Another example of religious Intolerance
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
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
Donald C. Iarussi