Monday, August 13, 2012

The Evergreen Program

In light of the recent mess with Chick-fil-A's attempt to find a site in Boston despite their recently stated position against homosexuality, I thought I'd come back to a topic I've been meaning to address for several months.

Anybody ever heard of the Evergreen Program?  I never had, until after leaving the church.  Apparently, it's a program that the church has set up to help those with same-sex attraction...stop being gay.
This is assuredly not as close to my heart as it is to some other ex-mo bloggers out there (Dad's Primal Scream and We Were Going to Be Queens are some notable examples) because I'm not gay.  I've never struggled with same-sex attraction.  The closest I've ever come to being gay is seeing an actor on TV and thinking, "man, I wish I looked like him...I bet he can pick up a woman with a wink and a smile."

However, I was raised in the LDS church, and as a result I grew up pretty homophobic.  And even though I don't really get why a guy would want to have sex with another guy, seeing the kind of closed-mindedness that I grew up with still at large in society makes me kind of angry.  I mean, when I cut my fingernails, I tend to chew on the clippings for a while.  Many people would find that disgusting. But is it anyone's right to tell me I'm wrong to do it, especially when it's done in the privacy of my own home and hurts no one?  When I go to work, would it be right for people to label me as a fingernail-clipping-chewer first and a good worker second?  If I went to church, would it be right for someone to tell me that I need to stop chewing my fingernail clippings in order to be considered a member "in good standing?"

So now on to the Evergreen Program.  I imagine that, if I had been a gay Mormon, this would have been one of the most insulting things I'd ever encountered.  For this guy, it certainly seems that way:
Spending a few minutes poking around on Evergreen's websites uncovers some interesting stuff.  The program offers "a way out" to those "suffering" from same-sex attraction, but only claims to be able to help "diminish" this attraction.  This, of course, is because being gay is simply "one of life's many challenges."  Interestingly, the website advises that "fasting, prayer, and commitments to ecclesiastical leaders are not enough to overcome same-sex attraction."  That seems odd, because fasting, prayer, and regular church attendance seem to be the approved solution to most other of life's challenges.

"We all wish there could be a quick fix for homosexuality," the website states with condescending sympathy.  Instead of a quick fix, Evergreen has broken the solution down into three "levels of growth."  These levels, though explained in very detailed, carefully uninformative jargon, boil down to:

1.  Understand the Problem
2.  Make Changes
3.  Attend Therapy

Truly an inspired program.  The first level seems to mostly involve attending conferences and workshops (some of which cost over $100) and talking to other people who have dealt with the same..."challenges."  Level two involves looking at your own behaviors and feelings and working to change them (including attending seminars).  Level three is going to therapy with a psychiatrist who apparently specializes in changing people's sexual orientations--a profession that really shouldn't exist.

So, the bottom line is, if you want to stop being a horrible homosexual need to pay through the nose to attend workshops and seminars and then pay even more to have a professional psychiatrist guide you through the lengthy, (expensive), continual process of "diminishing" your same-sex attraction.

If the church really cared about these people, they'd provide these services for free instead of building a multi-billion dollar shopping mall.

It seems to me that people must be driven to this program by desperation (you know, fears concerning the eternal fates of their souls) than anything else.  I can't really find much on the website that can explain how the program claims to be able to assist these people.  It's packed with a lot of professional-sounding, important-sounding mumbo-jumbo that actually means very little.  If I were gay, and I were examining the website to figure out my options for overcoming my "challenge," I'd be pounding the desk with both fists and screaming, "BUT HOWWWWWW?!"  I feel pretty bad for the people in these programs.  I imagine they figure they don't have another choice and maybe they haven't yet considered leaving the church that's teaching them to despise the things about themselves that they can't control.

I'd be willing to bet that the Evergreen Program and its sister organizations do way more harm than good.  And that doesn't seem right to me.


  1. Thank you for posting the video! I have never been a member i church, but y lover (DL) has been for nearly four decades. Due to familial reasons he's still on the church roles. I identify as lesbian even though on the Kinsey scale I'm closer to the center, but it has taken him 6 years of friendship with me and 20 years of his sister being gay to finally come to the conclusion that the church was wrong during Prop 8. Sad that it took so long!

    I do have a couple question though (and I'm going to pose them to a number of others on MSP and Outer Blogness): 1) Before your exit from the church, was it your understanding that homosexuals could make it to the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom? 2) Did you think gays would be cured from their homosexuality after death? 3) Did you think gays would be able to marry in the next life if they weren't married in this life?

    Thank you for your posts! You articulate your thoughts in an easy-to-read concise fashion. I am a lurker and have been for a while.

    ~ SoACTing

    1. Wow, thank you so much for that comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the video. Of all the "I Am An Ex-Mormon" videos I've seen, that one definitely hit me the hardest. To answer your questions:

      1) My understanding was that homosexuals could make it to the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom, but they'd have to confess and forsake their sin of...homosexuality...and enter into a heterosexual eternal marriage.

      2) Since I considered homosexuality to be a sin, I assumed that the temptation to engage in homosexual behavior would be lifted after death, just like the temptations to lie, steal and cheat.

      3) Honestly, I never really thought about it.

      I hope that helps. Although I must say I'm curious as to why you chose those three questions to ask people.

  2. That was a heart-breaking video - it really drives home just how harmful Mormonism is to gays.

    1. Oh yeah. Very emotional. And you gotta respect how that guy came through all that mess with such a good attitude.

  3. (I'm Anonymous from above)

    Thank you for the response. Sorry I took a bit long to respond, I didn't realize it has me as anonymous.

    Kind of a long story about why I asked those questions. Hopefully I can explain it adequately: Originally, DL and I were talking about temple marriage. My position is that in the US the church should remove the one year penalty for an LDS couple who choose to get a civil marriage first. I personally think its a policy, not a doctrine, and the church almost uses it like a weapon (if you need me to explain further I can).

    DL's position is that its not manipulative and there's little, if any, harm for having to wait that year because even if a couple dies before the one year is up, the fact the couple was married civilly allows for the temple work to be done on their behalf. Hence, no harm no foul.

    So operating on a couple assumptions: 1) That marriage is paramount for one to progress to the highest level in the Celestial Kingdom, 2) That the church no longer explicitly teaches gays to get a heterosexual marriage, and instead preaches celibacy. Based on DL's aforementioned argument that one has to get married at minimum -civilly- in order for any temple sealing to be performed, this would mean that a gay person could never make it to the highest level in the Celestial Kingdom since they're barred from getting married in this life, therefore not allowing a temple sealing to be performed because there's no one to seal them too.

    However, I disagreed with him because, to my understanding, the church currently teaches that a gay person (assuming one follows all the church's god-given commandments) CAN get married and have kids in the afterlife. This, of course, would mean that a civil marriage is actually not required for a temple sealing to take place.

    He's in his early 40's now and rebutted saying that he grew up with the teaching that a temple sealing by proxy can only be performed if the people being sealed were already married in this life. And that, even if my opinion is true and marriage in this life isn't necessary to being sealed in the next, then its NOT well-known among the members now. I vehemently disagreed, which lead to the questions.

    The reason I posed the questions on your blog first was because I was going through the Sunday In Outer Blogness posts, and your post just so happened to be on the gay issues in the church.

    Ultimately, my goal is to figure out 1) If current members/non-members interpretation is similar to mine, or if I just missed the boat completely, 2) How pervasive the teaching actually is, 3) If the current generation of Mormons understand the teaching differently then when DL was growing up. It already appears as if the church is trying to rewrite its history on homosexualty issues, and I'm curious to know if this is one of many teachings that just so happens to be another doctrinal shift in the church's bucket, and 4) Sheer curiosity! DL and I have many, many discussions on all things Mormon (and religion in general) while he's working his way out of the church.

    I guess I should add, its possible that I could be wrong on some of my assumptions and opinions; they're just based on my current understanding. Hope it all makes sense. If not, I can elaborate further. Hopefully there's not too many grammar/spelling mistakes since I'm using my cell phone for this.

    ~ SoACTing

    1. Wow, that's...pretty complicated. And very impressive that you were able to type it all out on your phone!

      I'd kind of forgotten about the discussions about people who die without ever getting married because they're so rare. The church culture is so GETMARRIEDGETMARRIED that nobody really talks about what happens if you don't. But I think that, on the occasion that it came up, I was taught that marriage is possible in the afterlife. So I guess if you'd asked me those questions while I was in the church, I'd have said that a celibate gay man would, indeed, be able to marry and have children after he dies.

      It's an interesting subject, but I think there hasn't been much "official" doctrine about it from the church's top leadership, so I doubt that there's any kind of uniformity among the membership's beliefs about it. It's difficult to say whether different generations have been taught differently because most Mormons don't really talk about it.

      You've made me pretty curious. I hope you're planning to post what you've discovered from asking around on your blog or something, because I'd be interested to see what you've learned.