Gay Mormon group Affirmation extended an invitation to new Ladder-Day Saints president Thomas S. Monson this week. They write:
Although there are many areas of hurt and disagreement that have separated us, there are many more areas on which we can find agreement, and in doing so, become a blessing in the lives of many of the Saints, both straight and gay.
Assistant executive director David W. Melson says that in the wake of former President Gordon B. Hinkley’s death this month, “it seemed like the appropriate time”.
W wonder if Monson’s ready for a change of pace. The new President did, after all, have a significant role to play in the Values Institute, an “unofficial” LDS group aimed at demonizing – and attempting to cure – the gays. And their unholy crusade left a few bodies in its wake.
From a 2007 speech by Affirmation member Connell O’Donovan:
…At Brigham Young University in 1976, Dr. D. Eugene Thorne, head of BYU’s Psychology Department, oversaw Ph.D. student Max Ford McBride in his PhD dissertation that involved experiments on Gay men using Gay and Straight pornography with electric-shock therapy. They started out with 16 Gay male BYU students and staff, but two committed suicide during the experiment, so the study only ended up with 14 subjects.
Those suicides became fuel for the formation of Affirmation. Are they burning a whole in Monson’s conscience? Probably not.
Current LDS leader Dallin H. Oaks, whose one of the church’s policy-making Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wrote a 1979 letter to Monson offering an unabashed – and just as shameful – summation at the Values Institute’s work.
The letter goes on to explain how lead research Bergin had come under public fire – specificially whether or not he could remain objective – so Oaks offered Monson some alternatives, including changing authorships and discontinuing church funding.
Monson’s work in the church largely reflected that of Hinkley, who was no great gay lover, and many predict the new president will stand by Hinkley’s pious stagnation. Said Professor Robert Millet of Brigham Young University, “He has been a seat mate with Gordon B. Hinckley for a long time. And I would not expect a radical departure from the course the church has taken.”
Even Monson himself admitted his ascendancy will bring no big changes for the Ladder-Day Saints: “We will continue the commitment of those who have gone before us in teaching the gospel and promoting cooperation of people throughout the world.” He does, however, indicate a willingness to open the doors to outside perspectives:
I believe in an open book and access to the media… I think we have responsibility to be active in the communities where we live, to work cooperatively with other churches other organizations.
We shall see if Monson stays true to his “good” word. Start placing your bets!