Therapist Excommunicated From Mormon Church Over Support for Same-Sex Marriage

A sex therapist has been ousted from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for her public opposition of Mormon doctrines, her support of same-sex marriage and stance on other sexual issues, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, according to the Associated Press.

Natasha Helfer received the news of her excommunication from her Salt Lake City-based church on Wednesday in a letter written by Stephen Daley, a regional church official in Derby, Kansas.

"After carefully and prayerfully considering this matter, it was the decision of the council to withdraw your church membership in response to conduct contrary to the law and order of the church," the letter said. It was posted by Helfer on Facebook.

Helfer has been a member of her religion since she was 5 and lived in Kansas before moving to Utah in 2019, the Associated Press reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Mormon Church in California
The San Diego California Temple on August 8, 2020, in La Jolla, California. Bauer Griffin/GC Images

Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for the church, said the decision to oust Helfer was not based on her private-practice work as a therapist, AP reported.

"As the letter shared by Ms. Helfer indicates, the decision of the local leaders was based on her public, repeated opposition to the church, church leaders and the doctrine of the church, including our doctrine on the nature of the family and on moral issues," Hawkins said in a statement.

Among Helfer's other beliefs regarding sexuality are that she believes masturbation is not a sin and pornography should not be treated as an addiction.

Helfer told the Tribune that she was asked to leave her disciplinary hearing before it began on Sunday because she refused to turn off her phone, which contained her notes.

"It is common for participants to be asked to turn off technology (including cellphones) or leave it outside the room, as was the case with this council," Hawkins said. "All but one of the participants complied with that request and had brought their statements in writing."

Church members are taught not to have sex before marriage, engage in passionate kissing, touch another person's private parts or arouse "emotions in your own body" that are supposed to be reserved for marriage. Homosexual relations also are forbidden even if a person is married or in a relationship.

Helfer, who said that she had hoped to remain in the church. did not immediately respond to AP's request for comment.

While not a lifelong ban, the withdrawal of a person's membership by church leaders amounts to the harshest punishment available for a member of the faith. The ousters used to be called excommunication before the faith changed the terminology last year to "withdrawal of church membership."

People in this category can't go inside temples where members are married and other ordinances such as baptisms for dead relatives are performed.

Sam Young, a man who led a campaign criticizing the church's practice of allowing one-on-one interviews of youth by lay leaders that sometimes included sexual questions, was kicked out of the church in 2018. Kate Kelly, founder of a group pushing for women to be allowed in the religion's lay clergy, was excommunicated in 2014.

The story was originally reported by the Washington Post.