Gay Mormons, Evergreen Intl and Affirmation

What is it like to be a gay Mormon struggling with same-sex attraction? I don’t know but there are several websites where you can learn more if you are interested. I would like to highlight two of them in this essay. My objective in reviewing these websites is to determine which promotes faithfulness and obedience to the Lord’s commandments.

Evergreen International is a nonprofit organization based in Salt Lake City that helps people who want to diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior. They claim right on their front page that, “If you want to diminish your same-gender attractions and avoid homosexual behavior, there is a way out.” I find that encouraging.

Affirmation, on the other hand, states that they “reject the tyranny that would have us believe that who we are—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—is evil. We view our sexual and gender orientation as a blessing, not a curse.” Affirmation endorses the embracing of homosexual identity and encourages expression of homosexual behavior.

Remain a member of the LDS Church

Both of these organizations “seek to meet the needs of persons experiencing frustration or alienation from family, friends, and the Church because of their feelings” of same sex attraction. But, as Affirmation states, “Many of us are no longer members of the LDS Church [although] we celebrate being part of the great Mormon tradition.” Hmm….

If I were gay and wanted to remain an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I think I would be more inclined to learn more about what Evergreen had to say on the subject. This is especially true as you read on their site that, “We sustain the doctrines and standards of the Church without reservation or exception.”

Contrast that with the numerous resources on the Affirmation site providing detailed instructions and encouragement to withdraw your membership from the LDS church. In addition, Affirmation has many pages dedicated to attacking Evergreen as being false, misleading and dangerous. I wonder why they need to attack Evergreen and the church.

Born that way – or not

In the past year or so since I started writing about this subject I have received quite an education from many helpful people directing me to other resources besides Evergreen and Affirmation. For more on those resources, see my previous essay on the subject of “Homosexuality – sin or biological fact?” It quotes extensively from Daniel K. Judd.

One of the pivotal arguments in the discussion of same sex attraction has to do with the idea of being born as a homosexual or not. I appreciate the comments from readers on my essay, “Born that way – not a choice,” in which I decided that both camps are right. Some are born with a predisposition to homosexuality but they still have power over it.

And that is the big difference between the two websites that are the subject of this essay. Evergreen maintains that although one may have feelings of same-sex attraction, they are not what identify the individual. Affirmation, on the other hand, is clear that feelings of gender orientation are what make the person, so it is wrong to suppress them.

Leading the reader unto Christ

The position of the LDS Church is clear and always has been – homosexual behavior or gay sex is a sin. One cannot practice the homosexual lifestyle by engaging in gay sex and still be a member of the Mormon Church. On the other hand, one can profess to be gay, or have same-sex attraction, and still be an active, faithful member of the church.

I find it telling that General Authorities have spoken at many recent Evergreen conferences. As I read the material on their website, I find that it can apply to almost anyone who is struggling with an addiction or any powerful pull of the flesh. The articles and reading material are uplifting and encouraging and lead unto Christ.

On the other hand, I searched the Affirmation site in vain for articles or essays that were uplifting or faith promoting. There were plenty of stories of tragedy and desperation. I was saddened to read them. I kept looking for answers or solutions but all I found were enticements to give in and embrace who you are even if it means leaving the church.

Same sex attraction can be mastered

When Evergreen held their first annual conference in May of 1990, they boldly spoke out against the idea that one had to embrace the gay identity and lifestyle because they experienced same-sex attraction. On the contrary, they emphasized personal choice and responsibility, teaching that homosexual tendencies could be mastered and overcome.

This enraged the local gay groups then and it continues to be a major point of opposition on the Affirmation site today. You can read more than a dozen essays on their site that warn you away from the terrible harm that can come from listening to or believing the teachings of Evergreen. In direct opposition, they state that SSA cannot be mastered.

I guess if I were gay and wanted to choose which organization I wished to counsel me I would have to think deeply about what I believed about personal growth and success. If I felt that the way to happiness is to go with what comes natural, then I’d embrace what Affirmation says. If I felt that I’m here to rise above the flesh, I’d go with Evergreen.

Summary and conclusion

It was not my intention when I began this essay to endorse Evergreen and oppose what I found on the Affirmation site, but I have concluded that I am more of an Evergreen kind of guy. I believe that a man can and should rise above the flesh. I believe that is one of the main purposes of this life – to be tested and proven that we are more than our flesh.

The way of life that Evergreen advocates is not easy, but then, neither is the gospel of Jesus Christ unless you follow His admonition to cast your burden upon the Lord. I have weaknesses of the flesh that I sometimes feel powerless to control. My own will power has never been enough. I need my Savior to rise above and be a better man.

Therefore I endorse what I found on the Evergreen site to be helpful and of great worth. The materials there encourage me to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. I need and appreciate that. I invite the people of Affirmation to point out articles on their site that lead me to Christ and I will be happy to append this essay with those links.


Update: If you read nothing else on the Evergreen site, read the overview from the 2008 conference held in September. The chairman’s message includes a current issues section that is especially interesting in refuting rumors and untruths found on the internet today.

16 thoughts on “Gay Mormons, Evergreen Intl and Affirmation”

  1. Thanks Larke: I concur with your recommendation to visit NorthStar. I am very familiar with that site and have recommended it in past essays referred to in this essay where I included a list of links that I felt were helpful.

  2. Thanks for the plug for Northstar, Larke. And thanks for the post Bro. Malone. And holy small world, Batman! I knew a Larke Witten once. But I saw that your blog has a pink background, so you must be a different Larke Witten.

  3. “If you want to diminish your same-gender attractions and avoid homosexual behavior, there is a way out.” I find that encouraging.Glad you find that encouraging, Tim.Re this whole DNA thing, I’ve begun noticing commenters that I’ve never seen before, showing up at some of the sites where I’m a regular. No skin off my teeth, but I’d like to give you and your crew a friendly heads up:Registering at a political site for the sole purpose of commenting under one of my posts creates the impression that ya’ll are in thrall to a cult.For example:Is “alpraz” over at dKos one of yours? “William M” over at Calitics one of yours? please don’t tell me that “Bot” is one of yours … you know anything about this activity, please tell Nathan Roberts or whichever over-zealous Mormon PR specialist is supplying you with your “Go Viral” emails (and the latest Google Alerts for “Chino Blanco”) to get a life and to take this message to heart before his antics really start to piss me off:”When you use the notion of religious faithfulness as a weapon to enforce political uniformity, you distort the nature of religion, you bruise the message of the gospel, and you make our church look like a cult.”Just to be clear, I’m not gonna get “pissed off” because someone is tracking my online activity, it’s gonna be because I always tell my friends how impressive Mormons are and then this know-nothing Mormon brigade shows up trying to make a point and winds up making the kind of bad first impression that never goes away.

  4. Chino, I’m shocked and flattered. You give me more credit than I deserve. I know nothing about all the activity on your posts. But I did just create a Google Alert for Chino Blanco. Dude, you’re an activist role model. One can learn a lot from you and where you write. I would hope that anyone following you and commenting on your essays will have the decency to provide intelligent, respectful dialog.

  5. Tim! Thanks for your thoughts, advice and help on improving my blog. You are certainly writing a lot of good stuff on your own blog. Keep it up! Fantastic! You definitely gave me a lot of resources to work with and I’m using a lot of them. One last question: What do you use to measure traffic and other stats on your blog? Anyway, keep on blogging! You’re doing a great work!

  6. Hi Seth,Not much has changed since I wrote about tracking traffic in this essay back in May of 08. Go to the bottom right corner of my blog to see which stat counters I use. I still like Google Analytics the best for giving me a detailed picture. The quick picture comes from Bravenet and Feedjit. I also use StatCounter and Sitemeter. The only thing I stopped using was GetClicky. I forget why. I get everything I need with the others. Good luck. Email me if you have any other questions.

  7. This may sound like a joke, but I’m serious…In order to act righteously, according to God…, or more importantly, according to all the mortal judges that surround us; should people sexually act according to the sex with which they were born, or the gender with which they were born? What if either their sex or gender changes later in life?For example, what if a person is born with both a penis and vagina; should that person have sex with males or females in order to remain righteous? What if the person was born with a penis and vagina, but the parents had the vagina surgically removed at birth, but then later on, this “male” develops female breasts, and exhibits other characteristics of being a female? With whom should that person be sexually attracted in order to remain righteous?Now…What if a person is born with only a penis, but then later on, his hormones change, and he develops breasts and his penis stops developing…at which point he is essentially a female with a penis? To whom should SHE be sexually attracted in order to remain righteous?What if, in the same situation, the breasts never develop, but this guy’s hormones change, and his hormones are now those of a female? Is this a male or female in God’s eyes? What about a female…what if she is born with female parts, but later on, her hormones become those of a male…her clitoris becomes enlarged, her voice deepens, her Adam’s Apple grows, and her breasts stop developing? Is she now a male or female? To whom should she/he be sexually attracted in order to remain righteous?You say ANY person who is born male, but is attracted to males, rather than females, could learn to disregard his attraction to males and become attracted to females. Do you also believe that ANY male, including YOU, could ignore his attraction to females and learn to be attracted to males? If so, then are you saying that anyone can be attracted to whichever sex they wish?If ANYONE can learn to become attracted to whichever sex they wish, then what does that say about the potency of God’s intention to designate a person’s sexual orientation? If God’s intended sexual orientation for each person is slight enough to be easily overpowered by environmental factors, then isn’t God’s intention rather difficult to determine in a lot of cases? In fact, should we EVER attempt to presume what God’s intended sexual orientation is for other people, being as negligibly indistinguishable as it is in most cases?For that matter, should we ever be involved in trying to determine if someone else is living as righteously as they should?By the way, I’m sure you realize, but the fourth and fifth comments on this post are nothing more than blatant attempts to draw traffic to other websites. You should delete them.

  8. sweetisthepeace

    Crusty, I’m afraid I don’t find your comment as profound as you seem to think it is. The truth is that most people are genetically unambiguously either male or female. The incidence of intersexed individuals is very low. All of us are innately either male or female. For an intersexed individual, that question may be a little more difficult to resolve, but it has an answer.Most transgender cases are actually people who are genetically one gender but feel a strong inclination towards the other gender. I have dealt with that exact condition my whole life. Does that make me a woman unfairly trapped in a man’s body? No. It makes me a man who feels a strong inclination towards being female. It would not excuse me in having sexual relations with a man (I’m not attracted to men anyway). And as far as whom we “should” feel attracted to, I don’t know that Tim’s thesis is that everybody can “change” their orientation. If it is, I will respectfully disagree with him. While many people have been successful in diminishing feelings of same sex attraction, many others find happiness in simply accepting the existence of those feelings and getting on with their lives. Some may not marry in this life (though I affirm the teaching that all who are righteous will eventually have that opportunity). Some find companions of the opposit sex whom they feel a beautiful bond with, despite the complications of same gender attraction, and have successful marriages. There are as many stories as there are people. But I will say that, without question, we can all find peace and happiness in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, regardless of our mortal circumstances. Of course, I think there is a deeper issue here. It appears from your post that you do not believe that God speaks to His people through prophets. If so, you are certainly to think that, but as long as you do, there will always be points on which you and I disagree.

  9. Your essay came to the right conclusions about Evergreen (and similar organizations) and Affirmation (and similar organizations).Your readers may be interested in reading two other essays that contrast these two philosophies which make up a big part of the modern divide between good and evil: the challenges of homosexual attractions cause many people to learn to depend on the Saviour!Steve

  10. Tim,As a “Gay” LDS person, I appreciate your review of these different approaches to same sex attraction. I think you offered some observations many of us miss because we’re “too close” to the problem.A few of my own thoughts:Evergreen’s approach is not a panacea to the “problem” of same sex attraction. Not everyone responds well to their program even though they go through it with the utmost sincerity and diligence. For this reason its important that Gay people go into it with clear expectations that they won’t necessarily be “cured” by the process. And its also important that straight people don’t see this as a sure-fire way to ditch your same sex attraction and subsequently judge those who don’t respond well to the program. Human sexual attraction is still poorly understood and immensely complex. There is no easy answer to this.That being said, I know many people who have attended Evergreen and other programs like it and have gotten a lot of benefit from it. I’m glad there is an alternative being offered. Some homosexuals are able to push their attractions to the background enough to have heterosexual marriages that are successful. Many others are not that fortunate, and need the continued love, understanding and support of the Church as they deal with this issue for the long term. Both Elder Holland and Elder Oaks mentioned in their recent talks/interviews on the subject that involvement in “reparative therapy” programs like Evergreen are NOT officially endorsed by the Church, and that participation in them or lack thereof is a purely personal choice. Like Paul and his “thorn in the flesh”, some are given challenges to deal with in this life that will not just go away.I also wanted to comment on your apprisal of Affirmation. I think you really hit the nail on the head there – it is an organization of negative messages, and I feel nothing of faith, hope, charity and love when I read their offerings. Their justifications to follow the carnal man and disown the Priesthood of God are a dark and sublte lie that leads souls away from the Savior and mocks the Atonement and all it stands for. Unfortunately, many of our homosexual membership is being swayed by their message, as they feel they have little or no support from Church members. I’m grateful for people like you who include this subject in your postings and give straight people a chance to learn more about this issue and those of us who deal with it.Warm Regards,Neal

  11. Hi SteveSGU,Wow! Those are some in-depth essays on the subject. I read them both and highly recommend them as being well worth the investment. My essay is that of an outsider simply comparing two websites. You essays are those of an insider who has participated in both organizations. Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for providing these two links.1. About Affirmation2. About Evergreen

  12. I have known two persons who were involved in Aversion Therapy not necessarily at the hands of Evergreen but by therapists and BYU sessions who were deeply affected by the treatment and have not recovered.
    I am 55 years old and struggled with these feelings from about age 11 to age 45. I lived an exemplary life including serving an LDS mission. I had never been involved in any SSA activity whatsoever or had even participated in self satisfaction until after my mission. I had no interest physically in women and was very (and still am) attracted to men. I married in the Temple, had two children, had multiple affairs during my marriage with men, and finally divorced at the urging of my wife. I was absolutely committed to living my life in a way I felt was pleasing to the Lord and did so leading a double life and horribly addicted to random sexual encounters. I read every book I could get my hands on regarding changing my attractions. I saw 3 LDS therapists who really had no clear answers for me except the final one who was on a committee for the Church to explore the question of SSA. His answer was simple “if you want to be an active member of the Church you must be celibate. If not it will not work for you to be a member”. I finally decided since I was hitting my head against the wall until it was bloody and I felt no change, I would trust my feelings and look for what it was I really wanted – intimacy with a man. As I began to form intimate relationships including sex, my addiction to anonymous sex disappeared. I began to only want sexual relations with someone I loved.
    I have moved from a belief that this life is about resistance and fighting my “evil” nature and feelings to a belief that my nature is loving and that following my loving nature creates peace, freedom and joy in my life. This is what I experience and my life is now an open book, no longer burdened with a schizophrenic public and personal life.

  13. Randy, my heart goes out to you. I can only imagine how you must have suffered all these years. I have read the horror stories about the BYU Aversion Therapy. I have also read the reports from those who investigated what took place. I can only shake my head and wonder. As you noted, Evergreen has never administered, nor even recommended aversion shock therapy.

    I have read so many stories of individuals like you who have shared the conflict and struggle they experienced in leading a double life. Strange as it may seem to some, I am glad for you that you have resolved that conflict. I don’t agree with your decision, but I honor your agency, just as I know God honors your agency. I assume you are no longer a member of the LDS Church.

    As I noted in the essay, I believe that one of the purposes of life is indeed about resistance and fighting to rise above the natural man. Note that I did not say our “evil” nature. One of my favorite scriptures has always been Mosiah 3:19 which I’m sure you know states that the natural man is an enemy to God. Yes, your nature is loving because you are a child of God. So am I.

    Because of intensely personal and sacred revelatory experiences in my life, I long ago settled in my own heart and mind the source of temptation that comes into my life. I know that the natural man is desirous of acting out the feelings that come to me. I am no different from you. The pull of the flesh is powerful. However, I continue to believe that it can be controlled and mastered.

    I pray the Lord’s blessings upon you. I pray that you may find the happiness you seek. I think we all desire the same thing – to be happy. But unlike so many who have adopted a philosophy that life has no inherent meaning except that which we give it, I am convinced that someday I will face God and report back to him how I did in dealing with the temptations that came to me.

    I want to be able to say, it took a lifetime, but I mastered it. Thank you for helping me through.

Comments are closed.