How can I find LDS resources (books, articles, films, support groups) that will be in line with official Church Guidance?
This question is challenging for anyone who is just newly learning about gay Mormons. One way to help frame this question is to understand that there are what some call the BIG THREE gay mormon support groups. There are also a number of smaller groups or sources of support.
The BIG THREE are Evergreen, North Star and Affirmation.
The major areas of controversy where there are differences between these groups are the following.
- Born that way (cause—biological or environmental)
- Can change occur (cure, mutability, can attractions be diminished, overcome?)
- Straight marriage
- Gay marriage
- Kinsey Scale (bisexuality)
On this website we urge you to first study the 5 main documents containing official Church guidance on 10 important issues, some of which are controversial issues. After you have read and carefully studied the Church documents, then you can decide how you feel about the various controversial issues.
Here are a few of the main differences you will notice as you look at the BIG THREE.
First, take a look at their websites and descriptions on the sites.
Evergreen International: ``Evergreen is a nonprofit organization
that helps people who want to diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual
behavior. It is also a resource to their loved ones, professional counselors,
religious leaders, and friends."
North Star: ``North Star is a place of community for Latter-day
Saints dealing with issues surrounding homosexual attraction who desire to live in
harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the values and doctrines of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons: The mission of Affirmation
is to work for the understanding and acceptance of gays and lesbians as full, equal
and worthy persons within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and society,
and to help them realize and affirm self-worth. Affirmation supports LGBT Mormons,
their families, and allies by encouraging spirituality, providing information resources,
providing opportunities for social interactions, and working for equality.
Now, here are a few comments about each group based on our observations in attending their various meetings and from our discussions with their leadership.
Evergreen. This group now in the 21st year claims
to be closely aligned with the Church. However, if you go to their website
you will see the main emphasis on the site is on how to diminish same sex attraction.
They tend to stress that you are not born this way and they have assembled evidence
that you can diminish or overcome SGA. They have conferences and promote a
library and books that are strongly focused on a message that "you don't have
to be gay." They do provide an important support network for those
who want to stay in the Church, but for those who feel their feelings have not changed
it can be uncomfortable when the message is so sharply focused on how you can overcome
your homosexual feelings and eventually marry in straight marriage. They
have a network of small groups meeting in many cities in the USA and some
around the world. A large part of their support is for those who have gay feelings
but are married to a straight spouse. This is sometimes called a MOM--mixed
orientation marriage. It is a good place to seek support if your desire is to
stay married and/or to work on changing your gay feelings. There is no support
for those outside the Church and parents and friends who go to their meetings will
hear many negative comments about gays who leave the Church or who are in a gay marriage.
North Star. This group has been in existence
for about 5 years and has a neutral position on cause and cure. On their
website you will find the main focus is on how to stay in the Church and find support
from others dealing with SGA. They seem to be well in line with the Church position
that some can diminish their feelings but others cannot. Therefore,
some here are comfortable with the Evergreen group and some do not support the heavy
Evergreen emphasis on change in feelings being possible. There is a level of
acceptance here for those who feel their feelings will not change. They do
not have as many support groups meeting regularly like Evergreen but they do endorse
a few meetings being held monthly and a few socials particularly in and near Salt
Lake City. They have a big web presence and sponsor monitored support groups for
men, women, friends and family, and other special groups like prospective missionaries.
There is a lot of support for those who feel they might eventually be able to marry a
straight spouse, or those who want to live celibately but they strongly discourage any
behavior like gay dating or gay marriage which would bring you out of harmony with the
Church and Church leaders. The friends and family who align with North Star tend
to feel their children, many who are in gay marriages, are on a bad path and they pray
for them to leave the gay community and come back to the Church. Many do
see the goodness of their gay children who have left the Church and feel ambivalent
about how to maintain ties with these children. They tend to feel that if their
children were righteous they could live celibately and return to activity in the Church
which many of these parents pray for.
Affirmation. Affirmation was organized in 1977
and supports those who date and have relationships with the same gender. They stand
up for affirming gay relationships and that a person in a gay relationship can also
be affirmed as Mormon. They have a number of online Facebook support groups and in-person
groups that meet in major cities and they hold an annual conference. Friends and family
here tend to support those in gay relationships and are working to increase understanding
and acceptance within the Church. They see value in encouraging those with feelings
that will not change, to find love and commitment with a same-sex spouse.
Smaller groups and resouces.
Family Fellowship and weekly support meetings in SLC by LDS Reconciliation. These groups have been active since the early 1990s. They take no official position on any of the controversial issues, but they strongly support maintaining family and gospel ties. They try to provide a place where families either in or out of the Church can feel support. There is an emphasis on science which tends to make many here feel that those with gay feelings are born that way and skeptical about whether change is possible. They believe those wanting to live celibately and stay in the Church, those in mixed orientation marriages and those in gay marriage should all be supported and that families should try to maintain loving relationships above all. The friends and family here tend to maintain strong ties with their loved ones whether in or out of the Church and whether in or out of the gay community. Most here do not feel the emphasis in Evergreen on change is appropriate and so tend to avoid this group. They have some ties with North Star and some ties with Affirmation, but most have their focus on family ties which they feel is an important part of the gospel message. Those meeting weekly in Reconciliation stress maintaining spirituality through gospel and scripture study. Family Fellowship meets quarterly in Provo or SLC with mainly science type presentations. There is a strong element in Family Fellowship who are active Church members but there is great understanding and tolerance for those who have broken their ties with the Church. They are encouaged by the current Church messages which stress that no one is outside the extended arms of the Church or the circle of God's love.
Here are the websites where you can learn more about these groups.
Deseret Book. This is an important Church resource in terms of reading material. Most books found here are from Evergreen affiliated authors, Jason Park and Dean Byrd. In Quiet Desperation, by Fred Matis, Marilyn Matis and Ty Mansfield has a strong presence at DB, and these authors have a strong leadership position in North Star. Books by Family Fellowship affiliated authors can also be ordered at DB. These include Carol Lynn Pearson's books which have a strong presence at DB, and her books on Mormon gay issues can be ordered there, but will not be found on the website. Also, Pecular People, a co-edited book by Family Fellowship affiliated authors can be ordered at DB. For some time "A Guide for LDS Families Dealing with Homosexual Attraction," by some of the same authors, which is now available on this website, was sold at all Deseret Book stores. (http://deseretbook.com)
- Family Fellowship: ``Family Fellowship is a volunteer service organization, a diverse collection of Mormon families engaged in the cause of strengthening families with homosexual members. We share our witness that gay and lesbian Mormons can be great blessings in the lives of their families, and that families can be great blessings in the lives of their gay and lesbian members. We strive to become more understanding and appreciative of each other while staying out of society's debate over homosexuality. We seek to put behind us all attitudes which are anti-family, which threaten loving relationships, and which drive family members apart." (http://www.ldsfamilyfellowship.org )
- LDS Reconciliation: ``LDS Reconciliation affirms the spirituality of Gays and Lesbians and seeks to provide a safe haven for individuals with a Latter-day Saint background to discuss the gospel of Jesus Christ." (http://www.ldsreconciliation.org )
LDS Family Services. This is a source of support for those who seek therapy over gay issues. Most therapists here support Evergreen and seek to diminish SGA and there are links to Evergreen from the LDSFS website. However, one of the most experienced LDSFS therapists has provided strong evidence (see table 1 columns 2-3) that in working with over 1000 clients he has rarely been able to help single gay men to achieve straight marriage and this has only been possible with those who are bisexual. (http://providentliving.org/familyservices/strength/0,12264,2873-1,00.html)
The current website is based on the premise that none of these groups or books has the same authority as the five documents listed on the home page. These five offical statements are the position of the Church and are the most important. As you try to determine where to find trusted resources, we urge you to examine how much confidence you have in the experience, testimony and science of those in the various groups, but above all continually go back to the Church sources that will help you maintain your ties to the gospel.
We have assembled here, on the remainder of this site, various resources we hope you will find to be valuable and scientifically sound. As encouraged by Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman in their interview, we believe that the Church currently has no position on nature or nurture (born that way or not) and that there are some with gay feelings who can experience sufficient opposite sex attraction to be in a MOM and some cannot. As they suggest, the science on these issues will have to resolve these matters over time based on the evidence and we feel the evidence will eventually move Church leaders to accept a biological basis for homosexuality and that most adults cannot change or diminish their feelings of attraction unless their feelings are bisexual. If Church leaders eventually move in this direction, Evergreen, DB and LDSFS will have to moderate their positions to move more in the direction of North Star and Family Fellowship.
Gay Mormon Resources for Latter-day Saint Families and Leaders