The LDS Church and homosexuality
Past and current attitudes & policies
Past LDS attitudes towards homosexuality:
Homosexuality is not mentioned in the three uniquely Mormon religious texts
which are considered inspired by God and authoritative: the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants
(D&C), or the Pearl of Great Price . 1
D. Michael Quinn is gay, an ex-member of the church, and ex-professor of
history at Brigham Young University. He was excommunicated in 1993. Now an independent researcher, he has suggested that Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints (LDS), was relatively accepting of gay and lesbian relationships.
2 He published a book titled: "Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans - a Mormon
Example." in 1996. In 2001, it was popular enough to be printed in paperback. 3
According to Quinn, early Mormons endorsed physical and emotional intimacy between gays and lesbians. Two examples were:
|Evan Stephens (1854-1930), director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and
author of many church hymns never married. However, he maintained intense
friendships with several young men who lived with him and were his traveling companions at different times.|
|Joseph F. Smith (1899-1964) was a Church Patriarch and allegedly a
homosexual. While an instructor at the University of Utah, he allegedly had
a homosexual relationship with a student. He later allegedly became sexually
involved with another young Mormon male.|
Quinn concluded that the church tolerated homoeroticism until the mid-1950s.
Reviews of his research are mixed:
|Book reviewer, Duane E. Jennings, commented: |
"With the meticulous record keeping of of the Mormon Church
and its members, a lot of evidence is presented suggesting remarkable tolerance of homoeroticism until the mid-1950s
both within the Mormon Church and Utah. Citing evidence from Mildred J. Berryman's earliest community study of Lesbians
and Gay Men in America, that took place in Salt Lake City between 1916—1938, personal diaries, articles from official
Mormon Church publications and other sources, one gets the idea that Salt Lake City was never as straight nor as
straitlaced as some would have the world believe." 4
|David Azzolina of the Univ. of Pennsylvania Libraries wrote in the
Library Journal that:|
"Quinn carefully sets the theoretical parameters of
his work in the first chapters and then demonstrates, with thorough
documentation, several examples of long-term relationships among Mormon
same-sex couples and the environment in which they flourished. His
extraordinary accomplishment is especially notable for the subtlety of his
claims and the nuanced interpretation he gives them, all supported by
|A U.S. Amazon.com reviewer, identified for safety only as "A reader
from USA" commented:|
"Excellent read, and hits the history of Mormon
attitudes regarding same-sex dynamics right on the nail's head. As one who has
had first hand experience with both Mormonism and same-sex dynamics, I can
assure you this book covers the these topics with astounding factual evidence
and is devoid of any biasing, or personal agendas."
|Two other researchers, George L. Mitton and
Rhett S. James, discount Quinn's study saying that, |
offered his readers quotations that are sometimes obviously wrenched out
of context and paraphrases that often distort the meaning of crucial
Additional information about same-sex couples in the LDS can be found
in Rocky O'Donovan's essay: "The Abominable and Detestable Crime
Against Nature: A Brief History of Homosexuality and Mormonism, 1840-1980."
Current LDS attitudes towards homosexuality:
The LDS church is currently very strongly opposed to equal rights for gays and lesbians. They maintain that their position
has remained unchanged through their history.
They teach that a member cannot be excommunicated simply because they have a
homosexual orientation, as long as they remain celibate.
Daniel Peterson, a professor at Brigham Young university and the author of
many books and articles on church doctrine said in an interview:
"To be a practicing homosexual is something that will bring you into
contact with the church court. To be a homosexual as such, to be of that
inclination, there's nothing excommunicable about that and there are lots of
them in the church. It must be a terribly difficult road to walk."
However, church policies are
not always interpreted consistently; ex-members are occasionally seen on Usenets describing how they were excommunicated from the church
because news of their sexual orientation became public, even though they have never been
The church expects the same behavior among heterosexuals, bisexuals, gays and
lesbians. Daniel Peterson said:
"... the standard for a homosexual is the same as the standard for a
heterosexual. No sexual relations except within [opposite-sex] marriage. And if you violate
that, that is one of the most serious things the church will look at. In
that sense, there's no discrimination; there's a single standard that if a
heterosexual male violates his marriage covenants, he's likely to be
disciplined, whether it's with a man or a woman."
Current LDS beliefs about homosexuality:
Mormons refer to homosexuals as being "same-sex
attracted." Their current beliefs are similar to that of most other conservative Christian churches.
They believe that:
is a chosen lifestyle.|
|All homosexual activity is immoral and sinful, irrespective of the
love and commitment of partners in a same-sex relationship.
|Homosexuality is caused by dysfunctional parenting, typically by an overbearing
mother and emotionally distant father
|It can be cured through
reparative therapy, repentance, and prayer.
These beliefs are contradict statements by:
The quality of data on conversion
rates from a homosexual orientation to a heterosexual orientation is very poor. However, they seem to
indicate that somewhere between 0% and 1% of persons are successful. However, a much larger percentage decide to remain sexually
inactive, while still retaining a homosexual orientation.
The church's teachings could conceivably be altered at any time, as the LDS church believes
in continual revelation from God. In the past, they have been able to adapt to two major
upheavals of their social policy. The first revelation occurred in
1890. It suspended, at least temporarily polygyny as the
preferred lifestyle. They received a second revelation in 1978 which
reversed their racist policies against African-Americans. However, Harold Brown,
the church's official spokesman on homosexuality, said that no amount of press
coverage or activism is going to influence God to change the rules about
homosexuality. Brown said: "Being black is not a sin...Being immoral is."
Abandonment of gays and lesbians by Mormon
D. Michael Quinn commented in a PBS interview about
the special problems of gays and lesbians within a Mormon family. According to
Mormon theology, if a family is righteous enough, they will be together after
death. Many Mormons try to conform to the Scriptures and the teachings of the
Church so that they will remain a unit in Heaven. Unfortunately, this pro-family
belief system can be profoundly destructive to those families that include a
child who happens to have a homosexual or bisexual orientation.
"... when you're gay you realize you don't fit that picture. And when you
come out to your parents as gay, their fear is indescribable, because it's
not just that they've lost their image of you in terms of this heterosexual
perception they have of you. Their fear is beyond the fear of other parents,
because their fear is that they have the opportunity of having you with them
for eternity, and now they've lost it because you are a disgusting
homosexual, and nothing disgusting can be in the presence of God." ...
"LDS families are in this double bind, because they're told when they
have gay children, [to] follow that which is true. Avoid even the appearance of
evil, and homosexuality is evil. So there has been almost a kind of
expectation that if your child will not conform, then you should abandon
them. ... And yet many families find this extremely difficult to do -- not
only the physical abandonment, but to give up the faith that this child,
this homosexual child, and maybe his partner or her partner for life may
want to be with that family eternally. And it creates this huge faith
"You have to develop a private faith, which I have, that God accepts all
loving relationships. But this separates you from the orthodoxy of the
Mormon Church, and many gays and lesbians cannot make that step. They accept
themselves as inferior eternally, because they've never been taught
otherwise, and they don't have the individual testimony that I do. Maybe I'm
wrong, but this is my faith. So for the mass of Mormon families this is an
unresolvable tragedy." 8
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Cindy LeFevre, "Homophobia as a Weapon of Patriarchy", 1993
Affirmation Conference. Online at: http://www.affirmation.org/
- Jeff Ofstedahl, "Their tithing dollars at work; a look at Mormon
influence in America's gay political scene -a history of hypocrisy (Parts I & II)," Echo
Magazine, Phoenix, AZ, 1996-SEP and OCT.
- D. Michael Quinn, "Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A
Mormon Example," University of Illinois Press, (1996) A book review is available
The book can be ordered from:
- Duane E. Jennings, "Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century
Americans: A Mormon Example - Book Review," at:
- G.L. Mitton & R.S. James, "A response to D. Michael Quinn's
homosexual distortion of Latter-day Saint history," FARMS review of
books, 10/1 (1998), 141-263.
- Rocky O'Donovan, "The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against
Nature": A Brief History of Homosexuality and Mormonism, 1840-1980,"
- Katherine Rosman, "Mormon Family Values," The Nation, 2002-FEB-25,
- "The Mormon Church and Gays," PBS, 2007-APR, at:
- Jennifer Dobner, "Activists contend Mormon attitudes are a factor in struggles of gay members," Canadian Press, 2010-OCT-25, at: http://www.google.com/
Copyright © 1998 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-OCT--25
Author: B.A. Robinson