559-560: Michael Adam Ferguson, J Seth Anderson, and their Fight Against Gay Conversion Therapy

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Photo credit: Kathleen Perrin, Equality Case Files

J Seth Anderson and Michael Adam Ferguson were catapulted into the public spotlight when they became the first same-sex couple to be legally married by the state of Utah. Seth and Michael both grew up in LDS homes, completed full-time missions for the Church, and throughout their twenties, undertook tortuous journeys to renegotiate their relationships with both the institution and with the faith of their childhoods.

Since November 2012, Seth and Michael have been embroiled in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against a gay conversion therapy organization in New Jersey named JONAH: Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (formerly Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality), filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. On June 25, 2015, a New Jersey jury unanimously found JONAH liable for multiple counts of consumer fraud and unconscionable business practices.

For a link to the Ferguson v. JONAH – Unofficial Trial Transcripts, click here.

This trial has significant implications for LDS LGBT individuals, primarily because:

  1. The Journey Into Manhood program is co-founded by LDS church members Rich Wyler and Dave Matheson, and has had direct participation and support from NorthStar Founder and BYU Professor Ty Mansfield.
  2. Ty and Danielle Mansfield have been put forward by the LDS Church including on the MormonsAndGays.org web site as role models for gay Mormon men (encouraging mixed-orientation marriages, which are reported to have divorce rates of around 70% and very low quality of life ratings).
  3. Ty’s Book “Voices of Hope” is published by Deseret Book, and is the main LGBT-themed book sold at Deseret Book today.  Jeff Bennion and Preston “Pret” Dahlgren, who were both interviewed in the JONAH trial, are also both contributors to Voices of Hope, and were also featured on the recent My Husband’s Not Gay TV show on TLC.
  4. For decades, LDS participants in both Evergreen International (the now defunct LDS reparative therapy-sponsoring organization) and NorthStar have reported strong encouragement to participate in Journey Into Manhood (and other reparative therapy-based programs) from their organizational leaders and/or members.
  5. Considerable research has been conducted on the dangers of religion-based sexual orientation change efforts and mixed-orientation marriage, which should call into question the LDS Church’s historical and current approaches to dealing with its LGBT members.

Seth and Michael recently completed their graduate work at the University of Utah–Seth finishing his master’s degree in social history focusing on the history of sexuality in the Western United States, and Michael defending his PhD dissertation in bioengineering in which he developed new analytical methods for monitoring brain activity using fMRI.

Seth and Michael are actively involved in education and advocacy on behalf of LGBT and queer individuals, including the project Team Truth–a grassroots campaign they are creating with advocates and allies to end the lies and harm of gay conversion therapy.

Comments

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52 comments for “559-560: Michael Adam Ferguson, J Seth Anderson, and their Fight Against Gay Conversion Therapy

  1. Charles
    August 31, 2015 at 8:37 am

    If there is no God, then all is permissible. But if there is a God, then we need to find out what he says, what he thinks on the issue.

    • August 31, 2015 at 9:05 am

      Charles–don’t forget to ask Heavenly Mother what she thinks, too. Her input also matters.

      • Charles
        August 31, 2015 at 9:23 am

        I’m not Mormon, and don’t believe in a Heavenly Mother. But I do believe in God, and believe he has spoken on this issue in the Bible. Just my two cents.

        And thanks, John, for letting me frequent you forum. I love keeping up with what’s going on in the LDS world, and appreciate that you tolerate discussion.

        • August 31, 2015 at 9:27 am

          Charles, it’s usually a good idea to actually watch an interview before you comment on it. Glad to know Bible-thumpers like you continue in the tradition of inconsiderate, unthinking prejudice.

        • Marsha
          August 31, 2015 at 5:47 pm

          Charles, I hope you will listen to the whole three hours, because this is not just about Mormonism. It is mostly about conversion “therapy”, which has been used by Christians and Jews, as well. The discussion is very enlightening and very sad, at the same time. This therapy not only doesn’t work, but is often deeply harmful to the participants. I promise, you will be touched by this interview and it may not change your mind about homosexuality, but would hopefully change your mind about conversion therapy.

          As for asking God for answers, I would suggest prayer. The Bible has some wonderful things in it, but also some very questionable things. It was written by man and not all of it is inspired, IMO. I believe God wants us to use our brain and our conscience in deciding moral issues.

    • Seth
      August 31, 2015 at 9:09 am

      Based on the time-stamp of your comment, Charles, it is clear you did not watch or listen to this nearly 3-hour long interview. Which tells me you are uninterested in facts or even discussion of conversion therapy and that you have already reached a conclusion you have no intention of questioning.

      Second, your scriptures are not a multiple choice test. You don’t get to pick the things you like and ignore others. Per the Old Testament, your God is OK with slavery, beating slaves, owning women, and disapproves of shellfish and poly/cotton blends of clothing. Your God is OK with fathers impregnating their daughters, and won’t allow men with disfigured penises into the temple. No mention of homosexuality appears in the Book of Mormon the D&C or the Pearl of Great Price. Why focus on one topic and ignore others? By what standard are you privileging one over the other?

      I call on you to repent and come to an understanding of our Heavenly Parents who love and cherish their many Lgbt children. It is not pleasing to God when his/her words are used to mentally abuse and emotionally torture young people in his name.

    • August 31, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      I expected the interview to be up for a least a day before someone makes ignorant insinuations about same-sex relationships being tantamount to the stance that “all is permissible,” and then wilting with a persecution complex the moment they get called out for it. Oh well–might as well accelerate an inevitable dialectic.

    • Brad
      August 31, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      But it’s totally unacceptable to suggest “all is permissible” without a God. We are still human and we still feel pain. We can still hope that our lives will be filled with people whose moral compass requires them to live the golden rule, regardless of the motivation behind it. And I want to be one of those people as well.

      • Charles
        September 4, 2015 at 9:37 am

        When Dostoevsky or a philosopher says “If there is no God, then all is permissible”, I think they just mean in a universe that is ultimately impersonal, and is nothing more than the product of material plus time plus chance, what we do here ultimately doesn’t matter. You can be nice or you can be mean, and it’s ultimately equal either way. I believe God exists, so it’s a moot point for me, but I can see where they’re coming from and think that they’re right — given no God.

    • Frank, be frank
      August 31, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      Charles,
      In my opinion, even if there is no God, not all is permissable. Human decency [humanity] limits what can be considered acceptable behavior. [Your rights end where my nose begins, in other words]. I have no right to harm you nor you to harm me intentionally.

      • Charles
        September 4, 2015 at 9:46 am

        Frank, you say

        “In my opinion, even if there is no God, not all is permissable. Human decency [humanity] limits what can be considered acceptable behavior. [Your rights end where my nose begins, in other words]. I have no right to harm you nor you to harm me intentionally.”

        A philosopher I know would say “says who — your grandmother?” If the universe is really nothing more than time plus chance plus matter, what we say or feel or think is ultimately meaningless. It will be forgotten, and if Napoleon is nice, or if Napoleon bashes a few heads in is ultimately meaningless either way. The universe will cool, all will be forgotten. In a universe without God, all you have are individual preferences, and group consensus. You are expressing your opinion, and it’s shared by many, so you can enforce it by coercion. But it’s no less arbitrary in the end, given an impersonal universe. Dostoevsky is right. (Except, of course, God does exist.)

        • Frank, be frank
          September 4, 2015 at 7:30 pm

          Charles,

          The arbitrariness of my opinion is no different than that of yours where you so emphatically assert that “God does exist”. I wish I knew that as a certainty [as you claim to and I certainly hope you are correct in that He does], but whether He does or not, I will cast my lot with the attempt to be kind and caring to all mankind, and if in the end it is all in vain and the planet grows cold, then so be it!

  2. tropical animal
    August 31, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Michael and Seth,

    Much needed fight. Will prevent a lot of suffering. Did the Mormons ever give up their conversion program, Evergreen?

    • August 31, 2015 at 9:29 am

      tropical animal–Evergreen was essentially repackaged into Northstar, which currently receives various forms of endorsement from the institutional church. These topics are elaborated in the interview. Cheers.

  3. mitchell
    August 31, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Charles, I get what you are saying about the Bible. Simply because something is in there doesn’t mean that God wants it to be that way. Divorce was allowed in OT times “because their hearts” were hard. Writing about Lot and his daughters is an explanation for how a people came into existence and is NOT intended to condone a behavior. It certainly didn’t make the 10 commandments. It is my understanding that cultures in OT were purposely wiped out because they contained rituals of human sacrifice and sexual deviance in the form of orgies that were difficult for the children of Israel to resist. I know this because of my study of ancient civilizations. In the New Testament Paul speaks frequently about the need to be sexually pure. This, combined with Genesis, a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving unto his wife, is the basis for Western morality. I get it.

  4. Shannon
    August 31, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    This was a beautiful (and heartbreaking) interview.

    I wonder if there were/are comparably damaging therapy experiences for women, or if, as I myself experienced at BYU in 1996, (religious) men are so unable to comprehend women as sexual beings that the path is totally divergent. Instead of Journey to Manhood, my bishop-ordered therapist in the basement of the SWKT read to me from The Little Prince about how friendship is beautiful.

    Anyway. So glad you have found peace around some very horrible past experiences, and at the risk of being happy-ever-after-reductive, hooray for love and marriage!

    • August 31, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      <3 Thank you, Shannon.

      And, wow, who knew Le Petit Prince could turn a sister? I'm imagining the title of that study: "The role of French children's literature in converting lesbian-identified women toward heterosexuality" (published in no journal, ever!).

      • Shannon
        August 31, 2015 at 5:27 pm

        It’s a little more complicated — and I don’t know if I can articulate it without sounding like I’m protesting too much.

        I identify as bisexual, and I’m also extremely monogamous, which explains being happily married to a man for the past 17 years. My view of my relationship in college has evolved as I’ve learned more about both human sexuality and the church, but listening to your interview made me wonder if, in addition to the fluidity of my sexuality and being bisexual (pansexual?), if perhaps the clueless males in authority that I encountered actually did me a real service by not requiring or expecting me to pathologize my sexual attraction to and romantic relationship with a woman. (Even if they were motivated by the false impression that women a) aren’t very sexual and b) certainly couldn’t be sexually attracted to each other.)

        So perhaps the wrongly conceived counsel I received worked out for the best. Of course they wanted me (us — we went in to our bishop together, haha) to stop acting on our sexual feelings, but they never suggested we stop being friends. And maybe, by not making it taboo, I was able to just be me, and that relationship didn’t work out because I was 18-19 and then it just happened that the next serious relationship I had was with a man (also at BYU), who looking back I married way too quickly, and still too young, and it was blind luck that he turned out to be the right person for me.

        In other words, if I’d been labelled at that time as a lesbian, or told that I needed to fix something about myself, I don’t know where I would be now. It would’ve precipitated a much larger crisis, I think.

        Sorry, this is getting long, but my husband and I left the church a year and a half ago, and sexism and LGBT issues were my big shelf breakers.

        Two things I knew for sure from my years at BYU were a) romantic love and sexual attraction between people of the same gender is a real and natural possibility and in all the ways important to me they feel the same as romantic love and sexual attraction between people of opposite genders. And b) romantic love and a sexual relationship, i.e. marriage to my husband, brings me great joy, therefore, I could never expect someone else to not seek that in their own life, and I could not respect a church (or a God) that would ask anyone to forgo even the hope of love in this life.

  5. Susan M Blake
    August 31, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    As a heterosexual female I learned so much from this wonderful interview. When Michael spoke about the words from the LDS temple ceremony — fulfilling the measure of creation — I recalled thinking this same thing a few months ago. Everyone should be free to fulfill the measure of their creation, to be who they really are, and to know that they are not “less” than anyone else. Thank you, Seth and Michael, for your courage and for teaching those of us who are seeking to understand.

  6. JLH
    August 31, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    Fascinating discussion. I wish both Michael and Seth joy and peace as they continue their journeys.

    From anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski: “To the average normal person, in whatever type of society we find him [or her], attraction by the other [or same] sex and the passionate and sentimental episodes which follow are the most significant events in his [or her] existence, those most deeply associated with his [or her] intimate happiness and with the zest and meaning of life.”

    I abhor religious institutions and doctrines that deny LGBT members (and, I would add, hetero singles) the opportunity for an abundant life, which includes love, sex and intimacy. Not to mention the support of practices/”therapies” that promote changing or repressing sexual identities and feelings.

    Thanks Michael and Seth for taking a stand against damaging practices and for speaking your truth.

  7. Australian
    September 1, 2015 at 3:11 am

    I am a true believer that when you have a real issue in life, be it alcoholism, drug abuse, anger issues ect. Whatever it may be, God in prayer shows the way over time. Isn’t it amazing that these people with same sex attraction who see that they have or truly perceive themselves to have a problem because of their church beliefs, never find through prayer or making deals with God or even making sure they stick to the letter of the law just to make sure God will change their situation, but never find the change. That must tell us something, maybe nothing was wrong in the first place, maybe some beliefs are just by man.

  8. Lee Douglas
    September 1, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Amazing how much harm can be done in the name of God and good intentions. Since Pres. Uchtdorf contradicted Pres. Packer and declared that homosexuality is not a choice, you would think the church would recognize how damaging it is to try to “help” homosexuals change and would stop this nonsense! The bizarre practices of the described conversion therapy program is disturbing on so many levels, it leaves me sputtering to find words for it. I am so glad the court has given these men validation and has exposed the charlatans. Common sense alone tells me that getting a bunch of gay men together and having them dance around naked and cuddle with other men would not work to cure them of same sex attraction! If the LDS Church recommends these or similar programs without actually knowing what goes on, it is terribly negligent, let alone uninspired. If they know what goes on, especially the final step of sex with a woman (outside marriage), it puts their integrity, and any claim to having the last word on morality in the toilet.

  9. Taylor W
    September 2, 2015 at 12:42 am

    Great interview- yes I watched all three hours. As I transition out of Orthodoxy Mormonism my mind keeps going back to different aspects of teachings in the temple and how most of them make a lot more sense in the construct of mormonism being untrue (at least on a literal level). Your comments about eyes being opened, fulfilling the measure of your creation, taking of the fruit and letting the shitstorm fly etc. really spoke to me and reflect thoughts I have on the teachings in the temple helping me transition away from the faith at least in a literal sense. So… does anyone out there think that at some point or on some level there is something to this? Is the whole program and are all the teachings of the church only meant to be taken symbolically? Is someone on the inside tipping their hat to all those who find out the real history of the church and the fraud that is the priesthood, b of m, etc.

  10. cl_rand
    September 2, 2015 at 10:50 am

    This was an eye opener for me. I’m sorry but Journey Into Manhood sounds preposterous on its’ face. It’s tantamount to treating heterosexuals who cheat on their spouse by sending them on weekend retreats where they do nude cuddling with strangers of the opposite sex. If, as one audience member seemed to suggest, the purpose of this “therapy” is self acceptance, how can it possibly be sold as “conversion” therapy? At any rate, being hetero, I can’t imagine the pain so many young people are forced to endure due to misguided cultural phenomena that assumes homosexuality is something that needs to be fixed. The sooner we recognize that sexual orientation is simply something to accept, not something to fix, the better off all of us will be. Conversations and interviews like this one lead in that direction. Thanks.

  11. Plastraa
    September 2, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Just watched this amazing interview with these two strong young men. I admire your willingness to share your truth, and feel real gladness that you have accepted who you are and are living authentic lives!

    I love John and the way he tries to understand and be sensitive to both sides of a situation. In this case however I found myself getting a bit angry with him as it seemed he was trying to lend legitimacy to the horrible practices to which you, Michael, were subjected. I am so sorry that you felt you had to participate in something like this.

    Conversion therapy in my mind is an absolute abomination. My sister is gay and I cannot even imagine feeling a desire to want her to try to change herself. Which is one of the major reasons I left the church, well that along with some of the historical shenanigans. Most of my family has found it’s way out of the LDS church. Once you see how real people you love are being hurt by the practices of discrimination it’s hard to unsee that.

    Seth and Michael, I wish you both the best in all you do!

  12. Mark Crego
    September 2, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Michael and Seth (John too):

    I was in tears at the end of this complete podcast. What amazing work you all are doing. John, this was a very bold, gutsy podcast, to take on Evergreen and the conversion therapy movement, with the invitation to have the proponents of the practice provide a response on a future podcast. I’m looking forward to more on this.

  13. S Reiley
    September 2, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Enjoyed the podcast very much. I remember when I received my patriarchal blessing before leaving on my mission. The patriarch was well known in the community and was a scholar and pillar of the community. When we were making small talk afterwards, he made a comment that has stuck with me my entire life – basically he said that he believed that in the spirit world before coming to earth, we had a choice whether we would be male or female. It was a profound concept to me. Michael’s comment about a heavenly Mother made me think of that experience.

    The conversion therapy discussion was very unsettling for me. I was never comfortable telling a Church authority (bishop or state president) anything about myself. There were several breaches of confidence in our community and I simply did not trust that information with anyone. I am sorry Michael had to go through such an awful experience. I assume it was initiated through a visit with the Bishop that recommended this course of action. We trust our leaders and like many things, the Church has been so wrong on this subject.

    I really enjoyed Seth’s comments about their marriage and especially his Grandmother’s reaction to it. That is really how life should be. My own Grandmother, back in the 1970’s, believed that gay people could form families just like straight people (although I don’t think she used the word straight – I think she said regular people). Not a popular position in that period of time. She was always ahead of her time. She was also a Mormon. I think she had that philosophy due to her positive outlook on life. She always looked for the good in everyone and had a great desire that everyone was included. That was a wonderful quality in a small community where acceptance is very important to those that were different.

  14. EH
    September 2, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    I am stunned at the descriptions of what goes on at these Journey into Manhood and other similar programs! I’m still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor. Mostly, I feel sorry for the poor guys who attend the program hoping for change and all the resulting sexual confusion they must feel. Thank you for bringing this out into the light. We need to stop this abuse. As a hetero guy, I can relate in a small way to the culture of shame I experienced over what are victimless crimes or more accurately, no crimes at all (i.e., masturbation) while growing up in the LDS Church. That really messed with my head, so I can’t imagine what kind of horrendous damage was done to gay people.

    Thank you for the podcast!

  15. Amy
    September 3, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Micheal- Thank you for sharing your story. Also, thank you for inviting those that were hurt by patriarchy and Mormonism to reach out to a heavenly mother. I cried as I heard you talk about the feminine divine. I needed that message.

    All the best to you and your wonderful husband!

  16. Serenity
    September 3, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Michael,

    Which ward in Virginia were you in when you were little? Do you have an older brother named Rob? I lived in Woodbridge, VA from birth until I was 11 in 1987 when we moved away. The last name Ferguson sounded familiar to me and my older brother confirmed that there was a Rob Ferguson his age and that he even spent the night at his house once. I’m guessing this is your family, am I right? My maiden name is Meurer.

    Really enjoyed the interview as well and learned a lot that surprised me about the conversion therapies. I knew they were ineffective but I hadn’t realized quite how crazy they were (are).

  17. Doug
    September 4, 2015 at 1:38 am

    I congratulate the courage and wonderfully articulate and sincere manner that Michael and Seth demonstrated in this beautiful, insightful interview. I applaud John for his continued efforts to bring healing to many souls. I appreciate his dedication, love and caring towards LGBT individuals. I am 62 years old, formerly married, have 5 beautiful children, 10 grandchildren, was a Mormon Bishop, and will always be a ‘Mormon Boy’ culturally. I am gay and was part of the first men’s group of “change” therapy in the mid 80’s through LDS Social Services. It was a very confusing time. I am deeply grateful for two wonderful male counselors at LDS Social Services, who tried to be helpful. Two years later, they had left church employment to go into private practice. When I asked one of them why he left, he said, ” I could no longer approach clients with an agenda for ‘change’ that the Church demanded I have with clients. I just care that you are happy, healthy and have a good life.” One part of our therapy was to have a men’s group who met in a rear store room of a store at the Bountiful Mall. We entered through an alley looking for a secret door. We were regaled by a straight therapist who regaled us and tried to shame us with a tirade about how pathetic gay sex was. The experience was shaming and not uplifting. It was a very confusing time. I am no longer a member of the LDS Church, but have never felt healthier and happier about who I am now. No individual could shame me now to feel otherwise. I’ve been very troubled by many stories of local church leaders who have been punitive to gay and straight followers over support of gay marriage. I know people who have taken their lives, thinking there was no hope. It’s been a long journey. I have a deep faith in the life and mission of Jesus Christ. I know that I have a very loving Heavenly Father who loves me. This interview made me weep at several places as I heard Michael and Seth share their experiences, faith and emotions about this very personal journey. I didn’t realize how many raw nerves and sensitive feelings i’d tucked down over the years. This interview made tears flow as I felt like someone finally understood the same feelings and experiences I’ve had. This was a very cathartic experience. I never believed I’d live to see the wonderful things that are happening in this era! I’m deeply grateful. I thank God every day. I hope we can make LGBT people feel more welcome on a church pew, and in families; rather than on a barstool feeling alienated. LGBT people have spiritual yearnings and a hunger for spiritual engagement like others. I’ve been deeply touched by so many straight members, who boldly are coming forward offering support and love. Bravo for this interview! Thank you for the hope it provided! Blessings to you wonderful men!

    • Sarah
      October 2, 2015 at 11:15 am

      Amen!

  18. Aaron
    September 4, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Is there a direct link to that video you refer to with the guy describing the JIM weekend activities? I’d love to share it with a few people. I can’t believe I almost shelled out 600 bucks for that! Thanks! great episode!

  19. Cory
    September 5, 2015 at 6:33 am

    Quick correction: Mansfield is a part time faculty teaching Church history at BYU. He is not a professor.

  20. Michael Surkan
    September 9, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    It sounds as if North Star, and some of these other groups, may be doing their best at filling the gap left by the rest of the mental health community. Sure, their techniques are questionable and likely don’t work (taking the statements from the interview at face value), but at least they are trying to help these religious homosexuals who BELIEVE their condition is a sin change their inclinations.

    No one else is even trying to do that. If the professional mental health community isn’t going to try and fill this need (i.e. of religious homosexuals who want to change their orientations) then the only place left for gay believers is in the hands of quacks.

    Perhaps the people running North Star really believe they are helping. It could be that they are causing harm just through their ignorance and lack of training.

    And I say this as an ex-Mormon who takes his kids to a Unitarian Sunday School with a transgender teacher (who plays a mean guitar, by the way). I just don’t think that it is reasonable to leave no option for gay members of anti-homosexual religions to receive the quality professional help they dearly want to change their orientations.

    If psychiatrists are willing to treat pedophiles to overcome their predilections then why won’t they help homosexuals?

    To be clear, I am NOT equating pedophiles and homosexuals (i.e. one doesn’t lead to the other). I am merely pointing out that pedophilia is a deeply ingrained sexual preference for which there are no known effective treatments just as is the case with homosexual orientation re-assignment. Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped mental health professionals from TRYING to help pedophiles overcome what they perceive as a defect.

    • Aaron
      September 16, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      That’s like saying: “There are no mental health professionals out there that are willing to help people who think they can fly and who just want to be pushed off of a tall building!”

      Mental health professionals don’t help people change their sexual orientation because it is impossible to do and unhealthy to try to do. No matter how much a patient believes they are a duck, there is no therapy in the world that can teach them to fly and anyone who claims otherwise is a liar. And a quack.

      • September 17, 2015 at 9:46 am

        Any organization or mental health professional who continues with an agenda of ‘changing’ a person’s sexual orientation; believing that it is God’s will and God’s work is deceived in their aim and ‘righteousness’. It is harmful and destructive to other human beings — plain and simple. Anyone who professes to speak in God’s name on this matter is deceived. This includes LDS apostles. Instilling in another human being the notion that “you are not whole” unless you follow the agenda of change is evil. People born with same sex orientation are tougher on themselves internally, than most humiliations added from the outside. They do not understand why they were born a certain way, with certain inclinations; no more than a straight person understands their inclinations. Why add further humiliation to that? It seems so afar from the gospel of Christ. And frankly ‘religionizing’ a person’s inner core, identity, self worth and happiness; tying it to sexuality is very misguided, evil and destructive. The practitioners and faiths who prey upon individuals at a vulnerable time in life, are harmful, evil and destructive. Many of us who were indoctrinated with ‘change’ therapy in the 70’s and 80’s have been able to slowly see the light and have been able to shuck off the crap that was foisted on us at that time. It’s taken years to finally feel like you are an equal to others. That you are worthy of happiness, respect and love; like anybody else.

        • Plastraa
          September 17, 2015 at 10:41 am

          You said what I wanted to, beautifully.

          I see no need for a ‘gap to be filled’ if it’s only purpose is to further make a person feel worthless and cause harm. I’m not sure how any health care professional in this day and age can even sleep at night if they are involved in this type of ‘therapy’.

      • Michael Surkan
        September 17, 2015 at 11:16 am

        But mental health professionals DO try and help pedophiles change their orientation (or at least learn how to cope without enacting their desires). From what I have read, pedophilia is as innate as any other kind of sexual orientation.

        If mental health professionals are willing to try and “help” pedophiles then why not provide the same thing to people with other sexual orientations who are likewise troubled by their respective orientations?

        My original point still stands. Gay people who BELIEVE in a religion that condemns homosexuality are going to do everything in their power to stop being gay. If the only people who try and help them in this are scam artists and quacks, then those are the people they will turn to.

        It’s all well and good to say these anti-homosexual churches should change their beliefs, but that is unlikely and certainly won’t happen in a time frame to make a difference for today’s homosexual believers. Trying to “educate” believing homosexuals into understanding their sexual orientation is just fine is also pointless. A BELIEVING homosexual has bought into the teachings of their religion and that’s all there is to it. We have to find a way to help these faithful homosexuals on their own terms without making them question their faith.

        • Plastraa
          September 17, 2015 at 5:55 pm

          Sorry but putting my 1.5c worth in.

          Even if we believe that it is just another on the spectrum of sexuality there is a vast difference between pedophilia which can never be acted upon in a safe and consensual way and homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, and the others which can be.

          I reject the notion that we have to preserve a faith in an institution that at best is going to make a person feel as if he/she is broken.

          • Michael Surkan
            September 17, 2015 at 9:00 pm

            Unfortunately, gay believers don’t usually give us the choice of trying to de-convert them from their bigoted faith until they have already been through the pain of seeing every quack and scam artist there is to try and remedy their orientation.

            Approaching gay believers with a message that they need to just give up on their religion is a non-starter (except in the cases where people have already hit rock bottom).

            This is why I wish there were some mental health avenues available to actual believing homosexuals that would actually do some good yet didn’t scare them off with the taint of apostasy. The way things are now the only mental health options that are sold as working in a framework that is 100% true to their religion are generally run by quacks who do more harm than good.

          • September 17, 2015 at 10:06 pm

            It seems that people continue to ask permission to give up on their religion, while seeking meaning in other areas of their lives. It took me a few years as a disenfranchised gay man (excommunicated) to realize that all of the ‘busyness’ and the business of my religion had nothing to do with my spirituality, my relationship with a loving God, or my self worth. Once I realized that each of us is in charge of our own lives, could I finally make a leap to serious progress in spiritual communion with God, a sense of being loved and supported, and a challenge to go forward trying each day to lift and help others — getting outside of yourself. In doing so, I realized that I didn’t need the help of any professional to heal. It took 3 decades to stop asking permission to be a ‘whole’ human being. I realized that I wasn’t defined by being ‘gay’ anymore than a straight person is defined by their sexual preference. It took 3 decades to throw off the crap that had been promulgated in the 80’s about change therapy. I admire mental health professionals whose only goal and hope with clients is that they have healthy, happy , productive lives. For those who feel they need the help of a professional, I admire their strength in seeking a little help along life’s journey to learn some life skills. It is not a weakness to seek help. Life is about taking charge of your destiny, not letting someone else define it for you. You don’t need permission for that. A loving God has already told you it is okay. You don’t need any man or religious institution to stand between you and a loving Father who already thinks you’re perfect in his love and acceptance of you and your potential.

  21. Phil
    September 10, 2015 at 6:25 am

    Can someone clarify for me why The Church (TM) bears no legal responsibility for this type of conversion therapy nonsense?

  22. Dewayne
    September 10, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Loved Ryan and Samantha’s millennial perspective.

  23. Nancy
    September 16, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    My question is this: do you ever feel angry about being deceived by these so called therapists? If so how do you deal with this anger?

  24. September 18, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Hey Guys, If you are interested in all the Free Sex you want, Check out Vividstream!

  25. Mark
    September 25, 2015 at 6:27 am

    I watched the video in its entirety . The damage of ex-Gay conversion therapy stories are way too common. I am glad that yours and other’s blogs and news shows and documentaries are broadcasting what would have been more hidden in the past. I think it is sad situation that people trying to be righteous prodce twisted results and hypocrisy among those trying to get rid of the gay. As an example of hypocrisy: all that physical contact and nudity in the ex Gay conversion therapy examples sound pretty “Gay” to me, and only prove the futility of it all. Participants are getting their fix of physical contact so they can continue the masquerade in the real world?

  26. Glen
    September 30, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    I know this reply is long past the podcast but I still wanted to respond. When I heard that Mormon Stories was going to be doing this podcast, I didn’t realize it was going to be dealing with the Southern Poverty Law Center case. When I listened a few weeks after the podcast, I had wished I had been in attendance to give a different perspective.
    I attended the Journey Into Manhood weekend, later to be referred to as JIM in 2002. It was the second weekend they had put together and I just happened to find it on the internet. Back at that time, there wasn’t much available for men such as myself who were looking for answers to their sexuality and their desire to change. The weekend was very healing for me in that it taught me that I can choose the type of man I want to be and yes, it gave me hope that I could change my sexual orientation.
    There was no nudity nor role playing that was in anyway uncomfortable to me. It was very strange to me having not been involved in reperative therapy to go through some of the processes, but it did have a healing effect on me.
    I continued to staff many of the JIM weekends in the years to come. I was instrumental in bringing the weekend to Utah and was very proud of the fact that many men were able to attend the weekend in my area rather than traveling to other places in the country.
    I was also part of the “steering committee” for Journey Beyond weekend and participated in developing some of the processes that they use. Again, I felt proud of the work I had done and never once felt like I was part of an organization that was harming anyone in any way.
    I continued staffing JIM and Journey Beyond weekends up until 2007. At that time, I had an experience outside of the organization that caused me to loose my “sobriety” or in other words, I started started secretly acting out sexually with men, again. Something that had started with me from the time I was 12 years old. Some may say, “See, it doesn’t work” but that is all in the way that you look at it.
    In listening to the podcast, I felt like John was very observant when he made the comment that comments being made by Michael were very “shaming”. That is exactly how I felt when Michael was making light of a program that had done so much good for me, and I was in tears feeling those same feelings I had felt growing up and being shamed by my peers for being “different.” The thing that hurt the most was that the shaming was coming from someone who also was “different” in the worlds eyes and he was shaming me. It still hurts when I think about Michael making such derogatory comments about men who are just trying to find their way, even if they are doing it in a way that didn’t work for him or that he doesn’t agree with.

    Fast forward to today. I no longer participate in the People Can Change organization, although I still have friends who do and love and respect them for the work they do to help men and women to be happy. I have come to find myself and my sexuality through other means and find that being around men who still want to have “holding sessions” and hang out and talk about other guys in a “gay” way isn’t healthy for me and my life. Also, I am 59 yrs old and I don’t feel a need to participate in meetings with much younger men than myself. We have different needs and lives and I think it is important for me to be with those that support me in the choices I have made. I attend Sexaholics Anonymous, not to get rid of my sexual orientation, but to acknowledge that all the cheating and lying to my wife for over 28 years wasn’t due to my sexuality, but to my addiction. One night stands, cruising for hours, lying, not getting enough was all part of an addiction that I didn’t see until 8 years ago. I am now 8 years sober and happier than I have ever been. My friends are all straight men who know about my past and present and accept me and love being around me. We go on trips together and enjoy being together.
    What I have learned through all this is that I can’t change. Simple as that. I am gay and will always be that way. But, I chose 8 years ago to remain in a loving and dedicated marriage to a wonderful wife who has stood by me all these years. In making that decision, I can change my actions, the people I choose to associate with and the things I decide to do.
    I am a better man for JIM. It put me on a path that I am so happy to have traveled, because it has put me in touch with who I am.
    Some may disagree and say that I am not being true to myself….well, that is your opinion and I respect that, but let me and others who choose not to go the direction Michael and his husband have chosen live our lives just as you want to live yours. I agree that reperative therapy should not be forced on a person and that young men and woman under the age of 18 should not be forced to participate. But for those who chose to use it as a means to help themselves, who are you to make that decision for them. But at the same time, let’s all try to live together in love and respect. That to me, is what life is about. Not gay, straight bi or anything else. Just people, trying to get along on this wonderful journey called life.

    • Frank, be frank
      September 30, 2015 at 5:55 pm

      Glen,
      I think your comments are commendable. If it works for you [and others] more power to you. As you imply, there is room in this world for all of us. Lets just get along and love and accept one another!

  27. Joanne
    September 30, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Top notch podcast. Thank you. Question: I am for commitment and marriage and taking sex seriously, and although the Church frowns on all gay sexual activity, would you support teaching all youth to reserve sex for marriage, whether gay or straight? For the numbers to work, I guess there would have to be plenty of people who are committed to the idea…

  28. Wendy
    October 2, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Thank you so much for your courage and for bringing this subject to Mormon Stories. As a busy Mom and therapist you have made it so much easier for me to access this information. It is so needed. I will be contacting the director of LDS Family Services and seeing if we can get this information out there more broadly to the LDS therapist community. I know I will face some rejection but it is of no matter to me. Enough is enough. I feel sad that I haven’t followed this more closely. If you have any good contacts in the Dallas area, please let me know. Thank you for your courage and congratulations. Thank you John for your work on this subject.

  29. WendyPerry
    October 2, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Thank you so much for your courage and for bringing this subject to Mormon Stories. As a busy Mom and therapist you have made it so much easier for me to access this information. It is so needed. I will be contacting the director of LDS Family Services and seeing if we can get this information out there more broadly to the LDS therapist community. I know I will face some rejection but it is of no matter to me. Enough is enough. I feel sad that I haven’t followed this more closely. If you have any good contacts in the Dallas area, please let me know. Thank you for your courage and congratulations. Thank you John for your work on this subject.

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