I am a director; I lived in Salt Lake City for the past 14 months...

Religious News


Note: The author of this letter, Donald C. Iarussi, created an award-winning series of PSAs in New York about rape.
This material has been circulated as email, in 2002 and is now presented as a web page.
Reprinted without permission of the author. 
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Another example of religious Intolerance

" If We Could Hie to Kolob"As the annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the Mormons -- opens in Salt Lake City, Mormon parents of gay children are pleading with their ecclesiastical leaders to stop distribution of official church publications which condemn their offspring as "latter-day lepers." Four items are being cited in particular: To Young Men Only, To the One, Letter to a Friend, and For the Strength of Youth.

According to Salt Lake City attorney David Hardy, a former bishop of the LDS, the language of the 20 to 30-year-old pamphlets "engenders fear and loathing" toward gay youth. Joined at a press conference by other parents, Hardy added that the publications cause "parents to condemn and turn against their gay children, destroying real families, and drive our gay children to self-loathing, despair and suicide."

"It were better that such a man (a homosexual) were never born."
~~ LDS Church President Spencer Kimball

He cited To Young Men Only, pointing out a section where a high church official recounts how a young man "floored" a presumably gay missionary companion. Hardy noted that the tract was being distributed by the church at the time two men were being tried for the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student in Wyoming. "It is difficult for us to understand," Hardy told the Salt Lake City Tribune newspaper, saying that the publication was "inflammatory, insensitive and troubling."

According to the paper, Harold C. Brown, head of the LDS Welfare Services, did not deny that the publications were still being distributed.

Provo, Utah resident Gary and Millie Watts told reporters that the sentiments were incongruent with recent church statements about tolerance, and that "these pamphlets ... characterize our children and other gay and lesbian youth as selfish, perverted, abominable and under the control of Lucifer."

Another family said that homophobic Mormon attitudes caused their son to leave Utah years a go after he concluded that "the climate in our community ... was neither understanding, hospitable, nor accepting."

The church tracts take a stern and condemning attitude. In "To Young Men Only," Mormon youth are told to "vigorously resist" approaches by men attempting to lure them into "immoral acts." When the issue of violence is discussed, a senior apostle of the LDS leadership, the Quorum of Ten writes, "I am not recommending that course to you, but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself."

In one publication, former LDS Church President Spencer Kimball declares that "it were better that such a man (a homosexual) were never born." Another tract places homosexuality as a perversion on par with rape and incest, while "To the One" describes it as "unnatural," "abnormal" and "an affliction."

The parents told reporters, "We ask the church leadership to specifically address these pamphlets ... and either endorse them and everything they Say as current, correct and official, or cease their publication and distribution and instruct local church leaders to throw them away."

News about Mormons, Mormonism, and the LDS Church.  Mormons Oppose 'Godspell' At Ogden, Utah High School.

OGDEN, UTAH -- News that a group of Mormon parents in Ogden, Utah have forced Ogden High School to scale back and postpone a planned production of  the musical "Godspell" has made newspapers outside of Utah. The high school changed the production from a school-sponsored play, paid for with state money, to a student drama club production, paid for with donations.

The Mormon parents, including Valerie Bentley-Ballif, whose 17-year-old son Chris wanted to be in the musical until he read the script, objected to The play, saying that it is offensive and "inappropriate" for a public school.

"He wanted to be in the musical, until he read the script," says Bentley-Ballif. "And he said, 'Mom, I can't do this. This is offensive."

The musical, which debuted on Broadway in 1971, tells the story of the life of Christ, loosely following the book of Matthew in the New Testament.  However, the historical characters are represented by clowns in the musical. But the clowns also represent warring factions of society, and the play promotes tolerance and forgiveness.

Bentley-Ballif said she found the portrayal of Christ's crucifixion as an electrocution on an electric fence, particularly offensive. "I'm not a zealot. But that was offensive." But she blames her frustration on school officials, who she says didn't give proper weight to the concerns of parents. "We just don't believe they care about how we feel. I'm not at all happy about it, nor were any of the other parents."

Because of the concerns, the school distanced itself from the production, and Principal Debbi Gomberg says most parents are satisfied with the solution. Students have 'hired' the school's drama director for the production, which will probably debut in January, instead of next week as originally planned. The play could also be further delayed because of ongoing negotiations.

Unlike Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ, Superstar," LDS Church officials have never issued an official comment on "Godspell." "Jesus Christ, Superstar," a rock opera that is also about the life of Christ, drew a condemnation from the LDS Church's First Presidency when it was performed in Salt Lake City in October 1971.

Donald C. Iarussi

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