Peter Danzig’s story in his own words:
In 2002 I decided to return to school and pursue a graduate degree in social work. In my first year of studies it became obvious to me that at some point I would have a client who was homosexual and that I needed to decide how I was going to deal with that as a faithful member of the Church. Accordingly I read a great deal on the subject. However, the more I read, the more concerned I became. It seemed to me that the way the Church had typically handled this issue was harmful rather than helpful. I assumed this was due primarily to ignorance and not malice; as society has not been particularly kind on this issue either.
My first practicum site was a residential adolescent treatment facility. Clients in the facility were usually admitted only if they were in severe danger of harming themselves. I was surprised to find that a large percentage of the clients there were struggling with issues of sexual orientation. The issue of how homosexual orientation is handled by the LDS Church has continued to bother me as I have gone on to become a fully licensed Clinical Social Worker. For those who wish to acquaint themselves with the issues a homosexual member of the LDS Church faces I suggest reading the book “Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation” or looking at the resources offered on these websites: http://www.ldsresources.info/professionals/bradshaw.shtml or www.affirmation.org.
I was very disheartened when the letter from the First Presidency urging us to write congress in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment was read from the pulpit. I have watched in the past few years with growing alarm as the LDS Church encouraged and funded laws opposing the rights of homosexual couples to define their own families. In specifically endorsing a piece of national legislation I felt that the leadership of my church had stepped far beyond the boundaries of what was appropriate.
I was also appalled at the way in which a successful and popular BYU professor (Jeffrey Nielson) was summarily dismissed for speaking his mind concerning this matter so in June 2006 I wrote several letters opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment and the dismissal of Jeffrey Nielson . . .
After the matter was turned over to local authorities I was invited to a meeting with my Bishop. He and I talked for quite some time. He told me he felt I was choosing science over the statements of the Brethren. I indicated that I felt that it was not such a simple dichotomy. I pointed out how the Brethren had changed their stance on homosexuality and other issues over time, and how I felt that part of sustaining the Brethren was to point out when they were damaging or hurting those in their stewardship through their own ignorance on certain issues.
I was told that it appeared that I had only been studying the issue from the scientific side (despite the fact that I frequently cited the words of the prophets and scriptures on this issue during our conversation) and was asked as an assignment to study the scriptures and words of the prophets on homosexuality and meet with him the next week. I was also informed that I would not pass a temple recommend interview with my views as they stood.
I dutifully spent the next week studying approximately an hour each evening from the scriptures and the words of LDS general authorities on the subject. I found that there was not much in the way of scriptural support for the Church’s position, and I felt that even many of the official documents of the Church, such as the “Proclamation to the world” held significant room for a broader interpretation than I had realized. I went to my interview the next week with my personal views unchanged but feeling I had more support for them from the lack of official statements and scriptural support than I did before.
At this meeting I was informed that I needed to agree with some of the specifics of Elder Dallin H. Oaks talk “Same-Gender Attraction” given in 1995: Specifically that Homosexual orientation was not innate and that it was reversible. I informed my Bishop that this was not true in the experience of many individuals and that as such I could not support it. He informed me that he would need to turn the matter over to the Stake President and indicated that if I did not learn to moderate my views I would likely face a disciplinary court for acts of apostasy. I indicated that if such was the case I might rather resign and spare my family the embarrassment.
I’m not going to lie, this is something that has really upset me. Peter Danzig vindicates me with his findings, and yet the Church attacked him for expressing his findings publicly. I have been stewing over it over the past several days. Quite frankly, I seriously considered leaving the church and transferring schools. I made a list of grievances, and weighed them against the benefits of continuing my education at BYU. The grievances are pretty big, but there was one benefit that tipped the scale and made me decide to stay:
For my final BFA show, I plan to depict visually the emotions I experienced in my journey with same sex attractions, including the pain and self abuse before I accepted myself and the community I found after I came to terms with myself. This show would be a public event on BYU campus (I would be careful to follow BYU’s mandate that I not advocate homosexual behavior), and I think it would do a lot of good in spreading accurate information and stimulating dialog about how homosexuality is treated by BYU and Mormons in general. This ray of hope for change is what is motivating me to stick it out. I hope that in staying and talking in what little ways I can I will be able to accomplish some good.