Homosexuality and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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The law of chastity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) states that "sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife." In principle, this commandment forbids all same-sex sexual behavior (whether intra-marriage or extramarital). Homosexuality-related violations of the law of chastity may result in church discipline.
Members of the church who experience homosexual attractions, including those who self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, may remain in good standing in the church if they abstain from sexual relations (outside of opposite-sex marriage). Although no one, including those participating in same-sex sexual behavior, is forbidden from LDS Church Sunday worship services, acquiring and maintaining membership in the church and receiving a temple recommend is dependent upon observing the law of chastity's prohibition of sexual relationships outside of a marital relationship between husband and wife.
Although the LDS Church has taught that homosexuality is a curable condition, it now states that "individuals do not choose to have such attractions" and that therapy focusing on "a change in sexual orientation" is "unethical". The church teaches that regardless of the cause of same sex attraction, "immoral relationships" must be abjured.
The LDS Church has campaigned against government recognition of same-sex marriage, and the issue of same-sex marriage has been one of the church's foremost political concerns since the 1990s. For example, church members represented as much as 80 to 90 percent of the early volunteers petitioning voters door-to-door and 50 percent of the campaign funds in support of California Proposition 8 (2008). The church supported a Salt Lake City ordinance protecting members of the LGBT community against discrimination in employment and housing while at the same time allowing religious institutions to discriminate in hiring or providing university accommodations, stating it remained "unequivocally committed to defending the bedrock foundation of marriage between a man and a woman."
In November 2015, the church updated its policies regarding those in legal same-sex unions, stating that such couples are apostates from the church. Its new policies also bar such couples' children—either adopted or biological—from being baptized, confirmed, ordained and participating in mission service until reaching adulthood and obtaining permission from the First Presidency.
History and background
The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, two publications that the LDS Church considers to be scripture, are silent on subjects specific to homosexuality. Sexual immorality, coupled with forsaking one's ministry which led to the destruction of faith of others, was described in the Book of Mormon as the "most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost."
The LDS Church teaches that the Bible forbids homosexuality, when it states, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible clarifies the KJV translation of Paul's condemnation of homosexual practices, as found in the Epistle to the Romans.
D. Michael Quinn has suggested that early church leaders had a more tolerant view of homosexuality, but apostle Gordon B. Hinckley has stated that prophets have always considered any immoral sexual conduct, including homosexual behavior, as a "grievous sin."
The first church leader to publicly use the term "homosexuality" was First Presidency member J. Reuben Clark in 1952. In an address to the General Relief Society Conference entitled, "Home, and the Building of Home Life," he said "the person who teaches or condones the crimes for which Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed—we have coined a softer name for them than came from old; we now speak of homosexuality, which it is tragic to say, is found among both sexes."
Valeen Avery suggested that Joseph Smith's son, David Hyrum Smith (1844–1904), may have had homosexual tendencies. During the early days of the church, when gay or lesbian intercourse was discovered, the accused was sometimes disfellowshipped or excommunicated, beginning with the first known case in 1841 involving alleged bisexuality by church leader John C. Bennett.
As an illness
In 1959, in response to a rash of arrests of gay men in Utah and Idaho, church president David O. McKay assigned apostles Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Petersen to work on curing gays within the church. At the time, the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classified homosexuality as a mental illness, and Kimball was adamant that it could be cured. Speaking to church educators and LDS psychiatrists in 1965, Kimball said, citing a Medical World News article, that "[w]e know such a disease is curable," and that ex-gay Mormons had emerged from the church's counseling programs cured, although the cure was "like the cure for alcoholism subject to continued vigilance". In 1970, Kimball was involved in creating an LDS publication for church leaders to "assist them to effect a cure and ... become normal again". The pamphlet taught that church leaders may assist gay members by reciting scripture; appealing to their reason; encouraging them to abandon gay lovers and associates; praying with them; and encouraging them to replace their gay lifestyle with positive action and straight dating. The pamphlet emphasized that "[h]omosexuality CAN be cured".
As a tendency
In 1992, when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses classified by the International Classification of Diseases, the church produced a booklet for leaders entitled Understanding and Helping Those With Homosexual Problems, which removed all reference to homosexuality as a disease, instead framing it as "sinful behavior" that "should be eliminated" as well as "thoughts and feelings" which "should be overcome". The church frequently references contemporary scientific research, but explains that this should not be taken as an official church position on "scientific questions," such as the causes of homosexuality.
As a confusion of gender
On several occasions while discussing homosexuality, church leaders have alluded to their belief that the homosexual individual may be confused about their gender identity or gender roles. Examples of this include the following:
- The church published a guide in 1973 for bishops and stake presidents titled "Homosexuality: Welfare Services Packet 1", which alluded to this "gender confusion" by specifying that the lesbian "needs to learn feminine behavior", and the gay man "must be introduced to and learn the heterosexual or 'straight' way of life ... and what a manly priesthood leader and father does".
- Another publication on homosexuality was produced by the church in 1978 containing the text of Packer's speech "To the One". In it Packer stated that "one cannot increase masculinity or femininity by deviate physical contact with one of his own gender". He continued, "When one projects [him or herself] in some confused role-playing way with those of the same gender in an effort to become more masculine or more feminine, something flips over and precisely the opposite results ... a female can become, in her emotions, less feminine and more masculine and confused ... because the body cannot change, the emotional part may struggle to transform itself into the opposite gender" sending the individual "on a hopeless, futile quest for identity where it can never be achieved".
- In the April 1981 General Conference, church Seventy Hartman Rector Jr. implies an alleged connection between gender and sexual orientation in his speech "Turning the Hearts". He said "I do not believe" that homosexuals "were born that way" because "[t]here are no female spirits trapped in male bodies and vice versa."
- The 1981 church guide for LDS Social Services employees called Understanding and Changing Homosexual Orientation Problems, instructed that "the homosexually oriented man ... does not fully understand how a masculine man is supposed to think and act."
- In 1993 Packer gave his May 18 "Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council" (composed of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric) where he stated that a man who self-identifies as a homosexual has "gender disorientation". The church's 1995 LDS Family Services manual "Understanding and Helping Individuals with Homosexual Problems" advised practitioners that "in the homosexual male this core gender identity has become confused".
- Jeffrey R. Holland was interviewed by PBS in March 2006 with questions about various topics including homosexuality for a four-hour special called The Mormons. Holland used the phrase "struggling with gender identity" and "gender confusion" as synonyms for homosexuality.
- In 2006 Lance B. Wickman of the Seventy used the term 'gender orientation' five times as a synonym for 'sexual orientation' as seen in his statement, "the wisest course for anybody who’s afflicted with same-gender attraction is to strive to extend one’s horizon beyond just one’s sexual orientation, one’s gender orientation, and to try to see the whole person".
Since then the church has acknowledged differences between gender identity and sexual orientation stating that they have "unfinished business in teaching on [transgender situations]". The official website on homosexuality states that "same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria are very different ... those who experience gender dysphoria may or may not also experience same-sex attraction, and the majority of those who experience same-sex attraction do not desire to change their gender. From a psychological and ministerial perspective, the two are different."
Proposed historical tolerance
D. Michael Quinn has suggested that early church leaders had a more tolerant view of homosexuality. He argues that during the 19th century, the church (like American society as a whole) was relatively tolerant of same-sex intimate relationships, although many such relationships had no sexual component, and among those that did the evidence is usually circumstantial.
Quinn also states that some active and prominent members of the church in Utah were not disciplined after publicizing that they were living in intimate relationships with their same-sex domestic partners, although there is no clear evidence these relationships involved sex. These included Evan Stephens, who had been director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir until 1916 and is the author of numerous standard church hymns, who remained single but had intimate relationships and shared the same bed with a series of male domestic partners and traveling companions. Some of these relationships were described under a pseudonym in The Children's Friend. Also notable were Louise B. Felt and May Anderson, the church's first two general presidents of the Primary, who lived together in the same bedroom for decades and were referred to by Primary leaders as the "David and Jonathan" of Primary.
Two LDS writers have called Quinn's interpretations a distortion of LDS history. They deny that previous leaders of the church tolerated or accepted of homosexuality and state that the position of the current leadership "is entirely consistent with the teachings of past leaders and with the scriptures." They disagree with Quinn's theory that Stephens was involved in intimate relationships with other men or that the article in The Children's Friend was about these relationships, stating that Stephens was "known only as a strictly moral Christian gentleman." They also note that Anderson originally came to Felt's house at the request of her husband to be with his wife during her illness, and they argue that there was not any sexual component to their relationship.
Current theology and policy
In 1999, Gordon B. Hinckley, president of the church, officially welcomed gay people in the church, and in an interview affirmed them as "good people": "Now we have gays in the church. Good people. We take no action against such people—provided they don't become involved in transgression, sexual transgression. If they do, we do with them exactly what we'd do with heterosexuals who transgress". The church teaches that homosexual problems can be overcome "through faith in God, sincere repentance, and persistent effort." "Homosexual relations" is included on the church's list of "serious transgressions" that may result in a disciplinary council and, if the person does not desist, excommunication. The church defines "serious transgressions" to include "murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, spouse abuse, intentional serious physical injury of others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations (especially sexual cohabitation), deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, theft, embezzlement, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, and false swearing".
In November 2015, the church clarified that its members who are in a same-sex marriage are in apostasy and would be subject to church discipline. Prior to this, local leadership had more discretion in whether or how far to pursue church disciplinary action for members in same-sex marriages. Local church leaders still have discretion for same-sex couples who are cohabiting but not married. While explicitly including same-sex marriage in the church's definition of apostasy, the November 2015 update also addressed children of same-sex couples. In the updated policy, children living in a same-sex household may not receive a name and a blessing, nor be baptized until at least 18 years of age, and must disavow same-sex marriage and no longer be living with a parent who is, or has been, in a same-sex relationship.
Terminology used by the church
Although there is no official policy to this effect, some church leaders have stated that "homosexual", "lesbian", and "gay" should be used as adjectives to describe thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, and never as nouns to describe people. Not all leaders adhere to this approach. For example, Hinckley once stated in a public interview that "we have gays in the church". Those leaders who adopt this position argue that using these words to denote a person rather than a feeling would imply a person has no choice in regards to their sexual behavior. Church leaders and organizations have made reference to homosexuality as a sexual orientation but have not directly addressed bisexuality. According to apostle Dallin H. Oaks, church references condemning homosexuality are to be interpreted as a condemnation of sexual behavior, not of the people who have certain sexual feelings.
"Homosexual problems", according to popular church vernacular, are defined as "homoerotic thoughts, feelings, or behaviors." In describing people with homosexual feelings, the church and its members will often refer to "same-gender attractions". This is used in contrast to people who have problems with opposite-gender attraction. "Marriage" is defined by the church as being between a man and a woman. To many in the church, same-sex marriages are not considered a legitimate form of marriage, and the church supports the notion of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The church does not condemn what it calls "susceptibilities," "inclinations", or "temptations" of any type that are not acted upon, pointing to the example of the temptation of Christ. Members with homosexual "inclinations" can participate as all other members of the church and if they remain celibate or heterosexually married, they can participate in the religion to the same extent as straight members. Heterosexual marriage is considered a sacred covenant which should generally not be pursued if homosexual feelings are not under control. Those with same-gender attractions are encouraged to talk to their ecclesiastical leader. They are encouraged not to let their sexual feelings be the sole defining factor in their lives, but to see the whole person, extending their horizons beyond their sexual orientation. They are advised that they should be careful not to blame their parents.
However, church leaders recognize the loneliness and difficulty that those with homosexual inclinations may have and encourage other members to reach out to them. Oaks has said, “All should understand that persons (and their family members) struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction are in special need of the love and encouragement that is a clear responsibility of church members, who have signified by covenant their willingness to bear one another's burden and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The church does not participate in debate on whether homosexual susceptibilities develop from "nature" or "nurture", suggesting that such debates are better left to science. Oaks has admitted that "perhaps such susceptibilities are inborn or acquired without personal choice" and "may have some relationship to inheritance," citing some scientific research. However, the church teaches that these inclinations will not continue beyond death and that gender and gender roles are an eternal and essential characteristic of a soul.
The church teaches that all members should take responsibility in bridling their thoughts, attitudes, feelings, desires, and passions. All members are taught to avoid any talk or activity that may arouse immoral sexual feelings. Members are taught to "let virtue garnish [their] thoughts unceasingly." Apostle Richard G. Scott has taught that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, all desire to sin can be changed and individuals can experience lasting peace.
For those with same-gender attractions, church leaders counsel that "the line of prudence is between the susceptibility and the feelings." The church teaches that everyone has feelings they did not choose, and homosexual feelings can be powerful and difficult to control but "regardless of the causes, these problems can be controlled and eventually overcome." Even though there is no church discipline for homosexual thoughts or feelings, the church teaches they should learn to accept responsibility for homosexual feelings and cite examples of how those born with inclinations to alcoholism, anger, or other undesirable traits have been able to control their thoughts and actions. With better understanding of moral law, they teach these problems will be able to be fixed "routinely."
The church teaches that members should not indulge in activities that will intensify homosexual feelings, such as viewing pornography, masturbating, or participating in homosexual behavior. "Unhealthy" relationships, such as those with people that encourage homosexual behavior, should be cut off, and the very appearance of evil should be avoided. Bishops of the church are counseled to be careful to avoid creating circumstances in which those with homosexual problems are exposed to temptations.
In 1991, the church issued a statement that read:
Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife appropriately expressed within the bonds of marriage. Any other sexual contact, including fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior is sinful .... We plead with those involved in such behavior to forsake it.
The church has also taught that homosexual behavior distorts loving relationships, undermines the divinely created institution of the family and can become an addiction. Church discipline for homosexual activity is similar to that for members involved in heterosexual activity. For example, pre-marital sex of either kind may permanently bar a person from serving as a church missionary.
The church teaches that homosexual behavior has always been a grievous sin. In 1976, apostle Boyd K. Packer taught:
There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just "that way" and can only yield to those desires. It is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life ... Boys are to become men—masculine, manly men—ultimately to become husbands and fathers.
Although church leaders condemn the sin of homosexual behavior, they teach love for the men and women who experience homosexual attraction, including for those who pursue some form of homosexual lifestyle: "We should reach out with kindness and comfort to the afflicted, ministering to their needs and assisting them with their problems." Church leaders have spoken out against "gay-bashing" and other physical or verbal attacks on those involved in homosexual behavior.
Church president Spencer W. Kimball stated that he finds it hard to believe that one would choose to be homosexual by a conscious decision; instead, he suggested that it might be a spiritual disorder—with its roots in selfishness—resulting in feelings that must be overcome or suppressed. Kimball emphasized that the behavior is changeable, and if not repented of, may result in church discipline including excommunication under the direction of the bishop. Kimball maintained that the cure comes through following the basic rules for moral and spiritual health for a long period of time with undeviating determination.
Treatment and views of lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons
Packer addressed youth in the church dealing with homosexual attractions and stated:
We understand why some feel we reject them. That is not true. We do not reject you, only immoral behavior. We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you. You may even feel that we do not love you. That also is not true. Parents know, and one day you will know, that there are times when parents and we who lead the Church must extend tough love when failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy.
The church pamphlet "God Loveth His Children" acknowledges that some gays "have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love." It criticizes those members, and challenges gays to show love and kindness so the members can "change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully."
Criticisms and Responses
A 2003 nationwide Pew Research Center survey of over 1,000 LGBT Americans found that 83% of them said the LDS church was "generally unfriendly towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people" surpassed only by "the Muslim religion" at 84%.
In 2008 a Georgia Tech gay-rights manual referred to the LDS Church as "anti-gay." After two students sued the school for discrimination, a judge ordered that the material be removed.
Boyd K. Packer delivered his "Cleansing the Inner Vessel" October 2010 conference address in which he characterized same-sex physical attractions as "impure and unnatural" tendencies that can be "overcome". This sparked a protest of thousands of individuals on October 7 which surrounded Temple Square.
In November 2015, the church updated its handbook banning a "child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship" from baby blessings, baptism, confirmation, priesthood ordination, and missionary service until the child had moved out, was "of legal age", "disavow[ed] the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage", and received approval from the Office of the First Presidency. The policy update also added entering a same-sex marriage as a type of "apostasy" mandating a disciplinary council. In response 1,500 members gathered across from the church's offices to submit their resignation letters, though the vast majority of active members supported the policy on same-sex parents and their children.
Boyd K. Packer
Quinn has pointed to apostle Packer's "To Young Men Only" as evidence of problematic attitudes in the LDS Church towards homosexuals. In the sermon, Packer encourages teenage boys to avoid immoral activities, which he says includes viewing pornography, masturbating, participating in homosexual behavior, and participating in sexual relations outside of marriage. Packer encourages young Latter-day Saints to "vigorously resist" any males "who entice young men to join them in these immoral acts." Packer cites the example of a male missionary he had known who punched his missionary companion for making romantic advances. Packer says he told the missionary, "Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it, and it wouldn't be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way." After telling the story, Packer comments, "I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself." Packer has offered a similar warning against heterosexual advances, but without the threat of violence in return: "Never let anyone handle you or touch those very personal parts of your body which are an essential link in the ongoing of creation".
Quinn has argued that the obliqueness of these vague comments constitute an endorsement of gay bashing by Packer, and that the church itself endorsed such behavior by continuing to publish Packer's speech in pamphlet form. However, in 1995, Oaks said, "Our doctrines obviously condemn those who engage in so-called 'gay bashing'—physical or verbal attacks on persons thought to be involved in homosexual or lesbian behavior." In 2016, the church ceased publication of the pamphlet and it was removed from the church's website.
Hinckley declared that heterosexual "marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices, which first should clearly be overcome with a firm and fixed determination never to slip to such practices again."
Unless this is done, a person who has had homosexual feelings cannot enter marriage in good faith and doing so can damage the lives of others. Church leaders are warned that encouraging members to cultivate heterosexual feelings generally leads to frustration and discouragement. They speak against those who enter into marriages under false pretense.
The church maintains that it is possible to overcome same-sex relationships. It notes that some have reported that heterosexual feelings can emerge once freed from homosexual problems. It would be appropriate for those with homosexual feelings to get married if they "have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity." Several members of the church have dealt with their attractions sufficiently to get married.
Some gay and lesbian members of the LDS Church have thought that they should get married because of the church's doctrines on marriage. The church teaches that heterosexual marriage is one of several requirements for entry into the "highest degree of glory" of the celestial kingdom, the highest level of heaven. Marriage between a man and a woman is considered an essential part in the LDS belief of attaining that heaven. Therefore, the LDS Church teaches that the family is the fundamental unit of society in this life and in heaven. However, the church has taught that such a family must not come about through deceit or lies. Those who do not have an opportunity to be married in this life have been promised that they will have an opportunity to do so in the afterlife; this promise has been reiterated with respect to those with homosexual attractions. Leaders have said that homosexual attractions will not continue past death, and that if the individual is faithful in this life, they will receive every blessing in the eternities, including eternal marriage.
The LDS Church reserves the right to become involved in political matters if it perceives that there is a moral issue at stake. Apostle M. Russell Ballard has said the church is "locked in" if anything interferes with the principle of marriage being between a man and a woman, and a very careful evaluation is made to determine what is appropriate and what is not. In February 2003, the LDS Church said it did not oppose a hate-crimes bill, which included sexual orientation, then under consideration in the Utah state legislature. The church opposes same-sex marriage, but does not object to rights regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference. In November 2008, the day after California voters approved Proposition 8, the LDS Church stated that it does not object to domestic partnership or civil union legislation as long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches. Following two months of negotiations between top Utah gay rights leaders and mid-level church leaders, the church supported a gay rights bill in Salt Lake City which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and employment, calling them "common-sense rights". The law does not apply to housing or employment provided by religious organizations. Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland argued that it could be a model for the rest of the state. After the passage of Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the U.S. Senate, the LDS Church has not taken a position on the act.
Although the church has previously stated that it will end its nine-decade-long affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America if homosexual conduct is permitted, it now supports the BSA's 2013 policy change that permits membership to youth regardless of sexual orientation. The LDS Church is the largest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, the LDS Church began to focus its attention on the issue of same-sex marriages. In 1993, the Supreme Court of Hawaii held that discrimination against same-sex couples in the granting of marriage licenses violated the Hawaiian constitution. In response, the church's First Presidency issued a statement on February 13, 1994 declaring the church's opposition to same-sex marriage, and urging its members to support efforts to outlaw gay and lesbian marriages. With the assistance of the LDS Church and several other religious organizations, the Hawaii legislature enacted a bill in 1994 outlawing same-sex marriages.
In response to the defeat of the church on Hawaii's same-sex marriage passage, the LDS Church released "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" in a 1995 statement by church president and prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, which reaffirmed the LDS Church's doctrinal stance that marriage is between a man and a woman. This stance has been called into question by LGBT activists due to the LDS Church's history of polygamy.
In 2004, the church officially endorsed an amendment to the United States Constitution banning marriage except between a man and a woman. The church also officially announced its opposition to political measures that "confer legal status on any other sexual relationship" than "a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife." Although the statement was directed specifically to gay marriage, the statement could also be read to encompass political opposition by the church to recognizing civil unions, common-law marriages, plural marriages, or other family arrangements. Support of an amendment in California has caused Mark Leno to question whether the church's tax-exempt status should be revoked.
On August 13, 2008, the church released an article further elaborating why it teaches that gay marriage will be detrimental to society; the letter also encouraged church members living in California to use resources necessary in support of Proposition 8, which proposed defining marriage as only a union between one man and one woman. The church asked its membership to donate time and money towards the initiative. Church members accounted for 80 to 90 percent of the volunteers who campaigned door-to-door and as much as half of the nearly $40 million raised. The church's political involvement and stance on homosexuality was denounced by the 2010 documentary film 8: The Mormon Proposition. The church was criticized for its involvement by non-members and by some of its members, and in 2010, general authority Marlin K. Jensen personally apologized to church members in California for the church's role.
On December 20, 2013, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down the Utah ban on same-sex marriage, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. In response, the church released instructions to leaders regarding same-sex marriage in Utah. It stated that, while the church disagrees with the court ruling, those who obtain same-sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully. However, church officers are prohibited from employing their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages, and meetinghouses or other properties are not allowed to be used for ceremonies, receptions or other activities associated with same-sex marriages.
In November 2015, the church clarified that its members who are in a same-sex marriage are in apostasy and may be subject to church discipline. Children of parents who are in same-sex relationships must wait until they are 18 years old and disavow homosexual relationships before they can be baptized.
Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University (BYU) is the largest religious university in North America and is the flagship institution of the LDS Church's educational system. In order to attend BYU, students must abide by the school's Honor Code. Several LGBT rights organizations have criticized BYU's Honor Code and The Princeton Review has regularly ranked BYU among the most LGBT-unfriendly schools in the United States.
Before 1959 there was little explicit mention of homosexuality by BYU administration, but by 1962 a ban on homosexual students was enacted. On 12 September 1962, apostles Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Peterson and BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson agreed on a university policy that "no one will be admitted as a student ... whom we have convincing evidence is a homosexual". They agreed to share information about individuals cases of homosexual members between general church administration and BYU administration. This policy was reiterated in Wilkinson's address to BYU in September 1965 when he stated "we [do not] intend to admit to this campus any homosexuals. ... [I]f any of you have this tendency, ... may I suggest you leave the University immediately .... We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence." The next month General authorities again stated that the "University does not permit any known homosexual to enter or remain at BYU", though they decided "for the purposes of admission or retention at BYU" that masturbation (or "self abuse") was "not considered homosexuality". This decision forbidding the enrollment of homosexuals at BYU was again repeated in meetings on 27 January 1966 and 25 January 1968 and was codified in the 1967 version of the Honor code. The approved version read "homosexuality will not be tolerated", while the proposed sentence banning "masturbation" was removed in committee.
The complete ban on any students with a homosexual orientation was softened a decade later by Wilkinson's successor, Dallin H. Oaks, in a 19 April 1973 Board of Trustees meeting. There it was decided BYU would allow students who had "repented of" homosexual acts and "forsaken" them for a "lengthy period of time." Additionally, students "guilty of irregular sexual behavior" (not including fornication or adultery equivalents) who were "repentant" and "showed evidence" that the act(s) would "not be repeated" would be admitted while "overt and active homosexuals" would still be barred from remaining and enrollment.
In 1950, 1961, and 1972 BYU Sociology professor Wilford E. Smith conducted a survey of thousands of Mormon students at several universities including many from the BYU sociology department as part of a larger survey. His data spanning over 20 years found that 10% of BYU men and 2% of BYU women indicated having had a "homosexual experience". He also found that "the response of Mormons [at BYU] did not differ significantly from the response of Mormons in state universities".
The Honor Code was reworded in Fall 2007 after several students argued that the previous wording was confusing and unclear, restricting sexual identity instead of sexual behavior. Advocacy of homosexuality and the promotion of homosexual relations as being morally acceptable was explicitly mentioned as being "against the honor code" until a change of the Code in early 2011. It is now explicit that sexual orientation is not an honor code issue.
In 2010, a group called "Understanding Same-Gender Attraction," consisting of BYU students and other members of the Provo community, began meeting on campus to discuss issues relating to homosexuality and the LDS Church. However, by December 2012, USGA was told it could no longer hold meetings on BYU's campus, although a BYU spokesperson in 2014 disputed that the university had made such a request.
Aversion therapy at BYU
Shortly after the 21 May 1959 meeting of BYU president Ernest L. Wilkinson and apostles on the executive committee of the Church Board of Education discussing the "growing problem in our society of homosexuality" BYU began administering "aversion therapy" to "cure," "repair," or "reorient" homosexual tendencies among Mormon males. BYU mental health counselors, LDS bishops, stake presidents, mission presidents, general authorities, the BYU Standards Office (equivalent to today's Honor Code Office) all referred young men to the BYU program. Because of religious considerations, On 22 September 1969 BYU administration decided to reduce the amount of the on-campus "electrical aversive therapy" used to treat (among other things) "sexual deviancy". Gerald J. Dye who was over the University Standards Office from 1971 to 1980 (renamed the Honor Code Office in 1991) stated that part of the "set process" for homosexual BYU students referred to his office for "less serious" offenses was to require that they undergo therapy to remain at BYU and that in special cases this included "electroshock and vomiting aversion therapies".
In an independent BYU newspaper article two men describe their experience with the BYU Aversion therapy program during the early 1970s. After confessing to homosexual tendencies they were referred to the BYU Counseling Center where the electroshock aversion therapy took place using pornographic pictures of males and females. Jon, one of the individuals implied that the treatment was completely ineffective.
In 1975 to 1976 Max Ford McBride a student at BYU conducted electroshock aversion therapy on 17 men (with 14 completing the treatment) and published a dissertation on the use of electrical aversive techniques to treat ego-dystonic homosexuality. The thesis documents the use of "Electrical Aversion Therapy" on 14 homosexual men using a "phallometric" apparatus, "barely tolerable" shocks, and "nude male visual-cue stimuli". Although it is unknown whether top LDS Church leaders were all aware of the electroshock aversion therapy program, it is known that Apostles Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E Peterson were and leaders involved in LDS Social Services thought the therapy was effective. At the time, homosexuality was considered by the medical community as a psychiatric condition, and aversion therapy was one of the more common methods used to try to cure it. In 1966, Martin Seligman had conducted a study at the University of Pennsylvania that demonstrated positive results, which led to "a great burst of enthusiasm about changing homosexuality [that] swept over the therapeutic community." After flaws were demonstrated in Seligman's experiments, aversion therapy fell out of popularity, and in 1994 the American Medical Association issued a report that stated "aversion therapy is no longer recommended for gay men and lesbians."
Participant in the 1975-76 BYU study, Don Harryman, wrote that he experienced "burns on [his] arms and ... emotional trauma". Another participant John Clarence Cameron, who wrote a play called "14" about his experiences, said "it didn’t change anything except increase my self-loathing. I didn’t know the ramifications of the experiment until years later". Cameron continued stating that he "would like everyone to tell the truth, admit the mistakes that took place, and stop trying to act like it didn't happen" Another one of the test subjects describes his experiences stating "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 ... I was shutting down, turning off.... I was making my life miserable by a pervasive denial of who I am."
Additionally, 'Rocky' Connell O'Donovan describe the attempts by the University to 'cure' his homosexuality' through vomit-inducing aversion therapy as well as elecytroshock aversion therapy. Raymond King also describes having undergone electroshock aversion therapy at BYU in the 1996 short documentary Legacies. The documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition also contains an interview wherein Bruce Barton states that BYU coerced him into vomit aversion therapy, as well as electroshock therapy, which later precipitated in his suicide attempt.
In 2011 BYU admitted to the past use of electroshock therapy but denies that it had ever used vomit-inducing therapy "in the BYU Counseling Center" (which has been in the Wilkinson Student Center since 1964). However, the students that underwent the treatment have stated that the vomit therapy took place in the basement of the Psychology department's Joseph F. Smith Family Living Center (built in 1957, demolished in 2002). One BYU psychologist Dr. Steven Lars Nielsen is quoted in a "question and answer" article on the BYU website as stating that aversion therapy may have taken place at BYU while he was an undergraduate student in the late 70's, but it "would have been a rare thing".
In 2016, the church's official website states, "While shifts in sexuality can and do occur for some people, it is unethical to focus professional treatment on an assumption that a change in sexual orientation will or must occur."
When asked the church's position on conversion therapy in 2006, Wickman responded: "It may be appropriate for that person to seek therapy. Certainly the Church doesn't council against that kind of therapy." Oaks continued, "[t]he Church rarely takes a position on which treatment techniques are appropriate." They emphasize that from the church's standpoint, the clinical side is not the most important thing, but the recognition that the individual has their own agency to control what their own actions. Wickman and Oaks cautioned against potentially abusive practices, such as aversion therapy.
Since 1998, the church has discouraged member participation in groups that "challenge religious and moral values," "foster physical contact among participants," or "encourage open confession or disclosure of personal information normally discussed only in confidential settings." It has stated that "although participants may experience temporary emotional relief or exhilaration, old problems often return, leading to added disappointment and despair."
Several church members have been involved in the therapy to change homosexual inclinations. A. Dean Byrd published several articles in professional magazines and one in 1999 in the Ensign on the subject of homosexuality. Beckstead and Morrow analyzed the experience of 50 Mormon men undergoing conversion therapy.
In 2002 Jeff Robinson published interviews with seven heterosexually married Mormon men who had been through conversion therapy and previously identified as gay. The seven men believe they had a spiritual transformation and that their orientation was changed. They were no longer troubled by emotional attraction to men, sexual attraction to men, feeling bad about same-sex desires, social isolation, or compulsive sexual thoughts and behaviors. Robinson found that their change came from a new understanding that prior same-sex attractions did not require them to "be" gay.
Homosexual Mormon suicides
LGBT individuals especially youth are at a higher risk of depression and suicide and there have been many reportings of LDS homosexual individuals completing suicide throughout the church's history. Many LGBTQ Mormon suicides go unreported because of cultural stigma or the victim being very closeted, and there are many reports of suicide ideation, like dancing star Benji Schwimmer and attempts by homosexual Mormons. For example Alex Cooper, a lesbian Mormon teen who beginning in 2010 was subjected to physically abusive conversion therapy techniques in an attempt to change her sexual orientation, reported attempting suicide. As of 2016 in Utah (which is predominantly populated by Mormon adherents) suicide is the number one killer of Utah youth ages 11 to 17. Some individuals and organizations have linked church teachings against homosexuality and the treatment of LGBT Mormons by other members and leaders as contributing to LGBT Mormon suicides. In January 2016 the LDS church released a statement mourning the over 30 reported suicides of LGBT Mormons since 5 November 2015 and stating that leaders and members are taught to "reach out in an active, caring way to all, especially to youth who feel estranged or isolated". The Affirmation website noted over 30 LGBT Mormon victims of suicide between 1971 and 2008 including five gay male BYU students who all completed suicide in 1965. Recent suicides which received press were those of Henry Stuart Mathis, Chris Wayne Beers, and Harry Fisher. Many other individuals' suicides were less reported.
On 25 February 2000 32-year-old Stuart Mathis, a gay Mormon active in the church, completed suicide on the steps of a California church stake center building. His death came during the height of the LDS church's fight to ban same-sex marriage in California with Prop 22 also known as Knight's Initiative. Shortly before his death he wrote a 12-page letter to his cousin in which he states that when he heard the church was asking members to donate time and money in support of Prop 22 he "cried for hours in [his] room" and he felt that the church's positions created an environment "hostile for young gay Mormons". The letter also stated "straight members have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up gay in this church.... It is a life of constant torment, self-hatred and internalized homophobia." The same month he also wrote a letter to the editor published in the BYU newspaper pleading for the acceptance of homosexual individuals in response to a letter published five days before comparing homosexuality to pedophilia, bestiality and Satanism. Right before his death he wrote a note stating, "The church has no idea that ... there are surely boys and girls on their callused hands and knees imploring God to free them of their pain. They hate themselves ... God never intended me to be straight. Hopefully, my death might be a catalyst for some good." Two weeks after Stuart's death on March 9, D.J. Thompson a 33-year-old gay Mormon man in Florida completed suicide after writing a note referencing Stuart's death and stating that Proposition 22 was the "last straw in my lifelong battle to see peace in the world". Three weeks after Stuart's death, another gay Mormon active in the church in California was a victim of suicide. Clay Whitmer, who had become close friends with Stuart while the two were serving an LDS mission in Italy had attempted six times over a few years before but completed suicide on the seventh time.
Harry Fisher was a 28-year-old BYU history student and had come out on Facebook about two months before his death on 12 February 2016. He reported hearing anti-gay rhetoric from individuals around him and having to leave church to cry in his car. Just days before on February 9 when apostle Dallin H. Oaks was asked about church leaders and members' responsibility for the treatment of LGBT individuals that may have precipitated in suicides he stated "that's a question that will be answered on judgment day" and that "nobody is sadder about a case like that than I am". In September 2016 the church published its official Preventing Suicide website.
Timeline of publications and speeches
1800s to the 1950s
- 1897 – During the October General Conference, First Presidency member George Q. Cannon used the media attention on the 1895 conviction and two-year imprisonment of famed Irish poet Oscar Wilde as an opportunity to condemn homosexual behavior as an "abominable", "filthy", "nameless crime" that "caused the utter destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah". He continued stating that the only way to stop these "dreadful practices" was "by the destruction of those who practice them" and "for the Lord to wipe them out" noting that "if a little nest of them were left ... they would soon corrupt others".
- 1952 – In his October Relief Society General Conference talk "Home and the Building of Home Life", J. Reuben Clark of the First Presidency stated, "homosexuality ... it is tragic to say, is found among both sexes." "Homosexuals are today exercising great influence in shaping our art, literature, music, and drama."
- 1954 – Clark again addressed homosexuality in conference when in the October priesthood session he mentions that those guilty of "the filthy crime of homosexuality" are not a part of the "Army of the Lord to fight evil".
- 1957 – Clark cited Old Testament punishments for sexual sins to highlight that "sex transgression is tragically serious" in the April General Conference. He stated "for homosexuality, it was death to the male and the prescription or penalty for the female I do not know."
- 1958 – General authority Bruce R. McConkie publishes Mormon Doctrine, in which he states that homosexuality is "among Lucifer's chief means of leading souls to hell". In the section on "Chastity" he states that it is better to be "dead clean, than alive unclean" and that many Mormon parents would rather their child "come back in a pine box with [their] virtue than return alive without it".
- 1964 – Apostle Spencer W. Kimball addressed seminary and institute faculty in a July 10 speech on BYU campus titled "A Counselling Problem in the Church", in which he called homosexuality a "malady", "disease", and an "abominable and detestable crime against nature" that was "curable" by "self mastery". He cited one lay bishop (a businessman by trade) assigned by the church to administer a "program of rehabilitation" through which there had been "numerous cures". He said "the police, the courts, and the judges" had referred "many cases directly" to the church.
- 1965 – Kimball again addressed homosexuality in his January 5 BYU speech "Love vs. Lust". He called it a "gross", "heinous", "obnoxious", "abominable" "vicious" sin. The text states that those with homosexual "desires and tendencies" could "correct" and "overcome" it "the same as if he had the urge toward petting or fornication or adultery", but that "the cure ... is like the cure for alcoholism, subject to continued vigilance". In the speech he stated BYU "will never knowingly enroll ... nor tolerate ... anyone with these tendencies who fails to repent", and that it is a "damnable heresy" for a homosexual person to say "God made them that way".
- 1965 – Ernest L. Wilkinson, the president of BYU and Commissioner of Church Education, gave his "Make Honor Your Standard" address on September 23 to the BYU student body, stating, "nor do we intend to admit to this campus any homosexuals. ... [I]f any of you have this tendency, ... may I suggest you leave the University immediately .... We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence." The speech was later published in the church-owned Deseret News.
- 1966 – Milton R. Hunter lamented that "attitudes toward homosexuality have been liberalized in England" and that many US leaders were "clamoring for a liberal attitude in our land" in his October General Conference address "Seeking Peace and Happiness".
- 1966 – Patriarch of the church Eldred G. Smith cites "a campaign ... launched to bring acceptance to homosexuality" as one example of "corruption" and "conditions at home" manifesting the "cycle of ... unrighteousness and wickedness" that lead to "wars and destruction" like the current "war in Viet Nam" in his October 1966 General Conference talk "Repent and Turn to God".
- 1968 – A version of the Church Handbook was released containing the first explicit mention of homosexuality. It specifies that "homo-sexual acts" require a church court.
- 1969 – Mark E. Petersen cites how homosexuality "was made a capital crime in the Bible" as evidence of the seriousness of sexual sin. He states "immorality is next to murder" and "the wage of sin is death" and that a rejection of morality "may bring about [this nation's] fall" as with "Greece and Rome" unless there was repentance. The 5 April General Conference speech was titled "The Dangers of the So-called Sex Revolution".
- 1969 – Kimball released his book The Miracle of Forgiveness, in which he teaches that masturbation can lead to acts of homosexuality. His book was quoted in a 1979 church manual: "the glorious thing to remember is that [homosexuality] is curable .... Certainly it can be overcome .... How can you say the door cannot be opened until your knuckles are bloody, till your head is bruised, till your muscles are sore?" Kimball viewed many homosexuals as "basically good people who have become trapped in sin" and that "some totally conquer homosexuality in a few months." However, he also says that homosexual behavior can lead to sex with animals.
- 1970 – The First Presidency under Joseph Fielding Smith sent a letter to stake presidents on March 19 which expressed concern over "the apparent increase in homosexuality and other deviations" and mentioned the 1959 assignment of apostles Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Petersen to help homosexuals. It was indicated that Kimball and Petersen would "send material and give counsel" as church specialists over "a program designed ... to counsel and direct [homosexuals] back to normalcy and happiness". A follow-up letter to leaders on December 23 asked them to "ask direct questions" about homosexuality when conducting pre-mission interviews.
- 1970 – Victor L. Brown of the Presiding Bishopric gave an April 1970 General Conference address titled "Wanted: Parents with Courage" in which he states that a "normal" and "healthy" 12- or 13-year-old boy or girl could "develop into a homosexual" if "exposed to pornographic literature" and "abnormalities". He explains that exposure to the material would "crystallize and settle their habits for the rest of their lives", while calling recent media reporting on a same-sex marriage "filth on our newsstands".
- 1970 – Apostle Howard W. Hunter asks "what will be the result of universal free love, abortions at will, homosexuality?" in reference to his fears about the future of family, the economy, community, and the "deterioration of morality" in his October 1970 General Conference address "Where, Then, Is Hope?".
- 1970 – The church produced Hope for Transgressors, in which apostles Spencer W. Kimball and Mark E. Petersen offer ideas to leaders about how to effect a "total cure" and "bring the lives of [men with homosexual tendencies] into total normalcy" and "help these people recover" (lesbians are only mentioned once). Ideas include prayer, cutting off contact with homosexual friends, dating women and marriage, and scripture reading. He calls homosexuality a "despicable", "degraded", "dread practice", and a "perversion" that would "doom the world" while labeling the person a "generally lonely and sensitive" "deviate" and "afflicted one". The guide notes that Kimball and Mark E. Petersen were designated as the church specialists on homosexuality, and that homosexuality is not "totally" the fault of "family conditions" and concludes it "CAN be cured if the battle is well organized and pursued vigorously and continuously" (emphasis in the original).
- 1971 – The church published a 34-page letter from Kimball to homosexual men titled New Horizons for Homosexuals. In it Kimball calls homosexuality "a ruinous practice of perversion" that the church "will never condone" that begins with "curiosity" and "an unholy practice" like "an octopus with numerous tentacles to drag [the person] down to [their] tragedy". He states that saying "perverts are ... born 'that way'" is a "base lie" since homosexuality is "curable" and "can be overcome" and "recover[ed]" from. The letter asserts "God made no man a pervert" or "evil" and that "[t]o blame a weakness ... upon God is cowardly." It also calls homosexuality "ugly", "degenerate", "unnatural", "vicious", "base", a "waste of power", a "deep sin", and "an end to the family and ... civilization". The publication advises for the homosexual to recover they must "shun" anyone "associated with the transgression" and pray and read the scriptures.
- 1973 – An update to church policies was published as a "Statement on Homosexuality" in the Correlation Department's Priesthood Bulletin saying "homosexuality in men and women run counter ... to divine objectives."
- 1973 – The church published a guide for bishops and stake presidents titled "Homosexuality: Welfare Services Packet 1", which posited that "homosexual behavior" begins by being "molested" while also stating "not all who are molested become homosexual". It also suggested that homosexuality is caused by "a domineering mother and a passive father" and that "misunderstandings of sexuality among LDS people can contribute to homosexuality." As far as changing the sexual orientation of the person, the packet says that the lesbian "needs to learn feminine behavior", and the gay man "must be introduced to and learn the heterosexual or 'straight' way of life ... and what a manly priesthood leader and father does". The guide was written by BYU psychology professor Allen E. Bergin and LDS Social Services Personal Welfare director Victor L. Brown Jr. (the son of Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown).
- 1974 – The church's July edition of the Ensign magazine published the article "I Have a Question", in which a Mormon medical doctor states that homosexuals have "chosen this way of life" but "can be helped". Dr. Lindsay M. Curtis continues saying that "homosexuals and lesbians seldom are happy people" and their relationships are "unnatural", full of "emotional problems" and "promiscuity", and lacking in "fidelity, trust, or loyalty". Additionally, they try to recruit "others into their practice ... in their tender, impressionable years".
- 1974 – Kimball gave his October "God Will Not be Mocked" speech at general conference as the church's president in which he again stated that masturbation leads to homosexuality. He also said "[e]very form of homosexuality is sin. Pornography is one of the approaches to that transgression."
- 1975 – Robert L. Blattner of LDS Social Services (which was tasked by the church to treat homosexual members in 1972) gave an address titled "Counseling the Homosexual in a Church Setting" at the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists (AMCAP) annual conference. Blattner served as a special assistant to the LDS Commissioner of Personal Welfare Victor L. Brown Jr. In the address Blattner states that the causes of homosexuality in men are a "disturbed family background" of an "absent father" and "usually" a "controlling mother" and a "lack of relationship with peers", while for women he only says "we don't have much information". He also says homosexual behavior and alcoholism are similar. He is asked what "the church's feelings are about electric shock ... behavior modification" and answered the church had "never made a statement on it" but that "most people coming to us can be helped by it" in reference to aversion therapy research happening at BYU.
- 1976 – A version of the Church Handbook was released changing the 1968 reading of "homo-sexual acts" being grounds for a church court to "moral transgression" like "homosexuality". This change seemed to make Mormons vulnerable to church punishment for having a homosexual orientation alone even without sexual activity.
- 1976 – Apostle Boyd K. Packer gave the sermon "To Young Men Only" in the October 2 priesthood session of general conference. The sermon counseled against the "perversion" and "wicked practices" of men "handling one another" and having physical "contact ... in unusual ways". In the sermon, Packer commended a missionary who was upset after he "floored" his assigned male companion in response to unwanted sexual advances, saying "somebody had to do it". He further asserts that it is a "malicious and destructive lie" that "some are born with an attraction to their own kind". The sermon was published as a pamphlet by the church from 1980 to 2016.
- 1977 – Church president Spencer W. Kimball gave an October conference address titled "The Foundations of Righteousness" in which he spoke out against the "insidious" and "ugly" sins of homosexuality and lesbianism. He called homosexuality a "sin of the ages" that contributed to the downfall of ancient Greece, Rome, and Sodom and Gomorrah.
- 1978 – Packer delivered a sermon at BYU on March 5 entitled "To the One", which went on to be published by the church as a pamphlet. Packer characterizes homosexual interaction as a perversion and presents the possibility that it had its roots in selfishness and could be cured with "unselfish thoughts, with unselfish acts".:6 He states that the church had not previously talked more about homosexuality because "some matters are best handled very privately":3 and "we can very foolishly cause things we are trying to prevent by talking too much about them".:19
- 1978 – The church reissues Kimball's New Horizons for Homosexuals as a 30-page pamphlet titled A Letter to a Friend.
- 1978 – The First Presidency released a statement on August 24 outlining reasons for their opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment including "unnatural consequences" like an "increase in the practice of homosexual and lesbian activities".
- 1980 – The Ensign published the article "The Church and the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: A Moral Issue" outlining the church's arguments against the Equal Rights Amendment. These included the possibility it could give "constitutional protection to immoral same-sex—lesbian and homosexual—marriages", thus, "giving legal sanction to the rearing of children" in a "homosexual home".
- 1980 – Kimball again addressed homosexuality in the October General Conference in his talk, "President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality". Kimball again asserted that "[s]ometimes masturbation is the introduction to the more serious ... sin of homosexuality."
- 1981 – In an April General Conference, church Seventy Hartman Rector Jr. gave a speech titled "Turning the Hearts" in which he stated the earth would be wasted if Jesus returns and "finds nothing but birth control, sterilization, and homosexuals." He adds, "If children have a happy family experience they will not want to be homosexual." Rector also states he is "sure" that homosexuality "is an acquired addiction, just as drugs, alcohol and pornography are." He also states "I do not believe" that homosexuals "were born that way" because "[t]here are no female spirits trapped in male bodies and vice versa."
- 1981 – The church issued a guide for LDS Social Services employees called Understanding and Changing Homosexual Orientation Problems, instructing them that because of agency it is "inconsistent" to think that a "homosexual orientation is inborn or locked in, and there is no real hope of change," and that "the homosexually oriented man ... does not fully understand how a masculine man is supposed to think and act." The guide further states that the homosexual's "thoughts of the opposite sex are often fearful or threatening."
- 1981 – The First Presidency and Twelve Apostles also issued a guide for church leaders simply called "Homosexuality" which stated "modern-day prophets have clearly promised that homosexuality can be changed", and that it was "inconceivable that ... [the Lord] would permit ... his children to be born with [homosexual] desires and inclinations". It advised "full rehabilitation" could take 1 to 3 years, and that being "cured" doesn't mean "the old thoughts never return". The booklet gave guidelines for "treatment and prevention of homosexuality" and "lesbianism". It taught that homosexual behavior is learned and influenced by "unhealthy emotional development in early childhood", a "disturbed family background, "poor relationships with peers", "unhealthy sexual attitudes", and "early homosexual experiments". "Early masturbation experiences" were also cited as reinforcing "homosexual interests". Church leaders recommended the leader encourage the member to disclose the names of sexual partners, to read The Miracle of Forgiveness and "To the One", to begin dating, and to pray in order to help change their sexual orientation.
- 1983 – The Church Handbook was updated to state that a church court "may be convened to consider" serious transgressions including "homosexuality" and "lesbianism" but is not required.
- 1984 – Richard G. Scott gave a discourse titled "Making the Right Choices" in which he says "stimulation can lead to acts of homosexuality, and they are evil and absolutely wrong".
- 1984 – Apostle Dallin H. Oaks wrote the church memo "Principles to Govern Possible Public Statement on Legislation Affecting Rights of Homosexuals", in which he recommended the church make a public statement to "oppose job discrimination laws protecting homosexuals" unless there were exceptions for allowing employers to "exclude homosexuals from employment that involves teaching ... young people". He also noted "the irony [that] would arise if the Church used [Reynolds v. United States]," the principal 1878 ruling stating that marriage is between a man and a woman, "as an argument for the illegality of homosexual marriages [since it was] formerly used against the Church to establish the illegality of polygamous marriages." Oaks also clarified that the word homosexuality is used in two senses: as a "condition" or "tendency", and as a "practice" or "activity".
- 1986 – An article for parents called "Talking with Your Children about Moral Purity" appeared in the December Ensign reaffirming that "sometimes masturbation is the introduction to ... the gross sin of homosexuality" which "is a perversion of the Lord’s designated roles of men and women".
- 1986 – Dallin H. Oaks commented in a December 30, 1986, CBS-TV interview that "marriage is not doctrinal therapy for homosexual relations" and that "he did not know whether individual leaders have given such advice."
- 1987 – Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency gave his April conference address "Reverence and Morality" in which he stated, "homosexual relations ... are grievous sins." He continued by saying "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God .... Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices, which first should clearly be overcome with a firm and fixed determination never to slip to such practices again."
- 1987 – Joy F. Evans of the Relief Society General Presidency stated that "there are lesbian women, as well as homosexual men, in the Church" to whom "the Lord has decreed 'Thou shalt not'". She acknowledges it is a hard task but states they must "keep the commandments" since "intimate relationships ... between those of the same sex, is forbidden". The article titled "Overcoming Challenges along Life’s Way" appeared in the November issue of the Ensign.
- 1989 – The Church Handbook was updated to state that a church court is required for any "homosexual relations" committed by a member while holding a "prominent church position" such as a bishop
- 1990 – The church published a version of the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet which contained its first explicit mention of homosexuality. The pamphlet was to be put "in the hands of every young person in each ward". In this pamphlet's eighth version section on "Sexual Purity" it states "the Lord specifically forbids ... sex perversion such as homosexuality". It continues "homosexual and lesbian activities are sinful and an abomination to the Lord" and "unnatural affections ... toward persons of the same gender are counter to God's eternal plan".
- 1990 – Packer gave an October General Conference talk titled "Covenants" in which he warned against "spiritually dangerous lifestyles" including "abortion, the gay-lesbian movement, and drug addiction" continuing to state that using scriptures to justify "perverted acts" of "gay or lesbian conduct" between "consenting adults" would by the same logic justify the "molesting of little children".
- 1991 – During a case hearing Young Men's president and church Seventy Jack H. Goaslind gave a testimonial and stated on record that "[the church] would withdraw" if homosexual youth were allowed to join, implying a current church policy banning youth based on sexual orientation. In March 1910 the church's Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association had adopted the Boy Scouts of America program as the church-wide program for young men in the US.
- 1991 – The First Presidency sent a letter on November 14 to be read in all congregations stating "homosexual and lesbian behavior is sinful" and that homosexual "thoughts and feelings, regardless of their causes, can and should be overcome" by "sincere repentance", "persistent effort", "the help of others", and "counsel from their bishop". The letter made a distinction "between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in ... any homosexual behavior", and calls for "love and understanding" for those "struggling" to "overcom[e] inappropriate thoughts and feelings".
- 1992 – The church published "Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems" as a guide for ecclesiastical leaders. The six-page booklet states, "There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in ... homosexual behavior. However, such thoughts and feelings, regardless of their causes can and should be overcome and sinful behavior should be eliminated." It further advised, "members can overcome these problems by turning to the Lord." "In some cases, heterosexual feelings emerge leading to happy, eternal marriage relationships."
- 1993 – Packer gave his May 18 "Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council" (composed of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric). In it Packer identified three groups, that pose a "temptation" or "danger" to "lead away" members: those in the "gay and lesbian" and "feminist" movements, and "so-called scholars or intellectuals". In the address he stated that a man who self-identifies as a homosexual has "gender disorientation".
- 1993 – Former presiding bishop Victor L. Brown wrote in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (edited by BYU religion professor Daniel H. Ludlow) in the article titled "Homosexuality" that "the divine mandate of marriage between man and woman puts in perspective why homosexual acts are offensive to God. They repudiate the gift and the Giver of eternal life." The church's flagship school Brigham Young University has owned the copyright to the Encyclopedia since 2001.
- 1993 – Church Seventy Spencer J. Condie related a story of a homosexual man's conversion in his October General Conference talk "A Mighty Change of Heart". Condie calls homosexuality an unclean "addictive behavior" that the man in the story developed "gradually" after being "introduced" to it "in his early youth" after which he had "relationships" which brought him "misery". Later the man read the Book of Mormon, experienced a "mighty change of heart", and was baptized, and was able to overcome his "homosexual tendencies" and marry a woman.
- 1994 – The First Presidency issued a February 1 statement titled "Same Gender Marriages" declaring that the church "opposes any efforts" towards same-sex marriage and encourages members "to appeal to legislators ... to reject all efforts to ... support marriages between persons of the same gender."
- 1995 – James E. Faust gave a First Presidency member message in the September Ensign titled "Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil" in which he denies any biological or "inherited" components in the etiology of homosexuality citing "no scientific evidence" supporting the "false belief of inborn homosexual orientation" leading to "so-called alternative lifestyles". He continued that if there was an inherited or inborn aspect to homosexuality it would "frustrate the whole plan of mortal happiness" and deny "the opportunity to change" leading to "discouragement, disappointment, and despair". The article also stated that same-sex relationships would also help "unravel the fabric of human society" and if practiced by everyone would "mean the end of the human family".
- 1995 – "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" was read on September 23, 1995 at the Relief Society General Conference meeting by Gordon B. Hinckley. The document states that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God" and "is essential to His eternal plan". It also teaches that everyone is a "spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents" and "gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose". It has been submitted by the church in amicus briefs as evidence against court cases which could legalize same-sex marriages.
- 1995 – Gordon B. Hinckley gave an October General Conference talk titled "Stand Strong Against the Wiles of the World" in which he states that "same-sex marriage" is an "immoral practic[e]" though he says that members of the churth "reach out" their hearts "to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender" and "remember" them, "sympathize with" them, and regard them as brothers and sisters.
- 1995 – The church published an article titled "Same-Gender Attraction" by apostle Dallin H. Oaks in the October edition of the monthly Ensign magazine. in which Oaks states "we insist that erotic feelings toward a person of the same sex are irregular", but that "our doctrines obviously condemn those who engage in so-called 'gay bashing'—physical or verbal attacks". He says members should encourage those with AIDS to participate in church activities. He also seems to contradict Faust's address from a month earlier by giving a nuanced view on potential biological components of the etiology of homosexuality stating "some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn" while others "seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of 'nature and nurture,". He continues, "the feelings ... that increase susceptibility to certain behavior may have some relationship to inheritance". However, Oaks discourages members from calling themselves or other people lesbian or gay saying, "we should refrain from using [gay and lesbian] as nouns to identify specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition."
- 1995 – The church's LDS Family Services published the manual "Understanding and Helping Individuals with Homosexual Problems" advising practitioners how to prevent and treat homosexuality saying, "There is sufficient scientific research and clinical evidence to conclude that homosexuality is treatable and preventable." The guide states that male homosexuality is caused by "the motivation to repair the loss of the father-son relationship creat[ing] sexualized father-hunger or reparative drive", and that "in the homosexual male this core gender identity has become confused". The manual cites "the roots of lesbianism" as "a dysfunctional family relationship" and/or "physical, sexual and emotional abuse" which causes women to "have a tendency to develop overly dependent or enmeshed emotional relationships". The guide further states that the "love between homosexuals is pseudo-love".
- 1997 – The January issue of the church's Ensign magazine contained an anonymously authored article "Becoming Whole Again". In it the author who was married to a woman discussed his struggle with "same-gender attraction" calling it a "trial", "weakness", "impure thought", "tempation", and "misguided feeling" caused by "longing for true brotherly love or a desire for masculine characteristics". At the end the author states "same-gender attraction can be successfully resisted and overcome".
- 1997 – Gordon B. Hinckley, then president of the church, gave an interview in April in which he stated "we have gays in the church. Good people." He continued saying that no action is taken against them unless they're involved in sexual transgression, in which case there are "certain penalties" same as with "heterosexuals". He reaffirmed the stance that God made marriage for one man and one woman and that essentially gay people must live a "celibate life".
- 1998 – The Church Handbook is updated to ban members from full-time missionary service who have participated in "homosexual acts" from age 15 and on unless it's been at least one year since the occurrence and the leaders see "strong evidence of lasting repentance and reformation". The update also includes the first church policies sections on homosexuality and same-gender marriage stating if members have "homosexual thoughts or feelings or engage in homosexual actions" they should be helped to understand faith, repentance, life's purpose, and should be helped to "accept responsibility for their thoughts". Additionally, the manual asserts that the Church "opposes any efforts to legalize" same-gender marriages and encourages members to appeal to government officials to reject those efforts.
- 1998 – Church president Gordon B. Hinckley gave a general conference sermon entitled, "What Are People Asking about Us?" Hinckley said "so-called gays and lesbians" have "certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control". He continued "We want to help these people ... with their problems ... and difficulties", as well as stating "we love them" but made it clear that the church could not support "so-called same-sex marriage".
- 1999 – The Area Presidency of the North America West Area, composed of Area Seventies, sent a May 11 letter to all area leaders directing a letter to be read in all California sacrament meeting which directed members to "do all you can by donating your means and time" to ensure that Proposition 22 (known as the Knight Initiative) passed. This act restricted marriage recognition in California to that between a man and a woman denying homosexual or same-sex couples legal recognition of their unions. A follow-up letter directed to stake presidents from Area Seventy Douglas L. Callister on May 20 assigned them to invite church members to donate money to the "Defense of Marriage Committee" in order to pass Prop 22. A third letter was released eight months later on January 11 a month and a half before the proposition would pass asking members to "redouble their efforts" in contacting neighbors and friends and to place the "provided yard signs" in their lawns.
- 1999 – The September edition of the church's Ensign magazine published an article titled "When a Loved One Struggles with Same-Sex Attraction" by LDS Family Services assistant commissioner A. Dean Byrd who also served on the Evergreen Board of Trustees. Byrd posited that "homosexuality is not innate and unchangeable", but is caused by "temperament, personality traits, sexual abuse, familial factors, and treatment by one’s peers". He further asserted that individuals can "diminish homosexual attraction" and that "when homosexual difficulties have been fully resolved, heterosexual feelings can emerge". In support of this he stated "many individuals who have experienced homosexual difficulties have" had their "burdens" or "trial" "lifted through the Lord’s grace." The article continued acknowledging that those who desire to diminish their "homosexual urgings" may "experience extreme pain because of the extensive changes that are required" including "changing one’s thoughts ... friendships ... or even clothing styles".
- 1999 – Church president Hinckley gave an October General Conference talk called "Why We Do Some of the Things We Do". He stated "so-called same-sex marriage ... is not a matter of civil rights; it is a matter of morality." He added, "we love and honor" and "our hearts reach out to ... gays and lesbians" and "they are welcome in the church".
- 2000 – Alexander B. Morrison, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, and Robert L. Millet, Dean of BYU Religion Education, addressed members of Evergreen International on September 16 at its 10th annual conference, which was held in the church's Joseph Smith Memorial Building. In Morrison's address titled "Some Gospel Perspectives on Same-Gender Attraction", he stated, "Avoid as the plague social interaction with persons who justify, encourage or engage in homosexual behavior." To the congregation of hundreds of homosexual men and women he further directed, "Stay away from places where those challenged by same-gender attraction congregate." Millet stated that through Christ "all inappropriate inclinations or orientations [can be] transformed in this life" or "resist[ed]".
- 2000 – Packer gave his October General Conference address "Ye Are the Temple of God", in which he calls homosexuality a "temptation which seems nearly overpowering for man to be attracted to man or woman to woman" that may "lead to despair, to disease, even to death". He said it begins as an "innocent curiosity" which leads to a "pattern" leading to an "addiction". He said the idea that "God created them with overpowering, unnatural desires" is "not true" stating that "He can cure and He can heal".
- 2001 – The eighth version of the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet was published updating the section discussing homosexuality. The new version only says, "Homosexual activity is a serious sin. If you find your-self struggling with same-gender attraction, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you."
- 2001 – Sharon G. Larsen of the Young Women General Presidency gave her September 15 "God's Love" address at the 11th Annual Evergreen Conference in the Joseph Smith Memorial building. In her talk she stated same-gender attraction "is not in itself necessarily sinful unless it leads to impure thoughts and unrighteous behavior" and that those who "struggle with same-gender attraction" who "despite persistent effort cannot overcome that attraction and marry someone" of the opposite gender "must remain celibate".
- 2002 – The official church Ensign magazine published an anonymously authored article titled "My Battle with Same-Sex Attraction". In it an LDS woman gave advice for how to "to overcome this challenge" including advising against "attach[ing] labels to yourself or others who struggle with this problem" since these temptations "do not define who we are". She also recommended a person "quit [their] job" if necessary to "avoid places frequented by those who are involved in this lifestyle".
- 2004 – The church published True to the Faith, which states, "homosexual activity is a serious sin .... contrary to the purposes of human sexuality" which "distorts loving relationships and prevents people from receiving blessings". The book further states "sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder and denying the Holy Ghost".
- 2004 – The First Presidency issued the July 7 statement saying the church "favors a constitutional amendment preserving marriage as the lawful union of a man and a woman." A few months later on October 19 they expounded this stance with the First Presidency Statement on Same-Gender Marriage supporting the 2004 movement to add an amendment to the US Constitution defining marriage as between "a man and a woman" and barring the "legal status" of any other union. The letter also states that the church "reach out with understanding and respect" for homosexual persons and "realize there may be great loneliness in their lives", but defend their stance as being "right before the Lord".
- 2004 – Merrill J. Bateman in the Presidency of the Seventy gave a September 18 address at the 14th Evergreen Conference for homosexual Mormons titled "The Physical Body and the Power of the Atonement". He explained that for those "struggling with nature, with thoughts and feelings that are opposite from what the Church teaches" Jesus has the power to "assuage one’s feelings" and "assist one in his efforts to abstain".
- 2005 – James O. Mason of the Second Quorum of the Seventy gave his "The Worth of a Soul Is Great" address to members of Evergreen International on September 17 at its 15th annual conference in the church's Joseph Smith Memorial Building. He stated, "Can individuals struggling with some same-gender attraction be cured? 'With God nothing should be impossible' (Luke 1:37) ... The right course of action remains the same: eliminate or diminish same sex attraction .... Feelings of attraction toward someone of the same gender should be eliminated if possible or controlled."
- 2006 – Jeffrey R. Holland and Marlin K. Jensen were interviewed in March with questions about various topics including homosexuality by PBS for a four-hour special called The Mormons. Jensen stated that he did not think the "church could ever change its position" on homosexual behavior. "There's no room within the plan of salvation ... for homosexuality to be accepted" or for someone to "be romantically involved with someone of the same gender and ... be living in accord with God's plan." He acknowledges that this "creates a lot of pain" and asks "a tremendous amount of them" since "they really have no hope" of "fall[ing] in love" in a way "sanctioned by the church" which is "a very difficult thing". Holland stated that he doesn't "anticipate that [the church] would change [it's position] on homosexual behavior" and that "gay or lesbian inclinations" will "not exist post-mortality". He also used uses the phrase "struggling with gender identity" and "gender confusion" as synonyms for homosexuality.
- 2006 – The Church Handbook is updated again and leaders are told to collect and destroy all copies of the previous 1998 version. The new version clarifies that the church "reaches out with respect and understanding" to same-sex attracted individuals.
- 2006 – The church's Mission Presidents Handbook recommended that unless there are unusual circumstances, a missionary who makes a belated confession to a "serious transgression" like "homosexual acts" committed before their missionary service be sent home. The manual also specified that any baptismal candidate who confesses to a "homosexual transgression" during a baptismal interview (usually with a mission district leader) requires a "searching interview" with the president of the local mission in order to be approved for baptism.
- 2006 – The church published an extensive interview with Oaks and general authority Lance B. Wickman in April to clarify the church’s stance on homosexuality. In the interview, Wickman states that the church "doesn't counsel against" conversion therapy and that it "may be appropriate" for an individual to use clinical therapy to seek to diminish or eliminate homosexual feelings. However, Oaks states they "can't endorse" the "aversive therapies" recommended in the past to fix "this affliction" and they "don’t accept responsibility for those abuses" suffered by individuals who had experienced this now disavowed therapy method. On same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships, Elder Oaks states that giving these couples the same government rights given to a man and woman marriage is "not right" and "not appropriate". They compared devout homosexual Mormons to those with physical or mental disabilities who will also not be able to marry, and adds that "same-gender attraction did not exist in the pre-earth life and neither will it exist in the next life." As far as family acceptance and inclusion of homosexual children they gave some example conversation lines like, "don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your 'partnership'." He further stated "the Lord’s way is to love the sinner while condemning the sin".
- 2006 – In April Apostle Russell M. Nelson signed a letter with other religious leaders urging the US government to pass an amendment banning same-sex marriage stating it would be the "only measure that will adequately protect marriage" from "redefinition". On May 25 the First Presidency released another statement supporting the amendment and urging members to contact their senators who would be voting on the measure on June 6.
- 2006 – Rex D. Pinegar, a former member of the Presidency of the Seventy, addressed the Evergreen Conference for homosexual Mormons on September 16 with a speech titled "Before You Knew Him/Her, I Loved Him/Her First". In the speech he stated that those who "suffer from such problems" of same-sex attractions have "tendencies or addictions", and that the Lord called homosexuality an "abomination" but by "turn[ing] their lives to Christ" the homosexual could "resolve his or her situation, addiction, or transgression". He continued that the leaders of the church did not know the "underlying causes of same-sex attraction" anymore than that of "any other addiction or urge or action which is unacceptable to our Lord".
- 2006 – Apostle Dallin H. Oaks gave an October General Conference address titled "He Heals the Heavy Laden" in which he quotes a man saying "change is possible" but don't "focus on the causes of same-gender attraction". Oaks then continues explaining if "faith","prayers" and "priesthood" don't "heal you from an affliction" that the "Atonement will surely give you the strength to bear the burden."
- 2007 – The church's BYU Board of Trustees, under the direction of First Presidency member Thomas S. Monson, revised the BYU Honor Code in April to clarify that "one's stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue" while continuing to ban "all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings".
- 2007 – In July, the church published the booklet "God Loveth His Children", which is addressed to Latter-day Saints with same-gender attraction and sets out the church's doctrine and policies on homosexuality.
- 2007 – The church published the article "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction" by apostle Jeffrey R. Holland in the October Ensign and Liahona magazines.
- 2008 – Apostles discussed the question of whether members should consider using "new drugs and gene therapy" to "counter homosexuality" in a leaked video.
- 2008 – The First Presidency again urged California members to "do all you can ... by donating of your means and time" to pass a state amendment banning same-sex marriage in a June 29 letter. A few months later Apostles M. Russell Ballard and Quentin L. Cook and member of the Presidency of the Seventy L. Whitney Clayton gave an October 8 satellite broadcast to all California members titled "The Divine Institution of Marriage Broadcast". In the broadcast they asked members to donate "four hours per week" and to "set aside Saturdays between now and the election from nine in the morning until two in the afternoon to participate in calling, walking, and other assignments" to oppose same-sex marriage and pass Prop 8. They clarified that to the church tolerance means forgiveness but does not mean "tolerating transgression", and noted the existence of temple-worthy members who "struggle with this great challenge" of "same gender attractions". Additionally, a video of Apostle David A. Bednar answering the questions of some youth was shown from the church's new official website PreservingMarriage.org. Members were directed to register on the coalition website ProtectMarriage.com.
- 2009 – Bruce C. Hafen of the First Quorum of the Seventy addressed members of Evergreen International on September 19 at its 19th annual conference, which was held in the church's Joseph Smith Memorial Building and stated, "If you are faithful, on resurrection morning—and maybe even before then—you will rise with normal attractions for the opposite sex. Some of you may wonder if that doctrine is too good to be true. But Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said it MUST be true" (emphasis in original).
2010 to present
- 2010 – Keith B. McMullin of the Presiding Bishopric addressed the 20th Evergreen International annual conference on September 18 and counseled that if someone says they are homosexual, lesbian, or gay that they should be corrected since it's "simply not true" and God "doesn't speak of His children this way". He further teaches that the "such limitations" as same-gender attraction won't exist after death, though it is not "in and of itself ... neither evil nor sinful".
- 2010 – The 2010 edition of the Church Handbook noted that the records of adult members who have participated in "repeated homosexual activities" would be permanently annotated. It also advised that those who have "participated in homosexual activity during or after the last three teenage years will not normally be considered for missionary service." The Handbook 2 also states if members who "feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior" they may receive church callings and hold temple recommends.
- 2010 – Boyd K. Packer delivered his "Cleansing the Inner Vessel" October conference address. He states that The Family: A Proclamation to the World "qualifies according to the definition as a revelation". Immediately after referencing "Satan's many substitutes or counterfeits for marriage", he states "some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our father." His characterization of same-sex physical attractions as "impure and unnatural" tendencies that can be "overcome" sparked a protest of thousands of individuals on October 7 which surrounded Temple Square. Packer later altered his words in the print version of his speech to say "Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father".
- 2011 – In a committee meeting while top church leaders were discussing WikiLeaks and Chelsea Manning's diplomatic cable leaks, apostle Ballard asked if Manning was a "confirmed homosexual", apostle Oaks expressed his suspicion that the "news media cover up anything involving homosexuals when it would work to the disadvantage of the homosexual agenda".
- 2011 – The ninth version of the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet was released adding to the paragraph on homosexuality that "lesbian behavior" is also a "serious sin" and that the youth should speak to their parents and bishop if they "are being persuaded to participate in inappropriate behavior".
- 2011 – The church's BYU Honor Code was updated to remove the ban on any "advocacy of homosexual behavior" defined as "promoting homosexual relations as being morally acceptable".
- 2012 – In May the church released a statement approving the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) administration's decision to remove the ban on homosexual youth (which had been made an official policy in 1991). The church's release stated, "sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join [LDS] Scout troops", and that "young men … who agree to abide by Church standards" (which bar any sexual activity) are allowed to participate. The church's policy, however, remains unclear for young men participating in any same-sex dating without sexual activity. The church's agreement with the BSA policy change was important because Mormon scouts constituted the largest group of young men in the BSA (21% in 2010).
- 2012 – The church launched the website titled Love One Another: A Discussion on Same-Sex Attraction at mormonsandgays.org in December "in an effort to encourage understanding and civil conversation about same-sex attraction." The website states that "individuals do not choose to have such attractions".
- 2014 – The church sent a survey via email to young single adult members in Utah asking among other things about their sexual identity. The options were: "I am heterosexual, but I struggle with same-sex attraction; I am heterosexual and do not struggle with same-sex attraction; Other, please specify." The survey options were criticized as implying that homosexuality doesn't exist and LGBT individuals are straight people who "struggle" with a problem. The question was later changed.
- 2015 – Church leaders held a "Fairness for All" news conference on January 27 supporting LGBT non-discrimination laws for housing and employment that would also protect religious individuals. Apostle D. Todd Christofferson opened calling for "a way forward" to balance religious freedom and LGBT rights. Next Neill F. Marriott of the presidency of Young Women's recognized the "centuries of ridicule, persecution and even violence against homosexuals". Dallin H. Oaks followed stating that the church rejects "persecution and retaliation of any kind, including persecution based on ... gender or sexual orientation" and called on all levels of government to pass legislation protecting "religious freedoms ... while also protecting ... LGBT citizens in ... housing, employment, and public accommodation." Jeffrey R. Holland closed outlining the church's stance on religious freedom. In answer to a press question afterwards Christofferson stated that "understanding is possible" and affirmed his love for his brother Tom who is gay and had been in a 20-year relationship with another man.
- 2015 – In early March the church released a public statement and employed its lobbyists to garner support of a proposed nondiscrimination and religious rights bill in Utah. The bill would grant previously non-existent housing and employment protection for LGBT persons in Utah. Though similar bills had failed 6 times before, SB 296 was passed on March 11 and another statement of church approval was released. The new law, nicknamed the "Utah Compromise", was praised by many.
- 2015 – Apostle D. Todd Christofferson gave an interview on March 13 in which he acknowledged the diversity of sociopolitical views among church members and stated that advocating for same-sex marriage on social media or holding political beliefs differing from official church stances would not threaten a members standing in the church. He also stated that church leaders had "gained added understanding [of LGBT people] over the years, especially in recent years", though, he said the church would never accept same-sex marriage. In his closing answer to a question on members feeling on the outside because of their position on same-sex marriage, he stated that obedience to principles taught by the church may require "very significant sacrifice" for "all of mortal life", but "no one is predestined to a second class status" and that the end result can be "a state of happiness".
- 2015 – Three days after the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage the First Presidency sent a letter on June 29 to be read to every US congregation affirming that "Changes in the civil ... cannot change the moral law that God has established." The letter clarified that leaders should not perform same-sex marriages and that any church property cannot be used for any activities "associated with same-sex marriages". It was noted, however, that "all visitors are welcome" on church property if church standards of conduct are respected.
- 2015 – Following a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) policy change on July 27 allowing for gay scout leaders (though allowing for churches to continue banning them) the church stated that it has "always welcomed" gay youth, but that "the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church". The official press release (preceded by one on May 21 and July 13) alluded to a potential change in church relations with the BSA by stating "the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined". Despite the majority of church members wanting to drop relations with the BSA, however, no change in relations occurred.
- 2015 – On November 5 an update letter to leaders for the Church Handbook was leaked which banned a "child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship" from baby blessings, baptism, confirmation, priesthood ordination, and missionary service until the child had moved out, was "of legal age", and "disavow[ed] the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage" in addition to receiving approval from the Office of the First Presidency. The policy update also added entering a same-sex marriage as a type of "apostasy" mandating a disciplinary council. The next day in a video interview D. Todd Christofferson clarified that the policy was "about love" and "protect[ing] children" from "difficulties, challenges, conflicts" where "parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different". On November 13 the First Presidency released a letter clarifying that the policy applied "only to those children whose primary residence is with a couple living in a same-gender marriage or similar relationship" and that for children residing with parents in a same-sex relationship who had already received ordinances the policy would not require that "privileges be curtailed or that further ordinances be withheld". The next day around 1,500 members gathered across from the Church Office to submit their resignation letters in response to the policy change. Two months later in a satellite broadcast Russell M. Nelson stated that the policy change was "revealed to President Monson" in a "sacred moment" when "the Lord inspired [him] ... to declare ... the will of the Lord".
- 2016 – The church released a statement through spokesman Dan Jones on January 28 mourning the reported suicides of 32 LGBT Mormons. The release stated that leaders and members are taught to "reach out in an active, caring way to all, especially to youth who feel estranged or isolated".
- 2016 – On February 9 apostle Dallin H. Oaks was asked about church leaders and members' responsibility for the treatment of LGBT individuals that may have precipitated in suicides to which he stated "that's a question that will be answered on judgment day" and that "nobody is sadder about a case [of suicide] like that than I am".
- 2016 – Apostle David A. Bednar answered a members question in a February 23 broadcast stating that "there are no homosexual members of the Church" since we are not defined by sexual attraction or behavior and "all of us have different challenges in the flesh". He compared homosexuality to a physical handicap like "being born with a body that is not fully functional".
- 2016 – Church spokesman Eric Hawkins stated in March that the church "denounces any therapy that subjects an individual to abusive practices" and hopes LGBT Mormons "find compassion and understanding from family members, professional counselors and church members". The statement was in response to media inquiries around the experiences of a lesbian Mormon teen who beginning in 2010 was subjected to physically abusive conversion therapy techniques in an attempt to change her sexual orientation leading to a suicide attempt.
- 2016 – In October, the Mormons and Gays website was revised and moved to mormonandgay.lds.org where it states, "If you experience same-sex attraction, you may choose to use a sexual orientation label to describe yourself. ... If you decide to... openly identify as gay, you should be supported." The website says that "sexual desires can be ... changeable" and "shifts in sexuality can and do occur for some individuals", but notes that therapy focusing on "a change in sexual orientation" is "unethical".
There are no official numbers for how many members of the LDS Church identify as gay or lesbian. LDS Family Services estimates that there are, on average, four or five members per church ward who experience same-sex attraction. The most recent external study, conducted in 1972, shows that between 10–13 percent of college-aged Mormon men reported past experimentation with homosexual behavior, which was similar to the percentage of non-Mormon men who similarly reported. The study did not tabulate the number of homosexuals who had never had a homosexual experience. Gary Watts, former president of Family Fellowship, estimates that only 10 percent of homosexual Mormons remain in the church. Others dispute that estimate, saying numbers in support groups for active Latter-day Saints and for self-identified gay Mormons are comparable. Many of these individuals have come forward through different support groups or websites stating their homosexual attractions and concurrent church membership. A number of personal accounts were published in A Place in the Kingdom: Spiritual Insights from Latter-day Saints about Same-Sex Attraction. Other personal experiences are documented on the LDS SSA Resources and People Can Change websites. Others have shared their stories through the Ensign, through the Evergreen International website and blogs. There is a variety of terminology used, including "Moho", to refer to a Mormon homosexual. The following are some of the more prominent individuals within the gay and "ex-gay" Mormon community:
- Tom Christofferson is the brother of Apostle D. Todd Christofferson and has returned to activity in the church after leaving decades ago. He serves in Affirmation leadership.
- Ty Mansfield served as a missionary in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission, graduated from BYU, and taught two religion classes in the summer of 2013 at BYU as an adjunct faculty member. He chronicled his coming to terms with his sexuality in a co-authored book with Fred and Marilyn Matis, In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-gender Attraction, published by Deseret Book in 2004. Mansfield later married and recently published another book on homosexuality, also by Deseret Book, in 2011, titled Voices of Hope: Latter-day Saint Perspectives on Same-gender Attraction—An Anthology of Gospel Teachings and Personal Essays.
- David Matheson admitted to himself that he was attracted to men when he was 22 and married. Following seven years of therapy, he said he had changed his sexual orientation. He has since become a licensed professional counselor and has made his clinical focus to be "helping men who want to diminish unwanted homosexuality and feel whole as men." He is the clinical director of the Center for Gender Wholeness, co-creator of the Journey into Manhood weekend, and a director of People Can Change. He has written the Evergreen International Workbook for Men, Four Principles of Growth, and has made several media appearances talking about overcoming homosexual attractions. He says that he is not completely straight, but "straight enough."
- H. Stuart Matis, a celibate homosexual, stated that "straight members have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up gay in this church. It is a life of constant torment, self-hatred and internalized homophobia." Matis committed suicide at an LDS Church meetinghouse in Los Altos, California. After two of his gay friends also committed suicide, Affirmation members began to hold suicide vigils around the country to raise awareness about suicide prevention and the destructive consequences of what they considered to be homophobic treatment by other church members. Suicide victims are posted on its website. Matis's story is described in the book In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-Gender Attraction and was later inspired and created into the play "Missa Solemnis; or, The Play About Henry" written by non-Mormon playwright Roman Feeser. Matis's death was described in the 2010 documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition.
- Mitch Mayne, a celibate homosexual member in San Francisco, served as of 2011 as executive secretary to the bishop in the local Bay Ward. Mayne has promoted family acceptance of LGBT youth and hopes to serve as a bridge to the gay community. He has also promoted the idea that all people with homosexual feelings, including those who are involved in homosexual behavior, should be welcomed into the church with no consequences for their sexual choices. He has said that he is not committed to church teachings about homosexuality and could well enter a gay relationship in the future. He believes that church leaders are mistaken in their teachings about homosexuality.
- Jason Park admitted his homosexual feelings at the age of 31 after being married for four years. After founding and participating in the original Evergreen International support group and going through therapy, he has since ceased his homosexual behavior and found peace with his feelings and happiness in his family life. He has since written 3 books concerning homosexuality (Resolving Homosexual Problems: A Guide for LDS Men; Understanding Male Homosexual Problems: An Introduction for Latter-day Saints; Helping LDS Men Resolve their Homosexual Problems: A Guide for Family, Friends, and Church Leaders) and a scholarly paper Overcoming Male Homosexual Problems. He is a popular speaker at Evergreen International conferences.
- Rich Wyler was excommunicated from the church due to his homosexual behavior, but has since rejoined the church. He was married and then widowed. He is the founder and executive director of People Can Change and co-creator and leader of Journey into Manhood. He established Higher Path Life Coaching and began coaching professionally in 2005. He leads telephone-based coaching group called "A Wife's Journey: Caring for Yourself and Your Family When Your Husband Struggles With Homosexuality or Addiction."
- Bruce Bastian served as a church missionary to Italy, graduated from BYU, and married in a church temple before coming out. He and a BYU professor developed and co-founded WordPerfect software for word processing. He currently serves on the Board of the Human Rights Campaign, America's largest lesbian and gay rights political action committee. In 2008, Bastian donated $1 million to fight California Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
- Martha Nibley Beck, daughter of Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley and author of bestseller Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith.
- Dustin Lance Black is a gay writer for the HBO Series Big Love about a fictitious polygamous Mormon sect in Utah. In 2008, he won an Academy Award for writing the screenplay for Milk, a movie about the slaying in 1978 of gay civil rights leader and San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk. Black is now a widely respected gay civil rights advocate.
- John Cameron is a former BYU student who participated in electro-shock aversion therapy sessions on campus in 1976 with the goal of changing his sexual orientation. The controversial therapy was conducted by PhD student Max Ford McBride under the direction of Dr. D. Eugene Thorne of the Psychology Department. While hooked to electrodes, the subjects were shown pornographic images of men while simultaneously being shocked. The experience was so traumatic for Cameron that he left Mormonism. In 2006, he finished writing a play about his experience, titled 14, in reference to the number of men who were the subjects of this particular experiment. The play was first staged at the University of Iowa in 2007.
- Michael Glatze is a former gay rights activist and publisher of Young Gay America's YGA Magazine. Glatze abandoned his homosexuality and was baptized into the LDS Church. He stated that "Jesus, however, is what, ultimately, changed me." Glatze left the church within two years of his conversion and now considers himself a conservative Christian.
- Tyler Glenn is the lead vocalist of the American rock band Neon Trees and came out as a gay Mormon in Rolling Stones magazine in March 2014, but has since stopped identifying as Mormon since at least April 2016.
- Sonia Johnson, prominent radical feminist and supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.
- Kate Kendell is a lesbian lawyer from Utah who currently serves as the Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. She graduated from the University of Utah in 1988 and became the first staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. Kate and her partner, Sandy Holmes, live in San Francisco with their two children, as well as Kendall's daughter from a previous marriage.
- Leonard Matlovich, first U.S. military service member to intentionally announce his homosexuality in opposition to the military ban.
- D. Michael Quinn is a well-known historian of Mormonism and former professor of history at BYU. He was excommunicated in September 1993 for publishing historical accounts he says revised traditional Mormon history. He then came out of the closet as gay and published Same Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example in 1996. He currently resides in Los Angeles.
- Benji Schwimmer, the winner of the 2006 So You Think You Can Dance show.
The church neither encourages nor discourages support groups for those with same gender attractions. However, it does discourage members from participating in groups that foster homosexual conduct. Even though no support organization is officially sponsored by the church, several organizations have begun who have adopted theories and philosophies they believe are in line with church policy. Several church members have also joined ex-gay organizations. Some church members who identify as LGBT have also joined other support groups that seek changes in church doctrine, and greater church tolerance and awareness regarding LGBT issues. Several support groups are listed below:
- Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons is a support group originally organized in 1977 which aims to support "all affected by the nexus of homosexuality and Mormonism" by "becom[ing] a place of healing" and "avoid[ing] taking positions on how people choose to act on their sexuality or not." The group has expanded its mission to include bisexuals, transgender persons, and intersex persons, and "avoid[s] taking positions on church doctrine."
- ALL Arizona LDS LGBT & Friends & Family is an Arizona-based group unaffiliated with North Star or Affirmation. ALL is a supportive middle ground for anyone with an LDS background. They have a yearly conference around April and monthly get togethers along with scripture study for those who feel that church is unwelcoming. They also have a young adult get together and a parent support meeting. Their "hope is to build and strengthen a community of Latter-day saints where LGBT/SSA Mormons feel loved and supported through what can be a challenging experience—being gay and being Mormon." They do not limit support to just gay members but all members that fall into the LGBT+ spectrum. They have a secret Facebook group that anyone can join by contacting them.
- North Star is an organization whose mission is to "provide a place of community for Latter-day Saints who experience homosexual attraction or gender identity incongruence, as well as their family, friends, and ecclesiastical leaders." The group supports the church’s position that sexual relations are to be reserved for marriage between a man and woman, and aims to provide spiritual and social support for individuals and families who desire to live in harmony with church teachings. The organization takes "no official position on the origin or mutability of homosexual attractions or gender identity incongruence", and does not "endorse political causes or join political coalitions, including those officially sanctioned by the institutional Church."
- MoHo Directory is a global listing of over 100 gay Mormons and their blogs.For many, the MoHo Directory functions as a family of choice—a committed relationship network bound by friendship rather than blood.
- Mormons Building Bridges is a decentralized grassroots Facebook group, composed primarily of members of the LDS Church, who seek to improve the attitudes between members of the church and the LGBT community. The group's largest events are annual pride parade marches.
- Mama Dragons is a group for Mormon mothers and women supportive of LGBTQ persons.
- Disciples2 was a confidential online group from 1994 to about 2013 that provided support for what were termed male and female "strugglers," who were trying to "live the gospel".
- Family Fellowship is for family members of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender members and does not generally support church teachings about homosexuality.
- LDS Reconciliation was a group that met until 2007 in "home evening" type settings which "affired the spirituality of Gays and Lesbians and [sought] to provide a safe haven for individuals with a Latter-day Saint background to discuss the gospel of Jesus Christ. ... Reconciliation members [avoided] contention and criticism of any person or organization.
- Evergreen International was an organization founded in 1989 for "people who want to diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior." It "sustains the doctrines and standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without reservation or exception." In January 2014, Evergreen announced it would close and refer its clients to North Star.
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Every person on this planet has personal challenges. Some have challenges with same-sex attraction, some have problems with opposite-gender attraction that have to be controlled.
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The Church’s doctrinal position is clear: Sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married. However, that should never be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down
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Senior Church leaders in this website represent the official position of the Church. Additional videos feature real people sharing real experiences from their own perspectives" and "We can all come together to foster a climate of goodwill and a determination to understand the workings of God in each individual life."
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- For Gay Mormons Options and Resources
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