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Mormon Leader: Gays Can Change, Church Must Not

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Oct 5, 2010
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The president of the Mormon Church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles has issued a decree that gays can change their sexuality, and announced that marriage--or any union--between people of the same gender is immoral.

"There are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature," said Boyd K. Packer, 86, in an Oct. 3 sermon, the Salt Lake Tribune reported on Oct. 4.

"A law against nature would be impossible to enforce," added Packer. "Do you think a vote to repeal the law of gravity would do any good?" Packer’s comments were made during the Mormon Church’s 180th Semiannual General Conference in Salt Lake City. More than 20,000 people were in attendance, and millions of others watched a telecast, the article said.

Packer spoke against the testimony of gays and lesbians and the findings of modern science, both of which indicate that homosexuality is an innate and biological phenomenon. "Not so!" declared Packer. "Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember he is our father." Packer added, "Regardless of the opposition, we are determined to stay on course."

The Mormon Church was a major backer and contributor to the deeply divisive 2008 campaign to pass Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that went before California voters and rescinded the then-existing right of gay and lesbian families to participate in marriage. A recent decision from a federal court struck down Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. The Mormon Church issued a statement when the verdict was announced, saying that it "regretted" the finding. An appeal is underway.

In the wake of Proposition 8’s narrow approval by voters two years ago, GLBT equality advocates called on the Mormon Church to change its stance toward gay individuals and their families. In his sermon, Packer asserted that although gays can change their sexuality even as he denied that the Mormon Church needs to make any adjustments of its own. "We cannot change; we will not change," Packer told the crowd. "We quickly lose our way when we disobey the laws of God. If we do not protect and foster the family, civilization and our liberties must needs perish."

Local LGBT advocates were dismayed by Packer’s remarks, reported the local Fox news affiliate.


"So many Mormons have worked hard to increase understanding of what homosexuality is and what it means to be faithful," Mormons4Marriage’s Laura Compton told the Salt Lake Tribune. "Now we have this message coming from the pulpit in General Conference by the president of the Quorum of the Twelve. It seems like hitting a brick wall. Hopefully, this won’t make people stop and say, ’It wasn’t worth it.’ "

Another Mormon group, Evergreen International, claims to be able to help gays "convert" to heterosexuality. Mormon leader Bruce Hafen, in an address to Evergreen last summer, declared that those who are gay in this life will be rewarded for virtuous conduct by being made straight in the life to come, the article noted. "If you are faithful, on resurrection morning--and maybe even before then--you will rise with normal attractions for the opposite sex," Hafen declared, going on to deny that homosexuality is an innate characteristic and part of natural human sexual diversity. Rather, Hafen said, homosexual impulses are the work of the Devil, and told his audience that when Satan sets out to "convince you that you are hopelessly ’that way,’ so that acting out your feelings is inevitable, he is lying."

The Salt Lake Tribune article cited another Mormon apostle, Dallin H. Oaks, as having said that the church has stopped advising gays and lesbians to marry people of the opposite sex in order to be "cured" of homosexual feelings. Oaks also said that the church does not completely rule out biology as a basis for homosexuality, and noted that the church does not subscribe to all methods of so-called "reparative therapy," which claims to help "cure" gays.

Another pro-GLBT Mormon group is Affirmation. The leader of the Salt Lake arm of Affirmation, Duane Jennings, worried that Mormon families would take Packer’s comments as a cue to reject their GLBT children. Jennings also expressed concern that the church leader’s comments would nudge more gay teens toward suicide. The nation has been shocked recently by a rash of suicides by GLBT youths, including two hanging deaths, a gay youth shooting himself, and a college student throwing himself from a bridge in New Jersey.

Jennings’ fears were echoed by local GLBT equality advocate Eric Ethington, who has invited area GLBTs and their supporters to a protest in response to Packer’s words, reported Rosemary Winters at the Salt Lake Tribune’s LGBT FYI blog on Oct. 4.

"This kind disgusting hate speech is responsible for more teen suicides every year then we even know," Ethington said in a Facebook message. "Kids kill themselves, or are thrown from their homes because they are taught by men like this that God doesn’t love them." The invitation to the protest asks participants to wear black and to convene at Salt Lake City’s City Creek Park on Oct. 7 at 7:00 p.m.

On the national stage, the Human Rights Campaign responded by calling on Packer to "correct" his remarks about gays. In an Oct. 4 statement, the HRC noted that Packer had charactertized the sexual impulses of gays and lesbains as being " ’impure and unnatural," claiming that it can be corrected and characterizing same-sex marriage as immoral." The HRC statement continued, "Packer’s inaccurate and dangerous rhetoric comes on the heels of the suicides of at least four teenagers over the past month, all victims of anti-gay bullying or harassment.

"An additional seven teens committed suicide in the past year in one Minnesota school district alone; three of the teens’ suicides were connected to anti-gay bullying," the statement added.

"Words have consequences, particularly when they come from a faith leader," said the president of the HRC, Joe Solmonese. "This is exactly the kind of statement that can lead some kids to bully and others to commit suicide. When a faith leader tells gay people that they are a mistake because God would never have made them that way and they don’t deserve love, it sends a very powerful message that violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable. It also emotionally devastates those who are LGBT or may be struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identify. His words were not only inaccurate, they were also dangerous."

"The American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association have both concluded that same-sex attraction is normal and that "reparative" therapy--like the kind being advocated by the Mormon Church--is unhealthy and harmful," the HRC release continued.

The statement went on to note connections between the Mormon Church and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an anti-gay group that has launched a national campaign against same-sex families. On Oct. 5 EDGE reported that NOM is working to influence the outcome of the mid-term elections next month.

"As HRC has chronicled on its website, the Mormon Church is a key funder of the so-called National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a powerful fringe group that regularly encourages anti-gay attitudes and behaviors," the statement read, going on to quote the militant declaration of "NOM board member and famous Mormon writer, Orson Scott Card, [who] has said, ’Any government that attempts to change [marriage] is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage...’ "

"Elder Packer’s remarks in General Conference were not only ill-advised and contrary to fact, but were mean-spirited and will be perceived by many as bullying," the executive director of Affirmation, David Melson, said. "We see no potential for good coming from his words and much possible damage, to the church, to individuals, and to families. The LDS Church should be a source of love, compassion, and conciliation, and not of fear and unfeeling petty hatred."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2010-10-05 14:00:46

    I feel sad that LGBT looks at Elder Packers remarks as "hate speech". He in no way said that God doesn’t love those who are gay, he just stated a doctrinal position on marriage. We are all literal children of God and he loves us more than we can understand. We are each innately worth more than the world we live on. My hope is that all people regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender, etc know their true worth. No teenager should ever resort to suicide....that is just heart breaking. God loves all his children, but LDS do believe in right and wrong and that pursuing an homosexual lifestyle is not part of Gods plan. It just makes me sad that even those who will read this comment will equate it as hateful. Just because someone believes differently doesn’t mean they hate you. LDS are a kind people overall, but they do have beliefs that differ from the LGBT. I love my friends that are gay, but they know I disagree with them on these issues. I don’t have to agree with them to appreciate their worth as individuals and love them all the same. LGBT, I am sorry you find our beliefs offensive. Many of us are sensitive to that and we feel sadness. Though we will not compromise on certain doctrines, please be patient with us as we work as a people to rise above the ugliness that exists between LGBT and religion. We can all get along even if we don’t agree.


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-05 15:24:55

    Anonymous, I’m sorry but you are misguided as most Mormons are about things. When "Elder" Packers says that homosexuality is immoral, he is in fact saying God doesn’t love us as much. Are you saying God loves immorality? If so then there is no Right or Wrong. God loves both Right and Wrong equally in that case and the concept of Right and Wrong are non-existent. If there is a Right and a Wrong, GLBT are on the side of Right or they are disapproved of by God. If God loves us for being "Wrong" then what do we gain by being "Right?" You have a poor grasp of what is moral and what is not. Immorality is not that hard to determine. If you are willfully hurting others, you are being immoral. LGBT do not hurt anyone with the way they are born or by loving who they love. Mormons like "Elder" Packers harm others with his words. It is Elder Packers whom God disapproves of with his harmful speech. Perhaps we should pursue a cure for Mormonism. For it is Mormonism that is what is immoral in this equation.


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-05 15:35:36

    What anonymous said is a good step in helping people understand this situation except for the part about "living a homosexual lifestyle is not part of God’s plan." First of all, there is not one person on earth who truly knows what God is or even if it exists. What those who preach about God are doing is living under the delusion that the Bible or the Koran or in LDS’s case, The Book of Mormon, are God’s words when in actual fact they were written by self aggrandizing men who wanted power and control over people’s minds so that they could have their way. I don’t mind what people think as long as they don’t incite violence toward other and LDS does this by their total rejection of LGBT and their unwillingness to reach scientific material that proves that homosexuality is totally natural; even animals indulge in this behavior and we don’t condemn them. Education and engagement is the answer to this dilemma but remember, institutions hate to admit they might be wrong and they’ll fight to keep the status quo. Love


  • wimsy, 2010-10-05 15:48:44

    GET OFF MY PORCH!


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-05 16:59:50

    Anonymous, I’m sorry but you are misguided as most Mormons are about things. When "Elder" Packers says that homosexuality is immoral, he is in fact saying God doesn’t love us as much. Are you saying God loves immorality? If so then there is no Right or Wrong. God loves both Right and Wrong equally in that case and the concept of Right and Wrong are non-existent. If there is a Right and a Wrong, GLBT are on the side of Right or they are disapproved of by God. If God loves us for being "Wrong" then what do we gain by being "Right?" You have a poor grasp of what is moral and what is not. Immorality is not that hard to determine. If you are willfully hurting others, you are being immoral. LGBT do not hurt anyone with the way they are born or by loving who they love. Mormons like "Elder" Packers harm others with his words. It is Elder Packers whom God disapproves of with his harmful speech. Perhaps we should pursue a cure for Mormonism. For it is Mormonism that is what is immoral in this equation.


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-05 21:39:10

    I was raised mormon, and understand that LDS has strong family values. That is until I my family found out I was a lesbian. At that time I was kicked out of the home. My "sin" was worse than a drug addict because it was a "sin" of the soul, where a drug addict is considered a sin of the body. I was considedered and "inactive" member. After proposition 8 I felt personally attacked. I ensured that I was no longer a member. Hearing Elder Packers’ talk shows that the mormon church encourages poor treatment of gays. You can say that you will treat someone fairly. However, when a leader of the church gets up and publically speaks against homosexuality the seed has been planted. When mormons talk to someone who is gay, they will think in thier minds that this person is immoral. This will create unfair treatment. Gay teenage suicide is very common. To have a leader like Elder Packer speak against homosexuality will increase the amount of suicides. The church was very slow to respond to blacks. Black men (who were decendants of the hamitic lineage)could not hold the priesthood until 1978. This is not the first time the mormon church has been selective with their positions. I do find that this talk is very indicative of hate. I have never thought that loving someone is immoral. Stealing, killing, and abusing immoral. "Love is Kind" as I learned at church. Why can’t the LDS practice what they preach?


  • Joseph, 2010-10-06 00:24:15

    Morman’s can change. Christ will not!


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-06 02:25:33

    I too was also raised in the LDS church and am a lesbian. I didn’t see the conference talk given by Elder Packer, but I know he and almost everyone in the church will never change their views about homosexuals. Mormons are taught that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to God’s plan, so they aren’t ever going to think differently. It makes me sad that I and others in my situation cannot and will not be accepted by members of the church and members of society. It’s no wonder you hear of suicides of people who got bullied around and felt they would never be accepted and loved for being attracted to someone of the same sex because "it’s a sin" or "it’s wrong." We cannot help who we are attracted to and who we fall in love with.


  • Sensible, 2010-10-06 12:30:11

    As I am reading over all these comments it is plain to see where the hate is being expressed. The first anonymous expressed his/her feelings with much love and compassion. If you replaced the words gays with the word bullies you would understand that this whole thing is simply an expression of something they believe is against a belief and not an expression of hate. It is obvious that the LDS CHURCH AND GOD separate the person from the thing that goes against humanity and it’s LAWS. I hate bullying but I don’t hate the person who is confused and lost in a need to bully. I hate anchovies but I love pizza! I just remove them. If that makes sense. When a person who is doing something wrong and is "called to repentance" they usually feel attacked and become offended whic causes them to get angry and that’s when hate is expressed. We all have freedom to goose how we respond to those feelings. Not one person is responsible for our choices! How we react is our own choice! No one can make u feel offended or is responsible for your choice to commit suicide. Someday all these problems and dissagreements will be made plain when our Loving Savior comes to the earth to clense it from ALL sin.


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-06 13:59:28

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Standing up for what God and his Word preaches always gets accused of being hateful. I was on a radio show stating that homosexuality is a sin like every other sin and a lady was attacking me and calling me names on the radio station, yet afterwards the callers were stating that I was the hateful one. The bible tells us that we will be persecuted for standing up for what is right. I rejoice in the persecution, for I know the truth and someday . . so will everyone else. Every tongue will confess and every knee will bow. God Bless


  • Sensible, 2010-10-06 14:37:58

    Thank you for your comment and understanding. (i apologize for my typo!:/) It’s interesting how these issues get so turned around. I have to wonder if comments and opinions would change if the Pope or Mother Theresa had given this talk??


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-06 15:42:24

    No one can prove that god exists. Nor can we prove that he does not, but the burden of proof must fall on those who would prove that he does. Until they can,arguments about god’s will this and god’s law that should not be entertained. This Packer guy is a fossil from another time, and he should have the microphone removed from in front of him and sent back to bed. His views are irrelevant and should be treated as irrelevant. I’m not saying believers are hateful, although their beliefs cause great harm to people they will never actually know. What I am saying is that their beliefs are ridiculous. You are entitled to your ridiculous beliefs, and we are entitled to ensure that their reach affects only you.


  • Sensible, 2010-10-06 17:16:22

    Everything denotes there is a God. The planets. The solar system. The details in each human being, fish, plant and creature. I’m sorry you can’t see the beauty and wonder and joy from knowing this amazing truth. I’m also sorry for what lies ahead for you unless you repent for the hateful rejection you feel you have to make against an Apostle of the Lord God Almighty. Your life is going to be extremely burdened without Him. I’m truly sorry for you. I pray you will break free from the evil lies of Satan that trap you.


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-06 21:41:42

    blah blah blah...... Joseph Smith is a modern day adult Santa Clause.....paaaaaaleze!!


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-07 11:29:01

    This is true but Jesus Christ is not and until you accept Him as your Savior you will never understand. When you do accept salvation through Jesus Christ you KNOW that God is real. He lives in your heart and brings you a joy that nothing else can give you. Also, He speaks to you through his word and a good pastor that preaches the truth which lies in the Holy Word - the Bible.


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-08 11:46:50

    Nah, I only see the beauty in the laws of physics. I see the beauty of science and evolution. And you know what? That’s perfectly legit. I’m glad you feel the love of Jesus in your heart, but he and I are seeing other people right now. There was no joy and love in that relationship anymore. "I believe in it, therefore it must be true" is not a good rationalization. That’s called circular logic. And frankly, if the people on this comments section don’t want to believe in God, that’s between him and them and not you. So get off your high horse and go worry about the log in your own eye, before pointing out the speck in ours. if you don’t think gay is natural, then great, don’t be gay. But cut this "you can pray it away" "if you just love Jesus enough" BS, because it’s killing kids. Just like abstinence-only education is making teen pregnancy rates rise. When you are willfully ignoring the facts; when you are closing your eyes and plugging your ears to the truth, the numbers, the lives being cut short, do you think Jesus is proud of you?


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-08 15:15:52

    Oh, see how nasty you are. Now the ole me (before Christ saved my soul) would get in a rage over your comments and retalliate and start calling you names but that is not who I am anymore. I pity you and where you will be unless you trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I used to love to do drugs and "i couldn’t help it - I had to have them." I have worked with people that liked to have sex with children and they couldn’t help it - they said they were born that way. People sin there is all kind of it. some of us can admit our sins and some of us want to blame it on someone or something else. Oh and by the way, I believe Jesus is very proud of me - I live for HIM and HIM only. I am trying to teach you right and wrong. I will be praying for you.


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-09 11:18:38

    I find it strange and terrifying that the Mormons are even Christian at all. Who in the world would beleive in some dude that found tablets only he could interpret? All religious beliefs are subject to whatever that church or this church wants to believe. A case in point is women being priests or preachers. Are some women going to hell because they preach while the others are saved. I don’t think any of you know what you are talking about.


  • Sensible, 2010-10-09 15:51:57

    My final comment on this site will be...contention is of the devil. Let’s stop bashing one anothers religious beliefs. Thank you.


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-12 09:36:23

    Speaking the truth is not bashing another religion. Wanting others to be in heaven for eternity is what God wants. Be disciples - go out and spread the Word, that is what Jesus commanded us to do. Teach others about sin and separation from God, Repentance, and Faith in Christ. This is what life is all about . . . serving Him.


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