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Mormon Reorientation Efforts

Timothy Kincaid

September 2nd, 2009

On his site, conservative Christian psychology professor Dr. Warren Throckmorton has been following the debate between some same-sex attracted Mormon and some NARTH-affiliated Mormons. The discussion so far consists of

  • In Quiet Desperation, a book by Ty Mansfield, a same-sex attracted but faithfully observant Mormon and Fred and Marilyn Matis, the parents of a son who committed suicide. They argue for faithful following of teaching but also for compassion and sympathy for those who are same-sex attracted and for a change in social condemnation and rejection.
  • A Slippery Slope that Limits the Atonement, a review of the book by Dean Byrd, Shirley E. Cox, and Jeffrey W. Robinson. Byrd is the past president of the anti-gay therapist group, National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. In this review, they condemn Mansfield and the Matises for conceding that some people will remain same-sex attracted and that such persons should not be subjected to social condemnation. They felt that the book’s admission of the continuing existence of same-sex attraction “inadvertently limits the power of the atonement in the lives of people who struggle with homosexual attraction” and that Mansfield had “simply conceded victory to his homosexuality.” For good measure they also throw in large doses of homophobic ranting.
  • A rebuttal on Dr. Throckmorton’s site by Dr. Michael Bailey expressing that Byrd et al had taken his words out of context and given them a meaning nearly the opposite to what Bailey intended.
  • A rebuttal by Ty Mansfield expressing that Byrd et al had ascribed to him motivations and beliefs that he did not hold.
  • A response by four Mormon professors, William Bradshaw, Robert A. Rees, Ron Schow, Marybeth Raynes, which accuses Byrd et al of making baseless claims, misconstruing LDS theology, and ultimately of armchair analysis that was “not only inappropriate, [but] professionally irresponsible”.

Considering that every party in this discussion (except Bailey) is an observant member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and all hold to the church’s teachings about heterosexual monogamy, the entire exchange is a fascinating illustration of the extremism found in those who gravitate to NARTH. I recommend that those interested should at least follow Dr. Throckmorton’s highlights of the debate if not the extended discussion.

But I want to step away from the discussion and pull out one interesting side note. In the response by Bradshaw et al, we find the first hint of the measure of success that the Mormon Church has had in assisting same-sex attracted Mormons to become heterosexual.

First I have to bring to your attention a peculiarity about Mormon theology (As I am not an authority on LDS theology, I welcome correction): Unlike standard Christian beliefs, celibacy is not quite adequate for fully achieving the will of God. Although a Baptist, for example, might see celibacy as adhering to God’s morality code, a Mormon would believe that only through heterosexual marriage can one attain the highest levels of the Celestial Kingdom and achieve godhood. Recognizing marriage as the goal, Bradshaw makes the following observation:

Given the fact that Byrd was the lead person directing therapy for same sex attraction at Church Social Services during a period when many hundreds of Latter-day Saints were undergoing reparative or change therapy, one would think he would cite the findings of such therapy. It is in fact scandalous that such studies either were not undertaken or have been suppressed since the findings would help enlighten our present discussion of this subject. We are acquainted with one therapist at Church Social Services during Byrd’s tenure who did a large portion of this work in that he counseled with nearly a thousand homosexuals and whose experience contradicts the point of view taken in this review.2

Footnote 2 clarifies:

2. Our informant has told us that in over a 30 year career at LDS Family Services he worked with about 400 single men, 200 of whom left therapy after 1-2 sessions. Of the remaining 200, only 20 (10%) were able to marry. Furthermore, 19 of the 20 who married identified themselves as bisexual when they entered therapy. The quality of these marriages is unknown. Another Latter-day Saint therapist with whom we are familiar reports that of the hundreds of clients with sexual identity issues she has seen only those clearly identified as bisexual are given any chance of making successful marriages.

I wish to caution that this is third hand information. Yet it comes from sources that would likely find joy in announcing that reorientation efforts in the church were largely successful, if that were true.

What I find particularly troubling is that Dean Byrd would be unavoidably aware of the measure of success or failure that Church Social Services had in achieving the reorientation (or marriage) goals of his own program. If the results were as Bradshaw and company relay, then it is difficult to understand how Byrd could say that “there is much hope and substantial evidence that those who want to overcome same-sex attraction can make changes and achieve happiness and peace in their lives” and that “many men (and women) … have successfully dealt with same-sex attraction, have married, have families, are not depressed, and are living hopeful and happy lives.”

Considering the stark disparity between Byrd’s words and his results, I have to conclude that either the report is wildly incorrect, Byrd is seriously self-deluding, or that he has willingly adopted a policy of deception and fabrication in order to advance a politico-religious social agenda.

Comments

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Burr
September 2nd, 2009 | LINK

Ah yes there is much hope indeed. Hope that continuing to do the same things that have failed again and again will finally convert some gays, but none grounded in any sliver of reality.

Penguinsaur
September 2nd, 2009 | LINK

Afew things I notice these guys refuse to ever acknowledge:
A. bisexuals, they dont exist to these people. Does anyone know the % of the population that is bisexual? I have a suspicion its eerily close to the number of successful ‘ex-gays’.

B. History, they always act like ‘curing’ gays is some radical new idea science just can’t handle. Psychologists, many with much more rigorous scientific standards then today’s church funded quacks, spent almost a century looking for a ‘cure’. None of them managed to find one, or even a need for a cure.

C. Bias. I have no problem with someone searching for a way to change people’s sexual orientation, just like I have no problem with people searching for flaws in evolutionary theory. That’s the problem though, they arent searching for anything, their clawing for something sciencey to dress their religious beliefs in. They dont care if gays can change or not, they’ve already decided they can and should, any ‘research’ is just to find support for that idea. I’ve yet to find one ‘scientist’ who thinks this actually works who doesnt use it to justify taking rights away from gays.

John
September 2nd, 2009 | LINK

There is no reason to believe that Mormon efforts to change people from gay to straight would be any more successful than anyone else. Their success rate would have to be much less than 1% with the most likely number being zero.

Of course, they are not going to publicize their “success rate.” Their jobs and income depend on convincing people to come to them in hope of some sort of “cure.” Who in their right mind would come to these folks, if they told them up front that the liklihood of sexual orientation change was more or less zero percent?

grantdale
September 2nd, 2009 | LINK

Whatever next…

“My apology to gay men and lesbians, and society in general: I should have known better.” by Dr E. Warren Throckmorton???

(Actually, a public statement probably would be an honourable thing to do; taking the past 10+ years into consideration.)

At least Dean A. Byrd is consistent. He is simply repeating every one of the grotesque distortions he has been publishing for years. He was wrong then, wrong now … and anyone with a history of supporting his efforts should feel rightfully embarrassed and apologetic.

The tone and content of Byrd’s co-authored response continues to travel the same insulting, abusive and disturbingly inaccurate and misleading vein that his work has always travelled. Byrd again cannot resist making rude and unfathomable psychological assessments from a distance; all of which draw to his predictable conclusions. His words directed at the parents who lost a son to suicide are utterly contemptible: it would have been no less beyond the Pale if he’d simply yelled “It was your fault, so feel guilty!” at them. Bleah.

Personally, given what is at stake and given the findings, Byrd’s continued misuse of the Remafedi, Sandfort and Xiridou papers are standouts.

Timothy, I would therefore like to select door number three if I may.

… and I know you always enjoy such memories being triggered: so I will. Note the common themes… :)

[Hmmm, on a side note: the results, third-hand albeit, mirror J&Y’s for Exodus … no change in sexual orientation, bisexuals thrown in the mix for confusion, and essentially bog all results in spite of all the effort, grief and expense. But of course.]

cowboy
September 2nd, 2009 | LINK

Mr. Kincaid has hit on the crux of the Mormon versus the homos conundrum. The Mormons believe so much in their “eternal family” dogma with their constant drumming of temple marriage and about raising children in the faith it is no wonder I have many gay buddies who are living a hetero-lifestyle primarily to conform to peer pressure and the rewards of having a family in the Celestial Kingdom in Heaven.

What I would love to point out to Dean A. Byrd: How many gay Mormons are racked with guilt each time they have a tryst at some gay bar when they are out of town on business, or cruise the parks or make tapping noises in airport restrooms.

They are perfect actors when they must perform as heterosexuals but when the curtain closes they’re still homosexuals. They’re just actors.

What gets me: I’m honest about who I am and yet I will be stationed at some lower level in Mormon Heaven because I didn’t play the part exactly as they scripted.

John
September 2nd, 2009 | LINK

This mormon marriage and kids obsession seems consistent with everything else that one hears about this organization. Money appears to be their real emphasis in all things. Marriage and kids leads to more mormons tithing to the church. Everything seems to revolve around money all the way back to Joseph Smith and his money printing scams.

Timothy Kincaid
September 3rd, 2009 | LINK

grantdale,

thanks for the trip down memory lane.

I find it interesting the extent to which this little band of brothers has gone their separate ways. I don’t think that Blakeslee hangs with the NARTHers either any more, but I could be mistaken about that.

Bruce Garrett
September 3rd, 2009 | LINK

“What I find particularly troubling is that Dean Byrd would be unavoidably aware of the measure of success or failure that Church Social Services had in achieving the reorientation (or marriage) goals of his own program…”

There it is. There. Let’s, why don’t we, start acknowledging that for what it is.

And you’ve seen it elsewhere too, haven’t you, every time someone in the anti-gay industrial complex cites a research paper or study or book that when you look up the cite yourself, turns out to emphatically Not say what the anti-gay spokesdroid said it said. Did you not read that for yourself before you cited it???

Yeah…they read it. But their audience is not the one who would bother verifying the cite. And I tell you now Byrd’s audience does not care one whit that he himself experienced first-hand evidence that contradicts his own claims about homosexuality and change. Byrd’s audience isn’t about any of that. They don’t come to him for the facts about homosexuality. They come to him for reassurance that no matter what they do to their gay children, to their gay neighbors, in their homes, in their communities, in the voting booth, they’re not to blame for the human suffering that results. Because if gays didn’t want to suffer, they could always stop being gay. That’s what Byrd’s audience wants to hear, so they can keep seeing a moral person every morning when they look in the bathroom mirror.

Ben in Oakland
September 3rd, 2009 | LINK

I think Ty’s comment here is interesting, and I wish I had more time to write about it:

The reviewers criticize me for stating that some members of society and of the Church are unduly prejudiced when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. Here we have one case where they have correctly represented what I said in the book. But I do not believe that is an “activist” statement; it’s simply the truth. I should also add that I wholly agree, as they complain, that too many people—as a way to silence discussion or disagreement—connect disapproval of homosexual behaviors or the gay cultural movement with “homophobia.” My own conviction that homosexual acts are not approved of by the Lord is not because I fear them or those who participate in them. As I stated in the book: “It is important to note that even though we can genuinely have a spiritual conviction that homosexual behavior is completely contrary to the Father’s eternal purposes for His children—and have those feelings without any trace of bigotry or hatred toward those who participate in it—we must also remember that we cannot feel personal prejudice or hatred toward those who experience homosexual attraction (even those who participate in homosexual behavior) and use our religion to justify that prejudice”

What he doesn’t see is that this is an ancient prejudice, and it has been used by religion, as it has used religion. The whole interpretation of the sodom story as having something to do with homosexuality, when any REASONABLE reading of it clearly shows it is about the threat of rape, especially of angelic flesh, is just ONE example. Had the crowd accepted Lopt’s daughters, they would have been called rapists, not homosexuals.

In other words, like all of the so-called biblical and mormonist injunctions about homosexuality, Ty’s beliefs about G and homosexuality are just yet one MORE expression of this ancient prejudice.

Ben in Oakland
September 3rd, 2009 | LINK

Whoops, it should have read:

” Had the crowd accepted Lot’s daughters, they would have been called rapists, not HETEROSEXUALS.”

The bias is clear.

grantdale
September 3rd, 2009 | LINK

I don’t think that Blakeslee hangs with the NARTHers either any more

Correct Timothy, as such. But it’s more complicated (as you’ll no doubt recall). I think it is important not to let the history slide into confusion… so, for everyone else who wasn’t there at the time…

Blakeslee resigned from NARTH in late Sept 2006 — when the offensive Schoenewolf article hit the fan. He resigned because of that mess, not because he disagreed with the NARTH positions regarding homosexuality etc. I do remember he was at pains to emphasise that in a comment at Throckmorton’s site. (Throckmorton also withdrew at the time, and for the same reasoning; but… again not over NARTH’s efforts against homosexuality). I’ll go drag out the links if you’re interested.

This begs the question though… if that one unstable article had never contained that superfluous rubbish about slavery… would they have ever withdrawn?

I suspect not, frankly. As best I can see Blakeslee remains essentially welded to a NARTHian view of all things GLBT. (Mind-numbingly at times.)

So too, from another perspective, the divergent paths since Sept 2006 may be rather seen as a cat-fight between people jostling for influence than essential differences about NARTH itself. But, jeez, what would I know? :)

Timothy Kincaid
September 3rd, 2009 | LINK

grantdale,

We’re both just guessing… but I’m fairly certain that Warren would be gone by now. He’s pretty critical (actually very critical) of NARTH these days.

Warren differs in that he denounces reparative therapy, has some doubts that homosexual men ever do become truly heterosexual, and thinks that biology plays a part in the etiology of orientation for at least some gay people. He even thinks that gay persons in relationships can be considered Christians, though he still finds same-sex sexual expression to be outside the will of God.

I heard that Exodus is pissed at him because “he squelches hope” by suggesting that they tell the truth about what a participant can expect (ie. probably a lifetime of celibacy without ever losing same-sex attraction or gaining much opposite-sex attraction)

As for David, I think he probably would have left NARTH by now, but I’m less sure. The NARTHies have pretty much jumped off the deep end. They’ve now alienated pretty much everyone by misquoting and falsely using everyone else’s work.

I’m sure David still wants very much to believe in reorientation and is quick to believe the worst about gay folk, but he’s not an idiot. And these days that seems to be a prerequisite for staying in NARTH.

But, like I said, that’s just my guess.

grantdale
September 3rd, 2009 | LINK

Agree Timothy. That Schoenewolf article was the straw that broke the camel’s back, it representing a great deal more that was going on at the time.

The NARTH establishment responded dreadfully of course — closing ranks, hiding the problem article, denial, refusing to engage, acting as if people were traitors for being horrified — effectively putting many so offside that resignations did follow.

It could have gone another way, I can see: a coup. Long overdue (for them, that is. Me… I’m content with their continued decline)

But it didn’t happen. At least, not to the extent of reassuring such people that things had changed and they felt confident enough to again involve themselves with NARTH. If it had, we’d still have the same core NARTH nuttiness but arguably much more cleverly presented with some extra bells and whistles.

We wouldn’t disagree that Warren’s views have altered in the past 2 years, that much seems very clear. Markedly on some issues. (Although making a decision several years ago… we have continued to set up feeds etc from Warren’s site. We can name some of who you mean with regard to the “he squelches hope” pissed offedness. Yeah-sh, well, enough said about them.) Warren hasn’t been entertaining them in recent times, at least regarding the false ‘hope’ of a change in sexual orientation.

I still think he could have known all this 10 years ago. Eh, ‘What If’ speculating and scenario planning: I ought to give them a rest some days.

And one need be an idiot to behave like one, at times. We, boy oh boy, do we know that to be one of the dilemmas of life :)

Cheers mate, hope life’s good with you and yours. Thanks for fixing the italic horrors.

Daisy
September 4th, 2009 | LINK

Reading this article reminded me of the horror and disgust I felt when I first found out about the Elecotroshock/Aversion Therapy that was de facto at BYU. Almost as difficult to digest was the terribly warped and twisted mindset that could allow such things to continue, for years.

And of course, to add insult to injury, the constant denial or refusal to publish or even speak about anything that would contradict the church’s official position, or prove the complete failure of this kind of torture……oops, I mean “therapy”, to provide a cure.

Of all the harm inflicted upon innocent people who have been affiliated with the church, this is among the most devastating and far-reaching, and the most in need of acknowledgement and accountability.

On a related subject, there is a fairly new website I just came across:
http://www.gaymormonstories.com/
While I haven’t yet had the time to explore it in depth, it appears to be a forum more for those who are still Mormon, rather than those who chose to leave a toxic environment. I thought it worth mentioning and keeping an eye on, as it has been, and remains, a difficult and dangerous journey for so many.

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