Polygamy, Prop 8, and the Peculiar People : Sexuality in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Arizona State University
This dissertation addresses the issue of sexuality in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormon Church, on both the institutional and individual levels. It traces the ways that the LDS Church's early persecution over polygamy, and the enduring effects of this history - both within and outside the Church - have helped to shape contemporary Mormon policies and public actions related to sexuality and marriage. Despite its relative success in achieving assimilation with the larger American society, the LDS Church continues to be associated with the practice of polygamy, creating a need for the Church to prove its adherence to traditional marriage and sexual norms. This work analyzes Mormon involvement in recent political campaigns against same-sex marriage, especially the campaign to pass Proposition 8 in California. This political participation has provided LDS leaders with significant opportunities to reshape their Church's public image, to improve relationships between Mormons and other conservative Christian communities, and to position the Church in a particular way in the American religious landscape. The dissertation also examines official LDS policies related to homosexuality and homosexual persons, and individual accounts of gay and lesbian Mormons and former Mormons (and those that do not identify as gay but experience same-sex attraction), found in personal blogs, YouTube videos, and published volumes. Elements of Mormon theology related to marriage, gender, premortality, and revelation, combined with aspects of LDS Church history, structure, and culture, make the experiences of these individuals unique among those of gays and lesbian in conservative Christian communities.