Three Gay Mormon Organizations Become Two

Three gay Mormon organizations are now two, as of January 1st, 2014. North Star has absorbed Evergreen International.

Here is a brief history to contextualize this absorption:

The first gay Mormon organization, Affirmation, was founded in 1977. It was “against” the Church in that, back in the 1970s, one could not both identify as “gay” and “Mormon” without landing in a disciplinary council. Moreover, Affirmation is against the Church today is that it affirms same-sex relationships. So, while Affirmation is celebrating the civil same-sex marriages currently taking place in Utah, the Church and North Star/Evergreen are not particularly happy about them.

The second gay Mormon organization, Evergreen International, was founded in 1989. It came into existence around the time that the Quorum of the Twelve was introducing the phrase “same-sex attraction” to the Church at large. The initial intention for “same-sex attraction” was that it was to be regarded as a non-significant factor (a “temptation”) in one’s life, but many latched onto the concept for identity purposes. As late as 2006, in contradiction to the existence of Evergreen, Apostle Dallin Oaks stated: “If you are trying to live with and maintain ascendancy over same-gender attractions, the best way to do that is to have groups that define their members in terms other than same-gender attractions.” However, the Church a couple years later officially considered “same-sex attraction” a “core characteristic” of a person’s identity. Over the years, Evergreen saw a few talks by high-level leaders, which gave the organization validity.

However, throughout the 1990s and even into the 2000s, Evergreen was in the business of “change therapy” — that one could overcome one’s attractions and essentially become “straight.” By the late-2000s, this idea fell into disfavor even among the most conservative. I would say that in the LDS context, change therapy finally died when influential LDS therapist and NARTH ex-president Dean Byrd died in 2012. (In fact, the NARTH website itself appears to have expired, so I’m wondering if the organization is finished? Edit: Nevermind, here it is. *sigh*)

Evergreen International has thus seen a similar end as the evangelical Exodus International did last year. Too much of a history of “change therapy” to continue with validity. And I’ve also been informed that the organization simply ran out of money.

Meanwhile, North Star came onto the LDS scene in 2006. The basic mantra of the organization is that one can be “same-sex attracted, but not act on it.” This is the current position of the Church, which no longer bothers folks who identify as “gay.” In fact, the more Mormons there are who identify as “gay,” but still uphold the Church’s teachings, the better position the Church thinks it’ll have in pluralist America. I wouldn’t doubt if North Star sees a talk by a high-ranking leader to give it a rubber stamp of approval.

In a current conversation about the merging on the Mormons Building Bridges Facebook page, I found this exchange useful:

If North Star was formed because its founders felt that Evergreen International was too shame-based, then why merge with it?

Ty Mansfield (newly-elected president of North Star):

We’re not “merging” with Evergreen. Per the wording of the announcement, North Star will “absorb certain resources and assets of Evergreen International, and…those resources will operate under the name and direction of North Star International.” It’s more of an acquisition than a merger, and in the agreement we have full freedom to use or not use anything we wish in that acquisition.

When Affirmation decided to take a more faith-friendly stance under current leadership and move closer to the center, but Evergreen could never have done that because we already occupied the more moderate space they would have moved into. There was no place for them to go but into us, so that’s what they did, and Evergreen as an organization will cease to exist, while certain assets we choose to preserve will be maintained with us. Evergreen had baggage and their approach wasn’t always perfect, but they had their virtues and did a lot of good as well. The same could be said for any organization, including Affirmation, CtW [Circling the Wagons], or MBB [Mormons Building Bridges].

Heh, so my suspicions have been correct that Affirmation has recently moved toward the “center” (with its parternship with Mormons Building Bridges, etc.)…

Where is the “left-leaning” gay Mormon to go?

Anyway, generally-speaking, as I noted in a lecture I gave at a gay Mormon conference last year, the Church’s position on gayness has the following history:

1970s: “Marry early, and the sin will go away.”

1980s: “As it turns out, marriage is probably not a cure for the sin.”

1990s: “You have ‘same-sex attraction,’ which isn’t sinful, but the behaviors are.”

2000s: “‘Same-sex attraction’ may be a core characteristic, but don’t call yourself ‘gay.'”

2010s: “All right. ‘Gay’ is fine. But don’t act on it!”

Ah, such a slow, tedious process.

8 thoughts on “Three Gay Mormon Organizations Become Two

  1. Evergreen’s “baggage” was the touting of Change the Gay therapies or choices that led to so much abuse and death. Does not surprise me that Evergreen needed to disappear into North Star.

    I *am* sad that Affirmation has become more church-friendly because it does so at expense of the LGBT. Until the church affirms that all God’s children are part of the Plan of Happiness and articulates a plan appropriate to the construction of each kind of personality — a happy plan- the church will remain the problem. It doesn’t do any good to try to move closer to it on this.

  2. Mungagungadin, I agree. I think the logic Affirmation now has is that the more Mormons do things like march in gay Pride parades, or attend their gay children’s same-sex weddings, the more the Church will eventually accept same-sex relationships because the Church is the membership. However, I don’t think it necessarily works this way, and I’ve written a couple articles on why:

    http://alanmichaelwilliams.blogspot.com/2012/11/mormons-in-pride-parades-critical.html#more

    http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/sexandgender/6971/the_curious_case_of_mormons_and_lgbt_rights/

    Also, Dialogue: Journal of Mormon Thought recently released an article comparing the Mormon and Catholic situation: it’s very possible that the Church will come to accept a distinction between “civil” and “religious” marriages, mostly because it has no choice. But it can do so without changing doctrine.

  3. Affirmation has most definitely moved to center. It is a great place for the believing gay individual but it is an uninviting and uninteresting place for many left leaning, ex-Mormon gay folks such as myself.

    I agree with you Alan that ‘the change within’ will only go so far. It’s as though the gay member has gone from being vermin to being a pet in the world of Mormondom. Every ward needs a gay or two to feel good about itself.

    My apologies to any active gay Mormons; my intention is most definitely not to refer to you as vermin or a pet (this is not at all my opinion). It’s just my feeling that the church is not as far along on this as they pretend to be. It may be less damaging to the psyche now than it was before but I still consider it an unhealthy environment for LGBT individuals. No one should grow up or be in an environment that chooses to tolerate you and not celebrate you.

    It seems many members would like to celebrate and accept gays in full standing and with full dignity. It’s the church machine not allowing it; extending its power too far on the subject. Using double speak like; doubt your doubts and warnings like don’t tolerate too much.

    Sorry for the rant; I hope I haven’t side tracked too much. Thanks for all your research and thoughtful words Alan. I enjoy reading your posts.

  4. Darned if I know what I mean.
    We had, growing up, a first edition McConkie Doctrine in our house. I doubt, Mormon youngsters would get the reference.
    If the Christians for Jewish Fairness League merged with the KKK, I think that’s a strong indication what is meant by fairness.
    So while North Star maybe the official unofficial gay Mormon organization. It is Affirmation, who is unofficially the official gay Mormon organization.
    And North Star will be as remembered as McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine”.
    North Star has “poor sales”.

  5. I’m a left-leaning, ex-Mormon homosexual. I don’t really like the terms “gay” or “queer”, and LGBTQI is too cumbersome, but vastly prefer these terms to “same-sex-attracted,” a term I feel was originally designed to negate our identity. I usually call myself “gay” for lack of a better term. So where are we to turn? I like Main Street Plaza. It addresses gay issues, ex-Mormon issues, left-leaning issues. I am still a member of Affirmation, but it has moved to the center. It does seem kind of “unofficially official,” but I stll feel it has value. I do wholeheartedly agree with Just Jill that the Church is an unhealthy environment for gay people. In fact I would say it’s a toxic environment, although I try to be open-minded about those who say remaining active gives us a place at the table. Maybe I’m just being wishy-washy, but again say I love Main Street Plaza, and apologize for this rambling, incoherant rant.

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