and potentially dangerous to its participants, whom they see as deluded into battling an integral part of their natures.

Courtney Moser, adviser for Utah State University’s Pride Alliance, went through years of ‘reorientation.’

‘I didn’t choose to be gay,’ he says. ‘In my case, I actively chose against it—and it didn’t work.

‘Every person I know who has been through reorientation programs has come out very messed up, very emotionally and spiritually damaged,’ Moser says.  ‘They have trouble forming any kind of relationship.  And they usually hate religion because of it.’” (Bob Mims, “The LDS Choices: Marriage or Celibacy,” Salt Lake Tribune, December 31, 2000, p. A13)


“So when Judd came out to David [Hardy] in Austria in 1995, and David shared the information with Carlie, they did what they had always done—they turned to the church. They enrolled Judd in a stint of reparative therapy (which purports to counsel people in ‘overcoming’ their homosexuality).…

One of the pamphlets they found advises church leaders on how to act if a member confesses same-sex attraction. ‘God has promised to help those who earnestly strive to live his commandments,’ and it says members should be reassured that for those who repent enough, ‘heterosexual feelings emerge.’ This pamphlet is only available to leadership. An average member receives more explicit instruction, like that in the text of a speech given by a former president and prophet: ‘Satan tells his victims that it is a natural way of life; that it is normal; that perverts are a different kind of people born ‘that way’ and that they cannot change. This is a base lie.… it were better that such a man were never born.’…

The suicide attempt, says Judd, now a sophomore studying theatre at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, ‘wasn’t [done] out of despair as much as it was [done] almost out of duty. It felt to me as if I was in this loop that I couldn’t end. The church wanted me to change, and I couldn’t get past that. And I couldn’t change, and I couldn’t get past that.… It was a quick resolution before doing the damage of falling into a life of sin. I believed too strongly in the church and the church’s values, and I placed those above my own life.’” (Katherine Rosman, “Mormon Family Values,” The Nation, February 25, 2002)


“Evergreen International is the most complete resource for Latter-day Saints on same-sex attraction.

Evergreen is a nonprofit corporation that offers help to people who want to diminish these attractions and overcome homosexual behavior.…” (Evergreen International website, “Last modified March 23, 2004”)


“Evergreen is a nonprofit corporation that offers help to people who want to diminish their attractions and overcome homosexual behavior.…

Evergreen is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but we sustain the doctrines and standards of the Church without reservation or exception. Our Board of Trustees usually includes one or more emeritus General Authorities and we continue to build relationships with Area Presidencies and other Church leaders. Upon request, we provide training to hundreds of stake and ward leaders each year.…

Any information provided on this Web site or by us in other communications is for the purpose of providing what we believe to be accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered.…

Evergreen attests that individuals can overcome homosexual behavior and can diminish same-sex attraction

TRAINING FOR CHURCH LEADERS. Our Board of Trustees usually includes one or more emeritus General Authorities and we continue to build relationships with Area Presidencies and other Church leaders. Upon request, we provide training to hundreds of stake and ward leaders each year. If your ward or stake would like our assistance, please contact us.

TRAINING FOR THERAPISTS. Evergreen offers training for professional counselors and organizations. Contact us for more information or see the Center for the Study of Gender-Affirmative Therapy.…

HISTORY. In the summer of 1989 in Salt Lake City, Utah, a group of eleven met to organize Evergreen.  Believing that homosexual practices are not in keeping with the gospel of Christ, these individuals were frustrated with their experience in other organizations. They concluded there must be a solution other than destroying spiritual beliefs or denying sexual longings.…” (Evergreen International, “About Us,” website last modified December 6, 2004)


“’As it turns out, God never intended my orientation to change in this lifetime. My life was actually killed long ago. Perhaps your action to help others understand the true nature of homosexuality might help to save many young people’s lives.’ – Stuart Matis…

Mansfield and the Matises support the church’s political opposition to same-sex marriage and its official requirement of celibacy outside heterosexual marriage. But they also believe that homosexual feelings are not chosen, nor can they be changed.

“God is not going to change the moral benchmark,” Marilyn Matis said this week. “What has to change is our understanding. When we begin to show compassion and love, the suicides will stop. If we keep our hearts open to our children, fewer will be lost to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

That’s quite a different message than what was promoted in an LDS book 10 years ago.

In 1994, Deseret Book published Born That Way? A True Story of Overcoming Same-Sex Attraction With Insights for Friends, Families and Leaders by Erin Eldridge. It recounted Eldridge’s own experience with homosexuality and promised anyone willing to work could change their orientation.

That is still the view of some LDS groups, especially Evergreen International, a resource group for Mormon gays who want to “overcome homosexuality and diminish same-sex attraction.” Though Evergreen is not affiliated with the LDS Church, the group “sustains the doctrines and standards of the church without reservation or exception,” according to its mission statement. Two emeritus LDS general authorities, Elders Jack Goaslind and Lionel Kendrik, are on Evergreen’s board.…

The LDS Church’s position is that “those who desire to be free of same-gender attraction can overcome that attraction and find hope by turning to the Lord and committing themselves to a program of change,” said spokesman Dale Bills.…

Gary Watts echoes Bradshaw’s feelings.

“We have got to figure out a way to allow gay people to have moral relationships,” said Watts, one of the leaders of Family Fellowship, a support group for relatives of LDS gays. “Am I in favor of sexual morality? Absolutely. Do I think we should value fidelity and trust? Yes. But I don’t see any reason why those virtues can’t be present in a gay relationship.”

He thinks requiring celibacy for Mormon gays is unhealthy and unfair.” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “A new chapter on LDS gays,” Salt Lake Tribune, December 18, 2004)


“I dreamed that I was in a fairly erotic situation with another man, and then midway through, I would just be electrocuted.” Jayce Cox says he doesn’t have the dream on a weekly basis any more, and he’s relieved. Now it’s just every couple of months that he bolts up, startled and shaking, in the middle of the night. He attributes this recurring dream to the aversion therapy administered at Brigham Young University.

Jayce tells his story:

It’s 1995. He is sitting in an office on the campus of BYU, where his counselor has attached electrodes to his hands, arms, torso and genitals. His Mormon Bishop gave him a referral to the counselor. Jayce is shown pornographic images of men having sexual encounters. Then, ZAP! His body tingles, then aches from the electrical shock administered by his trusted counselor. He is scheduled for twice-weekly sessions for four months. “Toward the end of the program I could press a button and it would stop the shock and then a picture of a woman would come on.”

But Jayce is 19 years old and he willingly goes back for more. He gives them his college savings — $9,000 — for the treatments which are promised to cure his homosexuality.

They promised me it would work, and who doesn’t want to live a life that’s normal and acceptable in your society and have your family embrace you?” he asks rhetorically.

Therapist Ron Lawrence of Community Counseling Center in Las Vegas says this “reparative therapy” is “equivalent to what I would call the kind of torture that people experienced in Nazi concentration camps.” Jayce displays the scars on his hands and tells of more scars where the electrodes were placed “on my torso, and [breathing deeply as though reliving some excruciating pain ] on my genitalia.”

The words don’t come easily to Jayce as he explains why he so willingly gave up his education savings — and put his earning potential on hold — in order to endure what Lawrence describes as “assault and battery, abuse”.

“You’re taught that the leaders of the church will never lie to you, never deceive you and you’re taught to believe them blindly,” Jayce explains. “I believed the counselors. I believed it would work. I believed that through that [reparative therapy], faith, temple attendance and prayer and fasting I would be healed. I believe that through God anything’s possible. And I was told it would work. It probably sounds really naive, but I truly believed it would work.” (“Head of Mormon Church: ‘Gays have a problem,’” Daily Kos, December 29, 2004) [NOTE: BOLD PASSAGES IN ORIGINAL]


“Deeply wounded after the painful break-up of my first Gay relationship in July 1986, I scurried back to the security of Mormonism.  I tried re-orientation therapy one last time to make me a heterosexual, through the University of Utah Counseling Center.  A Mormon intern there named Randall F. Hyde (now an adjunct professor at BYU and chair of the Psychology Department at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo) put me through several sessions of extremely debilitating hypnotherapy, which culminated in a session during which Hyde hypnotized me and then had me split myself into “Gay Connell” and “Straight Connell”.  He then had me visualize Jesus coming down through the ceiling and utterly destroying Gay Connell to dust and then “a mighty wind” blowing all the dust away.  This is the single most emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually crippling experience of my entire life.  Some 18 years later I am still healing from that traumatic “therapeutic” experience.”  (Connell O’Donovan, “’Losing My Religion’ -
Or, How I Baked a Custard Pudding and Lost My Belief in Mormonism,” 2004)


“The authors of In Quiet Desperation foster the innate, immutable theory of homosexuality. Such a view finds support neither in science nor in gospel doctrine. To the contrary, science supports the gospel message that ‘those who desire to be free of same-gender attraction can overcome that attraction and find hope by turning to the Lord and committing themselves to a program of change.’…

In Quiet Desperation is symptomatic of the confusion about same-sex attraction commonly had throughout society.…

The first problem with In Quiet Desperation is that it contains numerous incorrect statements and false notions about what is known about the nature of same-sex attraction and about LDS doctrine concerning the issue. In this review we summarize and comment on a number of such notions, including the “born that way” philosophy that has been, and remains, one of the most detrimental notions about same-sex attraction. The perpetuation of these false notions is damaging to the cause of bringing greater understanding and relief to the many who struggle.…

Completely absent from the book are the experiences of the many men (and women) who have successfully dealt with same-sex attraction, have married, have families, are not depressed, and are living hopeful and happy lives.…

However, with appropriate help, many individuals who struggle with same-sex attraction are able to diminish or eliminate that attraction and make substantial changes in their lives. Those who read In Quiet Desperation, therefore, should do so with the knowledge that the Stuart Matis story may have had a much different outcome had Stuart found the needed help.…” (A. Dean Byrd, Ph.D., MBA, MPH; Shirley E. Cox, DSW, LCSW; and Jeffrey W. Robinson, Ph.D.  “A Slippery Slope that Limits the Atonement: A Review of In Quiet Desperation: Understanding The Challenge Of Same-gender Attraction,” http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/publications/a-slippery-slope-that-limits-the-atonement, July 21, 2005)


“The extent of the problem [reparative therapy] is seen in the fact that Evergreen receives over 150 requests for help each month from those with homosexual attractions; 40 percent of these requests come from men who are married.”  (Ron Schow, quoting David Pruden, Evergreen executive director, personal communication, October 2002, “Homosexual Attraction and LDS Marriage Decisions,” Dialogue 38(3):134, Fall 2005)


“Congratulations to Evergreen International for sponsoring and organizing this 15th annual conference.  It is an honor to be a member of its board. As you know, Evergreen sustains the doctrines and standards of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without being affiliated with it.…

We do not know whether same gender attraction follows the pattern of any of the congenital or acquired disorders. The ongoing debate about the cause of same gender attraction or whether or not same gender attraction can be cured is irrelevant in the context of true religion. The straight and narrow path leads the right way, regardless of same gender attraction’s cause, or whether or not it can be cured. The right way is very simple. Here it is: 

  • Feelings of attraction toward someone of the same gender should be eliminated if possible or controlled. You did not choose to have these feelings, but you can do something about them. 
  • Homosexual or lesbian erotic thoughts are the consequences of uncontrolled feelings and they are wrong, just as heterosexual erotic thoughts are wrong. They must be stopped! 
  • Homosexual or lesbian behavior is a serious sin, as is heterosexual fornication and adultery. It must be stopped! 

How one responds to feelings is the key. Alma stated that our thoughts will condemn us (Alma 12:14). 

Elder Dallin H. Oaks noted: 

“The words homosexual, lesbian and gay are adjectives to describe thoughts, feelings or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify 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 birth [or some other reason] consigns a person to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior.”…

The claim, “I was born that way” does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. Although you did not choose to have these feelings, you are free how to respond.…

We must not change God-given patterns of celestial behavior because of a congenital or acquired disorder.  President Spencer W. Kimball taught that homosexuality is curable and forgivable.  [Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 82] Though difficult, same gender attraction is no different than many other problems people have.…

Can individuals struggling with some same gender attraction be cured? “With God nothing should be impossible” (Luke 1:37). It really doesn’t matter, however, whether or not same gender attraction can be cured. The right course of action remains the same: eliminate or diminish same sex attraction.…

In the day of resurrection you will have normal affections and be attracted to the opposite sex.”  (James O. Mason, “The Worth of a Soul is Great,” Evergreen International 15th Annual Conference, September 17, 2005) 


“The innate-immutable theory of homosexuality has no basis in science. Simplistic biological theory has been dismissed by all of the researchers whose studies have been cited to support the notion that homosexuality is so deeply compelled by biology that it cannot change.

Let’s examine the words of just one of those often incorrectly cited as providing evidence for a ‘gay gene.’  Simon LeVay notes, ‘It is important to stress what I didn’t find.  I did not prove that homosexuality was genetic, or find a cause for being gay.  I didn’t show that gay men were born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work.’

A new research study by a University of Illinois team, which has screened the entire human genome, reported that there is no one gay gene.…

Even more prominent was the research by Robert Spitzer, the very psychiatrist to lead the charge to remove homosexuality from the psychiatric manual.…” (David Clarke Pruden, “No scientific basis for ‘born gay’ theory,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 8, 2006.  Pruden was the executive director of Evergreen International at the time he wrote this op-ed.] [NOTE THAT SPITZER LATER RECANTED HIS CLAIMS ABOUT REPARATIVE THERAPY]


“Views on sexual orientation were misrepresented

In 1991 I published a report in Science that described a difference in brain structure between homosexual and heterosexual men.

Although this was not the first biological study of sexual orientation, it drew a great deal of attention both from the general public and within the scientific community. It was followed by a wealth of other studies, and collectively these have greatly strengthened the general conclusion that I drew 15 years ago: Biological factors – including prenatal brain development, hormones and genes – exert a powerful influence on the direction of a person’s sexual attractions.

The scientific evidence has helped many people view homosexuality and gay people with greater understanding and acceptance, but it has provoked antagonistic responses from those who are heavily invested in the concept of homosexuality as something undesirable or sinful.

Among the latter is David Clarke Pruden, director of Evergreen International, an organization that offers religion-based sexual conversion treatment to gay or lesbian Mormons. In a July 8 opinion piece in the Tribune, Pruden presents a wholly misleading account of scientific research in the field of sexual orientation.

Pruden grossly misrepresents me as someone who has abandoned or disproved the biological perspective. He quotes me as saying that my 1991 study, by itself, didn’t prove whether gay people are “born that way.” That’s true, but the totality of the available evidence points strongly in that direction. For readers who would like more information about the science, I have posted a detailed review of the biology of sexual orientation on my easily Googled Web site.

Employing a turn of phrase calculated to confuse any reader, Pruden writes that a recent genetic study from the University of Illinois “reported that there is no one gay gene.” That’s correct – it reported evidence for three! How does finding three “gay genes” rather than one show that the born-that-way theory of homosexuality has “no basis in science,” as Pruden argues?

Pruden also misrepresents the research of psychiatrist Robert Spitzer by reporting that he found a high rate of success among people undergoing conversion treatment. In reality, Spitzer specifically recruited people who claimed to have already successfully completed conversion treat- ment.

Thus, his numbers say nothing about the chances that a gay person contemplating such treatment would end up changing his or her sexual orientation. By all accounts, the chances of “success” – if that is the right word – are far outweighed by the likelihood of experiencing lasting psychological trauma. The American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations have both gone on record as opposing the practice of, and need for, sexual conversion.

Evergreen International trumpets the fact that some homosexual people can function in heterosexual marriages, including in the bedroom. But is that so surprising? That’s what most gays and lesbians did, after all, back in the days before there was the option of joining an out-of-the-closet gay community. A more relevant question is, why should they feel the need to go back into that dark and painful space?

According to Evergreen, homosexuality is incompatible with a Mormon identity, so that gay Mormons must reject either their sexual orientation or their culture and religion. Yet eloquent voices are speaking up in favor of an integration of the two.

Here’s how Family Fellowship, a Utah-based support group, puts it in its mission statement: “We share our witness that gay and lesbian Mormons can be great blessings in the lives of their families, and that families can be great blessings in the lives of their gay and lesbian members.” Simon LeVay is a neuroscientist who has written or co-authored eight books, including The Sexual Brain, Queer Science, and the textbook Human Sexuality.” (Simon LeVay, “It’s clear that biology influences sexual orientation,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 15, 2006)


“Idaho State University professor Ron Schow has studied LDS homosexuals. Of 136 he surveyed in 1994, 71% were returned missionaries and 36 had tried marriage. Only two of the 36 were still married.” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Gay, Mormon, Married: Mixed-orientation LDS couples count on commitment, work and love to beat the odds,” Salt Lake Tribune, August 5, 2006)


“A Utah psychologist and 10 members of Evergreen International will join a protest this weekend against what the group calls the American Psychological Association’s ‘hostility’ toward treatment of unwanted same-sex attraction.

According to a press release from Utah-based Evergreen International, the protesters will join with delegates from other ‘traditional values organizations’ to challenge the APA’s president and governing board, who are meeting this weekend in New Orleans. The APA, according to the Evergreen statement, has refused to meet with defenders of same-sex attraction treatment.

The evidence that ‘some people can modify their homosexual orientation is far greater than the evidence available for some of the therapies currently endorsed by the APA, for which there is no scientific evidence,’ said Evergreen director David Pruden. Evergreen is defined on its Web site as a ‘nonprofit organization that helps people who want to diminish same-sex attraction and overcome homosexual behavior.’

‘There exists a climate of prejudice in APA against clients — often people of traditional values — who wish to decrease their homosexual attractions and develop their heterosexual potential,’ said Utah psychologist Dr. A. Dean Byrd, who will take part in the protest in New Orleans.

The APA’s position is based on ‘one-sided activism, not science,’ Byrd said. ‘Such a position denies the very existence of those people whose lives prove that change is possible.’” (“Homosexual change is focus of protest,” Deseret News, August 12, 2006)


“Evergreen, which bills itself as ‘the leading organization for Latter-day Saints dealing with unwanted homosexuality,’ has no official affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but many LDS bishops and stake presidents are among the attendees each year. Also, its board of trustees usually includes one or more emeritus general authorities of the church and at least one such authority has spoken at the annual conference every year for the past decade.

This year, Elder Rex Pinegar, an emeritus member of the First Quorum of Seventy, will address the conference Saturday at 8 a.m. at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City.” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “LDS official to address group for gay Mormons,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 14, 2006)


“We nurture and provide help to growth and accountability groups. We now have 34 active groups, with another 9 beginning to form. We are pleased to announce that we have recently reached an agreement with LDS Family Services to assist with many of these groups.…

We maintain close relations with Church leaders and provide training to local leaders upon request.…

This year, Evergreen intends to step up the pace in educating the general membership of the Church and the public.… Today, we live in an evil world where Satan has captured the hearts, minds, and values of many people. His lie is that you are born gay, that this is your true identity, and not that you are a child of God with the power to overcome homosexual behavior and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.…

Elder Boyd K. Packer tells us that same-gender attraction ‘may be a struggle from which you will not be free in this life.’…” (Larry Richman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, 16th Annual Evergreen Conference, September 16, 2006)


“A man wrote a General Authority about how the power of the Atonement helped him with his problem of same-gender attraction.…

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).” (Dallin H. Oaks, “He Heals the Heavy Laden,” General Conference address, October 2006)


“The 17th annual conference of Evergreen International will be held Sept. 21 and 22 in the Joseph Smith Building in downtown Salt Lake City.…

Elder Douglas L. Callister of the Second Quorum of the Seventy will be the featured speaker Saturday morning…” (“Evergreen International schedules annual conference Sept. 21,22,” Deseret News, September 14, 2007)


“Just days after this week’s Evergreen International conference ends, the LDS Church will publish another look at same-sex attraction.

Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, in the October issue of Ensign, the church’s official magazine, will discuss the church’s perspective on several topics to be explored Friday and Saturday at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building by members of Evergreen, an outreach organization for Mormons dealing with homosexuality.…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “LDS Church to publish new look at same-sex attraction,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 18, 2007)


“For its part, Evergreen does suggest homosexual attractions often can be modified, if not eliminated.

The group, which bills itself as ‘the leading organization for Latter-day Saints dealing with unwanted homosexuality,’ has no official affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but many LDS bishops and stake presidents are among the attendees each year.  Also, its board of trustees usually includes one or more emeritus general authorities of the church and at least one such authority has spoken at the annual conference every year for the past decade.” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “LDS Church to publish new look at same-sex attraction,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 18, 2007)


“Evergreen International, the oldest and largest organization for faithful Latter-day Saints dealing with same-gender attraction, will hold its 18th annual conference on September 19 and 20, 2008 in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City.…

Elder William R. Walker of the Second Quorum of the Seventy will be the featured speaker Saturday morning…” (“Evergreen to Hold 18th Annual Conference,” Meridian Magazine, September 18, 2008)


“… Evergreen International, which offers itself as a resource to Mormons who ‘want to diminish their attractions and overcome homosexual behavior,’ does not involve itself in politics, executive director David Pruden said.

But he added the group supports LDS doctrines and standards without exception.

In opening remarks Friday at Evergreen International’s annual convention, chairman Larry Richman publicly supported the church’s advocacy on behalf of California’s Proposition 8, emphasizing that marriage between a man and a woman ‘is central to the gospel plan of salvation’ because ‘the sacred nature of marriage’ is closely linked to the ability to conceive children.…” (Lisa Carricaburu, “Evergreen International supports LDS church’s stand on Proposition 8,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 18, 2008)


“Would you please sign one of those books for her son, Michael, who, like so many young LDS men, served a mission and did all he knew to do to change his orientation, which of course he could not do. Last month, after diminishing activity in the church, he took off his garments and made the decision to leave permanently. ‘I’ve tried to find a place for myself in the church for 32 years. I’m tired of trying,’ he told us. What finally sent him out the door was the church’s involvement in Prop 8.…

For years I counseled him to follow the profit and keep the commandments and eventually things would be made right. I can no longer give him that counsel in good faith because I think the church is misguided on this issue and on homosexuality in general. We are losing too many fine young homosexual men and women because we are not doing enough to make a place where all our loved and welcome.” (Cheryl Pedersen to Carol Lynn Pearson, November 30, 2008)


 “[p. v] The American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates. Even though the research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, regardless of sexual orientation identity, the task force concluded that the population that undergoes SOCE tends to have strongly conservative religious views that lead them to seek to change their sexual orientation. Thus, the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who seek SOCE involves therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients’ active coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome.…

[p. 2] We see this multiculturally competent and affirmative approach as grounded in an acceptance of the following scientific facts: 

  • Same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations per se are normal and positive variants of human sexuality—in other words, they do not indicate either mental or developmental disorders. 
  • Homosexuality and bisexuality are stigmatized, and this stigma can have a variety of negative consequences (e.g., minority stress) throughout the life span. 
  • Same-sex sexual attractions and behavior occur
    in the context of a variety of sexual orientations and sexual orientation identities, and for some, sexual orientation identity (i.e., individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling) is fluid or has an indefinite outcome. 
  • Gay men, lesbians, and bisexual individuals form stable, committed relationships and families that are equivalent to heterosexual relationships and families in essential respects.…

The task force performed a systematic review of the peer- reviewed literature to answer three questions: 

  • Are sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) effective at changing sexual orientation? 
  • Are SOCE harmful? 
  • Are there any additional benefits that can be reasonably attributed to SOCE? 

We found serious methodological problems in this area of research, such that only a few studies met the minimal standards for evaluating whether psychological treatments, such as efforts to change sexual orientation, are effective.…

None of the recent research (1999–2007) meets methodological standards that permit conclusions regarding efficacy or safety. The few high-quality studies of SOCE conducted recently are qualitative (e.g., Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; Ponticelli, 1999; Wolkomir, 2001) and aid in an understanding of the population that undergoes sexual orientation change but do not provide the kind of information needed for definitive answers to questions of safety and efficacy. Given the limited amount of methodologically sound research, claims that recent SOCE is effective are not supported. 

We concluded that the early high-quality evidence is the best basis for predicting what would be the outcome of valid interventions. These studies show that enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation is uncommon.…

[p. 3] Thus, the results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same- sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE. 

We found that there was some evidence to indicate that individuals experienced harm from SOCE.”  (Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, August 2009)


“Lisa Diamond, a psychology professor and researcher at the University of Utah, says many women experience ‘fluidity’ in their attractions to men and women — falling in love with the person, not the gender — but their underlying sexual orientations don’t change.

Treatments that purport to change someone’s orientation or attractions, she says, raise concerns about truth in advertising.

‘Most accredited psychologists don’t approve of such therapies,’ Diamond says. ‘There’s a lot of concern that people are still being given the message that they can change their orientation through these sorts of techniques when there’s really no evidence that that’s true.’

Behaviors might change, Diamond says, but the ‘attractions, themselves, don’t appear to go away.’…

Evergreen International’s 19th annual conference

What » The conference, which includes workshops and lectures, supports Evergreen’s mission to help Latter-day Saints overcome same-sex attraction.

When » Friday and Saturday.

Where » Joseph Smith Memorial Building, 15 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City.

Featured speakers » Bruce C. Hafen, a member of the LDS Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy; Melissa Fryrear, a public policy director for Focus on the Family; Joseph Nicolosi, a reparative therapist and former president of National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).” (Rosemary Winters, “Words of love: ‘I don’t care that you’re gay’,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 15, 2009)


“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.’…

So what’s been going on during the last few years to cause the cultural earthquake we’re now feeling on this subject?  We have witnessed primarily an aggressive political movement more than we’ve witnessed substantive change in the medical or legal evidence.   In 1973, in response to increasing disruptions and protests by gay activists, the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations removed homosexuality from their official lists of disorders. Significantly, they took this action by simply putting the issue to an open vote in their professional meetings—not because of any change in actual medical findings.  As LDS psychologist Dean Byrd writes, ‘This was the first time in the history of healthcare that a diagnosis was decided by popular vote rather than scientific evidence.’…

As Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, in recent years ‘we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of [the homosexual] lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterize those who disagree with them as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable.  Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like ‘homophobic.’… This is more than a social issue — ultimately it may be a test of our most basic religious freedoms to teach what we know our Father in Heaven wants us to teach.’

Consider now four misconceptions the activists seek to establish as facts in the minds of policymakers and the public.  I share these here because these misconceptions, if believed, will seriously undermine the efforts of Latter-day Saints or others who desire to overcome their own same-gender attraction.    First is the misconception that same-gender attraction is an inborn and unalterable orientation.  This untrue assumption tries to persuade you to label yourselves and build your entire identity around a fixed sexual orientation or condition.  How would that affect you? As President James E. Faust wrote, ‘The false belief of inborn homosexual orientation denies to repentant souls the opportunity to change and will ultimately lead to discouragement, disappointment, and despair.’…

So, even though natural personality traits do influence one’s inclinations, the idea that there is a ‘gay gene’ has little scientific support.   As two Columbia University researchers put it, ‘The assertion that homosexuality is genetic … must be dismissed out of hand as a general principle of psychology.’…

We know from the research that among women, up to 80% who have same-gender attraction were abused in some way as children.…

A second misconception the activists promote is that therapy cannot treat, let alone change, same-gender attraction.  This false assumption is linked to the first one: if you’re born gay, there is no need to change; and since you have a permanent condition, you can’t change anyway.  Evidence that people have indeed changed threatens the political agenda of the activists, because actual change disproves their claim that homosexuality is a fixed condition that deserves the same legal protections as those fixed conditions like race and gender.…

Dr. Spitzer listened again, and he decided to study two hundred people who had changed to a heterosexual orientation that had lasted more than five years.  Dr. Spitzer published his research findings, despite the objections of activists who thought his work threatened their political agenda.  He concluded, ‘Like most psychiatrists, I thought that … sexual orientation could not be changed.  I now believe that is untrue — some people can and do change.’… [NOTE THAT SPITZER LATER RECANTED THIS.]

Now, to be sure, not everybody who seeks treatment succeeds.… But in general, well over half of those seeking treatment can be significantly helped by it.  That is roughly the same success rate as treatments for clinical depression. One non-LDS therapist who has treated both men and women for years reports that 40% of his clients find full heterosexual resolution, another 40% achieve enough resolution to control their attraction and behavior, and 20% are unsuccessful.…

The New York Times, a few years ago, reported a ‘powerful consensus’ in the social science research that children do best when they live with their own mom and dad.  The research clearly shows that, by every measure of child well-being — such as health, emotional stability, education, and avoiding crime, drugs, and abuse — children do far better in a two-parent, married heterosexual family.…’” (Bruce C. Hafen, address at Evergreen International annual conference, September 19, 2009; LDS Newsroom)


“People who are attracted to members of their own sex can change, an LDS general authority said Saturday, so they shouldn’t let Satan persuade them they can’t.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, spoke at the 19th annual conference of Evergreen International, a nonprofit group that helps Mormons ‘overcome homosexual behavior’ and ‘diminish same-sex attraction.’ The event was held at the LDS Church’s Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City.

Hafen promised attendees, ‘If you are faithful, on resurrection morning — and maybe even before then — you will rise with normal attractions for the opposite sex.’…

Last month, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution advising mental health professionals against telling their clients they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.

No solid evidence exists that such efforts work, the APA concluded, and some studies suggest the potential for harm, including depression and suicidal tendencies. A task force reviewed 83 studies on sexual-orientation change conducted since 1960.

The ‘long-standing consensus’ of the behavioral and social sciences, the APA noted, is that homosexuality is a ‘normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation.’

Will Carlson of Equality Utah, which advocates on behalf of gay and transgender Utahns, when contacted by The Tribune, said, ‘These young men and women at Evergreen are experiencing normal attractions right now … It’s irresponsible for [Hafen] to suggest that if someone just wants to bad enough, they can be straight.’

Hafen spent a large portion of his talk, held during a Sunday-like service, criticizing the gay-rights movement and denying a biological link to sexual orientation. Same-sex attraction is ‘not in your DNA,’ he said.

He attacked the APA’s decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, deeming it politically motivated.…

Lisa Diamond, a psychology professor and researcher at the University of Utah, in an interview with The Tribune , called Hafen’s assertion ‘hilarious’ and ‘absolutely untrue.’

Homosexuality had been listed as a disorder, Diamond said, without any real scientific data. The APA reversed course after a pioneering psychologist, Evelyn Hooker, produced research to show there was no difference between the mental health of straight and gay individuals, she said.

‘That moment really did represent, in fact, the triumph of science over prejudice,’ Diamond said.…” (Rosemary Winters, “Homosexuality ‘not in your DNA,’ says LDS leader,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 19, 2009)


“With his background in family law, Elder Hafen, the former dean of BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, listed four misconceptions that he said activists try to establish as facts to try to influence policymakers and the public:

  • That same-gender attraction is an inborn and unalterable orientation.
  • That therapy cannot treat, let alone change, same-gender attraction.
  • That most Americans favor same-gender marriage, which means the church is outside the mainstream in opposing it.
  • And that there are no rational, nonreligious reasons for opposing same-gender marriage.”

(Lana Groves and Scott Taylor, “Don’t succumb to cultural confusion, Elder Hafen urges,” Deseret News, September 20, 2009)


“… the Evergreen International conference held Sept. 18-19 at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. Evergreen, a nonprofit that offers members of the LDS Church help and support in repressing or ‘diminishing’ homosexuality, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.…

Taking place at the same time was a conference for members of Affirmation, a group of gay and lesbian Mormons that believes homosexuality is a special gift from God. Among that group are former Evergreen clients, some of whom say their Evergreen treatment included electro-shock aversion therapy and being told to marry as a means of avoiding homosexual behavior.…

‘At BYU, being told to masturbate to pictures of Madonna as a therapy for homosexuality—that did harm. That did real harm,’ Eric said to a roomful of attendees at the Evergreen conference. The attendees erupted in laughter, but Eric wasn’t joking.…

Even some Mormon mental-health professionals seem out of step with LDS Church leaders like Elder Bruce Haffen, who used the word ‘evil’ twice in his speech about homosexuality.…

One gay expert on reorientation therapy, Salt Lake City psychologist Lee Beckstead, who also served a Mormon mission, may be too far off the straight and narrow to get an invite to speak at Evergreen. Set to task by the APA in 2007, Beckstead and five other psychologists from throughout the country reviewed 83 studies of various reorientation therapies. The psychologists’ 130-page report (pdf) informed the APA’s stance that the reorientation therapies are a bad idea.

‘Ex-ex-gay groups have felt violated, used, abused, and are fighting back,’ Beckstead says. ‘They were the reason for the task force.’

Multiple speakers at the conference referenced the APA’s findings, usually denouncing and dismissing them as Evergreen board chairman Larry Richman did. He said the APA task force members were ‘gay or gay activists’ and ‘no one represented people who have changed their sexual orientation.’ The sexual-orientation-change community has its own studies that show effectiveness and safety, which the APA reviewed, but they were mostly rejected on scientific grounds, such as statistical violations that exaggerated results, Beckstead said.…” (Jesse Furhwirth, “Evergreen International’s Queer Science,” City Weekly, September 23, 2009)



“LDS general authority Bruce C. Hafen’s speech last week about homosexuality sounded like a throwback.

He told those assembled at a conference for Mormons trying to ‘overcome’ same-sex attraction that being gay is ‘not in your DNA.’ He talked about the 1970s, when psychology manuals listed homosexuality as a mental disorder and gay-rights activists were working just to get anti-sodomy laws off the books.

Was Hafen speaking for himself or the church? Were LDS leaders backing away from statements that they ‘don’t know’ if a person is born gay? Has the church changed course?

The church isn’t saying yes, and it isn’t saying no.

But observers are.

‘It was a big step backwards,’ said Gary Watts, a Provo physician who, for decades, has watched the church’s position on homosexuality evolve. ‘The church has a long way to go to get into the 21st century. They’re making incremental movements. What Hafen has done is take them back 25 years.’…

In a 2007 article in the LDS magazine Ensign , apostle Jeffrey R. Holland stressed that ‘no one,’ not parents nor people who experience same-sex attraction, should be blamed.

‘The church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction,’ fellow apostle Dallin H. Oaks said in a 2006 interview posted on the church’s Web site. ‘Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the church doesn’t have a position on.’

Even then-President Gordon B. Hinckley, when asked on ‘Larry King Live’ in 2004 whether people choose to be gay or are born that way, responded: ‘I don’t know.’

But Hafen, speaking at Evergreen International’s 19th annual conference a week ago, went further in trying to explain the causes.

He told listeners — many of them Latter-day Saints trying to heed church teachings not to act on homosexual feelings — that they may not have ‘consciously chosen’ to have same-sex attraction. But he dismissed the mainstream idea that sexual orientation is inborn and unalterable as an ‘untrue assumption.’

Hafen suggested most lesbians were sexually abused as children and that gay men, during a crucial stage of puberty, may have become ‘fixated’ on the notion they were gay.

‘What he said was just flat wrong,’ said David Melson, executive director of Affirmation, a support group for gay and lesbian Mormons, many of whom have left the faith. ‘Scientific evidence has shown … the factors that make one gay take place before birth.’

Telling people who are gay or lesbian that, with enough faith, they can change their sexual orientation, Melson added, ‘borders on being cruel.’…

Hafen, whose speech was posted on the church’s Web site (www.ldsnewsroom.org)…

An LDS Church spokesman declined to say whether Hafen was speaking on behalf of the church or whether his remarks represent a shift in the faith’s views. Scott Trotter also did not say whether the church believes homosexuality should still be considered a mental disorder.…

Hafen also took a step back from declarations the church made in the wake of Proposition 8 — the ballot measure it helped pass in California outlawing gay marriage in the Golden State — that it does not oppose some rights for same-sex couples.

He suggested the law need only ‘tolerate’ homosexual behavior not ‘endorse’ it, which he said was accomplished when gay sex was decriminalized.

But, in a news release last November, the church said it does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization, medical care, fair housing and employment or probate rights.…” (Rosemary Winters, “Is LDS Church taking a step back on gay issues?” Salt Lake Tribune, September 25, 2009)


“Perhaps the most problematic statement in Elder Hafen’s address is: ‘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.”’

This statement is disturbing for five reasons. First, it contains a logical fallacy: the appeal to authority. It has to be true because someone—in this case, Elder Oaks—said it is true.…

Second, this ‘doctrine’ maintains that men and women attracted to those of their own sex are not now ‘normal.’ Numerous animal species, both domesticated and in the wild, engage in same-sex activities.…

Nor are gays and lesbians ‘unnatural.’ I have always been attracted to men. I was aware of a strong attraction to maleness even as a preschool child. A turning point for me was finally recognizing that God would not change me as much as I tried to get Him to do so. He would not change me because He loves me as I am and I should do likewise. For me, being resurrected with an attraction to women would be very unnatural.

Third, Elder Hafen makes a nonscriptural assertion about the resurrection. While the doctrine of the resurrection clearly asserts that it will bring about physical perfection and immortality, the doctrinal status of same-sex attraction is far less clear.…

Fourth, Elder Hafen states that only ‘a man and wife’ will have eternal family units. Historically, the Church has always recognized monogamous marriages but it strongly asserted until 1890 that the ideal marriage form was that of a man and more than one wife (polygamy) and still allows eternal sealings between a man and more than one woman.…

Fifth, Elder Hafen’s addition of ‘and posterity’ ignores Jesus’s pronouncement on marriage: ‘For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife’ (Mark 10:7). Marriage separates children from their parents and from their siblings. The family unit is formed by spouses, not by parents and children, and not among siblings.…” (James F. Cartwright, “Dialogue with Elder Hafen,” By Common Consent, Vol. 16, No. 1, January 2010)


“After a careful reading, my findings are that Encouraging Heterosexuality is inaccurate and unreliable, especially in its treatment of the causes of homosexuality and its optimism that same-sex orientation can be changed. It is particularly troubling that Abbott and Byrd have systematically misrepresented the research of multiple scholars whose published results are at odds with the positions on these issues which they espouse. 

Abbott and Byrd begin with a preemptive assertion of their charitable intent by assuring readers that they are not “taking a negative approach toward those who engage in homosexual behavior or those who champion gay rights” (ix). This claim rings hollow in the face of subsequent comments: their contention that homosexuality is an “evil” choice along the path of “sexual immorality” in company with “fornication, adultery, and incest“ (39); their negative coupling of the worldview of certain mental health professionals with Darwinian evolution, in contrast to their own “Christian viewpoint” (7–8); their vilification of the published views of national medical, psychological, and educational associations that homosexuality might be “normal and healthy” (67); their contention that the major religions consider homosexuality “deviant and injurious to society” (73); the inference that it is a mistake not to consider homosexuality as a “moral evil” or “sickness” (73); the claim that accepting homosexuality reflects the belief that “there is no God” nor any “higher purpose than personal pleasure” (74); the assertion that homosexuality leads to “rampant promiscuity” and “greater risk for mental and physical health problems” (76); and finally, the outrageous and offensive claim that gay and lesbian people are engaged in efforts to promote and legitimize sex between adults and children (10).” (William S. Bradshaw, “Short Shrift to the Facts,” review of Encouraging Heterosexuality: Helping Children Develop a Traditional Sexual Orientation, in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 44(1):172-3, Spring 2011)


“Increased public acceptance of same-sex behavior inevitably leads to a diminution of personal, righteous behavior.…

The cultural adaptations to same-gender marriage will, in time, make the prospect of eternal marriage and family more difficult to attain. Wide acceptance of same-sex attraction will inevitably foster greater deviance from God’s laws.…

If someone seeking your help says to you, ‘I am homosexual’ or ‘I am lesbian’ or ‘I am gay,’ correct this miscasting. Heavenly Father does not speak of His children this way, and neither should we. It is simply not true. To speak this way sows seeds of doubt and deceit about who we really are. It belittles, depreciates and disparages the individual.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained it this way: ‘The words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns [or pronouns] to identify particular conditions or specific persons. . . . 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’ (‘Same-Gender Attraction,’ Ensign, Oct. 1995, 9).” (“Remarks by Bishop Keith B. McMullin to Evergreen International, September 18, 2010” LDS Newsroom, September 21, 2010)


“Same-gender attraction is a ‘mortal challenge’ that ‘needs to be controlled or overcome,’ Bishop Keith B. McMullin told a group of men, women, families, professional counselors and ecclesiastical leaders seeking assistance with such issues.…

People must learn to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent them from achieving eternal goals, he said.

‘We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another,’ Bishop McMullin said. ‘But whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and power to control our thoughts and 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 controlled by our agency.’

He stressed that mortal limitations are only temporary. They were not part of individuals before birth and will not be present in the hereafter.

‘The Lord views us in the context of our immortal possibilities, not in the light of our mortal limitations,’ Bishop McMullin said.

He also cautioned that far less is known about the causes of same-gender attraction than is claimed to be known, and he advised the group not to label people as ‘homosexual,’ ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay.’

‘Heavenly Father does not speak of his children this way, and neither should we,’ Bishop McMullin said. ‘It is simply not true. To speak this way sows seeds of doubt and deceit about who we really are.’…

‘Wide acceptance of same-sex attraction will inevitably foster greater deviance from God’s laws,’ Bishop McMullin warned.…” (Lynn Arave, “Evergreen Conference addresses issues of same-gender attraction,” Deseret News, September 19, 2010)


“[Keith B.] McMullin spoke at the 20th annual conference of Evergreen International, a nonprofit support group for Mormons who want to ‘overcome homosexual behavior.’ Evergreen is not officially affiliated with the church, but a leader of the Utah-based faith addresses the group each year.…

McMullin also spoke at the conference 17 years ago, when it was held at a hotel. He said it was ‘appropriate’ that the group now meets in the LDS chapel inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City.…” (Rosemary Winters, “God can lift your ‘burden,’ LDS leader tells gay Mormons,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 29, 2010)


“I’ll certainly defer to Jeff Holland and Quentin Cook who speak for the Church but in my view, Dean Byrd does not speak for the Church nor do I believe for LDS Family Services either.…”  (Cecil O. Samuelson to Gary M. Watts, June 27, 2011)


“In one of his sessions, [Robert] Bills [pseudonym] heard about the group called Journey into Manhood. He was told that the two-day retreat was worth the exorbitant fee for a two-day camp. The website promised real results and said there was a high success rate of change. When he realized that the organizer of the event, Rich Wyler, was a Mormon involved with Evergreen International and who claims to have turned himself straight, it sealed the deal.

Wyler claims on his website that men are gay because of a lack of masculine relationships with family members and friends. His theory is that people can change orientation by creating non-sexual connections with other men and he uses his own case as an example of how someone can change orientations. Although Bills has two brothers, a great relationship with his father, several very close male friends, and was always involved in sports in high school and briefly in college, he still signed up for the course.

‘No one would tell me what they did at the camp. It was supposed to be a secret. I was not prepared for what happened,’ Bills said. ‘The retreat was filled with camping, weird holding positions and other intimate interaction with guys. We would touch and hold one another in the strangest ways. I kept hoping that this would somehow help me. I felt like it was my last hope. I’d tried everything else. This was it for me.’…

Wyler, the founder and facilitator of the retreat denies that his camp could possibly contribute to the depression or suicide of anyone.

‘Experiencing same-sex attraction is what caused me to want to commit suicide, not the other way around,’ Wyler said.

Wyler admits that his retreat won’t work for everyone, but said there’s no way of knowing whether or not people should attend the camp and whether it will work for them until they try it.

‘Homosexuality is not authentic. It is not inborn. It comes from a lack of healthy, emotional masculine connections and we can help change that,’ Wyler said. ‘I know that people can change and I can help facilitate that.’

However, the American Psychological Association disagrees with Wyler and says that reparative therapies like his do not work, and can cause significant harm.

‘There has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective,’ the APA said in a press release.…

Wyler runs his programs as a non-profit and each participant is required to pay a $650 fee. According to the most recent tax records available that the organization filed in 2007, 2008 and 2009, the income totaled more than $615,000. There are only two paid directors of the program, Wyler and a co-facilitator, Dave Matheson.…

Although Todd Hess did not participate in the JiM retreat, he tried other so-called reparative therapy treatments offered through LDS Family Services.

‘I went through individual, group and sports therapy sessions off and on for about five or six years,’ Hess said. ‘Yes, sports therapy. They honestly thought we could learn to be straight by playing basketball.’

While putting his education, career and life on hold, Hess fought an unbeatable battle to change his sexuality and be a full practicing member of the Mormon faith.

‘For more than five years I did everything I could to turn straight,’ Hess said. ‘Nothing worked for me. No matter how hard I tried or prayed, nothing worked.’

Hess was counseled that if he didn’t change his orientation and marry a woman, he would never reach the highest level of exaltation in the afterlife.

‘All my faith was placed in the church so I thought that their counseling had to be inspired. I believed they could talk to god, how could god have lead them astray?’ Hess asked.

While the Mormon Church no longer operates the same counseling services, leaders recommend that people that are gay or lesbian seek out private therapists and programs such as Evergreen International. Evergreen is not officially run by the Mormon Church, but the lessons are in line with Mormon doctrine; the conferences are attended by Mormon general authorities and often held in church-owned buildings. Evergreen teaches that sexuality can be altered, which is in stark contrast with the official Mormon statement that gay members should simply remain celibate their entire lives.

When contacted repeatedly about the Mormon Church’s relationship with Evergreen, the press department had no comment.

‘I went to all the Evergreen conferences. I paid thousands of dollars to them so they would change me to straight. They say that it’s not condoned by the Mormon Church, but there’s always Mormon leadership at all the events and it’s preposterous to think that the two aren’t connected. My bishop referred me to Evergreen,’ Bills said. ‘It’s their way of staying politically correct with the main church organization while still trying to change people.’…” (“Surviving ‘ex-gay’ therapy programs,” Q Salt Lake, August 18, 2011)


“The group is not officially condoned by the Mormon Church, yet one of its leading authorities, Elder Jay Jensen, was the keynote speaker and he gave Evergreen a stamp of approval.…

‘I love the Evergreen Constitutional Statement,’ Jensen said.  ’We like the way Evergreen faces.’…

[David] Pruden [Evergreen Executive Director] railed against the American Psychological Association who says homosexuality is a healthy expression of human sexuality. The APA, with more than 154,000 members, is the largest and most comprehensive group of psychologists worldwide. Pruden, on the other hand, has a degree in social work.

‘The APA doesn’t get much right,’ Pruden said. ‘(Homosexuality) is manageable and correctable. We know that for a fact.’…

While the Mormon Church denies any affiliation with Evergreen, it hosts the group at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building at their headquarters in Salt Lake City and sends speakers and presenters to the events, including Jerry Harris, a counselor for LDS Family Services.…” (“Evergreen conference attracts hundreds,” Q Salt Lake, September 27, 2011)


“I was propositioned more times at a conference that was supposedly changing people straight than I ever have been at a Pride festival, gay bar or party. I had guys old enough to be my father putting their arms around me, bumping up against my leg and asking to take me home.…

As married men propositioned me for sex, and very confused teens sat with their parents in what had to be an extremely awkward day, it seemed that the crowd was challenging the speakers’ assertion through their very existence.…” (Seth Bracken, “Evergreen hook-ups and hang-ups,” Q Salt Lake, September 28, 2011)


“It was good seeing you at the recent Sept 24th conference on Same Gender Attraction (SGA) co-sponsored by Evergreen, LDS Family Services and other groups.

I was pleased to see LDS Family Services play a major role at the conference.…

Here are five examples of how the Evergreen reparative message is different from instruction in the five documents noted above.

Evergreen Message

  1. There is not a genetic cause.
  2. High probability that therapy will help and feelings will diminish or change.
  3. There are ‘risk factors’ for SGA related to such things as family environment, distant fathers, molestation, poor peer bonding, artistic-perfectionistic personality, lack of interest in sports/athletics.
  4. With therapy and support heterosexual marriage is feasible/likely.
  5. Therapy and avoiding the use of ‘gay’ is the solution.

Church Message

  1. No position on nature or nuture.
  2. Some helped by therapy/Others not helped – orientation is a core characteristic of persons.
  3. No one should be blamed, not parents, not self.
  4. Heterosexual marriage is not therapeutic.
  5. Emphasis is on ‘control of how we behave’ – so even if feelings persist – this is the solution.

Since this annual conference receives Humanitarian Funds, use of Joseph Smith Bldg, and the endorsement of a General Authority Speaker it should follow Church guidelines.…”  (Ron Schow to Larry Crenshaw, Commissioner, LDS Family Services, October 7, 2011)


“Dr. A. Dean Byrd, former president of the ‘ex-gay’ National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, died April 4 of leukemia.

A convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Byrd was also on the Evergreen International board of trustees and wrote several articles for Ensign, the church’s magazine. He authored over 100 publications on human sexuality and the ability to change a person’s sexual orientation. He also spoke and testified against adoption rights for gay couples.

Byrd was the foremost proponent of the so-called reparative therapy among Mormons. In a post on the group’s website on his death, NARTH called him, ‘a true clinical pioneer paving the way for many others in the treatment of unwanted homosexual attractions. He had been a member of the NARTH Board of Directors for more than a decade and made a tremendous contribution to the early work in establishing NARTH as a reliable scientific and research organization.’

NARTH was founded in 1992 to promote psychiatric therapy to treat homosexuality. Although it promotes itself as a professional organization, less than a quarter of its 1,000 members are mental-health professionals. A recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center described the group as the ‘main source of anti-gay ‘junk science.’” (“Ex-gay movement leader A. Dean Byrd dies,” Q Salt Lake, April 8, 2012)


“I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some ‘highly motivated’ individuals.” (Robert Spitzer, M.D., ExGayWatch.com, April 26, 2012)


“Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, considered by some to be the father of modern psychiatry, lay awake at 4 o’clock on a recent morning knowing he had to do the one thing that comes least naturally to him.…

Now here he was at his computer, ready to recant a study he had done himself, a poorly conceived 2003 investigation that supported the use of so-called reparative therapy to ‘cure’ homosexuality for people strongly motivated to change.…

And he would later learn that a World Health Organization report, released on Thursday, calls the therapy ‘a serious threat to the health and well-being — even the lives — of affected people.’

Dr. Spitzer’s fingers jerked over the keys, unreliably, as if choking on the words. And then it was done: a short letter to be published this month, in the same journal where the original study appeared.

‘I believe,’ it concludes, ‘I owe the gay community an apology.’…

Up into the 1970s, the field’s diagnostic manual classified homosexuality as an illness, calling it a ‘sociopathic personality disturbance.’ Many therapists offered treatment, including Freudian analysts who dominated the field at the time.…

In the end, the psychiatric association in 1973 sided with Dr. Spitzer, deciding to drop homosexuality from its manual and replace it with his alternative, ‘sexual orientation disturbance,’ to identify people whose sexual orientation, gay or straight, caused them distress.

The arcane language notwithstanding, homosexuality was no longer a ‘disorder.’ Dr. Spitzer achieved a civil rights breakthrough in record time.…

And in the late 1990s, friends say, he remained restless as ever, eager to challenge common assumptions.

That’s when he ran into another group of protesters, at the psychiatric association’s annual meeting in 1999: self-described ex-gays. Like the homosexual protesters in 1973, they too were outraged that psychiatry was denying their experience — and any therapy that might help.

Reparative therapy, sometimes called ‘sexual reorientation’ or ‘conversion’ therapy, is rooted in Freud’s idea that people are born bisexual and can move along a continuum from one end to the other. Some therapists never let go of the theory, and one of Dr. Spitzer’s main rivals in the 1973 debate, Dr. Charles W. Socarides, founded an organization called the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, or Narth, in Southern California, to promote it.…

He recruited 200 men and women, from the centers that were performing the therapy, including Exodus International, based in Florida, and Narth. He interviewed each in depth over the phone, asking about their sexual urges, feelings and behaviors before and after having the therapy, rating the answers on a scale.

He then compared the scores on this questionnaire, before and after therapy. ‘The majority of participants gave reports of change from a predominantly or exclusively homosexual orientation before therapy to a predominantly or exclusively heterosexual orientation in the past year,’ his paper concluded.

The study — presented at a psychiatry meeting in 2001, before publication — immediately created a sensation, and ex-gay groups seized on it as solid evidence for their case. This was Dr. Spitzer, after all, the man who single-handedly removed homosexuality from the manual of mental disorders. No one could accuse him of bias.

But gay leaders accused him of betrayal, and they had their reasons.

The study had serious problems. It was based on what people remembered feeling years before — an often fuzzy record. It included some ex-gay advocates, who were politically active. And it did not test any particular therapy; only half of the participants engaged with a therapist at all, while the others worked with pastoral counselors, or in independent Bible study.

Several colleagues tried to stop the study in its tracks, and urged him not to publish it, Dr. Spitzer said.

Yet, heavily invested after all the work, he turned to a friend and former collaborator, Dr. Kenneth J. Zucker, psychologist in chief at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, another influential journal.

‘I knew Bob and the quality of his work, and I agreed to publish it,’ Dr. Zucker said in an interview last week. The paper did not go through the usual peer-review process, in which unnamed experts critique a manuscript before publication. ‘But I told him I would do it only if I also published commentaries’ of response from other scientists to accompany the study, Dr. Zucker said.

Those commentaries, with a few exceptions, were merciless. One cited the Nuremberg Code of ethics to denounce the study as not only flawed but morally wrong. ‘We fear the repercussions of this study, including an increase in suffering, prejudice, and discrimination,’ concluded a group of 15 researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, where Dr. Spitzer was affiliated.

Dr. Spitzer in no way implied in the study that being gay was a choice, or that it was possible for anyone who wanted to change to do so in therapy. But that didn’t stop socially conservative groups from citing the paper in support of just those points, according to Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit group that fights antigay bias.…

But Dr. Spitzer could not control how his study was interpreted by everyone, and he could not erase the biggest scientific flaw of them all, roundly attacked in many of the commentaries: Simply asking people whether they have changed is no evidence at all of real change. People lie, to themselves and others. They continually change their stories, to suit their needs and moods.

By almost any measure, in short, the study failed the test of scientific rigor that Dr. Spitzer himself was so instrumental in enforcing for so many years.

‘As I read these commentaries, I knew this was a problem, a big problem, and one I couldn’t answer,’ Dr. Spitzer said. ‘How do you know someone has really changed?’

It took 11 years for him to admit it publicly.…

Mr. [Gabriel] Arana [a journalist at the magazine The American Prospect] said that reparative therapy ultimately delayed his self-acceptance as a gay man and induced thoughts of suicide. ‘But at the time I was recruited for the Spitzer study, I was referred as a success story. I would have said I was making progress.’…

‘You know, it’s the only regret I have; the only professional one,’ Dr. Spitzer said of the study, near the end of a long interview. ‘And I think, in the history of psychiatry, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a scientist write a letter saying that the data were all there but were totally misinterpreted. Who admitted that and who apologized to his readers.’

He looked away and back again, his big eyes blurring with emotion. ‘That’s something, don’t you think?’”


Does Evergreen support any specific type of therapy?

Evergreen does not officially endorse or recommend any specific type of therapy. Various articles on this Web site mention therapies such as gender wholeness, gender-affirmative, reparative, or re-education therapies that some people have found helpful. Such therapies attempt to undo past harm and help individuals move forward with their life in a way that is congruent with their personally-selected values and goals. In our literature, conferences, and on this Web site, Evergreen encourages therapy, support groups, individual study, developing healthy relationships, building spirituality, and many other things we believe will be helpful. We do not promote any single therapy or plan.…” (“FAQs,” Evergreen International, July 23, 2012)


“The leader of the largest ‘ex-gay’ organization in the nation declared last month that there was no ‘cure’ for homosexuality and that the group would stop its ‘reparative therapy’ practice.

‘Change is possible,’ was the slogan on ads for Exodus International showing the group’s president, Alan Chambers alongside his wife, Leslie. Now, however, he says, ‘Exodus needs to move beyond that slogan.’

In several recent speeches, Chambers declared there was no cure for homosexuality and that ‘reparative therapy’ offered false hope to gays and could even be harmful.

In Utah, however, two major groups continue to advocate its use.  Evergreen International and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality have representatives capitalizing on people who want to change their sexual orientation.…

‘We have various services for men, women and families,’ said an Evergreen spokesperson that identified herself as Rachel. ‘The level of success in diminishing same-sex attraction varies with everyone. But we work on addressing peripheral concerns and we found that SSA seems to diminish as we line other aspects of our life up.’

Along with mixed assurances from the Mormon Church that eradicating gay feelings is possible, Evergreen touts the merits of a 2001 study by Robert Spitzer. The study found evidence that occasionally sexual orientation could be altered. The study is one of the largest pieces in the puzzle Evergreen uses so proudly to admonish gay people to try to stop feeling attracted to members of the same sex and eventually find peace in a heterosexual relationship.

But when Spitzer acknowledged the flaws in his own study, the reparative-therapy groups went into damage control.

‘I felt that I needed to not only say that the study is not valid, but I thought I should also say to the gay community that I apologize for any harm I have done to them because of the study and my initial interpretation,’ Spitzer said in a YouTube apology. ‘And I certainly apologize to any gay person who, because of this study, entered into reparative therapy and wasted their time and energy doing that.’

Rather than simply ignoring the study and relying on religion alone, Evergreen and NARTH are now claiming that Spitzer was forced into the apology.

‘He’s getting older and he was pressured into apologizing by the study’s critics,’ Rachel said. ‘We stand by its merits and still believe it supports Evergreen’s overall message.’…

‘NARTH can help people change orientation in a professional manner,’ said the local NARTH representative.

Both the local NARTH organization and Evergreen refer members to David Matheson, a local therapist who touts his own supposed sexual orientation switch as evidence that his methods are successful. Both representatives sing Matheson’s praises and hold him in the highest regard. In fact, when asked for a second referral, none are offered.

Matheson has a two-month waiting list for hour-long appointments which cost $200 each and will be billed upon booking. Since he does not work with most major insurance providers, the cost comes out of the pocket of each individual or family. With weekly visits, the annual bill could be more than $10,000 for each patient.…

Evergreen is affiliated with the Mormon Church, although not officially endorsed. And while technically NARTH is not tied to Evergreen, Dave Pruden is vice president of operations for NARTH as well as executive director of Evergreen.

During the last Evergreen conference, Pruden rallied against the American Psychological Association, which insists homosexuality is a healthy expression of human sexuality. The APA, with more than 154,000 members, is the largest and most comprehensive group of psychologists worldwide. Pruden, on the other hand, has a degree in social work.

‘Nobody is born with same-sex attraction,’ Pruden said. ‘Same-gender attraction is not the same as homosexuality. Isolation from healthy same-sex relationships makes your unholy attractions more acute… The APA doesn’t get much right. (Homosexuality) is manageable and correctable. We know that for a fact.’…” (“Utah groups continue to tout ‘ex-gay’ therapy,” Q Salt Lake, August 24, 2012)


“Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation prohibiting a form of therapy aimed at changing a minor’s sexual orientation from gay to straight, the first law of its kind in the nation, officials said Sunday.…

‘This bill bans non-scientific “therapies” that have driven young people to depression and suicide,’ Brown said in a statement. ‘These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.’…” (“Gov. Jerry Brown bans gay-to-straight therapy for minors,” Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2012)


“A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld the nation’s first-of-it-skind law in California prohibiting health practitioners from offering psychotherapy aimed at making gay youth straight.…” (Paul Elias, “Court upholds ban on gay-to-straight therapy,” news.msn.com, August 29, 2013)


“Days after hundreds of gay and lesbian couples swarmed county offices to get Utah marriage licenses, a group originally founded to help Mormons eliminate same-sex attraction closed its doors.

Before doing so, Evergreen International turned over some of its resources and mailing lists — said to number up to 30,000 participants, including many from Spanish-speaking countries — to a newer LDS-based gay support group, North Star.…

Evergreen President David Pruden, who could not be reached Thursday for comment, will not be joining North Star’s leadership but will continue as executive director of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality. Preston Dahlgren, Evergreen’s chairman, will become a member of North Star’s board.

As to the question of changing or diminishing sexual orientation, North Star takes no position, says the group’s newly named president, Ty Mansfield.

‘If someone had a positive experience with reparative therapy or change, we are OK with them sharing that,’ says Mansfield, a marriage and family therapist in Provo. ‘If they had a negative experience, they can share that, too.’…

Evergreen’s end has been obvious for a while, says Kendall Wilcox, a Mormon filmmaker working on a documentary about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Latter-day Saints.

For years, a Mormon general authority typically spoke at the group’s annual conference, but that practice eventually stopped.

In May 2012, the author of a controversial 2001 study — which claimed that gays can change — disavowed his conclusions. But Pruden told The Salt Lake Tribune he saw no reason to discontinue using so-called reparative therapy.

In June, Exodus International, a group similar to Evergreen but for a larger Christian audience, shut its doors. At about the same time, Pruden approached North Star with the idea of merging the two groups.

‘There was some unnecessary competition between us,’ Bennion told The Tribune. ‘We were starting to step on each other’s toes.’

Evergreen began in 1989 as a therapeutic solution for Mormons with unwanted same-sex attraction, while North Star took a more person-to-person tack.…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Longtime support group for gay Mormons shuts down,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 2, 2014)


“As announced on January 1, 2014, Evergreen has been absorbed into North Star in order to unite and consolidate resources and form under the North Star umbrella a single faith-based ministry organization for Latter-day Saints addressing sexual orientation or gender identity, and who desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines and values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.…

What hasn’t changed: Since its founding more than 20 years ago as a support organization for the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Evergreen’s mission has always been similar to North Star’s in its desire to assist those who experience same-sex attraction and who desire to live in harmony with their spiritual and religious values. Evergreen International was founded on the belief that the atonement of Jesus Christ enables every soul the opportunity to turn away from all sins or conditions that obstruct their temporal and eternal happiness and potential. That mission and belief will continue and only be enhanced in a united effort with North Star.…

Much of Evergreen’s website content and archive will slowly be moved over and incorporated into North Star’s website content—particularly the General Authority and Auxiliary Officer addresses given at the annual Evergreen conference…

What has changed: The legal entity of Evergreen will no longer exist.…

What You Will Find at North Star: Founded in 2006, North Star is a peer-led, community-driven organization—a grass-roots effort with a mission to empower men and women who experience same-sex attraction and gender identity issues, as well as their friends, spouses, or other family members, to more authentically and healthily live the gospel of Jesus Christ.…

North Star holds that the power and grace of Christ enables each individual to renounce behavior and manage thoughts that will prevent him or her from returning into His presence.…” (“Welcome Friends & Patrons of Evergreen,” northstarlds.org, January 2014)


“A minimum of 73% of men and 43% of women in this sample [of 1,612 individuals] attempted sexual orientation change, usually through multiple methods and across many years (on average).… While some beneficial SOCE outcomes (such as acceptance of same-sex attraction and reduction in depression and anxiety) were reported, the overall results support the conclusion that sexual orientation is highly resistant to explicit attempts at change and that SOCE are overwhelmingly reported to be either ineffective or damaging by participants.…

It is notable that zero open-ended narratives could be found indicating complete elimination of SSA via SOCE and that only a small percentage of our sample (3.2%) indicated even slight changes in sexual orientation.…” (John P. Dehlin et al., “Sexual Orientation Change Efforts Among Current or Former LDS Church Members,” J. Counseling Psychology 62(2):95-105, posted online March 17, 2014)


“This study examined the psychosocial correlates of following various church-based approaches for dealing with same-sex attraction, based on a large sample (1,612) of same-sex attracted current and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, or Mormon). Overall, this study found that biologically based views about the etiology of same-sex attraction (vs. psychosocial views), LDS church disaffiliation (vs. activity), sexual activity (vs. celibacy), and legal same-sex marriage (vs. remaining single or mixed-orientation marriage) were all associated with significantly higher levels of self-esteem and quality of life, and lower levels of internalized homophobia, sexual identity distress, and depression. The divorce rate for mixed-orientation marriages was 51% at the time of survey completion, with projections suggesting an eventual divorce rate of 69%.…” (John P. Dehlin et al., Psychosocial Correlates of Religious Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction: A Mormon Perspective, J. Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 18:284-311, Posted online March 18, 2014)


“This study reports the results of a comprehensive online survey of 1,612 current or former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many of whom engaged in psychotherapy to cope with (i.e., understand, accept, or change) their same-sex attractions. Data obtained from written and quantitative responses showed that therapy was initiated over a very wide age range and continued for many years. However, counseling was largely ineffective; less than 4% reported any modification of core same-sex erotic attraction. Moreover, 42% reported that their change-oriented therapy was not at all effective, and 37% found it to be moderately to severely harmful. In contrast, affirming psychotherapeutic strategies were often found to be beneficial in reducing depression, increasing self-esteem, and improving family and other relationships. Results suggest that the very low likelihood of a modification of sexual orientation and the ambiguous nature of any such change should be important considerations for highly religious sexual minority individuals considering reorientation therapy.…” (Kate Bradshaw et al., “Sexual orientation change efforts through psychotherapy for LGBQ individuals affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” (J. Sex & Marital Therapy, 41(4):391-412, Epub June 13, 2014)


“Her [Nikki Boyer] most haunting memories: ‘Gays who had undergone ‘reparative’ therapy.’ Some recounted shock treatment and induced vomiting while viewing pornography, to create negative associations, she says.

‘Their families, the church or their school told them they had to have this,’ Boyer recalls. At least, she says, that was what she heard from ‘the ones that could still talk.’

‘Some of them had lobotomies.’…” (Erin Alberty, “Longtime Utah LGBT advocates recount brutal history,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 8, 2014)


“[Wendy Montgomery, March 31, 2015] So, after posting the link to the article about the abusive ‘un-gay your kid’ camps in several groups, many are questioning that electroshock therapy ever happened at BYU.  Do y’all know of any articles written on the subject that I can link to the doubter’s comments?

[Christopher Tyler, March 31] Back in the 90s, I had been through one of the so-called reparative therapy programs. After I left it (and began the healing process from that garbage), I briefly dated a guy who had been through it. In about 2005 I spoke with a guy in his mid-20s who was currently going through another form of aversion ‘therapy’ where he would wear a gas mask type apparatus and he would breath in some sort of noxious gas that would make him ill when shown erotic material. That was in SLC. I was kind of stunned that this was still happening.…

I’ve heard that BYU was just doing what other people were doing so don’t single it out. I went through Evergreen supposedly of my own volition also, but I hadn’t had a shred of support from my family or anyone when I was 20/21. I didn’t know there was another way! There was no one, not a single accepting person up to that point in my life, so when reparative therapy came around it was just the thing to do. But it really damaged me. I didn’t even go through one of the boot camp versions, just the ‘you’re sick and flawed and developmentally delayed and need to be fixed’ variety.

[Neil Huefner, March 31] It was presented to me as an option from an LDS family service counselor in 2002.  I declined. I was aghast not at the idea of being forcefully and repeatedly shocked to help rid me of what I had learned to be ‘sinful’ and ‘abominable’ feelings, but at the idea of being shown pornography featuring women and trying to stimulate sexual arousal—something that seemed wicked and degrading to women.

[David Dickey] I have kept relatively quiet on this but I feel I need to speak up. Fair Mormon says that President Kimball never recommended any kind of therapy just the feelings should be controlled. This is false. In 1976 I wrote a letter to President Kimball after reading The Miracle of Forgiveness and he wrote back through his secretary D. Arthur Haycock. He had made arrangements for me to go through therapy at the church office building in SLC. The therapist was Kent Peterson! We discussed that BYU was doing a therapy at the time involving electroshock. I was willing to participate if he thought it would work. He instead did a modified version of aversion therapy. He went through the scenario that I would notice someone that I was attracted to and then he gave me the mental suggestion that I would get deeply nauseous. He would go into great lengths to get me to feel this nausea (I never did feel nauseous). Of course this was not as serious as electroshock therapy nor actual medication to bring on nausea. But to make the claim that President Kimball did not ever recommend a treatment is false. Although it had no effect on curing me it did cause me to feel that because I wasn’t cured that I wasn’t trying hard enough. He left me with a tremendous amount of guilt caused by the therapist demand that I accept all the responsibility for this happening to me. And I was just 18 years old.  There are many times I have wanted to confront the therapist and ask him what were you possibly thinking? If there was something good that came of it, I was able to use the part about ‘turn it off like a light bulb’ as a missionary. It really did help me to control my thoughts and focus on serving with all my heart, might, mind and strength and as a result I had an incredible mission The harmful side has taken me a lifetime to try and come to grips with. OMT regarding President Kimball never recommending a therapy hell he was in charge of the church therapy.

[Jerry Argetsinger, March 31] John Cameron’s play is NOT fictional. He was in a class that my wife taught when he was going through BYU electroshock therapy himself. TWO of the 14 people in that group killed themselves and BYU kept it secret for decades.

[Rob Killian, March 31] I was offered electroshock therapy during therapy in The Spencer W. Kimball Tower at BYU. It was offered and it was a line in the sand that I drew. I did not consent to such treatment. The year was approximately 1988. There was an admission by BYU officials at some point in the past ten years that they had mistakenly said no electroshock therapy occurred and they corrected themselves. But, I do not have the link or specifics. I do know that the treatment was offered for longer than they admitted and that the practitioner eventually moved the service to a private address off of BYU campus and continued for some time offering this ‘therapy.’” (www.facebook.com/groups/Affirmation, March 31, 2015)


“Here is the letter we discussed on my recent visit. I sent this in October 2011 to [Larry] Crenshaw, then head at LDS Family Services, with copies to Richard Edgley who as a member of the Presiding Bishopric was chair of the Welfare Council and over welfare Square and LDS Family Services…

Richard has since talked to me on two occasions and told me this letter had an impact on changes with the Welfare Council and with the 70 who had sent speakers to the Evergreen conference for years and also had allowed Evergreen the use of the Joseph Smith Building and given them Humanitarian Funds. Evergreen b asically folded in 2012 and it was the first year they did not have a conference at the Joseph Smith Building in the Fall.…” (Ron Schow to GAP, June 17, 2015)


“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Such practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization of decades, but due to continuing discrimination and societal bias against LGBT people, some practitioners continue to conduct conversion therapy. Minors are especially vulnerable, and conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.…

California, New Jersey, Oregon and the District of Columbia have passed laws to prevent licensed providers from offering conversion therapy to minors, and at least 18 states have introduced similar legislation this year (AZ, CO, CT, FL, IL, IA, MA, MN, NV, NY, OH, PA, RI, TX, VT, VA, WA). One state (OK) introduced legislation which would have specifically legitimized conversion therapy and immunized it from state oversight, but that bill failed to pass.…

In February of 2015, a NJ Superior Court judge ruled that misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder violates the state’s consumer protection laws.

Many right-wing religious groups promote the concept that an individual can change his or her sexual orientation, either through prayer or other religious efforts, or through so-called ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy. The limited research on such efforts has disproven their efficacy, and also has indicated that they can be affirmatively harmful.… Based on this body of evidence, every major medical and mental health organization in the United States has issued a statement condemning the use of reparative therapy.

Psychiatrist Dr. L. Spitzer, who once offered a study on reparative therapy, has since denounced the practice and has apologized for endorsing the practice.

In 2007, a task force of the American Psychological Association undertook a thorough review of the existing research on the efficacy of reparative therapy.…” (“The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity,” Human Rights Campaign, accessed August 23, 2015)


“The American Psychological Association has declared it not only impossible but also unethical to try changing sexual orientation.

The newly formed, independent Mormon Mental Health Association has come out against any therapies ‘which have been developed to change, alter or reduce sexual orientation.’

Clinical studies have linked these therapies, the association says, with ‘increased rates of clinical depression, suicide, anxiety, low self-esteem, difficulty sustaining relationships and sexual dysfunction.’…

Therapists with LDS Family Services do not offer any kind of ‘sexual-orientation change efforts,’ church spokesman Doug Andersen confirms. But they are willing to help members who ‘desire to reconcile same-sex attraction with their religious belief.’…

The church’s silence on groups such as Journey, however, should not, Andersen says, be ‘construed as a tacit endorsement or stamp of approval.’…

In 2000, Rich Wyler, a Mormon who believes his same-sex attraction diminished with the use of some therapies, created a website, People Can Change, to profile success stories and offer online support.

Wyler’s view, unlike that of the LDS Church, is that everyone is born heterosexual, but traumas and other experiences push some toward same-sex attraction.

Two years later, Wyler teamed up with David Matheson, an LDS therapist specializing in ‘gender-affirming therapy,’ to craft the first Journey Into Manhood weekend.

The retreats — particularly the advanced Journey Beyond version — eventually included what have been described as ‘psychodramas,’ rooted on the premise that many gay men ‘often had far too little healthy touch from father figures or brothers when they were young, and so they crave male touch today to fill that deficit.’

The program includes, the People Can Change website says, ‘journaling, visualization, group sharing, safe healing touch and intensive emotional-release work.’

The retreat experiences often include a ‘rebirthing process’ (naked men are covered with baby powder and wrapped in a blanket, explained one Jewish counselor in his trial deposition, while father figures stroke and hug them in a loving way). Still-nude participants then get ‘crazy like a boy’ (they run into the woods playfully to ‘experience their wild side’). The men redo ‘adolescence’ (they evaluate their bodies as they grow and change in puberty). Finally, the players find themselves in ‘manhood’ (they snuggle with a silky cloth, imagining a woman at their side).

‘All of the exercises are designed to help you identify and process the underlying issues that may be alienating you from your authentic heterosexual masculinity,’ the website says, ‘and, ideally, to help you experience a deep emotional breakthrough.’

Bennion, a Journey volunteer, acknowledged at the trial that some nudity took place in these retreats, but it didn’t bother him.

The point was to make nakedness more normal, not sexually charged, Bennion explains in an interview. ‘How do you create a context where you can see normal male bodies that aren’t billboard-worthy?’

These experiences have all helped him confront his shame, not only his same-sex attractions but also with many other issues.

‘It taught me that my feelings were innately good, and a natural response to the circumstances I faced,’ Bennion writes in a New York Post op-ed. ‘It motivated me to try to repair important family relationships, and helped me learn how to better relate to other men, whom I’d previously ignored or disdained. It’s made me much more accepting of myself and of others.’

He even asked his own dad to hold him, Bennion says in the interview, and it was cathartic.

‘I don’t feel I violated any church standards,’ he says. ‘I kept standards of modesty and chastity, and it wasn’t wrong.’

Not everyone, though, has a positive experience with such tactics.…

North Star co-founder Ty Mansfield insists his group takes no position on reparative therapy and no longer gives even implied endorsement of Journey events either online or at North Star’s annual conference.…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Conversion therapies don’t work, experts say, so why do gay Mormons still seek them out?” Salt Lake Tribune, September 27, 2015)


“[p. 1] Specifically, this report addresses the issue of conversion therapy for minors.…

Conversion therapy perpetuates outdated views of gender roles and identities as well as the negative stereotype that being a sexual or gender minority or identifying as LGBTQ is an abnormal aspect of human development. Most importantly, it may put young people at risk of serious harm.…

A full list of the consensus statements is found in the body of this report; key statements that form the underpinnings of the guidance in this report are provided here. 

  • Same-gender sexual orientation (including identity, behavior, and attraction) and variations in gender identity and gender expression are a part of the normal spectrum of human diversity and do not constitute a mental disorder. 
  • There is limited research on conversion therapy efforts among children and adolescents; however, none of the existing research supports the premise that mental or behavioral health interventions can alter gender identity or sexual orientation. 
  • Interventions aimed at a fixed outcome, such as gender conformity or heterosexual orientation, including those aimed at changing gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are coercive, can be harmful, and should not be part of behavioral health treatment.…

[15] Sexual orientation is a multidimensional construct that consists of sexual identity, sexual and romantic attraction, and sexual behavior.… In 1973, homosexuality was removed as a diagnostic category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders with a declaration of support for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people from the American Psychiatric Association. Many health organizations followed suit in passing resolutions that affirmed their support for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, including the American Psychological Association, the National Association for Social Workers, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, the American Psychoanalystic Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 1992, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases.…

Gender identity refers to a person’s deeply felt, inherent sense of being a girl, woman or female; a boy, a man or male; a blend of male or female; or an alternative gender.…

Scientists now recognize that a wide spectrum of gender identities and gender expressions exist (and have always existed), including people who identify as either man or woman, neither man nor woman, [16] a blend of man and woman, or a unique gender identity.…

[25] In 2009, the APA Taskforce on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation Change Efforts conducted a thorough review of peer-reviewed literature published on conversion therapy. The APA Taskforce concluded that no methodologically-sound research on adults undergoing conversion therapy has demonstrated its effectiveness in changing sexual orientation. There have been no studies on the effects of conversion therapy on children, though adults’ retrospective accounts of their experiences of conversion therapy during childhood or adolescence suggests that many were harmed (American Psychological Association, 2009). No new studies have been published that would change the conclusions reached in the APA Taskforce’s 2009 review. 

Given the lack of evidence of efficacy and the potential risk of serious harm, every major medical, psychiatric, psychological, and professional mental health organization, including the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association for Social Work, the Pan American Health Organization, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, has taken measures to end conversion therapy efforts to change sexual orientation.…

[38] The major health associations have issued policy statements critical of conversion therapy including the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychological Association, American Counseling Association, American Psychoanalytic Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, among others.…

[39] As of August 2015, four states and the District of Columbia have passed laws banning the practice of conversion therapy for minors, and 21 other states have introduced similar legislation.…” (“Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, October 2015)


“JiM is not a religious retreat… We do not advocate a specific faith, nor will we intentionally challenge your religious beliefs. JiM is not professional therapy. JiM is not a gay-bashing weekend. JiM is not a place to meet potential sex partners.…

In follow-up surveys of men who took the JiM weekend between 6 months and 6 years earlier, about 75% report a decrease in homosexual feelings and behaviors.…” (“Journey Into Manhood: A Healing Weekend,” Flyer from People Can Change, Inc., accessed 11/1/2015)


“You’d be hard pressed to find a venture drenched in more snake oil than conversion therapy. Attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity are opposed by virtually every leading medical association and are illegal in four states.

So why was a congregation at a Mormon-owned university planning an event promising that ‘people can and do overcome same-gender attraction’ and encouraging attendees to ‘bring [their] friends’ along?

On Sunday night, a flyer surfaced on Reddit for an event planned for Nov. 22 at Brigham Young University-Idaho (BYU-I), which is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). The original poster noted that his friend had received the flyer in a sacrament meeting program, a leaflet distributed to Mormon congregants before weekly worship services.

‘Confused about the confusion about same-gender attraction?’ the header said. Same-gender attraction is a popular Mormon euphemism for homosexuality.

‘People can and do overcome same-gender attraction and enjoy rich, full lives with marriage partners of the opposite-sex without regrets,’ the flyer went on to promise.

The advertised event was supposed to be ‘an evening of discussion with a professional counselor who has helped many overcome same-gender attraction.’

Michael D. Williams, the Rexburg, Idaho-based counselor in question, told The Daily Beast ‘that I do not act on behalf of the [LDS Church], but as a member of the congregation who has taken a good look at much of the research regarding same-sex attraction [SSA], and who has assisted a number of young adults—male and female—to overcome unwanted SSA both here and in California.’

Williams did not immediately respond to further questions about the event, nor did he provide evidence of the supposed efficacy of his treatments. But a few hours later, he emailed to say, ‘Due to negative publicity the presentation has been called off.’…

The flyer for Williams’ abruptly cancelled event, which was to be held on campus at BYU-I in a large lecture hall, encouraged attendees to visit his website and browse his resources on homosexuality to ‘help make more sense [of] a challenging issue.’…” (Samantha Allen, “Conversion Therapy Event at BYU-I Axed,” TheDailyBeast.com, November 16, 2015)


“My friend got this [the invitation to the Michael Williams event] with his sacrament program at BYUI.” (James Leverich, Facebook posting, Mormon Stories Podcast Community, November 17, 2015)

Confused about the confusion about same-gender attraction? Join us Sunday night, November 22 at 7:00 pm in Ricks 147.

Understanding and Helping Those with Same-Sex Attraction

You’ve heard it over and over again that people are ‘born that way’ and simply have no choice or opportunity to enjoy the fullness of family life—marriage and children—without changing the eternal definition of marriage.

It is not just a matter of opinion, but of revelation and of social science: People can and do overcome same-gender attraction and enjoy rich, full lives with marriage partners of the opposite sex without regrets.

How? And what do we need to understand in able [sic] to really help and support those with same-gender attraction?

Come join us for an evening of discussion with a professional counselor who has helped many overcome same-gender attraction. You’ll learn how to understand the science and research as well as revealed truths on the matter, and how to help others understand.

Come informed and prepared to discuss and learn more.

Go to MichaelWilliamsCounseling.com and click the Resources tab to read and download research and other resources on this important topic. These are resources that can be shared, and which will help to make more sense on a challenging issue. Please [sentence missing from image]

  • Are some people born gay?
  • If people are not born that way, why are those feelings so strong and how can they be changed?
  • Why is marriage between a man and a woman so central to our Heavenly Father’s plan, and to our happiness?
  • How can someone with such feelings or attractions be happily married to someone of the opposite sex?
  • How can we understand and help friends and family who might be struggling with same-gender attraction?

Many of us know friends and family—good people—who struggle with feelings of romantic or physical attraction to those of the same sex or gender. Sadly, the media portray those with such feelings of attraction as born or destined to have those feelings throughout life, and suggest that they can only be happy or fulfilled by participating in same-sex relationships.

Even if much of the world is confused about this topic you don’t have to be.

Join us November 22, 7:00 pm in Ricks 147 to discuss these topics. Brings [sic] your friends and enjoy refreshments afterwards.


“September 18, 2010: [Bishop Keith B. McMullin, 2nd Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric] spoke at the 20th annual conference of Evergreen International… McMullin also spoke at the conference 17 years ago, when it was held at a hotel.  He said it was ‘appropriate’ that the group now meets in the LDS chapel inside the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City. ‘We’ve improved. We’ve come from the hotel to the meetinghouse,’ McMullin said. ‘This has to be an inspiration to us all in whatever circumstance we may find ourselves.…” (Ben Williams, “This Day In Gay Utah History, September 18,” Utah Stonewall Historical Society Archives)


“Three years later, a jury handed down a landmark verdict against JONAH and an injunction against co-founder Arthur Goldberg and counselor Alan Downing, who is Mormon, from further engaging in conversion-thera;y commerce in the Garden State.

The decision also spurred a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint jointly filed by the SPLC, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The complaint asks the FTC to investigate People Can Change (PCC), a Web-based conversaion-therapy group and referral service founded by Mormon Richard Wyler, that promotes change claims and therapies similar to those used by JONAH.…” (Jennifer Dobner and Peggy Fletcher Stack, “New book reveals Mormon girl’s hellish encounter with gay conversion therapy,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 12, 2016)


[26] “I had an hour with Alan Gundry, the head of the new [Church] Department of Homosexual Concerns in Social Services …. He is a very good and kind person, who realizes we do not have the answers. He said, “Ten years ago I would have said all these guys can be changed, but I know now that’s not true.” His goal for the department is to help everyone love one another and to realize that we’re all brothers and sisters. He’s just going to be collecting data right now, listening to people’s stories.”  

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


[93] “I was given the edict to attend Evergreen meetings. The closest meeting place was one thousand miles from home. I was a really good Mormon boy; in addition to tithes and offerings, I worked a third job to keep up with paying for regular flights into Salt Lake City for my Evergreen meetings. My bishop insisted that this all remain confidential. I didn’t want to embarrass my children or my family, so it was a pretty lonely experience to fly into Salt Lake alone to go to the meetings. I had to keep a low profile and stay in the cheapest motels I could find rather than stay with my family. How could I stay with my sisters in Utah and tell them that I was going to Evergreen meetings?

My first Evergreen experience was an awakening. The chapel in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building was packed with clones of myself! Nearly everyone there was within five years of my age, and their stories revealed that we all had the same sort of experiences growing up as gay Mormon boys and men. Told to remain invisible in order to cover up our shame. Told to put on that white shirt and tie and blend into Mormon culture as quiet, whole men. I attended Evergreen meetings as often as I could.

I also went to LDS reparative therapy during this time, driving three hours a week for about two years to see my Mormon therapist. I did everything I could in therapy to heal from being gay, knowing that I had signed a mandatory therapy agreement stating that the therapist could tell all of my confidences to my bishop. My wife attended some therapy sessions with me. The therapist assured both of us that I could change and become heterosexual if I really wanted to, ill really tried. I was the best little Mormon boy in the ward. I knew how to work hard, to fast and pray fervently, and I am still working out the intense guilt that remains from not trying hard enough. I did not get healed from an orientation that I had [94] never acted upon. From my experience, I suspect that the men who claim success in reparative therapy make these claims because they fear being excommunicated from the Church.”

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


Claudia: Evergreen.  I know two young men who both were on the board of directors of Evergreen.  They’ve been together 20 years now.  That’s about how successful it is, but they were on the board. I know one young man who still swears he’s changed. He’s a great advocate for Evergreen, but most of them end up on my doorstep after they decide Evergreen is not going to work.  

There’s a young man who came down from Salt Lake.  He had gone on a mission and came home and married and had two children when he finally came out.  He was in the bishopric and he told the bishop, and the bishop said, “Well, you need to go to Evergreen.”  So he went to Evergreen. They told him he had to sign a paper that he would never say that he is gay.  He said, “I just can’t do that.  I won’t do it.”  So he left. We teach our children to tell the truth, from the time they are 2 years old, “Tell the truth. Tell the truth.” Right?  And then when they tell you the truth, you reject them.  But that’s the main thing that Evergreen tells them to do, is not to tell the truth about who they are. I just know a lot of them end up coming to my meetings when they just finally decide, “I haven’t changed; it’s not working.”  It just doesn’t work.

(Claudia Bradshaw, March 4, 2012)

Bradshaw: Back to his brother, Ron Schow.  Ron produced three videos.  One was Gary Horlacher’s story.  These were well done.  They had “The Spirit of God” playing as background music against a Salt Lake Temple image.  The second video was the story of Russ Gorringe.  Russ, at one point, was sort of the poster child for Evergreen.  He is a gay, married man.  He was a member of a stake presidency.  He went around and proclaimed the Evergreen message in meetings around the country.  Then, he came to grips with this and decided he was not telling the truth.  Orientation doesn’t change.  He and his wife attempted, for ten years, to live an asexual relationship.  Finally, neither one of them felt like they could continue in the marriage.  Russ is a remarkable guy.  Marge and I have a lot of contact with him and his partner.  They are members of a Christian church in Holladay.

Prince: So he bailed out of his marriage and the Church?

Bradshaw: Yes, but he hasn’t bailed out of the Church emotionally.…

They brought a man into the group, Alan Gundry, from Dallas.  He was specifically assigned to be the contact person for gay and lesbian issues.  He was in that position for ten years, and Dean Byrd was his immediate supervisor.  Near the end of that tenure, Dean Byrd came to him and took all of his records.

(William Bradshaw, June 4, 2011)

Bradshaw: I don’t know if you are aware of the publications that have come in the last twelve months out of my study with colleagues at Utah State University.

Prince: I think I have copies of all of them.  Didn’t they come out of John Dehlin’s dissertation project?

Bradshaw: Yes.  The most recent one is from the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.  If you don’t have that one, I’ll send you a copy.

Prince: I don’t have it.

Bradshaw: It’s one of the most important.  It’s restricted to the male participants in our study because of their greater number, which has permitted some sophisticated statistical treatments of our data that we can’t apply in exactly the same way to the female persons in our study because of their smaller numbers.

The question I asked when we did the study was what variable that we know about our gay brothers and sisters is able to predict whether or not the gay men are able to stay affiliated with the Church.  That question was formulated primarily in response to the folks in North Star who are arguing that it’s greater devotion and greater faith in the atonement of the Savior that are the pathway by which people can remain faithful in the Church.  What our data show convincingly is that, in fact, gay Mormon men have been at the forefront of devotion and church activity.  Their level of missionary service, of Aaronic Priesthood leadership and other measures of church activity are way above the average.  These are people who have been in the “blue ribbon” contingent of Latter-day Saint youth.  But it’s not doctrinal belief, it’s not devotion, it’s not activity.  What predicts people of this sort being able to stay in the Church is where they are on the Kinsey Scale.  It’s very clear that those who have attempted mixed-orientation marriage and those few who have made a go of it are bisexual.  They are in the middle of the continuum of orientation.  They are those who are 2s and 3s and 4s on that scale.  They are the ones who are able to remain closeted in their wards, who appear to be like every other traditional Mormon family, able to hide the fact that they have been wrestling with this duality of feelings.  So the data what we have with regard to marriage and divorce and other parameters show this very clearly.  This is a good journal that has a strong reputation in the field.

(William Bradshaw, December 28, 2015)

Ferguson: Whew, we’re getting into all of it, aren’t we?  There is a lot of discussion about what happened with Evergreen and why they ultimately dissolved.  Essentially it was the premier referral group for bishops who were approached by somebody who said that they were having some kind of distress surrounding sexual identity and sexual orientation.  So it was sort of a patchwork quilt of support groups that had some degree of central leadership.  They would have annual conferences.  The Joseph Smith Memorial Building would be donated to them.  They would always have a General Authority on their board of advisors who would speak at the annual conferences.  For a long time, if you were gay and Mormon, Evergreen was the thing.

Dehlin: I’ve even heard that the Church provided some financial support to Evergreen through humanitarian funds.  That’s what I’ve heard; I don’t know.

Ferguson: I’m not sure.  When you do Ty’s Mormons Stories interview you can go into this deeper.  He was really in the center of the action during this time.  But there was another figure named Dean Byrd who was really at loggerheads with him.  Part of the crux of their conflict was that in the book, In Quiet Desperation, it talked about before his passing, Stuart Matis receiving blessings about his sexual orientation not changing.  Kind of the old guard was, “There is so much plasticity to sexual orientation that you just have to engage in the right practice, and you can mold yourself from being homosexual to being heterosexual.”  If I am remembering correctly—and I’m happy to be corrected—in the original stages there was a lot of discord surrounding the malleability of sexuality, and that was one of the more divisive issues.

Dehlin: Between the founders of North Star and the old guard with Dean Byrd and Evergreen?

Ferguson: That’s right.  In particular, one of the early voices in North Star was very outspoken that he was gay, he was not same-sex attracted; that this was a part of his identity and he was not interested in change efforts.  At the time, that was one of the positions underneath the North Star umbrella, and that was at odds with the agenda that was being primarily pushed by Evergreen.…

Dehlin: I’m more curious about what’s your understanding—you knew people in Salt Lake City who either went through Evergreen or participated in North Star groups.  What did they experience and what were the most common outcomes that you experienced from their attempts to engage Evergreen or North Star?

Ferguson: The most common outcome that I saw personally was people going to groups, going to weekly accountability groups, and then cruising online.  I can’t tell you the number of guys who I met online who were like, “Oh, do I know you from North Star?  Don’t I know you from Evergreen?”  That’s the most common outcome that I experienced, that there is still so much covert behavior that is going on.  I hate to use this dark analogy, but we saw so vividly in the Catholic Church what happens when you try and repress healthy, normal sexuality in human beings: it goes into really wonky places.

Dehlin: So gay men in Salt Lake City would go to the Matis firesides or they would go to North Star groups or Evergreen activities with the sincere intent to try and change or fix themselves, but they would end up meeting people and developing relationships on the side, and in some cases hooking up, or whatever you’d want to say.

Ferguson: Sure.

Dehlin: Was that rare, or common?

Ferguson: It’s common.  It becomes a clearinghouse for meeting, but also it becomes a way to maintain the façade that everything in my life is going according to the priesthood path.  You have something that you can point to and say, “Look, here is what I am doing.”  But what you don’t see is, “Here is the secret life and activity that I’m also doing, that I’m hiding behind the whitewashed sepulcher, inside that’s full of dead men’s bones.”…

Let’s go and jump into this.  This is from—again, it’s one of those things that if it weren’t the testimony in a trial under oath, from their own mouths, I don’t know that I would even believe it because it’s so radical and extreme.  This is the testimony of a man named Preston Dahlgren.  He was one of the individuals who was featured on the national television show on TLC, entitled “My Husband’s Not Gay.”  Do you want to do this back and forth?

Dehlin: Yes.

Ferguson: So Seth is going to be the attorney, and I’m going to be Preston.

Anderson: “Did you participate in any processes that involved nudity?”

Ferguson: This is in reference to the Journey Into Manhood, so the first retreat.  “Yes, I did.”

Anderson: “Can you just very briefly describe that process for the jury, please?”

Ferguson: “Yeah.  So this man ultimately asked to be rebaptized to be cleansed.  There was a local river, and we went and held a baptism for him.  He was a very religious man.”  So here he is describing this nude ritual rebaptism process that they participated in on the Journey Into Manhood retreat.

Dehlin: This was a Mormon, maybe even an active Mormon, engaging in naked baptism rituals as party of Journey Into Manhood?

Ferguson: Right.  Let’s put this into the context of the normal, lived experience.  Imagine that you had a missionary who said to his mission president, “We did a rebaptism that was unauthorized on this inactive member, and we did it naked.”  Whoa!  The mission president would be like probably filtering a lot of expletives and surprise and shock, but there would be consequences for that.  Whereas, in large part because of the secrecy, that these organizations have been able to do all kinds of things without any scrutiny, without any accountability to them.…

Dehlin: Of the thousand-plus that engaged in sexual orientation change efforts, zero percent reported that through their sexual orientation change efforts that their same-sex attraction was eliminated.  That’s zero percent!  So a full third of our sample were active in the Church at the time that they participated in the survey, so you can’t just argue that our survey was only ex-Mormons and angry post-Mormons.  A full third were active in the Church, and even with that sizable a group, zero percent reported that through sexual orientation change efforts their same-sex attraction was eliminated.…

To finish, zero percent reported an elimination of their same-sex attraction; 3.6% reported some change in their sexual attractions.  That would be some slight increase in their other sex attraction, or some decrease in their same-sex attraction.  So about 4% said, “Yes, I did experience some movement in my sexual orientation.”  That’s 4%.  On the other had, 40—that’s ten-times the amount—reported harm from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts.  So you’re talking about people who are ten-times more likely to report experiencing harm from religions attempts, group attempts, psychotherapy attempts—ten-times more likely to report having experienced harm than any benefit.  You’re saying, “That’s 60% that didn’t report harm.”  Well, even if you don’t report harm, you spent ten, twelve years of your life paying therapists, paying people for retreats, going through these experiences, trying to date women, praying to Heavenly Father above, fasting, such that you’re thirty or thirty-five; maybe you married a woman along they way, maybe you even have children, and you are in your thirties now, forties, sometimes fifties.  You’ve spent a good portion of your good years, and you’re saying no effect at best, but at worst, harm.

(Michael Ferguson/John Dehlin, July 15, 2015)

Rich: It made an attempt to say, “We need to be supportive with this, and what we are going to do is help them to change.”  When they brought Allen Gundry from Texas—I’m jumping a bit—and had him start, in Family Services, to work with gay people, what happened was that the longer he worked with them—and he worked with over 500 people—the more he realized over and over again that the only solution was to make a place for them within the Church with who they were.  He was so loving, and he kept helping more and more people not to kill themselves, not to do all this stuff.  That was unacceptable to the leadership of the Church.…

At some point as these things got moving on—and Allen had all these cases that weren’t closing, in the sense that you put them back into families and they get married and things are all right—what happened was that they brought Dean Byrd in.  He basically pushed Allen out, but he took some of Allen’s files and made efforts to discredit everything Allen did.

Greg: Did Dean falsify data?

Rich: Yes.…

Rich: It’s so interesting that it was only until that point, about two years ago, that a memo came out in Family Services that said, “You can’t do reparative therapy anymore.”

Jan: And that was after Dean died.  He’s been gone for three years.…

(Richard and Jan Ferré, March 1, 2015)

Rich: So Alan and I were talking about it.  He said Harold Brown, who was the man over LDS Social Services at that time, said, “I need you to come up and work with this population.  It is just too problematic.  We need someone to do it.  You are called to this.  This is your job.”  Alan said this very interesting thing, and I think it’s extremely important to get a quote out of this.  Harold was so concerned about him getting this right that he gave him a blessing and, of you might want to call it, “ordained” him to the calling of working with these people.

Jan: He said it was a job and a calling.

Rich: A job and a calling.

Greg: That’s a terrible combination.  That’s exactly what Leonard Arrington had, and it reared its head up.

Rich: The thing is that Alan is the most guileless person.  You couldn’t have picked a better person for this.  So he started off down this road and he started meeting with these people.  He gave us the number of 1,500 individuals.…

So what I am saying is that I told them, “You don’t have a solution here in reparative therapy.  You have got to keep people from going to Evergreen.  There are terrible things going on there.  Dean has done this.  Dean has done that.”  “Oh, OK.”  “You have to do a ministry.  You have to shift off of simply referring people to therapy.  You have to do something to help the church members be compatible with these people in their congregations.”…

Greg: Why do you think the Church finally killed Evergreen?

Rich: It’s because of lawsuits that could have been filed.

Greg: Were there lawsuits filed?

Rich: No.

Greg: Do you think it was Dallin Oaks being proactive?

Rich: No, I don’t.  I think it probably came from the Presiding Bishopric’s Office.  When they sat down and looked at the situation—remember in New Jersey there were some lawsuits against people who had done reparative therapy?

Greg: Yes.

Rich: And there were lawsuits in California, and California then passed a law against reparative therapy.  When that happened, Family Services realized that they had no legal standing.

Greg: Does Family Services answer to the Presiding Bishopric’s Office?

Rich: Yes.  It was probably the same year that Dean died, a memo came out.  I should probably find that memo.  It says it will never more be done.  The memo said we can no longer do reparative therapy.  That doesn’t mean people aren’t doing therapy who have unwanted same-sex attraction, but they can’t call it reparative, and they can’t say they can change their orientation.  So for all intents and purposes, Family Services will disavow anybody who says they are doing change therapy.

Greg: But isn’t Northstar just “Evergreen Lite”?

Rich: No, it’s not.  It’s a significant iteration difference.  Part of that is because it is not so top-heavy with people who say, “We are going to do therapy from the people who come here.”  The people going to Evergreen were getting referred to Dean and people like him, and so there was a financial component to this was perverse.  There was a perverse incentive for them to continue to do this.  That got discontinued.  I don’t think Ty or some of those people who are not even therapists are profiting from their positions.

Greg: Oh, but they are.

Rich: You think they are?  Doing therapy?

Greg: Not necessarily therapy, but doing these retreats.

Rich: Oh, the retreats.

Greg: That’s big money.  It’s $500 a person for a weekend, coupled with an oath of secrecy that people have been very reluctant to break.

Rich: I’ve heard several people break it and say that they had nude hugs.

Greg: Yes, I’ve heard that.

Rich: They have this “manly hug” business.  You know what?  I take it back.  Evergreen Lite.  You’re right.  Damn it if you’re right!  Greg, would you get out of my house?  I do not want to be contradicted!  [Laughter]  You just set me up!  Damn it!  Do you know why that upsets me?  I want to believe something is changing.  These retreats are perverse.

Greg: Yes, and they are also lucrative.

Jan: I thought the Church said several years ago that you’re not to go to these groups.

Rich: What happens is the same thing again.  If you say to someone, “You really need this, and you can trust us,” and they have this sort of good experience because they feel close, suddenly it becomes an end in itself.  It takes on a tyranny of fear, that without this you can’t be OK.  It’s going to turn out to be bad.

Greg: It also sounds to me like it’s a bit of an orgiastic cult.

Rich: It is.

Greg: I interviewed a gay guy over the phone last week who said he was invited to one of these.  He got there and thought, “No, I’m not into this stuff.”  But he said, “These guys go and do that so they can ‘fill their tank’ and then go home and make love to their wives.”

Rich: Yes.

Greg: I thought, could anything be more demeaning to a woman?

Rich: And it puts them on this dualistic path that, at some point in the process, is going to destroy them.  You can’t live two lives like that.  I was talking to Kevin Randall, who is one of the guys working with Voices of Hope.  He is gay and is married and has some kids.  I was getting this feeling from him, “I have to have this connection with my brothers, and my wife understands it.  But if there comes a time when I am far too interested in these guys and she starts saying, ‘This is not OK,’ we have it worked out.”  But what I am hearing is that he has gotten her to tolerate what he needs to have to be legitimate, but that he is not really empathetic to how this affects her, that he is asking her to put up with to sustain this friendship.  The longer they are married, the more he is saying, “I just can’t feel this.”  It just turns out that you start having these other feelings and you can’t get yourself restored in a heterosexual relation.

Oh, my gosh!  I’m sorry.  Yes, the retreats are perverse.  Now, you are a psychiatrist who is going to tell me why I was in denial about that.  Why was I hiding that in my head?  You don’t have to answer that.  I think it’s because it’s partly because there is a piece of me that keeps wanting to believe that something better can happen.

Greg: I keep thinking of the movie, “All the President’s Men,” with Deep Throat in the underground garage saying, “Follow the money.”

Rich: I couldn’t agree more with you about that.

There is this insidious thing that is going on in our culture that wants to maintain this traditional empowerment through these rigid doctrines, that then feeds this cultish way of thinking.  They appeal to the rigid person who needs salvation through a tribe, and the more they can respond to the tribe’s rules and the Pharisees are able to sustain that as the path, the acknowledgement of that helps them make sense out of a life they otherwise don’t know how to bridge with the complexity of the world.  And all the other people who are struggling with this, particularly those who have more capacity with complexity, and out there yelling at them that there is another world that they can join, but they are not prepared to join it.

(Richard Ferré, March 29, 2015)

Ferré: You’re so kind to call me.  My good friend Alan Gundry died.  I don’t know if you know that.

Prince: Oh, no!  That explains why we were never able to connect with him.

Ferré: His story is so critical.  I don’t know if there is something I should do to ask the family if there are any of his things that we could copy that might help.  I can’t really be the repository of his story, but Dean Byrd did so much to try to destroy his reputation.  To his last day, Alan was talking about how Dean had summarily worked to destroy him, and had taken his research and destroyed aspects of his charts, and then took credit for some things that he actually had done, and then after taking credit, dismantled it all.  It’s just such a sad story.  Alan didn’t want to deal with it, obviously, but it’s still a story that is part of this whole pain.  It’s such a descriptor of the society being torn apart by this mean-spiritedness.  I have a gay friend who told me, “I am finally defining my own identity, but what I have realized is that the culture has been defining my identity for so many years that I have never been able to integrate it.  As soon as I make some progress to say I’m gay, because the culture has begun to accept me, they then say, ‘You may be gay, but you are not heterosexual enough.’”  Alan went through that from a point of view that had to do with his empathy for gay people.  He saw this as a mission.  That mission changed his whole life, but it destroyed it at the same time.

(Richard Ferré, January 15, 2016)

Tom: I would say, though, that there is another dynamic there, maybe a fourth point, of families that stay in the Church, but celibacy is accepted and embraced, and “this is how you have to live your life.”  The child accepts it, and it’s very difficult to ascertain whether they are accepting it because that’s the only option being handed to them, or, “We are going to strive to do this.”  There is a legacy of gay men, in particular, that I know—and probably women, although I know far more men—who spend a decade or more trying to cure themselves and fix themselves through excessive righteousness, really over-the-top.

Wendy: Or mixed-orientation marriages, which used to be encouraged.

Tom: Yes, like Journey Into Manhood.  This is the North Star dynamic, where hope is given to parents and children that you can make it work, and a mixed-orientation is a viable, healthy option for a gay man or woman.  And they will completely dismiss all of the evidence that points to mixed-orientation marriages having extremely high divorce rates.…

The questionnaire also focused extensively on where people are falling on the Kinsey Scale.  Especially in the Church and in groups of people that are uneducated in human sexuality, there is a very binary view.  In the Church it’s either that you are straight, or you are straight with SSA [Same-Sex Attraction].  Or, you have the dynamic that you are gay or straight, and there is no acknowledgement of a continuum of where people fall on the Kinsey Scale, which denies the bisexual population.

Greg: What has focused my attention on that is living in the world of autism, where you hear the term “autism spectrum.”  That’s linearity.  That’s Kinsey Scale.  But it doesn’t work that way.  It’s an array.  They are on all points of the map; they are not sitting on a straight line.  I think that’s the same thing when it comes to sexuality.

Tom: Yes, very much so.  Is a mixed-orientation possible?  The study specifically answers that by saying that the people who were in mixed-orientation marriages and have success with it report an average Kinsey Scale of 3.7, which is right in the bisexual range.  Those who have been in mixed-orientation marriages that failed had average scores of 5.4.  Six is fully gay, so it’s right up there at the top.  So until we start acknowledging and having that conversation—those are realities.

Greg: And Evergreen success stories, if they were really success stories, were probably the guys who were bisexual to begin with.

Tom Exactly.

Wendy: And that’s what I think about a lot of their leaders.

Greg: And that’s not much of a success story.

Tom: But that also addresses your question: some people are receiving answers that, “This is something I can do,” or, “This is something that is more transient,” as opposed to those like our son.…

Wendy: North Star is allowed to use our chapels and buildings for their firesides and activities.

Greg: They are?

Wendy: Yes.  All of the time.  Affirmation is not.

Greg: And Evergreen was.

Wendy: Yes, Evergreen met in church buildings.  I think Evergreen met in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

Greg: Is there financial support of North Star from the Church?

Wendy: I don’t know.  I know that one of the apostles sat on the board of Evergreen.

Tom: There was with Evergreen.  I’m not sure when it ended, but I know that was the beginning of the end for Evergreen, when the Church withdrew support.  The writing was on the wall with Evergreen, because the Church had withdrawn support and no longer had anyone on the board.  It didn’t last much longer.

Greg: Is North Star the same thing in different clothing?

Wendy: Yes.  I call it Evergreen Light.…

Greg: Does Ty have patron saints among the Red Chairs?

Wendy: I don’t know.  I know that he meets with them all the time.

Greg: Is he their poster child?

Wendy: Oh, absolutely!  100%.

Greg: Because he promotes their agenda.

Wendy: Yes.  That’s why North Star works and they can get behind North Star.  They only accept the church path.  When somebody leaves North Star, they are vilified.…

Tom: The other thing I would say, in my exploration of North Star and other similar programs, is that North Star understands from the Evergreen experience that you cannot change a gay man and make him straight.  However, they are very much that if there is a gay man who wants to live a righteous lifestyle, as it is defined, “We can move him from a sexual being towards asexuality.”

Wendy: That’s not what they say, but that’s what they are doing.

Tom: That is what they are doing.  They are moving someone to where he is asexual.  “For a celibate person, if we remove the sexual component, that is the natural man and we can just get control of you, and this is no longer a problem.”

Wendy: “We’re just going to shut that all down.”  When you watch Ty’s interviews, or only Josh’s, the only people I have seen who are living in mixed-orientations marriages are therapists.  When I listen to them talk and they are talking about their marriages, it feels like a case study.  It would never be how I would talk about Tom or our relationship. 

(Tom and Wendy Montgomery, March 14, 2015)

Prince: When was your experience with aversion therapy?  Was that part of McBride’s dissertation?

O’Donovan: I was a year or two before that, and I never went through it.  I was supposed to go to BYU under the guise of doing a genealogy program.  It was the World Conference on Records at BYU that year.  I was a high school student, and there was an advanced study program for high school seniors, where they could do college classes at the Y.  So that was the guise that I was supposed to use, and then do vomiting aversion therapy.  But I didn’t do it.  I refused to go.

Prince: Was the program any more extensive than what McBride did with fourteen subjects?

O’Donovan: I have no idea.  I didn’t participate.  When I found out it was vomiting aversion therapy, I turned it down.  I’m a total “pukaphobe.”  I hate vomiting.  It’s a true phobia.  I haven’t thrown up since July of 1987.  I refuse to, because I have a profound terror of it.  So when they offered that as my only cure, I said, “That’s all right.  I’ll be gay.”

(Connell O’Donovan, January 18, 2015)

Christofferson: One of my older brothers had a good friend who was a regional director of what was then called LDS Social Services.  When my brother approached him and said, “Who is a good counselor that we could hook Tom up with, who could help him be cured?” this brother said to my brother, “In my career, I have talked to 400 returned missionaries who are gay, and desperately want to be able to be cured, to be straight, to be married, to be in the Church, to have it all.  My guess is probably 4% of the people I have counseled with are now in happy, opposite-sex marriages.  My view is they were bisexual to begin with, but in any event, Greg, it’s just not going to happen.”  That was really helpful to my family, that as I was headed down this path, they could at least feel, “There’s not yet some therapy that would change Tom and that we need to try to get him to accept.”

(“Out in Zion” – Podcast #8, September 28, 2015, “Reparative Therapy in the LDS Community, Part 1.”  Panelists: Tom Christofferson, Josh Weed)

Rees: It wasn’t until I became bishop of the Los Angeles First Ward—a singles ward—that I really underwent a sea change.…

The first thing I did, since this was a ward where I didn’t know most of the people because it was a singles ward and I had been in a family ward, was to set up 15- to 20-minute interviews with everybody.  I said, “I need to know them.”  The first thing I said was, “Is there anything in your past that hasn’t been resolved and should be, because I want to get it out of the way so we can start on a clean slate.”  In the course of those interviews there were people who talked about their homosexuality, and I began to see that these were among the noblest and most faithful people the Church had produced.

Prince: Time frame?

Rees: 1982 to 1986.  By this time I had had a lot of experience.  I had come a long way, and I was clearly doing a lot of reading, a lot of studying of the literature relating to homosexuality.  I became convinced that this was not something that people chose or could change.  That really solidified because I met these people in my ward who had tried for years to change their sexual orientation.  They were convinced that they had chosen it, because they were being told by the Church that they had.  They were convinced that they could change it because their families were trying to excommunicate them from the family circle if they didn’t.  And the Church was certainly going to excommunicate them if they didn’t.…

I felt that these gay members of my Church had that kind of thing: “If I could do anything—I’ve tried to do it.  I’ve gone on a mission.  I extended a mission so I served longer.  I came back and took every calling.  I not only go to the temple; I go to the temple all the time.  I prayed.  I fasted days for God to remove this from me, and he hasn’t.”  Therefore, their tendency was to blame themselves: they weren’t earnest enough, they weren’t faithful enough.  I really found it heartbreaking.

(Robert Rees, August 10, 2014)

Ryan: I will give you an example.  I have a friend who is a little bit older than I, who grew up in a conservative part of the Midwest.  His affect was always really flat.  I always wondered about that, because he would never get really excited and never get really sad.  Then I found that he came out in adolescence in this very conservative community, and he was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital throughout his teenage years and didn’t go to a real high school.

Prince: Just because he was gay?

Ryan: Yes.  And during that period he underwent hundreds of electroconvulsive shock treatments.  This was what happened to people like us in the 60s and 70s.  Still going into the 80s there were really negative outcomes for being who you were.  But as more social supports began to emerge, there was a place for kids to go where they could be who they were, and then go back to their social worlds.  So they weren’t out to their families.  The perception then was that families would never grow and change.

(Caitlin Ryan, March 15, 2015)

Schow: There is a lot of background on Allen [Gundry] that is really quite fascinating.  There is a guy who was over LDS Family Services—here, again, I may have to fill this in later because I can’t think of his name right now—but he later became head over the whole Welfare area.  He felt inspired, in about 1990, to call—Allen had been working for LDS Family Services as a general therapist, and the head of LDS Family Services had almost a vision that he should call Allen Gundry, who at the time was in Texas.  Allen had worked in Pocatello, my hometown, but then had gone to Texas.  But this director called Allen and said, “I feel that you should come and do something on the gay issue in the Church.”  This was around 1990.  So Allen picked up his family and moved to Salt Lake City.  The word got out that Allen was coming and was going to work on the gay issue, and the Affirmation people in Salt Lake City met his moving truck and moved him in.  Allen is this wonderful guy who is a great listener.  He immediately began to do some compassionate, wonderful things.  For example, he went to Los Angeles and met with Bob Rees and some of the gay people in Bob’s ward, and just listened.  And he went to San Francisco and met with Bishop Roberts and some of the gay people in Bishop Roberts’s ward, and just listened.

Allen has told me that he worked pretty much continuously from that time for the next fifteen or twenty years, almost exclusively with gay people.  He said it was hard to get anybody else in LDS Family Services to work with them because the failure rate was so high.  But Allen just loved these people.  He always kept his contact with them, regardless of whether they decided to stay in the Church or not.  There are lot of people who have worked with Allen over the years, and who will tell you good things about him.

Within a year or two, LDS Family Services decided that they wanted somebody who was a researcher, who would really get more information and documentation.  They went to Allen at that point and said, “Allen, we’ll offer this to you, and you can move out of your therapy and become a fulltime researcher and make presentations and do research.”  I understand Allen said, “That’s not me.  I’m not a researcher; I’m a therapist.”  That ill turn of events is what got us Dean Byrd.  They brought Byrd in, and that’s another whole story.  Byrd is dead now; he died about six or eight months ago.

(Ron Schow, March 19, 2013)

Schow: Maybe this is a reasonable place for me to mention that there was a period of time when I met with Elder James Mason a number of times.  He is close friends with Marv and Geneva Peterson, who are the ones who are related to Elder Oaks.  Elder Mason was once the head of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.  At this time he was the Church Commissioner of Health.  He eventually ended up on the Evergreen board of directors.  It turns out that Elder Mason has a gay grandson.  We tried to get him to help us create some kind of opening with the Evergreen group.  He very much wanted to do that.  He went to the Evergreen executive director, he told us on two or three occasions, and they adamantly refused to reach any kind of accommodation, even though Elder Mason was pushing for it.

Prince: Was Elder Mason averse to reparative therapy?

Schow: Well, he definitely had his misgivings about it.  He was more inclined to think that it probably doesn’t go away.  He has actually been quoted in some newspaper articles.  He was part of the Evergreen conference for a number of years.  I have notes from those conferences.  I could document a number of things he said in private meetings with us.  He had a number of contacts with Larry Crenshaw, who was then head of LDS Family Services.  We got reports of those meetings, and he seemed to hit a brick wall when he talked to Evergreen, or when he would try to talk to LDS Family Services.  Because he is a very orthodox kind of man, he always would fall back and say, “Well, the Prophet is going to have to say something before anything is going to change.”  So he kind of gave up on it, but we did work with him for a time.…

We then continued to work on the fireside idea, but we left it alone for a year or two until Prop 8 kind of died down.  Then we began to work again with several different stakes.  There was a major Idaho fireside in 2010, which I attended representing my stake president.  We worked for six or eight months to see if we could hold another fireside of that type in Pocatello.  At the Idaho Falls fireside, there were approximately 500 in attendance.  All 60 stakes in our area had been invited.  My stake president wanted me to go and see if, by chance, we could do a similar one sometime later in Pocatello.  It was an amazing thing to be there with 500 people.  North Star had a big role in that fireside.  Ty Mansfield was the keynote speaker.  Steve Frei had a lot do to with organizing it, and he is now the president of North Star.

That 2010 fireside opened the door for me to begin trying to work with the North Star people.  They had emerged on the scene in about 2007 or 2008, and gradually grew in their power and influence.

Prince: How did they differentiate themselves from Evergreen?

Schow: There are two main differences that are very important.  North Star takes no position on whether gays are born that way, and they take no position on reparative therapy.  So in those two ways they are very different than Evergreen, which was influenced by Byrd and Pruden and a number of others.  Evergreen is strongly in the vein of saying, “You are not born that way, and you can be changed.  You can be cured.”

Prince: How does Evergreen view North Star?

Schow: That’s an evolving story.  At first, North Star really came out of In Quiet Desperation, which was published in 2004.  Of course, that brought in Fred and Marilyn Matis and was related to the whole business of Stuart Matis’s suicide.  I think you probably know that he killed himself on the chapel steps of a chapel where they were going to hold a missionary conference that day.  He knew that Elder Holland would probably find him, or at least by the time Elder Holland got there for the conference there would be police there.  That, in fact, happened.  The Matis’s, at that point, became quite involved with Elder Holland.  That’s quite a story that I know a fair bit about.  Over the years, I have met with the Matis’s on at least a dozen occasions.

The North Star story could be described.  Early on, I began to participate on the North Star website, and have tried to maintain a kind of relationship with those people, following on the advice of Elder Oaks that “you folks should try to work with each other and understand each other.”  I’ve also met, on any number of occasions, with David Pruden, who is the current executive director of Evergreen.  Before him it was David Mathison and I met with David on a number of occasions.  So anyway, those are some key players in this whole picture.  You can probably say there are the Big Three: Evergreen, North Star and Affirmation.

Evergreen was dealt a death blow about a year ago when they were cut off from their Joseph Smith Memorial Building annual meeting, and their having a General Authority come to that annual conference.

Prince: And Dean Byrd’s death.

Schow: Yes.  Though Byrd had not really been much of a force within Evergreen for several years, his death was a major thing because he was relentless in his efforts to promote his point of view.  Evergreen had kind of distanced itself from Byrd in his last four or five years.  He had also kind of been forced out at LDS Family Services.  My friend Allen Gundry told me quite a bit about that, and Rich Ferre knows a little bit about that as well.  The whole Dean Byrd story is an interesting one, and probably one we should try to describe at some point.…

I’ve known and had a lot to do with Allen Gundry, since about 1990.  He is probably the man who has done more so-called reparative therapy at LDS Family Services than any other man, but he doesn’t believe that people can change.  Allen is an important person in this whole picture.  He has had a lot to do with Dean Byrd over the years.

(Ron Schow, March 23, 2013)

Schow: Have you talked to John Dehlin?

Prince: Yes, I’ve been talking to him frequently.

Schow: There is a lot of talk about John’s research.  There is a lot of loose talk that that research is the final, last word because they have the biggest sample, and so forth.  It’s great research and it has done a lot of good.  It’s in refereed publications now.  But it is only part of the story.

Prince: That doesn’t surprise me.  I don’t think there is a last word on something that is that complex.

Schow: Well, let me just give you a for instance.  I’ve gone over the research pretty carefully and talked with John about it several times.  One of the reasons he has done well with bisexuality is because of some discussions I had with him early on.  I said, “I’d really like you to look at your data, in terms of bisexuality.  What is the difference between people who are a ‘6’ on the Kinsey scale and in a marriage, and people who are a ‘4’?”  There is my story, which is why I am sensitized to that.

But one little tidbit is that they have over 1,600 subjects in that sample.  They clearly did try to get Northstar people involved.  But there is a telling bit of data that says there was very little participation from Northstar, and that is the question where they say, “Have you participated in a weekend retreat?”  Out of the 1,600, there were only 50 who had been to Journey into Manhood [JiM].  Let me just tell you that if you go to the websites and look at Dave Matheson’s “People Can Change” website, in about 2006 they had had about four years of Journey into Manhood.  At that point they had about 600 people who had been to it.  So they sent out a survey to all 600, and about 400 responded to it.  Something like 50% of them said that Journey into Manhood was really effective in helping them diminish their same-sex attraction.  It’s not a refereed study.  It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that John’s research does, but they have continued with those Journey into Manhood weekends nonstop for almost ten years now.  They have four or five of them a year, and I hear they have something like fifty people at those workshops.  So you have to assume there are least 1,500 to 2,000 people who have been to Journey into Manhood up to this point, but John got only 50 of them in his sample.  So what does that tell you?

I don’t want to be negative toward the research, because clearly it is good and there is a lot that is important there.  But I would want you to recognize its limitations.…

One more thing about Evergreen:  As I understand it, the presidency of the Seventy were charged at some point—and I think Byrd and Packer probably had something to do with it—to send a General Authority to Evergreen conferences for at least ten or twelve years, maybe longer.  Some of those talks were pretty good, and some of them were awful.  Bruce Hafen’s was one of the last ones given.  He was introduced by Dean Byrd, and they way that talk reads, it’s clear that Dean Byrd had a lot to do with writing it.

Prince: It was not a high-water mark.

Schow: I do know that at the Northstar conference last spring, they had a Seventy there.  I don’t know if he was there completely on his own, or whether he had some kind of assignment to be there; but he was not part of the program.  A few select people were invited to go to lunch with him.  I don’t know what he said there, but it was some kind of a rah-rah for what they were doing.

Prince: Do you know if the Church ever gave financial support to Evergreen?

Schow: They did to Evergreen, through the humanitarian funds.  We can track that down.

Prince: I’d like to get documentation of that.  That really becomes part of the marriage equality story, which is the whole point of the book.

Schow: One of the stories I told you is what happened at the time Evergreen was shut down, and at the time they said they were no longer going to send a General Authority.  It was about two or three years ago.  I had cultivated my connection with Richard Edgeley.  Richard is also from Preston, Idaho.  He was in my brother’s high school class.  Richard was in the Presiding Bishopric for a long time, and he was given the assignment over Welfare Square.  There is something called the Welfare Council that runs all those kinds of things, and Richard was the General Authority over that because of being in the Presiding Bishopric.

So he was over LDS Family Services.  At the time Marlin Jensen was released as Church Historian, who became the Church Historian?

Prince: Steve Snow.

Schow: So Steve Snow was a member of the presidency of the Seventy at that time.  Because someone had told me to, I decided to send this letter to Steve Snow and to Richard Edgeley.  Richard has told me, in two different conversations, that that was a crucial kind of letter.  What I did was to describe two conferences that I had been to in the last two or three months, where Dean Byrd had a major influence and where they were pushing the Evergreen agenda.  So I laid out all the stuff they were talking about in that conference, and compared it to the church position.  I made a chart and showed them, in about six places, the differences.  Richard told me that that was a crucial thing in their deciding to cut off funds and to cut off the General Authority that would visit their conference.  It was soon after that that Evergreen died.

Prince: Is Northstar just Evergreen in different clothes?

Schow: Not quite.  A big difference, Greg, is that they do not have a position on nature or nurture, or “born that way,” and they do not have a position on whether people can change.  That has been a good development, because Evergreen clearly had a position on both.  So not quite the same clothes, but Ty Mansfield is getting more conservative ever since he has been at BYU, trying to get on the religion faculty there.

Here’s kind of a sad thing.  I’m told that Quentin Cook is really, totally impressed with Ty Mansfield, and that Ty is part of the committee that is now revising MormonsandGays.org.  He already had too big of a voice, and now he is on the committee to revise it.

Prince: That is not a happy thought for me.

Schow: I was going to tell you that Larry Richman, who was part of Evergreen, has the pseudonym Jason Park.  He has two or three really bad books that are Evergreen books that are still at Deseret Book.  I really think we should try to get the contents of MormonsandGays.org in printed form, because it is so much better than what is at Deseret Book.

Prince: My hunch is that the fact that it has been posted for over two years without having been printed reflects the divisions at the top—that there are some who don’t want to see it in print, and they probably dug in, unsuccessfully, to try to block its being posted in the first place.  It doesn’t serve their agenda.

Schow: I know Evergreen was pretty upset, and people at Northstar also felt that things were moving in the wrong direction, when we clearly feel they are moving in the right direction.

(Ron Schow, January 15, 2015)

Schwimmer: During this time right after Prop 8, I was also very close friends with Ty Mansfield.  Ty and I were the best of friends.  We were good buddies, and when he decided to propose to Danielle, he called me up at three in the morning and said, “Benji, I’m shaking.  I’m going to ask her to marry me.  Should I do it?”  At the time, I was looking up to Ty, and I actually said, “Yes!  You have to, Ty.  Are you kidding me?  This is amazing!  You’re an example, and I want to follow in your footsteps.”  So Ty and I were very close, and in fact I had spoken to one of the [Stuart] Matis firesides that were happening in Utah at the time.  That was the first time I said anything publicly, and luckily the word never got out to people.  I felt like it would be OK because Ty was there with me, and I kind of came out and gave my story of what I was struggling with.

At one point, Ty was writing an anthology.  I don’t know if he ever released it; I have the original document that he sent me.  But we wanted me to write an introductory chapter, and possibly a closing chapter.  He wanted to make me basically the poster boy for North Star, because I had a pseudo-celebrity name.

During all this time, when my bishop was asking this and probing this stuff, I also got a lot of pressure from the North Star guys, Jeff Bennion in particular, and also Ty.  They were really pushing me to be that poster child.  I felt it was more important to them to use me to push an agenda, than to actually help me.  That was something that I found really quickly.  As much as my bishop was trying to help me out, I always felt like in the end it was more about the cause than the person.  With Jeff and Ty in particular, I felt that was the very case.

There is so much more drama surrounding that.  There was a lot of pressure to me to live up to a certain standard, and I think that I was going to be used as an example.  I think I was going to be used as an example in this post-Prop 8 agenda, like, “Look, even this guy is going to do it.”

I’ll tell you this much, and this is going to be off-the-record from the recording.  I have first-hand knowledge that David Archuleta is gay.  In fact, he and I kind of had a weird, flirtatious fling when he kind of came out to me years ago, way before his mission.  He wasn’t even sure about wanting to go on a mission.  He wasn’t sure about being active in the Church.  He told me he had kind of done some bad stuff.  And then, the next thing I see, after the cat got out of the bag and public and people found out that I was gay, he and his mom stopped communicating with me.  I was supposed to choreography, possibly, his tour.  The next thing I see, he has a meeting with the Brethren, he goes on a mission, and he is on a page of Us Weekly.  So there was already this line of propaganda material that was coming out through the Church.  I think it was to do damage control, and it was to humanize the Church.  Not only that, but my stake president got an email at one point during the same time—this was all within a six-month period.  They asked, “Does Benji have his temple recommend?  We’re going to be doing this, ‘Hi, I’m Benji, and I’m a Mormon.’”  There was that “I Am a Mormon” campaign that they did for a while.  They got several other stars, several other people who had been in media.  I know that Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of “The Killers,” did it.  At the same time, I would see Brandon getting drunk at concerts.  He had never been to the temple, but he wasn’t temple-worthy, and he wasn’t worthy to be doing that kind of thing in conjunction with what our “standards” are.

But there was a lot of this post-Prop 8, “We need to fix this” scenario.  I think that the Mormon Church knew that they were in trouble, and they were looking to me and people that had a name that were LDS to kind of fix that, or to kind of mask it.  So I felt pulled from all directions.  I felt pulled from my bishopric, I felt pulled, in particular, from the North Star group, and even the people who were asking my bishop if I was worthy to record a damn video.  I just thought it was ridiculous.  At the time I was worthy, but I was thinking, “Why would they have to ask me that?”  The way that the Church functioned for me was the ability to go to Sacrament Meeting and to ask for forgiveness for your transgressions all week, and to start anew.  So that process, to me, was a sacred process, even up to the day that I left Mormonism.  I just thought that it was kind of weird that they were asking that kind of thing in a church that believes in the atonement of Jesus Christ.  Even if I wasn’t supposedly temple-worthy in that moment, couldn’t I have still made a video saying where my place was?  They were still wanting this idea of perfection.

When Ty Mansfield wrote In Quiet Desperation, he was having sex with a friend of mine named Spencer.  It’s a sham.  Everything is a sham.  Everything is about image, and there was very little integrity involved with any of this.  Sorry—it’s such a hot-button topic for me.  I apologize.

(Benji Schwimmer, March 25, 2015)

Zollinger: I have some fairly strong opinions of a classmate of mine named Dean Byrd.  I guess you’ve heard about him.

Prince: We moved to Maryland in 1975, and he came back here shortly thereafter.  He was in our ward for a year or so.  I think the Church was opening a Social Services office in Frederick, Maryland.  That was about all I knew of him, even though he was in our ward.  My recollection is that he was a Seventy, so he wasn’t in the Elders Quorum where I was.  I really had no direct contact with him, but I knew the name, and I’ve been hearing it ever since then.

Zollinger: I didn’t have any contact with him after then.  When I started in my profession in 1976, I had gay clients once in a while, and in going to Sunstone every year and getting to know these various groups led by Robert Rees, the Schow brothers and others, every time his name comes up, it’s like he was a Nazi.  They keep telling me how he was such a rabid anti-gay, and I subsequently learned that he built his whole career around fighting homosexuality.

I don’t want to gossip, but he passed away three years ago.  I shared with the Schow’s and Robert Rees, “You know, hearing all these horror stories from clients and people and church leaders about him, it makes me think back.  I am convinced that he was gay himself.”  They were just shocked.  I said, “Have you been around him much?”  “No, we just hear about him all the time.”  “Well, at BYU I took two years of classes with him.  There were only about fifteen of us in the program, and he never, ever had eye contact with a male or spoke to any of us.  There was one girl in the program and he was stuck to her.  He was very effeminate.  He kept to himself and was quite quiet, but when you’d see him talking in the hall to this girl, he had all the gestures of femininity—which doesn’t always, but mostly means you’re gay.”  So I’m thinking, in the mind of me, a psychologist, and having known him and put all that together after I heard about his career, it makes me think the passion with which he executed his role in the Church Social Services, it sounds exactly like a reaction formation—that a Freudian term for somebody who loathes something about themselves, so in order to live with themselves they fight against the very thing that motivates them.  This is just speaking as a psychologist and I’m not sure of this, but I’d give the title to my home, I’m that sure.  I think he fought against it rabidly because he hated that part of himself.  He got married and had nine children, and on paper had quite a good career.  But I’ve had homosexuals that went in and talked to him, and a couple of people that know the inside of the Church, and they say that he insisted that any time a stake president referred a homosexual to Church Social Services that the referral go right to him, and he talked straight to the stake president.  It didn’t go to anybody under him and it didn’t go to one of the General Authorities.  He insisted on that, and right up to the end he was preaching and believing in reparative therapy.  I couldn’t believe it.…

One other little thing: in 1982 at a conference, I met a psychologist.  He heard me talking about gay things and he said, “Could you drop by my office?  I’m in private practice and I want to talk to you about the research you’ve done on homosexuality.”  I went by his office and he said, “I’m a clinical psychologist, and as far as I know, I’m the only one who is getting referrals from the General Authorities to do aversive therapy.”  I said, “Goodness gracious, in 1982?  How do you feel about that?”  He said, “Well, I don’t use shock.”  “What do you use?”  “Emetics to create nausea.”  I said, “Do you do some talk therapy?  Do you do any supportive counseling?”  “Yes, I try to.”  So I know at least as 1982 that the Church was referring people to him.  

That was about the time Dean Byrd came on board, and he was putting people into Evergreen.  Any psychologist I knew who ever heard of him thought he was everybody’s nightmare.  God rest his soul.  I hate to judge him like that, but I think of all the horror he has caused people, including some people I worked with.  He’d just go in there and make them feel totally like nothing, and sinful.  He’d give harsh counsel to their stake president, he’d write pamphlets and so forth.

(Jake Zollinger, September 8, 2015)

5. Special blessings

Josh: I remember, after marriage, being promised, explicitly promised by a bishop after a blessing, that my sexual orientation would change, and him just giving this very like filled with the potency of new bishopdom.  “I promise you that by the end of your life, these things will shift.”  But even at that point there was a level of dubiousness in my mind around it. …

(“Out in Zion” – Podcast #8, September 28, 2015, “Reparative Therapy in the LDS Community, Part 1.”  Panelists: Tom Christofferson, Josh Weed)

Dabakis: Elder Mark Petersen’s secretary came down and set a time.  So I came back up to Salt Lake from Provo and met with him.  I remember the painting.  He had one of those Book of Mormon paintings.  I had had seen it in the Book of Mormon.  There was the real, live oil of it, of Nephi.  I told him and he said, “I think it is a phase.  I think you should just go on living your life.  I’m going to give you a blessing, and you’re going to be fine.  You look like a man to me.”  I said, “Well, thank you, Elder Petersen.”

So he gave me a blessing, and then afterwards I said to him, “So should I tell my bishop?  Should I tell my people?”  He said, “No, I wouldn’t tell anybody anything.  If they have a problem, you have them talk to me.”  I said, “OK.  Great.”  I felt like that was it.  What could be better?

Prince: How long did it take you to figure out that his blessing may not have delivered?

Dabakis: On the steps going out.  There were a couple of hot missionaries going in.  It didn’t take long.

(James Dabakis, August 2, 2013)