SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- A homosexual dying of AIDS says the Mormon Church turned its back on his pleas for spiritual help and kicked him out when he approached church officials to ask for forgiveness.
Church officials acknowledge they excommunicated Clair Harward, 26, but say local Mormon leaders tried to help him cope with his illness and meet his daily needs.
Harward said he has recovered from the religious rebuff.
'With the month I do have (to live), I feel at peace,' Harward, who lives in Ogden, 35 miles north of Salt Lake City, said in an interview.
'I'm totally satisfied with the way I feel. I don't want to go looking out for any more opinions or beliefs.'
Church spokesman Jerry Cahill said Friday, 'We have provided food orders and counseling assistance to Mr. Harward and have attempted to meet his needs as he has expressed them through this tragic period.'
Cahill added that once Harward told Mormon officials he was gay, they had to follow church policy of excommunicating homosexuals.
Harward was diagnosed in early 1984 as having AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, an incurable disease which mostly afflicts homosexuals and drug addicts by destroying the body's ability to fight infections.
After learning he had AIDS, he asked his lay Mormon bishop for spiritual guidance and forgiveness because 'there was just so much guilt I was going nuts. I was convinced I'd go to hell. I wanted peace of mind.'
But he said he was told by Bishop Bruce Don Bowen to give up his friends and identify his sexual partners.
'When I need my friends most, they're asking me to be alone,' he said.
Harward admitted he gave the names of his roommate and of two others to the bishop.
'Since homosexual behavior is possible only with others, the individual should disclose his sexual partners as an essential part of his repentance,' said Cahill in explaining why Harward was asked to name his friends.
'The purpose is to help save others. Their spiritual redemption depends on repenting their sins. I think the thing about giving up the friends is he would be removed from the environment that got him into the problems. If you have a problem drinking, then you need to stop going to bars.'
Bowen also asked Harward not to attend church services because of fear he could spread the disease, which is transmitted primarily through sexual contact.
The bishop said Harward was excommunicated because the church believes homosexuality is an abuse of God's gift of procreation.
'A sexual relationship within a marriage is approporiate for men and women in His (God's) sight. Otherwise, it is a sin second only to murder in seriousness,' Bowen said.
Harward, who has been gay since he was 17, has developed a skin cancer which doctors believe has spread into his lungs. His doctors said the disease is so extensive that surgery would be usless.
'I wish I had tried to stay straight and got counseling and stayed in the church,' said Harward, who was married for three months in 1983 but had the ceremony annulled. 'I always wanted a family and a wife.'
Mormons believe a member who confesses a sin and then abstains from sinful conduct can be forgiven and return to the church. But excommunicated members must wait at least one year before being evaluated again for membership.
Brant S. Farr, a Mormon bishop, said that Harward dies before he can be evaluated for membership, as is certain to be the case, 'someone else will have to go in and be rebaptised for him.'
Mormons believe active members can be baptised for people who are dead and that the immortal spirit can then either accept or reject that vicarious membership.