Private Pain, Public Purges: A History of Homosexuality at Brigham Young University

Preface to the Lecture
Below is a copy of the lecture Connell O'Donovan gave on April 28, 1997 at UC Santa Cruz on the history of homosexuality at Brigham Young University (BYU).

He has issued a formal challenge to the BYU administration to acknowledge the atrocities it has committed over the years against Queer people, publicly apologize for them, and offer monetary reparations to its victims of electric shock and vomiting aversion "therapies".

If, after reading his lecture, you feel moved to join him in calling for this official apology from BYU, please contact BYU president BYU president Merrill Bateman or the director of BYU's Public Relations Brent Harker

In 1965, then BYU president Ernest Wilkinson told the entire studentbody, "We [at BYU] do not intend to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly; and if you will be honest enough to let us know the reason, we will voluntarily refund your tuition. We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence." While written thirty years ago, this is still the prevailing attitude at BYU regarding Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual people.

Private Pain, Public Purges: A History of Homosexuality at Brigham Young University
By Connell O'Donovan
E-mail to: Connell O'Donovan

Delivered April 28, 1997
University of California, Santa Cruz

At the outset of this lecture I feel it is imperative that you all know of my agenda, since I do not subscribe to the theory of academic objectivity. First, I am Queer, and by that I mean that I participate politically, spiritually, socially, and intellectually in a community of men-loving-men. (But don't ask me to define what a man is! I'm still working on that one!) Second, I was raised a Mormon, completed a mission for the Latter-Day Saint Church, and married a woman in the Salt Lake Mormon Temple, but due to the homophobia and heterosexism I encountered in the church, I came to realize that for me the only viable solution was to explore spirituality on my own path. I was later officially excommunicated by the Mormon Church for my stance opposing their oppression of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered people. Third, I am a liberationist: I do not seek "equal rights" for my people. I do not desire equal access to power. Rather, I actively explore different paradigms in which we can all move away from power relationships.

I am not here to whine about my own victimization at the hands of the homophobic Mormon patriarchy. I am here to document and publicize the hypocrisy of an institution that publicly proclaims "family values", compassion, honor, and love while privately destroying the lives of tens of thousands of people because they happen to love those of their own sex. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a huge and incredibly wealthy socio-political organization masquerading as a religion, and I stand here to hold it accountable for its unethical, immoral, and oft-times illegal treatment of my Queer sisters and brothers.

Brigham Young Academy was established in 1875 in Provo, Utah (60 miles south of Salt Lake City) as an elementary and high school. In 1903 it gained accreditation to become Brigham Young University. Because all of the policies examined in this paper were decisions approved by its Board of Directors, it is important to note that since 1939, the Board of Directors has been comprised of all members of the Mormon Church's First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the President of BYU. In later years, some members of the First Quorum of the Seventy, as well as one woman, Belle S. Spafford, were allowed to serve on the Board.

BYU offers a fascinating view because it is caught between two worlds: the rigidly orthodox religious world of Mormonism and the questioning academic world. This tension provides interesting dilemmas for the people who study, teach and work there, especially for those who are Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual.

BYU is both a world unto itself and a microcosm of Mormon society. Because Mormon apostles comprise the BYU Board of Trustees, the attitudes and beliefs of the church hierarchy directly affected BYU policies on homosexuality. However, at the same time, because BYU is an academic institution where "free enquiry" is sometimes allowed (and even more rarely valued) BYU policies on homosexuality changed and even slightly liberalized over time when it was discovered that the Mormon "party line" was not reality based. Thus BYU in turn strongly affected the Mormon church's official stance on homosexuality like no other institution could do.

While the Mormon church preaches a "compassionate, loving" response to homosexuality, it is clear that behind the closed doors of BYU administration, a very different picture emerges from the office journals of BYU administrators, inter-office memos, Board of Trustees meeting minutes, and private interviews conducted. The church and the university administration have carefully maneuvered behind closed doors to try to eradicate the presence of Queers on campus by just about any means possible, regardless of ethics, morality or legality.

I must apologize here for the paucity of materials relating to Lesbians and Bisexual women at BYU. The intense sexism of the Mormon Church renders them virtually invisible and of little or no consequence.

Through interviews I conducted with older Lesbian and Gay Mormons, I learned that in the mid-1940s, during the administration of BYU President Howard McDonald, there was a large social network of about 30 Lesbians and Gay men, most of whom were staff and faculty, and only included a handful of very trusted students. They gathered informally at private homes to meet for support and to find partners. In the spring of 1948, two members of this group, Kent Taylor and Richard Snow, met with Mormon Church President, George Albert Smith (who was also allegedly a homosexual). During this meeting, the church president told the two lovers that they need only live their lives honorably and God would accept them. These two men came back to their social network and joyfully reported their experience.

Earl Kofoed, another participant in this group, fondly recalls:

I remember well my BYU years (1946-1951), drinking beers at the Windsor Lounge [in Salt Lake City], the private parties, the arrests of friends and acquaintances, "cruising" the Wasatch Springs bath house - it was dangerous but exciting too![1]

As part of a national movement to the far right during the McCarthy era, the Mormon Church appointed an arch-conservative and rabidly anti-Communist president named Ernest L. Wilkinson in 1951. Wilkinson was a graduate of Harvard Law School and had started his own law firm in Washington DC where he achieved national recognition as a lawyer. His conservatism worried the Gay social network enough that by late 1952, it had mostly disbanded, its members transferring to other universities. During Wilkinson's first decade as BYU President, the school grew so rapidly that by the early 1960s it had become the largest private university in the United states.

In early 1959, as a way of controlling student behavior, Wilkinson vigorously proposed and supported a plan to have the Dean of Students send questionnaires to all Mormon bishops affiliated with BYU. The questionnaires would have required that the bishops report to the school administration the names of all students who had confessed privately to the bishops "any propensity for stealing or immorality of anything of that kind", effectively breaking the secrecy of the confessional. On May 21 1959, according to his own office journal, Wilkinson met with BYU's Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees to discuss two controversial topics: Wilkinson's plan to implement the questionnaires, and "the growing problem in our society of homosexuality". Wilkinson reported that "these two problems interested the Brethren very, very much".[2]

A member of the Executive Committee informed Wilkinson that Mormon Church president David O. McKay, in a recent secret meeting in the Salt Lake Temple, had said that "in his view homosexuality was worse than immorality; that it is a filthy and unnatural habit". Thus Wilkinson was informed by the Executive Committee that whenever a student had this "problem", unless the student was "really repentant and immediately working out their problems", the BYU administration "should suspend them from the University". This was the first of several similar policy decisions made covertly by the Board of Trustees and Executive Committees.

The question then arose during this same meeting as to whether BYU should record the reason for suspension or dismissal on the student's transcripts. The Executive Committee decided only to have the word "suspended" placed on student records to eliminate any libel suits against BYU. Wilkinson was also told to come up with a "better plan to find out from bishops the information requested by the Dean of Students". Unfortunately, this was not the end of Wilkinson's plan for gaining confidential information from BYU bishops. Eight years later, in 1967, after much persistence, Wilkinson's plan would be approved and implemented, with disastrous results for Gay people. But more on that later!

In 1961, Wilkinson faced what he called the "disagreeable" task of suspending a BYU teacher named Carl Fuerstner for suspected homosexual activity. Fuerstner was a renowned pianist and non-Mormon who had been a "special instructor of piano" at BYU since 1958. However, sometime in late April or early May of 1961 it was suspected that Fuerstner was Gay, so the administration, in true McCarthyesque form, judged him guilty and summarily suspended Fuerstner from teaching, even though Wilkinson privately admitted in his journal that the administration had "no specific evidence of any homosexual tendencies on his part".

A few days after the dismissal, evidence of Fuerstner's homosexuality finally surfaced. In the mean time, Fuerstner had been publicly criticizing BYU for firing him. Wilkinson, armed with this newly found "evidence" met with Fuerstner. However, Fuerstner "at first denied any such tendencies" but after Wilkinson grilled him for well over an hour, Fuerstner "gradually made admissions, which taken together, amount to a confession". That evening, Wilkinson smugly recorded in his journal that BYU would "have no further trouble with him over his dismissal" and then finished his entry indicating that "apparently while [Fuerstner] has had a mental tendency in this respect, there have been very few occasions of actual indulgence on his part. But even so, we cannot countenance it."[3]

More than a year later, on September 12, 1962, Wilkinson met with high level school administrators and two apostles to discuss "the question of homosexuals who might possibly be a part of our studentbody". It was decided that there were so few Lesbians and Gays that the administration "ought not to dignify [homosexuality] by meeting with [all] the men or women of the university but handle each case on its own". Also they decided that "as a general one will be admitted to the B.Y.U. whom we have convincing evidence is a homosexual." The men then worked out a "cooperative plan" whereby the general authorities would turn over to BYU administration any information on homosexuality which they might obtain through ecclesiastical channels, and BYU would give the general authorities information on individuals at BYU who were suspected of being Gay. This cooperative plan is still in existence to this day. Here is a BYU inter-office memo from 1980 in which demonstrates exactly how this cooperative plan worked - and destroyed the academic careers of these four men. [ORD/CARTER TRANPARENCY] All four of these men were contacted by BYU administration and coerced to leave BYU. Ord and Carter informed me that they were told if they left quietly, BYU wouldn't impede them. However, should they make a fuss, BYU would place a hold on their transcripts and prevent them from transferring to any other university. Ord stood up for himself and to this day, he is unable to complete his university education because BYU will not release his transcripts.[4]

On July 10, 1964, apostle Spencer Kimball gave a speech at BYU to all religion teacher entitled "A Counselling Problem in the Church". Seven out of the 20 pages of this speech deal specifically with homosexuality. In his speech Kimball notes that he is "persuaded to consider briefly [an] area of trouble which has been more in the background but which now is being written about...and is being brought out into the limelight....including deviates called 'peeping toms', exhibitionists, homosexuals, and perverts in other areas." Kimball then admonishes the religion faculty to "be helpful in these areas as you indoctrinate in the preventive spiritual medicine", acknowledging that in reference to the "abominable and detestable crime against nature...we know such a disease is curable".[5]

Six months later, Kimball was back at BYU to speak, but this time the entire studentbody heard his lecture called "Love versus Lust". Indicating that "sometimes masturbation is the introduction to the more serious sins of exhibitionism and the gross sin of homosexuality", Kimball wishes to avoid mentioning "these unholy termsand the reprehensible practices" but he has a "responsibility to the youth of Zion that they be not deceived". Here is a lengthy quote from this speech:

"Good men, wise men, God-fearing men everywhere...denounce the practice [of homosexuality] as being unworthy of sons of God; and Christ's Church denounces it and condemns it so long as men have bodies which can be defiled....This heinous homosexual sin is of the ages. Many cities have gone out of existence because of it. It was present in Israel's wandering days, tolerated by the Greeks, and found in the baths of corrupt Rome. In Exodus, the law required death for the culprit who had sex play with animals, the deviate who committed incest, or the depraved one who had homosexual or other vicious practices.

"This is a most unpleasant subject to dwell upon, but I am pressed to speak of it boldly so that no student in this University, nor youth in the Church, will ever have any question in his mind as to the illicit and diabolical nature of this perverse program. Again, Lucifer deceives and prompts logic and rationalization which will destroy men and make them servants of Satan forever....Let it never be said that the Church avoided condemning this obnoxious practice not that it has winked at this abominable sin. And I feel certain that this University will never knowingly enroll an unrepentant person who follows these practices nor tolerate on its campus anyone with these tendencies who fails to repent and put his or her life in order."[6]

This extremely homophobic speech later appeared in the 1965 BYU Speeches of the Year and a decade later was made into a pamphlet for general distribution to the church.

In the fall of 1965, Ernest Wilkinson reiterated BYU's policies on homosexuality when he gave a speech to the entire studentbody, ironically called "Make Honor Your Standard". As part of BYU's commitment to "honor", Wilkinson delivers my most favorite quote, when he indicated that BYU does not intend

"to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly; and if you will be honest enough to let us know the reason, we will voluntarily refund your tuition. We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence."[7]

This in a speech called "Make Honor Your Standard"!!!

In 1967, Wilkinson was finally allowed to implement his 1959 plan of asking that all BYU bishops provide the Standards Office with lists of students who were "inactive in the church or...not living the standards of the church", which information was unethically gained through private confessions. Because of this new policy, the numbers of students visiting the Standards Office soared dramatically over previous years. That first year, for example, the Standards Office counseled 72 students who were "suspected of homosexual activity".

This dramatic increase in identified Gays and Lesbians spurred the BYU administration to begin what is often referred to by Gay Mormons as the "Witch Hunts of '68". Authorities were convinced that a large "homosexual ring" was located on campus. Extensive security files were kept on students suspected of homosexuality, and all new prospective teachers had to be interviewed by a general authority before being offered a position at BYU.

As part of the Witch Hunts of '68, a hairstylist and BYU student named Frank Holley was suspended from BYU on June 1, because of "a security report indicating that he was a homosexual". Five days later, Holley was sent a letter "informing him that he would be restricted from the BYU campus at all times" unless he receive permission from the Dean of Students or the chairman of the University Standards Office.

Holley set up an appointment with apostle Spencer Kimball to gain clearance to return to BYU. During their meeting, Holley denied being "homosexually inclined" but claimed that he could supply Kimball with a list of a hundred students and faculty who were homosexual. When Holley refused to give Kimball such a list, Kimball refused to allow Holley to return to BYU.

A year later, Holley was spotted on campus by security guards. BYU filed a complaint against him and he was told to appear at Provo City Court on June 20, 1969 (just one week before the Stonewall Riot in NYC). Holley informed BYU administration that he was going to appeal this to church president David O. McKay. Interoffice memos indicate that the University Standards Office had an extensive security "folder" on Holley that Wilkinson could refer to if needed.[8]

One former Gay BYU student referred to only as LML reported to a newspaper that in 1968, he was coerced into turning over names of other Gays at BYU to the church administration in order to help absolve him of his "sins". A week later, the same newspaper received a letter to the editor by one of the people whom LML had turned in, confirming the story in a very dramatic and emotional manner.[9]

In January 1969, the Board of Trustees decided that "homosexual students would not be admitted or retained at BYU without approval from the General Authorities". This differs from the earlier policy of "no homos" in that exceptions could now be made with approval from the church authorities.

In 1971, Ernest Wilkinson resigned from the BYU presidency so that he could run for the US Senate (an election he lost) and another lawyer, Dallin H. Oaks became the new president of BYU. One year after his appointment to the presidency, Oaks brought the issue of homosexuality to the Board of Trustees for further discussion. Specifically, Oaks wanted to know:

In 1971, Ernest Wilkinson resigned from the BYU presidency so that he could run for the US Senate (an election he lost) and another lawyer, Dallin H. Oaks became the new president of BYU. One year after his appointment to the presidency, Oaks brought the issue of homosexuality to the Board of Trustees for further discussion. Specifically, Oaks wanted to know what to do with students or school personnel who were not "overtly" homosexual. [10]

These questions brought up several issues that the church had yet to deal with, so apostle Marvin Ashton was given the task of helping BYU clarify their policies on homosexuality.

After working with Apostle Ashton, on May 1973, the Executive Committee instructed President Oaks that "no known overt homosexuals were to be enrolled or permitted to remain at BYU as students or employees". However it was determined that there were some people who were NOT to be treated as "overt and active homosexuals" including the following:

These questions brought up several issues that the church had yet to deal with, so apostle Marvin Ashton was given the task of helping BYU clarify their policies on homosexuality.

After working with Apostle Ashton, on May 1973, the Executive Committee instructed President Oaks that "no known overt homosexuals were to be enrolled or permitted to remain at BYU as students or employees". However it was determined that there were some people who were not to be treated as "overt and active homosexuals". [11]

I emphasize here just how important these exceptions must have been to Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals on campus, for it created a much needed breathing space. In essence these exceptions allowed Gays and Lesbians to lie more easily, and thus escape castigation for their sexuality.

Another tactic taken by BYU administration was the creation of extensive student spy networks. The BYU Honor Code of the 60s and early 70s mandated that students report any infractions of the Honor Code to the Standards Office, even if anonymously. This allowed the Standards Office and BYU Campus Security to engage in practices that were anything but honorable, in order to maintain the honor code. Campus security visited Gay bars in Salt Lake City, noting car license plate numbers with BYU parking stickers and turning that information over to the Standards Office. Decoys were used to entrap male students in bathrooms. Students could even gain credit for posing as Gay decoys by signing up for the Justice Administration 299R course. In 1973, for example, two Gay BYU students were caught and threatened with expulsion from the school. However, they were then informed that they could remain at BYU if they would "work for [BYU] security as spies" to entrap other Gays attending BYU. They decided to do this. A man named David, who knew these two students, reported to a newspaper that BYU "Security was obnoxious and knew how to push people into things they didn't want to do". Apparently, several other Gays who had been coerced into spying for security became "fed up" with the situation and went to TV stations in Salt Lake City with their stories. With such negative publicity focused on BYU, the Security Office became less aggressive in their tactics for awhile. [12]

In a 1975 interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, President Oaks was asked "if BYU security agents checked known homosexual haunts looking for BYU students". Oaks replied that he personally didn't know, but "he wouldn't be surprised if security officers had made such investigations over a period of time".[13] Joseph Morrow, a BYU security guard in 1973, claimed that such investigations of Gay spaces were commonplace in the early 1970s. Morrow stated that once he was asked by his supervisor, Paul Tanner, "to go to Salt Lake City to check for BYU Parking permits on cars gathered around specific bars. The bars...were known homosexual haunts." When Morrow expressed reticence over the assignment, he was told "it was a regular weekend practice".[14] In 1979, Paul Richards of BYU Public Relations admitted that a Gay bar in Salt Lake had been staked out by BYU security and in 1982, BYU's Security Chief, Robert Kelshaw, admitted that "in the past we have gone off campus to seek [Gays]. This year we haven't, although we do communicate with other law enforcement agencies and check court records periodically. But I have no plans to go to know gay hangouts in Salt Lake City just to find homosexuals." Kelshaw also stated that "volunteer student [spies] haven't been used in identifying homosexuals in bathrooms for months, and the investigators in bathrooms do not initiate the foot-tapping", referring to a sign used by Gay men to identify each other. According to Mike, a Gay Mormon, in the late 1970s, he had witnessed "BYU Security officers in Salt Lake City at the cruise areas driving past lines of cars leaning out the window taking pictures of not only the licenses and cars, but of the passengers inside of them also".[15]

In January 1975, BYU administration decided to begin another purge of Queer people on campus. The first target of the purge was the Drama Department. Dave, a former BYU drama student, described the purge as happening "within a matter of days and nobody expected it." Dave described how on the first day of the purge, "there were Security officers with walky-talkies on every level of the [Harris Fine Arts Center]".[16] According to Jon, another former BYU student who was caught in the purge, security officers removed all male drama and ballet students from their classes to interrogate them in the halls for the names of any Gays they knew. Once names were recorded, those people were interrogated and so on until as many Gay men were caught in the "dragnet" as possible. Joseph Morrow, the aforementioned BYU security guard, also confirmed in an interview in February 1975 that "the security force is currently having a crack down on students they suspect of homosexual behavior" and described the mass interrogations at the Fine Arts Center.

Jon also claimed that "scores of students working undercover for Security" entrapped Gay men in bathroom stalls by initiating foot-tapping codes and passing notes between stalls, luring Gay men to describe sexual acts they wished to perform.

Despite the serious consequences of the purge of '75, many Gays took it all in stride and even responded with humor at times. For example, Dave reported that several students in the Drama department thought "it was all a joke" and even went to the BYU Bookstore to have t-shirts printed up reading "I'm on the List - are you?" Dave claimed that "being that blatent [sic] helped people to look at the problem realistically".

Others however, found no humor in this situation at all. The October 1975 issue of the Advocate, carried an article by Robert McQueen about the Mormon Church and homosexuality. McQueen, a former Mormon would later become the editor in chief and then chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Advocate until his death from AIDS in 1989. In this 1975 article, McQueen reported that five Gay men he had known at BYU had gotten caught in the Purge of '75, were coerced into therapy, expelled from BYU, outed by church officials, and then excommunicated. Rather than face the bigotry of family, friends, church, and state, each one committed suicide.[17] Another man who was caught in that purge remembers that a BYU professor shot and killed himself that year after being entrapped at a local off campus restroom.[18]

Local police and other agencies as well got involved in the purge as it spilled over into 1976. Another male student, after being arrested at a highway reststop (known affectionately as the Blow-n-Go), took a bottle of aspirin to kill himself. He was taken to Utah Valley Hospital where the medical personnel there recognized the suicide attempt and contacted BYU Security immediately. BYU Security, who had a file on him because of his arrest at the rest stop, then outed the man to his bishop and wife.

Another student named Edgar was arrested in the Wilkinson Student Center bathrooms just because he witnessed a security officer entrap another student. When Edgar voluntarily confessed to his bishop about his Gay feelings and subsequent arrest, the bishop disfellowshipped him from the church and informed BYU why. Edgar was then expelled from school and a hold was placed on his transcripts preventing him from transferring to another school. All those students who had holds placed on their transcripts for homosexuality were told that the hold would not be released until the former students had gone through counseling back at BYU campus. Sometimes this involved having to participate in electric shock and
vomiting aversion therapies

As far as I can tell, the earliest experiments with aversive therapies at BYU date to the mid-1960s and were spearheaded by D. Eugene Thorne, head of BYU's Psychology Dept. By 1968, he had gained enough information to report his findings from BYU in a paper given in San Francisco that year for the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

In 1969, the administration became more careful in its use of controversial therapies for treating "sexual deviancy" as they put it. The administration publicly claimed that use of such therapies had been curtailed but unofficially they continued unabated. BYUs Academic Vice President advised college deans to alert those who were using aversive therapies to be "particularly cautious in utilizing them" not because they might prove harmful per se, but out of fear for law suits.[19]

In 1975, the BYU Psychology Department administrators organized a Board of Review for Psychotherapeutic Techniques to recommend "policies governing the use of sensitive treatment techniques" on campus.[20] Within a year, the review board had assembled a list of eight therapies being used at BYU which "could conflict" with church teachings. However, most of the therapies were not stopped.

In 1976, Ford McBride completed his 102 page doctoral dissertation on the "Effect of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy", under the direction of the aforementioned D. Eugene Thorne. For his dissertation, McBride and Thorne used 14 Gay male subjects in electric aversive conditioning and assertion training. The purpose of this study was to discover whether using pornographic photos of men and women was helpful in aversion therapy. In the Mormon weltannschaung, the end certainly justifies the means: heterosexuality must be attained AT ANY COST - even if it means using pornography, which the Mormon Church is usually vehemently opposed to.


The 14 Gay men were compared after being "treated" on an out-patient basis during 22 sessions of shock therapy. Each of the 22 sessions lasted 50 minutes. 10 of those minutes were spent in "assertive training" and the remaining 40 minutes in "aversive conditioning". the average duration of treatment for the men was three months. As you can see here in the transparency, the release form these men were required to sign informed them that "damage to tissure or organs may occur", that they would be looking at "sensitive materials" possibly contrary to their values [ie. pornography], and that BYU would be released from any responsibility for any damages done to them.

In 1978, the chairman of BYU Standards promised that aversion therapies would not be used on anyone who was willing to work through his office in overcoming their sexuality, but those who refused help through the Standards Office would be referred to appropriate persons conducting aversive therapies.

While the majority of those who went through vomiting and electro-shock aversive therapies at BYU were Gay and Bisexual men, I have spoken with two Lesbians who were also subjects in these experiments and both indicated that they knew of other women who participated as well.

BYU and church officials grew so alarmed about the homosexual "ring" on campus that in 1976 they established the Institute for Studies in Values and Human Behavior on campus (hereafter Values Institute), with psychology professor Allen Bergin as director.[21] The Values Institute was charged with producing a manuscript "which would set forth significant empirical evidence in support of the Church's position on homosexuality".[22] This book, funded by the church, would be written for a "New York Times type of audience" by Bergin and Victor L. Brown Jr., approved of by at least one general authority, published by a popular eastern press, and made to appear as though it had no ties at all to the church. The resulting book would then be available as "secular evidence" to back up the church's anti-Gay stance.[23]

Other Values Institute goals included: 1) reviewing "the means by which the [homosexual] 'opposition' attempts to indoctrinate our people", 2) explaining "the developmental pattern of sexual deviance," (3) creating "an LDS book on human behavior", 4) creating "a political action kit for use by church members in local [anti-Gay] legislative efforts", 5) preparing other kinds of anti-Gay papers and rebuttals, 6) supporting academic and scientific research that would vindicate the church's homophobic position, and 7) recommending to the First Presidency "specific steps the Church might take in combating homosexuality and other sexual misconduct".[24] Anti-Gay papers and research conducted, sponsored, or supported by the Values Institute included Elizabeth C. James' 1976 Ph.d. dissertation at BYU, "Treatment of Homosexuality: A Reanalysis and Synthesis of Outcome Studies," Allen Bergin's 1979 paper, "Bringing the Restoration to the Academic World: Clinical Psychology as a Test Case", Ed D. Lauritzen's 1979 paper, "The Role of the Father in Male Homosexuality", and possibly Max Ford McBride's previously mentioned 1976 doctoral dissertation at BYU "Effect of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy".

Ultimately the institute's greatest challenge came from an unexpected quarter: Gay BYU undergraduate student Cloy Jenkins. About June 1977, after attending an anti-Gay lecture by BYU psychology professor I. Reed Payne (coincidentally a member of the Values Institute), Jenkins quickly prepared a lengthy but thoughtful response to Payne's lecture, calling for a "well reasoned dialogue on these issues". After getting help from two friends in editing his essay (now published by Prometheus Press as a pamphlet entitled Prologue), Jenkins had copies of it mailed to various church officials.[25] Jenkins's paper was soon circulating among faculty and administration at both BYU and Ricks College, as well as television and radio stations, and newspapers throughout Utah and Idaho.[26]

The church's reaction was immediate. According to a social services counselor at BYU, Jenkins's paper caused "a real stir at BYU and in the Church - officials in both places are very touchy over it".[27] Allen Bergin, as director of the Values Institute, was directed by LDS Social Services and the BYU Comprehensive Clinic to prepare a rebuttal. This proved to be difficult, however, because Jenkins had made several "really good and undisputable points", his figures on the numbers of Gays at BYU were accurate, and, according to BYU's Executive Committee, he had used a "rather sophisticated pro-homosexuality platform".[28] Bergin finished his rebuttal on August 22, 1977 and titled it "A Reply to Unfounded Assertions Regarding Homosexuality". BYU's executive committee immediately hailed it as "an excellent paper refuting [the] major claims" of Jenkins.[29] Despite this initial optimism, one BYU professor said that Bergin's rebuttal on behalf of the church was actually so poorly written that "it was an embarrassment to all involved".[30] Word went out that "all copies be returned [to Bergin] as he hopes to rewrite his reply."[31] Apparently, Bergin did try to rewrite his response, but without much success. Bergin's colleague, Victor L. Brown, Jr., also tried to rebut Jenkins, but his response was so poorly done that it was never released to the public.[32]

When it became apparent that no authoritative response was forthcoming from the Values Institute, the church hierarchy decided to intervene personally. Church President Spencer Kimball asked Apostle Boyd K. Packer to "specifically address the local problem of homosexuality and to offer solutions" to BYU students. Packer at first declined the assignment, something almost unheard of in the higher church councils, but when pressed again urgently by Kimball, Packer decided to speak to an assembly of BYU students in early March, 1978. At the same time, the Advocate, a national Gay news magazine, was also preparing to publish excerpts from Jenkins's paper in its 22 February issue. When BYU president Dallin Oaks found out about the upcoming Advocate article he then drafted a letter to Packer, warning that "in view of this national publication, and the accusations it makes...your [upcoming] remarks are likely to get wide newspaper coverage and to be viewed by many against the background of this article and these charges."[33]

On March 5, 1978, Packer delivered his now-infamous "To the One" speech during a twelve-stake fireside at BYU. [EXCERPT p. 2]Although the entire speech dealt with homosexuality, Packer used the word "homosexual" only once because he felt that Mormons "can very foolishly cause things we are trying to prevent by talking too much about them". This is not Packer's only theory about the causes of homosexuality - and causation was vital, because, for Packer, finding the cause was an "essential step in developing a cure". Packer theorized that the cause of homosexuality "will turn out to be a very typical form of selfishness".[34]

A Gay BYU student in attendance at Packer's speech quickly wrote a rebuttal, which was published anonymously in the local Gay paper, the Salt Lake Open Door. The student criticized Packer's approach as "some kind of pseudo-psycho-spiritual counsel which close analysis will prove to be a substantial assemblage of a profound lack of reason and education". However, he warned that Packer" is clever. Packer's treatise on 'selfishness' zeros right in on the desperate attempt many have made in trying to attribute their sexuality to some personality characteristic or quality which is causing their homosexuality. If this quality can be changed (and it is usually some malleable trait - like selfishness), then the homosexuality will disappear. This approach also has the therapeutic return of displacing guilt. (A burden of guilt encouraged by the heterosexual moralist-theologian). The homosexual is thereby informed that he should be feeling guilty for being selfish - not for being homosexual. This helps ease his anguish and he experiences an instantaneous relief. He is well on his way to escaping into health, to optimistically denying his authentic nature, [and] to psychological swindle. Even when he fails (which is inevitable), he comes back to focusing on his selfishness and not on his sexuality. It is much easier warring against an attribute like selfishness than challenging ones sexuality."[35]

Meanwhile, church and BYU administrators were desperately trying to find Cloy Jenkins to bring a law suit against him - for "the misleading representations in this publication [as] a violation of the postal laws and regulations". In a November 1978 report to LDS church commissioner of education Jeffrey R. Holland, Dallin Oaks summarized BYU's unsuccessful attempts to track down the author, and recommended that "it would be best for us now to let this matter drop" because "any direct action by the University against the publishers would be counterproductive, arousing greater public attention [than] any benefit to be gained."[36]

In the meantime, an elaborate sting operation was set up by BYU campus security officers to entrap Gay students. Security recruited a student named John Neumann who was willing to pose undercover as a Gay man and receive college credit for it by enrolling in Justice Administration 299R. Neumann wrote a letter for the Nov. 1978 issue of the Gay paper, The Open Door, stating that he was Gay and wanting to start a "Gay Mormon Underground" group on campus.

David Chipman, a heterosexual former BYU student with several Gay Mormon friends, responded to this letter, hoping to help John Neumann deal with his "homosexuality". John and David met on campus and went driving in Chipman's car. Chipman was unaware that Neumann was wired and also had an unmarked car with BYU security officers following them. 30 miles down the road, off-campus and in another county, Chipman stopped the car and started to chat with Neumann. At one point, Chipman apparently touched Neumann in a "friendly manner" and Neumann screamed into his hidden microphone, "He touched me! He touched me! Come arrest him!" The security officers approached the car and arrested Chipman (even though he was not a student, the security officers were not only off-campus but out of Utah County, were not deputized police officers with the power to arrest anyone, Neumann was an illegal, untrained decoy, and was illegally wired) for "sexual abuse". The judge who initially tried the case was a Mormon religion instructor at BYU and refused to dismiss himself from the case for conflict of interest. The judge illegally lowered the charges from"sexual abuse" to "attempted sexual abuse" and found Chipman guilty.

Chipman appealed the decision to the Utah State Supreme Court, where BYU President Dallin Oaks had a seat as a Supreme Court Judge. He also refused to dismiss himself from the case for conflict of interest. The State Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision. Chipman, financially ruined from court costs and mentally exhausted gave up his fight against a corrupt [Mormon] legal system and paid his $500 for the Class C Misdemeanor.

By late 1979, the Institute for Studies in Values and Human Behavior had not succeeded in achieving its goals. Bergin and Brown had not rebutted Jenkins's paper; Bergin's "scholarly objectivity" was being challenged during professional conferences and his professional standing was being questioned; and BYU President Dallin Oaks was annoyed at what he perceived to be an undermining of his own authority by members of the institute. On September 13, 1979 Oaks wrote to Apostle Thomas Monson to explain the problems of the "Bergin-Brown Book on Values" and to inform church officials that school administrators had become persuaded "that we cannot achieve the original objectives to the extent hoped" by having the book appear through the "independent popular publisher".[37]

By 1980, the institute had spent almost $150,000 in church funds trying to produce an anti-Gay manuscript. According to Oaks, general authorities were getting "squeamish" over the project. Pressure on the institute became too great for Bergin, who resigned as chair. Soon the manuscript project was completely scrapped and the institute was disbanded.[38]

7th East Press homosexual cabal in 1982 - three part series.

1984 - Boy George albums banned on main BYU campus because he portrayed "transvestitism and homosexuality".[39]

1985-87 BYU experimented on rats - feminized/homosexualized them through prenatal stress. These findings were quashed by the church when it was discovered that homosexuality might have a biological component.[40]

Rebellious Gay students continued to be referred to off-campus doctors for sessions of electric shock therapy until as late as 1986.

A 1992 independent survey conducted on campus on sexuality at BYU found that some 15% of the male students and 12% of the female students had had a homosexual experience while at BYU.

That same year the BYU Counseling Center was up for reaccreditation by the American Psychological Association. All staff members at the Counseling Center were told during a staff meeting to destroy and/or falsify all records pertaining to homosexual clients, so that the Center could maintain its accreditation.

Merrill J. Bateman, current BYU President, e-mailed me the following:

"BYU provides counseling to students with same-sex attraction and does not use aversive therapies, torturous or otherwise. Shock therapy is not used at BYU. We have not been able to verify your assertion that electric shock therapy was being used as late as 1986, or that electric shock was ever used on gay and lesbian students at BYU."[41]

Even when confronted with the various documents from out of BYU's own archives, including Ford McBride's 1976 Phd dissertation at BYU, Merrill Bateman refused to recant his statement that electric shock therapy was never used at BYU on Queer students.

I said in the beginning that I am here to hold the Mormon Church accountable for what they have done and continue to do to Queer people. I hope that some day they will officially apologize for the horrors they have put us through. I also believe that they should offer monetary reparations to the people that they put through aversive and other destructive kinds of therapies.

However, I know that this is a complex situation because the Mormons have painted themselves into a theological corner and thus can never accept Queer people as long as they maintain the paradigm of a Divine Heterosexual Couple - a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. There is no room in the Mormon heaven for those who love and desire other people of the same sex.

If, after reading my lecture, you feel moved to join me in calling for this official apology from BYU, please contact BYU president Merrill Bateman at and/or the director of BYU's Public Relations, Brent Harker at

In 1965, then BYU president Ernest Wilkinson told the entire studentbody, "We [at BYU] do not intend to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly; and if you will be honest enough to let us know the reason, we will voluntarily refund your tuition. We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence." While written thirty years ago, this is still the prevailing attitude at BYU regarding Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual people.
1 Earl Kofoed to Rocky O'Donovan 18 August 1989.
2 Wilkinson office journal, May 21, 1959, copy in my possession.
3 Wilkinson diary, May 17, 1961.
4 Phone interviews with Ord and Carter, January 1992.
5 Kimball, "Counselling Problem", 1964, BYU, p. 12.
6 Kimball, "Love Versus Lust", 1965, BYU, p. 24.
7 Church News, November 13, 1965.
8 Memo, K.A. Lauritzen to E.L. Wilkinson, Juney 18, 1969, BYU archives.
9 "Mormon and Gay...One man's tale of 'bloody knuckles'" edited by Jeff Howrey, Daily Utah Chronicle, 31 January, 1979, v. 87, no. 87.
10 Minutes, BYU Board of Trustees, December 6, 1972.
11 Minutes, BYU Board of Trustees, May 2, 1973.
12 "Homosexuality at BYU", Huffaker, Seventh East Press, April 1982.
13 Salt Lake Tribune, March 22, 1975.
14 Monday Magazine (BYU), March 24, 1975.
15 "Homosexuality at BYU" pt. 2, Huffaker, Seventh East Press, May 1982, pp 12-13.
16 Ibid
17 Advocate, October 1975.
18 Interview with Ben Williams, notes in my possession, 1988.
19 Memo, Robert K. Thomas to Deans
20 BYU House of Faith
21 Minutes, Combined Boards' Meeting, 1 Sept. 1976, copy in my possession.
22 Dallin Oaks to Thomas S. Monson, 13 Sept. 1979, copy in my possession.
23 Oaks to Monson, 13 Sept. 1979; Victor L. Brown Jr. to Robert K. Thomas, 14 Nov. 1978; Dallin Oaks to J. Richard Clarke, 7 Mar. 1979; and Victor Brown Jr. to Robert K. Thomas, 11 Sept. 1979; copies of all in my possession.
24 Brown to Thomas, 14 Nov. 1978.
25 Minutes, BYU Executive Committee, 15 Sept. 1977, copy in my possession; Prologue
26 The Open Door, Sept. 1977, Marriott Library, University of Utah.
27 Marshall interview, copy of notes in my possession.
28 Ibid; Dean Huffaker, "Homosexuality at BYU", p. 12; Minutes, BYU Executive Committee, 15 Sept. 1977.
29 Minutes, BYU Executive Committee, 15 Sept. 1977.
30 Huffaker, "Homosexuality at BYU" p. 12.
31 Anonymous, handwritten statement on frontispiece of one copy of Bergin's "Reply" in my possession.
32 Marshall Interview.
33 Dallin Oaks to Boyd K. Packer, 14 Feb. 1978, copy in my possession; The Advocate, 22 Feb. 1978.
34 Boyd K. Packer, To the One (Salt Lake City: Church of JCLDS, 1978), 5 March 1978.
35 Salt Lake Open Door, Apr. 1978, p. 5.
36 Dallin H. Oaks to Jeffrey R. Holland, 9 Nov. 1978, copy in my possession.
37 Oaks to Monson, 13 Sept. 1979.
38 See Gary James Bergera and Ron Priddis, Brigham Young University: A House of Faith (SLC: Signature Books, 1985), pp. 833-84.
39 Deseret News, April 1, 1984, B3.
40 "Scientists Study Effects of Prenatal Stress", BYU Today, April 1985 p. 14; "Stress feminizes male rats", BYU Daily Universe, 16 Nov. 1987.
41 Merrill J. Bateman to Rocky O'Donovan, 9 April, 1997.