Elder Packer and the Danger of Homosexuality, 20 Years Later

Elder Packer declared homosexuality to be one of the three dangers facing the church

Twenty years ago this week, Elder Boyd K. Packer gave a talk[1] to the All-Church Coordinating Counsel[2] opening with some advice he received about which direction church administrators should face.

 “Either you represent the teachers and students and champion their causes or you represent the Brethren who appointed you. You need to decide now which way you face.” Then he added, “some of your predecessors faced the wrong way.”

Elder Packer said this advice was difficult to follow at first, but “in time, I did understand, and my resolve to face the right way became irreversible.”

He gave several anecdotes about blessings of unquestioning obedience to file leaders saying he knew “how easy it is to get turned around.”  He warned of three dangers influencing church members to “face the wrong way” which “have made major invasion[s]” into the church because of “social and political unrest.” Members of the church were succumbing to these “temptations” because they seem “so reasonable and right.”

“The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.”

To illustrate his points, Elder Packer quoted from three letters, each representing one of the three dangers and provided specific responses to each.  This post will focus on the issue of homosexuality.

 

By the time Elder Packer gave this talk in 1993 church leaders had firmly established a stance regarding homosexuality – that it was an unnatural condition one was not born with, a “disease” possibly brought on by parental failure, masturbation or satanic influences. The most influential source of thought about homosexuality had been Elder Spencer W. Kimball’s 1969 Miracle of Forgiveness.[3]  He, along with Mark E. Peterson had been assigned over issues regarding homosexuality in 1959.

Elder Kimball believed “such a disease [was] curable” suggesting gay men marry women to overcome their homosexual desires. The church soon published a pamphlet stating the same, that men might be cured if they “father children” in a traditional marriage. This approach to try to cure homosexuality would continue until 1987 when First Counselor Gordon B. Hinckley said “marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.”[4]

In the mid to late 70s the church stepped away from labeling people as “homosexuals” concerned that such labels would make “the matter seem beyond solving.” On this topic, Elder Packer stated in a 1978 pamphlet on homosexuality, “to introduce it I must use a word. I will use it one time only. Please notice that I use it as an adjective, not as a noun; I reject it as a noun.” Today, the church still prefers to say someone has “same sex attraction” rather than is a “homosexual.”

In 1962 Elders Kimball and Peterson instructed BYU not to allow homosexuals to attend the university. Various efforts were used to expel gay men from campus including interrogating fine arts and drama students, license plate monitoring, spying, coordination with local law enforcement, and polygraph tests. For a period of time, BYU used electro-shock therapy to cure homosexuality.[5]

The church became politically and financially involved in opposing the Equal Rights Amendment in 1976 saying, among things that the ERA would result in “an increase in the practice of homosexual and lesbian activities.”[6]

In 1988 the church contracted with the Hawaii marketing agency Hill and Knowlton to monitor legislative action and promote church views regarding homosexuality with the Hawaii state legislature and the U.S. Congress. In 1990 three same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses in Hawaii, raising concerns with the church and setting the stage for the church’s future efforts to protect monogamous marriage in the U.S.[7] Related legal activities continued in Hawaii, and on May 19, 1993, the day after Elder Packer gave his talk, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that refusing marriage licenses was unconstitutional in Hawaii.

Efforts to legalize gay marriage in the U.S. began in 1990

In his talk Elder Packer quoted from the letter he recently received from an eighteen-year-old gay Mormon, allowing Elder Packer to illustrate the “Gay/Lesbian challenge” to the church. The young man said he had experienced “what it’s like to be a homosexual in a Church which is sometimes less than accepting of its gay members.” He described supportive Bishops and Stake Presidents who have helped him spiritually, but inferred he had other difficult experiences in the church. He offered to meet with Elder Packer to “discuss the issues facing gay Latter-day Saints and the Church” in a mutually respectfully way. [8]

To the audience, Elder Packer responded to the letter:

“That young man with gender disorientation needs to know that gender was not assigned at mortal birth, that we were sons and daughters of God in the premortal state.”

He noted he had received hundreds of letters “from members who are hurting or leaders who are worried,“ but cautioned his audience that the rank and file would feel “discontented” if “we concentrate on solving the problems of the exceptions.”

“Those who are hurting think they are not understood. They are looking for a champion, an advocate, someone with office and influence from whom they can receive comfort. They ask us to speak about their troubles in general conference, to put something in the curriculum, or to provide a special program to support them in their problems or with their activism.”

He warned the audience “when members are hurting, it is so easy to convince ourselves that we are justified, even duty bound, to use the influence of our appointment or our calling to somehow represent them.” He notes that such sympathizing could tempt us to “soften the commandments to comfort them” and warns of reverse-revelation. “[I]n our efforts to comfort them, we lose our bearings”, leaving our assigned areas unprotected by facing the wrong way.

Elder Packer indicated those who are hurting should be helped and comforted and used a quote by Joseph Smith about how to provide that comfort:

The question is not whether they need help and comfort. That goes without saying. The question is “How?” The Prophet Joseph Smith, when he organized the Relief Society said, “There is the need for decisions of character aside from sympathy.”

He warned that “If we are not very careful, we will think we are giving comfort to those few who are justified and actually we will be giving license to the many who are not.”[9]

 

The next day, Hawaii’s Supreme Court ruled that the state’s refusal to issue marriage licenses constituted sex discrimination. The church began a series of anonymous efforts to combat gay marriage in Hawaii, Alaska, California (Prop-22 and Prop-8) and in other states.[10] The Proclamation on the Family was penned as efforts to legalize gay marriage gained momentum and the church became more involved. The Proclamation would later became a rallying call for leaders to mobilize members of the church to get spiritually, politically and financially involved protecting the family by combating gay marriage. By 2009, Utah ranked last in the nation favoring  gay rights legislation, many seeing these rights as an effort to destroy the family.[11]

Thousands protest at Temple Square in 2008 over LDS church Prop-8 efforts (BGordon Photo)

When the extent of Prop-8 efforts by the church came to light, it became a divisive issue both in and out of the church. Protests at temples became common. Gay Mormons who remained in the church felt divided, as did many straight Mormons who sympathized with gays in general, or gay loved ones. Elder Packer’s 2010 speech stating homosexuals could overcome their orientation sparked thousands of protesters to march on temple square.[12]

However, some things changed.

Grass-roots efforts by Mormons arose along a number of fronts. Popular church playwright and author Carol Lynn Pearson’s Good Bye, I Love You personalized the issue of homosexuality for many Mormons when she wrote about her life with her gay husband who died of AIDS while under her care.[13] Groups formed to provide fellowship for gay Mormons such as Affirmation.  Groups like Family Fellowship began providing support for LDS families with gay children. Groups like Mormons Building Bridges formed to send messages that Mormons were gay-friendly. Some local wards and stakes held outreach meetings for gays in their boundaries. BYU students participated in the “It Gets Better” video campaign. BYU students formed an Understanding Same-Gender Attraction group.

Hundreds of Mormons marched in the 2012 gay pride parade in Salt Lake as a show of good will to the LGBT community

Changes also occurred in the church. Of homosexuality, Elder Oaks noted “Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn.” The church’s printed version of Elder Packer’s 2010 talk excluded his statement that God would not let individuals be born gay. The church cautioned “not to blame family members for choices made by a person with homosexual problems.” Suggestions that masturbation causes homosexuality are no longer taught. Statements that homosexual thoughts are sinful have been removed from the Handbook of Instructions. The church has distanced itself from groups promoting reparative therapy. A General Authority offered an apology to gays and lesbians from an LDS background at a stake sponsored activity. The first openly gay Bishopric member was called. The church said it was open to accepting gays into the Boy Scouts program. BYU lifted a ban on the advocacy of homosexuality. The church promoted non-discrimination legislation in Salt Lake City. A statement by the church said it does not object to many of the rights associated with civil partnerships. President Hinckley, Elders Holland and Uchtdorf have emphasized God’s love for homosexuals.[14]

A new church website, “Mormons and Gays” includes media emphasizing compassion and understanding towards homosexuals. Church leaders state same-sex attraction is “not an illness or a disease,” that “no one chooses to have such attractions” and that “no one fully knows the root cause of same-sex attraction.” An apostle hopes the site will help the “family remain intact,” that the feelings of gays “are real,” and that no other church “should be more loving and compassionate” towards gays. Homosexuals “are real, that they are authentic, that we don’t deny that someone feels a certain way.”[15]

 

The church’s view on traditional marriage remains firm as it continues efforts to prevent gay marriage.[16] But in other aspects it appears to be shifting from a strict conservative stance to one of more moderation. Social change in Western civilization is quickly shedding attitudes of the past in favor of a more gay-friendly, tolerant society. Despite its fight against same-sex marriage, the LDS church is also in a process of change. The backlash against its Prop-8 campaign was severe and may have caused the church to take conciliatory measures to rectify perceptions of homophobia. Whatever the reason, the church appears to be in the process of abandoning much of its hard-line approach towards homosexuality.

Also at play seems to be more of a willingness by church leaders to listen and to, and try to make room for those once considered a danger to the church. Rather than just face upward to higher leaders or doctrinal principals, leaders are now encouraging Latter-day Saints to face both directions.


[1] Elder Boyd K. Packer, “Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council.” Text available at http://www.zionsbest.com/face.html.

[2] The All-Church Church Coordinating Council is over the teaching organizations of the Church, assisting with the correlation effort. For its genesis, see Prince, Gregory A., and Wm Robert Wright. David O. McKay and the rise of modern Mormonism. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah P, 2005, 149-50.

[3] Spencer Kimball, Spencer W. The Miracle of Forgiveness. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, 77-78, 85. For statements by church leaders on homosexuality see O’Donovan, Connell. “The Etiology of Homosexuality from Authoritative Latter-day Saint Perspectives, 1879-2006.” Nov. 2006. 21 May 2013 <http://www.connellodonovan.com/etiology.htm>.

[4] Hinckley, Gordon B. “Reverence and Morality.” General Conference address, April 1987.

[5] O’Donovan, Connell, ‘”The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature”: A Revised History of Homosexuality & Mormonism, 1840-1980.’ Connellodonovan.com. 1994, 2004. 21 May 2013 <http://www.connellodonovan.com/abom.html#byu>.

[6] “The Church and the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: A Moral Issue,” Ensign, Mar 1980; D. Michael Quinn,  The LDS Church’s Campaign Against the Equal Rights Amendment, Journal of Mormon History Vol. 20, No. 2, 1994, 85

[7] Crapo, Richley, Chronology Of Mormon / LDS Involvement In Same-Sex Marriage Politics, Mormon Social Science Association

[8] The young man was Tony Collette who has written about this experience in Anderson, Lavina Fielding, and Janice Merrill Allred. Case Reports of the Mormon Alliance. Volume 3, 1997. Salt Lake City, Utah: Mormon Alliance, 1997, chapter 9, also available at http://fromonegaymormon.blogspot.com/. The full text of his letter to Elder Packer and Elder Packer’s response is available here.

[9] Note that the above several paragraphs are also about feminism and intellectualism, not just homosexuality.

[10] Crapo; “Chronology of Mormon involvement in Prop. 22.” lds-mormon.com. 23 May 2013 http://www.lds-mormon.com/doma.shtml; Rosen, Yereth. “Mormons join Alaska campaign to ban gay marriage by Yereth Rosen “Http://members.tripod.com/~no_on_2/rns1001.html; C., Laura, “A Prop 8 Timeline” Mormons for Marriage, 23 May 2013 <http://mormonsformarriage.com/?page_id=68>.

[11] Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips, “Gay Rights in the States: Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness,” American Political Science Review, p.41. Summarized results available at “Utah ranks last in attitude to pro-gay policies,” Mormon-Chronicles.

[12] “2,000-3,000 protest for gay rights outside Mormon church offices in Salt Lake City.”DeseretNews.com. 23 May 2013 <http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700071914/2000-3000-protest-for-gay-rights-outside-Mormon-church-offices-in-Salt-Lake-City.html?pg=all>

[13]  Pearson, Carol Lynn. Good-bye, I love you. New York: Random House, 1986.

[14] See for example Wenger, Kaimi. “Evolving LDS views on homosexuality.” Times Seasons. 11 Sept. 2011. 22 May 2013 <http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2011/09/evolving-lds-views-on-homosexuality/>.

[15]  New Mormon church website touts softer tone on gays by Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune

[16] For example, this week — “Mormon church arranged meeting ahead of LGBT vote.” The Spectrum, 23 May 2013 <http://www.thespectrum.com/article/20130517/NEWS01/130517002/Mormon-church-arranged-meeting-ahead-LGBT-vote>.


Comments

Elder Packer and the Danger of Homosexuality, 20 Years Later — 22 Comments

  1. Nice history lesson on this topic. It’s interesting see some of the defining moments in history that I never knew (like Hawaii) than watch this evolution since then.

  2. Thank you for the link to Elder Packer’s 1993 talk. After reading it out loud with my wife, I strongly disagree that it contains anything not in harmony with the current First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. I believe President Packer and his associates in the First Presidency and the Twelve unanimously approved the Church’s official response to last Thursday’s BSA vote, in which the Church states:

    ————– quote ————–
    “Sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops.”
    ————– end quote ————–

  3. R. Gary, perhaps you should re-read another classic from Elder Packer, “The Unwritten Order of Things”. Church policy, practice, and beliefs are much more than what the manuals and handbooks vaguely state. Let’s stop trying to rewrite history by claiming it’s always been this way. It hasn’t. Things have been changing.

  4. The first openly gay Bishopric member was called.

    Except that a ward executive secretary is not classified as a member of the bishopric.

    “The ward clerk and ward executive secretary work closely with the bishopric, but they are not members of the bishopric and do not need to be released when the bishopric is reorganized.” ~ CHI, Book 1, p. 6

  5. NoCoolName_Tom: The talk Clair Barrus refers to in the title of his post and in its first paragraph is Boyd K. Packer’s 1993 talk, named and linked in the first footnote. Quotes and references to this talk are sprinkled throughout the article.

    Again, I strongly disagree that Packer’s 1993 talk contains anything not in harmony with the current First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. Furthermore, I believe President Packer and his associates in the First Presidency and the Twelve unanimously approved the Church’s official response to last Thursday’s BSA vote, in which the Church states:

    ————– quote ————–
    “Sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops.”
    ————– end quote ————–

    That sentence does not represent a change.

    When it comes to boys who want to join LDS Scout troops the compelling interest of the Church was in 1993, as it is today, a willingness to abide by certain standards of behavior. These standards include abstinence from sexual relationships. And then, as now, the Church remains firmly committed to upholding those standards.

  6. ”Either you represent the teachers and students and champion their causes or you represent the Brethren who appointed you. You need to decide now which way you face.” Then he added, “some of your predecessors faced the wrong way.”

    He warned the audience “when members are hurting, it is so easy to convince ourselves that we are justified, even duty bound, to use the influence of our appointment or our calling to somehow represent them.”

    I’m pretty sure that the scriptures tell us who we should advocate for:

    1 John 2:1
    D&C 45:3-5
    Isaiah 1:17
    Matt 18:12

  7. Jack, at his website, Mitch Mayne says he was sustained an executive secretary in his bishopric. Apparently this is not technically the case though. Thanks for the info.

    http://www.mitchmayne.com/

    R. Gary, I don’t see any overt contradiction in the First Presidency’s advocation of gays in the Boy Scouts, and Elder Packers 1993 talk either. I do however see a shift in tone and emphasis from the way things were 20 years ago.

    I am not aware of the church speaking in favor of expanding gay rights for any group before prop8.

  8. R. Gary, your arguments here strike me as someone clinging so stubbornly to their favorite tree that they’re not noticing the forest changing from summer to autumn. In the strictest technical sense, of course, you’re correct that the Boy Scout statement does not represent any kind of formal policy change. Personally, I find it significant that the church released a statement reaffirming its neutrality on homosexuality (as opposed to homosexual behavior), because I don’t think that would have happened twenty years ago. Maybe I’m wrong about that. Regardless, this post makes it clear that the church’s rhetoric about homosexuality has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Packer’s curt dismissal of the boy with “gender confusion” is a far cry from mormonsandgays.com, which represents exactly the kind of dialogue that was once unthinkable. That’s not even mentioning past rhetoric spoken over church pulpits about homosexuality as a disease or mental illness. Only the most ardent pedant would argue that this doesn’t represent real change, even if you leave the BSA out it altogether.

  9. I’m curious as to when behavior explicitly entered the church’s discourse in this specific context.

    According to this post and its citation, it is not there in the 1962 declaration of BYU’s policy and practice, note 5, above.

    However, it is explicit in the May 26, 2013 First Presidency letter regarding the BSA.

    When was the church’s distinction first overtly and expressly made?

  10. Clair ~ Yeah, I know that’s what Mayne says, and what a lot of Mormons seem to believe about the executive secretary calling.

    I always felt like there was a bit of a triumphalist hype surrounding Mayne’s “leadership” calling. To this Protestant, an exec secretary is more on par with an administrative assistant than a congregational leader (and the CHI pretty much says as much on that count). To my knowledge, exec secretary isn’t even in the pecking order for presiding over or conducting Sacrament meeting, even if the entire bishopric is unavailable. I can’t remember who leadership passes to in that case, but it isn’t the exec sec.

    I’m not saying that it isn’t a positive step for GLBTs in the church for the church to call an openly gay man to a significant administrative calling in the ward, but there just seemed like a rush to declare that Mayne was now a “leader” and a “bishopric member,” and I couldn’t agree with that. Then again, while Mayne is “openly gay,” he is also chaste and not in a relationship with another gay man. This was more of a change in cultural attitude than a change in policy of any sort.

  11. 1. In the past, did sexual orientation alone bar any LDS boys from Scouting?

    2. “President Packer has an extensive publication record on homosexuality—and … the edited version of his [October 2010] conference talk matches precisely what he has always taught. Far from backpedaling, the edited version is a smooth continuation of principles that he has taught for over thirty years.” (Gregory L. Smith, “Shattered Glass: The Traditions of Mormon Same-Sex Marriage Advocates Encounter Boyd K. Packer,” FARMS Review: Volume – 23, Issue – 1, Pages: 61-85, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2011.)

    It is a long article, but worth the read for anyone who is interested in Packer’s views on homosexuality.

  12. Regarding the church’s earlier position on Boy Scouts and homosexuality, I’ve excerpted three related articles, two from 1991, and one from 2000.


    SCOUTERS ADVOCATE STRONG DEFENSE, By Douglas D. Palmer, Deseret News Wednesday, June 26 1991

    … an official of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Tuesday he would recommend that the church withdraw from the Boy Scouts of America if the church is forced to register homosexual Scouts …

    Elder Jack H. Goaslind, a member of the church’s First Quorum of Seventy, president of the church’s Young Men program and a member of the Boy Scouts’ National Executive Board, reiterated his position Tuesday that he is not in a position of making final decisions regarding the church’s involvement in Scouting. That is the responsibility of the First Presidency, he said.

    But he said he would recommend the church … withdraw from the Boy Scouts if it is forced to follow court rulings on the admittance of … homosexuals

    Church News, “BSA officials refute reports of ‘changing era for values’” Saturday, Aug. 24, 1991

    Contrary to some reports in the news media, Boy Scouts of America is not changing its values, according to Ben Love, Chief Scout Executive.

    “The traditional values represented in the Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Exploring programs are as relevant for the 1990s as they were when the movement was founded, and will not change,” Love said. …

    [An announcement] … implied that the new, non-traditional program [to help self-identified gays] marked the beginning of a changing era for values associated with Scouting. …

    “Learning for Life” is a partnership between teachers and Scouting that will be conducted during the school day in classrooms by teachers and other volunteers. …

    LDS Church Entwined In Struggle For Scouting, Rolling Stone pg 100 6 Jul 2000 By Chuck Sudetic

    WASHINGTON, DC — On April 26th the Supreme Court met to determine the constitutional rights of the Boy Scouts of America. The case on the docket was Number 99-699, the Boy Scouts of America vs. James Dale. In a courtroom filled with law students, gay activists and television crews, Supreme Court Justice David Souter argued that the Boy Scout Handbook does not spell out any policy banning gays. …

    The Mormon Church, the largest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States is fiercely opposed to admitting homosexuals and has stated that it will end its nine-decade-long affiliation if gays are admitted. …

    In 1995, Elder Jack Goaslind, a national BSA Executive Board member and president of the Mormon’s youth organization, was asked during a civil hearing why the top leaders of the church were willing to leave BSA if it becomes accepting of gays. “Well, to be direct with you, it was because of the number of cases that have come before the courts on different homosexual-conduct acts that it’s been discussed thoroughly there. And the decision has been reached,” Goaslind said. …

  13. Richard Lamborn, Three statements seem to give a sense of time frame for when behavior became the emphasis in church discourse.

    The 1st is somewhat generic– in that homosexual behavior is mentioned along with heterosexual behavior. The 2nd is explicitly about same-sex attraction, and the 3rd is published in the Handbook of Instructions.


    [Letter from The First Presidency. “Standards of Morality and Fidelity,” November 1991]

    “There is a distinction between immoral thoughts and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior. However, such thoughts and feelings, regardless of their causes, can and should be overcome and sinful behavior should be eliminated.”

    [Dallin H. Oaks, "Same Gender Attraction" October, 1995]

    ‘… we should distinguish between (1) homosexual (or lesbian) “thoughts and feelings” (which should be resisted and redirected), and (2) “homosexual behavior” (which is a serious sin)’

    Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2012)

    “Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God …

    “If members engage in homosexual behavior ….

    “While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.

    “If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them …

  14. Some excellent research Clair.

    I’m left wondering why the behavior issue with regard to homosexuals was apparently not explicit earlier, why there was an apparent need to make it emphatically explicit and why it was made explicit when it was.

    Not that I’m asking you to do more research, Clair ;)

  15. Richard,

    Regarding Oak’s statement that it was homosexual *behavior* that was sinful rather than thoughts — in late September, 1995, the Proclamation on the Family was published. The next month, Oak’s article on same-sex attraction was published. Oaks had worked on his talk since March, and the Proclamation had been worked on for about a year. I believe the Proclamation was worked on by a committee.

    With all that preparation, I suspect they may have consulted professional research on the topic and learned there was a strong possibility of inborn same-sex attraction. Oaks may have taken the opportunity to cover that base by emphasizing behavior over thoughts. However Elder James E. Faust had just denounced “the false belief of inborn homosexual orientation” that September.

  16. Re: “Three statements seem to give a sense of time frame for when behavior became the emphasis in church discourse.”

    Let’s not forget Boyd K. Packer’s talk on this subject, published by the Church 35 years ago.

    On March 5, 1978, Packer spoke to a BYU Twelve Stake Fireside about homosexuality. “I speak,” he said, “to those few, those very few, who may be subject to homosexual temptation.” Over and over, he warned “those few” to resist such temptations, “for a lifetime, if necessary.”

    “Do not respond to those feelings.” he continued, “Bad thoughts often have to be evicted a hundred times, or a thousand. But if they have to be evicted ten thousand times, never surrender to them. You are in charge of you.”

    He identified homosexual temptation as “an affliction,” a cause of pain and suffering. Yielding to that temptation only makes things worse. “When practiced,” he warned, “it is immoral. It is a transgression…. Such actions are wrong.”

    The distinction between temptation and transgression is not new. Eve did not transgress by being tempted of the devil, but by yielding to that temptation.

  17. Informative and insightful — thank you, Clair. Can you elaborate on the role played by BYU, its shift in policy towards “gays”? This shift seems to trace to about 2007 – correct? April 2007 was the commencement at which BYU awarded Dick Cheney an honorary Doctoral Degree with a great deal of publicity – and Dick Cheney has long been an open advocate for gay marriage.
    Has the shift at BYU affected the Church (“the tail wagging the dog”), or vice versa?

  18. Steve Jones, I haven’t looked closely at BYU and its approach to homosexuality. I think you may have a good point though about Cheney’s April 2007 visit to campus to receive an honorary doctorate degree and speak at commencement. Remember too that at this time, Mitt Romney was gaining traction as a viable candidate for president, with the church’s help. More attention was being paid to Romney and the church.

    The following events leading up to Cheney’s visit and changes to BYU’s honor code regarding homosexuality may be relevant:

    - April 8, 2006, BYU expresses concern that accreditation agencies will not respect their religious missions. BYU requests exemptions “from employing gays and lesbians” on the faculty among other things

    - April, 2006, Two dozen gay-rights protesters are arrested on BYU campus for trespassing. They are from Soulforce, a pro-gay group which has been travelling the country protesting at conservative universities

    - June 2006, BYU professor Jeffery Nielsen’s contract is allowed to expire after he questioned the church’s opposition to gay marriage

    - March 2007, Soulforce again protests at BYU

    - April 2007, Dick Cheney visits BYU campus to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree.

    - April 2007, “In response to the requests and efforts of several gay students, BYU amends its Honor Code to remove ambiguous wording and clarify its position regarding homosexuality. Prior to the amendment the Code was unclear on whether simply declaring oneself gay implied “advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle”(an Honor Code violation). The amended Honor Code makes it clear that “one’s stated sexual orientation is NOT an Honor Code issue” but maintains that homosexual behavior and/or the promotion of homosexual relations as “morally acceptable” remain Honor Code violations.” –LDS Gay History Timeline [Unabridged], http://mormoninthecloset.blogspot.com/2008/11/lds-gay-history-timeline-unabridged.html

  19. In a related matter, from the Salt Lake Tribune, 5/29/13:”A gay-rights group is protesting Weber State University’s decision to name a new family center after senior Mormon apostle Boyd K. Packer.

    “The Utah Stonewall Democrats say the center should not be named after Packer, who most recently stirred contention in April when he publicly warned against a “tolerance trap,” apparently in referring to the legalization of gay marriage.

    “To name something that is family-oriented in honor of a person who has such a narrow vision of what a family is, a vision that quite frankly excludes a lot of Utah families, is reprehensible in my opinion,” said Bob Henline, a board member of the Democratic caucus.

    “The group sent a letter Friday to Weber State Board of Trustees Chairman Alan Hall, though a school spokesman said Hall had not seen it as of Wednesday afternoon.

    “An online petition pushing the university to change the name of the Boyd K. and Donna S. Packer Center for Family and Community Education had nearly 1,900 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

    “The family center is not a building, but rather a fundraising and support group for existing community programs. Weber State officials hope naming the center after the high-ranking president of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will drive up donations.

    “Such namesakes “either have got to have money they’re willing to put in or the name recognition has to connect with folks that do have money,” said Jack Rasmussen, dean of the College of Education. “There was no specific donation made by the Packers, but there’s been a lot of money come in in support of that naming, a lot of kickback.” . . .

  20. In regards to the proclamation being released and hawaii, LDS really need to look out of Utah and BYU and instead look onto the political stage in a much broader sense.

    In 1993 Dean Hamer released his study re the gay gene. News articles were splashed across the world- Gay gene found! Born gay! Study proves people genetically born gay! In scientific circles however, criticism was made of his methodology (detectable by a first year psych student) and reviews critising his research was published in peer reviewed journals- generally inaccessible to the public. Hamner, knowing that the public was *very much* sold on the gay gene but that his credibility shot in his field, attempted to replicate the study 2 years later-1995.

    Again there was much fanfare- “gay gene will soon be isolated”. Time, National geographic, NY times and other European outlets heavily advertised the gay gene. Hamer announced his results would soon be published proving there was a gay gene. We were told these results would be published in October 1995.

    In October 1995 the proclamation was released to the WORLD. As promised, so too were Hamers. But the results were quietly released, with little media attention- his previous study had not been replicated and there was no proof of a gay gene. He was disgraced, went before the ethical board & was moved from his department.

    Hawaii had little significance outside of the USA. The gay gene was splashed across the world. Historically, the announcement of definitive proof of the gay gene (not since substantiated and now believed to be culturally driven) came at the same time preparations for the proclamation begun. The proclamation and the results Hamer’s second study were timed to be released at the same time. Ironically, Hamer’s final results did little to undermine the proclamation.

    The LDS church is well informed regarding the world stage, there are more LDS outside the US than within it. We would do well to open our eyes to the politics on the world stage before we start looking outward by only looking inward- we must look both ways.

  21. Sarah, thanks for broadening the perspective of events surrounding the Proclamation. Interesting that the “Gay Gene” hype may have been an important motivator for the church.

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