Homosexual Mormons are trying to determine whether they can stay with integrity in a church that declares homosexual behavior to be sinful. Church policy requires that a disciplinary council be called to consider excommunication for a practicing homosexual. However, church spokesman Don LeFevre said that "compassion and understanding toward those with homosexual challenges is encouraged." The problems they face are described in a new book, Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation, published by Signature Books LLC., a publishing house that issues books challenging official position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Homosexuality touches the lives of far more Latter-day Saints than is generally recognized," editors Ron Schow, Wayne Schow and Marybeth Raynes write in an introduction. Using statistical projections based on percentages of homosexuals in the general population, they theorize that there may be 800,000 homosexual Mormons in the 8 million-member church. "Most of the writers are trying to stay in the LDS Church," said Ron Priddis of Signature Books. Whether they will be able to is open to doubt. Last month the three top officials who make up the church's First Presidency issued a letter to congregations that specifically said that homosexual and lesbian behavior is sinful. According to the letter to congregations, "The Lord's standard of moral conduct is abstinence outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage." The letter was issued by Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon Hinckley and Thomas Monson. According to LeFevre, the church believes that it is possible for homosexuals to change their sexual orientation. "Many individuals have discontinued homosexual behavior," he said. "To deny the possibility of change is to deny one's ability to choose for oneself." In contrast, homosexual-rights groups like Evangelicals Concerned in New York maintain that in virtually all cases in which homosexuals claim to have changed their orientation they have either become celibate or returned to homosexual behavior after a period of time. --Salt Lake Tribune, Peggy Fletcher Stack
Mormon's have used the phrase "Peculiar People" to describe themselves, much as the ancient Hebrews did to denote their special relationship with God. This description aptly fits my experience of the Latter Day Saints. As a religious person and a gay activist for the past two decades I have viewed Mormons from a distance. Mormon history and doctrine has been so resolutely heterosexual and family-oriented that gay and lesbian Mormons have been less than visible in the church. Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation breaks the long silence of gay Mormons and sheds light upon their experiences. Through this series of first-person accounts, gay and lesbian Mormons speak of the deepest spiritual struggle, the pain of accommodation to church law, and the denial of the self. They speak to the struggle of all gay people and yet in doing so reveal the truth of an oppressive patriarchy which has for decades gripped the Mormons in fear and ignorance regarding human sexuality and Biblical truth. These voices, along with the voices of family and friends, serve to disclose the truth. At last, there is a clear witness to the struggle within the Mormon Church. However, the editors seem overly ambitious in their desire to provide both a volume of witnesses and resources. One book cannot contain everything about being gay. In an attempt to cover every issue, the editors end up skimming through serious material in the briefest of fashions. One article titled "A Therapist's Counsel for Married Homosexuals" offers slightly more than one page of advice. Such treatment is woefully inadequate. On the other hand, articles by noted scholars like James Nelson and Bishop John Spong provide the reader with valuable insight and current theological opinion. Regardless of editorial shortcomings, Peculiar People provides substantial witness to the existence of gay and lesbian Mormons along with a challenge to the church to acknowledge its history of abuse. This is an historically important book giving voice to the wider struggle of spiritual people seeking to find acceptance, fulfillment, and a place of ministry within their faith community. There can be no tougher battle than that being waged within the Mormon church. Peculiar People is testimony to the voice of freedom which will not be silent. --Lambda Book Report, Rev. Larry Uhrig
About the Author
Ron Schow is a professor of audiology in the College of Health-Related Professions at Idaho State University. He is a co-author of Communication Disorders of the Aged: A Guide for Health Professionals and co-editor of Introduction to Audiologic Rehabilitation, as well as of Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation, which had its genesis in his nephew's death from AIDS. He and his family live in Pocatello. H. Wayne Schow is chair of the Department of English and Philosophy at Idaho State University and is the author of Against the Wind: Stories by Martin A. Hansen and Remembering Brad: On the Loss of a Son to AIDS, about his own son. He is a co-editor of Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation and has been published on this topic in Sunstone magazine and elsewhere. He lives in Pocatello, Idaho, with his wife. Marybeth Raynes is an adjunct assistant professor in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Utah, a marriage and family therapist, co-editor of Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation, and a contributor to Multiply and Replenish: Mormon Essays on Sex and Family. She lives in Salt Lake City.