PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Is therapy of any kind a legitimate course of action if we’re talking about controlling behavior? If a young man says, “Look, I really want these feelings to go away… I would do anything for these feelings to go away,” is it legitimate to look at clinical therapy of some sort that would address those issues?
ELDER WICKMAN: Well, it may be appropriate for that person to seek therapy. Certainly the Church doesn’t counsel against that kind of therapy. But from the standpoint of a parent counseling a person, or a Church leader counseling a person, or a person looking at his or her same-gender attraction from the standpoint of ‘What can I do about it here that’s in keeping with gospel teachings?’ the clinical side of it is not what matters most. What matters most is recognition that ‘I have my own will. I have my own agency. I have the power within myself to control what I do.’
Now, that’s not to say it’s not appropriate for somebody with that affliction to seek appropriate clinical help to examine whether in his or her case there’s something that can be done about it. This is an issue that those in psychiatry, in the psychology professions have debated. Case studies I believe have shown that in some cases there has been progress made in helping someone to change that orientation; in other cases not. From the Church’s standpoint, from our standpoint of concern for people, that’s not where we place our principal focus. It’s on these other matters.
ELDER OAKS: Amen to that. Let me just add one more thought. The Church rarely takes a position on which treatment techniques are appropriate, for medical doctors or for psychiatrists or psychologists and so on.
The second point is that there are abusive practices that have been used in connection with various mental attitudes or feelings. Over-medication in respect to depression is an example that comes to mind. The aversive therapies that have been used in connection with same-sex attraction have contained some serious abuses that have been recognized over time within the professions. While we have no position about what the medical doctors do (except in very, very rare cases — abortion would be such an example), we are conscious that there are abuses and we don’t accept responsibility for those abuses. Even though they are addressed at helping people we would like to see helped, we can’t endorse every kind of technique that’s been used.
ME: The clinical side matters a lot. It is because of studies and science that the church has changed its position so much on homosexuality over the last 20 years. Back in Galileo's time the church taught that the earth was the center of the universe. The church (and I don't mean the LDS church) attacked him and demonized him for his "hearsay" when he claimed to know that the sun, not the earth was the center. If they didn't demonize this man, the believers would begin to question the church since the stance they took was on this geocentric universe. But that didn't change the impact of Galileo's findings. It may have slowed it. But today, we all know and recognize that the sun is the center of our solar system and nothing that any prophet or church would say would make us believe otherwise.
Elder Wickman is trying to take away the significance of science and intellect so that we don't pay attention to the findings. He says, don't look at that stuff, it isn't important. The important thing is that we have our own will. It's true. We have our own will. We can believe that the earth is the center of this solar system if we want to- it is within our power. But does it make it any more right? What I would like to see is the reasons why gay people are wrong. What is this idea being based off of? What teachings of Christ? To me THAT is the most important question.
As far as Elder Oaks' comments go, well I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the church will take no responsibility for abusive therapies even though they did endorse them in the past. At BYU, they used to give gay students a choice between being kicked out or doing shock therapy. These students wanted more than anything to change, so they often agreed to the therapy. This reportedly happened on campus even as late as the 1990s. They would connect electrodes to places on their body (including their genitals) and show them erotic images of men. When they got aroused, they would shock them. Then they would show them erotic images of women and soothe them with music or other calming treatments. Some of these men have burn scars on their bodies from this treatment. Some of them committed suicide after realizing it wasn't working, that they weren't able to change. The church is very careful to make sure that BYU doesn't do anything that the church doesn't endorse. How is it then, that Elder Oaks can say that they refuse to take responsibility for abusive therapies. These therapies were advised by church leaders. They were required of gay individuals if they wished to stay a part of the community of "saints." It is true that the church no longer endorses this type of therapy, but come on. Take some responsibility for the past for once.
Sorry that this response of mine was more heated and attacking than others. But I have heard accounts and seen the scars of individuals who have gone through that therapy at BYU and it is really hard not to get angry. It is infuriating to me that our leaders would have us turn a blind eye on the scientific studies and findings and then refuse to take responsibility for being wrong in the past and for the harm they have inflicted due to their ignorance, biases, and prejudice.
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