Brigham Young University
Homosexuality at BYU - Part 2
By Dean Huffaker
Seventh East Press staff writer
In 1982, the Seventh East Press, an independent BYU student
paper, published two groundbreaking articles on homosexuality at BYU.
Part One was published on March 27, 1982 (Vol. 1 Number 14, pp. 1, 13).
Part Two was published on April 12, 1982 (Vol. 1 Number 15, pp. 1, 12-13).
R. Michael Whitaker, director of University Standards, outlined the university's policy toward homosexuals, "A student involved in homosexual acts is subject to termination at BYU."
He explained further, "When a homosexual violates the honor code in this manner, it is appropriate as part of the repentance process that he go to the institution that was wronged and make amends, which often involves having to leave the institution."
The way BYU has enforced its policy toward homosexuals has, in the past, drawn fire from many directions. Although its policies have stayed basically the same , there have been slight modifications.
In the early 1970's students who confessed homosexual tendencies were referred to the BYU Counseling Center. Steve, then a BYU professor, went through this counseling program and received what he called "the shock treatment," similar to the therapy sometimes used by psychologists to help patients stop smoking.
Jon, a former BYU student who is gay, described this treatment as experiencing an electrical shock while viewing a pornographic picture of a male. The patient would then be shown a pornographic picture of a female without an electric shock.
When asked about this treatment, a former BYU counselor said that "aversive therapy--not shock treatment"--had been used in the past. Mild electric stimulus was used in conjunction with slides of males and females in various stages of dress.
But, according to this counselor, "Even the raciest pictures wouldn't be considered pornography."
Describing his opinion of the effectiveness of aversive therapy, Jon quipped, "Thanks to the shock treatment, now every time I see a man, I get a jolt."
Over the years there have been concerted efforts between BYU Security and undercover student volunteers to identify homosexuals and help them find their way out of BYU. Dallin Oaks, then BYU president, said, "We are not going to stand for solicitation of sexual acts--homosexual or heterosexual--on this campus and among its students. We ask Security to be especially watchful for that kind of crime."
Gays have many stories about methods used in the past by BYU Security to be "especially watchful" of their activities.
Dave, a former BYU student, said he knew two gay students in 1973 who, threatened with expulsion from the university, were persuaded to work for security as spies. "Security was obnoxious and knew how to push people into things they didn't want to do," said Dave. Apparently a few of the spies became fed up with such tactics and went to TV stations in Salt Lake City to tell their story publicly. "After that blew over things were quiet for a while," said Dave.
According to Jon, during the "Purge of "75" Security officers took male drama and ballet students out of their classes to interrogate them and to get the names of any homosexuals they knew.
Because, as Jon said, one of the "codes of behavior" used by gays to identify each other in bathrooms was to tap their foot three times in the direction of the person sitting in the next stall, scores of students working undercover for Security acted as foot-tapping decoys arresting those who responded to their pseudo-advances.
Dave said that Security people also used the gay's method of passing notes to the person in the next stall to identify homosexuals. Dave also made mention of the purge. "It was January of 1975. It happened within a matter of days and nobody expected it." Dave described how one day during the purge there were Security officers with walky-talkies on every level of HFAC. "It . was all a joke in the Drama department. We had T-shirts made at the Bookstore which read 'I'm on the list--are you?' Being that blatant helped people to look at the problem realistically," said Dave.
An Anonymous Letter
In Spring of 1977 Dr. Reed Payne touched on the subject of homosexuality in a lecture to his beginning Psychology class, which set off a chain of events bringing the Church's and university's dealings with homosexuals into public view. Apparently his comments weren't taken well by those present who were gay, which led Lee Williams to publish a 52 page letter explaining what it was like to be gay. Williams, one of the principle authors, wrote the letter anonymously because at the time he was an instructor at BYU.
In the letter Williams et al asserted that homosexuality was a state of being and not just a chosen pattern of behavior; that it cannot be cured, and those claiming to have been cured might have experienced modification of their sexual behavior but not their preference.
Wrote Williams, "No one knows what causes homosexuality. However, we do know one thing that does not cause homosexuality and that is free choice. Until the cause or causes are known it is grossly inappropriate to moralize about it."
Williams went on to give a warning. "As the homosexual becomes less and less willing to submit to this damaging influence [humiliation and discrimination from the Church,] and the rest of the world comes to realize the plight of the Mormon homosexual, the Church stands to face a very serious and embarrassing blow to its integrity."
A former Social Service Counselor at BYU said that William's response to Payne, called the "Payne letter," caused a "real stir" at BYU and in the Church. "Officials in both places were very touchy over it," he said.
What further fanned the fires of indignation was an article containing excerpts of the letter which appeared Feb. 2, 1978 in "Advocate," a homosexual publication. Along with the article appeared a derogatory cartoon depicting President Kimball's disgust with homosexuals.
One month later on March 5, Elder Boyd K. Packer addressed a BYU 12-stake Fireside in which he directed his talk toward homosexuals.
Elder Packer's comments, published by the Church under the title "To the One," reflected and emphasized the Church's policy on homosexuals. He used the word "homosexual" only once in his address. "Please notice that I use it as an adjective, not as a noun: I reject it as a noun. I repeat, I accept that word as an adjective to describe a temporary condition. I reject it as a noun naming a permanent one."
Later that month Rev. Bob Waldrop, pastor of the gay Metropolitan Community
Church in Salt Lake City requested equal time on KBYU to respond to
Elder Packer's "very offensive and highly inaccurate" remarks. KBYU
General Manager, Bruce Christiansen denied Waldrop's request. The March
30, 1978 edition of the Daily Universe quoted Christiansen
as saying, "We recognize our responsibility to cover all aspects of
the gay rights issue and we believe we have done that with fairness."
Another significant event during this time concerned action taken by the Utah Legislature. During its 1977-78 interim the Transportation and Public Safety Study Committee headed by Public Safety Commissioner Larry Lunnen made a study to re-define the authority of various law enforcement agencies throughout the state, including BYU Security.
As a result of the study the Legislature passed House Bill 80 giving BYU Security officers 24 hour jurisdiction throughout the state.
In addition to that, the bill read ambiguously, "Members of the police and security department of any college or university shall also have the power to enforce all rules and regulations promulgated by the governing board of such an institution."
Gays have in the past complained of harassment from BYU Security in Salt Lake City and even in areas as far away as St. George. Mike, a gay returned missionary said, "I've seen BYU Security officers in Salt Lake City at the cruise areas driving past lines of cars leaning out the window taking pictures of not only the license and cars, but of the passengers inside of them also."
Chief Kelshaw denied that tracking down homosexuals off campus had anything to do with BYU gaining statewide jurisdiction. "You don't even need police power to take pictures or write down license plate numbers," said Kelshaw. He did say that having statewide jurisdiction can help in the prosecution of off-campus cases.
BYU student David Chipman
BYU student John David Neumann
Just three months before the passing of the bill an arrest was made of a homosexual which caused an even greater stir than the Payne letter. David Chipman, 22, was arrested February 1979 and charged with forcible sexual abuse. The charges were filed by David Newmann, a police science student working under cover for BYU Security
Newmann, posing as a homosexual, had previously written a letter which appeared in a gay publication, expressing a desire to organize a gay underground group at BYU. Chipman, a non-student, responded to Newmann's letter and they arranged to meet at BYU. After meeting, they consented to go to Squaw Peak for sexual activity.
After sexual activity had been initiated, Chipman was taken to the BYU Security office where he was placed under arrest. Upon learning of the account, President Oaks put a halt to such tactics. However, Chipman was prosecuted and convicted.
Two months later a three-part series on homosexuality was published
in the Daily Universe. This unprecedented attempt by the Universe
to increase understanding of the problem of homosexuality on campus
took many by surprise.
A faculty advisor explained that the series was read by President Oaks prior to its publication, but that Church officials in Salt Lake City still "weren't at all pleased" that the subject had been brought up in the first place although the Church's position on homosexuality was reflected strongly throughout the series.
In the meantime, the Payne fetter was not well received by many members of the psychology department. One professor of Psychology commented, "It's a fabrication. Those guys aren't interested in facts."
This same professor, then a member of BYU's Institute for Studies in Values and Human Behavior, headed by Victor L. Brown Jr., helped prepare a rebuttal to the Payne letter in the form of a preliminary statement on a study the Institute was doing on homosexuality.
The rebuttal, published in the Fall of 1978, was entitled "A Reply to Unfounded Assertions Regarding Homosexuality" and was prepared partly "from the files of LDS Social Services."
This BYU publication made statements such as "Since homosexuality is not unique in its patterns of causation or cure, it does not deserve privileged status as special disorder different from other behavior problems or sexual sins." "Homosexuality is one of a class of impulse disorders and is not the result of a unique set of psychological disorders:' "Highly religious groups, like the Latter-day Saints, have been found to have significantly lower [homosexuality] incidence rates."
This rebuttal also gave a brief conclusion of the unfinished study being
done for LDS Social Services. "There is no scientific evidence that
homosexual behavior is the inevitable product of biological or environmental
influences. However, there is evidence that agency is involved. Homosexuality
can be changed."
According to one BYU professor, the rebuttal was so poorly done that "it was an embarrassment to all involved," and most of copies were given back to the authors or their request.
The claims made by the Values Institute reflect the present position
of the Church on homosexuality. In Homosexuality, a Church
handbook distributed to stake presidents and bishops, the Church policies
and procedures are spelled out: "As we have previously stated, homosexuality
is a sin in the same degree a adultery and fornication."
The handbook emphasizes that "homosexuality is a learned behavior, and as such can be changed." The handbook states that "Modern day prophets have clearly promised that homosexuality can be changed. You should convey this positive attitude because it encourages change...Be careful not to label people 'homosexual.' It is better to refer to their `homosexual behavior' than to call them a homosexual."
Steve, a former BYU professor who is gay, said, "The Church's simplistic attitudes toward homosexuality are the cause of its lack of understanding in dealing with it. When the Church says that there is no such thing as a homosexual, and you know that you are one, how do you resolve that?"
LDS gays who finally adopt the attitude that they can't change are classified in the Church handbook under "Rebellious Homosexuality...This category represents primarily an attitude and lifestyle. These individuals may be either early memory or situational types who, for various reasons, have chosen to fully accept a homosexual lifestyle. They have little if any, motivation to change their behavior and are openly active, even promiscuous in their homosexual behavior. They promote the concerns of the homosexual community and may belong to various homosexual organizations. They commonly manipulate others to meet their own sexual needs. Generally they are not active in the Church. They tend to rationalize and interpret doctrines for their own purpose, and try to refute the position of the Church on homosexuality."
Because the modern day prophets have clearly promised that homosexuality can be conquered, those "rebellious" homosexuals who believe otherwise are subject to excommunication from the Church.
In Welfare Services Packet One, instructions to bishops and
stake presidents concerning homosexuals include, "An attitude of stiffneckedness
and rebellion is almost always a clear indication of the need to be
sternly disciplined, even to excommunication, so that others are not
contaminated by unclean habits."
Another procedure of repentance was outlined by the Church handbook. "Since homosexual behavior is possible only with others, the individual should disclose his sexual partners as an essential part of repentance. The purpose is to help save others."
Cause and Cure Uncertain
A growing difference of opinion involving the causes of homosexuality—and hence the action that should (or shouldn't) be taken by the Church—exists between some psychologists in Social Services and the First Presidency.
Many homosexuals report that certain General Authorities and Social Service counselors agree that although behavior can be modified, in many cases homosexuality can't be cured. Some Church Social Service psychologists have privately indicated that many homosexuals may carry the problem "essentially from birth."
Some homosexuals claim to have modified their behavior to the extent that they no longer feel a need for a homosexual relationship, but they admit that intimacy with a woman still seems unnatural to them. "There is no cure for it," said one, "it is a life-long process overcoming it. But eternity is more important to me than a few quick tricks in this life."
Most public statements made by authorities in the Church concerning homosexuality in the Church seem to have been rather harsh.
Elder Boyd K. Packer said the following: "There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just 'that way' and can only yield to those desires. That is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is convincing to some, it is of the devil,"
One psychologist from LDS Social Services has reportedly said that "although President Kimball's public statements sound like he is condemning homosexuals to the lowest hell, in private he is unbelievably understanding, tender, and eager to help rather than castigate." He is also reported to have said that President Kimball has files on over 1,500 homosexuals who he has personally seen and counseled, and that the contrast between Kimball's personal dealings with homosexuals and the First Presidency's public statements is "almost schizophrenic."
Steve, who had talked with President Kimball before being excommunicated, concurred. "President Kimball was wonderful. I was startled from his kind reaction."
Steve was also startled by the kindness of the ward members and leaders. "The heartening thing about coming out was to realize that most of the people out there are good people. They are concerned about you as a person-an individual." Steve said he received nothing but kindness from the bishop of his ward, "although his ignorance of the problem was appalling."
When asked how he deals with members who come to him confessing homosexual preferences, one local bishop said, "I feel helpless at times in how to deal with it more effectively in order to help. I find myself wishing I could do more to help."
Another local bishop, as quoted in the Daily Universe, seemed
less concerned with his ignorance of the problem. "I found that my lack
of training in treating homosexuals was really not much of a problem.
Social Services took care of most of the counseling and treatment. All
he needed from me was support and encouragement."
That most every bishop will have to deal with the problem is expected by the Church. According to one formal Social Services counselor, the rule of thumb is that there are two to four homosexuals in every ward. "Research replicates the Kinsey statistics [see part one of this series] of 4% exclusive homosexuals in virtually every culture," he said.
A gay who recently returned from a mission and is currently attending BYU, (we'll call him Byron,) said a large percentage of one of the wards he served in is gay, and that "they fit in very well with the other members." He also said that half of the people he baptized on his mission were gay.
Another Social Services psychologist admitted that "homosexuality is a widespread problem in the Church." In an attempt to protect its image, the Church downplays the problem as much as possible.
This is also the case at BYU. According to Dr. David M. Sorenson, Dean of Student Life, "The administration does not look upon it [homosexuality] as a pressing problem. Its is looked upon as inappropriate behavior. As such it is a concern, just as any other inappropriate behavior."
Most administrators declined to give an estimate of the number of male homosexuals at BYU. But one former Social Services counselor at BYU said that 600 would be a conservative estimate.
According to Byron, homosexuals can be found in most every department on campus, but the greatest degree would be found in the humanities, business, and law departments. Byron said that there are homosexual hangouts all over campus.
There are several locations in the library, the main ones being the northwest corner on the first floor (where the books on homosexuality are kept), the reference area and bathroom on the third floor, and the northwest corner on the fifth floor.
The second floor bathroom in the Wilkinson Center is still a popular meeting place. The most popular meeting place off campus in Provo is Pioneer Park which, said Byron, "is also frequented by undercover BYU Security officers."
Byron states that the foot-tapping still goes on. "Most of the time you can tell when the tapping feet belong to Security officers since most of them wear ugly black forward-thrust-type shoes. Gays care more for their appearance than to wear those," said Byron.
In spite of that, Byron noted interestingly, "BYU is the hardest place to differentiate between gays and straights—everyone dresses so well and has such nice hair cuts."
How does BYU Security currently handle homosexuality on campus? "It is a violation of University policy and members of my staff will aggressively enforce these laws. I will do everything in my power to protect the students at BYU who want nothing to do with this problem," said Chief Kelshaw.
"Our purpose is to seek out and identify those persons who have such tendencies and are not capable of controlling themselves," Kelshaw added.
When asked about leaving campus to identify gays, Kelshaw said, "In the past we have gone off campus to seek them. This year we haven't, although we do communicate with other law enforcement agencies and check court records periodically. But I have no plans to go to known gay hangouts in Salt Lake City just to find homosexuals."
Kelshaw indicated that volunteer students haven't been used in identifying homosexuals in bathrooms for months, and that investigators in bathrooms do not initiate the foot-tapping. "We don't want to make matters worse," said Kelshaw.
Since the mid 1970s aversive therapy has not been used at BYU. (A Social Services authority said that this therapy was never used in the LDS Social Services counseling program.) According to a psychologist in the BYU Comprehensive Clinic, one form of therapy now being used is coversive therapy, which associates negative thoughts with pictures.
Current attitudes of BYU students toward homosexuality parallel those of the local Church leaders. Most students exhibited ignorance to the problem.
One group of students last fall invited Dr. David Weight, a psychologist at the Comprehensive Clinic, to lecture on homosexuality. Some of the students were reportedly somewhat disappointed. One member explained, "We gave him the assignment to speak on the negative aspects of homosexuality on society, but instead he just described the condition. It was very informative, but he wouldn't come out and say that it was wrong."
Many students wonder why homosexuals come to BYU in the first place. "Everyone counseled me to come to BYU," said Byron. "My stake president knew I was gay, and he told me 'Go to BYU—everything will be OK.' It turned out not to be OK."
Mike said, "Most gays I know went to BYU initially with an undying desire to change."
Gay BYU students who come to the realization that they haven't changed find themselves in a difficult situation—not only with BYU, but also with the Church.
"With its present attitude," said Steve, "there is no place in the Church for homosexuals. I don't know why there are homosexuals either. I just know there are, and I am one. There is a reason why I am what I am. Someday I'll find out why."