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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “44 – Compassion”

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44 – Compassion 


We have read your letter entitled “Empathy, not Confusion” and are aware of your physicians regarding the need for celibacy.…

It seems to us, that the view you expressed in your letter does not begin with a level playing field. You ask the homosexual to accept all of the conditions that may come into play for the heterosexual, and say that, in addition, they (all homosexuals) will be required to deny their sexuality. And, if they decide to act on their sexuality, like we heterosexuals, they cannot be a part of our religious community. Is that not discriminatory?…

The only defense seems to be that God said it and the prophets have reiterated it. If one sincerely believes that God has spoken, and there has been no misunderstanding, the case is closed. As parents of a gay son, we just cannot accept that position.…

If he chooses a physical relationship with someone of the same sex and it is fulfilling and purposeful and committed, how could we excommunicate or ostracize him from the family? We could not, would not, and for the life of us, cannot understand why the church should.”  (Gary and Mildred Watts to G. Eugene England, November 22, 1993)


“The current March issue of the Ensign has an excellent article to help parents reach out to their children who might be faced with challenges and provide support.  It mentions a number of issues that might prompt a parent’s concern and help – and one of them it names is ‘same sex attraction.’

The article found on p. 10 is called ‘Talking About Tough Topics,’ and is written by a psychologist from LDS Family Services. It mentions seven guideline and they are all good: 1) Ask questions that invite conversation, 2) listen to understand, 3) show respect, 4) avoid criticism, 5) control your anger, 6) strengthen the relationship and 7) keep trying. It is well written and worth reading the entire article.” (Ron Schow to GAP, March 24, 2015)


“Mormons are a fairly stable, even predictable, batch of believers.

They are just as religiously committed, as prayerful, as convinced that God is a person and that heaven exists as they were in 2007.

In the intervening years, however, Latter-day Saints have grown much more accepting of homosexuality, from 24 percent to 36 percent, according to the Pew Research Center’s just-released 2014 Religious Landscape Study, though the majority still opposes same-sex marriage by a wide margin (68 percent to 26 percent).…

Latter-day Saints, an overwhelmingly conservative bunch, are growing even more so. In 2007, 65 percent identified themselves as either Republican or leaning Republican, with 22 percent calling themselves Democrats or tilting that way. Today, after Mormon Mitt Romney’s historic, but ultimately failed, runs for the White House in 2008 and 2012, more Latter-day Saints (70 percent) favor the GOP. This makes Mormons, by far, the most reliably red religious group surveyed. In 2014, fewer than one in five (19 percent) of Latter-day Saints leaned left politically.…” (Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Mormons becoming even more Republican, more accepting of gays, sweeping religious study shows,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 2, 2015)


Rees: The attitude of the ward can be epitomized by my experience with Brad Murdock.  Brad was in the original “Saturday’s Warrior” troupe.  He had been on Broadway.  I got a call from his brother.  He came from a family of seven children in Santa Barbara.  His mother was a member of the Church, his father was not, and these seven kids were members.  He grew up going to church, and then got involved in “Saturday’s Warrior.”  He was in his mid-30s when I got a call from his brother who said, “I have a brother who has just moved into your ward.  He is dying of AIDS, and I wonder if you would go talk to him.”  I said, “Sure.”

So I went and met him.  He was living with his companion, Patrick, who was a lovely man.  I immediately liked Brad, and I said, “Come to church.”  He said, “Can I?”  I said, “Of course.”

So he started coming to church, and the ward just opened their arms to him.  It was just wonderful.  He started singing in the choir.  Ruth [Bob’s wife] was the choir director.

Prince: Did the ward know he had AIDS?

Rees: Oh, yes.  The ward knew.  I thought this was important, so I told people in the executive committee about this, and other people knew about this.  He may even have been open about it.  He probably was.

So after he had been coming for a while—and I knew he had months to live—I said, “Brad, have you ever thought about going to the temple?”  He said, “Oh, yes.  I’ve thought about it all my life, but I know it’s not possible.”  I said, “Well, maybe it is.”  He said, “How?”  I said, “I’m going to read the questions you would have to answer if I were doing a temple interview.  I don’t want you to answer; I just want you to think about them.”  So I went through the questions.

A couple of months later I called him in and said, “Have you been thinking about those questions?”  “Yes, I have, and I want to go.  Patrick and I have talked about this.  He loves me, and he knows how important this is to me.  So we have agreed that we will not have intimate relations.”  So I said, “OK.”  I pulled out my recommend book and wrote him a recommend.  He went to Howard and got it signed.

Prince: Thankfully, it was Howard!

Rees: Thankfully, it was Howard.  As Paul Harvey used to say, “There is the rest of the story.”  The day he went to the temple, his family came—brothers, sisters, mother.  I was his escort.  Afterwards we had a big lunch.  Patrick was there.  

What I didn’t know was that morning the temple president got a call saying, “You need to know there is a homosexual going through the temple today, and he is not worthy to go to the temple.  He is living with his partner.”  So the temple president called Howard and said, “I just got this call, and I’m very, very concerned about this.  Howard said, “Listen, this young man’s bishop has found him worthy of the temple.  I have interviewed him and found him worthy to go to the temple.  I would like the name of whoever called you, because I want to call his stake president and tell him to hold a court on that man for interfering in something that he has no business interfering in.”

Brad never knew that, thankfully.  I never let him know that.

So Brad went to the temple, and his family was there.  He passed away a couple of months later.  There was a wonderful funeral.  [Bob’s voice was breaking during this narrative.  Several times he stopped in order to control his emotions.]

(Robert Rees, August 10, 2014)

Rees: This could be part of the record, but I don’t know whether it should be on the record or not, but I’m going to talk about it.  A Regional Representative of the Church in Southern California was called by somebody in Salt Lake to come and do something about Bob Rees and the L.A. First Ward.  Unbeknownst to them, he was gay, married to a granddaughter of President McKay.

Prince: Gerald?

Rees: Yes, Gerald Iba.  Bless his heart, he said, “I think we should leave Bishop Rees alone.”  He felt himself—and I’ve talked to him about this—really caught between somebody from above telling him what to do, which tells you that sometimes they do that.

Prince: Had he come out by then?

Rees: No.

Prince: Had he even come out to himself?

Rees: Oh, he knew.  Gerald knew.  And probably Katherine would have known.  I don’t know who knew how much when, but it wouldn’t have been easy to detect that.  Anyway, that was one of the ironies.

(Robert Rees, August 10, 2014)

Rees: It was interesting that after I was released, Howard Anderson started holding monthly meetings with gay people from around Southern California.

Prince: Wasn’t it called “Third Friday”?

Rees: I think it was called Third Friday.  There were only two rules: no gay bashing, and no church bashing.  People loved that.

Prince: Did that cost him his stake presidency?  I’ve heard rumors of that.

Rees: Howard told me, “Somebody from Salt Lake was sent down to close it down, and told me that we should stop holding these meetings.  I said to him, ‘These people are part of my stewardship.  If you can promise me that when I stand before the Savior, I am relieved of any responsibility for them, then I will do that.  But otherwise, I am going to keep doing it.’”  It wasn’t too long after that—and I don’t know how that was in terms of the normal ten-year tenure—that he was released, and I think he seemed to feel that there was some connection.  And Mike Faircloth, who was the next stake president, did close it down.  I wasn’t there then.

(Robert Rees, August 10, 2014)

Prince: If you see steppingstones in Mormonism’s future, what are those steppingstones?

Ryan: First of all, I think that one of the interesting ones is having a vast array of bishops who, in essence, can minister in whatever way they feel appropriate in the constructs of their faith.  You have some bishops who are extraordinary in addressing these issues.

Prince: And we have some who are draconian.

Ryan: You do, but I think more and more—and in my work with Mitch Mayne, Mitch has prepared some guidance materials for wards and stakes to make more welcoming congregations.  I’ve given him our materials to incorporate, and helped with some editing of how to frame it.  But he is doing more and more trainings in different places, getting more and more requests to do that.  I think more and more of the younger bishops really realize they need to understand this.

I’ve done a number of trainings with Mitch and Bob and others, just for religious leaders that were closed and nobody else was there to teach them and educate them about this.  I think more of them are realizing, “We need to understand this.  We don’t really understand these issues, and we need to figure it out.”…

I don’t know about accepting gay marriage, but what I had said to Elder Holland was, “I believe that the Mormon Church has real potential to demonstrate to all of the other faith communities how to compassionately embrace and support LGBT people in the Mormon world.”  Because of the elevation of the values of compassion and kindness and optimism, those are really great strengths, and they are acted out a lot in humanitarian service and civic engagement in all kinds of ways.  It’s like the dial doesn’t need to get turned as far in the Mormon religious values as it does in some other conservative faiths where they have a longer way to go to change punitive language, to change mindsets, to help people embrace and care for their neighbor.

So what I had said to Elder Holland was that I felt that the Mormon Church could really provide leadership for many other faiths in doing this.  I don’t know about their embracing same-gender marriage as much as I see potential for the Church in welcoming more LGBT people into their congregations and validating them.  My deep, deep hope is that the current perception that homosexuality isn’t real and that there are no gay adolescents, that this really shifts so that we can protect and support and provide safety and love for LGBT children in Mormon homes.  They are at great risk as they are coming out at younger ages.  Affirmation, I think, is providing a great space in having the retreats and all of those activities around the country, and more families like Tom and Wendy’s.  All of that really has grown up since we shot the film—the emergence of more LGBT Mormon support programs in Phoenix and other kinds of places.  That is incredibly important, because peer support is one of the most important ways to validate family support for LGBT people.  And it has to be culturally relevant peer support.

Prince: What was his response to your comment?

Ryan: He listened.  He didn’t say anything, but I think he heard me.

(Caitlin Ryan, March 15, 2015)

One thing she [Wendy Montgomery] said after the interview (and thus it was not recorded) was that in one of her meetings with Todd Christofferson, Todd told her that on several occasions, “through revelation,” he had attempted to bring the Quorum of the Twelve to a better place on LGBT issues.  In each instance, he had been slapped down.  What does “through revelation” mean, I asked?  She responded that Todd said that he had had overwhelmingly powerful spiritual experiences.  But having the “revelation” and “selling it” to some of his homophobic colleagues in the Twelve were quite different things.  (GAP diary entry of March 14, 2015)