WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign called on Boyd K. Packer, the president of the Mormon Church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles, to correct statements he made yesterday calling same-sex attraction “impure and unnatural,” claiming that it can be corrected and characterizing same-sex marriage as immoral. Packer’s inaccurate and dangerous rhetoric comes on the heels of the suicides of at least four teenagers over the past month, all victims of anti-gay bullying or harassment. An additional seven teens committed suicide in the past year in one Minnesota school district alone; three of the teens’ suicides were connected to anti-gay bullying. Packer, who is 86 and one of the church’s most senior leaders, made his statements to a crowd of 20,000 – and millions more watching via satellite transmission -- during the church’s 180th Semi-annual General Conference in Salt Lake City.
“Words have consequences, particularly when they come from a faith leader. This is exactly the kind of statement that can lead some kids to bully and others to commit suicide,” said Joe Solmonese, president of HRC. “When a faith leader tells gay people that they are a mistake because God would never have made them that way and they don’t deserve love, it sends a very powerful message that violence and/or discrimination against LGBT people is acceptable. It also emotionally devastates those who are LGBT or may be struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identify. His words were not only inaccurate, they were also dangerous.”
As a church leader immersed in these issues, Packer should know better. The American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association have both concluded that same-sex attraction is normal and that “reparative” therapy – like the kind being advocated by the Mormon Church -- is unhealthy and harmful. This is not the first instance in which the church has spewed lies related to same-sex orientation. Last summer, another senior member of the church’s hierarchy, promised that same-sex attraction could be cured. “If you are faithful, on resurrection morning – and maybe even before then – you will rise with normal attractions for the opposite sex,” Mormon Church leader Bruce Haffen told a conference.
Packer also took the opportunity to dismiss efforts toward marriage equality as ones that “legalize immorality.” Ominously during this speech, the apostle declared that the church hierarchy’s opposition to marriage equality “…will not change.” As HRC has chronicled on its website www.NOMExposed.org, the Mormon Church is a key funder of the so-called National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a powerful fringe group that regularly encourages anti-gay attitudes and behaviors. The church was also a prime funder of efforts to pass Prop. 8 in California. NOM board member and famous Mormon writer, Orson Scott Card, has said, “Any government that attempts to change it [marriage] is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage…”
"Elder Packer's remarks in General Conference were not only ill-advised and contrary to fact, but were mean-spirited and will be perceived by many as bullying,” said David Melson, Executive Director of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons. “We see no potential for good coming from his words and much possible damage, to the church, to individuals, and to families. The LDS Church should be a source of love, compassion, and conciliation, and not of fear and unfeeling petty hatred."
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.