News Release

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Statement on Conversion Therapy and Bill C-8

The Parliament of Canada is considering amendments to the Criminal Code that would make practices designed to change sexual orientation and gender identity a criminal offense. Many municipalities have already enacted similar legislation or are considering doing so. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports the goal of such legislation to protect LGBTQ persons from abusive practices, but it opposes the proposed amendments as drafted because they could be used to limit or deny important religious freedoms, including the teaching of Church doctrine, the right of parents to counsel their own children on fundamental doctrine and appropriate behaviours and the ability of faith-based counsellors to help youth refrain from sexual relations outside marriage and other unsafe or destructive sexual practices.

Background. In the 1950s and 1960s, most of the psychiatric profession in North America believed that homosexuality could be changed through so-called “conversion therapy.” Such therapies did not work and were often abusive. Today, the overwhelming majority of mental health professionals oppose conversion therapy. Research demonstrates that electric shock, aversion and other analogous conversion therapies are ineffective and harmful to youth who experience same-sex attraction.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also opposes any therapy, including conversion and reparative therapies, that subjects an individual to abusive practices. Church Family Services has a long-standing and express policy against providing therapies that seek to “repair,” “convert,” or “change” sexual orientation. Youth and adults who seek therapies to change their sexual orientation will not receive them from Church Family Services or Church leaders. The Church hopes that those who experience same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria find love, compassion and understanding from family members, Church leaders and members, and professional counsellors. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we condemn any mistreatment or unkindness toward LGBTQ persons in any form.

Church doctrine. While the Church does not practice conversion therapy, it does invite all people to embrace Heavenly Father’s plan, exercise faith in Jesus Christ and keep the commandments of God. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” teaches that each of us “is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents” with “a divine nature and destiny,” and that “[g]ender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” The proclamation affirms that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” and that husbands and wives must “honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” “The sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between a man and a woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” These fundamental moral standards apply regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Church urges all people to keep the commandments of God and to make use of the blessing of repentance, available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, when they fall short.

The Church also teaches the rights of individuals to agency and self-determination. “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may” (“The Articles of Faith,” verse 11).

We also believe that parents have the right and responsibility to guide the development of their children. We further believe faith-based perspectives have an important and ethically appropriate role in professional counselling.

Bill C-8 goes too far. The Canadian government has put forward a bill — “Bill C-8” — that would amend the Criminal Code to criminalize abusive conversion therapy practices. The Church supports that goal. However, the Church shares the deep concerns of many other faith communities and others that Bill C-8 goes too far, unfairly criminalizing many things that are not conversion therapy. The bill’s definition of conversion therapy covers not only same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria but also “sexual behaviour.” The threat of up to five years in prison could limit the ability of parents and Church leaders to teach Church doctrine and encourage all youth to live God’s law of chastity. Under the bill, responsible therapists may not be able to discourage gay youth from engaging in dangerous or destructive sexual behaviours.

Fortunately, these potential effects appear to be unintentional. The Department of Justice has stated that it does not intend to criminalize personal conversations in which views about sexual orientation, sexual feelings or gender identity are expressed to youth by faith leaders, mental health professionals, friends or family members. (See https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/pl/ct-tc/index.html.) Those statements are positive, but unfortunately, Bill C-8 does not actually say that. Serious questions remain about whether the right to teach basic Church doctrine in places of worship, counsel with Church leaders about gospel standards and even hold personal conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity are truly protected. Along with others, the Church supports amendments to address these concerns and is seeking to have them implemented.

The Church and its members have a fundamental right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to express their beliefs in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and its doctrines and to encourage all to live gospel standards. The important pursuit of appropriate protections for LGBTQ persons must be balanced with these basic freedoms. The Church will continue to seek — in thoughtful, appropriate and inspired ways — the correct balance.

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