Mormon 'Gay Cure' Study Used Electric Shocks Against Homosexual Feelings


Though therapy lifted his depression, he said he was set on a disastrous path: He was to move to Utah, within six months find a girl and then six months later, be engaged. Conner enrolled at BYU and made it to the engagement, but then broke it off. called LDS Services for comment on Conner's allegations, but no one returned the phone call.

When Conner finally left the church, he said he was alienated from friends and family.

"I had devoted so much time to this culture," he said. "I didn't know any non-Mormon people. To lose so much was pretty rough."

Since then, he has come out and works for Soul Force, an LGBT group that fights religious and political homophobia.

"I feel lucky my experience wasn't so severe," he said of the therapy. "They still do a lot of in-your-face exorcisms and hold people down and spit on them. They teach you how to be a man and hold you down and pass the demons out of you."

David Pruden, who is president of Evergreen International, which provides referral services for Mormons struggling with same-sex attraction, said that he had heard about severe techniques used by fringe groups.

"Every once in awhile we hear about them," he said, "But we don't refer to anybody like that. ... Things like that scare me and it's about people who don't have much training doing amateur stuff.

"All those things are based in self-loathing and self-punishing and are counterproductive," Pruden said. "Our main goal help person come to sense of peace."

Church doctrine is "rigid" and "clear," he said, but extends "love" and support to those who need help. Evergreen recommends counseling services that use a variety of talk therapies.

"People who are motivated and have faith seem to deal with [same-sex feelings] in varying degrees of success," Pruden said. "The bottom line is, if you are at peace with yourself and God, that will help you to get where you want to go."

Pruden, who is a Mormon bishop in his ward, said ex-communication is a last resort after probation and several other steps of reintegration into the church have failed. It is equally applied to sins of heterosexuality as homosexuality, and it is the behavior that is judged, not the thoughts, he said.

"The problem comes at the point when your life becomes so incongruent with the obvious values of the church and it becomes difficult for the church," he said.

"It's a very painful process of losing your membership," Pruden said. "There is a heritage of love attachment that happens to Latter-Day Saints. ... There is a lot of hurt and I feel for those people."

As for Cameron and others who survived the therapies of the 1970s, depression and guilt followed.

Cameron said he bought razor blades and contemplated suicide, but never had the courage to kill himself. He eventually left the church.

"It was a Catch-22," said Cameron. "If you prayed hard enough and wanted it hard enough, God would answer your prayers. But when nothing happened, it was our fault. We didn't want it bad enough or didn't pray enough. You didn't win."

But he doesn't blame the church, one that he says is "quintessentially American."

"The Mormon Church gave me a great deal," he said. "They gave me the high standards that I still live by. They gave me an attitude that I can accomplish anything within my ability if I work at it."

After coming out in graduate school and later embarking on play writing, Cameron said he still missed the sense of community and rituals.

"Even after leaving the church, most ex-Mormons will tell you, you carry this life-long connection to it -- every time you hear the hymns."

But today, just as his protagonist in "14," Cameron said his demons have finally been purged.

"The hymns stopped playing in my head," he said. "I finally let go of it all."

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