Mormons & HomosexualityBeginning in late 2006, Millennial Press & Distribution started releasing a series of books that was intended to clarify various issues within the Church. In something akin to the Oxford University Press A Very Short Introduction series (which includes the titles Mormonism, by Richard Bushman, and the upcoming The Book of Mormon, by Terryl Givens), Millennial Press is publishing a Setting the Record Straight series.

The series started with Mormons & Masons in 2006 and was soon followed by Blacks & the Mormon Priesthood, Mormons & Polygamy, Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, and The Book of Mormon in fall 2007, and then again by Mormon Temples, The Word of Wisdom, Emma Smith: An Elect Lady, Joseph Smith: Presidential Candidate, and Mormon Fundamentalism in early 2008. The fall 2008 docket includes Mormons & Science and, yes, the one that addresses the issue that brings us all here together today: Mormons & Homosexuality, by A. Dean Byrd.

The book description reads:

Setting the Record Straight: Mormons and Homosexuality answers the questions of the Mormon Church and its stand on Homosexuality.

? What Church discipline are members who engage in homosexual activities subject to?

? Is homosexuality biological?

? Should Latter-day Saints with homosexual proclivities pursue a temple marriage and family?

In this book, practicing LDS psychologist Dr. Dean Byrd illuminates some of the little-known realities regarding homosexuality. He relies on his expertise as a social scientist and a practicing mental health professional as he shares the research and clinical data on this controversial topic. He provides compelling evidence on what science can and cannot say about homosexuality.

With abundant clarity, Dr. Byrd explores common misconceptions, answers challenging questions, and shares personal stories of triumph.

In addition, he offers a chronology of the events that have brought the United States and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to their present positions regarding homosexuality.

Employing a thorough, scientific, and engaging style, this volume provides readers with the best LDS analysis of the issue of homosexuality available.

Doing a quick Google search, I found only two reviews thus far, both of which were quite brief. Judging from the book quotations included, it seems as though it’d be pretty similar to his previous publications. The text of his short 2001 book, Homosexuality and the Church of Jesus Christ, and a 2004 FAIR conference address, “Born That Way? Facts and Fiction about Homosexuality,” can both be read online—as well as a Sept 1999 Ensign article, “When a Loved One Struggles with Same-Sex Attraction.”

If I get around to reading it, I’ll post a review. Or, better yet, one of you read and review it. :)

The only thing I really want to comment on is a couple of statements from the first of the two linked reviews. Bill Duncan, who is referenced as “an attorney with the Marriage Law Foundation who specializes in definition of marriage legal cases,” writes:

“I have family and friends who are homosexual, and I love them as my brothers and sisters. I do not agree with their sexual orientation, but I still accept them as my family and friends. If they are open to counsel, I shall counsel them to repent and to try to overcome these tendencies, just as we all have ‘tendencies’ and ‘temptations’. The sin lies not in having the temptations, but in following the temptations.”

Uhh, Bill, if you’re talking about sexual orientation or same-gender attraction, then there’s nothing for you to disagree with. Same-sex attractions just are. (I say that as a statement of presence, not permanence.) The beliefs chosen and actions made in response to the attractions—including efforts to overcome or diminish them, or not—may be subject to agreement or value judgments, but not the attractions themselves. Hopefully, if you really read Dr. Byrd’s book (I’m making the assumption that Dr. Byrd was responsible enough to point out that even though homosexuality may not be “innate and immutable” that people don’t choose to experience same-sex attractions; I know he knows this), you would know that this is a misinformed idea. And if you accept that this is a temptation, and that the only sin is in acting on those temptations in unrighteous ways, then you, again, have nothing to disagree with when it comes to attraction or orientation or tendency or temptation—however you choose to view it.

This is somewhat akin to an equally frustrating statement from the other side who insist “homosexuality is not a chosen lifestyle.” Um, really? Yes, homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle” if we’re really talking about “lifestyle” as opposed to feelings, attractions, impulses, etc. “Lifestyle” implies action and action implies choice.

Later, Bill states:

“Homosexuals are people, just like the rest of us. They have every right to work and live as we do. We’re all in this together. However, because the choice they made (somewhere along the way) and continue to make by remaining homosexual, then they cannot “tap into” the “benefits” that traditional marriages can tap into. (I hope that makes sense.)”

Ugh… ugh… ugh… *burying my face in my hands*… No, Bill, it doesn’t make sense. Or, rather, I’m pretty sure I understand what you’re saying, but your beliefs about what is chosen and what isn’t are based on really bad (or insufficient) information. *sigh* Again, I would have hoped that Byrd clarified these issues in his book rather than simply focusing on gay activists’ socio-political agenda and how it’s often based on etiologic myths. Bill, even to state that there are significant temperamental, relational, or environmental issues affecting the development of homosexuality, and that some degree of change is possible, a great many people who continue striving to turn to the Lord and to live within the strictures of gospel teachings continue to experience same-sex attractions—including those who experience fulfilling opposite-sex marriages. To state that people chose this somewhere along their developmental path, and that if they continue to experience the attraction they are consciously choosing to remain homosexual (with an inference that they are not repentant enough) is inaccurate and entirely unhelpful if this is what you might base your counsel on when assisting your family and friends who are seeking resolution to these issues.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about that. Now, everyone go read and review. If you want.

Leave a Reply

14 comments

  1. avatar

    Socal

    I haven’t read it but I did see the book for sale at the Evergreen Conference. It does make me wonder how much different this book is versus the one that Dr. Byrd wrote in 2001.

  2. avatar

    GFB

    Ty Ray,

    I agree with your comments on these two quotes. I have not read the book, but if it is anything like his previous publications I take issue.

    Let me just talk about a few out of Homosexuality and the Church of Jesus Christ, by Dean Byrd, Ph.D.

    Dr. Byrd has found some quotes from the brethren that I am very uncomfortable with.

    Elder Oaks apparently said this:

    ?There is a reason why we in the Church do not talk more openly about this subject. Some matters are best handled very privately. With many things it is easy—very easy—to cause the very things we are trying to avoid.5

    He then offers the following anecdote:

    “On one occasion, with a friend of mine, I went to the medical center of a large university to see another friend who was a doctor there. In the waiting room before us was a low table covered with pamphlets describing various diseases. My friend observed: “Well, there they are. Read enough abut it and you’ll think you’ve got it.”6

    So we are to understand that if we talk about homosexuality too much people start becoming homosexual. I am very surprised that my blogging on this site has not caused me to be homosexual.

    He also gives Sodom and Gomorrah as a good example of the bible teaching about homosexuality, since when is gang rape homosexuality. Also, note in the Bible we are never told what the sin of these two cities are.

    He also quotes Elder Packer as describing the cause of homosexuality:

    Have you explored the possibility that the cause, when found, will turn out to be a very typical form of selfishness? … If one could even experiment with the possibility that selfishness of a very subtle nature may be the cause of this disorder, that quickly clarifies many things. It opens the possibility of putting some very sick things in order. … Consider this: One cannot procreate alone. And this: One cannot procreate with his own gender. These are absolutes. And there is a third: One cannot procreate without yielding or giving. … I repeat, we have had very little success in trying to remedy perversion by treating perversion. It is very possible to cure it by treating selfishness.74

    I guess this means if homosexuals just stop being selfish they would start being heterosexual. We now have a treatment.

    I find Dr. Dean Byrd?s articles highly unfortunate. It saddens me to see he is now publishing a book entitled ?Mormons & Homosexuality? I really do not want the churches position or beliefs articulated by him in anything that sounds at all authoritative.

  3. avatar

    Jay

    Amen to GFB’s last paragraph!

  4. avatar

    I do find it very disturbing that Dr. Byrd is the one “setting the record straight” on homosexuality. I hardly think he is the best candidate to write about the church’s stance, when he has his own agenda of homosexuality being curable (something the church does NOT teach).

  5. avatar

    GFB

    What is most disturbing to me is how Dr. Byrd has found quotes from the Brethren to back his position. Even though these quotes do not represent the churches position he sure makes it sound as if it is the churches position.

  6. avatar

    I have a Dean Byrd quote of my own, one that seems to contradict his own point of view.

    It was at an Evergreen conference many years ago when he was still high up in LDS Social Services. He was asked why the local leaders were not trained more in matters of homosexuality so they can be of more help to members. He said that it wasn’t the Church’s responsibility to train them. It was ours, those of us who know it first-hand. We were the real experts. Personally, I don’t think he thinks that at all. I think that he thinks he is the real expert.

  7. avatar

    He said that it wasn?t the Church?s responsibility to train them. It was ours, those of us who know it first-hand. We were the real experts.

    That’s a load of crap. (And that’s about as polite as I can put it).

    Many local leaders will not ever take advice from a member, let alone “training”. That’s not the way the church works at all. It is a totally top –> down hierarchal structure, and that is the way most bishops behave. It is entirely the church’s responsibility to train local leaders far far more than they are, on many subjects, not just homosexuality – though that may be the one topic on which they need the most training.

  8. avatar

    Craig,

    I disagree. I don’t really want some self-appointed expert teaching my bishop about how to deal with me. I’d hate it if the cure brokers came up with that curriculum, and they probably would.

  9. avatar

    Oh, I wouldn’t want that either. There are a couple people who might do an ok job though – those who aren’t focused on “curing” homosexuality.

  10. avatar

    Craig, I think you’re quite right about the part that bishops won’t ever take advice from a member. I don’t think it’s absolutely true, but it’s mostly true. I’ve never been the kind to go to my bishop for advice anyway, especially about this. I think I was given the gift of the Holy Ghost, intelligence, the light of Christ, access to prayer, the scriptures, and a lot of other resources that the Lord expects me to use before asking for help from my bishop. If I had something to confess, that might be different.

    It seems that bishops are not just wary of advice from members. They’re also suspicious about resources outside of their control. I can understand part of that, but it sure makes it a narrow field of choices when they want to help someone.

  11. avatar

    Andy

    I wonder if this won’t finally provide some additional motivation for the church to focus on this area some?

  12. avatar

    Bridget Night

    I found this discussion very interesting and appreciate all the comments. GFB, I particularly was interesed in your replies. When I attended my first Evergreen conference in 2003 there was a class for Bishops, Relief Society Presidents, etc. to learn more about this issue that I went to. Elder Alexander B. Morrison was the presiding general authority there. Bishops were asking good questions about how to act or what to say when a young man with SSA would come to them. I replied to one Bishop about what happened to our son. The bishop had asked my son how he could know he was gay if he had never had sex with a guy before. My son shot back with how did you know you were heterosexual before you had sex? My son’s bishop actually thought people choose to be gay. I told this bishop at the evergreen conference that the best thing I thought he could do when a young man finally had the courage to come out, was to immeadiately hug him and tell him that this is through no fault of his own and that having these feelings are not a sin. I put a question out at this class about the importance of training Young Women/Young Men Presidents, RS presidents, etc. to understand this issue more so they would respond better when this happens in a ward. I was chastened by Elder Morrison with the exact quoate GFB made by Elder Oaks (that talking about it makes it worse.) Well, I totally disagree with this!!! We had two lesbian girls in our ward, besides my son at one time. The two lesbians (were a couple and one was not a member) and they were in the investigators class I taught. Thier visiting teachers came to me because they knew about my son and wanted to know how to handle these girls. One of the visiting teachers was told by her husband to never hug or touch these girls. I showed them a video and explained stuff to them about these girls needing to be loved and hugged even more. Because they followed what I told them these two girls ended up changing their lives and joining the church.

    This baloney about talking about it will cause some to think they are gay is ridiculous. My gosh,one of my missionary compainions hit on me sexually while on my mission and it certainly did not cause me to be gay. Yesterday, I got up and bore my testimony as it was Fast and Testimony meeting. I shared my experience of attending the 2008 Evergreen conference. I explained briefly what the Conference was about and how many beautiful people in the church have this issue of same-sex attraction through no fault of their own. I told them I had friends and family members who deal with this issue and that this is not something anyone chooses to have. That I was pleased that general authorities are beginning to learn about this issue and spook at this conference. I said that I appreciated that the church has begun addressing this issue in the Ensign, (our church magazine) and through more updated church pamphlets. I expressed how important it is that those who deal with this issue can feel loved and accepted in the church. That if they feel there is no place for them in the church, they will leave, as many have because of this.

    I told my husband about it when I got home and he said, ‘Oh great, now they are going to think I left the church because I am gay.” Well, I remember David Pruden, executive director of Evergreen saying once that unless we can say the words homosexual and same-sex attraction from the pulpit with out being embarrassed no one will ever come out in the wards and feel safe to share their struggles or get help. The only thing my son ever heard about homosexuality in a lesson on chastity in a deacons class was that it was an abomination, and you go to hell if you do this. AND that no one in this church has this problem!. Well, just like I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I am not ashamed of my son or all those struggling in and out of the church to deal with this difficult issue. I will not stay quiet if I can help those who are going through enough hell as it is.

    Bridget.

  13. avatar

    GFB

    Bridget,

    Thank you for sharing. We need more people willing to talk about homosexuality openly in our ward in a way that is not condemnatory. I believe we have people in every unit of the church who are homosexual, but we still have people talking like no gay person will hear the rude things they say in sacrament or gospel doctrine. I applaud you for the testimony you bare. Thank you thank you thank you.

  14. avatar

    Bridget Night

    Awwwh thank you GFB, that means alot coming from you. I am so enjoying general conference today. Bridget