STK Salt Lake Temple and Utah State Capitol

The Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at left, is pictured with the Utah State Capitol, at right, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, in Salt Lake City. 

While denouncing any abusive treatment or methods, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Tuesday addressing concerns about a proposed rule banning conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors in Utah.

The rule would establish professional definitions for mental health therapists and define unprofessional conduct as providing conversion therapy for the sexual orientation or gender identity of a client under 18 years old.

LDS officials stated youth who experience “same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria” should be treated with compassion and understanding from family members, professional counselors and church members and leaders.

“The Church denounces any abusive professional practice or treatment,” the statement read. “We teach the right of individuals to self-determination and the right of parents to guide the development of their children.”

Leaders stated concerns that the proposed rule is too ambiguous in certain areas and too overarching in others, including failing to protect individual religious beliefs.

Officials with the Psychologist Licensing Board issued a statement finding conversion therapy practices are not proven to be effective and are associated with harm or risk of harm, as well as increases of depression, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts in youth.

“Interventions undertaken in the name of mental health treatment that harm — and risk harm — to others are contrary to the ethical principles and standards of our profession; chief among these ethical imperatives is our responsibility to ‘Do No Harm,’” the ruling stated. “As such, it is our determination that psychologists participating in these practices are engaging in unprofessional behavior.”

Instead of the proposed rule, church officials said legislative action could be used as an alternate route as stated in the statement and a letter from the church’s counseling services to the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.

“We therefore oppose the proposed rule in its current form and respectfully request that it be appropriately amended to address the concerns raised in Family Services’ comments, or that Utah’s lawmakers provide statutory guidance on this important issue,” the statement reads.

The ruling would define the terms “gender identity,” “sexual orientation,” “gender identity change efforts” and “sexual orientation change efforts.”

There are more than 1,050 licensed psychologists in Utah, but the ruling would not cause a measurable fiscal impact on their businesses or practices.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert asked the state regulators in June to create new rules for conversion therapy after a bill addressing the practice died in the legislature.

The bill would have prohibited mental health therapists from providing conversion therapy guaranteed to completely and permanently reverse a client’s sexual orientation, along with using electric shock or physical discomfort as treatment.

The AP reported 18 states have enacted laws banning or restricting conversion therapy opposed by the American Psychological Association.

Ashley Stilson covers crime, courts and breaking news for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2556 or astilson@heraldextra.com.

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