Date of Award:

1-1-1993

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Advisor/Chair:

Richley H. Crapo

Abstract

This thesis is a descriptive ethnography of homosexuals and homosexuality in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon church, The study employs the labeling perspective in sociology and uses gay Mormons to examine how an individual constructs and maintains a homosexual identity in an environment where such an orientation is stigmatized and devalued. Qualitative interviews and documentary analysis are the chief methodological tools for this study.

The contradictions between a homosexual lifestyle and Mormon theology are outlined, and a history of Mormon church policy concerning homosexual members from 1959 to the present is presented. The study finds that many homosexual Mormons have great difficulty balancing their religious beliefs and their homosexuality. These difficulties are exacerbated by several unique theological precepts of Mormonism, and by a social climate that is generally hostile or indifferent to gay people and gay rights issues. A great deal of variation between younger informants and older informants to the study was discovered with regard to the depth of these difficulties, with older informants reporting more serious problems managing their sexual preference and Mormon church membership than younger informants.

It was found that some gay Mormons choose to live celibate lives, attempt to change their sexual orientation, or marry heterosexually in order to maintain favor with the Mormon church. Others in the study strive to reform the Mormon church and seek to have gay relationships sanctioned within Mormonism.

The ramifications of these identity management strategies for the individuals employing them and for the church are analyzed. The consequences of challenging mormon ecclesiastical authority and the impact such a challenge has on the lives of gay Mormons choosing this adaptive strategy is also discussed. The future of gay rights within Mormonism as well as in American society at large is treated.

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