What Do Mormons Really Believe About Gays?



Mitt Romney


Flahback to election 2012: the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, is a Mormon. 


In fact, he is some type of elder in the church. Those facts had proved to be controversial, but the Mormon Church had previously created controversy by supporting Proposition 8 in California.


Now the church has supposedly lessened (slightly) its anti-gay stance by supporting a Salt Lake City ordinance barring housing and workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Why is this? What do the Mormons believe about homosexuality? Perhaps a magazine published by gay Mormons (yes, they exist!) can give us some insight. 

A magazine called New Direction came out in the late 80s or early 90s. The magazine covered many of the same issues that more “general” gay magazines like the Advocate and Mandate were covering during that period. These issues are still hot button issues today, such as gay marriage, gays in the military, and the interpretation of Biblical passages about homosexuality. 

Issue 2 (undated) of New Direction includes Muriel McGrath's (whose husband was a Mormon bishop) scholarly “Study of Attitudes Toward Homosexuality in the Mormon Church.” Essentially, according to the statistics, “those people who are not aware of knowing homosexuals held beliefs, were consistently different from people who had a close relationship with homosexual people.” Homophobic attitudes decrease as ignorance decreases. This is true, but not only relevant to the gay Mormon question but to other attitudes of prejudice when people or cultures are foreign to those who are not exposed to them.


Now the small sample size may inhibit the study's accuracy, McGrath admits, as well as the low response rate because of the sensitive subject matter, but does McGrath's conclusion give us a specific Mormon attitude that emerges from the specific theology of the church? One sentence may offer a clue: 

“It is probable that the fact of having a homosexual child is the determining feature in Mormon family's attitudes and not the number of children.” 


New Direction, Issue No. 2

Mormon teaching encourages procreation, and devout Mormon families produce many children; it's an essential component of the religion, built into its entire theology of the Godhead, human nature and its future, and the afterlife. God was a man like us who worked to attain his godhood; every man is capable of becoming a god. Rather than viewing this belief as a kind of form of the diaphanous “God is you” construct that surfaces time and time again in “new age” belief systems, one should understand that the God of the Mormons is the literal father of Jesus Christ.


The God of the Mormons is a god of flesh and bones, not a spiritual Trinity in the traditional Christian sense. He, and I emphasize he, has hair on his back (and a penis!). Perhaps this living God with a body might then promote a healthy attitude toward sexuality? Not really. 

Thus God's plan of salvation, according to McGrath is, “based on the eternal covenant of marriage which presupposes eternal increase (posterity) and is organized according to the hierarchical pattern of the patriarchal order. There is no room in that view of life after death for the anomaly of homosexuality.”


Thus, in order to keep the universe full of men evolving gods, Mormons are required to procreate. God creates spirits, but they are incomplete with bodies. In order to make bodies, men and women need to marry. And when these bodies die, they, according to their works in this life, move onto higher planes, and eventually, like the God of this planet and the father of Jesus Christ, can become gods.


One might argue that this definitely off-the-beaten track as far as traditional Catholic and Protestant theology is concerned presupposes a kind of evolutionary optimism and a belief in the holiness of matter, but as McGrath claims, it is based on an evangelical belief of one path to salvation (in this case, based more on what you do on this earth than faith) and a theology and anthropology founded on male dominance.


There are no goddesses in this system, though a woman can certainly become one of the many wives of one god (who sounds like a combination of the polyamorous Zeus and the polygamous Brigham Young!). 

In that specific belief system, any biological basis for homosexual orientation would be counter to God's plan. The behavior of homosexuals is therefore exceedingly sinful, because it defies not only the procreative plan in this life, but also prevents unborn spirits from gaining bodies. So, what is a gay Mormon to do, or as McGrath studies, how does a Mormon family with a gay or lesbian member reconcile, a seemingly impossible move, that person's sexuality with the church's teachings? 

According to McGrath, many families ended up becoming less devout Mormons because of the feelings of alienation and rejection, even losing faith. But some of the unsolicited comments from Mormons McGrath received in response to her survey also show increased education, faith and love in others, and pleas for the church to reinterpret its position. These comments include: 

“How can you stop loving the child you have loved for 20 years? We had to accept him or negate all we espoused.” 

“Now that I have become educated and understanding, I have a very different and positive attitude toward gays.” 

“There is no inspiration from the church on this topic.” 

The last comment is telling, as the Mormon Church believes that revelation and prophecy continues through its highest leaders. For Mormons, official revelation from God did not cease after a certain date. The canon is not closed. Will the “kingdom of the saints,” like it did in its revocation of polygamy and ban on male African-American priests, at least tolerate gays? Its theology may never allow full acceptance, but perhaps its emphasis on active works and evolutionary thinking may allow for a revaluation of the meaning of homosexuality and the position of gays in a church in which all males (at this point) are priests. 

As food for further thought, I end with a homoerotic illustration from the Book of Mormon. In this picture, beefcake hero Nephi subdues his rebellious brothers, who ended up, according to the Book, turning dark-skinned because of God's curse and fathering today's Native Americans! 

Book of Mormon Illustration


Bloom, Harold. The American Religion. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. 

McGrath, Muriel, ““Study of Attitudes Toward Homosexuality in the Mormon Church.” New Direction, Number 2. Undated. Probably middle to late 1980s.

O'Dea, Thomas. The Mormons. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957. 

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