By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com January 03 2014 4:50 PM ET
Evergreen International, an organization for LGBT Mormons that has endorsed “ex-gay” therapy, is closing, with some of its operations being absorbed by an LGBT Mormon support group that takes a somewhat different approach.
The support group, North Star International, takes no stand on so-called reparative therapy, a widely discredited practice designed to change sexual orientation, its president, Ty Mansfield, told The Salt Lake Tribune.
“If someone had a positive experience with reparative therapy or change, we are OK with them sharing that,” said Mansfield, a marriage and family therapist in Provo, Utah. “If they had a negative experience, they can share that, too.”
As of New Year’s Day, Evergreen “turned over some of its resources and mailing lists — said to number up to 30,000 participants, including many from Spanish-speaking countries” to North Star, the Tribune reports. Evergreen chairman Preston Dahlgren will join North Star’s board, but the former group’s president, David Pruden, will not be affiliated with North Star. Pruden is executive director of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which advocates “ex-gay” therapy.
North Star has no official relationship with the Mormon Church, known formally as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor did Evergreen. Both, however, are designed for to Mormons and adhere to Mormon beliefs, including the doctrine that faithful members of the church should not act on same-sex attractions.
North Star is the newer group, having been founded in 2006. Evergreen has existed since 1989. Pruden approached North Star about a merger last summer, around the time that another “ex-gay” ministry, Exodus International, disbanded. Exodus catered to a general Christian base.
In not pushing “ex-gay” therapy, North Star’s philosophy “is more consistent with national positions by the American Psychological Association that change is not possible and reparative therapy is not effective,” University of Utah adjunct psychiatry professor Richard Ferre told the Tribune. “The group is still trying to provide a support for Mormon gays to maintain their connections with their religion.”
Still, some leaders of North Star have followed the “ex-gay” path in their lives. Mansfield, who once “described himself as permanently, inescapably gay and accepted the requirement of celibacy to remain a faithful Mormon … has subsequently married a woman and had two children,” the Tribune reports. Board chairman Jeff Bennion is also married to a woman.