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Electroshock therapy at BYU

Many Latter-day Saints may be shocked to learn that Brigham Young University (owned and operated by the LDS Churched) engaged in electroshock therapy in an attempt order to 'cure' young men and young women of homosexuality. Young men were jolted with painful electric shocks to the penis when shown pornographic images of men.












ABC New Article (2011) - Mormon 'Gay Cure' Study Used Electric Shocks Against Homosexual Feelings

John Cameron said he was a naive and devout Mormon who felt "out of sync" with the world, when he volunteered to be part of a study of "electric aversion therapy" in 1976 at Utah's Brigham Young University.

Twice a week for six months, he jolted himself with painful shocks to the penis to rid himself of his attraction to men.

"I kept trying to fight it, praying and fasting and abstaining and being the best person I could," said Cameron, now a 59-year-old playwright and head of the acting program at the University of Iowa.

"I was never actively gay, never had any encounters with men -- never had moments when I failed and actually had sex with other men," he said.

But his undercurrent of feelings put him in direct conflict with the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) and its principles.

"As teens we were taught that homosexuality was second only to murder in the eyes of God," he said.

"I was very, very religious and the Mormon church was the center of my life," said Cameron, who had done missionary work in Guatemala and El Salvador.

The 1976 study at Brigham Young, "Effect of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy," was written by Max Ford McBride, then a graduate student in the psychology department.

"I thought he was my savior," said Cameron, who enrolled with 13 other willing subjects, all Mormons who thought they might be gay, for a three- to six-month course of therapy.

A mercury-filled tube was placed around the base of his penis to measure the level of stimulation he experienced when viewing nude images of men and women.

Shocks, given in three 10-second intervals, were then administered in conjunction with certain images. Participants set their own pain levels.

Cameron said his shame was so deep that he selected the highest level.

"Max didn't do it, we did it," he said. "I was always turning it up to get the most pain because I was desperate."

Homosexuals were seen as a "prurient, expendable population," according to Cameron. "To admit homosexuality in 1976 was the kiss of death. You could be targeted, lose your job, lose your income, lose everything."

And those weren't the only attempted cures that were used in that era. Others allege they were given chemical compounds, which were administered through an IV and caused subjects to vomit when they were stimulated.

Psychologists confirm those harsh experiments were used in a variety of medical settings by scientists of all faiths.

Church officials say they no longer support aversion therapy, but a generation who grew up in the 1970s say they have been scarred for life because of well-intentioned attempts to change their sexual orientation.

Today, the church still steadfastly opposes homosexuality, as witnessed by the millions of dollars in support it gave to pass California's Proposition 8, which would amend the state's constitution to outlaw gay marriage.

Carri P. Jenkins, assistant to the president of BYU, confirmed that McBride did study the effects of aversion therapy in the 1970s. She said the experiment was an "outgrowth of the behaviorist movement, which believed that any behavior could be modified.

"Our understanding is that most behaviorists no longer believe this is an appropriate treatment for those who are seeking change," she said.

Jenkins said other universities at the time used similar techniques, and none of this type has taken place at BYU since then.

"The BYU Counseling Center never practiced therapy that would involve chemical or induced vomiting," she said.

Today, therapies are all "mainline therapeutic approaches," according to Jenkins, and all faculty are expected to be licensed and programs accredited.

The university, which is owned by the Mormon Church, said its policy on homosexuality is in line with Mormon doctrine -- today's students are not disciplined unless they engage in sexual activity, and that includes heterosexual sex before marriage.

"BYU will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction, and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards," said Jenkins. "Members of the university community can remain in good standing if they conduct their lives in a manner consistent with Gospel principles."

Read full article


Mormon History of Homosexuality

From "The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature":  A Revised History of Homosexuality & Mormonism, 1840-1980 by Connell O'Donovan
© 1994, 2004 Website link

From Link is here. You'll note that the footnote numbers are 166 & 167; that's a handy way to find the citation below: scroll, scroll, scroll

"The long term effects of the electric shock "therapy" these men were subjected to has been crippling. Two of the men committed suicide soon after completing this torturous study. Every survivor I have interviewed has suffered life-long emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical damage. In 1999, John Cameron, one of the 14 men who went through this horrific experience in 1976 when he was a 23 year old BYU student and member of the Young Ambassadors, wrote to me, "For 22 years now I have lived with the scars of the experience - unable to articulate a personal suffering and longing that have almost crippled me....I didn't completely come out of the closet until I was 34, and only after much angry, pissed-off therapy. I spent a lot of money just so I could yell at my psychologist and break things in his office for an hour every week for two years. But it was a hell of a lot more fun than Ford McBride and the electrodes." [166]

"A Gay psychology intern at BYU named Ray actually assisted in giving electric shock therapy to fellow Gay men in the late 1970s. In an interview he did for Sean Weakland's documentary on aversive therapies at BYU called Legacies, Ray gave the following report on his activities and their results (which I quote here extensively because Ray has so much "insider" knowledge):

"A lot of times BYU security would catch people in compromising positions on campus. Those people would have the choice to either be kicked out of school and have their families notified about what they had done or they could go through this therapy. We had quite a few people who were going through it. There were others in the therapy who felt so much guilt for being the way they were or they had been promised that if they underwent the therapy they would be able to marry and have children and they would be turned. Of course they had to have the desire to change, and if the therapy failed (which it always did), it was their fault for the failure since they didn't have enough desire.

"Anyway, they would come in usually three times a week. I would be behind a glass one-way mirror, and they would be on the other side of it. They had their choice to look at pornographic magazines or watch porno videos. We would tape electrodes to their groin, thigh, chest and armpits. We had another machine that would monitor their breathing and heart rate. If there was a difference in their heart rate when looking at homosexual pornography, we would turn a dial which would send a current to shock them. If they were a new patient, we would use a very low current. From the reaction that I saw there were muscle spasms which looked very painful.

"After that was over, we would switch the pornography over so that it was a man and a woman having sex, and we would play very soothing music in the background to try and get the mind to relate to that. For the people that had been doing the therapy longer we turned the voltage way up so that you could see burn marks on the skin and quite often they would also throw up during the therapy. This is speculation, but most of the students at BYU probably hadn't even seen pornography before.

"After undergoing that kind of pain over a number of months, everyone said that they had completely changed. They kept records for as long as the people were at BYU. After they had graduated, there was no records kept to see what kind of success rate they had. The BYU statistics were wrong because the people were lying. They were desperate to get their degree and get out of the situation. They had been blackmailed into the situation in the first place.

"We did have some people who became completely asexual after undergoing the therapy. But no, we never changed anyone from gay to straight....We had several people who committed suicide during the therapy. We had three different people who hung themselves in the Harris Fine Arts Center on BYU campus." [167]



Many defenders of the practice said that these young people volunteered to be in the study trying to shift the responsibility to the students and away from BYU and the LDS Church. A person involved in the treatment responded thusly:


'volunteers' who came forward & Asked for 'treatment'?

Seriously you must be delusional. I did not volunteer for this. I was TOLD I must do it or all my confessions to church leaders would be shared with my family, local ward and stake members and I would be excommunicated. Not that it matters to me now, but as a young person, you are ingrained with the notion that you do whatever a church leader or authority says, without question. Being in a small town in Utah, that could absolutely destroy a persons chance for work or being able to live in the community. I ended up going 1500 miles away just to get away from this after it happened. After 36 years, I have moved back to Utah but the nightmares and flashbacks are coming back more vividly than I expected.

If you were in the same position during that time period I am absolutely sure, you would not say that you volunteered for any of this.

Also, realize that the "treatments" were not voluntary. Students were given two choices; Either get kicked out of BYU and have your parents informed all about your gayness, or, go through "the treatment." That's coercion and torture.


BYU Thesis

Here is the thesis written in 1976 about the program at BYU -

Link is here.



A video on the Evergreen program at BYU. Gays in the mormon church abused in the name of their god. An example of Christian Brutality. This video was part of a masters thesis project at a University in the Northwest.

Part One Link is here.
Part Two Link is here.
Part Three Link is here.


Editor Comments

This is another example of how the Church does not appear to be lead by prophets and apostles with any real insight from God. During this time and for many years afterward, the Brethren spoke many times of how homosexuality is a sin and a choice. Bishops often encouraged men that confessed their homosexual feelings to get married to 'solve their problem' - usually ending in divorce and broken homes.

Modern thinking and science has shown that homosexuality is not a choice but rather people are simply born that way and it's not something to be ashamed of. The rest of the world has been shifting their attitudes towards accepting homosexuality despite the LDS Church's continued stance against it.

Even the LDS Church leaders no longer necessarily teach that homosexuality is a choice but still regard homosexual behavior as a sin and something to be overcome - even if it means a person must be celibate their entire life.

Electroshock therapy has of course been shown to be useless in changing people's sexual orientation and on the contrary has been shown to be very harmful. Attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity are opposed by virtually every leading medical association and are illegal in four states.

In 2015, a Conversion Therapy Event at BYU-Idaho was scheduled to be held and flyers were passed out at local ward buildings during sacrament meeting. Once the event hit the Internet, it of course received a lot of negative publicity and the event was cancelled.

If Church leaders are really getting continuing revelation and guidance from God, they would not have allowed the electroshock therapy practices at BYU.





References and additional resources:

Tom Clark on Link is here.

Link is here.

Link is here.

Link is here.

legacies, a documentary by sean weakland

Dr. Card's patented device: Link is here.

Conversion Therapy Event at BYU-I Axed

THE VALUES INSTITUTE - Monson's involvement



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