As I mention in my companion post, recent news stories have disagreed about the idea that LDS views on homosexuality are evolving. The history of LDS views on homosexuality is complicated, and I can’t fully do it justice in a relatively short post, but I’ll at least try to hit the highlights. Here’s a sketch of some of the ways in which LDS views on homosexuality have changed over the past 50 years — in very positive ways, I believe.
Church views have changed substantially regarding causes of homosexuality. In 1969, then-apostle and future prophet Spencer W. Kimball published The Miracle of Forgiveness, in which he stated that homosexuality was caused by masturbation. This book, which echoed his 1964 talk “Love versus Lust,” received widespread circulation among the LDS population. The idea of masturbation as a cause of homosexuality was mentioned again in the 1992 church pamphlet Understanding and Helping Those Who Have Homosexual Problems: Suggestions for Ecclesiastical Leaders, which makes the more limited statement that masturbation “intensifies sexual urges, making it difficult for the person to overcome homosexual problems.” The church appears to have abandoned that claim. The idea does not appear anywhere in the church’s latest official statement, “God Loveth His Children.”
Similarly, the past fifty years show significant change in the areas of naturalness, disease, and curability. The 1970s were filled with a variety of statements about homosexuality as disease, as curable, and as definitely not natural. In 1970, the church published Hope for Transgressors, a pamphlet which explicitly endorsed “therapy” programs designed to “cure” people of homosexuality. In 1971, the church published New Horizons for Homosexuals, a pamphlet which stated that the idea that homosexual individuals were “born that way” was “a base lie.” It repeatedly referred to homosexuality as a disease, but also stated that homosexuality “is curable.”
Elder Boyd K. Packer gave the most extensive attack on the idea that homosexuality might be innate in his 1978 talk “To the One,”  where he stated,
There appears to be a consensus in the world that it is natural, to one degree or another, for a percentage of the population. Therefore, we must accept it as all right. However, when you put a moral instrument on it, the needle immediately flips to the side labeled “wrong.” It may even register “dangerous.” If there has been heavy indulgence, it registers clear over to “spiritually destructive.”
The answer: It is not all right. It is wrong! It is not desirable; it is unnatural; it is abnormal; it is an affliction. When practiced, it is immoral. It is a transgression. . . . Do not be misled by those who whisper that it is part of your nature and therefore right for you. That is false doctrine!
The church has also moved away from that language. In 1995, Elder Dallin H. Oaks stated that “Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of “nature and nurture.” All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior.” Elder Packer gave a talk in 2010 suggesting that God would not let individuals be born gay, but the print version retracted that claim.
Meanwhile, attitudes about homosexual thoughts, as well as “therapy” to cure gayness, are also notable. As Joanna Brooks has discussed in her post about the church handbook, homosexual thoughts are no longer considered sinful. Also, references to “cure” therapy have been removed.
Another area of significant change is the idea that gay and lesbian individuals are created by bad parenting. As Connell O’Donovan notes, this was an extremely common theme in past decades. In 1974, Elder N. Eldon Tanner blamed homosexuality on “poor example set by leaders in homes and communities.” This was repeated in 1975 in an Ensign article by BYU instructor Victor Brown, which stated that “parents need to know that lack of proper affection in the home can result in unnatural behavior in their children such as homosexuality or inability to be an effective parent when the time comes.” Also in 1975, church apostle and future prophet Gordon B. Hinckley wrote in the Ensign about counseling a gay man, “We talked of the influences that had put him where he is, of the home from which he came, of associations with other young men, of books and magazines read, of shows seen.” J. Richard Clarke of the Presiding Bishopric articulated the view most strongly in 1977 in the Ensign: “It should go without saying that many of these problems would be alleviated if parents would spend more time teaching and rearing their children. Related to the story that I gave at the beginning of my talk is evidence of a clinical researcher who, after studying 850 individual cases, stated: “Homosexuality would not occur where there is a normal, loving father-and-son relationship.” Any of our people living in righteousness would normally avoid being involved in these problems.” And apostle and future prophet Ezra Taft Benson wrote in 1982 in the Ensign that “Today we are aware of great problems in our society. The most obvious are sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, drug abuse, alcoholism, vandalism, pornography, and violence. These grave problems are symptoms of failure in the home—the disregarding of principles and practices established by God in the very beginning.”
This idea began to wane around 1990. In particular, the church’s 1992 pamphlet stated directly that gay children were not the fault of bad parenting: “Be careful not to blame family members for choices made by a person with homosexual problems. Parents are especially inclined to blame themselves for the problems of a son or daughter.”
Elder Packer’s 1978 talk also attacked gays and lesbians as selfish, and said that selfishness is the cause of homosexuality. This claim also appears to have been abandoned.
The past few decades also show major changes in ideas about how to interact with gay and lesbian individuals. For instance, the New Horizons pamphlet repeatedly endorsed criminal laws against homosexual acts. And it asserted that gay men would abandon their partners once they were no longer young and attractive.
Also, in 1976, apostle Boyd K. Packer gave a talk which [EDIT] contained an ambiguous anecdote endorsing violent reactions under some (unclear) circumstances. The talk was reprinted as a pamphlet and was distributed widely.
The church has absolutely moved away from that stance. In 2005, Elder Oaks explicitly stated that physical attacks on LGBT individuals were wrong. Recent statements from President Hinckley and the church’s 2007 pamphlet also make clear that the church certainly does not condone anti-gay violence. The church also appears to no longer endorse the criminalization of homosexual behavior. And the claims that gay men will abandon their elderly partners have also been abandoned.
The church’s views on Domestic Partner rights have also changed significantly. Early statements opposed these rights. in a 2006 interview between the LDS Newsroom and Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman which was explicitly intended to”help clarify the Church’s stand”, Elder Wickman vocally opposed domestic partner rights for same-sex couples, stating that “If you have some legally sanctioned relationship with the bundle of legal rights traditionally belonging to marriage and governing authority has slapped a label on it, whether it is civil union or domestic partnership or whatever label it’s given, it is nonetheless tantamount to marriage. That is something to which our doctrine simply requires us to speak out and say, ‘That is not right. That’s not appropriate.'” However, the church reversed its position in the August 2008 Divine Institution of Marriage press release, stating that “The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.” Since then, the church has even endorsed Salt Lake City’s law protecting same-sex couples.
Finally, the past few decades have seen a major shift in church attitudes, as numerous publications have emphasized God’s love for LGBT people. President Gordon B. Hinckley was a key in this shift, as he repeatedly stated that God loves LGBT people. Similar statements are found in statements like Elder Holland’s 2007 Ensign article, Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction. Recent comments by Elder Uchtdorf follow the same theme.
The recent church-issued pamphlet God Loveth His Children may be the most high-profile statement along these lines. The publication of the pamphlet led to an Oakland Tribune article in 2007, titled “Mormon Church Changes Stance on Homosexuality.” In that article, religion reporter Rebecca Rosen Lum wrote that:
The Mormon church has quietly moved further from defining homosexuality as evil and the result of faulty parenting. An unheralded new church publication, “God Loveth His Children,” says gay feelings are neither learned nor chosen, and it counsels against rejecting a gay child. Seemingly aimed at young people, the statement gently counsels individuals who feel attraction to and love for same-gender people to trust in God’s plan and not act upon the transitory desires of mortal life — a period of “probation during which we face a variety of temptations and challenges.” It repeatedly warns against feelings of guilt: “Attractions alone do not make you unworthy. If you avoid immoral thoughts and actions, you have not transgressed even if you feel such an attraction.” It also says: “The Lord’s command to ‘forgive all men’ includes the requirement to forgive yourself.”
Spokesmen for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would not say what led the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency — the two highest governing bodies of the Church — to publish the pamphlet at the end of July. “I dont know either,” said Jan Shipps, a scholar and historian specializing in Mormons. But its placement on the church’s Web site makes clear “that it would have to have been approved by the general authorities of the LDS Church.”
Those close to the Mormon Church say the publication is neither the result of a religious revelation nor a policy change. “This represents a continuation of a direction they began going in several years ago,” said Terry [sic] Givens, the author of four books on Mormonism and a religion professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia. A 1974 church pamphlet excoriated homosexuality as evil and castigated parents of gays for having raised their children poorly. By 1992, a new teaching suggested that biological factors could be at work.
It is clear that we are seeing evolving LDS views on homosexuality. Over the course of the past three decades, the church’s stance has evolved from virulently anti-gay and homophobic, to its current soft-heterosexist approach of “love the gays, hate the gayness.” It is a limited sort of shift, as the changes have largely involved rhetoric and attitude, while many of the underlying church doctrines have remained relatively constant. There have been some recent setbacks in rhetoric regarding Proposition 8, but even the most charged official statements about Proposition 8 focused on perceived legal or political consequences, not on more personal claims such as bad parenting of gay individuals or predictions that gay people would be abandoned in old age.
As gay LDS blogger Ty Mansfield told the Salt Lake Tribune, “We’re going to be hearing more and more statements like [Elder Uchtdorf’s], calling church members to a greater expression of compassion and kindness. Doctrine will remain the same, but we’ll see a pretty radical shift in the culture of the church in how we relate both to the issue of same-sex attraction and to those who experience homosexual feelings. We’ve made some significant strides over the last few years, and I think this is only the beginning.”
[Note: I moved a few cites, and my supras all went to hell. I’m just going to post as is. It’s not that hard to locate the supra notes.]
 Some of the points I note here were mentioned in an earlier blog post at Doves and Serpents. In addition, many of these and other statements have been collected by Connell O’Donovan in his article The Etiology of Homosexuality from Authoritative Latter-day Saint Perspectives, 1879-2006.
 Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness 77-78 (1969).
 Spencer W. Kimball, Love vs Lust, January 1965. (1975 reprint available here.)
 See God Loveth His Children (2007). I believe that masturbation-origin claims were last made in 1980 (in Spencer W. Kimball, “President Kimball Speaks out on Morality.”)
 See “Hope for Transgressors,” copy available here.
 See “New Horizons for Homosexuals,” copy available here.
 Boyd K. Packer, “To the One,” 1978.
 Dallin H. Oaks, “Same-Gender Attraction,” 1995.
 See discussion of Elder Packer’s talk at http://mormonsformarriage.com/?p=299 . The official church position is that the changes were clarifications.
 See Joanna Brooks, Homosexual Thoughts and Feelings Not a Sin, Says New LDS Handbook.
 N. Eldon Tanner, “Why Is My Boy Wandering Tonight?”, Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 84. This paragraph is drawn from O’Donovan, supra note 1.
 Victor L. Brown, “Two Views of Sexuality”, Ensign, July 1975, p. 50.
 Gordon B. Hinckley, “Opposing Evil”, Ensign, November 1975, p. 38
 J. Richard Clarke, “Ministering to Needs through LDS Social Services”, Ensign, May 1977, p. 85
 Ezra Taft Benson, “Fundamentals of Enduring Family Relationships”, Ensign November 1982, p. 59. This talk was reprinted in 1992 as well.
 See “Understanding and Helping Those who have Homosexual Problems” (1992). The 1992 pamphlet also moved away from prior advice that gay men should cure their gayness by marrying. It stated: “Marriage should not be viewed as a way to resolve homosexual problems. The lives of others should not be damaged by entering a marriage where such concerns exist.”
 Packer, To the One, supra note **
 New Horizons, supra note **
 Boyd K. Packer, To Young Men Only, 1978. As I have discussed previously on blog, the meaning of the talk is controversial, and there are other potential interpretations. The permission to beat up a gay man is clear. What Packer leaves unclear is the circumstances in which this kind of behavior would be permissible.
 Oaks, supra note **. Elder Oaks stated that “our doctrines obviously condemn those who engage in so-called “gay bashing”–physical or verbal attacks on persons thought to be involved in homosexual or lesbian behavior.”
 Hinckley, supra note **
 See God Loveth His Children, supra note **
 I discussed this in a prior blog post.
 LDS Newsroom, “Same-Gender Attraction,” 2006.
 LDS Newsroom, “The Divine Institution of Marriage,” August 13, 2008.
 See Jennifer Dobner, “Salt Lake City Oks Gay Rights Laws with Mormon Backing,” Huffington Post, November 11, 2009.
 See, e.g., Gordon B. Hinckley, Stand Strong Against the Wiles of the World, Ensign, November 1995. President Hinckley stated that “Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and our sisters. However, we cannot condone immoral practices on your part any more than we can condone immoral practices on the part of others.”
 Jeffrey R. Holland, Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction, Ensign October 2007.
 Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, comments at the 24 October, 2010 Tooele/West Salt Lake Regional Conference. See discussion at Peggy Fletcher Stack, “High-ranking LDS leader weighs in on same-sex attraction,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 29, 2010.
 See God Loveth His Children, supra note **
 Rebecca Rosen Lum, “Mormon Church Changes Stance on Homosexuality,” Oakland Tribune, __ 2007. A variety of other news reporters have similarly noted and discussed the change, including Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune. http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=6486440&itype=NGPSID&keyword=&qtype=
 The full extent of LDS statements on Prop 8 is beyond the scope of this post. A summary can be found in Kaimipono D. Wenger, The Church’s Use of Secular Arguments, in Six Voices on Proposition 8: A Roundtable, 42 Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 99 (2009).
 See Stack, supra note ** (citing Mansfield).