Evergreen International is a Salt Lake City-based ex-gay organization that caters to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. The group promises clients and their loved ones, “If you want to diminish your same-gender attractions and overcome homosexual behavior, there is a way out.”
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Evergreen boasts that its “computer database is the world’ largest listing of resources that can help in the area of same-sex attraction.” The group believes that “Homosexual behavior is out of harmony with God’s intentions for men and women and individuals are responsible for their actions.” By its own admission, it is a plays a key role in how the LDS deals with its gay members.
Although not formally associated with the LDS church, this organization receives referrals from it. Evergreen also says it sustains “the doctrines and standards of the Church without reservation or exception.” The group says it works to “build relationships with Area Presidencies and other Church leaders. Upon request, we provide training to hundreds of stake and ward leaders each year.”
Evergreen is faith-based and takes pains to point out that it is “not a clinical therapy program” with licensed counselors. Still, Evergreen subscribes to the teachings of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). They base much of their work on NARTH’ theory that homosexuality is the result of dysfunctional families. Evergreen believes that males who “felt different” growing up because of a distant father, end up rejecting members of the same sex and their masculinity.
“You knew your attractions were not right because of the “fag, jokes you heard, so you learned to keep the feelings to yourself, creating further problems of isolation and secrecy, which are powerful forces that keep homosexual problems from being resolved,” Evergreen writes on its website.
The organization instructs clients to read “Coming Out Straight” by discredited therapist Richard Cohen. Its reading list also includes “Homosexual No More” by Bill Consiglio, which instructs readers to wear a rubber band on their wrists and snap them when they find a person of the same sex attractive.
Although Evergreen promises “overcoming homosexual behavior” the group says the process will be difficult and incomplete.
“People don’t radically change over night. Everyone can progress, but progress comes through gradual shifts, although there may be some spurts of improvement. The overall process is long-term…You will be disappointed if total change is your only acceptable option.”
Such disappointing results can sometimes be tragic. While he might not have been a member of Evergreen, Stuart Matis, a Mormon from San Francisco, took his life because he was unable to change. Matis wrote the following suicide note:
“The church has no idea that as I type this letter, there are surely boys and girls on their callused hands and knees imploring God to free them of their pain. They hate themselves. They retire to bed with their fingers pointed to their heads in the form of a gun. I am now free. I am no longer in pain and I no longer hate myself. As it turns out, God never intended me to be straight. Hopefully, my death might be a catalyst for some good.”
For GLBT Mormons who want to reconcile their faith and sexual orientation, please contact Affirmation. (www.affirmation.org)