Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rebutting Hafen - Part 1

By Madame Curie

On Saturday, Sept. 19th, the LDS Newroom posted a talk given by Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the First Quorum of the Seventy to Evergreen International, at their annual conference. This talk has been provocative, to say the least, and has resulted in numerous blogs refuting its various claims. At the risk of redundancy with these other posts, I wish here to make point-by-point refutations of his arguments, which are wholly unsound and without support.

I know some will argue that since he is just a “member of the Seventy”, Elder Hafen’s talk is not LDS Church doctrine. Although this is true, it is also true that it is impossible to clarify what “doctrine” is in the Mormon Church. For all intents and purposes, the fact that the Church has chosen to place this talk in its online Newsroom – which is noted as “The Official Church Resource for News Media, Opinion Leaders, and the Public” – it is clear that the Powers that Be within the Church want this talk to be considered, if not Church policy, then at least consistent with their overall message. Therefore, it should not be considered too lightly.

Evergreen International fashions itself as “the most complete resource for Latter-day Saints who experience same-sex attraction” and “a nonprofit organization that offers help to people who want to diminish their attractions and overcome homosexual behavior.” Although unaffiliated with the LDS church, Evergreen “sustain[s] the doctrines and standards of the Church without reservation or exception. Our Board of Trustees usually includes one or more emeritus General Authorities and we continue to build relationships with Area Presidencies and other Church leaders. Upon request, we provide training to hundreds of stake and ward leaders each year.” Clearly, this organization, while not an official church resource, provides its services to LDS church members throughout the US. In choosing to send a member of the Seventy to speak with Evergreen, the church is providing implicit agreement to both the organization and the speakers’ remarks. This is particularly true, given that the Church has chosen to link the talk in the Newsroom, under the topic “Public Issues: Same Gender Attraction.”

My concerns with Elder Hafen’s talk include issues with its tone, content, and scientific and medical validity. The purpose of this post is the refute the arguments that Elder Hafen makes, point-by-point:
Sometimes that attraction may make you feel sinful, even though the attraction alone is not a sin if you do not act on it. Sometimes you may feel frustration or anger or simply a deep sadness about yourself. But as hard as same-gender attraction is, your feeling that attraction does not mean that your nature is flawed.
1. This sort of rationale is really a catch-22 for gay members of the church. To be told that your feelings are not sinful and that your nature is not flawed, while simultaneously saying that your feelings are unnatural and, therefore, abnormal is contradictory.
Some may wonder how the Church’s leaders can empathize with you when they haven’t been in your shoes themselves.Some may even wonder how the Savior Himself can really understand you when He hasn’t been where you are. But remember: Christ not only descended TO our conditions, he has descended BELOW our conditions, whatever they are, because “The Son of Man hath descended below [all things].”
2. This statement seems to imply that somehow Hafen, as a 69 y.o. heterosexual father of seven, can relate to homosexuals because of Jesus Christ. I am not really making the connection here. By this rationale, any man should be able to read his wife’s mind, because Christ knows our innermost thoughts.
The victims of childhood sexual abuse also live with agonizing daily battles that may echo the experiences of some who cope with same-gender attraction… Another more seasoned priesthood leader said that many abuse victims are like emotional quadriplegics - yet they look so normal that other people have no idea what they are really dealing with.
3. One of several statements that compares homosexuality to various other groups, including victims of sexual abuse, quadriplegics, and addicts. Implicit in all of these is the idea that homosexuality is a sickness or disease from which the patient needs “recovery.” This indicates a non-acceptance of the homosexual as a human being.
Before discussing that confusion, I first want to draw on a few doctrines that apply to your concerns… Having same-gender attraction is NOT in your DNA
4. One of several statements that same-sex attractions are not genetic. However, scientific research indicates that a variety of factors, including genetic, are likely involved in sexual orientation.
If you are faithful, on resurrection morning—and maybe even before then—you will rise with normal attractions for the opposite sex.
5. One of several comments regarding the success of conversion therapy, a medically rejected treatment approach that will be discussed later.
It’s true that the law of chastity forbids all sexual relations outside the bonds of a married heterosexual relationship. And while same-gender attraction is not a sin, you need to resist cultivating immoral, lustful thoughts toward those of either gender.
6. The idea that homosexuality is only considered a law of chastity issue by the church is a false one. A heterosexual single man is encouraged to kiss, hold hands with, snuggle, and make out with girlfriends. A homosexual single man would be brought in to see his bishop if it was known that he even held hands with another man. Consider the church’s response when two gay men were seen holding hands and then exchanging a kiss on Temple Square – they were detained by police for trespassing. Furthermore, homosexual Mormons who have married their partners are excommunicated. This is not a law of chastity issue, and to indicate that it is lying.
No temptation is so strong that you can’t resist it, unless you have already given away some portion of your agency to a total addiction.
7. See response 3, above.
[A]ll humans have within them two dogs. One dog is good and peaceable. The other dog is angry and evil. The two dogs are in a constant battle with one another, since neither is powerful enough to destroy the other. The young brave asks, “If they are of equal power, which dog will win?” The elder replies, “The dog you feed the most.” You feed the angry dog when you cultivate lustful feelings, view pornography, label yourself as gay, or associate with activists who aggressively promote gay lifestyles. Those activists have an agenda, and it includes constantly feeding your angry dog…

You feed the peaceful dog when you simply stop fighting the angry dog. As Dr. Jeff Robinson said, you can’t hate your way out of your attraction. Don’t let your challenge define your entire identity. Just walk away from fighting the angry dog and focus on all the good things you may have put on hold—your education, career plans, social experience, and Church service. Stop focusing so much on yourself, including hating yourself, and spend more energy caring about other people. Build good associations with people of your own gender. Find a therapist who can help you identify the unmet emotional needs that you are tempted to satisfy in false sexual ways. As you do such things, the peaceful dog will grow stronger than the miserable, angry dog.
There are several things about these two paragraphs that are just vile

8. Hafen uses an ugly, hateful comparison of homosexuals to men with aggressive tendencies and also to “angry, evil dogs.”

9. Hafen implies that a homosexual “struggles” because he is selfish and focused too much on himself, that he can simply be happier if he stops focusing on his homosexuality

10. Hafen implies that all homosexuals are “miserable”

11. Hafen implies that somehow viewing pornography, calling yourself gay, and associating with gay activists makes you more homosexual. There is just no scientific basis for these facts, and all of them are founded in homophobia.

12. The citation of Dr. Robinson is an implicit endorsement of his methods. Hafen makes multiple references to the need for therapy, as well as specific, un-scientifically sound, implicit or explicit recommendations for therapies. In particular, Hafen cites Dr. Jeff Robinson and Dr. Jeff Byrd frequently throughout his talk.

Robinson is an Orem, UT area psychotherapist who specializes in “homosexual problems” and is the developer of “context specific therapy (CST)”. He has also served as the Provo-area facilitator of Evergreen International. It is important to note that Robinson is not a medical doctor. Robinson claims that “CST is based on research which describes in detail the elements of change which have been effective in the lives of LDS men who have successfully overcome homosexuality. CST is guided by the successful experience of others rather than theory,” there is not a single evidence of peer-reviewed literature online concerning this method.

Dr. Byrd has a PhD from BYU, and is a proponent of conversion therapy for homosexuals. Conversion therapy is intended to convert gay, lesbian and bisexual people to heterosexuality. However, these results of the therapies described above are very rarely published in peer-reviewed journals. Furthermore, the research methods are prone to bias; lack adequate follow-up studies; do not show conversion of orientation, but homosexual activity; and lack control groups.

There is no scientifically adequate research demonstrating either the overall effectiveness or harmfulness of conversion therapy. However, conversion therapy is considered by all major mental health organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the National Education Association, as potentially harmful because it may exploit guilt and anxiety, thereby damaging self-esteem and leading to depression and even suicide:
Among those studies reporting on the perceptions of harm, the reported negative social and emotional consequences include self-reports of anger, anxiety, confusion, depression, grief, guilt, hopelessness, deteriorated relationships with family, loss of social support, loss of faith, poor self-image, social isolation, intimacy difficulties, intrusive imagery, suicidal ideation, self-hatred, and sexual dysfunction. These reports of perceptions of harm are countered by accounts of perceptions of relief, happiness, improved relationships with God, and perceived improvement in mental health status, among other reported benefits (APA, 2009).

Even though same-gender attraction is by itself not a sin, its presence can make us feel estranged from God. That sense of separation arises from our knowing that this attraction runs counter to our eternal nature as a son or daughter of god. These feelings can terribly damage a conscientious person’s sense of both worth and worthiness in God’s sight.
13. Same-gender attraction is not a sin, and does not mean your “nature is flawed,” but does mean your desires are unnatural and that Satan is the source of your desires. Um, I think I got on the false logic train. See comment 1, above.
I classify same-gender attraction within the category of “adversity,” because typically you haven’t brought it upon yourselves. It has consequences similar to being harmed by the sins of others, such as the separation from God felt so commonly by the victims of childhood sexual abuse.
14. Why is there the need to indicate that someone “typically” hasn’t brought it on themselves? Do gay Mormons at the Evergreen conference really need to be told that they have additional reasons to feel guilty?

15. This is another example where homosexuality is equated with being an abuse victim.
The Savior described this part of His healing power to the Nephites: “Will ye not return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted that I may heal you?” Consider also Alma’s description of Christ’s broad healing power, which includes “afflictions,” “infirmities,” and “sicknesses,” in addition to death and sin: “And he shall go forth suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy”…

The Atonement’s healing blessings are conditional, just as receiving the mercy that allows forgiveness is conditioned on our repentance. The conditions we must satisfy include repenting fully of any actual sins in our lives.
16. Previously, Hafen indicates that there is no need to repent, as no wrong was committed. But here he is quoting Christ telling the Nephites to repent and be converted. This is contradictory.

17. This paragraph equates homosexuality with a disease or sickness, which it is NOT.
I began teaching family law in the early 1970s, during the U.S. civil rights movements that sought for much-needed racial and gender equality. During that period, almost no one considered people with homosexual attraction as a distinctive demographic group (like race or gender) who were the victims of discrimination.
18. Hafen indicates that if, in the past, a group is not seen as being a “victim of discrimination” by the public, then at present they also cannot be. By this rationale, blacks should not have been given equal-rights, since during slavery, they majority of people in America did not consider them to be discriminated against. Battered women should never have been given the right to leave their marriages, since in the past women were property and not persons.
The main legal goal of gay activists then was to eliminate criminal penalties against homosexual acts, as a first step toward their goal of greater public acceptance. Even though criminal laws against homosexual acts were seldom enforced, the Supreme Court considered those laws constitutional as recently as 2003.
19. Hafen implies that homosexual acts should still be considered criminal activities, since such laws were only done away with due to the agenda of “gay activists” to reach “their goal of public acceptance”
In the early 1970s, the public and most lawyers, doctors, and therapists saw homosexuality not as normal adult behavior but as a psychological disorder.
20. Before 1978, the church considered all blacks to be the seed of Cain. Before we knew cancer existed, we didn't. Just because we used to think a certain way doesn't make it right. This is just one of several instances that imply that public opinion should shape medical conclusions and decisions within the church.
As recently as 1982, the mayor of San Francisco vetoed a proposal to grant spousal-type benefits to both straight and gay unmarried couples. An editorial in a major San Francisco newspaper agreed with the mayor, saying: “The notion that an unmarried relationship is the equivalent of marriage is an attack upon social norms, the destruction of which concerns a great many people in the nation and … in San Francisco.”
21. This history is incomplete. According to a New York Times article on May 31, 1989
In 1982 the San Francisco board, by a vote of 8 to 3, passed a measure that extended health insurance coverage to domestic partners, but it was vetoed by Mayor Dianne Feinstein. Two years later she also rejected the recommendation of her Task Force on Equal Benefits to extend health benefits to the partners of city employees. In both 1982 and this year the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco strongly objected to the ordinances.
The mayor overturned a law that would have matched public policy due to pressure by the Roman Catholic Church. How is this different from what happened in CA in November? It isn’t. The history isn’t nearly so tidy when you conveniently leave out facts.

22. A random newspaper editorial (in this case, the San Francisco Chronicle) should not define the church’s position. See comment 20, above.
In 1973, in response to increasing disruptions and protests by gay activists, the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations removed homosexuality from their official lists of disorders. Significantly, they took this action by simply putting the issue to an open vote in their professional meetings—not because of any change in actual medical findings. As LDS psychologist Dean Byrd writes, “This was the first time in the history of healthcare that a diagnosis was decided by popular vote rather than scientific evidence.”
23. According to Wikipedia, and as discussed above, LDS Dr. Dean Byrd is the President of National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, a research organization that advocates conversion therapy for “homosexual problems,” (which are generally rejected as an acceptable medical practice – see comment 12, above), and a former member of the Evergreen Board of Trustees. Dr. Byrd can hardly be considered an unbiased source.

Furthermore, Dr. Byrd is not an MD. Thus, Hafen is indicating that an opinion held by one LDS PhD is of more medical weight than one made by multiple associations (see comment 12, above) of board-certified MDs.
The activists have used similar methods in the years since then, trying to prove that they are a legitimate demographic category with fixed and unchangeable characteristics. They must present themselves in this way in order to justify their demand for the same legal protections now given to race and gender.
24. See comment 18, above.
As President James E. Faust wrote, “The false belief of inborn homosexual orientation denies to repentant souls the opportunity to change and will ultimately lead to discouragement, disappointment, and despair.”
25. This concept is negated by medical and scientific research, which suggest both genetic and environmental components. See comment 4, above. Just because an apostle says it does not make the science correct. For more examples, see: evolution, Quakers on the moon.

26. See comment 16, above. Previously, Hafen indicates that there is no need to repent, as no wrong was committed. But here he is quoting Pres. Faust telling homosexuals that they need to repent of their attractions.
A reliable 2009 poll asked U.S. adults what causes people to be gay or lesbian. In the two most common responses, 42% of this public sample said gay or lesbian people are born that way, and 36% said they choose to be that way.
27. See comments 20, 22, above. Another instance where Hafen uses public opinion to prove... something.
As the American Psychological Association has stated, “No findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any factor or set of factors. … Nature and nurture both play complex roles.” So, even though natural personality traits do influence one’s inclinations, the idea that there is a “gay gene” has little scientific support.
28. The reference given here feeds back again to LDS psychologist Dean Byrd’s book. However, looking up the actual text of the APA statement, one finds the following:
There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.
Importantly, that last line was left out of the quotation – this is not a matter of choice. Furthermore, the conclusion that “the idea that there is a ‘gay gene’ has little scientific support” is not consistent with the statement above. The APA indicates that both genetics and environment likely play equally important roles.
As two Columbia University researchers put it, “The assertion that homosexuality is genetic … must be dismissed out of hand as a general principle of psychology.”
29. Again, a look at the source reveals that this quote was given completely out of context. Although Hafen quotes Byrd, Byrd was actually quoting a book entitled “Sexual Orientation and Psychoanalysis: Sexual Science and Clinical Practice,” by Friedman and Downey, pg. 39:
Homosexual orientation results from interaction of many factors, including genetic influences in varying degrees across individuals… The assertion that homosexuality is genetic is so reductionist that it must be dismissed out of hand as a general principle of psychology. (Friedman and Downey)

Now we do know that inherited susceptibilities, childhood experiences, and agency all influence a given person’s development. And even though no universal explanation exists, some patterns do fit many same-gender attraction cases. For example, we know from the research that among women, up to 80% who have same-gender attraction were abused in some way as children.
30. The reference provided for this statistic is an audio CD put out by Evergreen International. No references are provided to this statistic in the talk or on Evergreen’s website. I don’t think it has any basis in reality, personally, and a brief Google search would appear to back this up.
Among men, especially during the years just before and during puberty, as President Boyd K. Packer has said, “What would have only been a more or less normal passing phase in establishing [your] gender identity can become implanted and leave you confused, even disturbed.”
31. Gender identity has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with being homosexual. Gay men do not wish they were women. Lesbians do not with they were men. Period. Confusing these issues helps no one.
In other words, before puberty, boys are typically more interested in other boys than in girls. Then their interest gradually shifts to girls, but a few boys don’t make this transition. Often these boys are emotionally sensitive, introspective, and, especially among Church members, perfectionistic. When puberty hits this group, they can be sexually aroused by many factors. When these factors include other boys, they can become fixated on the fear that they are “gay,” especially if they have male sexual experiences, including male pornography. Then their fixation can block their normal emotional-sexual development. Adult men who have had such childhood experiences can often resume their normal development by identifying and addressing the sources of their emotional blockage, which usually includes restoring healthy, appropriate male relationships.
32. In the absence of any scientific explanation for homosexuality, Hafen decides to make stuff up. First, the implication that gay men start off as “emotionally sensitive, introspective, and… perfectionist boys” is essentially saying that “watch out – if your boy is a sissy, he might become gay!” Thank you for giving the LDS population one more way to bully shy or socially awkward teenage boys – call them faggots.

Second, the book he cites is… wait for it…. Dr. Dean Byrd’s. Note again the lack of scientific basis for his claims.
A second misconception the activists promote is that therapy cannot treat, let alone change, same-gender attraction…But as President Packer said, “The angels of the devil convince some that they are born to a life from which they cannot change and are compelled to live in sin. The most wicked of lies is that they cannot change and repent and that they will not be forgiven.” If you believe no change is possible, you have only two options, neither of which is acceptable to a believing Latter-day Saint — you must either give in or give up.
33. There is no scientific evidence that conversion therapies, such as those being supported in this paragraph, are effective. All mainstream mental health associations in the US see more potential harm than possible good that could come from such therapies. See comment 12, above.

34. The continual promotion of therapies is also in violation of Evergreen International’s mission statement:
Evergreen International, Inc. is not directed by any public or private mental health-care agency or individual, nor does it claim to have any professional training or licensing. Evergreen is not a clinical therapy program, espouses no curriculum or specific therapeutic approach, and assumes no liability for any individual's emotional or physical well being. Any information provided on this Web site or by us in other communications is for the purpose of providing what we believe to be accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is provided with the understanding that Evergreen International, Inc. is not engaged in rendering clinical, therapeutic, or other professional service. If clinical or therapeutic advice is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought.
Would you want to place your mental health in the hands of an organization with “no professional training or licensing” that “assumes no liability for any individual’s… well-being”? Personally, I am not sure why anyone in the church would want to support faith-healing over evidence-based medicine.
Nonetheless, the American Psychiatric Association has considered making it unethical for a therapist to treat someone with same-gender attraction who wants to change.
35. For good reason – see comment 12, above.
But in the year 2000, when such a proposal was pending before that organization, they were met with a very different form of activism than what they had seen earlier. Busloads of formerly gay men appeared at their national meeting, claiming their right to choose therapy for their unwanted attraction.
36. I wonder if these busloads were in any way related to the bussing of individuals to vote “Yes” on Prop 8 in CA. Just sayin’.
In an ironic twist of history, the APA representative who met with them, Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, just happened to be the same man who had met with the gay activists nearly 30 years earlier, when the APA voted to remove homosexuality from its list of disorders. Dr. Spitzer listened again, and he decided to study two hundred people who had changed to a heterosexual orientation that had lasted more than five years. Dr. Spitzer published his research findings, despite the objections of activists who thought his work threatened their political agenda. He concluded, “Like most psychiatrists, I thought that … sexual orientation could not be changed. I now believe that is untrue — some people can and do change.”
37. Hafer misrepresents the results of this highly controversial paper. In 2003, Spitzer published his paper, entitled "Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation," in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. This study examined attempts to change homosexual orientation through ex-gay ministries and conversion therapies. After intervention, 66% of the men and 44% of the women achieved "Good Heterosexual Functioning", which he defined as requiring five criteria (being in a loving heterosexual relationship during the last year, overall satisfaction in emotional relationship with a partner, having heterosexual sex with the partner at least a few times a month, achieving physical satisfaction through heterosexual sex, and not thinking about having homosexual sex more than 15% of the time while having heterosexual sex). He found that the most common reasons for seeking change were lack of emotional satisfaction from gay life, conflict between same-sex feelings and behavior and religious beliefs, and desire to marry or remain married.

This paper has been criticized by researchers for a number of ethical and methodological reasons. First, the study sample was extremely biased. About two thirds of his participants were referred to Spitzer by "ex-gay ministries," such as Exodus, or by NARTH. 78% of them had previously spoken publicly in favor of efforts to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality. Most of these individuals sought treatment primarily because of their religious beliefs, and may therefore have been motivated to claim that they had changed even if they had not, or to overstate the extent to which they might have changed. No self-reporting reliability or validity assessments were performed.

Only ~ 40% of the participants were exclusively attracted to partners of the same sex before they attempted to change. Including bisexuals in studies evaluating the outcomes of conversion therapies tends to inflate the proportion of "successes." The participants had to rely upon their memories of what their feelings were before treatment may have distorted the findings. It was impossible to determine causation; no controls were performed and it was unclear what the treatment even involved. Finally, follow-up studies were not conducted, so it is impossible to know whether the results were permanent.

Finally, even Spitzer stressed the limitations of his study. Dr. Spitzer did not claim that his findings could be generalized to the gay and lesbian population at large. Indeed, he was quoted in the New York Times as saying that, despite the findings from his study, the number of homosexuals who could successfully become heterosexual was likely to be "pretty low." He also conceded that participants in his study were "unusually religious" and were not necessarily representative of most gay men and lesbians in the United States.
Just last month the American Psychological Association adopted a resolution stating that there is insufficient evidence to prove conclusively whether sexual orientation can be changed. But in what the Wall Street Journal called “a striking departure” from that Association’s earlier hesitation about encouraging such therapy, the same resolution also stated that “it is ethical - and can be beneficial - for counselors to help some clients reject gay or lesbian attractions,” especially clients with a strong religious identity.
38. As always, the full text of the quote is necessary. According to the WSJ:
According to new APA guidelines, the therapist must make clear that homosexuality doesn't signal a mental or emotional disorder. The counselor must advise clients that gay men and women can lead happy and healthy lives, and emphasize that there is no evidence therapy can change sexual orientation. But if the client still believes that affirming his same-sex attractions would be sinful or destructive to his faith, psychologists can help him construct an identity that rejects the power of those attractions, the APA says. That might require living celibately, learning to deflect sexual impulses or framing a life of struggle as an opportunity to grow closer to God. The APA has long endorsed the right of clients to determine their own identities. But it also warned that "lesbians and gay men who feel they must conceal their sexual orientation report more frequent mental health concerns."

The new approach allowing therapists to help clients transcend their sexual orientation was developed by an APA task force of six academics and counselors, some active in gay-rights causes, and endorsed by the group's governing body. Their original mandate was to respond to the growing visibility of sexual orientation "change therapists" who claim it is possible to alter arousal patterns. The task force reviewed scientific literature on change therapy and found no evidence it worked.

But the task force also gained an appreciation for the pain some men and women feel in trying to reconcile their sexual attractions with their faith. There are gay-affirming churches. But the task force acknowledged that for those from conservative faiths, affirming a gay identity could feel very much like renouncing their religious identity. "They're faced with a terrible dilemma," Dr. Glassgold said. The profession has to offer alternatives, she says, "so they don't pursue these ineffective therapies" promising change. It isn't a step to be taken lightly, added Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist and member of the APA task force. "We try to find a balance between what the patient says he wants, what we think is best for the patient, and what is reasonable and feasible," Dr. Drescher said…

After reviewing 50 years of literature, the APA found no evidence that this type of "reparative therapy" is effective. The studies that claim to show success tend to be small and deeply flawed, the APA said. For instance, some rely on the therapist who has treated a patient to subjectively evaluate how well the therapy worked.
In other words, the APA was not saying that the therapy is in any way effective; rather, that individuals (including Mormons) who have a faith that is highly conservative and not gay-friendly should try these kinds therapies INSTEAD OF conversion therapy - the very therapies that Hafen is endorsing!
Now, to be sure, not everybody who seeks treatment succeeds. We have got to be realistic and honest about that. Not every experience with therapy is completely positive. That is why responsible therapists can’t promise particular outcomes. And, the Church does not endorse specific methods of treatment. Success rates vary, and “success” can be defined in various ways.
39. I have to admit, I am a little surprised to hear that the church would “endorse” conversion therapy at all, especially as Evergreen itself does not and no medical association does. Furthermore, he has already indicated his promotion of Byrd and Robinson, who are conversion therapists.
The skill and attitude of the therapist also matters a great deal. But in general, well over half of those seeking treatment can be significantly helped by it. That is roughly the same success rate as treatments for clinical depression. One non-LDS therapist who has treated both men and women for years reports that 40% of his clients find full heterosexual resolution, another 40% achieve enough resolution to control their attraction and behavior, and 20% are unsuccessful.
40. I have no access to the book here, that of Jason Park (1997), but it should be noted that the author is LDS. Furthermore, as indicated with all of the studies so far, most of the methodologies underlying conversion therapy are deeply flawed. Finally, if the results were that good over 10 years ago, I would have thought that it would have been all the rage by now…

Part 2 tomorrow, including full links and footnotes...


  1. Wow, MC. You shame my own reaction!

    Did this give you a migraine, too, but I assure you it quite literally gave me one.

    Gender identity has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with being homosexual. Gay men do not wish they were women. Lesbians do not with they were men. Period. Confusing these issues helps no one.

    God I've been wanting to say this for MONTHS but I always forget to. Whenever someone cites the Proclamation on the Family and it's declaration that gender is eternal, I always want to say "And...?"

    You put it into exactly the right words. Gender identity has NOTHING TO DO WITH HOMOSEXUALITY.

    The logic present in the church's leaders--educated, "learned" men--really is reason enough to blink and think twice about this whole thing.

    Again, bravo. I couldn't do this. It pissed me off entirely too much. I probably wouldn't have said anything at all, but knowing I have IRL friends who read my blog, I wanted to get it out.

    Now if only I could garner the courage to post that entry on my facebook...hmm.

  2. er, that second paragraph should read

    "Did this give you a migraine, too? because I assure you it quite literally gave me one."

  3. I've always found the notion of being resurrected "normal" to be quite offensive.

    "Don't worry, dear. Being female was just an earthly trial. After the resurrection, you'll be male."

  4. Gay "conversion therapy" should require reading of Fawn Brodie's biography of Joseph Smith. Perhaps that would clear up some of their "confusion" for them.

  5. Thank you for your insights.

    I am in the process of coming out to my family and I know this talk isn't going to help at all. How am I supposed to help my family understand and accept when I'm fighting against the prejudice and homophobia emanating from this talk? I can just see the membership nodding their heads and muttering Amen at the end.

    grrr drives me insane. Put your critical thinking hats back on people.

  6. Thanks for your comments, everyone.

    agnostic - Yeah, I was a little peeved. Does it show much? lol.

    cyberanna - I am not sure whether you meant it this way, but your comment reminded me of an interesting discussion on NOM a few weeks ago. Someone raised the point that if blacks were less valiant eternally, so they can't have the priesthood; and those BIC were less valiant, so they are born in non-member homes; what the heck did women do prexistently to be born female, such that they will never get the priesthood?

    Of course, the logic defies itself - if gender is "eternal" then we were always women and must have done something wrong before we became spirits... wait, how is that even possible???

    Anon - Agreed! Some instant de-conversion therapy for any TBM!

    Good to be Free - Thanks for your post! I hope that your family is more understanding than Elder Hafen. Have they seen this talk? Do they have any idea, or is this going to come out of left field for them?

  7. I meant (but did not express very well!) that I would put gender and attraction in the same category of "what makes me me." Someone telling a gay person that they will be cured of it at the resurrection is about as offensive to me as if someone told *me* I would be cured of my femaleness at the resurrection.

  8. Excellent point! Thanks for explaining what was meant ;) Its definitely a way of looking at it that I hadn't thought of before.

    I can only imagine the difficulty of being told by your religious organization that you should not accept who you are. That your identity in itself is wrong. Many of Hafen's comments hint at that - such as his comment to "not call yourself gay," and the insistence to re-label homosexuality as "same-sex attracted". In fact, I can only see one solution to that scenario - I would have to leave that church.

  9. Thanks for doing this. I wanted to do something similar but didn't have the strength. I instead posted something about a general misunderstanding Hafen and other members have about homosexuality that leads them to draw some of the conclusions that they do. I was in SLC for a wedding and was waiting near temple square for a friend that I was going to meet for breakfast and so I wandered in and listened to the first part of Hafen's talk and then had to leave about 5 or 10 minutes into it. Ugh.

  10. Jon - Thanks for your comment! You have a great blog going yourself!