Evergreen International 2011 Conference Twofer

Affirmation Evergreen LGBT

Seth Bracken posted a pair of reports to QSaltLake.com that I’m gonna simply link and excerpt here.

Evergreen Conference Attracts Hundreds

Jared, 17, sat through the sessions of the conference flanked by his parents on either side, in hopes to overcome his temptations, serve a mission, marry a woman and enjoy a typical Mormons life, just like his two older brothers.

I have two years to conquer this, Jared said. By the time I turn 19, I am going to have this whole same-sex attraction mess taken care of so I can go on a mission and serve the Lord. I know hell bless me if I promise to do his will.

Jareds parents said they encourage him to pray and read his religious texts daily and if he does so, God will answer prayers.

We heard it in general conference last year. Packer told us that a loving heavenly father wouldnt make me this way. I just have to overcome all my sexual feelings and learn true control, Jared said.

[…]

As Jared listened to the speakers, he grew visibly excited and scribbled notes throughout the day.

I can do it. Just listening to these inspired men who receive inspiration from God lets me know that I can be normal and fit in with my older brothers and their families, Jared said. I want that more than anything else in the world.

Evergreen Hook-ups and Hang-ups

Walking into the Evergreen International Conference at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, I felt butterflies in my stomach and took in my surroundings. It was my first time attending an event where the goal was to encourage participants to stop being gay and turn straight.

I was nervous, and all the preconceptions about the pious and faithful gathering were smashed just moments after walking through the door.

[…]

As married men propositioned me for sex, and very confused teens sat with their parents in what had to be an extremely awkward day, it seemed that the crowd was challenging the speakers assertion through their very existence. No one there chose to be gay. The diversity of age, body type and personality also combated the idea that sexuality is not an inborn characteristic. People from all walks of life were gathered and I became friends with construction workers, business executives and bankers.

It quickly became clear that the Evergreen method did not work. But equally as clear was that the method and rhetoric being spouted was damaging. Rather than expressing their sexuality in healthy ways, these men were relegated to attending the conference just to find a partner for sex and some sort of connection.

The only local TV news coverage I found was this unremarkable report:

Has Evergreen’s hermetically-sealed alternate universe become almost irrelevant? I mean, for example, by way of comparison, isn’t assembling several hundred Mormons in Utah small potatoes when Affirmation can gather similar numbers for an event in Kirtland, Ohio?

7 thoughts on “Evergreen International 2011 Conference Twofer

  1. Even when Affirmation is hosted in Utah I think it gathers similar numbers. But the fact that Evergreen “International” only hosts in Utah (as far as I know) should eventually render it close to irrelevant.

    Does anyone know how Evergreen got its name? Evergreen, in Utah? (Btw, Affirmation will be in Seattle next year, in this Evergreen State, which gives me almost no excuse not to check it out.)

    The fact that Evergreen is used for hook-ups is no secret. I remember being surprised when I was skimming this book that there was an account of how people are “losing their way” at the conferences, and that for some it might be like walking into the belly of the beast. I forget what the moral of that chapter was…probably something like there’s nowhere completely safe to turn but the Lord, and by extension church leaders.

  2. Poor, poor, 17-year-old Jared. He’s in for rough times. OTOH, the unequivocal nature of the way he parses Packer’s quote may make for a cleaner break when those attractions do not change. Or he may just end up as another tragic statistic.

    Another triumph of dogma and misplaced optimism over reality and experience.

  3. OTOH, the unequivocal nature of the way he parses Packers quote may make for a cleaner break when those attractions do not change.

    Unfortunately, I think there’s also a growing phenomenon of gay LDS young people becoming historical revisionists. They twist Packer and Kimball to be saying the same thing as Oaks and Holland — that is, that “true control” was always meant to be geared toward “not wanting to have gay sex” (as opposed to “becoming straight”).

  4. The hookups article is yet another indication that so-called “ex-gay” programs are a farce. As Seth himself asked, why can’t these men just be honest about who they are?

  5. My wife is working in LDS counseling and she recently gave me a copy of internal research they have published about homosexuality. One of the main conclusions is that the APA was infiltrated by individuals with a homosexual agenda and the article publishes research that was unfairly kept out of journals. You’re probably familiar with this type of research, but I am having a hard time finding good information that refutes this that I can share with her. Do you have any suggestions on a good place to start? If you’re interested I can give you a copy of it.

  6. Muucavwon, to my knowledge Dean Byrd seems to be the main LDS therapist who makes ridiculous arguments about the APA being infiltrated in the 1970s. I haven’t seen anyone else make that argument, but I wouldn’t be surprised if others do, too. The reason I say “ridiculous” is because of the sheer number of people peer-reviewing each other within the APA. An argument that all those people were simply hoodwinked not just then, but over the last 40 years, is grandiose. Once you get past Byrd’s argument about the APA, you get even more ridiculous arguments about why homosexuality is a disorder, its etiology, and what should be done about it.

    When the vote came down, there had already been studies verifying the non-disordered nature of homosexuality, most notably Evelyn Hooker’s research in the 1950s on male homosexuality. Hooker’s research is important because it demonstrated that trained clinicians couldn’t distinguish between mentally-healthy gay and straight people. Of course, morally, the question of homosexuality was controversal, as it remains. What LDS culture does is insist everyone be heterosexually performative (as a moral matter), which brings queer people out the woodwork into therapists’ offices, and that is how the “identity disorder” is born. It perpetuates itself because the culture makes the queer person feel they are disordered, so the clinician feeds off the depression and social maladjustment that ensues, as opposed to recognizing the classic overarching heterosexism.

    In terms of research that these therapists do that gets left out of peer-reviewed journals, well, if it’s left out, it’s usually for reason. I would say that mixed-orientation marriage research or research about what it means to be heterosexually performative over the course of a lifetime is important. But it needs to be presented in such a way that doesn’t disparage gay people, to include working within an unsubstantiable framework that homosexuality is “disordered” just because the therapist insists this is true. It’s almost like LDS therapsts-in-training ought to have their internships in the “real world”: “Oh, so this is how gay people are when they’re not bogged down by societal heterosexism.”

    I’ve written an essay that you and your wife might be interested in about homosexuality, Mormon theology, policy and social services: it’s located here. If either you or she get through it, let me know what you think!

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