YOUNG gay men who were outed by leading figures in the Mormon Church in Scotland have attacked the religion as a “cult” which is openly hostile to LGBT members. Two former members of the church, officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), have spoken out after they were targeted at a time when newly elected Tory MP Stephen Kerr was a high-ranking official in LDS.
Kerr, who represents Stirling at Westminster, denies that he was involved in outing gay men when he was a Stake President (a head of diocese) and an Area Seventy (a position of power in the church which outranks bishops and priests). The MP, who won with a majority of just 148 votes making it the third most marginal Conservative seat the country, also claimed he is in favour of equal marriage.
However, according to church teachings “sexual relations are reserved for a man and woman who are married” and sex between people of the same sex “violate one of our Father in Heaven’s most important laws and get in the way of our eternal progress”.
The revelations that gay men were outed when Kerr was a senior figure in LDS will be uncomfortable for the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson. When it emerged last week that Prime Minister Theresa May was ready to do a deal with the DUP – which is against equal marriage – Davidson sought assurances that any alliance would mean “absolutely no rescission of LGBTI rights in the rest of the UK”. Davidson, who is gay, said: “I was fairly straightforward with her and I told her that there were a number of things that count to me more than party. One of them is country, one of the others is LGBTI rights.”
After voting for equal marriage in 2014 Davidson said she returned to her office in the Scottish Parliament and “cried deep sobbing tears of relief and release and joy and pain and pride.”
Davidson campaigned with Kerr before the General Election and tweeted her congratulations when he won the seat. She said: “So proud of him. He’ll make an excellent MP.”
One gay man claims he was outed after he had taken part in discussions about his sexuality on anonymous online message boards used by former Mormons. He said: “At church my father was handed a print-out of my posts. Bear in mind these are anonymous posts, but someone has taken the time to trawl the message boards and recognise my story sufficiently. My dad waved the print-outs at me, then it all kicked off. There was a lot of screaming and lots of anger.
“It caused a lot of recriminations at the time because I hadn’t discussed my sexuality with my parents. It caused huge issues. The relationship with my parents still isn’t great. I never got the chance to come out to them in the way I wanted. That opportunity was taken away. It was forcibly removed. It was traumatic for me and caused embarrassment to the wider family.”
The source, who asked not to be named to protect his family who remain in the church, said he was later confronted by a church leader at his parent’s house. At that time Stephen Kerr was an Area Seventy.
He said: “I was told by a church leader I’d be ex-communicated because of what I had written. I told him to shove it and resigned.”
The Herald contacted the former church leader, who has since left LDS. Speaking to the Herald on condition of anonymity, the former leader said: “I can remember getting sent to his door because he was saying things about the church online. I don’t know what was being said but I remember being asked to say to him he needed to keep his mouth shut or the church would be taking disciplinary action against him. I was a bishop at the time.”
When asked about the church’s attitude to gay people, he said: “As far as I was led to believe, gay people were allowed in the church but they couldn’t practise it. If they were a member of the church and they were practising it they would probably get ex-communicated. That’s what would happen. If I was a bishop I would be asked to conduct a hearing.”
The young man who was confronted is now openly gay and claimed LDS is “completely against homosexuality and opposes equal marriage”.
He claimed: “They have what’s called a ‘proclamation on the family’ and, as the highest lay officer of the church in Scotland, Stephen Kerr was obviously aware of that.”
The proclamation states that marriage between a man and a woman is “essential to His [God’s] eternal plan” and children are “entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother.”
Kerr regularly posts scripture, quotes and images of Jesus on his Facebook page. One post was an endorsement of a quote by Mormon elder D Todd Christofferson, which said: “We cannot afford young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about forming families and making a real contribution in this world.”
Another gay man who also asked to remain anonymous to protect his family who are still members of LDS, claimed: “I was outed by a church leader when Stephen Kerr was a Stake President in Edinburgh. I was able to tell my family first and they suggested I should resign because they didn’t want the family name dragged through the mud. They knew what the church can do to people. Your reputation gets trashed.”
He added: “The church has a hatred for gays. We’re a threat to the family, to masculinity, to the system. The church thinks gay marriage is counterfeit marriage. There are many cases like mine.”
In the April edition of Ensign, the monthly magazine for members of the church across the world, Mormon elder Larry R Lawrence said: “Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, but same-sex marriage is only a counterfeit. It brings neither posterity nor exaltation. Although his imitations deceive many people, they are not the real thing. They cannot bring lasting happiness.”
Stephen Kerr confirmed he served as an Area Seventy and a Stake President before becoming an MP but insisted the church did not out gay people and sought to play down his role in the church. He said: “My involvement with the church never put me in direct responsibility for anybody outside of Edinburgh diocese so I would not be involved in anything like that. That’s not the way we conduct ourselves either.”
When asked if he is aware that gay men were being outed, he said: “No, the church’s teaching on homosexuality you can read for yourself online. There’s
no secret about what the church’s teachings are.”
When asked if he is against equal marriage, he said: “No, I am not. As a member of parliament, as a Scottish Conservative, I believe in equal rights for all people. People should feel free to be who they are and that is exactly the point of view I take in regards to my responsibilities as a member of parliament.”
When asked if gay people who are Mormon should be celibate, he said: “In our society people who are gay should be free to be gay. It’s not my job as a member of parliament to project one thing or another, in terms of my religious faith or anything else, on other people.”
When asked if there’s a conflict between being a member of LDS and a member of parliament, he said: “None whatsoever. No conflict. I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints but my role as a member of parliament is not to project or to inflect my religious views, my faith, on anybody.
“My job is to protect all people, to see that they have the freedom and protection under the law that they need to be and to do what they believe and to be who they are – whether that’s in relation to faith, or sexual orientation or anything else.”
SNP MEP Alyn Smith described revelations that gay men were outed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as “appalling”.
He said: “When I came out I was fortunate in that I had a great reaction from family, friends and colleagues so I feel for anyone who had to go through something like that. The day after the beautiful Pride Edinburgh march celebrating love, diversity and tolerance it is worth remembering that not all organisations in society have the same view.”
Smith also underlined the responsibility parliamentarians have to “protect and promote” equalities, adding: “This goes beyond party politics. All elected members in all parties have a duty to not just protect equalities but to promote them, as well as free speech and freedom of religion, and with honesty and respect we can all get along. But let’s not forget that the hard-won legal rights to equality would be rolled back by some, and be ever vigilant to their motives.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “Stephen rejects the allegation that he was in any way involved in the incidents referred to here.”
A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the church would not comment on “these confidential and personal matters”.
New Tory MP's role as high-ranking Mormon leader in Scotland
STEPHEN Kerr told children they must strictly adhere to a handbook for Mormon missionaries which forbids sex unless it’s between a married man and woman.
The new Tory MP preached to teenagers at church youth conventions that they must obey every command in the 82-page document or they would be unable to convert people and could face “church disciplinary action”.
The Missionary Handbook states that young people must “obey strictly the law of chastity, which forbids sexual conduct of any kind outside of marriage between husband and wife”.
Kerr was a high ranking member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for many years but insists he is not opposed to equal marriage.
One former Mormon who heard Kerr speak several times when he was a teenager said: “I can categorically say he came to us when he was an 'Area Seventy' and told us we must live by the handbook exactly and be exactly obedient to the rules or we wouldn’t have the spirit we needed to convert people to the church. It put us under huge pressure. You tell a teenage boy he needs to do this for two years, it messes with your head.”
Kerr confirmed that he did tell young missionaries that they must meet the demands in the handbook and insisted it is not a “particularly odd thing to say”.
The book states youngsters on their two-year missionary work must remain with their “companion” missionary at all times.
“Never be alone,” the book states. “It is extremely important that you stay with your companion at all times. Staying together means staying within sight and hearing of each other…always sleep in the same room as your companion, but not in the same bed.”
It goes on to warn that violations of the law of chastity include “touching the private parts of another person, whether under or over clothing”.
When Kerr was asked if he told young missionaries that they must follow every rule in the Missionary Handbook, he said: “Yes, well, the teaching of the church are that we believe in chastity as a people. That’s not unique among Christian faiths.”
The handbook also warns that missionaries must “be extremely careful around children” because if they are charged by police with “inappropriate behaviour” it may “disrupt or end missionary service” and they could “face church disciplinary action”.
The book suggests missionaries should avoid tickling children, changing nappies, holding children, and allowing children to sit on their lap and must never babysit children of any age.
The handbook adds: “Be aware that you have a responsibility to protect your companion from physical and spiritual danger. If you do not fulfil this responsibility and your companion engages in serious misconduct, you may be subject to church disciplinary action.”
Teenagers are also forbidden from watching television, listening to the radio, going to the cinema, and reading unauthorised books or magazines.
Missionaries must not use a computer or access the internet unless emailing family or their “mission president”.
The handbook states: “Do not telephone, write, e-mail, or accept calls or letters from anyone of the opposite sex living within or near mission boundaries…report immediately to your mission president any situation that might cause you or your companion to violate this standard.”
Teenagers are told that they must never “go swimming or take part in water sports” and urged to avoid activities such as “contact sports; winter sports; motorcycling; horseback riding; mountain or rock climbing”.
The source, who asked not to be named, said: “Stephen Kerr said we had to keep all of the rules in the handbook or God would not bless us to convert people. He basically said unless we were one hundred per cent obedient, we would not be able to share the Gospel or be with the spirit – and we were told we need the spirit to teach people about Jesus Christ.
“To me this was manipulation and coercion. It was like a cult. Looking back, it makes me feel sick. I can’t believe that I ever believed it. It was just so out there. And Stephen Kerr was a 'Seventy' which meant he was very high up.”
When Kerr was asked a second time if he told young people that they must conform to the handbook, he said: “Yes. Yes, I did. Where are you going with that? I’m not sure why you’re making that sound like it’s something particularly odd to say.”
When asked if he is against equal marriage he said: “No, I am not.”
When asked if the church is against equal marriage he said: “I speak for myself as a member of parliament. I’m not speaking for any church, including my own church.”
A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the church would not comment on “these confidential and personal matters”.
Ten Mormon Commandments
Thou shalt not have sex (unless the sex is between a husband and wife)
Thou shalt not touch the “private parts” of another person (whether under or over clothing)
Thou shalt not telephone, write, email, or accept calls or letters from anyone of the opposite sex
Thou shalt not be out of sight and hearing of your missionary companion
Thou shalt not sleep in the same bed as your missionary companion
Thou shalt not tickle children, allow children to sit on your lap, change their nappies or babysit (avoid children)
Thou shalt not use a computer or access the internet (unless emailing family or the mission president)
Thou shalt not read books or magazines (unless they are authorised by the church)
Thou shalt not watch television, listen to the radio (or any unauthorised music) or go to the cinema
Thou shalt not go swimming or take part in water sports
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