A Slippery Slope that Limits the Atonement: A Review of In Quiet Desperation: Understanding The Challenge Of Same-gender Attraction
by A. Dean Byrd, Ph.D., MBA, MPH; Shirley E. Cox, DSW, LCSW; and Jeffrey W. Robinson, Ph.D.
The authors of In Quiet Desperation foster the innate, immutable theory of homosexuality. Such a view finds support neither in science nor in gospel doctrine. To the contrary, science supports the gospel message that “those who desire to be free of same-gender attraction can overcome that attraction and find hope by turning to the Lord and committing themselves to a program of change.”
|Book Title:||In Quiet Desperation: Understanding The Challenge Of Same-gender Attraction|
|Authors:||Fred Matis, Marilyn Matis, and Ty Mansfield|
|Publisher:||Deseret Book Company|
In Quiet Desperation was ostensibly written to help those who struggle with homosexual attraction by encouraging compassion and understanding. The book tells the stories of two young men who have struggled with same-sex attraction, Stuart Matis and Ty Mansfield. The story of Stuart Matis, a young man who committed suicide, is told by his parents. Ty Mansfield, a 26-year-old young man, who is still searching for answers about his same-sex attraction, tells his own story. While the Stuart Matis story is heartfelt and very tragic, the incomplete manner in which the struggle with same-sex attraction was portrayed may ultimately do more harm than good.
While we, the authors of this review, are critical of the content and message of In Quiet Desperation, we want to be clear that we do not place all of the blame for any harmful effects the book may have on the shoulders of the Matises and Ty Mansfield. Indeed, In Quiet Desperation is symptomatic of the confusion about same-sex attraction commonly had throughout society. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not immune to such confusion.
In expressing our criticisms of the content of In Quiet Desperation, therefore, we want to acknowledge that the culpability for the errors rest not only with the book’s authors, but also with the publisher, and perhaps with all of us who have not done more to effectively communicate what is known about same-sex attraction. Nevertheless, the topic is too important to either sugarcoat or mute our response in this book review.
The first problem with In Quiet Desperation is that it contains numerous incorrect statements and false notions about what is known about the nature of same-sex attraction and about LDS doctrine concerning the issue. In this review we summarize and comment on a number of such notions, including the “born that way” philosophy that has been, and remains, one of the most detrimental notions about same-sex attraction. The perpetuation of these false notions is damaging to the cause of bringing greater understanding and relief to the many who struggle.
The second, and perhaps most important problem with In Quiet Desperation, is what the authors (Matises and Mansfield) do not say. What is missing are the experiences of the many people with same-sex attraction who have had far more positive outcomes than either Stuart Matis or Ty Mansfield.
As it is, the reader of In Quiet Desperation is left with the impression that the only options available to individuals who experience same-sex attraction are to give in to homosexual desires, suffer throughout mortal life in misery, or to end one’s life. This is a rather hopeless conclusion indeed.
Completely absent from the book are the experiences of the many men (and women) who have successfully dealt with same-sex attraction, have married, have families, are not depressed, and are living hopeful and happy lives. In this review, we hope to counter the negative, hopeless attitudes toward overcoming same-sex attraction that we believe are fostered by the book.
In fairness to the authors of In Quiet Desperation, there is one element of the book with which we heartily agree: Those who struggle with same-sex attraction often suffer deeply. Their struggles are real and, in most cases, are not chosen.
However, with appropriate help, many individuals who struggle with same-sex attraction are able to diminish or eliminate that attraction and make substantial changes in their lives. Those who read In Quiet Desperation, therefore, should do so with the knowledge that the Stuart Matis story may have had a much different outcome had Stuart found the needed help.
Similarly, Ty Mansfield and the reader should understand there is much hope and substantial evidence that those who want to overcome same-sex attraction can make changes and achieve happiness and peace in their lives. Therefore, this review is written to contradict for Ty, and the many others who continue to struggle with same-sex attraction, the vision of hopelessness perpetrated through In Quiet Desperation.
The first intimation of the “born that way” theory in the book does not come from the authors but rather from the publisher’s preface. While acknowledging it unwise and counterproductive to compare the “crosses” we bear, the publisher’s preface notes that each of us wrestles with something whether it is our “complexion, the shape of our bodies, our intellectual challenges or same-gender attraction.” This comparison is unfortunate indeed because it unwittingly sets the stage for a biological theory for homosexuality by including same-sex attraction in the same category as biologically determined traits. The authors and the publisher fail to note that the biological theory of homosexuality has been thoroughly discredited by most credible, scientific researchers.
The researchers whose studies have been used in the media to support the biological theory of homosexuality have declared that homosexuality is not rooted in biology but rather results from an interaction of biological, psychological and social factors (Hamer, LeVay, Bailey and Pillard).
Indeed, the premier researchers in the world on this topic, Friedman and Downey (activist researchers at Columbia University), conducted exhaustive reviews and concluded: “At clinical conferences one often hears…that homosexual orientation is fixed and unmodifiable. Neither assertion is true…the assertion that homosexuality is genetic is so reductionistic that it must be dismissed out of hand as a general principle of psychology.”1
The publishers of In Quiet Desperation note that this book is neither a self-help book nor is it a clinical text. However, their disclaimer is confusing and incongruous because the authors repeatedly assert self-help concepts (frequently quoted from the scriptures) and offer interpretations of clinical research (though most often, misinterpretations). And finally, vendors offer the volume for sale as a self-help book.
The first part of the book (less than fifty pages) recounts the struggle of Stuart Matise’s parents as they attempt to find reasons for their son’s untimely death which they attribute to his struggle with homosexual attraction. They express concern about negative responses to those who struggle with such difficulties by some members of the Church.
As the Matises tell their story, they genuinely attempt to make sense of their son’s struggles with homosexuality by seeking clues from his past. They interpret their son’s attraction for other boys (“crushes”) as somehow related to his homosexual attractions. They are not. Rather, Stuart begins to experience gender confusion, a concern for many children. Gender confusion is often reflective of the need to be affirmed by same-sex peers. Affirmation by others would have likely prevented Stuart’s self-imposed loneliness. When these feelings of confusion are left uncritically examined, they often become a source of preoccupation. Such preoccupation renders a young boy vulnerable to those feelings becoming sexualized during transesence–the developmental period during which homosexual attractions frequently emerge.
The Matises confuse several terms which they use interchangeably: “homosexual attraction,” “homosexual orientation,” and “homosexual identity” or “gay.”
Homosexual attractions are correctly defined as feelings of attraction for members of the same-sex. They may or may not take on an erotic dimension. They may or may not be persistent. Often such feelings are more homosocial in nature, having little to do with eroticism. It is the labeling or mislabeling of the attraction (or how the individual assigns meaning to the feelings) or when the attraction takes on an erotic dimension that becomes problematic. Frequently, such attractions are associated more with gender confusion (i.e., what it means to be male or female) than they are with issues of sexuality.
Compare this with homosexual orientation, which is characterized by a generalized feeling of arousal for members of one’s own sex. This often involves an overall affective response, wanting to be close to or to have an intimate connection with members of one’s own sex. Frequently, there is an erotic or sexual dimension.
On the other hand, the term “gay” often indicates a “homosexual identity.” Gay signifies a label, most often a social and political label based upon an individual’s attractions as demonstrated by their sexual behaviors. Emotional affiliation and bonding with same-sex peers most notably seen in the closeness of transescent peer groups (where boys band together) is normal and healthy. It is when such attractions are eroticized that they become problematic for many individuals.
In the first few pages of the Matises’ story, the predisposing factors of homosexual attraction are classically identified in their son, factors that of themselves have little to do with homosexuality but when misunderstood can wreak havoc in a young boy’s life: a temperamental sensitivity (an overreaction to others which often results in misinterpretation of feelings), an obsessive preoccupation with being different (anxieties over “what’s wrong with me?”) and perfectionism (we are told that Stuart spent his entire life “striving for perfection”).
In the Matises’ quest to understand their son’s homosexuality, they were confronted with a flood of confusing and conflicting reports from professionals and other individuals and were unable to sort out the differing views. Unable to find clear answers, they mistakenly conclude and report in the book that accurate information does not exist and “all therapy becomes a guessing game.” This is a sad commentary and greatly distorted reflection on the many men and women whose lives have been transformed through the help of exceptional professionals throughout the world. Unfortunately, however, the Matises’ conclusion may reflect the confusion held by many and underscores the need to educate and train competent professionals and to disseminate accurate information to the public.
As the Matises describe their son’s continuing struggle, it becomes clear to a clinically-trained person that Stuart has many emotional struggles, among which homosexual attraction is only one. His anxiety, his depression and his obsessiveness are conditions which, when treated, often make issues of homosexual attraction easier to address.
Throughout the book, as the Matises describe their adult son, the unresolved feelings of a fearful little boy emerges and re-emerges. Even supportive family and friends were not sufficient to meet his needs. Though he does have a wonderful family, caring friends and Church leaders, what Stuart failed to secure was competent, professional help, the kind of help that could assist him deal with very chronic, very difficult challenges.
As Stuart made plans to end his own life, the family seemed unable, perhaps by their own confusion and grief, to do anything to help. As family members sought for some meaning for all of this, they turned to the scriptures for comfort in which they found some measure of solace. Ironically, in Stuart’s own letter attempting to explain his pending suicide, he enumerates his struggles with anxiety, depression, his inferiority complex and his desire to be free from pain and the “inside mess.”
Indeed, his suicide was his final attempt to solve his problems, to find a place away from the pain he felt. Competent professional care may have helped, but tragically Stuart did not find it. Readers may mistakenly assume that all Stuart’s problems stemmed from his same-sex attractions, which is almost never the case. Anxiety and depression, unrelated to same-sex attraction, often co-exist with such challenges and often require equal attention.
The Matises attempt to emotionally process Stuart’s death and stated that they did not know their own son. In the process of attempting to find resolution, they soon discovered the many valuable services that Stuart rendered for other people. Perhaps this was his way of trying to connect, to feel loved, and be valued. However, it never happened. He never was able to find these essential connections. It is apparent that, though Stuart was loved, he neither felt loved or lovable, often characteristics of those who struggle with homosexual attraction.
While the Matises find much support in their faith tradition, they continue to try to make sense of what they have experienced. Unfortunately, they lay blame for at least part of Stuart’s struggle on “homophobia” which they attribute as the primary cause of their son’s life of desperation. Perhaps, inadvertently, they do not recognize that the term is essentially meaningless, even in the scientific community (a phobia is a serious mental disorder). Individuals, religions and institutions who disagree with the homosexual lifestyle are not homophobic: they simply disagree with the lifestyle. The introduction of the “homophobic” tactic (often used by the activist community to silence discussion) is unfortunate and detracts from the Matises’ story.
In a chapter titled “Letters of Comfort,” the Matises are consoled by the many letters of condolence that they receive. While there is much in the selected letters that are supportive, an emerging theme was quite disturbing, a theme that somehow God intended for some people to be “gay.” One letter asserted that Stuart was “blessed” with the affliction. A selected letter from Stuart recounted blessings where he was told that he was gay and would remain so. This theme is contradictory to the inspired statement from the Proclamation on the Family: “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose.”
Fortunately, the Matises do come across some good counsel: the importance for struggling individuals to confide in family members and the importance of viewing homosexual attraction as a challenge, not a character defect. However, the suggestion that all families should encourage their children with homosexual attraction to disclose their attraction in return for acceptance by family members is misguided. Such disclosures often result in premature self-labeling which is associated with consequential mental disturbances including suicidal ideation.
Studies repeatedly demonstrate that each year a young person postpones labeling themselves as “homosexual” reduces the likelihood of suicidal attempts by 20%.2 Sexual feelings are fluid, particularly during adolescence. Children should be encouraged to talk about issues of human sexuality and should avoid labeling their feelings. Labeling feelings of gender confusion in children as “homosexual” acts as a barrier to the development of gender affirming feelings and the transition to adult heterosexuality.
From this portion of the book, it is clear that the Matises are very loving and caring parents who have experienced a horrific tragedy in their lives. It is also equally as clear that they could benefit from accurate information about homosexuality and perhaps some help in processing their own unresolved feelings about their son’s untimely death. Accurate information is particularly important as they presume to counsel others who struggle with homosexual attraction (as noted on the cover of the book).
The remainder of the book, some 200 pages, was penned by one of the book’s co-authors, Ty Mansfield. Mansfield is young man whose story is filled with much confusion and uncertainty. His story is told in a narrative fashion punctuated by his commentary on both the scriptures, statements from Church leaders as well as commentary about science.
Mansfield’s confusion is particularly noted as he, like the Matises, uses the terms homosexual attraction, homosexual orientation, and homosexual identity interchangeably. Though Mansfield notes that his homosexual feelings have remained unchanged, this is impossible. Feelings by their own definition are dynamic, not static. What has not changed is perhaps Mansfield’s labeling of his feelings. The inevitable question emerges: does Mansfield have homosexual feelings because he is he is innately homosexual or do his homosexual feelings lead him to define himself as homosexual?
Thus, the Ty Mansfield story begins with a young man whose characteristics are notably similar to those of Stuart Matis: temperamental sensitivity, obsessive introspection and perfectionism.
Mansfield was traumatized by a rumored story of a fellow student in junior high school whose “apparent attraction to other men was embarrassingly evidenced (an erection?) one day while he was taking a mandated shower after gym class” (p. 60). He interprets this reported experience with horror. Boys, particularly adolescent boys, have physiological responses to all kinds of stimuli–including both human and inanimate objects. Such responses may have nothing to do with sexual attraction.
That Mansfield would maintain such an interpretation as an adult is more reflective of the trauma that he experienced, which continues to be manifested as an adult’s confusion about human sexuality. This traumatic event seems to be the pivotal point for Mansfield’s journey of secrecy, the “safe haven” for his gender confusion, the preoccupation of which seems in part to have led to the construction of his homosexual identity.
Rather than seeking help, however, Mansfield seems stuck in his gender confusion. He distracts himself from his secret as he immerses himself in gospel study, thinking perhaps if he became perfect that God would take away the desire for which he experiences both attraction and revulsion. However, his secret continues to grow in stature; his gender conflicts remain. The author James Baldwin identifies Mansfield’s dilemma: “the trouble with a secret life is that it is very frequently a secret from the person who lives it.”3 Such seems to be case for Mansfield as he chronicles the remainder of his story.
Ty Mansfield expresses confusion about his homosexual attraction, a kind of same-sex ambivalence. He uses rather dramatic terms like “forbidden,” “frightening,” “strengthening,” “enlightening,” and the “furnace of affliction.” Because he is confused about his feelings and has had apparently little success in addressing the underlying issues, Mansfield resorts to scripture, talks from religion teachers, and quotes from the Brethren, all in an attempt to make sense of his struggle. Mansfield manages to find some comfort in these efforts, but little resolution of his real problems. He claims that he has found peace with his homosexuality much like a friend would find peace with an enemy; Mansfield would do well to know that such peace is never a lasting peace.
It seems that Mansfield has simply conceded victory to his homosexuality and the remainder of the book is spent trying to reconcile his homosexuality with the gospel, trying to make the two compatible, a goal which he is never able to achieve. Like the Matises, Mansfield is unable to sort out the science of homosexuality and simply rejects treatment options. He dismisses what science has to offer as “the philosophies of men.”
The rejection of the findings of science by Mansfield is unfortunate not only for himself, but for the many who may read his book and attempt to follow in his path. The truth is that science does offer hope and help.
Even Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, the self-identified secular-humanist atheist Jew, the Columbia University psychiatrist who led the charge to remove homosexuality from the psychiatric manual in 1973, was open to the findings of science. This pro-gay activist researcher conducted a study that was published in the prestigious Archives of Sexual Behavior.4 Spitzer’s study population was comprised of 200 people who reported that they had changed from homosexual to heterosexual. He found that 66% of the men and 44% of the women who had participated in therapy to change their homosexual orientation had arrived at what he called “good heterosexual functioning.” Additionally, 89% of the men and 95% of the women reported that they were bothered “slightly” or “not at all” by unwanted homosexual feelings.
In Spitzer’s own words, “Like most psychiatrists I thought homosexual behavior could be resisted, but sexual orientation could not be changed. I now believe that’s untrue–some people can and do change.”5 Spitzer concluded that the changes occurred not just in behavior, but in core features of sexual orientation as well.
More recently, Wright and Cummings6 criticize the American Psychological Association (APA) for its suppression of research data on the efficacy of treatment of homosexuality. Referring to APA, Wright and Cummings note, “They also deny the reality of data demonstrating that psychotherapy can be effective in changing sexual preferences in patients who have a desire to do so.”7
There is some irony in Mansfield’s revelations about his understandings of gospel doctrine of change as it pertains to homosexuality while at the same time rejecting the science of change. The truths of the gospel do not contradict the truths of science. Indeed, the truths of science support the gospel’s view of change. Elder Russell M. Nelson noted, “In the Church, we embrace all truth, whether it comes from the scientific laboratory or from the revealed word of God. We accept all truth as being a part of the Gospel. One truth does not contradict another.”8
It is indeed unfortunate that Mansfield is not able to see the truth in a broader frame, and even more unfortunate that his limited understanding has been published and promoted as a work to give others hope.
Mansfield employs a theological supermarket approach interspersed by his misunderstandings of science as he tries to grapple with issues of homosexuality. Similar to the authors of Peculiar People, when Mansfield finds the gospel inadequate, he resorts to other theologians like Richard Hayes at Duke University School of Divinity. Supported by Hayes, Mansfield attempts to diminish the seriousness of homosexuality by subsuming it under the generic category of idolatry, suggesting that homosexuality was simply a type for all sexual sin. This is amazingly similar to the view of some activist protestant theologians who view the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah as simply “inhospitality.” Truths noted in The Miracle of Forgiveness shed much light on this topic and would have been very helpful here.
Perhaps the most revealing part of this section is Mansfield’s own admission that his understanding of homosexuality is minimal, that his knowledge and background regarding the mixture of biological, social and psychological factors involved in homosexuality is limited. Yet he disregards his lack of qualifications, choosing to focus on his own personal study and his discussions with others–by any measure insufficient to offer counsel in this complicated arena.
Particularly noticeable is how Mansfield confuses himself about the meaning of homosexuality. He opines that “for many, homosexuality isn’t simply about sex; it’s about attraction…” while acknowledging that for many it does become sexual…” (p. 74). Mansfield himself yearns for a “romantic” relationship while telling us he felt he could have achieved a level of fulfillment in a homosexual relationship if it were “loving and committed” (p. 67). Lost in this discussion is that relationships with members of the same sex without the erotic component are healthy! They are the bonding, connecting relationships lacking in the lives of many homosexual men.
Mansfield, however, then begins his repeated themes of comparing homosexuality to heterosexuality, focusing on the discredited continuum of Kinsey. This theory suggests that sexual attractions are on a continuum with homosexual attractions being on one end and heterosexual attractions being on the other.
A more appropriate model is based on the natural predisposition toward heterosexuality with homosexuality, bisexuality and other sexual attractions being deviations en route. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are qualitatively different. Whether one believes in a Divine Creator’s design or the impersonal theory of evolution, homosexuality is maladaptive; heterosexuality is not.
Mansfield’s lack of information on the nature of homosexual relationships begins with his depiction of the homosexual couple he tracted on his mission. This couple who had been together for nearly two decades, caused Mansfield much reflection.
On page 75 Mansfield complains about the stereotypes of homosexual relationships reporting, that like heterosexual relationships, there is a spectrum from “committed, monogamous relationships to promiscuity and complete lack of commitment.” Mansfield, however, appears to be uninformed about the research on homosexual relationships.
The most extensive study on sexual fidelity ever done was conducted in 1994.9 The researchers found that the vast majority of heterosexual couples were monogamous while the marriage was intact. Ninety-four percent of married heterosexual couples and 75% of co-habiting heterosexual couples had no partners outside their current relationship in the previous twelve months. In contrast, sexual fidelity is so rare among gay men that a new term has been offered: “Fidelity without monogamy.” Gay men who were coupled reported that they had sex with someone other than their partner in 66% of their relationships during the first year of their coupleship, rising to 90% if the relationship lasts for five years. In one study, only 15% of gay men and 17.3 % of lesbians were found to have had relationships that lasted for more than three years.
Another extensive study on homosexuality and monogamy was conducted by McWhirter and Mattison in 1984.10 The Male Couple was an in depth study designed to evaluate the stability of long term homosexual couplings. The study was actually undertaken to disprove the reputation that gay male relationships were promiscuous. The authors themselves were a homosexual couple, one a psychiatrist and the other a psychologist. After much searching, they were able to locate 156 couples who had been in relationships some of which lasted as long as 31 years. Two-thirds of the respondents had entered the relationship with either the implicit or explicit expectation of sexual fidelity. The results demonstrated that of the 156 couples, only seven had been able to maintain sexual fidelity. And of the seven couples, not one couple had been together for more than five years. In other words, these researchers were unable to find a single male couple who had been able to maintain fidelity for more than five years.
A more recent study published in the journal AIDS11 found that the “marriage” of gay couples lasted 1 1/2 years with an average of eight partners per year outside their relationships. The study was conducted by Dr. Maria Xiridou and her colleagues at the Amsterdam Municipal Health Service in The Netherlands.
Mansfield’s lack of success in dealing with his own issues of same-sex confusion has led him to conclude that his yearnings for homosexual fulfillment and for peace within the gospel context are simply unresolvable. He determines that homosexual attraction is the result of “living in a fallen world,” a statement that can be made about virtually every challenge we face.
Mansfield projects having risen above his need for help, wondering if he might be doomed to “always experience this attraction in mortality.” As he struggles, he wonders if the Lord might have designed this challenge for him so that he might be able to help others (an oft-heard story from those who resist change in their lives, or those who justify their resistance to change). He wonders if a part of the divine plan is to have him “taste the pain to succor others” (p. 231). According to Mansfield, the Lord’s purpose in having him experience homosexual attraction was to better understand and help others (p. 233). He fails to recognize the counsel of the prophets that the Lord does not try men in this way.
It is noteworthy that when Mansfield talks about the range of outcomes for those who struggle with homosexual attraction (p. 137), he makes no allowance for the many individuals who make successful transitions out of homosexuality, away from the binding ties of homosexual preoccupation. Rather, the choices he offers others are limited to 1) bearing their “crosses” or 2) living the gay lifestyle. Mansfield’s advice does not come directly but emerges from his commentaries scattered throughout the book such as the following:
- Monogamous homosexual relationships are better than promiscuous ones (p. 182).
- The prophets or apostles cannot help very much because they have not experienced the challenge themselves (p. 200) which he views as a prerequisite to helping.
- There are long-term committed homosexual relationships (p. 179).
- There are certain things that we will never be able to change (p. 192).
- Don’t take change too seriously (p. 194).
- Don’t place an unhealthy emphasis on change (p. 181).
- If you marry “you will battle every day” (p. 214).
Much of the difficulty with homosexual challenges, Mansfield places on a homophobic society (p.128). He notes:
- The negative rhetoric voiced in society (p. 189).
- The bias or ignorance in society (p. 195).
- The closed-minded society (p. 221).
Readers should be aware that the above statements can be frequently found on gay activist Web sites. While Mansfield and others suggest that society’s view of homosexual men and women is a causative factor in their resulting mental illnesses, such does not appear to be the case. There is a high correlation between engaging in homosexual practices and a greater than normal risk of suffering from mental illness including suicidality, anxiety disorders and clinical depression.12 While one might suggest that society’s view of homosexual men and women is a determining factor in their mental illnesses, such does not seem to be the case since the study was duplicated in The Netherlands with the same results,13 and The Netherlands is arguably the most gay-affirming country in the world!
Activist researcher J. Michael Bailey offered other hypotheses: “homosexuality represents a deviation from normal development and is associated with other such deviations that may lead to mental illness,” or “the consequences of lifestyle differences associated with sexual orientation” leads to mental illness or “behavioral risk factors associated with male homosexuality such as receptive anal sex and promiscuity” leads to mental illness.14
Mansfield concludes that homosexuality is innate and immutable. In his assertion that the “Born That Way” argument is quite possible, he disregards the contrary evidence from science. Even the lesbian activist Camille Paglia notes that the idea that an individual is born gay is “ridiculous.” She concludes that “homosexuality is an adaptation, not an inborn trait.”15
More importantly the counsel from the Lord through his servants is clear on this matter. President Faust declared, “The false belief of inborn homosexual orientation denies to repentant souls the opportunity to change and will ultimately lead to discouragement, disappointment and despair.”16 Elder Oaks noted that though there may be susceptibilities associated with a variety of challenges, that we are responsible for the “lifestyle we graft upon them.”17 Elder Packer says of homosexuality, “It is not unchangeable. It is not locked in. One does not just have to yield to it and live with it.”18
In Quiet Desperation is billed as a plea for compassion for those who suffer from homosexual attraction. However, whether or not it was intentional on the part of the publisher or the authors, the book has an underlying theme and effect of “sensitivity training,” not compassion. It begins the journey from tolerance to acceptance (suggesting that homosexual attraction is so strongly compelled by biological factors that it is indelibly ingrained in a person’s core identity, and is therefore not amenable to change). From acceptance, there is only a short distance to celebration as we have seen in society in general.
Elder Oaks warns about such misapplication of love and tolerance without a foremost concern for truth.19 And the truth is that there is much that can be done to diminish homosexual attraction and much more that can be done to eliminate homosexual behavior.
The view of homosexuality expressed in this book is neither reflective of good science nor gospel doctrine. In fact, the book renders an injustice to homosexual men and women by not letting them know that they can make changes in their lives and that there is hope and sufficient help available through well-established treatment protocols (compatible with revealed scripture) for those who want to conform their lives to the Lord’s standards.
References from The Miracle of Forgiveness were noticeably absent. This significant omission was as stark as the omission of the truths from science.
The emergence of spiritual directives through blessings informing those who struggle that their “burden” will not be lifted during this lifetime was particularly disconcerting. These communications send a message that these challenges are designed by God.
Perhaps the greatest grievance committed by the authors and publisher of this book is that which is done to Ty Mansfield. This young man is both uninformed and misinformed about homosexuality. His attempts to find answers in the gospel are admirable, but just as we would not limit our efforts to prayer, fasting and reading the scriptures as a treatment for any serious challenge (we would seek professional care), for those who suffer from same-sex attraction, professional care has been demonstrated to be very helpful.
Here lies the potential tragedy for Ty Mansfield. At the young age of 26, he has labeled his same-sex attraction and gender confusion as intractable. He has prepared himself for a life of quiet desperation, the consequences of which he cannot anticipate. He does not seem vulnerable to the Lord’s message that “those who desire to be free of same-gender attraction can overcome that attraction and find hope by turning to the Lord and committing themselves to a program of change.”20
To relegate Ty Mansfield and others like him to lives of quiet desperation is indeed unfortunate. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of change, and we (including those who struggle with homosexual attraction) cannot sink lower than the arms of the Atonement can reach. This does not mean that those who struggle with challenges will be made perfect in this life, but the blessings of the Atonement are far reaching and infinite. When the storms of adversity rage in our lives, the Master will either reach out His divine hand and calm the troubled waters or He will reach out His hand and calm us. Either way, we can come to know and feel His sustaining love for us that flows from the Atonement.
The book inadvertently limits the power of the Atonement in the lives of people who struggle with homosexual attraction. As professionals with many combined years of practice in treating those with unwanted homosexual attraction, we have witnessed changes in the lives of many of these individuals, and the epiphanies have been many.
Like all emotional challenges, the outcome data has ranges of success. What is clear is that when the same standard applied to treatment outcomes of similarly situated difficulties is applied to the treatment outcomes of those with unwanted homosexuality, the results are remarkably similar. There is much in the professional treatment protocols that are compatible with the restored gospel. Appropriate professional help along with the healing powers of the gospel have repeatedly convinced us that there is no struggle for which the Atonement is not sufficient.
Finally, it is interesting to note that gospel detractors have taken heart at the publication of In Quiet Desperation. They simply state that it does not go far enough. A BYU professor wishes “the Matises were willing to endorse same-sex relationships.” On a prominent LDS Web site, a young medical student concludes: “1. SSA feelings are not chosen–ever. 2. SSA feelings are not amenable to change.” He references In Quiet Desperation to support his conclusions. Other detractors expressed hope that the Church would find a way to accept gay relationships.21
Thus, In Quiet Desperation moves us further down the slippery slope expressed by Alexander Pope: “We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
|The author of In Quiet Desperation has prepared a rebuttal to this review. The rebuttal can be found at this page.
The authors of this review then prepared a short rejoinder to the rebuttal. The rejoinder (a PDF file) can be found at this page.
1 R.C. Friedman and J.I. Downey, Sexual Orientation and Psychoanalysis: Sexual Science and Clinical Practice (2002), 39.
2 G. Remafedi, J. A. Farrow, and R.W. Deisher, “Risk Factors for Attempted Suicide in Gay and Bisexual Youth,” Pediatrics 87 (1991): 869-875; G. Remafidi, M. Resnick, R. Blum, and L. Harris, “Demography of Sexual Orientation in Adolescents,” Pediatrics 89 (1992): 714-721.
3 James Baldwin, Another Country (New York: Dell, 1960), 170.
4 R.L. Spitzer, “Can some gay men and lesbians change their sexual orientation? 200 participants reporting a change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation?” Archives of Sexual Behavior 32 (2003): 403-417.
5 NARTH Press Release, “Prominent Psychiatrist Announces New Study Results-Some Gays Can Change,” May 9, 2001.
6 Rogers H. Wright and Nicholas A. Cummings, Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well-Intentioned Path to Harm (New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2005), xxx.
7 Rogers Wright and Nicholas Cummings along with the endorsers of this book, Robert Perloff, Arnold Lazarus, Michael Hoyt, Fred Baughman, Jack Wiggins, Robyn Dawes and David Stein represent an academy award roster of Who’s Who in the American Psychological Association. They include past presidents of APA, division presidents, and world-class scientists.
8 Russell N. Nelson, “Begin with the End in Mind,” BYU Speeches, 1984-1985 (Provo: Brigham Young University, September 30, 1984), 5.
9 R. Michael, J. H. Gagnon, et al., Sex in America: a Definitive Survey (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1994).
10 David P. McWhirter and Andrew M. Mattison, The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall).
11 AIDS 17:7 (2003), 1029-1038.
12 Research reported by Herrell, Goldberg, True et al, as well as Fergusson, Horwood and Beatrais in the Archives of General Psychiatry 6 (October 1999).
13 Sandfort, de Graaf, et al,, Archives of General Psychiatry 58 (January 2001).
14 Archives of General Psychiatry 6 (October 1999): 884.
15 Camille Paglia, Vamps and Tramps (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), 70.
16 James E. Faust, “Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil,” Ensign 25:10 (October 1995), 72-74.
17 Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign 25:10 (October 1995), 7.
18 Boyd K. Packer, “Speaking Out on Moral Issues,” To The One (Salt Lake City, 1992), 170.
19 Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign 24:10 (October 1994), 11-17.
20 Peggy Fletcher Stack, “A New Chapter on LDS Gays,” The Salt Lake Tribune, December 18, 2004, quoting the Church’s position as stated by Church spokesman Dale Bills.
21 Peggy Fletcher Stack, “A New Chapter on LDS Gays,” The Salt Lake Tribune, December, 18, 2004.