SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, August 21, 1998
P. O. Box 867,Salt Lake City,UT,84110
(Fax 801-237-2022 ) (E-MAIL: letters@sltrib.com )
( http://www.sltrib.com )
Group Helping Gay Mormons Resist Their Sexual Orientation

Some 300 Mormon men and women will gather in Salt Lake City today and Saturday, looking for support, understanding and help in "overcoming" homosexual behavior and "diminishing" same-sex attraction.

The eighth annual conference of Evergreen International, a support group for people trying to overcome their homosexuality and remain faithful to LDS teachings, will address such issues as "struggling with recovery," "raising gender-secure children" and how to resist masturbation, said David Pruden, the group's executive director.

Also on the agenda is Bishop Keith B. McMullin, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. McMullin will address conference-goers Saturday afternoon.

This is the third year a Mormon general authority has agreed to speak to Evergreen, which adheres to the tenets of the LDS Church but is not officially affiliated with the faith.

"There was some hesitation on their part in the beginning. There was a fear that people would associate the speaker with Evergreen and as an endorsement by the church," Pruden said.

Fundamental to Evergreen's existence is the belief that being gay is neither biological nor genetic. Rather, members believe, it is a developmental condition that can be reversed through "conversion therapy" -- a combination of counseling, group support and behavior modification.

Most mainstream therapists and gay advocacy groups discount conversion therapy. Last year, the American Psychological Association -- the leading society of psychologists -- passed a resolution urging a limit on the controversial practice.

But the treatment remains an important piece of some psychological approaches, particularly among certain Christian therapists. The idea that homosexuals can choose to change their behavior also has been championed by some popular evangelical figures and sports heroes, most recently by Green Bay Packers defensive end Reggie White.

White, an ordained Christian clergyman, has come under fire this year for appearing in anti-gay advertisements while wearing his Packers uniform.

Despite their controversial beliefs about therapy, members of Evergreen do not believe people choose to be gay, Pruden said.

"Being homosexual is a condition people find themselves in. They must deal with it. "

Invited guests include Mormon authors Steven Cramer and Erin Eldridge, who have recounted their experiences with overcoming same-sex attraction in books.


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