A prominent Mormon therapist who supported conversion therapy and made homophobic claims about gay people has apologized and urged others to reconsider their anti-gay views.
Dr. Allen Bergin is a clinical psychologist known for his work integrating psychotherapy and religion, as well as for his leadership positions within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In a formal apology to Latter Gay Stories, a podcast dealing with LGBTQ issues and the Mormon Church, Bergin, 85, revealed that two of sons are gay, as well as one of his grandchildren.
As such, he had endured a “painful and enlightening” education on the gay experience, which has transformed how he views homosexuality.
Bergin’s family responded to the release of “On the Record,” a project created by Latter Gay Stories to document the church’s various stances and doctrines on LGBTQ issues.
During his time with both the church and the Mormon-affiliated Brigham Young University, Bergin was “often quoted by Church leaders as an authority on homosexuality within Mormonism,” Latter Gay Stories noted.
“Bergin’s research was used to promote LDS teachings that homosexuality was a compulsion, it led to bondage, and labels homosexuals as bizarre,” they write. “He also made claim that the average gay man had between 500-1000 partners.”
Bergin touted that homosexuality could be “overcome” through conversion therapy efforts, including teaching that “self-discipline” and “a mixed orientation marriage” could solve “the problem of homosexuality.”
His family subsequently reached out to Latter Gay Stories, saying that Bergin had undergone “a change of heart.”
“As a mental health professional and psychology professor from 1961 until my retirement in 1999, I was among the traditionalists who believed that homosexuality was a disorder and that it could be treated and changed to some degree,” Bergin wrote, noting that his views “have carried influence in some circles.”
“I regret being part of a professional, religious, and public culture that marginalized, pathologized, and excluded LGBT+ persons,” he said. “As a father of two gay sons and grandfather of a gay grandson, I’ve been given a personal education that has been painful and enlightening.”
Bergin told the general public to “Stop. Listen. Learn. Love,” and said his colleagues, fellow church members, and political leaders should “apologize and compensate those of God’s children who have been afflicted by our treatment of them when they should have been embraced and loved.”
“We are all children of the same Heavenly Parents, who I believe love and value all their children, regardless of sexual orientation, and who grant each of us the same opportunity to receive Jesus Christ’s Grace,” Bergin concluded. “I will continue my efforts for the rest of my days to receive that Grace for myself and to point others toward His healing and redeeming power.”
The Mormon Church’s official doctrine rules that “sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife,” effectively forbidding all same-sex sexual relations. However, the church’s stance towards LGBTQ Mormons has changed in recent years.
Last year, the church clarified its opposition to conversion therapy, after Utah — where the church is based — mulled introducing a rule that would effectively ban the practice.
Conversion therapy — also known as “ex-gay” therapy — is a widely debunked and harmful practice that purports to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity, through talk therapy or more extreme methods such as aversion or shock therapy.
While church officials had reservations about the ban and its lack of protections for parents and religious leaders, an LDS spokesperson said, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposes conversion therapy, and our therapists do not practice it.”
In 2018, the church donated to an LGBTQ support group for the first time, sending $25,000 to Affirmation, which offers suicide prevention support to LGBTQ Mormons.
In 2015, the church also gave its assent to a nondiscrimination bill in Utah that protected LGBTQ from discrimination in employment and housing.
Last year, the valedictorian at Brigham Young University made headlines after coming out as gay during his commencement speech. Matt Easton told those in attendance that he had come to terms “not with who I thought I should be, but who the Lord has made me,” adding that he was “proud to be a gay son of God.”
And in January 2019, Mormon “ex-gay” therapist David Matheson came out as gay and admitted that conversion therapy doesn’t work and apologized for the “damage and harm” he had caused.