Topic Pages: LGBT issues

May 3, 2021

2021: Spring Issue, Dialogue 54.1, (Spring 2021).

Queer Mormon Histories and the Politics of a Usable Past” by Alexandria Griffin

The Theological Trajectory of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” by M. David Huston

Variety of Perceptions of God Among Latter-day Saints” by Taylor Kerby

Excommunication and Finding Wholeness” by John Gustav-Wrathall

The Spring 2021 issue, the most recent one as of the recording of this podcast, has five important pieces: the first is Alexanderia Griffin’s “Queer Mormon Histories and the Politics of a Usable Past.” This is about vernacular history or popular historical tales, rather than professional histories. It looks at all kinds of fun material from instagram accounts to brand advertisements to see how these stories retell the past in order to comment on the present, a usable past. Another article in this issue, “The Theological Trajectory of “The Family: A Proclamation to the Word,” by M. David Huston argues that we should interpret that text in its historical context and glean from it new possibilities. Drawing on feminist interpretive strategies, Huston reads for the “theological trajectory,” rather than the plain meaning, to discern principles that might endure beyond a narrowly heterosexual nuclear family. Taylor Kirby has an article too on “Variety of Perceptions of God Among Latter-day Saints” that includes some analysis of LDS LGBTQ perceptions of God. Fascinating data here. John Gustav-Wrathall writes a really powerful piece: “Excommunication and Finding Wholeness.” He tells his own story of excommunication in 1986 and his journey since then. “There have been times when my excommunicated status has felt burdensome and when I have yearned to be able to be baptized and partake of the bread and water each week at sacrament. However, I firmly believe that I am currently where the Lord wants me to be, and I have felt reassurances through the Spirit that eventually all will work out so long as I remain faithful and attentive to its promptings.”

2020: Blaire Ostler, “Hug a Queer Latter-day Saint,Dialogue 53.2 (Summer 2020): 161–168 and Blaire Ostler, “Queer Polygamy,”  Dialogue 53.2 (Spring 2019): 33-44.

Blaire Ostler has written a number of pieces, from personal essays, poetry, to articles, that are worth noting. Her article, “Queer Polygamy,” is an innovating mashup that looks beyond monogamy as the only authorizing type of same-sex relationships—it really pushes the boundaries of what queer scholarship had done. Drawing on contemporary polyamory to critique the limitations of heterosexual monogamy, and putting that into conversation with the LDS tradition of plural marriage, Ostler imagines a new type of polygamy, queer polygamy, that sheds the patriarchal baggage of the 19th century version and its continuation in fundamentalist Mormonism, as well as thinking beyond its presumed heterosexulity.

2017: Bryce Cook, “What Do We Know Of God’s Will For His LGBT Children?: An Examination Of The Lds Church’s Position On Homosexuality,Dialogue 50.2 (Winter 2017): 1–52.

“What do We know of God’s Will for his LGBT Children?: An Examination of the LDS church’s position on homosexuality” divides it up into a “doctrinal, moral, and empirical perspective.” Cook’s goal is to understand, to encourage empathy, and to encourage people to see current teachings on homosexuality as incomplete. In this way, it has a lot in common with earlier pastoral approaches. The analysis here is strong, and this division is a version of other theological traditions of reasoning from scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. This essay asks some great questions and raises some pretty serious critiques about the problems with contemporary LDS teachings and practices. “The longer this change takes,” he writes, “the more we will lose gay people, their family members, their friends, and other sympathetic Church members, particularly younger people who do not see same-sex marriage as a threat to society or a sin against God.”

2017: John Gustav-Wrathall, “Why I Stay,Dialogue 50.2 (Summer 2017): 1–52.

“I was excommunicated from the Church in 1986. I am a gay man in a twenty-five-year-long relationship with my husband Göran Gustav-Wrathall. We were legally married in July 2008. Over the years, people have asked me how it is that I could consider myself Mormon if I’m not a member of the Church. What covenants are there for me to renew on Sunday morning, sitting in the pews, as I pass, without partaking, the sacrament tray to the person sitting next to me? To the extent that there is a relationship between me and God that has the Church as a context, real as it is to me, it is invisible to outside observers. That’s okay. I stay because I cannot deny what I know.”

2017: Gary Bergera, “The History That Dares Speak Its Name: LGBT Salt Lake ,Dialogue 50.2 (Summer 2017): 1–52.

Seth Anderson’s slim book, part of Arcadia Publishing’s multi-volume Images of Modern America photographic series, is much more than an important new contribution to Utah and LDS history. It is a revelation— a surprising, unexpected glimpse into a past that has too long been forgotten, discarded, and de-legitimized.

2017: Gerald S. Argetsinger, “That We May Be One: A Personal Journey,Dialogue 50.4 (Winter 2017): 1–52.

Tom Christofferson’s That We May Be One exploded onto the LDS book market with a series of news releases, interviews, and appearances. It represents a gigantic leap in the Deseret Book LDS conversation on LGBTQ+ (hereafter: gay) members since the publication of Ty Mansfield’s In Quiet Desperation: Understanding the Challenge of Same-gender Attraction. Even the use of the descriptor “gay” in place of “same-gender attraction” still raises the hackles of many in the faith.

2016: Summer Issue, Dialogue 42.3, (Summer 2016).

The Art Of Queering Boundaries In LDS Communities” by Roni Jo Draper

The LGBTQ Mormon Crisis: Responding To The Empirical Research On Suicide” by Michael Barker, Daniel Parkinson,and Benjamin Knoll

Suicide Rates And Mormon Religious Context: An Additional Empirical Analysis” by Benjamin Knoll

In Our Lovely Oubliette: The Un/Intended Consequences of Boundary Making & Keeping from a Gay Mormon Perspective” by D Christian Harrison

The Mama Dragon Story Project

The Summer 2016 issue deserves special consideration. it is dedicated more than half to this topic, the first time in Dialogue’s 50-year history up to that point with that much content on one issue. There are two scholarly articles on the empirical research on LGBTQ suicide in LDS contexts. This is less than a year after a November 2015 policy that raised the sanctions on LDS individuals who entered into same-sex marriages. Here is what they say: “When we put these data together, it is impossible to know exactly how many suicides there are among Mormon youth and how many of these are related to LGBTQ issues. In large part this is because data collected by the government on deaths, including suicides, do not generally indicate the sexual orientation of the deceased. Despite this fact, we have described above some compelling evidence that allows us to conclude that there is a significant problem and make some reasonable inferences. The direct empirical evidence alone is enough to merit a public health response.” It further noted that family acceptance or rejection was the single largest factor contributing to mental and emotional health. There are two personal essays in this issue, one from BYU professor Roni Jo Draper, and another from D. Christian Harrison on covenant keeping and boundary making.There is a photo essay by Kimberly Anderson, “The Mama Dragon Story Project.” The Mama Dragons were a support and advocacy group of LDS mothers of LGBTQ children. Each  photo is of one of the Mama Dragons with a brief story of why they got involved with the group. Anderson photographed more than 80 members, and a selection of those are presented in this essay.

2013: Wilfred Decoo, “As Our Two Faiths Have Worked Together”— Catholicism and Mormonism on Human Life Ethics and Same-Sex Marriage,” Dialogue 46.3 (Fall 2013): 106–141.

Wilfred Decoo writes in 2013 ““As Our Two Faiths Have Worked Together”— Catholicism and Mormonism on Human Life Ethics and Same-Sex Marriage.” He expains, “I analyze a number of factors that could ease the way for the Mormon Church to withdraw its opposition to same-sex marriage, at least as it concerns civil society, while the Catholic Church is unlikely to budge.”

2011: Alan Michael Richards, “Mormon and Queer at the Crossroads,” Dialogue 44.1 (Spring 2011): 53–84.

In Spring 2011 Alan Michael Williams publishes, “Mormon and Queer at the Crossroads.” This essay explores conflicting messages within LDS teaching on LGBT rights, when it both opposed same-sex marriage and in the wake of Prop 8 also came out in support of other LGBT rights that display both wrath and mercy. It explores a theory of LDS teachings on homosexuality along these lines, as well as the context of shifting norms around sexual identity.

2011: Scott D. Davis, “The Fabulous Jesus: A Heresy of Reconciliation,” Dialogue 44.3 (Fall 2011): 114–120.

As a student of history, I have to admit, however reluctantly, that Jesus didn’t wear pashmina ascots or Armani sunglasses—but neither did he wear white shirts, dark suits, and a bicycle helmet. Jesus wasn’t fabulous but neither was Jesus a twenty-first-century Mormon. It’s hard to tell whether he was even an intellectual. Of the historical Jesus, we know so very little. But what does seem clear is that he didn’t play by the rules.

2011: Taylor Petrey, “Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology,” Dialogue 44.4 (Winter 2011): 106–141.

From Editor Taylor Petrey: “Toward a Post-heterosexual Mormon Theology”  was actually the first major article I ever published. I did not know what to expect, but it ended up being a widely discussed piece, accessed tens of thousands of times.⁠ To this day I still receive notes of appreciation for this article. There have also been a number of responses and challenges to the project that I laid out. Now, I will let you all be the first to know that in the Winter 2021 issue of Dialogue, I’ve got an essay coming out called “After a Post-heterosexual Mormon theology: a 10 year retrospective.” There are going to be a lot of details about the origins and aftermath of the article that I’ve never told before. I’m not going to spoil them here, but I’ll say a few things. One was my own frurstration with the pastoral approach to the topic or focus on the “causes” of homosexuality…not that it wasn’t importnat and it is probably more effective than my own, but I had other theolgoical questions that I felt were unanswered so I set out to examine the link between Mormon theology, reproduction, kinship, and gender to see whether non-heterosexual sealings might be possible. All of my arguments were an attempt to lay out problems that needed to be solved no matter the answers, and to propose possible solutions to those problems. I wanted to be clear that I was not advocating that my solutions were correct, nor that church leaders or members should follow my arguments. Rather, I wanted to raise critical questions about the best arguments that stood in the way of theologically affirming same-sex sealing and explore their strengths and weaknesses.”

2009: Proposition 8 Roundtable, Dialogue 42.3, (Fall 2009): 99–132.

Six Voices on Proposition 8: A Roundtable Introduction” by Russell Arben Fox

Two Modes of Political Engagement” by David Watkins

The Church’s Use of Secular Arguments” by Kaimipono Wenger

How We Talk about Marriage (and Why It Matters)” by Robert K. Vischer

An Evangelical Perspective” by Lindsey Chambers

The Political Is Personal” by Mary Ellen Robertson

Four Reasons for Voting Yes” by Russell Arben Fox

After Prop 22 passed, it was overturned by the courts as a violation of the equal protection clause of the CA constitution. Opponents of same-sex marriage devised a new proposition to amenda the CA constitution to ban same-sex marriage and the LDS church announced its public support and activism for the measure in the summer of 2008 before teh november election. It was a deeply contentious issue bringing national attention to the church whose members provided the bulk of the funding for its passage, nearly $40m. The issue was a breaking point for many in the church and the above roundtable attempts to offer a variety of legal and religious arguments for and against the measure. 

2007: John Donald Gustav-Wrathall, “Trial of Faith,Dialogue 40.2 (Summer 2007): 78-107.

In 2007 there is an essay by John Gustav Wrathal, a man who was excommunicated in 1986 and remains in a relationship, now married to his long-time partner. But he is also deeply committed to the church, attending regularly, after having left for other spiritual communities. His essay “Trial of Faith” is a memoir through the history of LDS teachings and his own changing understanding.

2007: Randolph Muhlestein and Wayne Schow, “The Case For and Against Same-Sex Marriage,” Dialogue 40.3 (Fall 2007): 40-67.

These articles were about legal arguments. The case against argued that marriage was already tenuous and allowing same-sex marriage would doom it, suggesting that people would become homosexuals if same-sex marriage were an option.

2005: Getting Out/Staying In: One Mormon/Gay Marriage Series, Dialogue 38.3, (Fall 2005): 121–151.

Getting Out” by Ben Christensen

Homosexual Attraction and LDS Marriage Decisions” by Ron Schow

Thoughts of a Therapist” by Marybeth Raynes

Staying In” by Ben Christensen

In Fall 2005, there is a roundtable on mix-orientation marriages from some who were in them and from therapist Marybeth Raynes and long-time activist Ron Schow.

2004: O. Kendall White, Jr, and Daryl White, “Ecclesiastical Polity and the Challenge of Homosexuality: Two Cases of Divergence within the Mormon Tradition,Dialogue 37.4 (Winter 2004): 67–89.

This article compares the Community of Christ to the LDS church. In the early 2000s, the Community of Christ began to publicly reassess its policies on ordination and acceptance of homosexuality and opened the issue up for deliberation and discussion among various governing bodies. It was a more democratic, congregational polity that the LDS, top down, authoritarian theocratic model. This article sets these two governing traditions in Christian context and offers some history of LDS and Community of Christ doctrines on homosexuality.

2000: D. Micheal Quinn, “Prelude to the National “”Defense of Marriage”” Campaign: Civil Discrimination Against Feared or Despised Minorities,Dialogue 33.3 (Fall 2000): 1-52.

This is an early 50+ page article documenting LDS political activity in the 1990s on same-sex marriage, culminating in Prop 22. Quinn’s explanation was that homophobia provided the best explanation for LDS prejudice against same-sex relationships. He set these efforts in historical context of restricting marriage rights of other, what he called “despised minorities.” He answers many of the common objections to same-sex marriage that people used and argued that it was a civil right. He offered hope for an alternative vision of a more tolerant and inclusive LDS theology. Just a quick note that up on the DiaBLOGue there’s a tribute to Quinn’s many contributions to Dialogue over the years.

2000: Armand Mauss, “Reply to Quinn,Dialogue 33.3 (Fall 2000): 53-65.

In a reply to Quinn’s article in the same issue, Armand Mauss questioned whether the church was motivated by homophobia or a more benevolent force.

2000: Hugo Oliaz, “Gay & Lesbian Mormons: Interviews with James Kent, Former Executive Director of Affirmation, and with Aaron Cloward, Founder and Coordinator of Gay LDS Youth,Dialogue 33.3 (Fall 2000): 123-136.

Hugo Oliaz intervews two important figures in LDS LGBTQ organzing, a former diretor of Affirmation and the founder of Gay LDS Youth, a group that briefly flourished in the early 2000s. A great resource for learning more about LDS LGBTQ organizing in this period. 

2000: Robert Rees, “In a Dark Time the Eye Begins to See”: Personal Reflections on Homosexuality among the Mormons at the Beginning of a New Millennium,Dialogue 33.3 (Fall 2000): 137-151.

Rees’s Fall 2000 artice is titled “”In a Dark Time the Eye Begins to See”: Personal Reflections on Homosexuality among the Mormons at the Beginning of a New Millennium.” A straight man and local LDS leader, Rees shares his own experience counseling with LGBTQ members and their struggles, from “gay bashing” violence, most famously the murder of Matthew Shephard, to prejudice and more. Rees talks about his own changed perspective on this issue that started when he was a singles ward bishop in LA in the 1980s and shares what he had learned along the way. Rees calls for a number of steps and changes as a body of the church to improve these conditions. 

1998: Gary M. Watts, “The Logical Next Step: Affirming Same-Sex Relationships,” Dialogue 31.3 (Fall 1998): 49–57.

In Fall 1998 just a few years after The Family Proclamation, Gary Watts wrote, “The Logical Next Step: Affirming Same-Sex Relationships.” He notes the inner conflict that gay LDS members faced, having to choose between their desires to have a relaitonship and their desires to be in the church.  It draws a lot of personal experiences and conversation to assess the issues. And he proposes that affirming committed, monogamous same-sex relationships would not change doctrines about reserving sexual initimacy for marriage, but proposed that these relationhips would not be eligible for sealings.

1995: D. Michael Quinn, “Male-Male Intimacy among Nineteenth-Century Mormons: A Case Study,” Dialogue 28.4 (Winter 1995): 105–119.

This was a prelude to his book-length treatment Same-Sex Dynamics in 19th C. America: A Mormon Example, that looked at “intimacy” broadly defined, before the rise of homophobia in the post-WWII period. It is a fascinating study of changing norms and practices that once allowed for a huge range of bonding practices between people of the same-sex. Quinn himself had come out in the course of researching this article and the book a few years before, and this work remains influential.

1994: David Pace, “Mormon Angels in America ,” Dialogue 27.4 (Winter 1994): 194–196.

For Mormons, the co-option of our most sacred story for the purposes of theater might at first seem blasphemous. In fact, Eugene England in his regular This People round-up of recent LDS-related books and plays tagged part one of Angels, which he saw in London, as “offensive” and disrespectful.

1993: T.J. O’Brian, “You Are Not Alone: A Plea for Understanding the Homosexual Condition,” Dialogue 26.3 (Fall 1993): 119–140.

In fall 1993, TJ O’Brian wrote, “You are Not Alone: A Please for Understanding the Homosexual Condition.” O’Brian was a gay man and this esay addresses how church members should treat LGBT members. He points to Jan Stout’s article among other influential pieces that were beginning to soften LDS attitudes and change practices in the early 90s. But he also notes several examples of terrible things that LDS members were still saying and doing, not including an imfamous homophobic rant from Orson Scott Card in Sunstone magazine in 1990.

1987: R. Jan Stout, “Sin and Sexuality: Psychobiology and the Development of Homosexuality,” Dialogue 20.2 (Summer 1987): 31–43.

Stout’s article is a reminder just how important psychology and psychologists were for mediating these early debates. It really was groundbreaking in LDS print media. He talks about how he believed and presented publicly theories on the cause and cure of homoseuxaity, following Freudian psychology in 1970. “16 years later, “he states, “I can state that what I presented was wrong and simplistic. The evolving change in my views came by examining new research, gaining more clinical experience, and looking for alternative explanations to clarify some of the mystery surrounding the development of human sexuality and specifically homosexuality.” Stout’s overview provides a guide to the updated psychological research from the 1970s and 80s that overturned earlier consensus on the pathologization of homosexuality and on whether it can be cured. He tackles the ethical and moral issues with forced celibacy, but leaves the question as a mystery of paradox of how to proceed on the topic, warning against “extremes” on all sides.

1979: Jeffry Duane, “Intersexes in Humans: An Introductory Exploration,” Dialogue 12.3 (Fall 1979): 107–113.

In the Fall 1979 issue, an LDS evolutionary biologist wrote a really important piece, ahead of its time in some ways, challenging the idea of binary gender in his article, “Intersexes in Humans: An Introductory Exploration.” Duane laid out the problem clearly—we can’t say that sex is binary by divine design when it is not binary in nature.

1977: Val D. MacMurray, “Warning: Labels Can Be Hazardous to Your Health,” Dialogue 10.4 (Fall 1977): 130–132.

MacMurray cautioned against people labelling themselves or others “homosexuals.” He argued that it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy and that it was an impediment to a cure. This would become a major theory of Elder Boyd K. Packer and others who instituted a cultural taboo on the term that lasted until the early 2000s when self-labelling became somewhat more tolerated. This doctrine has its roots in reparative therapy theories.

1976: Anonymous, “Solus,” Dialogue 9.3 ( Fall 1976, Reprinted Spring/Summer 2001): 67–74.

An active church member shares his struggles of being in the church while being gay.“Solus,” S-O-L-US-, latin for alone, by an anonymous gay may in the Fall 1976 issue is the first entry on this topic in Dialogue. This is likely the first instance of an LGBTQ voice in any LDS publication. It marks the beginning of the modern LDS LGBTQ movement.


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