It is well documented that the Brigham Young University “University Standards Office” (today known as the Honor Code Office) forced many male students who were caught “exhibiting homosexual tendencies” to be sent for electroshock and vomit aversion therapies. The practice began in 1959 and ended in the mid-90s.
In recent comments, however, Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said that while he was the president of BYU from 1971 through 1980, no such therapy was happening on the campus.
At the University of Virginia, Oaks participated in an event titled, “The Future of Religious Freedom: A Conversation With Dallin H. Oaks and Douglas Laycock,” presented by the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy and Rex E. Lee Law Society
In the pre-speech Q&A session, Oaks was asked several questions about LGBTQ people and the church. One question was about addressing the past behavior of the church toward LGBTQ community members.
“What have you done to address some of the things you have done in the past, including the things that you have said and overseeing the enforcement of electroshock and vomiting aversion therapy for LGB students at BYU?” an unnamed audience member asked.
Oaks replied, “Let me say about electroshock treatments at BYU when I became president at BYU that had been discontinued earlier and it never went on under my administration.”
In a 1998 article published by an independent BYU newspaper, two gay men who were forced to endure electroshock therapy spoke about their experiences in the early 70s.
In 1976, student Max Ford McBride, under the tutelage of Dr. Eugene Thorne, head of BYU’s psychology department, ran a two-year study titled “Effect of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy” as a dissertation for his doctorate degree at BYU. McBride and Thorne showed both heterosexual and homosexual porn to the men, having them press a button that would shock them through electrodes attached to their penis when they were becoming aroused.
Dr. Robert D. Card, who worked in private practice and on the BYU campus, went so far as to get a patent for a device that would measure when a penis began to be aroused, which he called the penismograph.
Card published a paper on his electroshock therapy techniques in 1975. It is still available on BYU’s archive site.
In a follow-up question, Oaks said, “I think the solution to that is for people on one side to become better acquainted and have more respect and knowledge for the people on the other side. That’s a principle that applies to people on both sides.”