On September 16, 2016, Elder Dallin H. Oaks presided over a question-and-answer fireside in Frederick, MD. In this fireside, Elder Oaks was asked the following question: “…what would you tell a friend who was once in the church and is struggling with gender identity?”

Part of Elder Oaks’ answer included the following:

“There was a study about, published about a month ago from Johns Hopkins University in this very state, where we are, and these were two MDs, one a psychiatrist, one a professional medical researcher, and they studied 500 scientific studies about the problem were talking about. One of their findings was that when young people are feeling gender confusion when they are young, 80% of them will lurk through that and not have that gender confusion when they’re older. Now that’s the study of two very eminent scholars. The media for reasons that I won’t go into has hardly taken any notice of that study. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to read it, but consider that fact when you think about an experience you may be going through or somebody else is going through, it’s a good thing just to be patient and keep the commandments of the lord, don’t label yourself.”1

The study Elder Oaks cited as well as the description he gave of the authors of the study sounded really familiar. After a very quick investigation, I discovered that Elder Oaks was in fact citing a study published in The New Atlantis titled “Sexuality and Gender; Findings from the Biological, Psychological and Social Sciences.” (Yes, this is the same New Atlantis study praised in a recent Mormon Women Stand blog post.) So what’s the problem? It is not a peer reviewed scientific journal and it was not published by Johns Hopkins University. Yes, the author is a scholar in residence at that university, but the paper did not come from that institution. And that is a huge problem.2

In a recent essay published on Rational Faiths, BYU psychologist, Dr. Mikle South pointed out one of the many problems with The New Atlantis article. Dr. South wrote, “[the] New Atlantis report does not represent good science, despite its claim that “this report is about science and medicine, nothing more and nothing less.”3

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Elder Oaks has cited a flawed study when talking about LGBTQ people. In his October 2012 talk “Protect the Children,” Elder Oaks said this: “A New York Times writer noted ‘the striking fact that even as traditional marriage has declined in the United States … the evidence has mounted for the institution’s importance to the well-being of children.’”4

The New York Times article Elder Oaks cited is footnoted: ”Gay Parents and the Marriage Debate.” 5 And the New York Times writer cites a Slate article written by Dr. Regnerus.6 The Regnerus article states the following:

“The basic results call into question simplistic notions of “no differences,” at least with the generation that is out of the house. On 25 of 40 different outcomes evaluated, the children of women who’ve had same-sex relationships fare quite differently than those in stable, biologically-intact mom-and-pop families, displaying numbers more comparable to those from heterosexual stepfamilies and single parents.”

What study is Dr. Regnerus referencing in his article? Well, he is citing his own July 2012 study published in Social Science Research entitled, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.”7

So what’s the problem with this one? It is in fact a peer-reviewed journal. Well, Dr. Regnerus’ study was found to be seriously flawed.8 It was so flawed that Dr. Regnerus’ department chair issued a disavowal of the Regnerus study:

“[Regnerus’ conclusions] do not reflect the views of the Sociology Department of The University of Texas at Austin. Nor do they reflect the views of the American Sociological Association, which takes the position that the conclusions he draws from his study of gay parenting are fundamentally flawed on conceptual and methodological grounds and that findings from Dr. Regnerus’ work have been cited inappropriately in efforts to diminish the civil rights and legitimacy of LBGTQ partners and their families. We encourage society as a whole to evaluate his claims.”9

And the Regnerus’ study was so flawed that  United States District Court Judge Bernard Friedman wrote:

“The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration. The evidence adduced at trial demonstrated that his 2012 “study” was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder, which found it “essential that the necessary data be gathered to settle the question in the forum of public debate about what kinds of family arrangement are best for society” and which “was confident that the traditional understanding of marriage will be vindicated by this study.”10

Now we see that, not once, but twice, Elder Oaks has cited bad science in order to back up his claims. I plead with Elder Oaks to stop doing this. Please. I can understand it happening once, as Elder Oaks is not scientifically trained, but doing so twice is a disaster. The lives of our LGBTQ Mormon youth literally depend on it.

Michael is a Guatemalan-American Mormon living in the Northwest with his family. He is one of the proprietors of the Rational Faiths blog.

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