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Play About Mormon Shock Therapy “Cure” Opens In October

Jim Burroway

March 30th, 2011

ABC News has just released this fascinating report about playwright John Cameron’s experiences with a Mormon-sponsored program in the 1970s to try to cure him of his homosexuality through the use of electric shock therapy. That program, at Brigham Young University, was the basis for a doctoral dissertationby Max Ford McBride. Cameron was a very devout Mormon, and even though he had never acted on his sexual attractions at the time, he was desperate to get rid of his feelings. He saw McBride as his savior:

A mercury-filled tube was placed around the base of the penis and the students were shown alternating slides of men and women in various stages of undress.

When participants responded to images of men with an erection, the closed electric circuit was broken and they received three-second electrical shocks at 10-second intervals. Each session lasted an hour. Participants set their own pain levels.

Cameron said his shame was so deep that he selected the highest level.

“Max (the study’s author) didn’t do it, we did it,” he said. “I was always turning it up to get the most pain because I was desperate.”

This line really jumped out at me:

McBride’s alleged response ended up in Cameron’s play: “No one is a homosexual. Homosexuality doesn’t exist. It’s just a symptom of a deeper problem you are not willing to deal with.”

This line — there is no such thing as a homosexual — remains fundamental dogma of the ex-gay movement to this very day.

Cameron was one of thirteen subjects for McBride’s study. McBride today is a psychologist in Provo, Utah. Cameron wrote a play, “14,” about his experiences. The play, which includes portions of McBride’s dissertation, will be performed at the University of Colorado in Boulder in October. The play debuted at University of Iowa in 2007, and was performed at Kent State University in 2009.



March 30th, 2011 | LINK

No such thing as a homosexual. Right, just heterosexuals who struggle with same-sex attraction. It would be hillarious if it were not so sad.

March 30th, 2011 | LINK

Thank god there are people who are willing to share their experience of this stuff.

I found the guy who testified at the Prop8 trial absolutely compelling.

As best memory serves, there was a institute in Mexico, circa 2005?, that would take American kids in. One of them testified that he was put in a room and told that he wouldn’t be able to talk to his parents again until he was “cured”.

In other words, torture.

March 31st, 2011 | LINK

Regarding “fundamental dogma”, I’ll add since it is fresh in mind, that the “New Natural Law” is fully complicit, so far as one can tell.

NNL state plainly that gay sex, even for gays (!), is “illusory”.

Strangely, some of them seem to admit that there is a class of individuals that might (biologically?) be gay (I don’t have source on this, yet, just second hand – if anyone has, do share); but, nevertheless, the *only* expression of that available to them is … fake (immoral), no matter how subjectively perfective or objectively integrative and constructive it might be.

Is it any wonder that the ‘natural’ result of such an undiscerning view, in culture and at law, is torture, another gross assault on the dignity of the individual?

And I think this has moral implications for those who sit smugly on the sidelines of this, mumbling that they would never condone torture, but love the sinner and hate the sin. Not only do they give leeway at law and in culture to those who would do torture (on the kids and even adults), they fail to consider the grave peril of their own position (or “soul”): what if they are wrong and there is no intrinsic “sin”?

Thus, in full discernment, there is a clear path from these considerations to equality-at-law (for *gays*, not “in general”), either by mercy or by right.

March 31st, 2011 | LINK

Oh, and let’s be clear, to anticipate objections.

The physical torture did not end because it was torture. It ended because they came to think (McBride or otherwise) that it wasn’t effective. (!)

Which leaves the everpresent possibility that it could start again, just with a ‘new technique’.

March 31st, 2011 | LINK

Was shock therapy only a Mormon thing?  


It’s just my observation and with some first-hand accounts of some Mormons I know but they don’t really care if the cause of homosexuality is biological or learned.  It can be cured because it’s not how God made me.  And if it can’t be cured with one method they’ll use the scientific arm of their beloved BYU to find some way to adjust your orientation. 


The use of aversions-therapy/torture was only one methodology used by Mormons.  I know my family attempted to play the “tough love” psychological tricks on me.  They said I would go to outer darkness when I died.   I would be shunned.   I would be the object of ridicule and vandalism.  I even had the “I wish you were never born…” statement along with a mocking limp-wrist signal tossed at me by my Mother.  


It’s like they have a ‘list’ of suggested statements to read they get from a pamphlet:  “How to React When Your Son/Daughter Tells You They are Gay.”   

Richard Rush
March 31st, 2011 | LINK


No one is a homosexual Mormon. Homosexuality Mormonism doesn’t exist. It’s just a symptom of a deeper problem indoctrination that you are not willing to deal with.

A corollary is that no one is born a Mormon (or conventional Christian, etc.). Everyone is born an atheist (as God intended them to be;)). Thus Mormons (and conventional Christians, etc.) are just atheists with an indoctrination problem.

While there is no confirmed evidence that a homosexual can convert to a heterosexual, there are mountains of evidence that people of one religion can convert to another, or none.

March 31st, 2011 | LINK

Cowboy, it certainly was not.

England, for instance, gave some people the option to “volunteer” to be tortured “medically” or else be locked up, if they had been arrested.

Some actually volunteered to be tortured.

No participant thought they had benefited from treatment and for many it increased their sense of social isolation and shame.

In Germany, Steinach did other tortures. He did surgery, putting the testicles of corpses into gay men. As I recall, the first were involuntary (unethical by today’s standards) and the later were all tragically voluntary, based on false hopes.

John Cameron
May 27th, 2011 | LINK

I wrote the play 14. I just wanted to let everyone know that there were a few mistakes in the article at which have since been corrected. Ford never said there was no such thing as homosexuality, although my intro to psych teacher at BYU did say it when I went to him for help.

May 28th, 2011 | LINK

BYU (by extension, an agency of the Mormon Church) has done some terrible things to homosexuals in their midst. I know a gay LDSaint told me he went through convulsions when he went through electro-shock treatments at BYU.

Was it some experiment at BYU not sanctioned by any ethical medical association?

Could the Mormon Church be trying to distance itself from this particularly sordid past to indemnify itself from any legal action?

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