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Gay rights activists see Mormons softening attitudes toward their community
Gay rights activists hold hands in protest in front of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, in July 2009.
April 17th, 2012
12:25 PM ET

Gay rights activists see Mormons softening attitudes toward their community

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) Kevin Kloosterman, a former Mormon bishop, said he “came out” last year just not in the way that many people associate with coming out.

“I came out and basically made a personal apology to (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) folks for really not understanding their issues, not really taking the time to understand their lives and really not doing my homework,” Kloosterman said in an interview with CNN.

Though not speaking on behalf of the church, the then-bishop stood in front of a crowd of gay and straight Mormons at a November conference on gay and lesbian issues in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is headquartered.

Donning a suit and tie, Kloosterman was visibly shaken, struggling to find the right words as tears welled up in his eyes.

“I’m sorry deeply, deeply sorry,” Kloosterman told the group in a speech that was captured on video. “The only thing I can say to those of you who have been so patient, and have gone through so much, is for you to watch and look for any small changes with your loved ones, with your wards (Mormon congregations), with your leaders. And encourage them in this repentance process.”

Kloosterman’s apology was just one example of what many Mormons and church watchers see as a recent shift in the Mormon community’s posture toward gays and lesbians, including by the official church itself.

Though the church’s doctrine condemning homosexuality has not changed, and the church remains opposed to same-sex marriage, many say the church is subtly but unmistakably growing friendlier toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, including voicing support for some gay rights.

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Students at the church-owned Brigham Young University recently posted an “It Gets Better” video about the gay and lesbian community there, while a gay Mormon in San Francisco was selected last year for a church leadership position.

A new conference series on gay and lesbian Mormons the same one Kloosterman addressed last year is seeing an uptick in popularity.

Church spokesman Michael Purdy would not comment on whether church members are changing their stance toward gay and lesbian issues but said in an e-mail message: “In the Church, we strive to follow Jesus Christ who showed immense love and compassion towards all of God’s children.”

Purdy wrote, “If members are becoming more loving and Christ-like toward others then this can only be a positive development.”

‘It is definitely getting better’

The Brigham Young students who taped the pro-gay video this month were contributing to a popular video series meant to inspire hope in young people who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality identity.

The video featured students telling stories of being gay at Brigham Young, sharing tales of heartache, loss and even suicide.

“It kind of is a very different world to be gay and Mormon because it feels like neither community accepts you completely,” said Bridey Jensen, a fifth-year senior and acting president of Understanding Same Gender Attraction, the group that posted the video.

Explain it to me: What’s Mormonism?

“We put out the message for youth that are going through this, and we want them to know that we were them a few years ago, and it gets better and there is a place for you,” she said.

Though chastity is a requirement at Brigham Young, gay and lesbian students say they are under more scrutiny. The school’s honor code says that “homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates” the code.

But Jensen said reaction to the video, which has been viewed almost 400,000 times on YouTube, has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Carri Jenkins, an assistant to Brigham Young's president, told CNN that the production of the video is not a violation of the honor code and that the students will not be punished.

The honor code, Jenkins said, is “based on conduct, not on feeling and if same-gender attraction is only stated, that is not an honor code issue.”

Jensen said that while gay and lesbian Mormons face a tough road, she sees a shift toward greater acceptance. It is definitely getting better within the church, she said. “They are not so quick to judge. They understand that they don’t understand everything. I am glad I can be a little part of it.”

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Some scholars of Mormonism, such as Columbia University’s Richard Bushman, said they see the very existence of such a gay rights group at Brigham Young as a step toward greater acceptance of gays and lesbians.

“The last 10 years have been a huge sea change in terms of willingness to accept homosexuals,” Bushman said. “Gay kids are still going to have a tough time in the church, but this level of acceptance and acknowledgment that is really that last decade I would say.”

Most gay Mormons point to 2008’s push for Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage in the state but has faced legal challenge in the courts, as a low point in the relationship between the church and gay and lesbian community.

Mormons make up 2% of California’s population, but they contributed half of the $40 million war chest used to defend Proposition 8, according to a Time magazine report.

The church’s Proposition 8 activism angered many gay rights groups around the country, with some labeling the church “bigoted,” “homophobic” and “anti-gay.”

But church officials pushed back against the perception that the Proposition 8 backlash has provoked a Mormon softening on gay and lesbian issues.

“Many positive relationships have come from the Church’s experience in supporting traditional marriage in California,” Purdy, the church spokesman, said in an e-mail exchange with CNN.

Purdy draws a distinction between being against same-sex marriage and against equality for gays and lesbians.

He reiterated that the church was “strongly on the record as supporting traditional marriage,” but he said its stance should never be used as justification for violence or unkindness.

“The Church’s doctrine has not changed but we certainly believe you can be Christ-like, loving and civil, while advocating a strongly held moral position such as supporting traditional marriage,” Purdy wrote in an e-mail message.

“We do not believe that strong support of traditional marriage is anti-gay,” he wrote. “We love and cherish our brothers and sisters who experience same gender attraction. They are children of God.”

Church doctrine says that sex outside marriage is a sin and can lead to excommunication. Since gay people cannot be married in the church, any sex for them would be premarital and, therefore, sinful.

“The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear,” the church’s website says. “It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression. The sin is in yielding to temptation. Temptation is not unique. Even the Savior was tempted.”

Openly gay and a church leader

Mitch Mayne seems to relish his role as a lightning rod.

Mayne, an openly gay Mormon who blogs about homosexuality and the church, received the calling a term Mormons use for being invited into a church position in August.

Mayne is now executive secretary in a San Francisco ward of the church.

“I view myself as gay and being completely whole as being gay,” Mayne said.

Many observers of Mormonism say Mayne’s calling marked a unique moment in church history. Purdy said that Mayne’s appointment is “not unique,” but it’s hard to find precedent for an outspokenly gay executive secretary.

Mayne said he sees his job as building bridges with the gay community in San Francisco and showing them “there are pockets in the Mormon Church where you can be yourself.”

The biggest obstacle toward building those bridges is the threat of excommunication, said Mayne, who told CNN that in some wards just being gay can lead to expulsion from the church.

According to church doctrine, a formal disciplinary council can be called at the request of church leader.

While the leaders of the church mandate councils called for murder, incest or apostasy, it has a long list of reasons to call a disciplinary council.

According to the church’s website, the list of reasons includes “abortion, transsexual operation, attempted murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, intentionally inflicting serious physical injuries on others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations. …”

Some wards are observing that guidance while others aren’t, Mayne said.

“Here in the Bay Area ... we are no longer seeking out LGBT members of the church and excommunicating them,” Mayne said. “Our role is to bring people closer to the Savior, so if we are routinely excommunicating people, then we are really not doing our job.”

Mayne said he believes the challenge is to convince church leaders that they don’t ever have to excommunicate gay members.

And he said the Proposition 8 campaign was the “least Christ-like thing we have ever done as a church.”

“Not only did we alienate gays and lesbians, but we alienated their parents, their friends, those who support them the ripple effect went way beyond the gay community, and I don’t think we were prepared for such a negative fallout,” Mayne said. “I think the church deserved the black eye they received.”

He added, “As a result of that really horrible time, I think we are entering a really good time to be a gay Mormon. It is getting better.”

‘Mormonism doesn’t simply wash off’

When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks, the City Council of Salt Lake City listens. At least the council seemed to in 2009 when it voted on an ordinance to make it illegal to discriminate against gay and transgendered residents in housing and employment.

"The church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage,” church spokesman Michael Otterson told the council.

Shortly after the church’s expression, the City Council approved the measure unanimously.

Many gay rights activists said they saw the move as an olive branch after the Proposition 8 debate.

“The tone and the culture is evolving, and the way the LGBT people are being treated is changing. I don’t think the church’s policy has caught up to that change in culture,” said Ross Murray, director of religion, faith and values at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. “The Mormon church hasn’t gotten nearly as politically involved as they had since 2009.”

Though Murray sees the church lobbying for anti-discrimination laws as a positive step, he said the church’s shift is more about style than substance.

“It is going to take a lot of intentional effort to actually prove they are different,” Murray said. “That burden, because of the really public nature of their support of Prop 8, falls harder on the Mormon church than others.”

Joanna Brooks, a popular Mormon blogger and president of Mormon Stories, a nonprofit group that facilitates conversations on Mormon issues, echoes Murray’s sentiments.

She said she sees the church’s stance as challenging gay Mormons to choose between the religion they most likely grew up with and their desire for romantic companionship.

“Mormonism doesn’t simply wash off,” she said, adding that the church can’t make it that “either you are gay or you are Mormon, or either you support gay rights or you support the church.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: California • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Mormonism • Utah

soundoff (1,904 Responses)
  1. Rodney

    Nice new business plan.

    April 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Audra

      This article is flabbergasting. San Francisco is on of the most liberal places in America. Or course people in different congregations are going to have their different opinions vrs any conservative state. What members do is *NOT* official church doctrine. That's like saying Catholic members who take birth control pills speak for the Catholic religion.

      As stated by the article– “The Church’s doctrine has not changed but we certainly believe you can be Christ-like, loving and civil, while advocating a strongly held moral position such as supporting traditional marriage.” That's more civil than the stance I've seen coming from anti-Mormons.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  2. Reality

    "Abrahamics" like the Mormons believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    o The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    See also the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    And because of basic biology differences said monogamous ventures should always be called same-se-x unions not same-se-x marriages.

    April 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  3. tkessler45

    Mormons...gettin' gay wit it!

    April 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  4. Libdumb

    So what? Why is this relevant to the news media? There must be a motive to publishing this story. More propaganda.

    April 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Presian

      You realize you're reading the Belief Blog, right?

      April 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  5. CRodep

    BLESSED!

    April 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  6. Keith Weber

    “We do not believe that strong support of traditional marriage is anti-gay,” he wrote.

    That is the most contradictory statement I have ever heard. That us like saying in the 1950s "we believe in separate but equal, but are not racist against African Americans"-if you do not support equality, you cannot honestly claim to not have something against that group of people...its mind-boggling to me

    April 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  7. get a life

    Something about modern day religions, is that they have no back bone. They claim to be Christian, yet they will go directly against their own teachings to bend to whatever social event happens to be popular. Mormons must have adopted the new Bible, the printed in #2 pencil so that they can erase the parts they don't want to read.

    April 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Neesha

      Very True

      April 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  8. GT

    Always amazed at the speed in which the Mormon church evolves to suit their needs. They no longer condoned multiple wives, then I could avoid hell and still not wear my special underwear. I was taught as a young boy in Utah that black people were black because they were burned by God. Then we could all the sudden drink caffeine without going to hell. Then you could buy alcohol in Salt Lake City. I left the Church after way too many contradictions and changes made them less than valid with me. Oh and did you know the second coming is going to happen in St. Louis? Do some research and see how much land the Church bought for when Jesus returns for the Mormons in Missouri.

    April 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Audra

      And you've got things twisted... as usually seen on these kinds of forums.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • mike hunt

      these comments make be believe you were never LDS because they are wrong. Caffeen for example, the word of wisdom when from simply a suggestioin to a comandment, not the other way arround. caffeen was never an issue, as it clearly states hot drinks, coffee and tea. not coke, pepsi, or caffeen. and the only thing at stake if you dont follow it is your health and temple recommend. hell doesnt factor in to it.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  9. Mormonguy

    Read the article carefully! It is nothing new. The Church's stance has always been the same and will never change. There has never been any negative action against anyone who feels same gender attraction. The problem arises when someone acts out on those urges. That is what God and the Church cannot tolerate and look past. You cannot call something good when it is bad. No one will blame or have ill feelings for someone that has those same gender attractions that they cannot control. There is no point to that and it is not Christ-like. But you cannot change that it is a sin when they act out on it. That is when you need corrective action in order to help them, or they can leave the Church.

    April 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • xeno

      Do whatever you want within your church. But when you attempt to impose your views on others through policy, such as with Prop 8, you should lose your tax exempt status.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • bananaspy

      You can't call something bad if your only evidence is an ancient book that has yet to be proven factual. In the end, your opinion of gays has nothing to do with the Bible, but your own personal bias.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "You cannot call something good when it is bad. No one will blame or have ill feelings for someone that has those same gender attractions that they cannot control. There is no point to that and it is not Christ-like. But you cannot change that it is a sin when they act out on it. That is when you need corrective action in order to help them, or they can leave the Church."

      So you are going to willfully deny the hundred of thousands of experts that have proven you wrong. It's funny how there are now thousands of churches that have stated being gay as we know and understand it TODAY is not a sin. Look in the mirror and realize you continue to choose your prejudice and bigotry, gays don't choose to be gay!

      April 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      What if somebody is 'acting on the urge' to have dark skin or be female? Because until recently your church didn't treat blacks or women with much respect or welcome them either.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Carol

      This article is for Romney. It won't make a difference to me.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • myklds

      "gays don't choose to be gay!"

      Yes, but they have the choice to commit or NOT to commit any act of ho.mose.xuality.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Audra

      "What if somebody is 'acting on the urge' to have dark skin or be female? Because until recently your church didn't treat blacks or women with much respect or welcome them either."

      You said it yourself. "Acting on an urge" is not the same thing as being born female or black. "Being Gay" is an action, just like having se x outside marriage is an action. "Acting" on temptation is a sin.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • I am not a fool

      "This article is for Romney. It won't make a difference to me."

      Oh, Carol, are you saying that Romney is gay?lol!

      April 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • get a life

      The action of s ex is a choice, otherwise it's r ape.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • AtheismIsCrap

      "Because until recently your church didn't treat blacks or women with much respect or welcome them either."

      Good thing you spend much of your time to advertise your ignorance about the Mormons.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • AtheismIsCrap

      I get it.

      "The action of s ex is a choice, otherwise it's r ape."

      Are we talking about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie here? C'mon!

      April 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  10. Mary

    Do not trust this organized religion and/or anyone associated with it. They discriminate against women and others.

    April 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Harry

      Just because you are so blinded by your own pride and self-righteousness doesn't mean that you have to rag on this church or anyone associated with it. I happen to know a lot of good Mormons and all they are trying to do is follow God. Which is more than I can say for you because you are just concerned with trying to make these people look bad. My guess is you don't know anything about this religion and that your opinions come from a lot of anti-mormon people and sites. So don't talk about things you have no knowledge about

      April 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "I happen to know a lot of good Mormons and all they are trying to do is follow God."

      While denying people their equal civil rights, that's not loving and you're the one being self righteous. What a hypocrite.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Harry

      "While denying people their equal civil rights"
      Again looks like ignorance to me. Mormons do not deny anyone equal civil rights. Before people make accusations they should know what they are talking about

      April 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  11. jk

    more polital BS, so that Romney who is mormon can get their votes

    April 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  12. Mia

    Things change, God makes change... we are to love one another... brother and sisters... as like the Jesus his own didn't not except him... it will take time for adjustment even if it doesn't change in our time.. pave the way for the next generation.

    April 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  13. Love being Gay!

    Being Gay means being merry/cheerful/ jolly/ joyful/ blithe/ mirthful

    Now pass the gay along!

    April 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  14. Chris H

    Amazing coincidence that it would woo gay voters to Romney. Crazy timing, eh?

    April 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • bannister

      Oh yes, CNN is heavily biased towards Romney and not Obama – LOL!

      April 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Take it easy

      Chris H – The church doesn't care about Mitt Romney! If anything several members say he may not have been a very good member of the church due to appearing to support abortion in the past. That and he is a lot more Liberal than most church members like. Better him than Obama, but Romney was definitely not who the Mormons were behind!

      April 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  15. joels2000

    It's all the same. The mormon church hasn't changed any. It's like a recent video I saw.... where a christian girl tells a jewish girl "what's the name of your church? what's it called? well, do you want to go with me to a REAL church..." Also with a very sincere "oh, I am going to miss you when I get to heaven..."

    All the mormon church is doing, is being "nice" to whom they already perceive as 2nd class citizens. That is all...they went from being mean to a 2nd class citizen to being less mean to a 2nd class citizen.

    April 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • RLon

      You're downplaying the changes made. No – they are not abandoning their belief that their religion is the way to heaven, and it is unreasonable to demand them to do so. But the fact that BYU now has a LGBT student group? Thats progess. So is the fact that a former Bishop has apologized to the community. So is the fact that a Gay man was elected in SF to head their church. These are changes – and to reject them is to stomp out any avenues for change. Much is yet to be done, but this is progress – nothing changes overnight.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  16. Lifelong Mormon

    This is not a reform – the church and its leaders have always loved the sinner, but not the sin. No matter what it is, and nobody has a corner on that market. We all fall short in one way or another. This issue is bigger than the individual anyway. What happens if equal rights are granted in marriage and adoption, and any church refuses to condone it? They lose their rights to facilitate either (look at Mass.) and in the end... it is the end of freedom of religion and the founding principle of our democracy.

    April 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • xeno

      So, is it a sin, then, to be female or black, because your church doesn't have a great history of treating them with love and compassion. Also, any ruling on marriage, a legal designation, isn't going to have any effect on your in church sealings that mean nothing legally, so your argument about losing rights to preside are baseless.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "What happens if equal rights are granted in marriage and adoption, and any church refuses to condone it? They lose their rights to facilitate either (look at Mass.) and in the end... it is the end of freedom of religion and the founding principle of our democracy."
      The experts around the world have proven that being gay is not a choice, it's a natural part of human sexuality, it's not a mental illness, and it can't be voluntarily changed. They are the ones that started the ball rolling that said gays deserve equal civil rights but it is the church with willful ignorance that continues to fight against it. Nowhere in the Bible does the god condemn the saved loving respectful partnership of a gay couple.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      Love the believer, hate their ridiculous bigoted religion.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Harry

      This is for YeahRight,
      "Nowhere in the Bible does the god condemn the saved loving respectful partnership of a gay couple."
      You must have missed the part about Sodom and Gomorrah, you know the cities that God destroyed because they were so wicked. The main part of that wickedness was gay activity. So if God destroying a city because of their gay activity is not condemnation then I don't know what is.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Joe

      I totally agree. There is nothing in the Church's doctrine that has changed. I am very grateful for increased understanding and tolerance, but that does not mean that the doctrine of the church regarding same s ex practices is changing. It saddens me to see the members quoted above espousing that view. Not that I blame them for desiring that, but I am saddened rather for the heartache they may feel one day when they realize that the Church's doctrines are set by G od and are immutable.

      Xeno – The policy of african-americans and the priesthood is a hard one for our modern society, for sure. I would highlight that it was a "policy" and not doctrine, as this is. We believe however that when G od sets out a policy, we obey, trusting in His wisdom.

      YeahRight – I would love to see your expert's work. The truth is that there is no definitive proof that points to a specific cause for same gender attraction. It is not believed to be a mental disorder, that is true, but that doesn't make it something a person is born with. There is no evidence of that.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Donna Brandes

      We also have freedom FROM religion!

      April 18, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • YeahRight

      "You must have missed the part about Sodom and Gomorrah, you know the cities that God destroyed because they were so wicked. The main part of that wickedness was gay activity. So if God destroying a city because of their gay activity is not condemnation then I don't know what is."

      You must have missed in the bible in Ezekiel where it spells out the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah and it had nothing to do with gays!

      April 18, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Erik

      "I would love to see your expert's work. The truth is that there is no definitive proof that points to a specific cause for same gender attraction. It is not believed to be a mental disorder, that is true, but that doesn't make it something a person is born with. There is no evidence of that."

      Being gay is not a choice. I hate to burst any bubbles, but science, in fact, is actually not in dispute on this matter.

      All major medical professional organizations concur that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed, from gay to straight or otherwise. The American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and European Psychological, Psychiatric, and Medical Associations all agree with this, as does the World Health Organization and the medical organizations of Japan, China, and most recently, Thailand. Furthermore, attempts to change one's sexual orientation can be psychologically damaging, and cause great inner turmoil and depression, especially for Christian gays and lesbians.

      Reparative therapy, also called conversion therapy or reorientation therapy, "counsels" LGBT persons to pray fervently and study Bible verses, often utilizing 12-step techniques that are used to treat sexual addictions or trauma. Such Christian councilors are pathologizing homosexuality, which is not a pathology but is a sexual orientation. Psychologically, that's very dangerous territory to tread on. All of the above-mentioned medical professional organizations, in addition to the American and European Counseling Associations, stand strongly opposed to any form of reparative therapy.

      In my home country, Norway, reparative therapy is officially considered to be ethical malpractice. But there are many countries that do not regulate the practice, and many others that remain largely silent and even passively supportive of it (such as the Philippines). Groups that operate such "therapy" in the Philippines are the Evangelical Bagong Pag-asa, and the Catholic Courage Philippines.

      The scientific evidence of the innateness of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism is overwhelming, and more peer-reviewed studies which bolster this fact are being added all the time. Science has long regarded sexual orientation – and that's all sexual orientations, including heterosexuality – as a phenotype. Simply put, a phenotype is an observable set of properties that varies among individuals and is deeply rooted in biology. For the scientific community, the role of genetics in sexuality is about as "disputable" as the role of evolution in biology.

      On the second point, that there is no conclusion that there is a "gay gene," they are right. No so-called gay gene has been found, and it's highly unlikely that one ever will. This is where conservative Christians and Muslims quickly say "See, I told you so! There's no gay gene, so being gay is a choice!"

      Take this interesting paragraph I found on an Evangelical website: "The attempt to prove that homosexuality is determined biologically has been dealt a knockout punch. An American Psychological Association publication includes an admission that there's no homosexual "gene" – meaning it's not likely that homosexuals are 'born that way.'"

      But that's not at all what it means, and it seems Evangelicals are plucking out stand-alone phrases from scientific reports and removing them from their context. This is known in academia as the fallacy of suppressed evidence. Interestingly, this is also what they have a habit of doing with verses from the Bible.

      This idea of sexuality being a choice is such a bizarre notion to me as a man of science. Many of these reparative "therapists" are basing this concept on a random Bible verse or two. When you hold those up against the mountain of scientific research that has been conducted, peer-reviewed, and then peer-reviewed again, it absolutely holds no water. A person's sexuality – whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual – is a very deep biological piece of who that person is as an individual.

      The fact that a so-called "gay gene" has not been discovered does not mean that homosexuality is not genetic in its causation. This is understandably something that can seem a bit strange to those who have not been educated in fields of science and advanced biology, and it is also why people who are not scientists ought not try to explain the processes in simple black-and-white terms. There is no gay gene, but there is also no "height gene" or "skin tone gene" or "left-handed gene." These, like sexuality, have a heritable aspect, but no one dominant gene is responsible for them.

      Many genes, working in sync, contribute to the phenotype and therefore do have a role in sexual orientation. In many animal model systems, for example, the precise genes involved in sexual partner selection have been identified, and their neuro-biochemical pathways have been worked out in great detail. A great number of these mechanisms have been preserved evolutionarily in humans, just as they are for every other behavioral trait we know (including heterosexuality).

      Furthermore, there are many biologic traits which are not specifically genetic but are biologic nonetheless. These traits are rooted in hormonal influences, contributed especially during the early stages of fetal development. This too is indisputable and based on extensive peer-reviewed research the world over. Such prenatal hormonal influences are not genetic per se, but are inborn, natural, and biologic nevertheless.

      Having said that, in the realm of legal rights, partnership rights, and anti-discrimination protections, the gay gene vs. choice debate is actually quite irrelevant. Whether or not something is a choice is not a suitable criterion for whether someone should have equal rights and protections. Religion is indisputably a choice, but that fact is a not a valid argument for discriminating against a particular religion.

      This is not an issue in dispute. According to modern science: baby, you were born this way.

      April 18, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Joe

      "The scientific evidence of the innateness of hom os exuality, bi s exuality, and transg enderism is overwhelming, and more peer-reviewed studies which bolster this fact are being added all the time. Science has long regarded s exual orientation – and that's all s exual orientations, including heterose xuality – as a phenotype. Simply put, a phenotype is an observable set of properties that varies among individuals and is deeply rooted in biology. For the scientific community, the role of genetics in s exuality is about as "disputable" as the role of evolution in biology."

      Erik – I keep hearing about these "overwhelming" proofs, but have yet to see anything definitive. First, evolution has a much richer research history than this issue does, so comparing the two is a little misleading (for now at least). Second, the fact that reparative therapy has poor results and that a lot of medical associations disprove of it, doesn't prove s exual orientation is genetic in nature. That supports a notion that that type of therapy doesn't work but doesn't prove that it is innate. I love science as well and certainly wouldn't dispute something that is proven, but lets call it like it is, this isn't yet. There are studies, and findings, they may point to a conclusion...depending on interpretation, but nothing is definitively showing that it is not nurture or environment, but rather is in born. Note that nothing proves it is nurture or environment either, but once again, lack of proof for one hypothesis does not prove another. In this case I don't think there will ever be any definitive findings either way.

      Which in the end leaves both sides just expressing opinions, maybe somewhat founded, somewhat supported, but just opinions.

      Now if I can talk a little bit outside of our understanding of the natural world. I believe there is a higher law. That not all knowledge and law is limited to our perception. I feel to assume that we are the end of our creation and that all things are limited to our understanding is a little arrogant. I am talking not of scientific proof, but faith. They are not mutually exclusive though. By faith we can receive knowledge of things that are true, but not seen. I know that this church is C hrist's church on the earth. By following it's teachings we can draw closer to Him and receive what we need to return to our Heavenly Father, my father and yours. He is the source of ultimate knowledge. I believe this to be true.

      It is a hard thing to know that the L ord speaks to his servants the Prophets and be dedicated to following their teachings in a time when the world is opposed to you. At least to me it is at times. You want to have compassion and you want to belong, but everywhere around you the very core of you is being vilified. Some cave under this pressure. I believe that if we are true to the teachings of the S avior and have faith and compassion to everyone, even to those who hate and despise what people of faith believe, then in the end everything will experience will be for our good.

      This is what the Church of J esus C hrist of Latter Day S aints has taught me. It is the L ord's Gospel and I would encourage all to come and see for themselves.

      April 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  17. YES

    Nothing wrong with morons ooopps mormons that a shotgun and a shovel won't fix!

    April 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • bannister

      You are suggesting that Mormans should be murdered. Please name some other religious groups you'd like to kill off

      April 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Think First...

      Wow – how 'bout killing Jews? Nah, I guess that would be unpopular. Please recognize the danger of recommending murder for a religious population.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  18. Dave

    Sounds like a purce scam to help a Morman candidate run for president. Morman's hate gays and spend millions to support anti gay efforts. There is no change just a scam.

    April 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • RLon

      Overly cynical. The church would not make substantial change for political power. You know how America is becoming more gay-friendly? Well, maybe the Mormon church is also following that trend. Not everything is politically-motivated – this isn't a massive conspiracy.

      April 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  19. carly

    why would anyone forgive this church? or any other church that discriminates against any people?

    April 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Harry

      Christ is the ultimate example. He was a Jew and the Jews were the people that tried to cross Him in His words and always tried to prove Him wrong. They even gave Him up to be crucified. His own people!!! And He forgave them. He is the ultimate example of forgiveness. Those who call themselves Christians should take their lessons from the One whose name they bare. No one is perfect. And it seems the Mormon church is trying to explain some things and make things right. You ask why would anyone would forgive this church or any other that discriminates? Because Jesus would

      April 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Neesha

      The point of Jesus being crucified was to die for all of our sins so that we'd have a gateway to God for forgivenes when we repent & turn away from sinful acts. No one can be angry @ the Jews because that is why he came to earth. No one is perfect but openly accepting sin knowing that it goes against the word of Jehovah God is wrong. There is no bargaining with God & he gives us all free-will & choices. Yes, we're supposed to love all of our brothers & sisters but condoning acts of sin is not ok.

      April 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  20. bored already

    Hey- a cult that is crazier then the rest can't discriminate!!!!!

    April 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.