Mormon Reorientation Efforts
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.