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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “24 – Biology”

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24 – Biology


“[p. 4] Some so-called experts, and many of those who have yielded to the practice, teach that it is congenital and incurable and that one just has to learn to live with it.  They can point to a history of very little success in trying to put whatever mechanism that causes this back into proper adjustment.  They have, to support them, some very convincing evidence.  Much of the so-called scientific literature concludes that there really is not much that can be done about it.

I reject that conclusion out of hand.  And there is a very sensible reason.  How can a conclusion on a matter like this be valid when the studies have ignored the part of our nature most affected by it?  It has not been fully studied as a moral and a spiritual disorder.  (Boyd K. Packer, To the One, Address given to the Twelve Stake Fireside Brigham Young University, March 5, 1978)


“I am aware that some general authorities are sympathetic, while others are close minded—the majority at present.…

There is a group of parents who are personal friends with Elder Hunter of the Twelve who are planning on meeting with him, taking my partner Chuck with them. I think we’d do best to help support parents as the church is doing nothing for them and they can’t even begin to blame the parents for anything. Most are realizing that homosexuality is a biological phenomenon.”  (Russ Lane to Dan, March 20, 1988)


“[1] No general agreement exists about the causes of such problems. It is important for you as a church leader to help members understand that regardless of the causes, these problems can be controlled and eventually overcome.…

[p. 3] Help the troubled member recognize and overcome common rationalizations such as the following: ‘I am not responsible for my behavior because I was born this way.’ Although some struggle with unwanted homosexual thoughts and feelings, there is no conclusive evidence that anyone is born with a homosexual orientation.… (Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems.  Suggestions for Ecclesiastical Leaders (Salt Lake City: Church, 1992))


“As regarding the Byne, Parsons paper, may I share some thoughts with you which are of concern to me. I do have a copy of the entire paper and have read it carefully several times. I do not have any major disagreements with what they have written. I do have serious reservations about the summary, however, apparently supplied to you by the Social Services department. Those in the Social Service department of the Church have grasped this paper and shared it widely with the general authorities and newspapers since it was seen by them as bolstering their position that homosexuality is not biologic or predetermined but is psychosocial in etiology.

Their summary is misleading and intellectually dishonest in my view. They state that the paper ‘provides evidence contrary to the theory that homosexuality is biological and pre-determined.’ The article does no such thing. It does not ‘provide evidence’ but, in fact, is a critical review of many of the recent articles written pointing to a biologic, predetermined etiology and what they believe to be problems with study design and conclusions. The authors are simply stating their reservations about accepting all the current research as proof-positive that homosexuality is biologic and pre-determined.

If you read the paper in its entirety, rather than relying on the summary, you will learn that the authors believe in an ‘interactionist model’ which incorporates genetic, hormonal and experiential factors interacting and ultimately influencing sexual orientation. The summary ‘sneaks in’ a sentence which says homosexuality ‘results from an interaction between the environment and personality characteristics.’ Is this a subtle attempt to have the reader of the summary conclude that the paper dispels a biologic causation?…

Byne and Parsons support an ‘interactive model’ of causation, but both support gay rights and believe homosexuality, whatever it’s caused, is not a ‘choice.’ The journey from a single cell zygote to a mature, appropriately oriented adult is, indeed, a hazardous one. There are innumerable places where defects can occur including genetic, hormonal, intrauterine, pre-natal, peri-natal, post-natal, and experiential and, as we well know, if defects can occur, they will.

In their zeal to keep homosexuality in a psychiatric or a quasi-chosen state, some of your colleagues in the social sciences department are not totally honest and supplying references about causality.…

This is just another example of what I considered to be an ill-advised attempt by some to support a view which is simply not tenable and is opposed by mainstream researchers, psychiatrists and psychologists. Check the references supplied to you. Most come from Catholic or other religious magazines and are not based on solid, scientific research.…

I recognize that there are scriptural references and prophetic pronouncements that must be considered and cannot be disregarded. At the same time, it would be a terrible mistake to ignore scientific evidence or distort what it is telling us about homosexuality in an attempt to validate tradition and the status quo. The evidence that homosexuality exists as an identifiable and involuntary characteristic of some people, and that these people do not as a matter of course suffer from moral or psychological dysfunction; that it is, in other words, as close to ‘natural’ as any human condition can be, is mounting and is persuasive.… That is the relevant fact that the church and society must face and formulate a policy that is congruent with that fact an is non-discriminatory.”  (Gary M. Watts to M. Russell Ballard, June 8, 1993.  Watts refers to the following paper: William Byne and Bruce Parsons, “Human Sexual Orientation: The Biologic Theories Reappraised,” Archives of General Psychiatry 50:228-39, 1993.  Attached to the letter is a handwritten note from Watts to GAP: “Here is the key as to how [Dean] Byrd maintained his position and ‘hoodwinked’ the GA’s into believing that homosexuality was psycho-social in etiology and changeable.  His footprints are everywhere in support of church policy!”)


“In the church’s brochure on homosexuality published in 1981, I would have been told in no uncertain terms that same-sex attractions and my children were a result of poor parenting. Someone must have convinced the writers of the church brochures that that theory was incorrect as the more recent 1992 published brochure on homosexuality advises ‘church leaders not to blame the parents or other family members when someone chooses to be homosexual.’… Unfortunately, that statement also implies that people choose to be homosexual.

I am personally convinced that no one chooses their sexual orientation any more than they choose their eye color or their fingerprints. The professional organizations to which I belong generally support that view. The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and the Society of Pediatrics have all issued statements indicating the choice is not operative in sexual orientation and that it is set very early in life. These professional organizations all discourage attempts to change sexual orientation and have stated that it does not work and that it can do more harm than good.

Yet my church continues to suggest otherwise.…”  (Gary Watts, speech at B. H. Roberts Society meeting, May 18, 1995)


“We are told by some church authorities that our designation as men or women began before this world was.  Do we ignore those children born as intersexes and those with chromosomal abnormalities that make their true gender problematic?  Do we pretend they don’t exist?  How are we to interpret the presence of homosexuality in humans in a relative fixed percentage across all cultures, races and ethnic groups if there is, indeed, no biological basis for homosexuality?  Is the devil playing some perverse role in the creation of homosexuality which now has been documented in most mammalian species in the animal kingdom?  President Faust states boldly that ‘inborn homosexual orientation … is a false belief.’  The fruits of mounting scientific evidence, our own experience and our own children tell us otherwise.  Virtually everyone of our gay children indicate that their same-sex attractions were with them from the first awakening of their sexual feelings.  Are we to ignore their first-hand testimony and experience?

As parents we, too, have felt the hurt and sting of the barbs and arrows directed at us.  The 1992 church brochure entitled Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems seemed to moderate the position taken by the church as it relates to the parent’s role as an etiological factor in homosexuality.  A 1995 document, however, published by LDS Social Services for LDS counselors and psychotherapists, attempts to re-establish the position taken by the 1981 church publication on homosexuality which placed most of the blame for homosexuality on poor parenting, i.e. an absent or weak father and a dominant mother.”  (Gary and Mildred Watts to Gordon B. Hinckley, August 27, 1995)


“Why would someone like me face the trial of same-gender attraction? I don’t know all the reasons for this weakness of mine…

Finally my wife, having gradually come to a realization of the extent of my sins, reluctantly decided she could no longer put up with my behavior. She told me that I either needed to seek help or leave her and our two beautiful children. Feeling desperate, I checked into a hospital psychiatric ward to see if I could gain some control over my life.

The hospital staff very compassionately help me deal with my childhood pains and my alcohol-related issues, but I soon found out what many professionals think about same gender attraction: you are born with it, and the only way you will ever be happy is to accept. However, my wife and I refused to believe it.… Despite the opposition I faced at the hospital, I felt determined to overcome my iniquities.” (Name Withheld, “Becoming Whole Again,” Ensign, January 1997)


“Those premises … represent my own conclusions about homosexuality after almost ten years of intensive study. I think those premises are worth reiterating today, because they have not changed and are unlikely to do so. I find that knowledge of these basic premises is necessary when studying and trying to come to an understanding of same-sex attraction.

The five basic truths are as follows:

  1. Homosexuality occurs in a small, finite percentage of human beings and other mammalian species.  It has always been present and will continue to be so.
  1. The causes of homosexuality are complex and are not completely understood.
  1. Homosexuality is rarely chosen.
  1. Homosexuality is not amenable to significant change. By this, I mean the same-sex attraction or the ‘core’ longings.
  1. Homosexuality is morally neutral.”

(Gary M. Watts, “’Snake Oil’ vs. Responsible Information,” Sunstone Symposium, August, 1999)


“During the entertaining one-hour tour [of the Zurich Zoo], [tour guide Myriam] Scharz recites evidence from American biologist Bruce Bagemihl’s groundbreaking 1999 study ‘Biological Exuberance’ which documented homosexual activity in more than 450 animal species.” (“Gay Animals Come Out of the Closet,” Reunion: The Family Fellowship Newsletter, Autumn 2003, p. 3)


“[Diane Ovaitt] From knowing my brother I had strong suspicions that sexual preference is not a choice for most people. If I had any lingering doubts, they were completely erased as I held my sobbing teenager that night in the kitchen, as he chanted over and over, ‘I just want to be normal, go on a mission, get married, like everyone else.’ And all I could think of was, ‘What kid in their right mind would choose ridicule over acceptance, would choose mockery over admiration, would choose to be a pariah in his own religious community?’”  (Carol Lynn Pearson, “On the Important Work in the Oakland Stake Toward Better Understanding and Loving Our Gay Brothers and Sisters,” www.clpearson.com/oaklandstake.htm, September 2009)


“A recently published paper provides an important framework for understanding the biological mechanisms that are responsible for programing sexual orientation during embryonic development.…

A large body of evidence supports the view that core sexual orientation is rooted in biology and is not the result of psychosocial influences (such as inadequate parenting). A good source for that information is Gay, Straight, and The Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation, by Simon LeVay (Oxford University Press, 2012).…

The same epigenetic mechanisms explain why one in a set of identical twins is gay and the other is not.…” (Bill Bradshaw, “New Insights into the Biological Origins of Homosexuality,” Reunion: The Family Fellowship Newsletter, Summer 2013)


“An algorithm using epigenetic information from just nine regions of the human genome can predict the sexual orientation of males with up to 70 percent accuracy, according to new research. Beyond the genetic information contained in DNA, the researchers examined patterns of DNA methylation across the genome in pairs of identical male twins.

An algorithm using epigenetic information from just nine regions of the human genome can predict the sexual orientation of males with up to 70 percent accuracy, according to research presented at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 2015 Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

‘To our knowledge, this is the first example of a predictive model for sexual orientation based on molecular markers,’ said Tuck C. Ngun, PhD, first author on the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Beyond the genetic information contained in DNA, the researchers examined patterns of DNA methylation — a molecular modification to DNA that affects when and how strongly a gene is expressed — across the genome in pairs of identical male twins. While identical twins have exactly the same genetic sequence, environmental factors lead to differences in how their DNA is methylated.” (“Epigenetic algorithm accurately predicts male sexual orientation,” www.sciencedaily.com, October 8, 2015)


“One of the survey questions read as follows: ‘Have you experienced a spiritual manifestation through which you felt an acceptance of your same-sex sexual orientation from Deity?’ Seven hundred fifty replied ‘Yes’ (47.1% of total participants; 49.1% of males responded affirmatively, 41% of females). The next item read: ‘If yes, please briefly describe the experience.’ This generated 802 narratives, 78.8% by males and 21.2% by females.  Those with sufficient content, n=794, were coded. Their primary themes are described, with examples, in Appendix B. The distribution of the 989 total themes (an average of 1.2 per person) is shown in Table 5.

The cumulative total for the five most frequent themes is 63%. These all express a highly positive spiritual experience in which God’s specific love was manifest, His personal interest was felt because He knows about or ‘made’ (is responsible for) the individual’s orientation, and a strong sense of peace, relief, or happiness resulted.

‘As I began to think differently about my orientation and as I began to associate with more people like myself, I stopped asking God to change me and I instead asked if he accepted me as I am. I can remember the stress lifting and feelings of peace come over me. Since then I have started to see myself as a unique child of God who is different from most, but who is known and loved by his Heavenly Father. I am a unique and gifted creation.’

‘I asked if He accepted me as I was: gay. That very instant, I felt such a sense of overpowering love from on high that I was overcome with emotion and almost collapsed. I felt the spirit and the love and the acceptance of God so strongly that it was tangible, like an embrace of a broken child who finally understood. Upon feeling that heavenly acceptance, the relief that washed over me felt like pure joy.… In that moment, I had a divinely inspired epiphany … that I could be my gay self and still be loved and accepted by God.… I didn’t have a reason to hate myself. I didn’t have to be someone who I wasn’t. I didn’t have to hide. I was not alone.’…

One of the most frequent sentiments expressed was to the effect that ‘God made me who I am,’ the notion that God knows about and is broadly responsible for the circumstances under which His children conduct their lives.…” (William S. Bradshaw et al., “The Etiology of Sexual Orientation: Secular and Spiritual Perspectives in an LGBTQ Mormon Sample,” Manuscript submitted for publication, January 2016)


Bergin: We are dealing with a certain amount of unknowns here, and we have to be careful not to be doctrinaire about it.  Information is growing, and we don’t know what’s going to be around the next corner.  We had better be prepared to be surprised that our assumptions are not correct.  Knowledge is exploding, so I think humility is really important.  

(Allen Bergin, September 27, 2015)

Prince: There is a question that popped into my mind.  I have heard—maybe it’s just a rumor—that there was a question in the questionnaire that went out to John’s sample that asked about whether there had been any spiritual confirmation relating to sexuality.  Was that, in fact, on the questionnaire?

Bradshaw: It was.  I am the author of that question.  I have another manuscript, separate from the one I just told you about, that I am also trying to get published that documents the content of the responses to that question.  I’ll send that to you as well.

The responses to that item in the survey are remarkable.  If they were on some other subject besides sexual orientation, you’d see them be quoted in the Ensign and in communications directed to Latter-day Saints.  They are moving and extremely personal, and some of them are very long and extensive.  It appears to me, as I read them, that people were cathartic—that it gave people a chance to express a very personal experience that might not otherwise have shared with anyone before.

Prince: Were there significant numbers that essentially said, “The Spirit told me that I am gay”?

Bradshaw: Yes.  “I am gay and I feel accepted by my Heavenly Father as gay, without the requirement to change or be something different than I am.”

Prince: Was there any sense that this is, in fact, eternal—that the way they are now is the way they will be?

Bradshaw: Yes, in a modest way.  What I guess I’m trying to say is that on this issue, like I suppose on any other issue, we don’t know a heck of a lot about what happens next in the eternities.

Prince: I’m not sure we know anything!  We hope a few things, but I don’t know that we know them.

Bradshaw: And so it is expressed as a hope, as a belief, as a yearning—not as some revelatory insight about what exactly what is going to happen.

Prince: So you know where that paper will be sent for publication?

Bradshaw: I had sent it to the same journal, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, and I just got a rejection from them days ago.  So I’m going to send it elsewhere.  Perhaps it’s a mistake in the way I formulated the manuscript, but I included the spiritual responses.  The way the question was formulated is as follows: “Have you ever experienced a spiritual experience in which you had inquired from Deity about the nature of your sexual orientation, and received a positive confirmation of it from Deity?”  That’s not the exact language, but that’s the nature of it.  But I combined it in the manuscript with other responses from our respondents about what they thought the etiology of being gay and lesbian was.  So there were responses as to whether this was due imperfect parenting, sexual abuse, early sexual experience—the sort of range of explanations that has been common in Freudian psychology and common in the Church as explanations for why this was a chosen perversion and subject to change.  Those data show, of course, that the majority of those people offer a biological explanation for their own experience.  But at least for one of the reviewers of my manuscript, they didn’t like the combination of that with the array of spiritual responses to the other question.  So I’m now trying to find another place that might be suitable.  I’m probably going to rework the manuscript and perhaps separate those two aspects of the data.

(William Bradshaw, December 28, 2015)

Wendy: But in the meantime, I had gotten priesthood blessings from my husband; my brother, who was a bishop at the time; my dad; and the first counselor in the Los Angeles Temple presidency, who is a family friend.  He gave me a blessing in the L.A. Temple, in his office.  All of these blessings said things like, “Jordan’s feet have been placed on this path before he was ever born.  Heavenly Father loves him and accepts him completely the way he is.  You were paired with him for this reason.  Heavenly Father has given you a voice and he wants you to use it to help these children.”

(Wendy Montgomery, March 14, 2015)

Prince: And I would add that beyond the social science aspect of it is the biological science aspect of it, as it becomes increasingly aware of what the role of genes and epigenetics is in this.  I think it is dawning on them that all of the policies that they built on the prior foundation were built on a foundation of sand.  There are some who would never acknowledge that, and Boyd Packer is one of them.

Ryan: They don’t need to acknowledge it; just get out of the way of others who are!

Prince: Yes, but that’s more hope than fact right now, as I see it.  But I think some of them are starting to get that.  My presumption is that Jeff Holland does more than some of the others.

Ryan: I think so.

Prince: I think that even Dallin Oaks has been compelled, by some people I have interviewed, to look at the biology enough that he begrudgingly admits, “Yes, there is a biological component to this.”  That’s why he said that in his interview with Lance Wickman, and I think that’s why the mormonsandgays.org website was able to say what it did—that this is not a choice.  They still have not come out and said directly, “This is biology,” but they have backed into that stance.

Ryan: I don’t think they know how to say it.

Prince: I agree.

Ryan: I don’t think that anyone inside the Church has really parsed this and really looked at all the research.  There are people like you and Bill Bradshaw and others who have really tried to talk with them about this, and maybe at some point they will bring together a group of advisors to help them start to think about this.

(Caitlin Ryan, March 15, 2015)