Another 1978 Prophecy?

Mormon university eases anti-gay policy
Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate
Wednesday 18 April, 2007

Mormon-owned Brigham Young University has eased its punitive policy on gay students, a small but significant change one student said would help to relax a "Gestapo atmosphere" on campus.

Prompted by gay BYU students, the university last week changed its honor code to read, "Sexual orientation is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity," the Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday.

Previously, the code read, "Advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle (whether implied or explicit) or any behaviors that indicate homosexual conduct, including those not sexual in nature . . . violate the Honor Code."

Staff and students at the school owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are expected to follow the code or risk probation or, in rare cases, "separation from the university."

Last year, a BYU philosophy instructor who wrote a pro-gay newspaper editorial saw his teaching contract lapse as a result.

The code has long been a target of Soulforce, the Virginia nonprofit that tours the country to end religious discrimination against LGBT people, and Soulforce activists were quick Tuesday to praise the change.

"The words are still violent toward the LGBT community, but it's no longer hush-hush," Soulforce media director Brandon Kneefel told "The ambiguity was the most harmful thing."

At some schools where Soulforce protests, closeted students have been expelled simply for having gay content on their social-networking pages. It's important, Kneefel said, that BYU now names sexual orientation as real and intrinsic. "They used to say, 'We have counselors, we have help for you.'

"Because what is 'homosexual behavior'? To realize their discrimination, they first have to spell it out."

Last year, the group held a mock funeral at BYU's Provo, Utah campus -- followed by 24 arrests -- for students who have committed suicide out of anguish over their sexuality.

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins told the Tribune that the policy change was not related to Soulforce.

Nick Literski, a gay blogger and BYU alumnus, told the paper that it reflected "a growing disconnect between homosexuality and what individual members are coming to see. As more and more members of the LDS Church are coming to know individuals who are gay and finding out that they're human . . . it becomes difficult for them to demonize homosexuality the way the church positions do."

Equality Ride activists were scheduled to hold further actions Tuesday in Idaho, Kneefel said. Instead, to respect the national mourning of the Virginia Tech shooting victims, they did community service, helping clean up and restore a local nature area.


LDS Church to publish new look at same-sex attraction

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune


    Just days after this week's Evergreen International conference ends, the LDS Church will publish another look at same-sex attraction.

    Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, in the October issue of Ensign, the church's official magazine, will discuss the church's perspective on several topics to be explored Friday and Saturday at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building by members of Evergreen, an outreach organization for Mormons dealing with homosexuality.

    In the article, Holland reiterates the church's position that same-sex attraction is not a sin; only acting on it is immoral. He does not try to explain the causes of these attractions, but acknowledges they are real.

    "Through the exercise of faith, individual efforts and reliance on the power of [Christ's] Atonement, some may resolve same gender attraction in mortality and marry," he writes. "Others, however, may never be free of same-gender attraction in this life."

    Further, Holland writes, marrying a person of the opposite sex "is not an all-purpose solution. Same-gender attractions run deep, and trying to force a heterosexual relationship is not likely to change them. We are thrilled when some who struggle with these feelings are able to marry, raise children, and achieve family happiness. But other attempts have resulted in broken hearts and broken homes."

    The LDS Church has faced criticism for its opposition to government-sanctioned, same-sex marriage and for earlier statements by Mormon leaders about the sinfulness of homosexuality. In recent years, the church has sought to refine and clarify its doctrinal positions and encourage members to be kinder and more compassionate to their gay and lesbian co-believers.

    "When our actions or words discourage someone from taking full advantage of church membership," Holland writes, "we fail them - and the Lord."

    In July, the LDS Church posted a new pamphlet on homosexuality on the church's Web site. The piece, titled "God Loveth His Children" and sent to all Mormon bishops and stake presidents, made many of the same points Holland did.

    About the same time, the LDS Church News published several stories of anonymous Mormon men who had lifelong homosexual feelings. And a year ago, the church posted on its Web site a wide-ranging interview on the topic with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, and Elder Lance Wickman, a member of the First Quorum of Seventy. The two leaders - both lawyers - made no claims to divine or institutional authority but shared their views on what causes homosexuality (they don't know), whether gays choose their attractions (not likely), change therapies (they don't endorse any of them), whether Mormon gays should marry women ("doesn't usually solve the problem"), the distinction between civil unions and marriage for gays, the arguments connecting early Mormon polygamy and same-sex marriage and why the church endorsed a constitutional marriage amendment. For its part, Evergreen does suggest homosexual attractions often can be modified, if not eliminated.

    The group, which bills itself as "the leading organization for Latter-day Saints dealing with unwanted homosexuality," has no official affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but many LDS bishops and stake presidents are among the attendees each year. Also, its board of trustees usually includes one or more emeritus general authorities of the church and at least one such authority has spoken at the annual conference every year for the past decade.

    At this year's meeting on Friday and Saturday, Elder Douglas L. Callister of the LDS Second Quorum of Seventy and Michael MacLean, Mormon composer, artist, performer and playwright, will address the crowd. Rich Wyler, a graduate of Brigham Young University and a founder and executive director of People Can Change, and Kristen Johnson, the director of OneByOne, a Presbyterian ministry to gays, also will speak.

     Workshops at the two-day conference will cover topics such as depression, intimacy, finding trust in relationships, what it really takes to overcome same-sex attraction, overcoming pornography, plus several sessions designed especially for spouses, parents, couples and friends. There also will be workshops for Spanish-speaking participants.

    Callister's speech on Saturday morning and a two-hour educational workshop will be open at no charge to LDS leaders," said a press release. "[They] may have ward or branch members struggling with same-gender attraction issues."