Gay Conversion Therapy and BYU

184 Primary Sources


John B. Watson presents the basis of behavioral psychology.

Nov 1935

Louis William Max reports using electroshock stimulus to treat homosexual neurosis in a patient.

Jun 1940

Walter Voegtlin reports success in using aversion therapy with alcoholics.


Original Kinsey Scale of sexual attraction published in 1948.


American Psychiatric Association 1952 DSM-I entry on sexual deviance classifies homosexuality as a pathology.

Jan 1955

Mattachine Society Board states their founding principle is the research and education of "the sex-variant himself" and society.

Mar 1955

Mattachine Review publication cover for March-April 1955.

Dec 17, 1955

British Medical Journal publishes a report from the Departmental Committee on homosexuality.

Dec 17, 1955

British Medical Journal Supplement publishes a report from the Departmental Committee on homosexuality.


Evelyn Hooker "very tentatively suggests" that "homosexuality as a clinical entity does not exist" based on Rorschach experiments.

Apr 6, 1957

Desmond Curran publishes research indicating that 1 in 6 patients changed sexual orientation, but that psychotherapy, by itself, is ineffective.

Jan 1958

Martin Luther King, Jr. advises a young gay man to see a psychiatrist to "solve" the "problem."


Charles Berg claims that those that say homosexuality is incurable have never tried to treat it.

Jun 7, 1958

J. A. Hadfield reviews cases of "cured" homosexuals in the British Medical Journal.

Jul 1958

The British Journal of Delinquency published results of treatment of homosexuals with 65% (31 of 48) shifting towards heterosexuality from those that completed treatment.

May 21, 1959

Ernest L. Wilkinson records the decision to suspend homosexual BYU students that are not "unrepentant" and "working on their problems".

May 21, 1959

David O. McKay reportedly stated that homosexuality was "worse than immorality" and a "filthy and unnatural habit."


Kurt Freund reviews 47 patients treated with various forms of psychotherapy for homosexuality and report 25% gained "heterosexual adaptation lasting several years."


Wolfenden Report on commissioned by British Home Office recommending further research on homosexuality.

Mar 17, 1962

British Medical Journal publishes successful gay aversion therapy using emetics.

Sep 12, 1962

Ernest L. Wilkinson records in his journal that in a meeting with the Elders Kimball and Peterson a policy was decided that homosexuals would not be admitted to BYU.


Banstead Hospital utilization of electric shocks in gay aversion therapy.


BRT example of electric shocks in aversion therapy being used in research in Crumpsall Hospital, Manchester, UK.

Jun 5, 1964

Medical World News reports that out of 106 homosexual patients, 27% "achieved a heterosexual orientation."

Jun 10, 1964

Spencer W. Kimball refers to a scientific report about how homosexuals can be cured, and condemns homosexual behavior.

Jul 1964

New York Academy of Medicine states that homosexuality is treatable depending on the desire of the patient.

Jan 5, 1965

Spencer W. Kimball says BYU would never enroll or tolerate any unrepentant "adulteror, fornicator, or pervert."

Jan 5, 1965

Spencer W. Kimball speaks at BYU about chastity before marriage, alludes to BYU LGBT policy.

Sep 23, 1965

President Wilkinson states that active homosexuals will not be admitted to BYU.

Nov 13, 1965

Ernest Wilkinson speech stating BYU will not admit homosexuals.

Jun 3, 1967

M. J. MacCulloch and M. P. Feldman reports a 58% success rate utilizing electroshock therapy on 43 subjects in a 3 year study.


American Psychiatric Association 1968 DSM-II entry on homosexuality.


1969 British Journal of Psychiatry publication citing "a significant number of successes" in aversion therapy.

Jun 1969

Nathaniel McConaghy compares apomorphine and electroshock gay aversion therapies in 40 subjects with mixed results.

Sep 22, 1969

BYU Vice President Minutes: reviewing material by Thorne and Howell concerning Electrical Aversive Therapy; Wilkinson requests further report on this treatment option.


The Church publishes "Hope for Transgressors" booklet advising leadership on homosexuality and states it can be "cured" and "forgiven".


Queens University, Belfast, Ireland conversion therapy research with positive reinforcement.


Donn Teal describes the "invasion" by gay activists to the APA conference in San Francisco in 1970.

Aug 23, 1971

Newsweek reports on the "Gay Liberation Movement" and notes the "flash point" was the Stonewall Inn riot of 1969.

Nov 7, 1971

Harvard research study utilizing electric shocks in treatment for homosexuality.


University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee conversion therapy research.

May 7, 1973

BYU Board of Trustees minutes refer to a 1969 policy to not admit homosexual students to BYU unless approved by GAs.

Jun 1973

Stephen Morin recounts the formation of the Association of Gay Psychologists.

Dec 1973

American Psychiatric Association proposal for removal of homosexuality as a disorder in the DSM-II.


Lee Birk (Harvard researcher) publishes paper on conversion therapy post 1973 APA resolution.


University of Pittsburgh study utilizing shocks for aversion therapy.


Internal training document on homosexuality that states there is no easy "cure", emphasizes treating people with kindness, love and confidentiality, and outlines policies, including disclosure of sexual partners.

Apr 9, 1974

New York Times reports on the APA vote to uphold the 1974 DSM-II change on homosexuality.

May 26, 1974

New York Times reports on referendum to overturn the APA vote on removing homosexuality from the DSM-II.

Jan 24, 1975

APA statement urges therapists to remove the stigma from homosexuality and advocates legislation to make homosexuals a protected class.

Aug 13, 1975

Robert I. McQueen writes about 5 gay men that he knew that committed suicide at BYU in 1965.

Sep 8, 1975

Time Magazine features Leonard Matlovich, gay decorated Air Force veteran and Latter-day Saint.

Oct 1, 1975

Robert D. Card explains his philosophy and methods for treating LDS homosexuals with aversion therapy.

Oct 28, 1975

Vanguard (Portland State University) reports that at least five gay men committed suicide at BYU.

Mar 10, 1976

Ogden Standard-Examiner reports that Carlyle D. Mardsen (BYU instructor) committed suicide.

Mar 16, 1976

Provo Daily Herald reports suicide of 54 year old gay man after arrest for "lewdness and sodomy".

Aug 1976

Dissertation from BYU that used electric shocks in aversion therapy.

Aug 1976

Max Ford McBride details the history and usage of the plethysmograph.

Aug 1976

Max McBride provides quantitative results of his aversion therapy experiments.

Aug 1, 1976

McBride dissertation indicates 17 initial volunteers reduced to 14.

Aug 1, 1976

McBride dissertation utilized clothed and nude images of males and females.

Aug 1976

McBride study describes how electroshocks were applied; duration of electroshocks varied from 0 up to 8 seconds depending on the phase of the therapy.

Oct 2, 1976

Conference report of Boyd K. Packer sharing a story about a missionary hitting another missionary who was making sexual advances towards him.

Oct 2, 1976

Boyd K. Packer shares a story in general conference about a missionary hitting another missionary who was making sexual advances towards him.

Jul 9, 1977

Mark E. petersen makes reference to Anita Bryant's legal fight against a chain of gay bathhouses; Old and New Testament passages used to condemn homosexual behavior.

Aug 1977

Morin advocates for a removal of "heterosexual bias" in research.

Aug 22, 1977

LDS Social Services publishes a response to the "Payne Papers" about homosexuality.

Sep 1977 - Mar 1978

Original publication of "The Payne Papers" anonymously released in four installments various gay publication by Cloy Jenkins.

Sep 15, 1977

Church Board of Education notes indicate that Allen Bergin authored the response to the anonymous letter about homosexuality sent to General Authorities.

Sep 15, 1977

Church Board of Education notes say that the "Payne Papers" tried to pretend that the BYU Psychology department was the source for the letter.


An anonymous essay, "the Payne Papers" is published at BYU by a gay BYU student in response to a lecture on homosexuality by BYU professor Reed Payne.


Boyd K. Packer speaks directly to gay Latter-day Saints about the nature of homosexuality.


Mark E. Petersen lists homosexuality as one of the "strong delusions" of the Great Apostasy and the modern era.

Feb 1, 1978

Gerald Dye outlines the BYU Standards Office process of working with homosexual students in an interview with Gary James Bergera.

Feb 4, 1978

Mark E. Petersen compares modern era with time of Noah, teaching that the righteous should separate from the wicked; reference made to report that 18 million homosexuals are in the USA.

Mar 18, 1978

Mark E. Petersen's editorial in Church News calls homosexual behavior "unclean" and, according to the Bible, worthy of the death penalty.

Jul 29, 1978

Mark E. Petersen refers to homosexuality as "a menace to the population at large."

Dec 1978

BYU Psych Department dissertation by Elizabeth C. James surveying reorientation efforts in treatment of homosexuals.

Dec 16, 1978

Editorial in Church News rejects claim that homosexuals were born gay or made gay by God; Spencer W. Kimball quoted affirming "total transformation" always a possibility.


American Psychiatric Association 1980 DSM-III entry on ego-dystonic homosexuality.

Mar 27, 1982

Seventh East Press interviews current and former gay BYU students and faculty about the gay community at BYU.

Apr 12, 1982

Seventh East Press writes about homosexuality at BYU, part 2 of the series.

Apr 12, 1982

Seventh East Press publishes accounts of anonymous BYU student, professor and former BYU counselor about gay aversion therapy at BYU.

Apr 12, 1982

"Dave" and "Jon" describe the "the purge of 1975" at BYU as reported by Seventh East Press.


Gary James Bergera cites Sept. 22, 1969 BYU Vice-President's Minutes as the source for a claim that BYU curtailed "electrical aversive therapy" due to religious considerations.


Alan T. Watters indicates that research publications with "heterosexual bias" have been reduced between 1979-1983.

Aug 1986

Biola University dissertation on sexual orientation change efforts for ego-dystonic homosexuality.


Frederick Lemere reports on the success of aversion therapy for alcoholism using emetic and electroshock treatments.


Paul Mortensen states that the Los Angeles chapter of Affirmation was founded in January of 1978 and became the leading chapter of Affirmation.

Aug 27, 1987 - Aug 30, 1987

Statement from American Psychological Association that ego-dystonic homosexuality should not be considered a dysfunction.


Don Harryman gives his account of participating in the McBride gay aversion study.


Kurt Freund writes about the early development of the plethysmograph.


Joseph Nicolosi popularizes the term "reparative therapy" as a new approach to mitigate unwanted homosexuality.


Church pamphlet states that "marriage should not be viewed as a way to resolve homosexual problems".


Connell O'Donovan refers to notes from an interview he had with the chair of University Standards at BYU about the "set process" for "homosexual students referred to Standards."

May 22, 1994

Philadelphia Inquirer reports that "ex-gay" picketers protested the 1994 APA conference.

Nov 1, 1994

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association publishes survey of 285 therapists reporting on 1,215 homosexual patients and report a 23% change to heterosexuality.


Various accounts of aversion therapy associated with BYU featured in the documentary Legacies.


American Psychological Association adopts resolution about "Appropriate Therapeutic Responses Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation."


NARTH founded by Socarides, Kaufman and Nicolosi in 1992.


Benjamin Kaufman describes the founding of NARTH.

Nov 21, 1999

Jeff Call in Deseret News article reports 5% of BYU faculty are not LDS.

Dec 21, 1999

NARTH states their goal "to make effective psychological therapy available to all homosexual men and women who seek change."


American Medical Association resolution 506 Policy Statement opposes Sexual Orientation Reparative (Conversion) Therapy.

Mar 2000

American Psychiatric Association official revision of the 1998 statement on "reparative or conversion therapies," stating that "ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals' sexual orientation."

May 2000

American Psychiatric Association 2000 statement condemning "reparitive" therapy, stating it is questionable science and rejecting past research.

May 2000

American Psychiatric Association 1998 statement condemning "reparitive" therapy if it is based on premise that homosexuality is a mental illness.

May 12, 2000

Newspaper account of a person who underwent conversion therapy at BYU in 1995 claiming he paid $9,000 and received scars on his hands, torso and genitals.

Jun 2000

University of Utah study indicates that 65% of homosexuals surveyed experienced a shift towards heterosexuality after participating in change efforts.

Jun 2000

American Psychiatric Association states that efforts to change sexual orientation are "harmful and potentially deadly."

Jun 1, 2001

D. Michael Quinn's states that he unaware of any evidence that Joseph Smith taught marriage sealing for same-sex couples.

Jul 6, 2001

Steven Mirin of the American Psychiatric Association responds to the Spitzer study and affirms that "there is no published scientific evidence supporting for the efficacy of reparitive therapy."

Aug 2001

University of Utah dissertation on 42 gay Latter-day Saints that have unsuccessfully participated in reorientation therapy.

Jan 2002

Guidelines for how much damage different levels of shock can provide.

Mar 2002

Ariel Shidlo reports that only 4% of 202 subjects were successful in shifting exclusive homosexuality to heterosexuality.


Rudorfer et al overview of history and practice of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Oct 2003

Archives of Sexual Behavior publish responses from peers of Robert L. Spitzer to his 2003 study on subjects that report a change in their sexual orientation.

Oct 2003

Robert L. Spitzer publishes a response to criticisms of his 2003 report on people that reported that their sexual orientation had changed.

Oct 2003

Robert L. Spitzer interviews 200 individuals who reported a change in sexual orientation and states that there is evidence that some forms of reparative therapy are effective.


Evergreen International, an unofficial Latter-day Saint gay ministry group, is founded in 1989.


Behavioral Technology Inc. brochure for the Monarch 21 plethysmograph system.


Exodus International Global Alliance history timeline shows formation in 1995.

Apr 2005

Robert L. Spitzer states that the subjects of his 2001 study were candid and consistent and were "talking about something real".


Dallin H. Oaks states that the there have been abusive practices related to aversion therapy.


North Star is founded to "provide a place of community for Latter-day Saints who experience homosexual attraction."

Apr 17, 2007

Carrie Jenkins, BYU spokeswoman, explains the Honor Code revision on "homosexual orientation" was not an Honor Code change, but a clarifying revision.

Apr 18, 2007

Deseret Morning News reports on the revision to the text of the Honor Code with respect to gay students.

May 27, 2007

Connell O'Donovan states that two participants of the BYU/McBride gay aversion therapy research, "committed suicide during the experiment."

Dec 3, 2007

QSaltLake interviews John Cameron about his gay aversion therapy play entitled "14".


Douglas Kimmel recounts the formation of the Association of Gay Psychologists in 1973.


American Psychological Association 2009 statement on sexual orientation change efforts.

Sep 14, 2009

QSaltLake Magazine states that two participants of the BYU/McBride gay aversion therapy research, "committed suicide during the experiment."


Bruce Barton recalls being stripped naked, forced to take emetics, place electrodes on his genitals and watch pornography by BYU faculty.


Brief history of the founding of the Association of Lesbian and Gay Psychologists (ALGP).


JONAH International (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) is founded in 1998 and offers resources for "unwanted same-sex attractions" and other "sexual conflicts."

Mar 11, 2011

Mercury News reports on BYU aversion therapy and includes various interviews.

Mar 16, 2011

Mercury News reports on John Cameron account of electroshock treatment at BYU.

Mar 28, 2011

ABC news reporter states that BYU aversion therapy study involved electroshocks to the penis.

Jan 4, 2012

Blake Smith is interviewed by Steven Densely about going through conversion therapy at BYU in 1973.

Jan 25, 2012

The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (ATCSI) publishes their statement on sexual orientation change, which advocates for protection of patients rights to choose therapy.

Feb 2012

Researchers at Cornell University analyze a 6 year cohort of 12,287 young adults and find significant shifts in self identification of their sexual orientation.

May 2012

Robert L. Spitzer states that his 2001 study on sexual orientation change is invalid because he does not know if the subject were deceiving themselves or lying to him.

May 18, 2012

New York Times reports that Robert L. Spitzer renounces his 2001 study on the efficacy of gay reparitive therapy.

May 27, 2012

Standard Examiner reports on Evergreen International and Robert Spitzer renouncing his 2001 study on the efficacy of gay reparative therapy.

Jun 13, 2013

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International makes a public apology to the LGBT community.

Jun 19, 2013

Exodus International reports on the apology to the LGBT community at their 38th annual conference.

Jun 19, 2013

Exodus International announced that they will cease operations.


Randy Shilts states that Leonard Matlovich was baptized as a Latter-day Saint in the summer of 1968 in Vietnam.

Jan 3, 2014

KUER reports that Evergreen International merges with North Star and shuts down independent operations.

Jan 14, 2014

Salt Lake Tribune reports that Evergreen International is merging with North Star and ceasing operations.

Feb 11, 2014

Trudy Ring writes for the about changes in science indicating that sexual orientation changes ("sexual fluidity").

Feb 13, 2015

New York Times reports that State Superior Court in New Jersey ruled that JONAH committed consumer fraud by offering reparative therapy to gay clients.

Dec 18, 2015

CBS/AP report that JONAH is ordered to pay restitution and cease operations and are barred from "treatment or activity that has the goal of changing. . .sexual orientation."

Feb 29, 2016

David A. Bednar states that "there are no homosexual members of the Church."

Nov 4, 2016

University of Utah researcher Lisa M. Diamond states that 25-75% of sexual minorities report experiencing a change in sexual orientation at some point in their lives.

Nov 16, 2016

American Institute of Bisexuality publishes article in stating that "born this way" is losing popularity amongst "queer folks" and that "sexuality is fluid."

Nov 27, 2017

Scientific American refers to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when discussing Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT).


The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (ATCSI) states their mission includes "preserving the right of individuals" to have choice in therapy related to sexual orientation change efforts.

Feb 1, 2018

Interview of BYU professor who was involved in conversion therapy.

Nov 2018

American Psychiatric Association official position statement "encourages legislation which would prohibit" on "Conversion Therapy."

Feb 14, 2019

Paper investigates non-biological aspects of sexual orientation development.

Mar 2019

Family Research Council publishes report that argues that the science of sexual fluidity is evidence that sexual orientation may change through therapy.

Apr 19, 2019

First hand account of transgender temple sealing and evolution of Church position on transgenderism.

Jun 2019

Official Church statement on same-sex attraction.

Oct 7, 2019

Exmormon subreddit user posts screenshot of John Cameron refuting the claim that electrodes were used on the penis.

Oct 25, 2019

The official Church statement (October 2019) on conversion therapy.

Feb 1, 2020

Q Salt Lake Magazine reports on different conversion therapy accounts.

Feb 23, 2020

John R. Blosnich publishes research which correlates sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) with suicidality based on the Generations survey.


Oaks served as BYU president from 1971 to 1980.


The International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC) states their mission is to promote rights and freedoms of self determination for therapy.


Church Handbook lists sins for which disciplinary councils are required and possible.


General Handbook denoting official Church policy on transgender individuals, stipulating that there may be membership restrictions.

Feb 2021

American Psychological Association compares the ethics of sexual orientation change efforts to assisting an anorexic with weight loss.

Feb 2021

American Psychological Association condemns and discredits SOCE (sexual orientation change efforts.)

Feb 2021

American Psychological Association recognizes sexual orientation change does occur, but thinks it does not justify conversion therapy as a practice.

Jul 2021

BYU web page listing the presidency of the Church is over the BYU Board of Trustees.

Jul 2021

BYU web page indicating that the First Presidency oversees the Board of Trustees.

Oct 2021

American Medical Association first opposed reparative therapy in 2000.

Nov 2021

APA releases statement on electroconvulsion therapy (ECT).

Nov 16, 2021

Stack reports that Oaks says electric shock treatment didn't happen at BYU while he was president, but records showed it did.


American Medical Association issues a report stating that gay "conversion therapy" is not based on science or medical evidence.


The International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC) publishes "An International Declaration on "Conversion Therapy" and Therapeutic Choice."

Mar 31, 2022

Harvard University Medical School researcher Sabra L. Katz-Wise writes about sexual fluidity and states the sexual orientation can change.

Jun 13, 2022

Bishopric Handbook guidlines state that same-sex attraction is not a sin.

Aug 2022

D. Paul Sullins publishes research which refutes the claim from Blosnich(2020) that sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) correlate with suicidality.