Understanding Same-Sex Attraction

Where to Turn and How to Help

Book Notice

Understanding Same-Sex Attraction: Where to Turn and How to Help, edited by Dennis V. Dahle, A. Dean Byrd, Shirley E. Cox, Doris R. Dant, William C. Duncan, John P. Livingstone, and M. Gawain Wells (Salt Lake City: Foundation for Attraction Research, 2009)

Readers looking for a book that supports the idea of homosexuality being an innate part of one’s identity will not be interested in Understanding Same-Sex Attraction: Where to Turn and How to Help. Instead, the authors of this book assert the unpopular opinion, backed by scientific research, that same-sex attraction can be lessened or eradicated in those who desire change and are willing to try. Readers who empathize with the Church’s position on homosexuality will likely find hope and useful ideas in this five-hundred-page compilation, authored by professional psychologists and scholars. The book presents three angles on the topic: the doctrinal stance of the Church, current scientific research, and experiences related anonymously by Latter-day Saints who have dealt with same-sex attraction.

Section 1, “Laying the Groundwork,” examines common misconceptions about homosexuality and invites readers to reevaluate what they know. The second section, “Gospel Perspectives,” provides a doctrinal and spiritual foundation for the rest of the book. Readers familiar with LDS teachings may not find many new ideas in this section, but two full chapters dedicated to what General Authorities have taught on the topic may be an especially useful reference for Church leaders. Other chapters included in this section focus on the necessity of trials, faith, and the Atonement and how to show love and support to those who feel same-sex attraction.

Section 3, “Scientific, Clinical, and Social Perspectives,” offers a wide array of information for those who experience same-gender attraction and those who want to help them. Topics include how to choose a therapist, types of therapy used to treat same-gender attraction, how people can disclose their secret struggle to others, what parents and therapists can do to help children and adolescents who feel gender confusion, treating sexual addictions, and defending traditional marriage. The chapters that explain what science proves and what it cannot prove are particularly relevant for all Latter-day Saints, considering the public support gay rights activists have garnered in claiming that same-gender attraction is inherent and unchangeable.

Perhaps the most valuable contribution of Understanding Same-Sex Attraction lies in its combination of scientific evidence in section 3 and personal testimonials in section 4. Here essayists recount how they emerged from homosexual lifestyles to find satisfaction in rejoining the Church mainstream, some even finding success in heterosexual marriages (although the authors of the book are quick to warn against marriage as a “cure” for homosexuality).

The book concludes with appendices giving contact information for resources like LDS Family Services; Evergreen International, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping those who want to reduce their same-sex attractions; and Foundation for Attraction Research, the nonprofit publisher of this book.

As some professional and state organizations frown on therapists who believe in reorientation therapy—seeking to ban their practice, in some cases—this book fills a void. It offers hope, and it voices a conversation that has largely been silenced in the larger media due to political pressures. Latter-day Saints who read this book will find a well-rounded and compassionate view of the complex and oft-misunderstood challenge of same-sex attraction.

 

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