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People who are attracted to members of their own sex can change, an LDS general authority said Saturday, so they shouldn't let Satan persuade them they can't.

Elder Bruce C. Hafen, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, spoke at the 19th annual conference of Evergreen International, a nonprofit group that helps Mormons "overcome homosexual behavior" and "diminish same-sex attraction." The event was held at the LDS Church's Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City.

Hafen promised attendees, "If you are faithful, on resurrection morning -- and maybe even before then -- you will rise with normal attractions for the opposite sex."

Whenever the devil -- whom Hafen referred to as "the adversary" -- tries to "convince you that you are hopelessly 'that way,' so that acting out your feelings is inevitable, he is lying," Hafen said. "He is the father of lies."

Last month, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution advising mental health professionals against telling their clients they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.

No solid evidence exists that such efforts work, the APA concluded, and some studies suggest the potential for harm, including depression and suicidal tendencies. A task force reviewed 83 studies on sexual-orientation change conducted since 1960.

The "long-standing consensus" of the behavioral and social sciences, the APA noted, is that homosexuality is a "normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation."

Will Carlson of Equality Utah, which advocates on behalf of gay and transgender Utahns, when contacted by The Tribune, said, "These young men and women at Evergreen are experiencing normal attractions right now ... It's irresponsible for [Hafen] to suggest that if someone just wants to bad enough, they can be straight."

Hafen spent a large portion of his talk, held during a Sunday-like service, criticizing the gay-rights movement and denying a biological link to sexual orientation. Same-sex attraction is "not in your DNA," he said.

He attacked the APA's decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, deeming it politically motivated.

"In the early 1970s, the public and most lawyers, doctors and therapists saw homosexuality not as normal adult behavior but as a psychological disorder," he said. "We have witnessed primarily an aggressive political movement more than we've witnessed substantive change in the medical or legal evidence."

Lisa Diamond, a psychology professor and researcher at the University of Utah, in an interview with The Tribune , called Hafen's assertion "hilarious" and "absolutely untrue."

Homosexuality had been listed as a disorder, Diamond said, without any real scientific data. The APA reversed course after a pioneering psychologist, Evelyn Hooker, produced research to show there was no difference between the mental health of straight and gay individuals, she said.

"That moment really did represent, in fact, the triumph of science over prejudice," Diamond said.

There is "strong evidence" that there are "biological contributions" to sexual orientation, Diamond noted, but it's a complex process. She called arguments about the lack of a so-called "gay gene," a "smoke screen" for those who promote sexual-orientation change.

Bruce C. Hafen's full remarks to Evergreen

» Visit and click on "Same-gender attraction," on the left. Then click on "Elder Bruce C. Hafen Speaks on Same-Sex Attraction," on the right.