A newly leaked Mormon church document from 1981 warns church leaders that masturbation can turn a person gay.
The document also reveals that Mormon missionaries were banned from sharing beds and dressing and bathing in front of each other to discourage homosexual behavior.
The handbook was leaked this week by MormonLeaks, a Las Vegas-based transparency group. The document, called “Homosexuality,” was created to guide church leaders working with homosexual church members.
“As we have previously stated, homosexuality is a sin in the same degree as adultery and fornication,” the guidebook states. “Powerful forces are seeking to establish this sinful practice as an acceptable way of life.”
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The leaked document, writes Newsweek, offers a look at what many young Mormons have learned about sexual development and homosexuality.
“The church has never come out and said, ‘Throw away this manual; it is no longer relevant,’” MormonLeaks founder Ryan McKnight, a former Mormon, told Newsweek.
“That being said, if you were to track the rhetoric coming from the top leadership you will see somewhat of a shift in their views on the subject.”
Though homosexuality is still a divisive topic for many Mormons, observers consider the church’s stance to be somewhat more tolerant than in 1981. The church continues to maintain that sex should be reserved for a man and a woman.
“Sexual purity is an essential part of God’s plan for our happiness,” the church’s website says on a page titled “Same-Sex Attraction.”
“Sexual relations are reserved for a man and woman who are married and promise complete loyalty to each other.”
Media outlets that reached out to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for comment on the leaked document received no response.
“The church still has a very, very long way to go to be LGBT affirming, but even the harshest critic must acknowledge the progress of the past decade,” John Dehlin, a Mormon personal counselor and social activist, told Newsweek.
“The Mormon church has significantly softened its position on the origins of same-sexuality, and no longer overtly encourages reparative or conversion therapy.”
Mormon and Gay, a church-owned website launched last year, was noted for signaling a monumental shift in the the church’s thinking about homosexuality and for being the first time the church acknowledged that people don’t choose to be gay.
The website, featuring video messages and essays from gay church members, was designed to facilitate empathetic understanding and provide information on sexual identification and church doctrine, CNN reported last year.
But many church members, McKnight told Newsweek, still believe some of the concepts and ideas revealed in the 1981 document. It teaches, for instance, that a “disturbed family background” can lead to homosexuality.
“A key factor in the development of both male and female homosexuality seems to be the lack of a warm, supportive, affectionate relationship between the individual and his father,” it says. “Many times the father is either physically or emotionally uninvolved in his child’s life or is punishing and authoritarian.”
Mom plays a role too, according to the document.
“The mother usually attempts to fill the physical and emotional void left by the father. Some mothers are overprotective and dominant. Because of inadequate parental examples in the home, the child does not learn proper masculine and feminine behavior.”
The guidebook, wrote PinkNews, a British website that covers the LGBT community, “reveals some of the bizarre Freudian assumptions at the heart of the church’s teachings.”
The document also refers to masturbation as a “problem.”
“Early masturbation experiences introduce the individual to sexual thoughts which may become habit forming and reinforcing to homosexual interests,” the guidebook says.
“Self-masturbation is almost universal among those who engage in homosexual behavior, and is a very difficult habit for most to overcome.”
The guidebook suggests ways of discouraging masturbation, including reading “good books, scriptures, Church books” and a daily regimen of physical fitness.