My mantra is to donate 10% of my time and money to my church. Also, to donate 10% of my time to community service, which I have done with Scouting, Evergreen, More Good, and other worthwhile causes. I’ve consulted with several organizations and individuals to help them get their causes established.
My focus professionally was to help build the Kingdom of God (full-time work, efforts in social media, authoring books, etc.). Given the time, I would love to help build my country by running a conservative think tank or a political organization to preserve our freedoms and the constitution. I had a short-lived campaign for President of the United States, but I backed out of the race to spend more time with my family.
I served for 21 years in various volunteer positions with the Boy Scouts of America.
I volunteered for 17 years as a member of the board of trustees, chairman of the board of trustees, and CEO of Evergreen International, Inc., a non-profit community organization that provided education, guidance, and support to individuals who experienced same-sex attraction. I was the organization’s liaison with Church leadership.
Evergreen was a non-profit organization that sponsored support groups and education for people (primarily men) who experienced same-sex attraction and wanted to live their lives in harmony with gospel principles.
Evergreen was established on July 12, 1989, as a grassroots support group by eleven Latter-day Saint men in Salt Lake City who experienced same-sex attraction. They believed that homosexual behavior was not in keeping with the gospel of Christ. They were not satisfied with either of the two choices that presented themselves: (1) setting aside their spiritual beliefs and living a gay lifestyle or (2) suppressing their sexual feelings and living a straight lifestyle. As they searched for answers, they were intrigued by the early success of Frank Worthen and other Christians who had formed successful support groups. (For a history of Evergreen, see Evergreen History 20th Anniversary.)
The Evergreen group quickly caught the attention of senior Church leaders as the only Latter-day Saint group that was fully in line with Church doctrines and practices. Early contacts with Church leaders lead to having emeritus General Authorities on the Board of Trustees and having a General Authority speaker at each annual conference. It was an arms-length arrangement with the Church. Evergreen was an independent non-profit organization that provided a second voice in support of gospel teachings about morality and personal agency regarding behavioral choices.
Evergreen received 3,600 phone calls a year and responded to requests by e-mail in English and Spanish. It developed the country’s largest database of trained therapists, resources, and support groups that upheld gospel standards.
It held annual conferences attended by 300–400 from many states and countries. The 19 conferences from 1989 to 2009 were attended by about 7,000 people and included major addresses by 14 General Authorities, numerous world-renowned speakers, and hundreds of workshops. General Authority speakers included the following: Bishop Keith B. McMullin in 2010, Elder Bruce C. Hafen in 2009, Elder William R. Walker in 2008, Elder Douglas L. Callister in 2007, Elder Rex D. Pinegar in 2006, Elder James O. Mason in 2005, Elder Merrill J. Bateman in 2004, Elder Robert S. Wood in 2003, Elder Bruce D. Porter in 2002, Sister Sharon Green Larsen in 2001, Elder Alexander B. Morrison in 2000, Elder Cecil O. Samuelson in 1999, Bishop Keith McMullin in 1998, Elder Jay E. Jensen in 1997, and Elder Marlin K. Jensen in 1996.
Evergreen encouraged the development of support groups. In 2011, there were 32 groups that were supported by local priesthood leader direction.
The website EvergreenInternational.org had 600 pages of information in English, a few hundred pages in Spanish, and limited information in 31 other languages. Over 10 years, it was visited over one million times and visitors read over 3.5 million pages.
Evergreen developed relationships with national religious, research, and educational organizations with similar goals.
I spent 17 years on the Board of Trustees of Evergreen International, Inc. as a trustee or as the CEO and Chairman of the Board. The following is the detail of my service: Board of Trustees September 1991 to October 1993; Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer from October 1993 to October 3, 1995; member of the Advisory Board in 1997; and Chairman of the Advisory Board from January 1998 to June 6, 2000. At that time, I was recruited back to the board of trustees to help them reestablish a vision and set an organizational roadmap. We dissolved the Advisory Board, reorganized the Board of Trustees, recruited new Trustees, developed a strategic plan, reorganized the staffing structure, and revitalized financial management and fundraising. I served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Chief Executive Officer from June 6, 2000, to December 2010. I then resigned after stabilizing the organization and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
My time serving there was meaningful. When I first became involved, it was a small group that met in the basement of an office building. Over the time I was with the organization, the numbers grew, we incorporated the organization, obtained tax-exempt status, established a professional board of trustees, established operating policies and a solid mission statement, and produced publications. I helped it grow into an international organization that blessed the lives of many thousands of men, women, families, and church leaders. We raised sufficient funds to hire a full-time administrator and office staff. We set up 14 chapters in the United States, Canada, and Australia. We held annual conferences that were attended by hundreds of people each year. Two emeritus General Authorities served on the Board of Trustees and the Church assigned General Authority speakers at our annual conferences. We had a bi-monthly newsletter and published resource lists.
Why did I donate 17 years to help Evergreen? My heart goes out to those who experience same-sex attraction, not only because it is a very difficult challenge, but also because it is a challenge where it is difficult to find answers that are helpful. At that time, Latter-day Saints, parents, and Church leaders had very little understanding about same-sex attraction. There were very few Christian organizations and books that explained homosexuality from a gospel perspective. Gay men went to their bishops seeking help, but the bishops did not understand the feelings and emotions and did not know how to help. All they could tell them was to be faithful and manage their behaviors. “Just keep the law of chastity.” But for many gay members, that was easier said than done.
Some men attended support groups for the rest of their lives to keep their behaviors in check. The support of others helped them be accountable. Many experienced a variety of issues that fueled their same-sex attractions. Although the Gospel of Jesus Christ was the answer, the solutions to their problems were complex. Working on spiritual components such as fasting, prayer, and scripture study were not sufficient. They also had to work on emotional, relational, and identity issues at the same time to find success. Same-sex attraction is both a spiritual and a psychological issue that almost always requires professional help for a person to understand well and find stability in a path that is consistent with gospel behavioral standards. Without substantial psychological intervention, few were able to stay the gospel course.
Many were frustrated and lost hope in the ability to manage their behaviors. They lost hope in God’s eternal Plan of Salvation. They left the Church and sought happiness as the world defined it. Others trusted in God’s plan for them. They kept the faith and pressed forward, not knowing where their life path would lead. Were they consigned to a solitary life, not being able to marry? Or would they reach the point of being able to marry the opposite sex and have a traditional family? For men who were already married, could their marriage to a woman be fulfilling? About half of the men who were involved in Evergreen through the years were married and the other half were single. Some were able to resolve inner conflicts to the point that they could continue in a healthy marriage with a woman. Others gained enough opposite-sex attraction that they married women and had successful marriages. Others remained single.
Many found success in addressing their same-sex attractions. They found hope, answers, and practical help. It was rewarding to be involved in creating informational resources and support groups that helped men along this journey. Over time, more and more professional therapists found ways to help men resolve their inner conflicts and live lives compatible with gospel happiness.
On April 25, 1999, I met with my stake president, Richard Summers, to bring him up to date on my activities with Evergreen. I explained that I felt that I should be doing more to serve as a resource to members of the stake and the Church to help them understand same-sex attraction. We discussed the importance of the pioneering efforts being made within the Church and by organizations such as Evergreen. I explained that I was spending 10–20 hours a week in activities such as the following: providing training to LDS Social Services personnel, therapists at the BYU Counseling Center, and to groups of social work students at BYU; serving in leadership positions with Evergreen; speaking with General Authorities and other Church leaders; speaking as requested by stake and area leaders at regional welfare meetings and other leadership meetings; and helping various Latter-day Saint authors publish books about how to positively address same-sex attraction.
He strongly encouraged me to continue and even increase these efforts. I explained that with my demanding work schedule, family, and calling in the bishopric, I had no available time to increase those efforts. He suggested that perhaps I should be released from the bishopric and my calling should be a stake welfare specialist to perform these activities. He later talked with the Area President, Elder Alexander B. Morrison, about the possibility of me doing this full time, either as a missionary or as an employee.
In sacrament meeting on June 20, 1999, I was released as first counselor in the bishopric. President Summers explained to the ward that I was released so I could be a resource to the bishops and the stake president and to other stakes in the Church about same-sex attraction. I was given a few minutes at the end of the meeting, and I explained that I would be working in a general advisory capacity with Evergreen International, LDS Social Services, and getting materials published and translated. After the meeting, two people approached me to say that they wanted to talk with me further because they had family members who experienced same-sex attraction. I had really enjoyed working with Bishop Randy Sylvester and the counselor, Neal Peterson. For years, Bishop Sylvester was my home teacher, and I was his home teacher.
I shared this in a letter to Elder H. Burke Peterson and a few others who were serving on the Evergreen board. He responded with a voice message saying the following: “I just read your letter ‘to your dear friends.’ I appreciate being included and am in total agreement with your priesthood leaders who have placed an unusual value on contribution to this work that we’re engaged in. Anyway, congratulations to you and Lord bless you as you continue to make an impact not just locally but over the Church—and in fact, I guess, the whole world—on this vital issue that we are involved in with Evergreen. Thank you for including me, Larry.”
At the end of 2013, Evergreen merged with North Star (see NorthStarLDS.org) to form a single faith-based organization for Latter-day Saints.
Over those 17 years, I had met with General Authorities to offer help. Later, during the last five years as a Church employee, my assignment put me in the position to direct the cross-departmental working group that coordinated Church efforts on LGBT issues. We had input on the content of the 2012 version of the Mormons and Gays website, its update to the Mormon and Gay website in 2016, and the publication of the same-sex attraction and transgender sections of the Life Help section of ChurchofJesusChrist.org in 2020. I met many times with our Executive Directors and with the Priesthood and Family Executive Council about LGBT issues. For years, I had worked from the nonprofit Evergreen perspective to get information to leaders to help them be better prepared to help individuals and families. Later, I was in the position to help develop resources and leader training from the Church perspective. See the chapter “Church Employee,” section “Same-Sex Attraction.”