Dear Brothers and Sisters,
President Spencer W. Kimball, twelfth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a respected and patient man, going above and beyond in spending time listening and corresponding with Church members and non-members. He was distressed by racism, and as an apostle he denounced racism during April’s General Conference, 1954. One of the most notable events during his presidency was to change the Church’s priesthood policy and remove all racial restrictions on ordination to the priesthood. His ability to move forward during a controversial time shows his sensitivity to the spirit. If he were alive today, I believe he would not only support the Church’s Mormonsandgays.org website but would also support the following letter written to Church-owned bookstores and members of the LDS Church:
My husband and I converted to the LDS Church in 1999. I have loved my church and new life. I began being aware of the members’ opinions regarding those who are LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) during Prop 8 efforts. I stayed silent because I actually never gave the LGBT folks much thought, and this topic was new to me. However, the vitriol language used by my otherwise-loving ward members towards gay people was shocking. But, I kept silent.
Recently, the issue about whether or not to allow gays in the BSA (Boy Scouts of America) stirred up more hurtful talk. In order to educate the convert (me) about homosexuals, members including leaders would often cite the book, The Miracle of Forgiveness by Pres. Spencer W. Kimball (published 1969). So, I have obtained a copy.
Not knowing anyone who was gay or transgender, I sought to meet them to learn for myself if what the book discussed was true and to listen to their experiences. I find they are the opposite of what this book describes them to be. And, as often as I heard about the book from straight LDS members and leaders, I heard about this book even more-so from the LDS LGBT members. The application and adherence to what this book teaches about gay people have destroyed families and lives, often literally as I found story after story of suicide by our LGBT brothers and sisters — those who lost their family, ward, community and lastly hope. I can’t stay silent anymore.
I understand the value of the official Church website Mormonsandgays.org and see it as a step towards inclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters. With this new direction the Church has taken regarding LGBT people, The Miracle of Forgiveness no longer reﬂects current Church policy nor Church counsel. It does not appear appropriate for Church-owned booksellers to distribute a book that undermines the current Church efforts to include LGBT as welcomed and/or full-fledged members. I propose the removal and revision of The Miracle of Forgiveness because it is contradictory, perpetuates false stereotypes, leads to the rejection of LGBT family members, and subliminally suggests suicide. I hope for conciliation between our LGBT and heterosexual members and suicide prevention. Continuation of this book as-is will be problematic for our church, resulting in more members leaving. Also, I humbly request that you, my fellow members and leaders, not use The Miracle of Forgiveness as a reference about homosexuality anymore.
Thank you for reading this far into my letter. Please take a few more moments to give consideration to a segment of our people who have been greatly mislabeled and misunderstood.
Demonstration of how the book contradicts current Church teachings (as clarified in the official church website Mormonsandgays.org):
Presently, the LDS Church recognizes same gender orientation and identity as a real human condition, contending that it is neither a choice nor a disease. The Miracle of Forgiveness teaches the opposite: that homosexuality is a chosen and therefore changeable condition.
Mormonsandgays.org states that “individuals do not choose to have such attractions [and] attraction to those of the same sex, however, should not be viewed as a disease or illness.”
The Miracle of Forgiveness uses language such as initiate, beliefs, acts, practice, curable, comeback, change, treatments, and recovery (pages 80-89), which teaches that being gay is a choice and a disease/illness. By stating homosexuality is “curable” and can be “totally abandoned” or “overcome,” The Miracle of Forgiveness directly contradicts the new views expressed on the Church’s website.
Additionally, although Mormonsandgays.org does not mention self-gratification, it does teach that no one knows the cause of homosexuality, whereas The Miracle of Forgiveness asserts a cause of homosexuality is self-gratification.
-Mormonsandgays.org: “No one fully knows the root causes of same-sex attraction.”
-The Miracle of Forgiveness: “[Masturbation] too often leads to grievous sin, even to that sin against nature, homosexuality [and] thence into total homosexuality,” (page 78).
Demonstration of how Miracle of Forgiveness perpetuates stereotypes, continues to bear false witness, and gives members reasons to treat those with SSA with less respect:
Mormonsandgays.org states, “Though we don’t know everything we know enough to be able to say that same-sex attraction in and of itself is not a sin.”
The Miracle of Forgiveness takes the opposite approach when describing our LGBT brothers and sisters. Defamatory words like the following are used twenty-five times from pages 78 to 88: perversion, ugly, sin, repugnant, deviate, abominable, deviation, evil, shameful, vile, low, degenerate, (un)clean, pervert, weaklings, not normal, reprobate, offender, and weakness. The book attaches homosexuality with illegal practices and falsely states that bestiality is an extension of homosexuality (78). Additionally, it uses the testimony of someone who was arrested without saying what the man was arrested for, giving the illusion that homosexuality is an illegal behavior (83).
Mormonsandgays.org states, “Love is not to say acceptance or endorsement, but it is to say inclusion and not ostracism. We want to be with you and work together.” The Miracle of Forgiveness, as shown above, does not promote inclusion and instead ostracizes with cruel and dehumanizing labels. It is going to be difficult to “gather in the seeds” (54) of these labels.
Demonstration of how it leads to rejection of LGBT family members:
Mormonsandgays.org recognizes there is a problem with families rejecting LGBT members and states, “But what is changing — and what needs to change — is to help Church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere… Family members with same-sex attraction need our love and understanding.”
The Miracle of Forgiveness states, “Sometimes not heavenly but earthly parents get the blame” (85) implying that parents are to blame for producing homosexual children. This may prompt parents to reject their LGBT child as a display of fidelity to the Church and to shun what they are taught is evil. Having an LGBT family member does not destroy the family. It’s the fearful reaction towards that member that destroys the family and communities.
Demonstration how The Miracle of Forgiveness subliminally suggests suicide:
The Miracle of Forgiveness teaches that merely being gay is a sin, is a choice, and can be cured. When an LGBT individual realizes he or she can’t be “cured,” hope may be lost, especially when rejected by family and community. In order to protect one’s virtue and save the family from the shame of having an LGBT child, suicide is often considered and applied. In Utah, suicide is the number one cause of death amongst our LDS LGBT youth. This book has been influential with LGBT Latter-day Saints choosing this option.
p. 63 Quoting President David O. McKay, “Your virtue is worth more than your life… preserve your virtue even if you lose your lives… do not permit yourselves to be led into temptation.”
p. 66 “…one should give his or her life rather than to yield to loss of virtue.”
p. 67 “The death penalty was exacted for it (adultery) in the days of Israel, as it was also for many of the sex sins so common in today’s society. Perhaps in no other way could such sin be controlled.”
p. 71 “…willing to suffer any penalty in order to keep his virtue.”
p. 79 “All such deviations from normal, proper heterosexual relationships…carried the death penalty under the Mosaic law.”
p. 82 Re: curing homosexuality – “How can you say the door cannot be opened until your knuckles are bloody, till your head is bruised, till your muscles are sore? It can be done.”
p. 83 “The cure is as permanent as the individual makes it and, like the cure for alcoholism is subject to continued vigilance.”
p. 86 Quoting Christ about no turning back, “ ‘No man,’ said the Savior, ‘having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God,’”(Luke 9:62).
p. 89 Re: when a homosexual becomes straight – “When that person repents and corrects his life, the Lord will smile and receive him.”
I empathize that The Miracle of Forgiveness has been considered a special book and a standard in LDS homes, and therefore, this is likely a difficult thing to hear when I propose its immediate removal from Deseret Book bookshelves and its revision. Our LGBT members are special, also, and a standard reality in many LDS families and congregations.
Again, I am grateful for Mormonsandgays.org, but it is like a pebble gently plopped into the middle of the lake. Its ripples are barely felt over the waves caused by The Miracle of Forgiveness, Prop 8 efforts, BSA debates, housing and employment debates, etc. God’s word may not change, but our understanding of it does. The spirit has a hard time penetrating hearts that insist on believing a certain way…a way they have been taught generation after generation.
Thank you for your time, consideration, and prayer on this very important, life-saving matter.
With much love and concern,
P.S. – One final thought from Mormonsandgays.org:
“I can understand that there could have been a legitimate concern about the kind of reception one might find from a local priesthood leader in the past. But I’m convinced that today that there are so much more help and resources* available to a bishop or a local priesthood leader.” – Elder D. Todd Christofferson
*One of those resources is Supportive Families, Healthy Children : Helping Latter-day Saint Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children by the Family Acceptance Project, earning American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s gold seal for “BEST PRACTICE for Suicide Prevention. Here is the link for pdf and hard copies: http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/publications#faith_based A new film that accompanies this booklet will soon be released and is called “Families Are Forever.” Here is the trailer: http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/family-videos .