Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Stake President’s Perspective on Homosexuality

Dear brothers and sisters, I follow a blog entitled LDS (Mormon) Stake President’s LDS (Mormon) Stake President's Blog, written by President William Lilburn Godfrey Paternoster, a truly inspiring man with a gift for illuminating thorny issues in the (Mormon) Church.* 

A little over a week ago, President Paternoster wrote a probing and thought-provoking post on the subject of homosexuality, and I thought it – along with one of his follow-up comments – were deserving of being brought to the attention of any who follow or stumble across my blog.  I won’t quote the entire post and follow-up comment, but I wanted to include enough to whet your appetite.  I personally think President Paternoster’s post will go down in Bloggernacle history, and I urge you to read his entire post, along with all comments.  I also encourage you to leave comments both here and on President Paternoster’s blog.

“Often I hear complaints that the church is homophobic … In this post I will show that the church has always done its utmost to reach out to those suffering from homosexual tendencies in order to help them feel normal again …   

“I would first like to reiterate that the church has always taught that the practice of homosexuality is a choice and in many cases is a curable mental illness.  As a church we affirm that one can and must avoid homosexual relations ...  

“In President Kimball’s book the Miracle of Forgiveness, we learn of one of the key causes of homosexuality.  Keep in mind this book was written by a prophet of the Lord and is widely circulated today.  In fact whenever someone is struggling with sin I encourage them to read this book.  From it we learn that masturbation can and does lead to the act of homosexuality.  This is why we strongly discourage masturbation among our youth.  I have had to delay many prospective missionaries from serving full time missions over this very issue …

“We as a church have done all in our power to help those with these [homosexual] tendencies to change.  This is why I find it so upsetting when we are wrongly accused of being homophobic.  Take this as an example; At Brigham Young University we have had great success in the past with aversion therapy.  Participants with homosexual tendencies were fortunate to have had the opportunity to be cured by participation in this inspired program.  Basically we hooked participants [testicles] up so that they could be shocked with increasing amounts of electric voltage while showing them pornographic photos of men.  Afterwards they were shown heterosexual images while soothing music (probably from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) was played in the background.  This and other efforts by the church clearly show the love we have and concern we show in helping gays become normal again.  I don’t know why the critics refuse to cite these instances in their attacks.  Those who criticize us ought to first do their research.  

“Now let’s discuss the origin of homosexuality … I was once asked this question; “if homosexuality is inborn then is the plan of salvation true?”  I responded absolutely not.  If homosexuality can be proven to be inborn then this church and the whole plan of salvation are man made.  It would show that our church leaders didn’t have a clue what they were talking about and were and are completely uninspired of the Lord, which obviously cannot be the case.  Here are three quotes from our latter-day prophets, seers and revelators to show this:

“1. Even as far back as 1976 the Lord inspired our leaders on this issue.  Here is what President Packer taught back then: ‘There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just 'that way' and can only yield to those desires. It is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil …’

“2. President James E. Faust of the First Presidency said in 1995:  ‘There is some widely accepted theory extant that homosexuality is inherited. How can this be? … if it were so, it would frustrate the whole plan of mortal happiness … The false belief of inborn homosexual orientation denies to repentant souls the opportunity to change and will ultimately lead to discouragement, disappointment, and despair.’ 

“3. In the last General Conference (October 2010) President Packer confirmed: “Some suppose that they were preset, and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone? Remember, he is our Father…..You can if you will, break the habits, and conquer the addiction, and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church” …

“In conclusion I hope that I have shown in this post that the church does all it can to save sinners by ministering unto them individually.  This is no different for homosexuals …”

One of the first commenters on President Paternoster’s post, a Brother Porter, wrote as follows:  “I have been looking for some time for a clear statement such as this on the Church's policy.  My problem with your posting is that it focuses on statements made by the "hard liners" (such as Packer) but ignores seemingly conflicting recent statements by other general authorities such as Elder Oaks and Elder Holland? In 1996 Elder Oaks wrote: “Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of 'nature and nurture.' All of us have some feelings we did not choose…Perhaps such susceptibilities are inborn or acquired without personal choice or fault…” (  How can we reconcile conflicting statements by current members of the twelve, all of whom are "prophets seers and revelators"? I try to follow the prophet, but our prophets don't seem to agree on the direction to go.”

President Paternoster’s reply to Brother Porter was memorable: 

“Brother Porter you bring forth some very important points. You have basically asked me how it is that true prophets of God can contradict each other (which they have done) and still expect to be sustained as the Lords spokesmen on the Earth.

“There is one thing I am going to say right now as a stake president that you will never hear from a general authority. I may get in trouble for saying it but it is important that members understand lest they should fall away.

“Listen very carefully; the church has firm doctrines in place, BUT taken out of context and without a mature understanding of the plan of salvation these doctrines occasionally make us look very peculiar to the outside world. We are a worldwide church and are in a position where we must also appease those who are not members of our faith. To use an analogy from the New Testament we do this with milk rather than meat. This is why we sometimes get conflicting information from our leaders. The article you sited is from "Newsroom" which is the official church resource for the public.

“What I am trying to say therefore is that we are obliged to show one face to our faithful members and another face to the public in order to maintain credibility in the world. If it were not so then our leaders would have already shown themselves to be frauds since their statements contradict one another.

“At general conference we hear true doctrine in all of its purity. On 'Newsroom' we give the public watered down versions of our teachings. This is clear from the example you gave where Elder Oaks wrote: “Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn". Notice the difference in language between what we use at general conference and how we speak to the public. To the public we admit that some feelings seem to be inborn (we never said they ARE inborn, just that they seem to be). In GC with regards to inborn homosexuality our leaders state clearly and without equivocation "Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?"

“I would counsel you as a faithful member to always look at the 'official' General Conference statements as opposed to the 'official' public statements …” 

President Paternoster, my hat is off to you for the clear and revealing manner in which you have addressed these sensitive issues.  Dear readers, I would again urge you to read the original post and all comments on President Paternoster’s blog, and then read his other elucidating posts on a variety of timely and important subjects, such as the Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Stake President, another classic that is sure to be quoted approvingly in General Conference.

* N.B.:  President Paternoster also has a truly extraordinary gift for satire, which I hope all his readers will appreciate.


  1. I wonder how helpful sarcasm and satire are in dealing with the situation. I know that humor is an important way that a lot of people deal with huge challenging events in their lives, but is there a time when the satire is more harmful to the situation than helpful? Sometimes I feel the sarcasm can be more harmful. I believe it can polarize more then build bridges.

  2. According to that great and all-knowing sage (Wikipedia), “Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon.”

    In my view, there is nothing sarcastic in President Paternoster's comments. He is laying out the official statements of Church leaders, as well as well-known and prevalent beliefs and attitudes within the Church, for all the world to see. In fact, he does it so convincingly as to make many believe he is truly a stake president. That, to me, is part of the genius of his approach.

  3. The bad thing is that some members of the LDS church take things so much at heart that they don't get the fact that this might be sarcasm and go out and justify their actions "because the stake president said it in his blog"--I think that may be what Wayne is referring to. I had to read through several of the postings to deduce that this guy is not serious--but it sure borders!

  4. "using wit as a weapon"-

    weapons are not tools used to build bridges.

  5. Perhaps, but they are used to uncover truth.

  6. Satire is a work of literature or other art form that blends criticism with humor in order to bring attention to a certain fault, problem, or shortcoming. Satire uses humor to highlight these problems with the hope that they will be improved upon. Well-written satire will not only entertain, it will also cause the audience to consider problems that they otherwise might not have been aware of, and may inspire them to actively seek changes that can answer these problems. There are many different forms of satire, but they all have this specific concept in common.

    Satire can be a very powerful tool for bringing about change. Well-written satire can often create positive changes within society that couldn't have been made with the use of guns or violence.

  7. Interesting stuff. "Pres. Paternoster" is certainly having fun on his blog. It can be fun to read. But in the end it's only that: fun. Even thought it may be cathartic for some of us, some people seem incapable of understanding satire and parody.

    So, there are limits to what this kind of writing can accomplish. Consider Poe's Law:


  8. I just wanted to say thanks to Invictus for highlighting this blog. I've read the posts there, and I'll admit, I haven't laughed so hard in ages. I agree; Pres. Paternoster is genius in his approach of highlighting certain ridiculous policies as well as conflicting statement from General Authorities.

    Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. And I say this as one who still goes to church - despite my inner conflicts.

    Of course, I first got in trouble for my written satire in the 7th grade, so maybe I'm just wired to appreciate this type of humor. I wouldn't go so far as to say I was born this way, but there's an argument to be made. I think I'll discuss this with my bishop (but not this weekend because I'll be watching all 10 hours of General Conference).

  9. Utahhiker801 I commend you for committing to watch all 10 hours of General Conference. As a final spiritual preparation for conference I have created a new post that I am confident you will enjoy.


    The President