Brigham Young University
Prologue: An examination of the Mormon attitude towards homosexuality
© Copyright, Prometheus Enterprises, 1978. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Publisher. First Printing, 1978. Library of Congress catalog card number: 7855470
By Cloy Jenkins et al.
Author's Preface--1989 Printing
I was pleasantly surprised to be asked for an updated introduction to Prologue. I had thought by now it would have been superseded by some other more relevant and current writing. That it has survived more than a decade must be some commentary on its usefulness and veracity.
The responses to it through the years have been overwhelmingly positive. Certainly there are those it has rankled. That was expected. But many lives have been affected for the better. I like to think that it was perhaps helpful in widening a tiny crack in the rigid position held by the Church. Officially not much has happened but unofficially the Church seems to have backed away from being so vindictive and judgmental. To that degree, less damage and pain is being inflicted upon many lives. This is not to say that it's no longer a bruising experience to be gay and Mormon. It's the stuff nightmares and tragedies are made of. Well-meaning but ignorant counselors, Bishops and Stake Presidents continue to inflict needless trauma on already troubled lives.
Now the specter of AIDS deepens old fears and prejudices. New dragons appear before old ones are slain. This one will distinguish the true Saints amongst us. Mormons are suffering and dying of this pestilence and many are doing so entirely alienated from their families and the support the Church could and should be offering. Carol Lynn Pearson's book Good-bye, I Love You is a landmark in where the Church should really be on this issue. It's no longer just theological conflict and social stigma. We're dealing with disease and death. Can the latter-day saint cope with the latter-day leper?
It's high time the Church got beyond perceiving being gay as self-inflicted. At this moment there are literally thousands of outstanding youths coming up through the ranks of the Church who are just beginning the realization that they are homosexual. Ahead of them is a perilous journey. Their chances of receiving harm rather than help from the church are great.
It was concern for these young people with lives still ahead of them that produced Prologue. We wanted a better life for those that were to follow. But that was just a small beginning. Enlightenment will not come spontaneously to the Church on this issue. It will change only when pressed to do so. Much more must be done if future generations are to be spared the pain and heartaches we went through. The straightforward truth is the best antidote to ignorance.
More is in the works. But in the current project I do not have the assistance of my good friend Howard. Without him Prologue would not have happened. I had the great good fortune of meeting this extraordinary man while still in my youth. Our merged efforts to shed some light on the difficulties of being gay and Mormon culminated in Prologue. We came from different generations and perspectives. Often we disagreed on central issues. Together we shared the gamut—from a scandalous excommunication and ruptured friendship to creating a beautiful retreat that gays from all over the world could enjoy. He died of a heart attack shortly after Prologue was completed. Many of the struggles of his life are contained within those pages. That he lived till its completion is mystical.
Lee Williams was singularly helpful in his skillful criticism and editing of Prologue as well as the initial production and printing. My good friend Diane generously donated her skill and time in typing the manuscript through its numerous revisions. Many others offered their helpful comments and suggestions. I am blessed with a very wise and considerate family that supported me in the project.
In a larger sense, Prologue is the story, the struggle and the questioning of every gay Mormon. It literally comes from the experience of the hundreds, possibly thousands of gay Mormons who shared the experiences of their lives with us. It is not just the writing of one or a few. It is authored by the words of thousands. It was originally published anonymously to dissuade the Church from trying to discredit it through character assassination. The tactic was successful in blunting the original witch hunt response by the Church. In the end, the Church had to pay attention to the contents. The enduring power of Prologue is that it is the voice of all engaged in this struggle. May the voices of many continue to be heard in this dark wilderness of prejudice and ignorance.
— Cloy Jenkins 1989
Note: To learn more about the historical context
in which Prologue appeared, and its repercussions, see Homosexuality
at BYU - Part 2
I had reached the point where I could no longer be satisfied walking across the campus muttering conversations to myself. The scenario was so predictable it was boring and the outcome so involutional it was frightening. A friend, a colleague, a Church authority, or a student would, in all seriousness, make some statement about homosexuality that defied any consideration of reason, research or intelligence. Circumstances made it difficult or impossible to counter in any way. The opprobrium against homosexuality in the Mormon culture and the particular paranoia of it at Brigham Young University reduced my options in these circumstances to that of a passive listener, a position I came to detest. A self contained rage of retorts that followed became increasingly dissatisfying. I am not the soap box orator type nor some radical subversive inflamed with a kinky cause célèbre . I simply find it difficult to endure a climate in which emotional bigotry and ignorance hold sway over reason and experience, where answers are shouted from the pulpit before the right questions are asked and where solutions are achieved in the clinic and lab before the problem is understood or even defined.
Few subjects are as misunderstood as homosexuality. Few subjects evoke such emotionalism and hostility. The world is essentially in the dark ages on this subject as even the top experts agree. The Mormon culture lags far behind as born out by the lecture given by Dr. Reed Payne to his beginning psychology class at BYU in the Spring of 1977. This lecture again threw me into interminable mutterings and no resolution came until I finally set down in writing a reply to his class presentation.
My letter to Dr. Payne has given me hope. For the first time in years I can quit muttering. I know Dr. Payne disagrees with some of my comments and is troubled by others, but he and his colleagues now know more about homosexuality than when the lecture was given. Hopefully the response which they are now preparing will be a contribution to our understanding of homosexuality and will address the central issues which for too long have been ignored, handed over to moralizing or scripturalizing and generally relegated to simple formulas. We need a responsible, well reasoned dialogue on these issues and not a picky academic criticism of my letter.
I showed the letter to my family and many of my friends. Their response was enthusiastic and they were soon sending it to other families, friends and Church authorities. Needless to say the response—at least those I hear about—have been mixed. That most of them have been favorable has given me hope that in the long run wisdom will prevail. Perhaps now others will be encouraged to come forth with their views and experiences. An emotional prejudice has held center stage far too long. We as a people have not been wise. The cost has been immense in terms of human lives and suffering. We must not perpetuate that kind of evil.
Dear Dr. Payne,
I would like to comment on your recent lecture on homosexuality.
I wish with all my heart that what you had to say were true. You simply could not grasp the depth of this wish I have held for many years. I have been homosexual for as long as I can remember, including my earliest childhood recollections. I was homosexual long before any kind of sexual experience. In my early teenage years I came to realize that how I felt was considered wrong. I began an agonizing and relentless effort to change. I obeyed all the counsel of the Church explicitly and faithfully. No one could have been more determined or confident. It was an absolute desire. Prayer, fasting, and faithful allegiance to the Church were to the spirit and to the letter. I developed stomach ulcers as a result and came close to bleeding to death several times before the doctors could get the hemorrhaging stopped. No one could understand why I had ulcers, and I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone about my horrible problem. My parents were desperate, and the doctors helpless but I was determined to change. I finally went to one of the General Authorities. He counseled me to put those thoughts out of my mind, to date, to think manly thoughts, be faithful to the Church, and not to wear tight pants. I could see he didn't grasp the problem or understand its depth. I wondered why he did not realize I had already spent many hours on my knees and many sleepless nights praying to God for help. However, I followed his advice. I had dated frequently through high school and was one of the more popular and successful students, by no means a social misfit. I fell in with the other guys without any outward trace of the inward struggle. I became engaged to an outstanding girl, and we had many enjoyable times together. I filled a successful mission but was disheartened to return, realizing my prayers for change remained unanswered. I had felt confident that through complete devotion to the Lord on a mission I would be blessed in return with the fulfillment of the greatest desire of my heart. I knew I could not marry under the circumstances, and after an excruciating evaluation, I broke my engagement. I returned to BYU and in desperation, went to the counseling services. Again, the counsel was followed but nothing changed.
I sought out several other General Authorities who were supposed to be specialists in helping young men with this problem. I followed their counsel and that of the special professional counselor they had for this problem. Nothing changed. I read everything I could get my hands on about homosexuality. I finally went to a psychiatrist. After a good deal of time and money I could see nothing was changing. I sought out another outstanding psychiatrist who said he knew how to cure me. More time and money and still nothing. I turned to a behavior therapist and threw myself into his reconditioning therapy. Nothing changed. This may sound like the description of some conspicuously pathetic character. I say simply that as far as others were concerned, I was a likable, well-adjusted and successful young man, masculine in my manners and activities, including dating and athletics, attractive and well accepted by my friends, fellow students, teachers, employers, family and the Church. I take pride in my ability to enrich my life with good experiences, rewarding associations and adherence to high ideals.
I have made an intensive and extensive investigation into the phenomenon of homosexuality by getting acquainted on as completely candid a basis as possible with hundreds of homosexuals, and through following anxiously every professional publication—research reports in medical and psychiatric journals, and books by clinicians, sociologists, and laymen—which dealt with the subject. I took classes which presented the flimsiest possibility of shedding light on my situation. Through all this, I have had to fight a bias which often made it hard to keep my mind open. The prejudice which made me detest myself became a formidable obstacle in the way of understanding and sympathizing with compromises and alternate lifestyles. All the while, I maintained strong feelings that I must find out all I could, because somewhere, in all this maze of misconception, confusion and ignorance, the truth of myself might be found. I needed with all my heart to know.
Matter of Conscious Choice
You present yourself as an authority on homosexuality and thereby become
responsible in the most critical sense of the word. You influence the
thinking and behavior of both heterosexuals and homosexuals who respect
your education, professional standing, and experience. Implicit in your
lecture is the subscription to the Church-held position that homosexuality
is a matter of conscious choice, an exercise of free agency,
Further, you assume that the consequence of the decision to be homosexual
is the mal-conditioned reflex, that, therefore, the change from homosexual
to heterosexual involves the deconditioning of the reflexes (breaking
down the pattern of response) and creating and reinforcing a pattern
of conditioned response toward heterosexual stimuli. It is assumed that
you have made a rational synthesis of the free-choice theory and the
conditioned reflex theory, a synthesis which takes into account an early
childhood, or even infantile, or even fetal crises involving the choice
between being one or the other, homosexual
or heterosexual. It is assumed that you have worked through the problem
of accountability of the infant or child homosexual. It seems to me
most unfortunate that you chose not to engage the thinking of those
college students in an examination of the process by which you arrived
at so remarkable a synthesis.
None of this was reflected in your lecture. It would seem that if you were to give one lecture (not a series) on homosexuality, it would almost inevitably devote prime attention to an accounting for your synthesis, if, that is, you are speaking as a psychologist in a psychology class. (Evidently you chose to address the class not as a psychologist this time, but as a moralist. These two distinctly different and mutually exclusive roles must not be confused in a university whose accreditation is taken seriously by the academic world. It is especially important that your listeners do not confuse these roles. It makes a difference in the way they listen.)
I suspect that your lecture was inconveniently circumscribed by what you don't know about the subject. It is much easier to moralize than to inform, easier to tickle the ears of the majority of your listeners than to provoke your class to sober reflection as evidenced by your treatment of the subject and the response of the class to your jokes.
What I have to say to you here is not, alas, a critique of your lecture. It is rather an attempt to touch on matters pertaining to your subject about which you are, apparently, impressively ignorant. To comment comprehensively on your ignorance would require volumes. I have a feeling that in merely touching on a few salient matters I will keep you reading far too long. It would be better if you would go to the library, where much of the information I want to give you is available. I intend, however, to set this sketchy account in the frame of my personal experience which is my justification for writing this letter.
I am assuming a larger audience for this letter than only yourself.
Likely, you have given the same lecture material to other of your psychology
classes, not to mention the invitations you have accepted to speak professionally
on moral aspects of homosexuality. It is safe to assume that by now
large numbers of listeners have carried away from your lecture-sermons
many ideas which only a moralist, who is also a psychologist, could
give them. Moralists speaking on their own carry far less weight. You
have to wear two hats. Dr. Charles Rycroft, whom you recognize to be
a British psychoanalyst of eminence, made this statement: "The claim
to possess professional expertise does not contain a concealed claim
to moral superiority over the laity." But your audience may, without
realizing it, attribute to you a moral sensitivity
over their own. In the course of my comments, I may call into question
not only your expertise, but your moral awareness.
Psychology, an infant and quasi-science, has not yet unraveled the
complexities of the human personality. Homosexuality remains a virtual
mystery even to the most sophisticated investigators as evidenced
by the recent conclusions of The National Institution of Mental Health
Task Force on Homosexuality. Much of what has been taught in the past
has been shown to be fallacious. Largely due to the innate emotional
character of homosexuality, many investigators and authorities have
allowed themselves to begin with false premises and arrive at convincing
but erroneous conclusions. More distressing is that as scientists,
instead of adhering to scientific procedures, they cling to these
misconceptions, preferring to pander to an emotional bias and to court
illusion. In 1965, Daniel Cappon published Towards an Understanding
of Homosexuality. He prefaces the book with this cautious note:
When an observer has for his subject, the human being, with his unmeasurable and transcendental aspects, it is essential that he state his prejudices clearly. Too often we read articles and books which are pretentiously scholarly, but which are no other than opinions, and in which this essential preliminary statement of bias is omitted. The main bias of this book is hope. Homosexuality in the author's view, is a painful and destructive disorder, but one which can be relieved and even cured.
Dr. Cappon is straightforward about his bias and unwittingly proceeds to show the reader that his position is exactly that—a bias. He begins with this observation: "There are no homosexuals, only people with homosexual problems." This hyperbolic blunder puts him immediately into difficulty. For 286 pages, he leads his reader through a tedious and belabored theoretical consideration of definitions, diagnosis, causes, history of, perspective of, clinical representation of, therapeutic procedures, etc., etc. After all this theory, he brings the reader to the results of psychotherapy where theory stops being theory and becomes real people doing real things. Out of 286 pages, he devotes a mere 2 pages to the actual accounting of his theory at work in the real world. In these 2 pages,12 cases are described! And the majority of these he frankly admits are not cured. Most of the remaining cases he calls "cured" though he says they continue to have homosexual experiences, albeit limited. Here, in its entirety, is his most convincing cure: "A fifteen-year-old boy, who is now seen occasionally, was actively treated three years ago following a series of homosexual acts. He is now entirely heterosexual. He has grown strong, big and athletic." Compared to his extensive elaboration of theory, this brief illustration makes one wonder if Dr. Cappon is much more comfortable in the theoretical world where reality can be conveniently circumscribed through semantics. Actual case histories disrupt his conceptual world and are dispensed with perfunctorily. The reader is plunged back into theory.
Are we to take this scant account of the 15-year-old seriously? Especially when he concludes with his curious observation that the boy has "grown strong, big, and athletic" as though that proved something. If anything, it proves Dr. Cappon doesn't understand what homosexuality is. One of his more detailed accounts is of a man whose exclusive sexual interest is for horses. Following therapy, the man assumes normal relations with his wife. Dr. Cappon glibly concludes, "This case was picked at random." Random? Blindly pulling from his file of sexual fetishes for animals and jumbling it with his file on cured homosexuals is really random—and ridiculous.
But that was back in 1965. Recently, Drs. Saghir and Robins published Male and Female Homosexuality: A Comprehensive Investigation. This is a most promising title, and the book opens with, of all things: "There are no homosexuals, only people with homosexual problems." In their section on curing the homosexual, they chide those who say it can't be done and give as an example of cure, the very case of the man who had the fetish for horses. It quickly becomes evident that here is another authoritative treatise on homosexuality by heterosexuals, lacking a fundamental grasp of what homosexuality is. Few heterosexuals have any considerable understanding of homosexuality. Even the most cursory review of the literature reveals this glaring fact.
In recent years, some insightful books and articles have been published on homosexuality by both heterosexuals and homosexuals, some of which I will refer to. What they say is vastly different from such noted "authorities" as Bieber, Socarides, Ovesey, Bergler, Hadden, Feldman and MacCulloch. I think any open-minded investigator would recognize this difference for what it is.
You Choose Homosexuality
One does not choose to be homosexual. The concept of choice, implicit in your lecture, is the beginning of a fundamental misunderstanding of homosexuality. Not once in all of my investigation have I known anyone who seriously said he chose to be homosexual. Most homosexuals have at some time chosen not to be homosexual, some repeatedly, only to discover that in spite of their determination, they remained homosexual. Several weeks ago, I listened to a young man here repeat what I have heard many times as he pleaded: "Why am I this way? I don't want to be homosexual, I hate it, and refuse to accept it. I've tried over and over and I can't shake this thing. I've never wanted to be homosexual, and I never will. But why am I? What did I ever do to deserve this? I've never done anything terribly wrong, and yet I have this thing to deal with. Why me?!"
At no point did I ever choose to be homosexual. I cannot count the times
I have determinedly chosen to be heterosexual. I remain homosexual.
I say confidently that at no particular point did you choose to be heterosexual.
Your heterosexuality precedes any such superficial decision. You
cannot now choose to be homosexual. That shift is not
within your psychological capabilities. I challenge you, not as a rhetorical
device or idle ploy. I am absolutely sure that if you are now heterosexual,
it is an absolute impossibility for you to rid yourself of your heterosexual
desires and replace them with homosexual ones.
There are many theories as to how one becomes homosexual or heterosexual, but for the most part, the question remains a mystery.
It should be conceded immediately that despite over five years of intermittently intense research, hard data on etiological factors are sparse and much of what follows would be unacceptable as evidence by most branches of science. Implicit in this presentation is an indictment of the past, recent, and even current research on the subject. much of which is unsystematic, uncontrolled and therefore of limited value: indeed, irrelevant. It seems axiomatic that real advance will require a multi-disciplinary approach involving the respective skills of psychologists, physiologists, endocrinologists and possibly other specialists. If, and when, we do find satisfactory answers, as the sexual attitudes of society evolve, it may ultimately be decided that these are not worth having (at least in a medical sense), being of academic or curiosity value only. (A.J. Cooper, Understanding Homosexuality, ed. by Loraine)
We can safely say, however, that in most cases homosexuality appears to be set or determined at a very early age and in some cases even before birth. Sexuality is established long before conscious choice can be considered a viable personality factor. Rather than choice, the growing child comes to a realization of who he is sexually. Self-awareness should not be mistaken for conscious choice. For a psychologist, this distinction, which you appear to be confused about, should be embarrassingly elemental. Awareness of this distinction could have made a considerable difference in your lecture.
A recent survey was made of a large number of admitted homosexuals. They were asked if they were happy and accepted their homosexuality. Having finally reconciled themselves to what they could not change, almost all responded positively. However, when asked if they would wish their sons to be homosexual, almost every one said no. The disparity is revealing: it is one thing to accept one's homosexuality, but quite another thing to choose it.
Dr. Maurice Cerule gives one of the more responsible assessments of our present limited knowledge of the etiological factors underlying homosexuality. Practitioners treating homosexuality should take these points into full account as etiology has direct bearing on treatment procedures and prognosis.
. . . there are really several different factors that make up one's sexual constitution. First, there is chromosomal sex, with the various abnormalities which may occur with chromosomal translocations or depletions. Second, there is nuclear sex which is indicated by the Barr Chromatin bodies which are clumps of chromatin material seen in the nucleus of XX embryos only from days 12 to 16. The Barr Chromatin bodies are supposedly an indication of femaleness. Third, them is hormonal sex which is determined by the proportions of androgens and estrogens. Fourth, there is gonadal sex which is the presence of either ovaries or testes. Fifth, there is morphological sex which includes not only the secondary sexual characteristics present but also the presence of a uterus or a prostate. Sixth, there is gender role sex which is psychologically and culturally determined and gives the individual his sense of being either masculine or feminine. Seventh, there is behavioral sex which is simply what one overtly does. There is the possibility of an eighth system. That is, brain system sex in terms of the sexual orientation of the brain which may be determined by the influence of hormones acting on specific sites in the brain at specific times. Hopefully, all these constituents will be in agreement in any particular individual. However, the constituents can be at odds with each other and difficulties will arise. Robert Stoller discusses several of these possible abnormalities via case material in his book, Sex and Gender (Psychiatric Communications, Vol. 10 No.3, 1969, p. 17).
The implications of these observations should concern you as you place primary importance on the sexual identity of the person one comes to love. By what criteria do you determine what that sexual identity authentically is? Should the anatomical structure be the only or even the critical determining factor? If so, why, and how can the other factors be responsibly ignored to the point of challenging the morality of the person whose nuclear or hormonal sexuality is in conflict with his anatomy? Is it justifiable to discredit the love two people have for each other if their sexuality does not meet the anatomical criteria of male and female? What are the criteria by which you determine which combination of persons are capable of love? By what criteria do you determine that a person is a "pervert?"
What do you do for the infant who was pre or paranatally subjected to endocrine abnormalities during the critical period when certain aspects of sexuality were being formed and permanently set? How do you dismiss the extremely high concordance of homosexuality in identical twins and the high concordance in fraternal twins as discovered by Kallman, Heston, Sheilds, and Zugar?
To avoid confusion, I must point out that I am speaking solely of homosexuality,
not transexualism or physiological hermaphroditism, and this applies
to all references and quotations in this letter. These are distinctly
different conditions from homosexuality but unfortunately, lumped together
with homosexuality by even well informed people. I am concerned here
with the man who is unmistakably male in every apparent way, including
subtle mannerisms, nuances of behavior and except for his sexual preference,
is indistinguishable from any other male. Improved diagnostic techniques
have, in the last few years, opened up again the very real possibility
and in some cases probability that there are biological
foundations for homosexuality. Early efforts in this area
were unsuccessful or inconclusive but theories of causes based solely
on psychological factors are now being regarded as incomprehensive and
premature. Indications are that if there is a cause, it is more likely
a multifactoral pattern involving a complex interplay of physiological,
psychological and environmental influences.
However, parental influence cannot be seen as acting alone, the sole determinant; it must be seen as operating in conjunction with genetic-hormonal-constitutional factors which may, under as yet undefined conditions, potentially influence the ease or difficulty with which normal psychosexual differentiation and development takes place. These various factors may contribute differentially to orderly or disordered psychosexual development depending upon their relative strengths of effect, and depending upon the concordance of their effects with the various critical periods of influence upon psychosexuality.
We really don't know any more about it than what causes heterosexuality. And what are the implications if it is finally shown that heterosexuality has a cause?
The fact of male and female—indeed, masculine and feminine—brain structures seems increasingly well established. The various disorders interfering with normal hormonal organizing effects upon hypothalamic and possibly other neural structures have been demonstrated to produce postnatal effects upon sexually differentiating behavior that persists into adulthood.
There remains still a wealth of ignorance in our genuine scientific understanding of homosexuality. In view of its glaring contemporary visibility in the media and in everyday life, it is chastening to admit that there is not even general agreement upon its definition, much less upon such issues as its etiology and whether or not it is indicative of disturbance. (Gadpaille, Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol. 26: 193, 1972)
Only two of the etiological factors indicated in Dr. Cerule's article are taken into account by your lecture and by conditioned response therapy. The two which you do consider were treated in such a cavalier manner that it appears that etiology is of little concern to you. Does not the cause influence in some way the method of therapy appropriate for a particular case, or do you apply the same procedures to all your homosexual patients? How do you justify to your colleagues the application of aversion therapy to a person with physiological and anatomical incongruities? How can you justify the proposition of choice for an individual with gonadal and endocrine disparity? Are you going to apply aversion therapy to the homosexual, carried prenatally by a diabetic mother who was given estrogen and progesterone injections to prevent pregnancy complications? He turns out to be homosexual whereas his brother who was carried without having been subjected to this prenatal hormonal infusion, turns out heterosexual. (Yalom, Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol. 28:554) Like Boyd K. Packer in his Priesthood address on this subject entitled "To Young Men Only" you allow no consideration for those members of the Church whose very physical makeup contradicts his simplistic statement that "boys are to become men." Is it wise to ignore the substantial and mounting evidence of Money, Kolodny, Margolese, and Barlow that some cases of homosexuality probably have biological causes? To give you a taste of the recent research in this area, you might try reading Dr. Doerr's "Further Studies on Sex hormones in Male Homosexuals." (Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol.. 33:661, May 1976)
Can we responsibly confine our consideration of sexuality to "boys are
to become men" when the "natural" unfolding of the sexuality of so many
of our men and boys does not conform to the ideal supposed-to-be? Man
is supposed to stand upright and run and see and hear and have two arms
but not all do. But we do not cast aside, destroy and call immoral those,
who, for no fault of their own, do not match
the ideal. The central argument of the Church's position on homosexuality
is that in some way a person chooses to be homosexual. 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.
Closely tied to the concept of choice is the proposition of cure. The same possibility holds for the homosexual as for the heterosexual. You can no more become homosexual than I heterosexual. Why? I don't know. I have gone over and over this with a fine-toothed comb, hoping beyond hope for the change, the cure. I have chased down doctors and counselors who claim cures and have questioned many self-proclaimed cures. I have yet to meet one who has changed from being a homosexual to a heterosexual. Oh yes, I have met men who have claimed at one time or another to have been cured. Some of them have written letters testifying of their cure. These are now in the files of the Brethren in Salt Lake and in your counseling department files. These letters are held up as proof of the proposition of choice, cure, personal responsibility and the power of some strange mixture of the Gospel and psychology to bring about change. Perhaps you have had some of these men as your clients. I wish their letters were true. It has been a disheartening experience to discover the reality behind them. I wish these letters had not been motivated by fear, social pressure, wishes, or pride, and that the writers had the courage eventually to retract them. These unfortunate men have become parties to a horrendous travesty. Many of them felt it was the only thing they could do in the face of the Church's insistence that they change. Others could not face the fact that for them, at least, therapy had failed.
The Church Takes Two Approaches
You are aware that the Church generally takes two approaches
on curing the homosexual. The first is a sort of positive
thinking approach where supportive counsel is given to encourage the
young man to think manly thoughts, do masculine things, date, even in
some cases "mess around" a little with girls and to put all notions
of homosexuality out of his mind. He is urged to be prayerful, repent
of any past transgressions, be faithful, get married and settle down.
This method is encouraging to the naive but quickly runs into difficulty.
If the young man goes along with the persistent urging of almost everyone
around him to get married, his predicament becomes much more complicated.
If he candidly reveals to the Brethren that he remains homosexual in
spite of all efforts to change, he is made to feel guilty and his intentions
are doubted. Most, quietly and simply withdraw from this kind of destructive
counseling. Many are embittered permanently against the Church while
still others feel that the only practical way to take off the pressure
for cure is to devise a convincing cure story and escape any direct
confrontation with the Brethren. Most of these men leave the Church
against their own wishes. Having been raised a Mormon, it is impossible
ever to separate oneself emotionally from the Church. For many, it remains
an irresolvable antagonism in their lives. My non-Mormon homosexual
friends have often observed that breaking from their hostile church
was one of the more positive things they had done, but the Mormon homosexuals
they have known remain inextricably tangled with the Church. When they
realize the extreme position the Church takes, they are incredulous
that I would continue to be active. Their religious background does
not give them an adequate perspective of the profound effect which being
raised a Mormon has on the lives of its members.
Those Churches disposed towards a more positive view of mankind have come to realize that their original knee-jerk condemnation of homosexuality as sinners has been counter productive. They could not, in clear conscience, reject a member who, except for his sexual preference, was living a life of complete accord with the teachings of Christ.
The use of the notion of "sin" in this connection frequently betrays a large-scale misunderstanding. as both Jesus and Paul make almost excessively clear, they address themselves only to "sinners" and the "lost." One should, therefore, view with alarm discussions of this question which, discovering that homosexuals are sinners, conclude that they are unfit for the ministry and, almost, for the Christian community. Are we then necessarily to conclude that since homosexuals are sinners—then healthy heterosexuals are less so—that Christ died for homosexuals but not for us? Out of our own self-righteousness we, therefore, have condemned ourselves. (Theodore W. Jennings, "Homosexuality and Christian Faith: A Theological Reflection," The Christian Century, February 16, 1977, pp. 137)
In those instances where churches have refused to allow for homosexuality, the homosexual members have formed their own churches which only shows that homosexuals take the message of the Gospel and the issues of morality seriously. Painting a picture of homosexuals as being ungodly is as spurious as the old argument that Mormons are not Christians.
The positive-thinking-repentance-guilt therapy is encapsulated in President
Kimball's Miracle of Forgiveness and "New Horizons" approach.
Through all of this, the young man may "change his ways," that is, he
may no longer be actively involved in homosexual activities, but he
remains, without question, homosexual. He
moves in a duplicitous world where abstention parades as cure and heterosexual
affections are feigned. The fact that he may become involved with a
girl and marry is touted as additional proof of being cured. In spite
of the many cure letters on file, not one single homosexual has been
cured through this approach. I once questioned very closely one of the
Brethren on this very point. He steadfastly claimed the ability to cure
the homosexual, pointing to a stack of letters on his desk from men
who had been cured. When we finished a long and rather pointed questioning
and cross questioning, he slumped to his chair and said, "Well, I guess
in this strict sense, none of these fellows have actually been cured."
I have met many of these men, and I know that they are to this day homosexual. They do not retract these letters for obvious reasons. They feel they must protect not only themselves but their families and loved ones from those who are quick to judge and punish and very slow to understand. President Kimball's many writings and speeches on this subject are largely viewed by the Mormon homosexuals with bewilderment or contempt. He claims to be an authority on homosexuality, but his perception is that of a heterosexual scriptorian. The Brethren remain unaware of the fallaciousness of their position and remain so because they are entrenched in a doctrinal position that insists on the curability of homosexuality. They choose to accept a false statement of cure over the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Regardless of the many cures on file, many times more men have, in essence, told them that they remain uncured.
Several years ago, a friend brought her fiancé with her to visit me. He was a returned missionary beginning law school. During the course of the visit, he confidentially disclosed to me that he was homosexual, that he had received counseling from the Church but that it had no effect. He had, however, told his counselor that he had changed. After moving away from Utah, he had received what appeared to be a form letter sent by President Kimball, stating that he had, through this counseling, been cured of homosexuality. He was asked to simply sign his name at the bottom and return it to the Church offices which he did. He felt it was the only practical thing he could do though he knew full well that it was not true. He was and is sexually active. Yet, through the years his letter has been held as proof of the "Miracle of Forgiveness."
Another young man become the basis for a doctoral dissertation on curing the homosexual. This therapist would be embarrassed to know that his subject is as homosexual today as he ever was. This doctor is currently telling young men who come to him for help that he has achieved "dramatic changes" in all his homosexual patients, even those who have begun therapy with exclusive homosexual interests. "Dramatic changes" indeed! He needs to have his nose rubbed in those "dramatic changes." It has taken several years for my friend to recover from the emotional damage incurred under this therapy which, according to the doctor, represents a tremendous step forward in curing even the most difficult cases. Sex with a woman is as repulsive to this young man now as it ever was, and the "dramatic" effects of therapy had left him deeply disturbed in his relationships with both sexes. His emotional isolation, unwittingly promoted by his therapist, was pathetic. It took many hours with another more understanding and informed doctor to bring this young man back from the emotional impairment he had suffered in attempting the cure.
My conversations with a psychiatrist friend, whose practice consists mainly of working with homosexuals, have been most enlightening. He has had over the years many clients who have attempted the cure with other therapists, some of whom had convinced their former doctors that they were cured. He has never yet come across a cured homosexual, nor have any of his patients ever been able to direct him to one. Many of the homosexuals he has known are Mormons. It is interesting to hear his observations about the problems that distinguish Mormon homosexuals! These young men are so eager, so desperate for help that they are easy prey for the peddlers of positive thinking. I have fallen for this myself. The greatest fault is the vicious game of self-deception into which it draws the young man. Even more horrifying, he often involves other individuals in his psychological shadow-boxing. Many a young girl has been unwittingly drawn into this ploy, and many innocent children have fallen victim to the unreality of these misappropriated positive-thinking techniques. Feeling as you do about homosexuals, would you want your daughter to date one of these young men?
I am aware that my criticism of the position of the Church on homosexuality is serious. I have talked to a number of people about writing this letter and its contents. These have included heterosexuals, as well has homosexuals, psychiatrists who are active Church members, professional counselors, parents of homosexuals, brothers and sisters of homosexuals, excommunicated and disfellowshipped homosexuals, homosexuals who are active in the Church, girlfriends of homosexuals, and a number of students here at BYU. Without exception, all have said, "These things have needed to be said for a long time."
I single out President Kimball not because he [was] President of the Church but because he, more than any of the other Brethren, has through the years concerned himself with the treatment of homosexuals. [While] he [was] President, his position as spokesman for the Church on homosexuality ha[d] a special authority that will have a profound impact on generations of Church members yet unborn. Other officials [. . .] joined with him in his campaign against homosexuality in the Church, but the main force has been from him. His personal feelings about homosexuality are now given the added weight of his authority and office. Go back and read his instructions to the bishops and presidents in counseling the homosexual in "Hope for Transgressors." By virtue of its oversimplification, the uninformed position articulated in this pamphlet will be the first, last, and only consideration many Mormons will give to one of the most complex of human experiences. Homosexuality is summarily called an "evil habit." What or where is the evil habit of my 25-year-old homosexual friend who has never had any kind of sexual experience? His behavior, even in private, is totally within the standards of the Church. Yet, he is unquestionably homosexual as he will tell you himself. Even more perplexing; what is the "evil habit" of a 5-year-old boy I observed several years ago when his parents visited with me in my home? There is no question about his homosexuality, but it is most unlikely that his sexuality has as of now been expressed in any specific act that could be misconstrued as being "evil," let alone "habitual." How does "evil habit" apply to this young boy or your term "perversion?" How responsible are you in your use of professional jargon when applied to specifics?
BYU Preeminent in Shock Therapy
Effect of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy: The
infamous 1976 dissertation by Max Ford McBride that documents electroshock/aversion therapy carried out at BYU.
D. Eugene Thorne
The other type of cure therapy encouraged by the Church is, ironically,
regarded as more professional. This is the behavioral therapist's approach
of which you are an advocate. Curiously enough, BYU is coming
to be preeminent in applying conditioning
therapy for the treatment of homosexuality. Let me
tell you briefly of a young man who recently successfully completed
this treatment at BYU under the direction of Dr. Ford McBride, whose
work you are familiar with. He is, according to Dr. McBride, one of
his "star cases." As a young boy, he came to realize his strong attraction
to the other boys. As a teenager, he began to experience the sexuality
of his attraction but also learned that it was regarded as wrong and
resolved to change. He was popular and a good student but troubled by
this problem that wouldn't go away. He was devoted to the Church, but
his talks with the Church authorities only served to confuse him as
he was already following the particular steps which they said would
cure him. Nevertheless, he was faithful to the commandments, and not
once did he have any kind of sexual experience with another person.
He entered the mission field confident that his missionary work would
produce the answer to his faithful prayers. After completing a successful
mission, he returned to BYU as homosexual as before. He dated, socialized
and studied hard, but his desires were becoming increasingly insistent
in spite of his vigorous efforts to put them behind. Try as he might,
the advice given him by the Church was totally without any effect. He
knew under the circumstances that he could not marry. With trepidation,
he finally went to the counseling service. He was given a battery of
tests and interviews, then was set up on a conditioning therapy program
coupled with hypnosis and supportive counseling. He was sent to Salt
Lake to magazine stores to find pictures of naked men that excited him.
These were made into slides and flashed on a screen while he sat in
a chair with electrodes strapped to his arms. As the pictures were shown,
he was given a shock; the purpose being to couple the pain of the shock
with the stimulating picture in order to condition him so that he not
only disliked the shock but also the picture. This was the first time
he had ever looked at pictures of naked men. He was given a dial to
determine the strength of the shock, and was soon keeping it on full
strength, as he was determined to be cured as quickly as possible. He
came out of these sessions nauseated, shaking, and with mild burns on
his arms. He was hypnotized and told he would no longer think homosexual
thoughts but would instead have heterosexual ones. The therapy sessions
progressed well, and he was sent again to Salt Lake to find pictures
of nude girls which were shown to him without the shock. He was counseled
to let his imagination have free play on these pictures and was to let
them be the basis of his sexual fantasies. He understood what they meant.
For nearly two years this therapy lasted, during which time he felt confident that he was changing and that homosexuality was behind him. His therapist was extremely pleased and had him write a letter, stating that he was now cured through these reconditioning techniques.
Shortly after this, a girl friend introduced him to a friend whom I shall call Bob. Bob was talented, intelligent, and handsome. He was about to leave for a mission. Immediately upon his introduction to Bob, he knew that nothing really had changed. He felt so intensely attracted that he could no longer deny the fact to himself. They were soon great friends, and he knew that all his years of resistance to this experience and all of what had happened in therapy, painful as it had been, had not even scratched the surface of who he really always was.
To you, his feelings for Bob may seem strange or repulsive, but for him it was a deeply satisfying, warm, loving expression of how he really felt towards another person and the first such experience in his life. It was not easy for him to accept, however, as he had to examine it against all that the Church has to say on the subject and against all of his own built-up prohibitions. But he could no longer deny the truth of who he was and what his experience had been. As he told me, "No one wanted to change more than I did. I did everything within my power to change, and it didn't alter my homosexuality one whit. All I had learned to do was suppress much of my personality largely through preoccupying my mind and energy with other distractions. I suddenly realized how much of my life I was shutting down, turning off, and how absolutely lonely I was becoming. I was avoiding even innocent non-sexual rapport with other men for fear it might turn sexual. I was making my life miserable by a pervasive denial of who I am. It isn't easy now, especially because of the Church which means so much to me, but at least now I am starting to build my life, not destroy myself. I don't know the answers, but I'm beginning now to know myself. You wouldn't believe what a difference it has made for me to come to know and truly love another person. It has been the most healing experience I have ever had through all these tormented years of abstention and repression."
This young man's experience, like many others, including my own, discredits the proposition of reconditioning the homosexual. It is amazing that it continues to receive support from professional people who ought to be discriminating and critical. Of course, this young man's statement that he is cured is part of the reason why the therapist is misled, but only a small part. It is excusable for the lay person to accept his statement at face value. In this case and many others, the palpable naiveté of the therapist from the outset is, from a professional standpoint, inexcusable. He believed this patient because he wanted to at the expense of discovering what was really going on in therapy. And Dr. McBride has never bothered to conduct any follow-up with my friend though an extended and detailed post therapy program was originally promised. This young man, like many others, had never had a homosexual experience prior to therapy. Nothing could be misconstrued as conditioning him for homosexuality. Everything points to the contrary. He chose not to be homosexual, he systematically refused to attend to homosexual fantasies, he chose and had those experiences that would reward heterosexual interests and extinguish homosexual ones. His two years of therapy were the epitome of rewards and punishments scientifically calculated to destroy homosexuality and evoke heterosexuality. His subconscious was massaged through hypnotic techniques, his conscious efforts were strongly supported and his spiritual efforts were absolute. According to conditioning and "appetitional" theories, he should have become heterosexual. His therapist and the counseling department believe him to be; they have his letter to prove it. He knows differently. His story can be and is duplicated over and over. Right now, young men are going into the Smith Family Living Center to be strapped with electrodes and shocked out of homosexuality.
A young convert recently told me of how, as a teenager, he had tried drinking hot mustard water to destroy his homosexual urges. He can laugh at himself now, but at the time it was distressing. Many kinds of self-punishment have been attempted from drinking raw eggs to burning oneself. In some cases, death has resulted. For many, the self-torture is more subtle, a sort of mental self-mutilation and is carried on for a lifetime with not so observable but equally disastrous results. Typical of this is a professor who finally decided to go ahead and get married. Now, when he walks down the hall, he keeps his eyes straight ahead, not looking at anyone. He has several children, but the life has gone out of him. Reconditioning therapists should have caught on long ago to the fact that people are much more prone to become sexually masochistic, learning to enjoy the painful stimuli along with the sexual gratification, instead of extinguishing the sexual drive through aversion techniques. These therapists also fail to realize that their systematic and precisely calculated techniques don't hold a candle to the pervasive system of punishments and rewards their patient has already been subjected to by society and by self-imposed torture. Shocking this man may seem extreme, but it is hardly as cruel as life has already been for the homosexual. Is it reasonable to expect that his sexuality can now be changed through techniques involving milder punishments and less attractive rewards? Regardless of all official disclaimers, the Church has unwittingly come to support a "Playboy therapy" of the type carried out by Drs. Thorne and McBride, which, as Drs. Wilson and Davison conclude, "the availability of a sympathetic female for initial heterosexual contact by the homosexual male seems especially important." And they don't mean hold hands! (Behavior Therapy, Vol. 5, 16-18) Have we not lost our bearings when, under the name of "repentance," we launch a program of "vaginal penetration" where the basic human values and experience of love and tenderness must conform to anatomical criteria or be destroyed? Has it not occurred to you that in shocking the young man, you are chipping away at his ability to ever love another human being? From what set of values do you say that a man is "improved" when, following shock therapy, he can love neither a man nor a woman?
When psychotherapy failed for a returned missionary from Germany, he escaped into a doctrinal interpretation of his sexuality. He insisted that homosexuality was a special test given to certain individuals to see if they could abstain from it and become masters of self-control. Several years of this flirtation with reality has led him to receive revelations and visitations about the immediately impending end of the world. This is by no means the only such case I have observed where mismanaged psychotherapy has resulted in a psychotic break. Is it not inevitable that the issue of malpractice will be raised if psychotherapists continue to be irresponsible in treating their homosexual patients?
Homosexual Fears Normal Sex
Many people are convinced that the homosexual is simply
afraid of having sex with a girl and that he only needs
to try it and discover how much he likes it to get over his fears. Some
Church authorities have encouraged the young man along this line, urging
him to just go ahead and get married and that he will get to like having
sex with his wife. Does such a charade warrant invoking the vows of
"eternal marriage?" I have talked with the women who have been on the
receiving end of this emotional duplicity. For many, their lives have
been irreparably damaged. Would the Brethren ever stop and ask themselves
if they would want their own daughter to marry one of these men? Or
do they simply see some nameless, faceless, young lady out there somewhere
whose purpose it is to serve as the sexual guinea pig for this young
man? Is curing the homosexual so important that it justifies ruining
the life of another person? I wish you could visit for a few hours with
just such a young woman whose husband married her at President Kimball's
urging. She is now struggling to piece together her shattered life and
raise their young daughter on her own while her ex-husband is drawing
other women into the vortex of his disturbance in an effort to convince
himself he is a man. Even in these recent attempts, he has had the encouragement
and blessings of his Church leaders. Marriage is not a decision into
which any young man, heterosexual or homosexual, should be pressured.
Considering the pressure that the Brethren are now placing on all eligible
young men, is it any wonder that the divorce rate for temple marriages
The heterosexual experience will not cure the homosexual. Some homosexuals enjoy having sex with a woman and some dislike it immensely. The distinct preference for a man remains regardless of their interest in the opposite sex. Dr. Freund perceptively observes, " . . . any success of therapeutic attempts to make a homosexual male heterosexual is most likely due to a facilitation of interaction with the non-preferred sex." (Understanding Homosexuality, ed. by Loraine)
The unsophisticated therapist often fails to take into account a basic aspect of sexuality: the fluctuation of sexual desire. For some, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, this fluctuation is only slightly perceptible, but for others it is confusingly erratic and pronounced. It is usually the homosexual experiencing the more pronounced shift who enters therapy. The fluctuations compound his difficulty in accepting himself. These men are frequently mistaken as "quick" or "dramatic" improvements or cures. Follow closely any one of these men for a number of years and you will be exhausted from the emotional rollercoaster he will lead you on.
President Woodbury recently gave a fireside talk on faith and used an example of curing the homosexual to prove his point. One of his students had come to him with the problem of homosexuality. He had sent this young man to one of the General Authorities who gave him a special blessing to overcome the problem and told him to get married. The young man later returned to President Woodbury concerned about his forthcoming marriage and the fact that he was still homosexual. He told President Woodbury about the special blessing. The President had serious misgivings. He called the General Authority who stated that he could not withdraw the blessing for "the Lord had spoken." President Woodbury's misgivings were still not laid entirely to rest, but the young man left his office convinced he should get married. Months later, President Woodbury observed this young man sitting in an audience next to his pregnant wife. His conclusion was in essence, "See, you must have faith in the Lord." President Woodbury would hang his head in shame were he to know even a small portion of the number of children who have been conceived by desperate men trying to prove to themselves and the rest of the world that they are not homosexual or by men who have gone into marriage thinking it would cure them. Surely, President Woodbury isn't unaware of some of his colleagues, apparently exemplary husbands and fathers, who have been apprehended in overt homosexual behavior and excommunicated. Could he possibly be surprised to learn that many men have married on the emphatic and persistent urging of General Authorities who apparently didn't need the medium of a blessing through which to counsel the trusting homosexual? As of right now, bishops and stake presidents are urging marriage upon confessed homosexuals in their wards and stakes. One man, brought to trial and narrowly escaping excommunication, was insistently counseled by his stake president to court a divorcee whom he had mentioned as a remote possibility. What is the difference between counsel through a blessing and simply earnest counseling when the homosexual has been taught all his life that his leaders are inspired and that their counsel is to be heeded with all diligence? We need to know what we are talking about when we speak of the rewards of faith. President Woodbury would do well to examine closely his examples.
Some of the Brethren have come to realize this in their experience with other married homosexuals. A senior member of the Twelve wrote to a young lady in answer to her anxious inquiry about whether or not she should marry a homosexual who said he loved her and could thereby change. His reply: Homosexuality cannot be changed. This young lady asked if her letter could be shown to others; the reply was no.
A close inspection of many so called cures reveals that the young man
enters one of these fluctuations, desperately convinces himself that
he is changing as the intensity of the drive temporarily subsides, and
his therapist unwittingly concurs. Therapy is soon terminated. Follow-up
is extremely limited; a cure is assumed. Several years later, after
he has gotten himself married and responsible for the lives of several
children, he may receive a "follow-up" call from his therapist. "How
are you doing?" What can he say? He's in too deep now to consider his
personal feelings. Children, wife, job, bills, friends, and pride force
him to keep up the facade. "Fine, just fine." "Is everything alright?"
"Oh yes, I'm doing just great, we just had our third child, a boy."
His head is swimming. Thankfully, the conversation is short. In the
case history files, it appears something like ". . . at which time the
patient became engaged and therapy was terminated with the proviso that
he could return for assistance whenever he felt the need for it. His
marriage appears to be satisfactory. He has stabilized in his employment
and has returned for therapy only once when he was briefly drawn to
return to his old homosexual practices. Follow-up seven years later
confirms that he remains a very happily married and well-adjusted
Typical of the false cure is the sudden and dramatic falling in love with a girl which, when observed closely, turns out to be only "falling in love with love." Well trained therapists are alert to this crucial distinction as the client, who is legitimately confused on this point, often makes decisions that have far-reaching and disastrous consequences, not only for himself but for others. A young man here recently told me, "I never should have married, but I thought at the time I could pull it off. Now I have two beautiful children whom I love very much, but I never should have had them. In spite of the joy they bring me, if I had it to do again, I would never marry. It is very difficult for me to hold my marriage together, but I feel I must now for the sake of my children."
Numerous Married Mormon Homosexuals
The number of married Mormon homosexuals is astounding. I know of many homosexuals who have married and have children. In not one single case has it changed their homosexuality. This kind of "appetitional" sexual reconditioning therapy is not only simplistic but immoral since it toys with the deep affections and emotional well-being of another person. Marriage is the rug under which the Brethren encourage many men to sweep their homosexuality. Advising the homosexual to marry is therapy at its worst and spiritual guidance at its most irresponsible.
Realizing that the possibility of cure is remarkably remote, many counselors in the Church resort to advising the young man to abstain from any overt homosexual behavior. In the words of one mother to her son, "You can be homosexual, but you must abstain from expressing it. This way your homosexuality is 'morally neutral,' and you are still in good standing with the Church."
I have often said to others that one does not have
homosexuality, one is homosexual. To the heterosexual
who protests this, I pose its corollary. One does not have heterosexuality,
one is heterosexual. It is more than a semantic mistake to state that
one "has" heterosexuality. Heterosexuality is fundamental to who he
is. It would not occur to him to consider his sexuality as some sort
of learned appendage or chosen identity. It is so fundamental to who
he is that it makes it difficult for him to consider that not everyone
else experiences himself in the same manner. Not infrequently, heterosexuals
have expressed to me their difficulty in being open-minded about homosexuality.
The expression of love or affection between two men, particularly when
it is of a sexual manner, seems to them "unnatural." I can appreciate
the emotional hurdle required in such a consideration. One's psychology
precedes one's philosophy. The heterosexual's gut-level feeling that
homosexuality is "unnatural" is deeper than a conditioned mental construct
or value judgement. His statement comes from who he is.
The same emotional hurdle is required of the homosexual. It is not from
some twisted superficial rationalization but from deep within who he
is that comes his fundamental honest
emotional realization that for him, the heterosexual experience is "unnatural."
These two men, the heterosexual and the homosexual are essentially indistinguishable
in any measurement of mental or emotional capacity or adjustment, but
for one man, a sexual relationship with a woman is against his nature,
whereas the other is equally repulsed by the sexual experience with
a man. One can make as strong of a case for the psychopathology of the
man repulsed by the homosexual experience as the man repulsed by the
heterosexual experience. Most people fall somewhere in between these
two extremes and are, to some extent, capable of both experiences. But
there is, in any given individual, an unmistakable predominance, one
way or the other, in the experience of who one authentically is and
what for him is "natural."
What Do Two Men Do?
Many homosexuals find it as difficult to imagine anything sexually interesting
in a woman as some heterosexuals do in trying to imagine any sexual
interest in a man. What is it after all, that two men see
in each other sexually? Unable to cross the emotional
barrier, many heterosexuals imagine that the two men meet each other
in some sordid, despicable place and surreptitiously do hideous unmentionable
acts to each other, flee the scene, and live out lives of guilt-ridden,
compulsive repetitions of the promiscuous encounter. There is no doubt
but what this kind of lifestyle does exist for some homosexuals. I have
known and talked to such men. Unfortunately, many heterosexuals, and
even some homosexuals, think that this is essentially what homosexuality
is and make the erroneous generalization as J. Reuben Clark did, calling
homosexuality "that filthy practice." Were his naive perception correct,
I would agree with him. His statement reflects the misconception that
homosexuality is essentially an erotic response or experience. Homosexuality
is no less of a complex interplay of emotions,
affections, identity, needs, aspirations and sexuality than is heterosexuality.
For most of the homosexuals I know, the feelings for one another are
the most deep, warm, genuine expressions of love and compassion that
two human beings are capable of sharing. Like heterosexuals, most of
their affections are not explicitly sexual, nor is their relationship,
when sexual, any more oral, anal, sado-masochistic or prone towards
fetishes than is the heterosexual experience. Many naive heterosexuals
imagine that a homosexual relationship is a transposition of the heterosexual
relationship with one man playing out the feminine role while the other
takes the masculine role, particularly in their sexual relations. I
know of few such cases. Unfortunately, many of the movies, magazines,
plays, novels, and now even TV shows capitalize on the distorted homosexual
stereotypes acceptable to the heterosexual audiences. And much of the
current gay literature caters to the more visible proponents of a lifestyle
that is explicitly erotic and, in some cases, bizarre. The economic
factors behind these forms of entertainment and publications give the
general public a grossly distorted view of what homosexuality really
is. As society is becoming more informed, and the not-so-visible but
typical homosexual more insistent on being accepted for who he really
is, movies are changing, novels are becoming more true to life, use
of the homosexual as a source of comedy less derisive, and much of the
gay literature is taking on a more responsible and mature character
as contrasted with its early militant juvenilism and shocking freakishness.
There are brothels in every city where women will, for a price, satisfy almost any desire her male customer may have. Many men indulge themselves in these and similar sexual trysts, but it is not an accurate portrayal of what the "normal" man-woman relationship is anymore than generalizing in the same way from the homosexual baths to what the "normal" love relationship is between two men.
Those moralists who would destroy the love between these two men have
paradoxically fallen into their own moralistic trap, demanding that
sex becomes the prime consideration in a relationship, not love. And
for the psychotherapist, how practical, let alone ethical, is it to
destroy or to fabricate love on the analyst's
couch from a criteria arising largely from the erotic? Is there not
good reason to be alarmed at Dr. McBride's preoccupation with the sexual
in treating one of the most complex human experiences?
The heterosexual who is unable to understand homosexuality demands that the homosexual repent of his homosexuality and then observes, as does Dr. Turner with "special hushed solemnity," that homosexuality is one of the most difficult things to repent of. I pose its corollary. Is it possible, if hypothetically required or commanded, that you repent of your heterosexuality? If you were to awake tomorrow to a world where heterosexuality was outlawed and you were required to repent of it, just how would you go about it? What would you do about the tremendous backlog of heterosexual desires, experiences, loving relationships, even your earliest childhood memories, attachments, and self-concept? What would you do if you were further required to develop homosexual desires? How easy would this be for you and how would you go about it? Could you even attempt it? Minor considerations and differences aside, this is precisely how the homosexual experiences the demand to change. Do you think that if you really buckled down and wanted to change, three or four right good counseling sessions would do it for you? There are young men whose counselors believed they had changed after three or four sessions. You may realize the absurdity of this, but do you think that thirty shock treatments, while you looked at naked men, would extinguish your heterosexuality?
Let's suppose that you take this hypothetical demand seriously. After several years of determined effort, you realize that your heterosexual desires are, if anything, experienced more intensely, and you are as adverse to homosexuality as ever. You then decide to abstain. Your resolve requires a supreme effort. Your dreams and fantasies refuse to be suppressed. Your daily routine brings you constantly into contact with attractive women. The longer you abstain, the more persistent your desires become. Since you cannot have a woman and you don't want a man as your intimate companion, you maintain a limited rapport with both. Your social life, though it consumes much of your time and energy, is kept at a safe distance emotionally. No amount of church meetings, social functions or vocational preoccupations fills the void you experience for that warm, loving intimacy with a woman. Loneliness becomes the hallmark of your experience. Ten, twenty years of this isolation take their toll on your personality. You remain steadfast to your conviction, but you face old age with an ever-increasing sense of loneliness and unfulfillment. The question now needs to be asked, "Is such a life really morally neutral?"
Recommending to the homosexual that he abstain from the sexual expression of who he is has far-reaching consequences. It cuts him off from the only real possibility open to him to experience love. The more frightening fact is that it unquestionably condemns him to a life of loneliness which cannot and is not ministered to by any facet of the Church or society. No amount of temple going, priesthood meetings, home teaching, or special interest activity will ease the loneliness. This can only be realized through a mature loving intimacy. The men whom I know who have followed the course of abstention have a conspicuous diminution of humanness in their lives. They are, for the most part, a mixture of flat, uninteresting, impoverished personalities with a conspicuous tenseness and anxiety that is never focused or constructively expended. Those around them sense their desperate need for warmth and affection but also an overriding coldness, prohibiting any closeness. Years ago, I met a young man here at BYU. I knew in an instant that he was homosexual and, moreover, that he was fighting it. I could tell it from a certain fierceness in his manner. I never saw him again for several years but was kept abreast of his activities, including his counsel from the Brethren, his marriage, and his subsequent divorce. I visited with him about five years ago, and he vigorously denied that he was homosexual though his behavior indicated otherwise. The most convincing indication to me was his fractured personality; a downright dull returned missionary type, so inappropriate for his age, and a hypertensity bordering on hysteria. I have visited with him several times since, and it appears he is slowly coming to accept the fact that he is homosexual but he has also attempted several cures. Now, as he approaches middle age, he is finally able to face his homosexuality and open up to who he really is. All of his years of abstaining and denial have taken their toll on him, but the most dramatic change for the better has taken place recently as he has straightforwardly fallen in love with another man. He is at last allowing himself to love and be loved, and his personality is warming, expanding, and maturing, and a soul, starved for all these years, is at last being nourished with affection and love.
A telling contrast is presented by two young men in Europe, both converts and homosexual. One is interesting and fully engaged in experiencing a rich and rewarding life, but he has been excommunicated because he is sexually active. The other young man is dull, drab, and for the most part, friendless. Even his apartment has an appalling staleness. All his spare time is spent in Church activities. Why? In his own words, "Because it keeps my mind off sex." A friend who recently visited them described this conspicuous contrast between these two men and expressed a well-founded concern about the emotional future of the second man. For the homosexual, abstention is translated into a life where experiences for growth, personal discovery and the maturing process are very seriously impaired. Is such a life "morally neutral?"
Since you can't cure the homosexual and your efforts to do so only make his situation worse, what do you have to offer him? If homosexuality is wrong, why not let the homosexual answer to God for his sin? Why incriminate yourself?
Lie: Homosexuality Cannot Be Cured
Brother Packer calls the assertion that homosexuality cannot
be cured "a malicious and destructive lie." Is it a lie
that I have faithfully and meticulously followed every particular point
of advice which Brother Packer says will make me heterosexual and yet
I remain homosexual? My experience with his advice is the rule, not
the exception. Why is it that we never hear one of Brother Packer's
"cured" homosexuals make this statement for him? Why is it that the
only ones we ever hear make such a categorical claim are people who
have never been homosexual? Where are all these men the Brethren have
cured? What a tremendous opportunity the Church has to show the entire
world that it has discovered the method by which homosexuality can be
cured. This method is so accessible that all that is necessary is for
the homosexual to really want to change and sincerely follow a few simple
steps. Why is it that the Brethren cannot grasp the fact that many of
us have already done all they say and much more?
Do they not realize that most young men will have already gone to extreme
lengths to understand and change their situation before they would go
through the terrifying and perhaps humiliating experience of actually
telling their bishop that they are homosexual? It is a desperate, last
resort effort. They come away bewildered and disillusioned. They begin
immediately to figure out how to convince the bishop that they have
changed. That's what the bishop wants to believe after all, and he would
be the last one to challenge the young man on this point. He is only
too relieved to be rid of the problem.
Over and over again in the literature appears the documented failure. Nowhere, not even once, have I found a substantially documented and extensively followed-up case history of the cured homosexual. In all of my research, I have found only one individual who made any kind of effort to demonstrate he was cured. I began to read his autobiography, called Straight, with a good deal of hope and interest. He made a valiant effort to prove his point but fell considerably short. The book turned into the account of a married homosexual still self-conscious of his homosexual desires. I took it to my colleagues and tried my best to suspend my doubts. They all shook their heads in disbelief and returned the book with wry smiles. I had to admit, it was not convincing.
Dr. Grant Lee, working under the auspices of the Church Social Services, conducted a group therapy program for a number of Mormon homosexuals in the Los Angeles area. Part of the therapy consisted of Dr. Lee painting word pictures of nude women and couples in intercourse while members of the group were to try and arouse themselves sexually to this fantasy. I kept close tabs on the progress of this group. One of the men was cured, and the rest of the group were very excited at the prospects for themselves. Several weeks later, the young men returned and confided that he was not cured at all. The group finally fell apart, and I quote one of the members; "I think most of us came out worse off than before." Dr. Lee was subsequently promoted to the central social services of the Church where he is now making a name for himself, publishing his ideas and experiences with "curing" homosexuals. He observes that homosexual relationships are typically short-lived. Just what part does Dr. Lee play in these relationships being short-lived when he gets the homosexual to think of his partner while inducing vomiting? Does Dr. Lee have a comparable therapy technique for troubled heterosexual couples? One of the members of his group wrote me recently, "I have no indication or hopes of feelings for females, and have nearly destroyed my ability to accept and experience the feelings that I still have for a man." Dr. Lee calls this man "improved"!
There are a few therapists who specialize in curing the homosexual. Most of these claim a cure rate of around 50% which is not only curiously consistent but is amazingly high compared to the typical therapist. This rate is low, however, compared to the claims of the Church which boldly states that most of its cases can be and are cured. By closely examining the cures of these specialists, we discover the following: First the patients are culled, taking young ones over older ones, men who already have strong sexual interests in women over those who have exclusive homosexual interests, those who express a strong desire to change over those who express little or no desire. They openly admit little hope for curing the latter. They begin then with generally young, inexperienced men who are already capable of considerable heterosexual activity and who want very much to be heterosexual. At the outset, they have skirted facing the problem of homosexuality head on, preferring to toy with what might be more accurately described as cases of sexual ambivalence. They have eliminated the vast majority of homosexuals before they even commence their statistical claims for curing homosexuality. The bulk of their patients, then, are those most prone to "escape into health," who often demonstrate a convincing but deceptive cure. Not only do many therapists accept the cure at face value, but strongly encourage the young man into this psychological swindle.
Escape into Health
I cannot overemphasize that "escaping into health" is one
of the most difficult problems the homosexual has to wrestle with.
It is the basis for most "false cures" and yet is given very little
consideration by even the best of therapists. This "escape into health"
turns out to be exactly an escape and, in every case I have observed,
temporary. In most cases, it is short-lived, but some cases may take
several years of closer observation to be accurately assessed. These
are often the men who marry and begin raising a family and come to realize
they are still homosexual. I have observed married homosexual men from
the small Intermountain communities who visit the big cities where they
think they are unknown. Their activities under these anonymous circumstances
accurately show what their true sexual situation is. For the most part,
no one is the wiser, and these men live out lives of apparent healthy
These "cure" specialists each have their particular theory of homosexuality
and how best to remedy the "illness." Dr. Hadden feels that homosexuality
is caused by poor relationships with other males. He gathers his patients
into groups and through corrective interaction, cures about 50%. Drs.
Feldman and McCulloch regard it as a conditioned response. They shock
their patients and cure about 50%. Dr. Socarides attributes it to unresolved
oedipal trauma and through deep analysis, cures about 50%. Dr. Ovesey
feels it is caused by overly competitive male siblings, and besides,
it isn't really homosexuality but "pseudohomosexuality." He cures about
50% by helping them to become adequate competitors and showing them
they weren't really homosexual to begin with. Dr. Hatterer cures about
50% by making them feel very guilty for any homosexual behavior and
encouraging heterosexual activity. It goes on and on, from EST to T.A.,
from hypnosis to Primal Scream. The homosexual who is looking for the
cure has a veritable supermarket of cure therapies to choose from. Why
is it that a homosexual, regardless of whatever caused him to be homosexual,
can enter any one of these various programs and has about a 50% chance
of being cured? The only stipulation is that he must want very much
to change. Does it stand to reason that the homosexual with unresolved
oedipal conflict will resolve it through shock therapy? Or will group
therapy with other men be any more effective? Will the "conditioned"
homosexual get reconditioned in deep analysis or should he try the "I'm
OK–You're OK" route? Does the "pseudohomosexual" respond to shock therapy
as well as the oedipal homosexual? Is homosexuality really being cured
or are theories being expounded, and at the expense of the patient?
The consistent 50% figure is probably the most accurate figure available
of those homosexuals who can be predicted to opt for one of several
now well-known false cure strategies. The patient and therapist join
in a sort of folie à deux and another cure is added to the
literature. Optimistic denial of the truth takes precedence over reality
. The exact cure figure will vary from practitioner to practitioner
depending directly upon how insistent he is that his patient gets cured.
The more adamant the therapist, the higher the cure rate, regardless
of the method he uses. That is the single most verifiable statistic
to come out of the homosexual therapeutic experience.
Few Psychiatrists Claim Cure Escape Into Health
Very few psychiatrists claim any more that they can cure
the homosexual. The increasing strident claims of the
few who insist on cure are looked upon more and more with disbelief
by their colleagues. As a profession, psychotherapists are, by their
own admission, powerless to affect the cure as evidenced by Dr. Joel
Fort's investigation. (Psychological Reports 29: Oct. '71)
It is for this reason, as well as for other very sound reasons, that
they have taken homosexuality off their list of mental disturbances.
You choose to see in this historic action signs of social depravity.
Any honest psychologist, hearing your crass, easy moralizing would exclaim,
"Spoken like a true charlatan!" In removing homosexuality from their
list of mental disorders they are saying that the homosexual personality,
as is born out in various tests and studies, along with their own clinical
and field observations, doesn't differ significantly from the heterosexual
personality. They are trying to clear away the accretion of prejudices
so they can see more clearly a configuration of personality expression
which needs to be understood, not simply labeled as sick.
The goal of most therapists now is to help the homosexual to adjust to his situation and build a constructive, integrated life. This type of therapy has a remarkable success rate, with long-term stable effects. The antagonist in this fight is not the homosexual component in an otherwise "normal" personality but a society which reacts with a mixture of emotions arising largely from ignorance. "The relevant question is not what makes homosexuals or what to 'do' with them but rather what makes society persecute them." (Dr. R. Seldenberg, "The Accursed Race," Homosexuality, ed. by Rultenbeck) The contrast between "cure" and "adjustment" therapy is striking in its affects and successes. Men who have been fortunate enough to have received this kind of therapy almost invariably express gratitude for the therapeutic experience. This can hardly be said of "cure" therapy.
As an authority on homosexuality, you should be aware of Dr. Kinsey's discovery that in all of the thousands of sexual histories he gathered, he did not find one person who had at one time been homosexual and then had become heterosexual. Needless to say, this caught his interest, and he made a well-publicized offer to bring him such a person so he could accurately document and verify the curing of the homosexual. Though there were many promises and commitments, only one person ever ventured forth to be interviewed. A very cursory preliminary interview revealed this man to still be homosexual. One noted therapist, who claimed a 50% cure rate and had published a book on it, finally confessed that he had only one patient that he felt could pass the test, but he was on such bad terms with this patient that he didn't dare contact him. Since Kinsey's death, Dr. Pomeroy has carried on his research, and his offer remains to this day with a remarkable 100% unchallenged record.
But therapists blithely continue to publish their dubious cures, apparently unaware they are making fools of themselves and their profession. The failure of psychotherapy to cure the homosexual has now come to be recognized as a very substantial indictment against the profession. More and more of the very top experts in the field who insist on absolute factual evidence concur that there are no known cases where homosexuality has been cured. The implications are profound, especially for the Church. The very foundation of its position is that ii can and must be cured. It is not being cured albeit shock treatments, repentance, abstention, marriage, excommunication, special blessings, innumerable confessions with the bishop, or a lifetime of prayers to God. The Brethren may protest this, claiming that they can go back and reinterview these men to verify their cures. But these men will be no more candid now than before. If you doubt this, the challenge is openly extended to submit your cures to The Institute of Sexual Research at Indiana University. They are waiting to take the sexual history of the first cured homosexual.
Our American culture is more anti-homosexual than almost any other society. It is not surprising then to discover that the answer as to whether or not homosexuality is wrong is a foregone conclusion. For many people, any discussion about homosexuality does not get beyond this question and the predictable answer, as indicated so clearly in the recent editorial of the student newspaper (The Universe, May 19, 1977). I am not advocating that homosexuality is right, but to say that it is wrong holds weight only when the many more pressing--and for the homosexual--necessary questions and problems are addressed accurately and completely. These things were totally ignored in your lecture. You, like many others, prefer to preoccupy yourself with the "wrongness" of homosexuality. Of what value is it to scream and shout that homosexuality is wrong if that is all you can say about it? Please set that question aside long enough to answer the more pertinent questions. One of the most enlightened investigators of homosexuality, Dr. Richard Green, clearly shows his profession that, to date, there are very few answers. He puts forth, in a brilliant challenge to his colleagues, a penetrating and perceptive list of questions that are, for the most part, totally ignored by most so called "authorities." You would do well to read his article in the International Journal of Psychiatry, March 1972. Impose his questions on your lecture to see if it measures up to the standards of academic discipline in which you have been trained. Unlike your lecture, this volume takes up all of the pros and cons of the homosexual question. The dialogue between Dr. Green and other specialists is tremendous and a most valuable lesson in the theory and practice of psychotherapy.
Sodomy Not Synonymous With Homosexuality
Experience and logic in this matter cannot be forced upon the Brethren.
They choose to remain oblivious to the tragic implications of their
position and actions. They seem hopelessly hung up on a handful of ancient
and obscure scriptures which they have never publicly analyzed, choosing
to read them in the Church out of context and detached from the cultural
milieu in which they were written. The main Old Testament scripture
they refer to is the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The very scholarly research of Derrick Bailey in Homosexuality and
the Western Christian Tradition reveals that it was centuries after
its destruction before a homosexual interpretation was ever attributed
to the sins of Sodom. Once applied, the interpretation has stuck, and
Sodom to this day remains erroneously synonymous with homosexuality.
The bulk of the few remaining Biblical references to homosexuality
come from the writings of Paul in his epistles to the Romans, Corinthians
and Timothy. Though some experts doubt that Paul is directly referring
to homosexuality, it appears to me that there is little doubt that he
is, and that he condemns the practice. But several other crucial facts
must be squarely faced by all parties who give scriptural authority
to the problem of homosexuality. The belief was current in the Mediterranean
culture of Paul's time that overindulgence in heterosexual activities
would make a man effeminate and turn him into a homosexual. The notion
held that the heterosexual profligate would simply wear out and become
bored with "normal" sex and by dint of its unusualness, would turn to
the taboos, one of which would be homosexuality. This explains Paul's
condemnation of men who "turn from" the "natural use" of the woman to
lust after each other. The homosexual who reads this scripture is bewildered,
realizing that he has never "turned from" the woman. His "natural" desire
has always been for a man and sex with a woman is for him "unnatural."
He connects with Paul's condemnation of the homosexual activity of these
men but is at a loss to see how their activities and his situation coincide.
The young men to whom this scripture has been read by their bishops
come away only more confused about their sexuality, especially if they
have not yet had any kind of sexual experience but are keenly aware
of the desire they have always had. The responsible application of Paul's
statement to the Romans requires that one subscribe to the theory that
too much heterosexual sex will turn a person into a homosexual. This
general notion is still held as valid by the Jehovah's Witnesses. (Awake,
March 15, 1977) In the most strict interpretation, Paul was condemning
wanton heterosexuals who were turning for sheer novel pleasure to sexual
activities outside of their "natural" desires. The young man the bishop
talks to has never traveled that road, has never known what it was to
desire a woman.
St. Paul Concerned About Homosexuality
The accurate interpretation required here, however, does not dismiss
what appears to be Paul's general condemnation of homosexuality. This
fact we must face; Paul was very personally concerned about
homosexuality. Those who understand the complex phenomenon
of homosexuality see the evidences of the struggle Paul was possibly
laboring under. Speculating about Paul's sexuality is dangerously difficult,
but certain things can be responsibly pointed out and need to be since
his statements on sexual matters, particularly homosexuality, bear so
much weight. Many theological authorities prefer to separate Paul personally
from his writings at this point since the real live Paul (as much as
we can know of him) presents complexities and paradoxes not easily accounted
for in modern Church programs and doctrinal interpretations. First is
Paul's unmarried status. As the Church has become increasingly anxious
about homosexuality and the many single adult males, it has renewed
its efforts to prove Paul was married. The argument is extremely weak
and is a most disingenuous reconstruction of historical and scriptural
data. It certainly flies in the face of the details surrounding his
ministry to the far-flung branches of the Church. The only remote hint
that Paul might have been married is his possible membership in the
Sanhedrin. Marriage was one of the requirements to belong to this group.
Paul was no one's fool and a master at circumventing legal technicalities
through adroit application of his legal acumen, and his rights as a
Hebrew and a Roman citizen. Even more to the point was his unusual ability
to overwhelm his opponents with an articulation of logic they were ill
prepared to counter, even at one time converting his jail keeper. For
years, Paul held the Roman courts and executioner at bay. If Paul did
join the Sanhedrin, it isn't likely that a minor requirement of marriage
would not have been quickly set aside in the face of his overpowering
rhetoric. Concomitant with marriage was the requirement that a member
of the Sanhedrin should also be a father. There is no indication, scripturally
or historically, that Paul complied with this requirement either. Any
mention by Paul of his children is conspicuous by its absence. Most
Biblical authorities agree that Paul was probably unmarried. But even
if it is granted that he was, the question of his sexuality is not muted.
That the Church makes such an issue of his marital status only makes
us wonder all the more. Why all the fuss about proving Paul ) was married
when other notable Biblical figures escape this peculiar refabrication
of history to fit our modern concerns? What do we now do with the recent
mounting evidence from the latest Dead Sea Scrolls that John the Beloved,
"that disciple whom Jesus loved," never married?
Paul's attitude towards marriage for others is, at best, ambivalent, and he unmistakably recommends celibacy on several occasions. His statements on marriage are, for the most part, studiously eschewed by the modern Church. His attitude towards women ranges from a benign condescension to almost outright misogyny. Much of this may attributable to the cultural attitudes toward women at that time, but it appears that Paul was personally at a considerable distance from the opposite sex. On the other hand, he was strongly attached to his male companions, particularly Timothy whom he took with him often on his journeys. His Christian "brotherly love" for his male friends is unquestionably intense but certainly within the bounds of chaste expression. Above all things, Paul was the epitome of sexual continence. He denounced all sexual indiscretions with a fierceness attained by few. He was fanatic about it as he was about every cause he took up. The tone of his personality has a striking resemblance to certain others who are fiercely fighting an inward battle. These men eloquently and vehemently denounce the desires which they fear they might someday yield to. I think of Maughm's Rain and Lewis' Elmer Gantry, and of a friend who went on a mission and for a while worked in the mission home. The mission President seldom missed referring to the evils of masturbation in his conferences with the Elders. In his interviews, he always questioned them about their personal habits and strongly rebuked those who confessed that they masturbated. My friend had to go into the President's quarters one day to find some material and accidentally came across the President, who was masturbating. They were both embarrassed, and my friend quickly left. Nothing was ever said between them of the incident, and my friend never again heard the President mention the subject to his missionaries.
In order to accurately account for his writings on homosexuality, one has to take into account Paul's problem. Whatever it was, he had a problem, and he comes within a hair's breath of naming it, calling it his "thorn in the flesh." Many have tried to explain away this curious allusion to his problem by saying it was malaria or some other similar illness. Given Paul's explicitness, it is doubtful he would have alluded to something he could easily have stated outright and elaborated on. Malaria is not a satisfactory explanation to his euphemistic phrase. If Paul was struggling with homosexuality, his carefully disguised reference makes more sense. There are few Biblical authors whose personal lives come as close to approximating a struggle against homosexuality as does Paul's. No one in the Bible has as much to say on the subject as does Paul which only adds weight to the possibility. The knowledgeable homosexual understands and appreciates what Paul says about homosexuality. (Christianity Today, Vol. 12:23, March 1, 1968) Many have gone through a similar effort. Paul evidently did not realize how transparent the doctrinal externalization of his personal battle was. The Brethren are alerted to this and are far more anxious to sweep it under the rug than Paul was.
Given the social influence of the Greek society in that time and the sexual temperament of the Romans, it is amazing that the New Testament isn't full of explicit statements against homosexuality. As it is, only a handful can even be misconstrued or loosely interpreted as mentioning the subject. The Old Testament has even fewer possible references.
Scriptures Condemn Homosexuality
The Church pamphlet "Hope for Transgressors" states that there
are many scriptures that condemn homosexuality and lists
74. Of that list, only 4 actually refer to homosexuality. Two of those
are from the old Jewish law contained in Leviticus. Application of the
ancient Jewish law is, in our time, forbidden by federal and state law
and ecclesiastically obsoleted through the Gospel of Christ. Many of
the statutes of the old law carrying heavy penalties are not followed
at all by the Saints today. Standing on their own, the references from
ancient Jewish law are mainly of historical value. The other two references
in this list are from Paul's writings. Not one of the other 70 references
can be construed to refer to homosexuality directly. Instead, these
references deal with faith, repentance and the evils of sin generally.
They are obliquely applicable to the view of homosexuality as presented
in the pamphlet but by no means do they accomplish what the list was
supposed to prove—that the Bible condemns homosexuality. The fact that
it is hard pressed to come up with just such a list discredits the pamphlet
generally. Curiously, one of the references is to a statement by Jesus
that there are some men who should not marry, and one reference does
not even exist. Certainly the Brethren are better scriptorians than
is indicated by this list. As Shakespeare observed, one can quote scriptures
to prove any particular point. The pamphlet further discredits its position
by asserting that "some people will respond to a scriptural approach,"
respond, of course, meaning change. The homosexuals who are given this
approach do respond—by quickly turning elsewhere for informed, intelligent
counsel. The Brethren could not have articulated their ignorance of
homosexuality more precisely than they do in this little pamphlet. The
Mormon homosexual comes away from reading it with a sense of hopelessness
and a disquieting realization that he can never turn to the Church for
the guidance he so desperately needs. This is the ironic result of "Hope
for Transgressors." Should not the Church be in the forefront of wise
and knowledgeable counsel on this problem instead of desperately trying
to dress up old erroneous and destructive attitudes with clever new
moralistic clichés and simplistic answers, such as Dr. Wilford Smith's
treatise of it in "His Work and Glory" in which he says that ". . .
human beings have no more need for sexual activity than they have for
One of the more singularly striking facts is that in the entire Book of Mormon and the other modern scriptures there is not one single reference to homosexuality. These scriptures contain the "fullness of the Gospel" and all the essential commandments for the Saints, and yet the subject of homosexuality is conspicuously absent. To my knowledge, Joseph Smith never mentioned the subject. From The Teachings of Joseph Smith: "When we lie down, we contemplate how we may rise in the morning; and it is pleasing for friends to lie down together, locked in the arms of love, to sleep and awake in each other's embrace and renew their "conversation" (p. 295). This statement, made in all innocence, is in sharp contrast to the preoccupation the Brethren now have forbidding missionary companions to sleep together for fear that their affection will turn physical. The Brethren are increasingly anxious that "brotherly love" might exceed acceptable bounds of expression which, in our particular culture, is extremely limited. (Lionel Tiger, Men in Groups) And what about the apparent relationship between David and Jonathan which was so intense—"passing the love of women" (2 Samuel 1:26)—that it became one of the major points in the personal chronicle of this biblical poet?
The recent concern of the Church about homosexuality does not mean that it is a mid-20th Century phenomenon. Fifty years ago, homosexuality was seldom, if ever, mentioned in polite company and then was called "the sin that has no name," It was not until the late 1940s that the subject was ever mentioned from the pulpit. Today, we discuss it in firesides and Relief Society. The fact that we are now able to talk about it gives the erroneous impression that there were few, if any, homosexuals around until recently. There have been LDS homosexuals as long as the Church has existed. Research shows us that homosexuality has been a part of the human condition in all cultures throughout history. Our scriptural heritage contrasts sharply with our modern hyperphobia of homosexuality.
The Typical Mormon Homosexual
Interestingly enough, the Mormon homosexual typically comes
from a good Mormon home where the principles of the Gospel are taught
and applied. If anything, he is more active in the Church
as a youth than his peers. His background is thoroughly heterosexual,
and he is steeped in the aspirations, lifestyle, and value-judgements
of heterosexuality. For the Mormon, these environmental influences are
particularly potent. As Martin Hoffman observes in his excellent book,
Male Homosexuality and the Social Creation of Evil, the prohibitions
against homosexuality in our society are so extreme and pervasive that
it is inconceivable that anyone would simply choose to be homosexual.
Marc Fasteau likewise shows in The Male Machine that we are
hysterical, paranoid, and otherwise irrational about the homosexual.
We do everything we can to guard our children from any homosexual influence.
The irony is that homosexuals come from a thoroughly heterosexual environment,
not a homosexual one. It is heterosexual parents who produce homosexual
children. Our difficulty in dealing with causes and responsibilities
leads us to erroneously and frantically point the finger of guilt at
any and every convenient possibility of some ominous lurking figure
who might have gotten to our poor innocent boy. We must have our witch
hunt. Given our strong social prejudices against homosexuality, the
outcome is entirely predictable, One whispered rumor is enough to ruin
the most respected and influential. We have this fantastic idea that
there are dirty old men lurking about waiting to seduce our youth into
homosexuality. In all of my investigation, I found only one who took
this seriously to be the cause of his homosexuality.
I questioned him very closely and discovered that he, like some others,
work this seduction proposition as an effective assuagement of the guilt
evoked from an experience actively sought out but for which he couldn't
face being responsible.
Certainly, the first sexual experience for the young man can easily be misconstrued as the beginning of his homosexuality. The seduction could never have occurred, however, without the underlying disposition for it. If the young man is not able to accept his homosexuality, or if he is caught in the act, he often blames the other party who "introduced" it to him. Society reinforces this notion of seduction causing his homosexuality, and the young man never has to face the fact that he held strong, persistent, and specific desires for the act before it occurred. It is much easier and requires little personal responsibility to say, "I became homosexual at such and such a point when so and so introduced me to the homosexual experience." The heterosexual young man who engages in sex with one of his buddies does not experience himself as homosexual, is not threatened by the homophobic elements in our society and, therefore, never attributes any "casual" factors to his first or subsequent sexual experiences. He comes away from the experience as thoroughly heterosexual as before, and his partner is never "blamed" for anything. It is the homosexual who is more apt to have difficulty with his first homosexual experience. Now, the fulfillment of his long-held desires make him acutely aware of his homosexuality and, therefore, he is confronted more directly with the taboos against it. Until now, he has been able to hold these considerations at a distance, but the experience now catapults him into the thick of a difficult reality. His partner, whether one of his good buddies or an older friend, is often in a very perilous position of being held responsible for the experience and unjustly blamed for sexual desires which existed years before the two men ever met. For many homosexuals, their first sexual experience is with a heterosexual buddy which raises the annoying question: Should the heterosexual buddy be held responsible for causing his partner's homosexuality?
The 1976 fall issue of Dialogue takes up the problem of Mormon sexuality. It contains a very interesting article by a homosexual. This man was tragically molested as a boy and feels that this is possibly the cause of his homosexuality. Of course, I can't question this man, so I will accept his evaluation of his own experience. It is possible that such an experience could cause homosexuality, but it is more plausible, particularly in this case, that the result of molestation would be a strong aversion to it. I would like to talk to this man as there are some very telling omissions in his account of this episode. I have known several cases of young boys who were molested. In each case, he has grown up to be a well-adjusted heterosexual. This is in no way ignoring the serious after affects of molesting. (Nor do I want this minor question to detract from the poignant and perplexing Solus article. I only wish others would come forth with their experiences as forthrightly and perceptively as this man so that we can begin to shed some light on what the experience of being Mormon and homosexual really is.) Statistical studies show that an extremely low percentage of homosexuals engage in child molesting. Far and away the greatest occurrence of child molesting is by heterosexuals on young girls, not by homosexuals on young boys. Like heterosexuals, homosexuals typically prefer a partner close to their own age and in a relationship that is mutually expressive of the affection for and interest in the other person. One of the main reasons for outlawing homosexuality in the past has been this child molesting concern as reflected in the emotional campaign now under way to "Save Our Children" (from homosexuality). By the same logic, should not heterosexuality be outlawed since heterosexual child molesting occurs much more frequently?
Child Molesting Not Homosexuality
Child molesting is not homosexuality. The
difference between the two is the same as the difference between heterosexuality
and child molesting. And as Paul Harvey puts it, in both cases it is
the difference between love and rape ("Gays take Rap for Criminals"
Provo Herald, May 23, 1977, p. 15). Those incidents of heterosexual
child molesting, torture, and murder which make the news are never an
indictment against heterosexuality, but if they are of a homosexual
nature, such as the Texas tragedy, society generally condemns all homosexuality.
Homosexuals are as opposed to child molesting as heterosexuals are.
Criminal statutes against homosexuality are gradually failing as the public becomes more informed about sexual matters generally. The National Mental Health Task Force on Homosexuality concluded: "The extreme opprobrium that our society has attached to homosexual behavior by way of criminal statutes and restrictive employment practices has done more social harm than good . . . ." It is unlikely that Utah, with its Church influenced politics, will follow the suit of other states and decriminalize homosexuality. It is easier in this culture-bound society to resort to eloquent moralizing than sober-minded reflection of the rationality and actual consequences of the law. It would take unusual courage for a social, political, or Church leader to take an informed and reasoned approach that might be in opposition to a tradition so firmly inured to an emotional set. President Oaks, in his Commissioner's lecture on "The Popular Myth of the Victimless Crime" articulates the philosophical and moral basis for the criminal statutes against such things as drug abuse, prostitution, adultery, abortion, pornography, gambling, vagrancy, etc. I admire his position generally and the process by which he reaches his conclusions. It is unfortunate that he threw homosexuality into his argument where "legal discourse is moral discourse." It is precisely for "moral" reasons that he ought to have omitted homosexuality from his lecture. The only direct reference he gives to maintaining the statutes against homosexuality is a quote from a Missouri judge.
"Rightly or wrongly, most Missourians today regard homosexuality as immoral; if the law fails to support that notion, disrespect for the law and a general loosening of the bonds of society must follow . . . A majority of the people of Missouri regard homosexuality as disgusting, degrading, degenerate, and a threat to society. Whether this is rational or not, so long as the feeling persists, the majority will insist that its condemnation be reflected in a positive manner in the criminal code even if it is unenforceable." (Richardson," Sexual Offenses Under the Proposed Missouri Criminal Code," 38 Mo. L. Rev. 371, 1973)
President Oaks ironically backs his "moral" position with an argument founded principally on a consideration of what is "popular" (most Missourians) and what is practical (disrespect will follow), even when the impracticality of the law (even if it is unenforceable) is frankly admitted. Surely, President Oaks has not forgotten that there was a time when most Missourians considered the Mormons, because of their abnormal sexual practices, to be immoral, disgusting, degrading, and a threat to society. Does he condone the persecution of the Mormons on the same grounds as he now condones the persecution of the homosexual–because most people think it is the correct thing to do?
There is a higher morality not accounted for in his ironic "popular morality" argument. It is the respect for another human being and his genuine experience of self and of love and tenderness for another person.
At present, the homosexual is in the thick of a Kafka-like experience where the love and affection he holds for another person are grounds for his arrest and imprisonment on a "morals" charge. Through laws endorsed by President Oaks, the homosexual is divested of the right to understand himself, dehumanized, oppressed, persecuted and banished. Is this moral? "On the day when crime dons the apparel of innocence—through a curious transposition peculiar to our times—it is innocence that is called upon to justify itself" (Camus, The Rebel). Now it is the homosexual who ironically will rise in moral indignation. For all his legal acumen, President Oaks neglected to consider the truly moral law: "Judge not lest ye be judged."
The heterosexual trying to decide what is morally right
and wrong for the homosexual is like the Quaker deciding the moral standards
for a Mormon polygamist. Attempting to apply theological
dogma to a complex human condition often does violence to both the theology
and the condition. It is ironic that many who campaign against homosexuals
in the name of religion violate the most basic principles Jesus taught.
A classical example is Anita Bryant's current campaign, which, when
examined closely, is not really against homosexuality but against human
sexuality, calling immoral, particular expressions of affection between
married heterosexuals. These expressions, though entirely acceptable
by official Mormon standards, disgust her. Married heterosexuals who
express their love in these ways are, according to her, worse than homosexuals.
Those who are opposed to homosexuality should discreetly avoid being
taken in by this woman's ability to disguise her personal disturbance
in the name of religion. Her "Holy War" is replete with hatred, ugliness,
ignorance and deception. It is unfortunate that she has made a public
forum of her emotional problem victimizing not only the homosexual but
society generally. Unwittingly, she has made a positive contribution
to the gay movement, focusing national attention on the plight of the
homosexual, by taking such an extremely ridiculous and unchristian position.
Many heretofore disinterested heterosexuals have become ardent advocates
of the homosexual movement after hearing her personal "revelations"
from God condemning the homosexual.
Bryant Fits Clinical Profile
We should not forget that a similar religious campaign was waged against
the "sexually abnormal" Mormons with an amazing parallel of self-righteous
rhetoric. She claims that homosexuals are out to recruit children into
homosexuality. This is impossible. Being homosexual
or heterosexual is far too complex–so basic to the fundamental nature
of the personality that it is ludicrous to assert that a young man can
be proselytized into homosexuality by another homosexual. I would not
wish this experience on anyone (with the possible exception of a few
people like Anita for a brief period so they would catch a glimpse of
what being homosexual really involves) and I'm sure most homosexuals
feel the same way. Recall the study of the men who were queried about
the prospects of homosexuality for their sons. But the favorite rabble-rousing
slogan is that "we must save our children from this evil influence!"
Few issues are as emotionally charged as when a community is forced
to consider the prospects of a homosexual school teacher. Senator Hatch
epitomizes this unfounded phobia claiming "I wouldn't want to see homosexuals
teaching school any more than I'd want to see members of the American
Nazi Party teaching school" (Salt Lake Tribune, June 2, 1977).
Senator Hatch would be shocked to learn how many of his teachers through
the years probably were homosexual. And did they turn Senator Hatch
into a homosexual? The fact that he was unaware of their sexuality only
further substantiates the fact that for most homosexuals, their sexuality
is a private matter and they prefer to keep it that way, never infringing
on the sexuality of others in any way nor flaunting it in the classroom.
Senator Hatch's benighted and nasty hyperbole fails to consider that
most theories of causes pointing to some influence from another person
place the responsibility at the door of the heterosexuals,
not some meddling homosexual. According to these theories, Senator Hatch
is much more capable of turning his son into a homosexual than any homosexual
school teacher. If we are to place any credibility in the causal theories
of Drs. Bieber, Hatterer, and Socarides, we should be particularly concerned
about Anita Bryant's sons. According to these theories, she fits perfectly
the profile of the mother who produces homosexual children. I asked
one of my homosexual friends how he would like to be Anita's son. "What
do you mean! Anita and my mother are like two peas out of the same pod!"
Anxious and responsible parents are easily persuaded by the apparent logic in the claim that a homosexual school teacher, acting as a model, can turn heterosexual pupils into homosexuals. I have no doubt but what proponents of this notion have good intentions. Unfortunately, they are very badly informed. I have never known or read of a homosexual who said his homosexuality was caused by this means. Every responsible causal theory (as is born out by many homosexuals who can remember back far enough) place the origins of homosexuality prior to the kindergarten year. The idea that a heterosexual teacher, acting as an adequate role model, being capable of reversing a homosexual orientation is analogous to the curative value of getting the homosexual to "get involved" with some girl. In fact, many homosexuals try this very modeling device in their futile self-help attempts to change. It is possible that models, role-playing, and the concomitant identifications do play an important part in sexual orientation but it appears that this factor works its influence prior to the forth or fifth year and more likely within the first 18 to 36 months. Alliances with adults from then on are actually "confirming" experiences and have only minimal power to affect the basic identity of the child. In retrospect, I can recall many perceptions and fantasies from my first and second grade years that although not exactly erotic, were definitely homosexual in nature. Most homosexuals make the same observation as do many first and second grade teachers of their pupils. This is not necessarily because of some "feminine" behavior but through considerable insight into the child's total personality, perception and relationships. It is not altogether uncommon for the 6, 7, or 8 year old child to be thrust into conflict with his already firmly established sexuality by well meaning adults. One of my friends was taken at age 7 to a psychiatrist to "get straightened out." Can you imagine his bewilderment with that experience? For the last twenty years he has been coaxed and coerced, subtly and blatantly to "do manly things" in hopes it would alter his sexuality. He was strongly encouraged by his parents to emulate and admire one of their close friends, a man of outstanding character and ability. Years later, when it was no longer possible for his parents to deny the obvious, it was also discovered, much to their surprise, that their good friend was homosexual. They immediately blamed their friend for their son's homosexuality though nothing of any homosexual character had occurred between them nor had the subject ever been mentioned. Their search for a cause was as spurious as their search for a cure. But the proponents of the teacher-as-model are not easily dissuaded. They must have their "culprit," right or wrong, and these same people provide their grade school boys with an abnormal influence of the feminine model. Should they not eliminate the female teachers to be consistent with their model theory of the feminine influence producing homosexuals?
Society's Moral Duty
When the homosexual student comes into his late teens and early twenties,
it can be particularly troubling and often tragic that he has a foreign
and impossible model of heterosexual marriage portrayed to him as the
only viable lifestyle open to him. Unable to realize any positive alternative,
he attempts the heterosexual route, leaving a path of emotional destruction
wherever he goes. The broken lives of girl friends, wives, and children
are the actual testimony to the "adequate models" available to this
young man. But this is exactly the experience the "save our children"
proponents would perpetuate. Resorting to the argument that children
cannot result from a homosexual relationship—therefore, proving that
homosexuality is wrong and should be outlawed—are they advocating that
the homosexual should attempt marriage and have children? How much better
off everyone would be if the homosexual was
not encouraged to attempt relationships and a lifestyle alien to who
he is. I only wish I had had someone at that point in
my life to show me that there was a wholesome alternative. I could have
saved myself and others a great deal of heartache. This is all that
is meant in providing an adequate alternative model for the young people.
Those who understand know that it is impossible to recruit heterosexuals
into homosexuality and they feel equally strong about the insistence
of heterosexuals trying to coerce the young confused homosexual into
heterosexuality. Trying to establish sound constructive models only
for other young homosexuals is branded as "immoral" and outlawed, but
"recruiting" homosexuals into heterosexuality is regarded
as society's "moral duty". Typically, the heterosexual
cannot think beyond the exhibitionistic stereotype. This prevents him
from realizing that the same employment qualifications should and do
apply to both the homosexual and heterosexual teacher. Flaunting sexuality
either way is inappropriate.
One particular student, unable to see how being homosexual and a Mormon
can ever be integrated, feels forced to choose and will, within the
next few weeks, leave this campus for the safety of the city life with
all its dubious influences. Another young man here, who thought that
homosexuality meant a life of gay bars, baths, and one-night stands,
was understandably unable to discover and establish a satisfactory lifestyle.
Though he admits openly that he is homosexual, he has gone into marriage
trying, in his words, to "make something of my life." I have watched
The relationship between him and his wife steadily deteriorate; his
wife shows increasing signs of serious emotional difficulties, and who
knows what will become of their two young children when the marriage
is inevitably dissolved. Is this not the very "human debris" of immoral
behavior which President Oaks speaks of? Cannot a wholesome and constructive
lifestyle be established for the thousands of teenage Mormon homosexuals
who are right now struggling desperately for some kind of life that
brings together their youthful idealistic testimony of the gospel and
who they are? Can we, as a Church, continue
to aid and abet the tragic destruction of these young lives and their
faith in God?
Masturbation Causes Homosexuality
Masturbation is sometimes blamed for causing homosexuality. Masturbation
has been pointed out as being the cause of almost everything undesirable
from falling hair to warts so it's not surprising to find it showing
up here. Some Church authorities, in interviewing young men, tell them
that masturbation will make them become homosexual.
President Lee was one of these. He conceded to a close friend, however,
that the only thing he knew about homosexuality was what he had once
read in a New York Times article. Misconstruing the causes
of homosexuality here is all too indicative of how desperate the Brethren
are about masturbation, which they are discovering is more than rampant
and entirely out of their ability to control. An influential member
of the Church went for twelve years without masturbating and was as
homosexual afterwards as he had ever been. I have never found a man
who even hinted that masturbation had caused his homosexuality. All
have said that abstention from masturbation has definitely increased
their homosexual desires. Masturbation is more an expression of one's
sexuality, not the cause of it or a host of maladies the Brethren point
Another causal bugaboo is pornography. This issue is so emotionally charged that most people who have anything to say on it appear patently biased, making it difficult to take their findings seriously. I know of no case where a person says that pornography caused him to become homosexual or even alludes to such. This observation is confirmed by the Presidential Commission on Pornography. Our hysteria over pornography is often more indicative of uncertain sexuality than of high morals. I have interviewed a number of homosexuals on the matter of pornography and have found that many of those involved in this recall that their first, and in some cases, abiding interest in pornography had to do with the female nude. Recently the father of a 14- year-old boy anxiously queried me about the significance of his son's preoccupation with pictures of nude women which he got from neighbors' homes and kept in his bedroom. This father would be beside himself with anxiety if he knew that some discerning adults in his social circle surmise (without reference to the pornography) that his son is homosexual. But the advocate of conscious choice-condition reflex places a great deal of stock in the pornographic myth, as evidenced by the persuasion devices he so confidently uses on his clients, that is, the use of pornographic pictures in the therapy process.
I am not endorsing pornography. My concern is that many get sidetracked on this issue and fail to attend to the real concern. Dr. Cline in Where Do You Draw the Line takes up this question citing mainly the commission's report which found a higher correlation for the homosexual and pornography than for the heterosexual. Dr. Cline takes the liberty of stating that a causal factor is strongly indicated by this correlation. The fact that he cannot come up with any harder evidence of "cause" than a consideration of correlations casts strong doubt on his position at the outset. Correlations are notoriously deceptive. My experience indicates a very high correlation between the incidence of homosexuality among young Mormons and church attendance. I would be hard pressed, however, to say that going to church causes homosexuality. Would it not occur to Dr. Cline that the homosexual, having been outlawed and driven underground away from any open expression of his sexuality and even his private experiences with another person forbidden, would therefore resort to expressing himself in a more solitary and private manner? Since he cannot openly hold hands, court, kiss, flirt and a myriad of other activities which the heterosexual can do, he is forced to seek his sexual outlet through more vicarious channels which is exactly what his use of pornography entails. Ironically, the heterosexual prohibition against homosexuality encourages the use of homosexual pornography. It is one of those strange hypocrisies for the heterosexual to forbid the homosexual any sexual outlet and then turn on him with this pseudo-professional theory about "causes" when he is discovered resorting to less than straightforward expressions of his desires. The homosexual is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. No matter what he does or doesn't do, the heterosexual is there, all too willing to point out that he is "sick," and whatever he is doing or not doing is the "cause" of it or worse, the just rewards for homosexuality. Dr. Cline should be aware that in-depth studies of pornography show it to be more an expression of one's sexuality, not the cause of it. But then, Dr. Cline is among the few remaining therapists who believe that the homosexual can be cured by showing him pictures of naked women. Since it has been demonstrated thousands and thousands of times that actually having sex with a woman will not cure the homosexual, does Dr. Cline believe it credible that showing nude pictures will now turn the trick?
I can't resist dramatizing your muddled thinking on nature versus nurture etiology of homosexuality by suggesting that you address yourself to this problem: A nine-year-old boy is brought to you with the problem of homosexuality. He has been accountable before the Lord for only one year, having been baptized at eight. You are given to understand that he is homosexual. In your terms (not mine), he has made his choice to become homosexual. He is placed in your charge, both in your role as doctor and as a concerned member of the Church. This young boy comes from a family of 10, all healthy and bright, the oldest on a mission, and the youngest three years old. Half of the children are girls and half boys. The parents are in every way exemplary. What will you do? Tell the class what you would do. He is not a hypothetical boy, but a real flesh-and-blood one, and he's never been seduced or molested, at least to the knowledge of anyone in his world. Just how will you proceed with this young spirit? What specifically "conditioned" this boy to become homosexual? What reconditioning techniques would you apply to extinguish his homosexuality? Would you shock him? Would you tell him to think of beautiful naked women? Can you treat him with the same techniques which you feel cure the adult homosexual? He is as homosexual as my friend who received treatment from .Dr. McBride. Would you subject him to the same procedures? Would you consider his prognosis even more favorable since he is undergoing therapy at a younger age than the older, more difficult cases of homosexuality? Or will you have to postpone therapy until his homosexuality begins to express itself in specific ways? Are you sure you are really treating homosexuality or merely attacking certain conspicuous manifestations of it? Since these manifestations have not yet appeared for this young homosexual, would he even understand what you were trying to do with him? How would you know when you have "cured" him?
May I suggest that you read Dr. Gadpaille's article "Research into the Physiology of Maleness and Femaleness" (Archives of General Psychiatry , Vol. 26:193). Perhaps this will give you some insight into the complex sexuality of this young boy.
Parents and Prevention
In recent years, a few books have appeared on the prevention of homosexuality.
They are, for the most part, simplistic. I can appreciate the concern
parents have to avoid homosexuality in their children, but it appears
we are as informed about prevention now as in the dark ages when they
burned homosexuals at the stake to get rid of the problem. In the last
General Conference of the Church, one of the Brethren stated that if
parents would raise their children correctly there would not be so much
homosexuality. This is a somewhat sophisticated but easy
answer where we need to find a convenient yet logical cause. Dr. Cline
cautions his colleagues against falling into this easy trap:
. . . I think we have to be very cautious of the "clinicians' bias," where, when we work with psychopathology all the time(to the exclusion of seeing a broad representative sample of healthy people), we fall err too often to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy–that merely because B follows A, A is necessarily responsible for or causally connected with B. Thus, we see a certain kind of family relationship in several instances of homosexuality and conclude that they caused this condition (Dialogue, Summer 1967, p. 10).
Many clinicians make this mistake as evidenced in Dr. Lee's discussion of homosexuality. And unfortunately, even Dr. Cline does not consistently follow his own advice at times as evidenced in his discussion of the causal effects of pornography. These experts come along after the fact, observe the existing situation, and with a leap of logic, conclude that the situation caused the situation, or the relationship caused the relationship. The real cause of that relationship or situation remains undetected, but corrective therapy is begun based on an erroneous understanding of the actual cause.
I did the same thing at one time, considering my parents responsible for my homosexuality. I went back and reconstructed my past in eloquent psychological jargon of dominant, close-binding mother and passive-distant father. Of course, not only did it serve no purpose, it distorted the reality of my childhood. It got me off the hook of facing up to who I was and accepting the responsibility of the actual relationship that, as a child, I established with my parents. This theoretical cop-out also made my parents feel extremely guilty and bewildered. The fact is, they had been tremendous parents, but for years I held them hostage to a somewhat logical but misapplied theory. We no longer try to stamp out and prevent homosexuality by burning them at the stake, but I wonder if the General Authority realizes how many good parents are suffering the tortures of guilt evoked by his sophomoric sermon. I would like to know this man's family. It would not be the first time I have heard someone preach against homosexuality without realizing one of his own children is homosexual.
Most Men Have Homosexual Experience
I come now to your statement that 4% or approximately 400 men here at
BYU are homosexual. I assume that your 4% figure comes from Kinsey's
famous study which shocked everyone but which, in all subsequent surveys,
has been shown to be conservative. First of all, Kinsey did not survey
to find out how many men are actually homosexual. He was trying to find
out the sexual behavior of men. That distinction should be made for
several important reasons. Kinsey found that the majority
of men have, at some time in their lives, had
some kind of unmistakable overt homosexual experience.
He found that an additional 13% realized their ability or desire to
respond towards a homosexual experience, but for one reason or another
had never done so. Many men have the experience in pre-adolescent years,
but an amazing 37% of all males have some homosexual experience between
adolescence and old age. Even more striking is that 30% of all males
have at least incidental homosexual experience over an extended period
of at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55. To bring it closer
to home, the majority of the approximate 10,000 men here at BYU either
have or will have had some kind of homosexual experience. Another 1,300
will have realized the desire for this experience but for some reason
abstained. There are at least 3,000 BYU male students who have had homosexual
experiences over an extended three year period. That's about one out
of every three men you pass on campus. At least 2,500 or 25% of the
men have had more than incidental homosexual experience over an extended
three year period and 1,800 have as much homosexuality in their history
for that same three year period. There are 1,300 that have more homosexuality
than heterosexuality in their history for that three year period and
1,000 or 10% have been more or less exclusively homosexual in their
sexual activity for an extended period of at least three years. Approximately
800 men on this campus have actually been exclusively homosexual for
an extended three year period. Those who will be exclusively homosexual
for their entire life will be approximately 40% or 400 of the male students
As for how many men are actually homosexual–it can only be inferred
from even the best studies. The problem is complex. For instance, if
you conclude that 4% are, as many people do, you are rot only misinterpreting
Kinsey but you are wrong. This 4% are exclusively homosexual for
life. This figure does not include myself and most of
the homosexuals I have known. Many of these men have had considerable
heterosexual experience and some much more heterosexual experience than
homosexual. There are, curiously enough, a sizable number of homosexuals
who have never had a homosexual experience. There are many homosexuals
who, for one reason or another, would never identify themselves as homosexuals
for any kind of study. Some will not even admit it to themselves. This
makes it impossible to accurately determine the incidence of homosexuality
by taking surveys.
The issue here is the difference between the homosexual experience and actually being homosexual, or its counterpart, the heterosexual experience and being heterosexual. The heterosexual experience is no more reserved for the heterosexual than the homosexual experience is for the homosexual. The sexual experience, either heterosexual or homosexual, does not necessarily make or mean that one is heterosexual or homosexual.
Every reliable survey I have read, taken of men who identify themselves as being homosexual, shows that at least 25% of them either have been or are married and an even larger portion have had heterosexual relations. These studies were taken in gay bars and of gay organizations. Most homosexuals do not go to gay bars or belong to gay organizations. There is good reason to believe that the actual incidence of marriage and heterosexual relations in the total homosexual population is higher than these studies found.
The heterosexual experience is common for the homosexual as is the homosexual experience for the heterosexual. But the sexual identity or orientation for the homosexual remains homosexual regardless of his heterosexual experience as does the heterosexual identity regardless of the homosexual experience. One does not become homosexual simply by having homosexual sex nor does one become heterosexual simply by having heterosexual sex. Sexual identity is much deeper and precedes any overt act or even private ruminations and fantasies. "Homosexual interaction, even if occurring regularly, is not by itself a very reliable indicator of homosexuality, and this applies conversely to heterosexual interaction as well." (Freund, Understanding Homosexuality, ed. by Loraine)
We can only take an educated guess from Kinsey since there are homosexuals who fall in all of his categories, including, interestingly enough, his minority figure of those who have had only heterosexual experiences. No one has yet devised a means of accurately determining who is and who is not homosexual, either through population surveys or in-depth psychological diagnostic techniques. I assure you that your notion about 400 homosexuals here at BYU is grossly misleading. I have mentioned your use of this figure to several individuals who have good reason to know better. They are amused at your naïveté. Several years ago in a class at BYU, we took a somewhat sophisticated survey of the sexual histories of the class members. None of us were prepared for the 62% figure of men who had had some kind of homosexual experience. We were equally shocked to learn that only 2l% of the men had had some kind of heterosexual experience.
Most responsible sex researchers estimate that there are approximately 22 million homosexuals in the U.S. This constitutes the second largest minority group in our country and yet one of the most oppressed. There are more homosexuals in the U.S. than the entire population of California or New York. When you consider that each of these homosexuals has two parents, you begin to get some indication of the additional millions of Americans that are knowingly or unknowingly closely affected by homosexuality. With siblings, children, other close relatives and friends, the phenomenon of homosexuality closely affects the lives of the vast majority of our society.
One of my married heterosexual friends here challenged me on these statistics, stating, "I just don't believe that many of the men in my classes have ever had a homosexual experience." I asked him if he could tell by looking around and studying his classmates, how many were homosexual or who had had homosexual experiences. He said he suspected that maybe one or two were homosexual and several others possibly capable of having such an experience. I asked him if I were to have any one of his classmates look around the room and answer the same question, would they pick him as ever having had sex with another man. He was startled, realizing, of course, that he, being a rather husky, athletic P.E. major, gives no outward sign of the considerable sexual experiences he has had with one of his close buddies. He would certainly never be picked out in such a survey even by the well-trained eye. He regained his composure and again protested, "But my situation is different. I don't think most men have the kind of relationship my friend and I have." Well, that's what they all say, not realizing that they are thinking of homosexual stereotypes that apply to none of them. I asked him if he was aware that according to Kinsey's survey standards, he would be placed in the 10% category. He was shocked and then laughed, "Gee, I might as well be a fag!" We both laughed.
I have attended several major universities and have visited a number of others. I have no way of accurately assessing the incidence of homosexuality at these schools, but my strong impression is that the incidence is higher here at BYU. Without exception, every homosexual I have talked to who has attended other schools in addition to BYU has concurred with my observation. If this is true, BYU is in the very curious position of officially being one of the most outspoken foes of homosexuality an yet whose population consists of a higher proportion of homosexuals than other universities commonly regarded as hotbeds of sexual liberalism. This observation seems to bear out the findings of sex researchers who have discovered that societies which place extreme penalties on homosexual behavior frequently have a high incidence of homosexuality whereas those societies with few or no prohibitions against it frequently show a low incidence.
All of these statistics, of course, fail to include any consideration of the female population at BYU. I assure you, there are also many homosexual girls here. Though I am homosexual, I understand very little about the phenomenon of female homosexuality, and for that reason, this letter does not directly concern the subject.
You can take any given person, including yourself, and you will find, if you investigate closely, a son, brother, uncle, father, husband, grandson, or close friend who is homosexual. Usually, the sexual orientation of this person is not known by those around him. Sometimes there are several homosexuals who are close relatives or friends. This observation includes, interestingly enough, General Authorities. Of those I know closely, all of them have homosexual children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or some close relative or friend who is homosexual. I wonder how they felt when they heard Joseph Fielding Smith say he would rather see his son dead than homosexual. One young man is frightened to death of the day his father, who is a General Authority, finds out about his homosexuality. Another young man, who comes from a wealthy family and whose parents are very prominent in the Church, was cut off from the family will when his homosexuality was discovered. Fortunately, the law has turned the tables on his pious parents who now regret their action but for less than honorable reasons. Two young men, closely related to one of the Brethren, recently disclosed to each other their long-held secrets that they are both homosexual. Both have attempted to change but to no avail. Both would welcome the opportunity to talk to their General Authority relative, to frankly discuss their situations and the Church's misunderstanding of homosexuality. They would gladly do so were it not for fear of his certain hostile reaction. If President Kimball believes that his attitude towards the homosexual does not cause considerable distress to several young men close to him, he is wrong.
I once listened to a mother go into a tirade about how horrible homosexuality is and how she could never come to understand how anyone would ever be homosexual. Her favorite son, who is an outstanding young man and soon to go on a mission, listened patiently to his mother who was unsuspecting of his homosexuality. I recently had a discussion about homosexuality with a bishop who described it in much the same terms as you do; the worst of perversions and a terrible sin. His youngest son, of whom he is very proud, is homosexual. I shudder to think what will happen when and if he ever discovers his son's sexuality. Perhaps he will be so rash as to proceed to have his own son excommunicated, an action recently taken by the parents of a friend of mine. Little do they know that another of their sons, now on a mission, is also homosexual.
If you think there is no one close to you who is homosexual, you are in for a surprise. They tolerate you quite well. But I regret that there were people in your class who are homosexual and who had to suffer the indignity of your lecture. Would it have occurred to you that you may have caused extreme anxiety to some of your listeners who might have hoped that your advanced academic training might have given you insight or understanding or at least compassion? Instead, you allowed the "lecture" to degenerate into a ribald exchange with your students in which the homosexual was the object of suggestive humor. I am surprised that you would stoop to one of the easiest and cheapest tricks used to enhance one's uncertain masculinity. Are you so naive as to believe that there were not homosexuals in your class who found this to be an extremely painful and revolting experience? Setting aside the humane considerations which you are grossly insensitive to, professional standards rule that your behavior is inexcusable. Any responsible psychology department would demand disciplinary action be taken, If we are to accept your premise that homosexuality is a mental sickness, are we then to expect that you will likewise joke at the catatonic or the mentally retarded? You owe an apology not only to the homosexuals who had to endure your lecture but to the entire class. If your conspicuous insensitivity to homosexuality is innate, then I suggest you change professions. Such an attitude has no business in the mental health field. If your insensitivity is temperamental, then I suggest you seek good professional counsel before you speak out again on this subject.
For a psychologist, you indicate substantial naïveté as to what the typical homosexual is like. Surely you are not so benighted as to think of us all as limp-wristed, overly sensitive types with a conspicuously effeminate allure. There are certainly homosexuals who fit this pattern, but they are a small minority of the homosexuals here on this campus or elsewhere. Most homosexuals are as ordinary in their appearance, manners, and social demeanor as the typical heterosexual. Indeed, they are largely indistinguishable in any overt characteristic, even to the trained and experienced eye, including you own. This includes other homosexuals who consider themselves skilled at distinguishing subtle nuances and telltale signs. Homosexuals are as varied in their personalities and life styles as heterosexuals. I dare say with full confidence that you have encountered many homosexuals and have never had the slightest suspicion that they are homosexual. There are individuals around you in your social and work situations and in your classes who are homosexual and of whom you are entirely unaware. Many are very skillful and cleverly resourceful at making sure no one suspects. You and I have talked at length on a number of occasions. I am confident that you have not the slightest notion that I am homosexual or you would not have said many of the things you did. Some men are not so clever and try to convince others and sometimes themselves with the rather transparent ploy of protesting too loudly. They are often those who have the most to say against homosexuality. Their strident moralizing, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse of other homosexuals is a dead giveaway. This happens not infrequently here at BYU as evidenced by some of your students' reactions to your lecture.
I once had the experience of finally telling a colleague I had worked with for several years about my homosexuality. He is unusually perceptive and analytical which is very helpful to him in teaching sociology at a major university. He was incredulous and refused to believe me. I am confident most people I encounter, including most homosexuals, are totally unsuspecting about me. (In fact, I have frequently been mistaken as a cop by other homosexuals whom I have tried to become acquainted with and talk to.) Several years ago, I worked for a man who, on several occasions, would go into a tirade about homosexuals. On one such occasion, he bombastically shouted, "I would never have one of those queers working for me!" Of his crew of five, four of us were homosexual.
Those homosexuals who are prissy, lispy, and swishy, though very visible,
are actually few in number. Effeminacy is not the hallmark
of homosexuality. Most homosexuals I know pride themselves
on their clearly defined masculinity and some are super-masculine to
the point of conspicuous absurdity. The Marine Corps, arch symbol of
American masculinity, has many homosexuals within its ranks. A seasoned
member of the Marine Corps told me that when he reached port at New
Orleans, he was surprised to find most of his unit hanging out at the
local gay bars.
My younger brother attended a lecture at his Institute of Religion given by a bishop who is also an MD. His lecture touched on homosexuality. He stated that he could always tell when he came into the presence of a homosexual, as he could sense "an evil spirit." What he doesn't know is that one of his close friends, who is also a close relative by marriage, is homosexual. There were others in the audience besides my brother who have homosexuals within their immediate families. They were very disturbed with this lecture of "evil spirits." How far are we from the dark days of Salem?
Many of the strikingly handsome and masculine men on this campus are homosexual. It would astound you to know how many student body officers, football players, branch officers, wrestlers, and outstanding students at BYU over the years have been homosexual. Some of these homosexual students are the sons of the very top administrators and faculty, administration, and staff, as well as many strong supporters of BYU among the alumni, who are homosexual. This will continue to be the case in spite of all your prohibitions, preachments, and inquisitions against homosexuality. Over the past ten to fifteen years, this university has made a determined effort to exterminate and purge the homosexuals from this campus. As a first hand observer both then and now, I simply conclude that, if anything, there are proportionally more homosexuals here now than before, and it appears that the number is steadily increasing. This observation is shared by the Church Authorities who are alarmed at the wave of homosexuality rampant among the youth of the Church. It could be, however, that much of their alarm is more accurately due to their belated realization of how prevalent homosexuality has always been here at BYU. Likewise, we will expect to hear from your department of an increasing number of cured homosexuals since there will be a proportional increase in the number coming to the counseling service for help. The security force will likely catch a few more indiscreet men, some of whom want to be caught. Perhaps they will step up their already extreme and questionable efforts to catch and expel the homosexuals. Together, you will think you are doing something about the problem. Your gestures could not be more futile.
Next fall, virtually hundreds of homosexuals will enter BYU for the first time. The vast majority of these young men will spend their years at BYU without ever coming to the attention of the university or the Church in any way. h this not born out in the experience of Dr. McBride who found it difficult to find even a handful of men who wanted to undergo therapy?
Several years ago, I sat in the annual opening assembly in which President Wilkinson made what was soon to become a traditional statement. He requested all homosexuals who could not "straighten out" to leave the university as he didn't want homosexuals to be "contaminating decent people." The "contaminating influence" is an escape used by ignorant people who cannot face the fact that the large number of homosexuals at BYU are really homosexual. It is much easier to think that "a few extremely devious people are maliciously and wantonly infecting the innocent young men and boys on this campus to join with them in their lustful depravity."
Now that has a certain thundering appeal, especially from the pulpit. We can really get our teeth into that kind of deviltry. As Dr. Tripp observes, "There is much to be savored in righteous indignation." How much harder it is for us to face the cold, stark reality that the fine young man left home just as homosexual as when he was called in by the branch president for sleeping with a friend or by security for making a desperate overture to a police decoy. In spite of all the scare and horror stories about homosexuals here on campus, there has not been one heterosexual student who has ever become a homosexual. As a psychologist, you should know the absurdity of such a simplistic notion.
Homosexuals Ameliorate BYU
The "contaminating influence" also has the connotation of spoiling or
ruining the environment for the "decent people." To make such a statement,
President Wilkinson has to be fundamentally unaware of the real influence
of the thousands of homosexuals who have attended BYU. Of course, he
can, and does, point to the inappropriate behavior of a few isolated
cases but never generalizing in the same way from the sexual peccadilloes
of heterosexuals. The influence of the vast majority of
homosexuals continues to be a very positive force in the progress of
the university. If all homosexuals were to take him seriously,
leave and take with them their "influence," there would be a remarkably
gaping hole in the stature of BYU. The influence of the homosexual in
the Church has been positive and profound from top to bottom, from the
temple sessions to the favorite Mormon hymns we sing each Sunday, from
the Tabernacle Broadcasts to the welfare system. And if all the 22 million
homosexuals in this country were to go along with the position that
they are unfit for employment and, therefore, go on welfare, the country
would go immediately bankrupt.
But in issuing this proclamation, the Church and university are also trying to keep homosexuals from coming to know each other. The church works long and hard to bring together heterosexual couples, and goes to unusual lengths to keep them together, in some cases even where love is absent. The extreme opposite action is taken towards homosexuals. Young men coming for help about homosexuality are uniformly urged to not associate with any other homosexuals. This advice is given in those instances where a very strong bond of love is involved but where the young man is struggling with the social norms and pressures about his sexuality or has been turned in by someone. The following is from President Kimball's instructions to local and stake authorities in counseling the homosexual:
Usually, there will be some resistance, particularly with the abandonment of the people for many perverts will claim to have great "love" for some with whom they have been involved, especially where there has been a sustained relationship, but since the problem is in the mind more than in the body, it is necessary to find a new climate and to make possible the elimination of the evil thoughts which drive him back to his trouble. ("Hope for Transgressors")
One of the most destructive and prevalent tendencies is for the person to separate sexual desire from the expression of tenderness, affection and genuine concern for the other person. The counsel in this pamphlet encourages the homosexual to work that tragic split. He learns to reject any affection for another man while continuing to experience the sexual expression or to endure an agonizing and perpetual emotional desire for a relationship he will not allow himself to have. Promiscuity is the eventual outcome in either case. This is the last kind of behavior the homosexual should be encouraged in. But the foundation for it is laid when the Brethren attempt to undermine the affection and love he originally experienced for a close friend. Instead of destroying homosexuality, the counsel inadvertently destroys the budding ability of the young man to love and be loved. They do not realize that this counsel only increases the tremendous isolation and loneliness for this young man. He will never experience heterosexual love, and the Church forbids the deep, meaningful bond that he is capable of and wanting. The Church goes even further, creating an environment where security decoys, informants, and unstable homosexuals get to know and then arrest or rat on their one-time friends. The general membership of the Church has been urged to tell their bishops of any homosexual members they might know of. Many very fine and essentially innocent people have been picked up, kicked out, and otherwise disposed of. The fact that they were homosexual was enough. It didn't matter if they had committed no offense. This kind of environment is destructive to the personalities of the finest of men.
Most of the young homosexual men here will sooner or later meet and come to love another man. Most of them would prefer their friend to be of the same background and share the same values and faith. Ironically, the Church discourages this, drives the homosexual underground and out of the Church to seek his friends elsewhere. Sadly enough, many do as they are told on this point, and instead of associating openly and maturely among their own kind here, they take to more questionable social settings where their sexuality is accepted but their values seldom respected. Originally, these men were looking for love. They soon find themselves forced into places and lives, where sex, not love, is the name of the game. It is one of those strange contradictions of life that finds the Church directly instrumental in encouraging a loveless, lonely life of dubious morality. As a friend recently said, "The straight couples here don't realize how easy they have it. Here they can date and mix and get to know as many potential mates as they want to before they actually choose who they want to marry. For the homosexual, he is extremely lucky if he should, by accident and in spite of all pressures against it, meet the right person."
As for the young man who joins the Church in the hope of getting help, he had far better be told frankly that the Church can do nothing for him and, therefore, will not accept him as a member. Hundreds of young men, attracted by the message of hope, and often by the clean, bright pair of missionaries or a buddy in the military service, enjoy the short-lived hope that they have at last found the answer. Their membership in the Church soon turns into a nightmare experience.
A number of recent excellent studies have tested the hypothesis subscribed to by Dr. Lee, yourself, and some of your colleagues, that homosexuals are generally less well-adjusted than heterosexuals. Some studies have found that homosexuals tend to be low in such factors as self-esteem. This is not surprising in view of the strong social taboos against homosexuality. Those conducting the studies more often than not attribute the cause directly to society's attitudes towards homosexuality and not to any inherent psychopathology of the homosexual. Most of the studies, however, show that homosexuals are, as a rule, just as well adjusted as heterosexuals and, curiously enough, score even better in some areas of adjustment than do the heterosexuals. Is this not amazing when you consider all the homosexual has to put up with in a society like ours? This is another sound reason why homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disturbances.
Few Seek Professional Counselors
I can appreciate that you would be inclined to dispute such a conclusion
from your own clinical experience with homosexuals. The fact that your
experience is largely clinical is precisely why you have reached an
erroneous appraisal of homosexuality. Don't forget Dr. Cline's caution
to you of your "clinician's bias." Most homosexuals never
go to a psychiatrist or other professional counselor.
Most work through their acceptance on their own, and the process seems
to have added some significant strengths to the personality. This might
account for some of the findings indicated in the studies on homosexual
adjustment. Your sampling is biased in the direction of the minority
who experience considerable difficulty in accepting their sexuality
and who exhibit a greater degree of emotional disturbance than the "normal"
homosexual. You see mainly sick homosexuals and conclude that all homosexuals
are sick. Do you follow the same generalization in your experience with
sick homosexuals? Ah, but you say that you have an abundance of experience
with healthy heterosexuals and a paucity of experience with healthy
homosexuals. You remain oblivious to the fact that most homosexuals
you come in contact with pass in and out of your trained and perceptive
sensibility undetected and are mistaken by you for healthy heterosexuals.
Hoffman, Churchill, Weinburg, Rutenbeek, Bell, Clark, Green, Szasz and a host of others point out that a great deal of the "sickness" observed in the clinical cases of homosexuality can easily and accurately be traced to homophobic elements that pervade our society.
Homosexuals come for help because of difficulties in interpersonal relations like anyone else. However, they are, in addition, very often overwhelmed, shocked and perplexed by the oppression and hate that is so universally directed towards them. Again, like other minorities attempting to survive in a hostile and bigoted environment, they, too, succumb to unrelenting prejudice with reactions of self-doubt, self-blame, and self-hate. After an argument with a lover, a homosexual will say, "Doctor, homosexuals are really sick, sick!"
It is not strange that in this world of lonely and broken people that a professional
mental health worker would actively work to destroy a relationship of
love? Since you insist on wearing both hats—the psychologist's and the
moralist's—can you morally or professionally justify the position taken
by your spokesman, Dr. Socarides in The Overt Homosexual? His
description of the homosexual personality is as accurate as the notion
that Mormons have horns. His personal brand of bigotry has become a
source of acute embarrassment to his profession. Predictably, he has
shown up as the "professional authority" for the Anita Bryant campaign.
If a pun may be allowed, Dr. Socarides and Anita make strange bedfellows.
Many homosexuals have brought the myth of their own inferiority and sadly have cooperated in their own destruction. But this is understandable when every voice, including parents and siblings, condemns and derides. Therapy for the homosexual must at some point help him to love himself and to take pride in the experiment in living that he has undertaken. (Dr. Seidenberg, "The Accursed Race," Homosexuality, ed. by Ruitenbeek)
Being a Mormon and homosexual brings the dilemma into even sharper focus. The "shadow of the creed" with its strong family tradition, sexual purity, and doctrine of celestial marriage is indelibly impressed upon the young man's character. Few religions and even cultures value and practice fellowship to the degree experienced by the Mormons. It is commonly observed that being Mormon is a complete way of life. I'm sure it is of utmost importance to you that you instill these ideals in the lives of your children.
With this consideration, try to imagine the following: Your son, of whom you are very proud and who has been the apple of your eye, comes to you and tells you straightforwardly that he is homosexual. Everything else about him is the same as it has always been, and you have had absolutely no reason to suspect that he ever had any such inclination. He tells you that he has privately attempted every possibility available to him to change, including psychiatrists, Church authorities, repentance, girls, etc., etc. but has finally come to realize and accept the fact that he is homosexual. He now wants your advice, particularly as to what to do about the Church. He has remained active in the Church in the two years following his very successful mission, where he was a counselor to his President. He has been dating and socializing right along with his friends and is an excellent student. He is a good looking young man, athletic, is admired and sought after by a number of girls. You now cringe to remember that at one time you feared he might marry early and run the risk of disrupting his education. You are shocked, incredulous, horrified. You try to dissuade him. He refuses to yield. You frantically scramble to get some kind of help for him. You chase him to this doctor and that doctor, to the very finest regardless of expense. Your many long man-to-man talks with him only serve to raise and then dash your desperate hope. You finally break it to your wife. Again, hysteria, heartbreak, and disbelief. You are frightened that the other children might find out, or worse yet, your friends and neighbors. With each new girl friend dated, you nearly go out of your mind with hope that somehow, this time, this girl will click. After several years of desperation, fasting, and prayer, you slowly begin to realize the stark reality of your son's situation. The fundamental contradiction of life and of what you have always believed to be true is almost beyond your ability to reconcile. Your own flesh and blood—homosexual! You are totally at a loss to understand what happened, what went wrong. How could such a fine young man end up with such a horrible problem? You feel guilty and responsible without knowing what you did wrong or failed to do. Your disappointment becomes almost an open wound as you see your son's friends, one by one, marry and start their own families. Sermons against homosexuality seem to come at you from every side. You struggle to reconcile the Church and your son. You cannot bear losing his allegiance to the Church but their disparaging remarks do not fit him. You know better than anyone that he is not some kind of degenerate pervert. in spite of his homosexuality (it hurts you to even say the word), your son remains one of the finest young men you have ever known and you love him dearly. These aspersions upon his character are offensive. Your irritation at impertinent inquiries about him begins to mount, Going to church requires that you suffer through many high-minded but utterly inane vilifications of the homosexual.
Ah, but you say, "This would never happen to me. My son could never in a million years be homosexual. Not only am I a good father but I know how to raise my boys right, especially on this point." Don't kid yourself. You may be lucky enough to have avoided homosexuality among your sons but then again you may not. Many good men have gone through what I have just described. You might be interested in reading David Hacher's article "What If Your Child Is Gay?" (The National Observer, April 23, 1977). I have talked at length with my own father about it. It required a tremendous amount from him. He is a good father, very loving, a bishop, highcouncilman, faithful and devoted to the Church and his family. My mother, before she died, was never able to accept my homosexuality. On her deathbed, she pleaded with me to marry.
Excommunication is Major Threat
the threat of it will become a major concern for your
son. Is it either practical or wise for him to try to remain active,
to continue to build a life of friends, loved ones and a fundamental
orientation to life which can at any time be so traumatically and finally
ripped out from under him? All that is meaningful and loved is menaced
with a very immediate threat of loss. I have known this to happen to
others and have come perilously close to it myself through the unwitting
actions of ignorant friends. The greatest man spiritually, intellectually,
and personally, that I have ever known suffered this devastating blow
from the Church. The Brethren who sat in the court openly admitted that
they did not understand anything about homosexuality, and it pained
them to take the action. That man was heads and shoulders above an General
Authority I have ever known. His contribution to the Church was extraordinary.
He remains to this day faithful to the Gospel but out of the Church.
The greater loss has been for the Church. Many of the problems the Church
is now facing could have been significantly affected by this one man.
He has continued to enrich his life, confident of his faith in God and
the hereafter. He is far from being the only such case. Many other great
men have been cut off. Some of the most outstanding families of the
Church have had family members ruthlessly cut off from the Church. Even
more tragic are the virtual thousands of men who have, on their own
accord, left the Church rather than face the senseless trauma of excommunication.
ln their experience, the Church's moral rebuke makes as much sense as
if they were blind and then called immoral because they could not see.
Reluctantly or angrily, they leave. I have talked to many of these men.
Some are bitter, some cynical, but most are still very deeply involved
in a struggle to privately hold true to the values and principles of
Excommunication, of course, cuts off and punishes individuals who violate the code of sexual conduct of the Church, but it has never cured one single case of homosexuality. The Church knows only that the member must comply with the program or be judged and punished. It doesn't know the slightest thing about what homosexuality is, how to prevent it, cure it, or even alleviate it. Yet, it is becoming one of the more vocal self-proclaimed authorities on the subject. Excommunication is actually an easy way out for the Church. The process works its effects on both sides. For the Church, it makes it easier to deny the stark reality of the member's experience. The Church no longer has to be troubled with a life that will not conform to the program and perplexing emotions that are counter to what is "supposed to be." In a very crucial way, excommunication is an official denial of existence. But the life of the member continues but now without the benefit of association with loved ones and friends. I have watched the Church take action against a number of homosexuals, and nothing but damage and destruction has come of the action. You would know as a psychologist, that if you persist loud enough in telling a person that he is bad, it will begin to have serious negative effects on him, especially if he comes to believe you.
The Church does feel justified in its position about the immorality of homosexuality. But it also has an obligation to help, not destroy its members, even those who violate its standards. Instead, the Church places primary emphasis on purifying the body of the Church and purging those who don't conform. It tries to either coerce the homosexual into an untenable relationship with the opposite sex or excommunicate him. In almost every case, the Church overwhelms the young man with guilt. In some cases, the guilt produces panic, desperate unpredictability and even suicide. I have been rather close to several such individuals and know of other young returned missionaries who were unable to accept their sexuality and took their lives. I know one who recently came close to suicide. His efforts to get cured and his struggle with the Church are typical. He even talked to President Kimball and came away deeply distressed and disillusioned. It is startling to realize that the Church has unwittingly pushed many men towards suicide, yet failed to cure one of them of homosexuality. It is exactly the failure on the one hand that evokes the irrational desperation on the other. You ought to realize your responsibility on this critical point when you speak of the possibility of curing the homosexual. Some young men take you dead serious.
One of the outstanding authorities on homosexuality was inquiring about the background of a young man whom she was considering for therapy. When she learned he was a Mormon, she exclaimed, "Oh! Those Mormons! What are they doing to their children! They seem to produce more homosexuals and yet they treat them so cruelly!" A therapist in the Los Angeles area recently told me, "I work with more Mormon homosexuals than from any other religion, and I simply cannot understand how a church professing Christian ideals, can do such dastardly things as that church does to its homosexual members. It is shameful. I have one coming with his parents to see me this evening. He is to meet with his bishop tomorrow. I am very concerned about what will happen in that interview."
Should bishops and branch presidents be asking questions in those interviews if they are unprepared to responsibly deal with the answers? Should we be prying into the private lives of our youths to the extent of their learning of homosexuality and masturbation in their interviews with the bishop? This happened to a friend who came home following the interview and asked his mother what it meant. She was embarrassed and told him to just forget about it. He didn't know what the bishop meant but by the way it was asked, he surmised it must be something bad so he replied "no." I think of the father who stood up to a member of the Council of the Twelve at a stake priesthood meeting and challenged the right of his bishop to interview his sixteen-year-old daughter about matters she didn't even understand, with words she had perhaps heard but never connected with, adding to her embarrassment and bewilderment. She was in a bad emotional state when she arrived home, and the father vowed that this must never occur again. He was, in fact, so wrought up about it that he decided to make a public (priesthood meeting) issue of it. The word has never since filtered down through the protest which, by the way, left the congregation of brethren stunned. The General Authority merely said, weakly, "Brethren, you must be careful when you interview these young people." What should have followed was a spontaneous examination of' this whole morbid business. Where else in the whole world would you find a gathering so passive as to let something such as this occur without strong protest?
The Brethren expressed their ignorance forthrightly until recently when
excommunication became the vogue. President McKay, as a counselor in
the First Presidency, learning of the homosexuality of one of the General
Authorities, said he had never heard of it before and had a considerable
struggle trying to believe it. Some of the Brethren continue to say
they do not know what homosexuality is, what causes it or what can be
done about it. One General Authority, who several years ago was curing
homosexuality, now privately admits that there is no known cure. He
has a child who is a homosexual and perhaps this discovery has brought
him to this realization. Several of the Brethren are to this day extremely
uncomfortable over the excommunication way out for the Church. They
connect with the homosexual at least enough to realize that no one involved
in that extreme judgement and sentencing can put himself in the position
of the accused, and condemned, as they could easily do in dealing with
an adulterer. The nightmare aspect of this procedure is taxing, and
many bishops and stake presidents sweep it
under the rug to avoid public confrontation in the form of a trial.
I know of four cases over the past few months of bishops who have been
told by missionary candidates that they have recently had homosexual
sex but are repentant and vowed never to do it again; they have been
cautioned, counseled, worried over, and sent on missions. I know of
one other situation where the confession involved three others besides
the confessor, all in one stake. The bishop put the lid on it rather
than embark on the benighted journey required by Church policy. This
reluctance on the part of some leaders indicates something distantly
hopeful. When President Kimball bemoans the fact, as he does often in
private counsel, that bishops and stake presidents are negligent in
following through with the cure procedure, we begin to get some light
on the real, the actual response of these bishops and stake presidents;
something tells them there's much more to the homosexual phenomenon
than is accounted for by the "evil habit" explanation. They readily
tell you they know nothing about it even after reading President Kimball's
instructions to them. They don't know what to do to help except encourage
against resigning or acting out the homosexual urge. Here they have
all good intentions, a sincere effort to help, the authority of their
office and the spiritual discernment which comes with their appointment,
and they still are ineffective. How many bishops do you know who are
capable of curing homosexuality? Is your bishop the person you would
go to to get cured if you were homosexual? Does President Kimball suppose
a ward or stake leader would be derelict in performing so great a service
to a self-despising homosexual if he knew what to do? What, besides
ineffectual, repetitious conferences between the bishop and the homosexual,
can be done? The bishop is the one who eventually calls a halt to these
You are a psychologist who gives lectures on homosexuality. Can you enlighten the Brethren? If all you have to offer in your lectures on homosexuality is what you get from the Church, then what are you doing occupying the time of students who come to a psychology class not to get moral judgements, but information from an expert in the field of psychology? This type of ill-informed, moralizing sermon on homosexuality which has lately become fashionable for Sacrament meetings and Sunday school classes, has no place in a university psychology class. You seem to be going out of your way to satisfy those critics of your field who maintain that psychologists are nothing more than theologians outfitted with a new jargon to articulate old doctrines long since passé.
I suggest that you go back to the library. Read Dr. Tripp's The Homosexual Matrix. This book should be required reading for all psycho-therapists and particularly for anyone interested in the subject of homosexuality. And if you haven't done so already, pick up Thomas Szasz's The Manufacture of Madness. Obviously, I do not agree with everything in these books (the same applies to all material I have referred to) but their unique perceptions and experiences may encourage you to rethink your position.
I have wondered about the psychologists and psychiatrist members of
the Church who confine themselves to the clinic instead of moving from
couch to pulpit as you do. I know a few such members, and I know of
others. Those I know hold responsible positions of leadership in the
Church. Some of them are, as you well know, taken advantage of by members
of the Church who know them, and many a desperate young man has come
to his fellow ward or stake member seeking help. I'm confident that
most of them honestly confess they don't know what to do. I have a feeling
that their silence in the program to "rehabilitate" the homosexual is
partly due to their awareness that the Church is only gradually coming
around to making some slight allowance for their profession. Doesn't
Bruce R. McConkie in his first edition of Mormon Doctrine call
psychotherapy a form of "apostate religion"? These men, who want the
blessings of full fellowship in the Church, console themselves with
the prospects of wider acceptance, especially if they can keep a discrete
silence. I have problems about that rationalization. I think there are
enough of them to have an effect. Will the newly created Institute for
Studies in Values and Human Behavior live up to its name and boldly
push forward the frontiers of our limited knowledge of homosexuality
or does this promising name indicate an attempt at window dressing to
make your profession more acceptable to the Brethren?
Lest you misunderstand me, I must clarify that I am advocating nothing; certainly I am not advocating homosexuality. I wish very much that tomorrow I could awake and never again have to face the difficulty of being homosexual. The greatest hope I hold is to be able to marry and begin to raise my own family. You have no idea of the envy I experience as I see my brothers, sisters, and close friends marry and have children. In spite of all I know and have experienced about curing the homosexual, I still cannot let go of the eventual possibility of it for myself. But it is an undeniable fact that I am homosexual, and complete honesty in relationships precludes my getting married.
Joseph Smith said that one of the virtues of Jesus as the Christ was that he was able to endure more contradictions than any other man. Homosexuality is for me a fundamental contradiction of my life. In spite of all my efforts and desires to change, homosexuality remains an incontrovertible, unalterable fact of who I am. Difficult as it may be, the Church must also face up to this contradiction instead of desperately and irresponsibly clinging to a position that has no basis in reality. Throughout the Church, the individual homosexual is more and more coming to realize how little the Church has to offer him on this problem. The days of passive acceptance of humiliation and discrimination are over. As the homosexual becomes less and less willing to submit to this damaging influence 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.
With severe and vicious persecution in the name of "religion" still fresh in our Mormon heritage, will we as a Church now return in kind? Are we, as a people, vulnerable to the charismatic self-righteous demagogue? Will we let a clever whipped up emotional appeal return us to the mentality of the Missouri tar and feather days? Will Mormons now join the long shameful tradition of religious fervor working its inhumanity upon mankind, epitomized in the now famous slogan "Kill a queer for Jesus"–a slogan arising directly out of the Leviticus reference now used to rally the congregations across the land to outlaw homosexuality? Will we be wafted away with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" or will we calmly, rationally and maturely attempt to understand the application of the Gospel to one of the most perplexing and difficult experiences of life? A real test of the Gospel in action may be in the impending experience for the Mormons. This is not going to be an ordinary experience for the membership as there are no ready-made answers—indeed, many of the very fundamental questions have not yet been asked by the Church. Decisions resulting from this experience will stand as a testimony to the real morality of the entire Church. The prospects are not encouraging. We are already steeped in a strong emotional bias and are profoundly ignorant. Are we capable of defusing the already high-pitched emotions so that we can soberly and responsibly reflect on the lives and experiences of tens of thousands of our fellow members? Can we afford to continue hiding our eyes from the consequences of our "official position! The official scorn and contempt is not for weirdo freaks off in some remote city dive.
We belong to your Priesthood quorum, we teach your Sunday school class, we pass the Sacrament to you each Sunday, we attend your primary classes, your faculty meetings, your family reunions and your youth conferences. We sell you your groceries, we keep your books, we police your streets and we teach your children in school. We preside over your wards and even your stakes. We are your sons, your brothers, your grandsons, and who knows but by some riddle of nature, we would be you. We ask only what we require of ourselves--respect for others, respect for life, acknowledgment of our limitations, the assurance of our God-given right to understand and live the Gospel to our fullest potential, and above all, that God is our judge.
My position is simple: Those who insist on speaking out on homosexuality should first know what they are talking about. The responsible and wise person will abstain from continuing to build the fires of ignorance, prejudice and misconception. If there are ever answers to the questions which homosexuality raises, they will not come from an environment that is averse to reality. Perhaps the day will come when you and I can sit down face to face and calmly and rationally discuss this to our mutual benefit. I regret that at present, your position requires that I protect myself through anonymity, a fact I find to be almost incredible for someone of your profession. Where else in the academic world could you find the like of it?