Mormonism’s understanding of homosexuality shifts over time from quiet disapproval to intense institutionalized homophobia by the mid-20th century. The common theme that runs throughout Mormonism’s treatment of homosexuality is what I call “other as outsider” – the belief that homosexuality could be imported and spread but that it did not exist among the Saints. By the 1950s Church leaders begin to speak about homosexuality increasingly as a crime and curable mental illness, but it is not until 1968 when Church leaders added “Homo-sexual acts” to The General Handbook of Instruction as an excommunicable offense. When the Church began to excommunicate Mormons who identify as homosexual they in effect, cut off people from the body of the Church creating a class of “others” and ensuring that there were no Mormon homosexuals.
I have treated gingerly the topic of homosexuality in the 19th century. We cannot impose on people a homosexual identity because doing so obscures more than it illuminates the issues of gender and sexuality. In addition, the homosexual/heterosexual binary emerged in the United States only during the years leading up to and after World War II. Previous to this time, men and women did not think in terms of “gay and straight” or “homosexual and heterosexual” identity. Indeed, such concepts did not exist in the way we understand them today. On a personal level, I do believe that homosexual men and women not just “homosexual acts” have existed throughout all of human history. We have the privilege to look back in time with our late 20th and early 21st century historical lens and can see things that seem “gay” but we cannot impose that identity on a person who never identified as “gay” or “homosexual.”
This list is by no means exhaustive; In fact, many points below on this timeline require a tremendous amount of reading to understand the full context. There are topics, people, and dates I have left out because of the denseness of the details. For example, entire volumes could be written on the history of homosexuality at BYU. I’ve also not attempted to address John C. Bennett and the scandals of “buggery” that rocked Nauvoo in this list, nor did I address the LDS Church’s reaction to AIDS in Utah in the 1980s.
I am forever indebted to Connell O’Donovan, Ben Williams, and D. Michael Quinn for their research into early Mormon history and for the work they have done to bring forth our queer Mormon past.
22 January 1843– Joseph Smith teaches that God destroyed Sodom for “rejecting the prophets,” not for sexual impurity. (1)
18 April 1855– Deseret News uses the word “sodomy” for the first time quoting an account of Elder Nathanial Vary Jones, a returned missionary who served in Burma, near India. The missionary says (incorrectly) that “150 years ago” India was on the verge of becoming “extinct” because a “national evil” prevailed which was “the crime of sodomy.” The missionary said the reigning Indian king and queen decreed all women must wear a sari in order to “reclaim the men” and save the country from homosexuality. (2)
1864– Brigham Young says Utah lacked an anti-sodomy law because “our legislators, never having contemplated the possibility of such a crime being committed in our borders have made no provision for its punishment.” (3)
1870– LDS Apostle Lorezno Snow stated, “plural marriage would tend to diminish the evil of self pollution.” (4)
1871– First Presidency Counselor Daniel H. Wells warned the Grantsville School of the Prophets “a great many of our young men are abusing themselves by the habit of self-pollution, or self-abuse, or as the Bible terms it, Onanism.” He regarded this as “one great cause why so many of our young men were not married, and it was a great sin, and would lead to insanity and a premature grave.” (5)
18 February 1876– Sodomy or “crime against nature” becomes illegal in Utah Territory. Sodomy was defined as anal intercourse, a felony punishable by 5 years in prison. In 1907 the law changed the jail time to 23 years imprisonment. In 1923 hetero/homosexual oral sex added to sodomy statute. In 1953, sodomy is reduced from a felony to a class B misdemeanor. (6)
April General Conference, 1879– Apostle George Q. Cannon says that monogamy is “a false tradition” that leads to the crime against nature. He argued that allowing men to have multiple wives would decrease temptation to engage in sexual acts with other men. (7)
November 1879– Joseph F. Smith had a “long discussion” with 26-year-old Arthur Bruce Taylor, son of President John Taylor. Smith recorded in his journal that Arthur Bruce Taylor was “acane!” referring to the Hawaiian tradition of the aikane- young male sexual consorts of Hawaiian chiefs. (Remember, Joseph F. Smith served his mission in Hawaii and spoke the language.) Shortly after this meeting, Arthur Bruce Taylor moved to Oregon where he remained the rest of his life. James Henry Moyle, a prominent Mormon Democrat and lawyer wrote in his autobiography in the 1940s that Arthur Bruce Taylor “left the territory and cast his lot in the Northwest among strangers and he had nothing further to do with the Church.” (8)
1882– Joseph F. Smith instructs the Richfield Stake President upon discovering evidence of homosexual activity to “get the names of all of them & cut them off the Church” for “obscene, filthy, horrible practices… for which Sodom & Gomorrah were burned with fire sent down from heaven.” (9)
1883 to 1925– Louie Felt, age 33 met 19 year-old Mary Anderson, who later went by the name May. In 1889 May moved in with Louie and the two women lived together for 40 years. Together they presided over the General Primary Association and founded The Children’s Friend (later renamed The Friend) and founded the Primary Children’s Hospital. The 1919 Children’s Friend article declared that “the friendship which had started when Sister Felt and [May Anderson] met…ripened into love. Those who watched their devotion to each other declare that there never were more ardent lovers than these two.” Twice in The Children’s Friend, Anderson and Felt were referred to as “the David and Jonathan” of the Primary, which, the magazine explained, was a common appellation for the women. According to stories in The Children’s Friend, Felt and Anderson’s relationship was a “symbiotic partnership with each compensating for the weaknesses and complementing the strengths of the other.” The same article also calls the beginning of their relationship a “time of love feasting,” and makes it clear that the two women shared the same bed. (10)
10 April 1882– Oscar Wilde visited Salt Lake City and was greeted by a large crowd at the train station. Wilde spoke in the Salt Lake Theater about his Aesthetic Movement to a packed audience. Young men wearing sunflowers and lilies in their lapels filled the front row. (11)
Link to newspaper announcement of Wilde visiting Utah.
1890-1916– Evan Stevens, musical composer and conductor for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was rumored to be gay. Contemporary and circumstantial evidence support the claim. For example, Stevens never married and filled his life with music and young men. Stevens performed as an “old maid” singing in a high falsetto in the Tabernacle. (12)
October, General Conference 1897– Apostle George Q. Cannon explained that the “sin” which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was still being practiced. He warned that the “abominable crime” could spread and that it did so through wicked people with “knowledge of these filthy crimes” and the only way to stop it was “the destruction of those who practice it.” Canon explained that the only way to rid the world of such a “crime” was for “the Lord to wipe them out, that there will be none left to perpetuate the knowledge of these dreadful practices among the children of men.” (13)
9 May 1913 – James Dwyer, co-founder of Salt Lake City’s LDS University (now LDS Business College), had been “teaching young men that sodomy and kindred vices are not sins…” and this comes to the attention of the First Presidency. Dwyer’s daughter, actress Ada Dwyer Russell, was already in a long-term relationship with lesbian poet Amy Lowell. Dwyer’s bishop and stake president wanted to excommunicate him, but First Presidency allows Dwyer, now in his eighties, to voluntarily “withdraw his name” from LDS church membership. (14)
1945– LDS Presiding Bishop LeGrand Richards launched a continuing surveillance of church owned apartments to discover “evil practices” of tenants. J. Reuben Clark asks Bishop Gordon Burt Affleck to “organize a surveillance for possible homosexuals” in the steam room of the church-owned Deseret Gymnasium. (Today the site of the Conference Center.) (15)
1946– Church leadership discovers that the Patriarch of the Church, Joseph F. Smith had had intimate relations with younger men. President George Albert Smith wrote in his journal that the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles met in his office where they discussed the issue. George Albert Smith wrote in his journal 10 July 1946, “Jos Patriarch case considered. Bad situation. Am heartsick.” Joseph F. Smith was quietly released from his calling and sent to Hawaii. David O. McKay instructed the stake president in Hawaii to “rehabilitate” Smith. (16)
2 October 1952 – Second Counselor J. Reuben Clark gives a talk at the Relief Society general conference warning against “self-pollution, prostitution, and homosexuality, which it is tragic to say, is found among both sexes.” He states that homosexuals “exercised great influence in shaping our art, literature music, and drama” implying the idea that homosexuals were outside the Mormon culture but that homosexuality could be imported and spread. The Church Relief Society magazine publishes this talk in full. (17)
1954– Clark speaks to the priesthood session and tells those in the congregation to avoid “that filthy crime of homosexuality.” His use of the word “crime” shows the expanding definition of homosexuality within Mormonism in the 1950s. Not only did Church leaders perceive homosexuality as a sin, but they began to speak of it as a crime and increasingly as a mental illness that could be cured. (18)
1956-1961– W. Cleon Skousen, former FBI agent and BYU professor took over as Chief of Police and launces his “Morality Crusade.” His administration foreshadowed the Church’s hardening stance against homosexuality in the coming decades. Skousen raids gay bars, repeals liquor licenses, and tries to change state laws involving lewdness or indecent exposure to “enable authorities to commit offenders to the Utah State Hospital for life if medical examination showed them to be mentally ill.” (19)
21 May 1959 – Executive committee of Church Board of Education discusses “the growing problem in our society of homosexuality.” Spencer W. Kimball reports that David O. McKay had said “that in his view homosexuality was worse than heterosexual immorality; that it is a filthy and unnatural habit.” (20)
1959– Advise and Consent published. The book spent 102 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. One major plot of the book involves a character named Brigham Anderson, a Mormon senator from Utah and a closeted gay man. The book is made into a film in 1962. The film features a young Betty White in one of her first major roles. (21)
Clip of Betty White in “Advise and Consent”
12 September 1962– Ernest L. Wilkinson, President of BYU, met with BYU general counsel Clyde Sandgren, the new Dean of Students, J. Elliott Cameron, and Apostle Spencer Kimball and Mark E. Petersen “on the question of homosexuals who might possibly be part of the student body.” They developed a cooperative system where Mormon General Authorities and other Church administrators would give BYU any information they obtained about homosexuals on campus and BYU would give Church administrators information about homosexual church members. They decide, “as a general policy that no one will be admitted as a student at the BYU whom we have convincing evidence is a homosexual.” (22)
10 July 1964– Apostle Spencer W. Kimball speaks to seminary and institute teachers at BYU. A large portion of his talk entitled “A Counseling Problem in the Church” address homosexuality. “A cure for this malady [homosexuality] lies in self-mastery.” (23)
Links to some text
13 November 1965– Ernest L. Wilkinson, President of BYU says in a talk that BYU did not intend to admit any homosexuals to campus. He continued, “if any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly…we do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence.” (24)
1965– 5 BYU students commit suicide. All had been interviewed “by the counselor to homosexual problems at that time Spencer W. Kimball…” (25)
Link to the article from the Advocate
1968– BYU begins what has been called “the gay witch-hunts.” In 1967, Wilkinson received approval to ask Mormon bishops at BYU to provide the BYU Standards Office with lists of students who were inactive or who had “confessed to not living the standards of the Church.” BYU administration begins keeping security files on suspected gay students, faculty and staff. School officials collaborated with local police to entrap gay students. Student spying was encouraged and expanded. Expulsion rates from BYU increase significantly. (26)
1968– Homosexual acts added to the General Handbook of Instruction as an excommunicable offense. (27)
1969– Church publishes Miracle of Forgiveness. Chapter 6 is titled, “The Crime Against Nature” where Kimball asserts that masturbation leads to homosexuality. He also asserts “the sin of homosexuality is equal to or greater than that of fornication or adultery.” (28)
28 June 1969– The Stonewall Riots forever change the Gay Rights movement. During the 1960s police constantly raided The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, and made life miserable for the gay community. Finally, on the night of June 28 the gay community fought back in a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations that marked the beginning of Gay Liberation. June is Pride month in recognition of the events of June 28, 1969.
1970– The Church publishes a 9-page pamphlet titled “Hope for Transgressors.” The pamphlet declares that “homosexuality CAN be cured, if the battle is well organizes and pursued vigorously and continuously.” (Emphasis in original.) (29)
Link to copy of “Hope for Transgressors”
1971– The Church publishes a 33-page pamphlet titled “New Horizons for Homosexuals.” In it, Spencer Kimball declares again “Homosexuality CAN be cured if the battle is well organized and pursued vigorously and continuously.” (Emphasis in original.) (30)
Link to copy of “New Horizons for Homosexuals”
1972– Gay Liberation organizes in Utah.
1973– LDS psychologist Victor L. Brown, Jr. of LDS Social Services wrote “Homosexuality: Welfare Services Packet I” to use to counsel gay Mormons. The packet indicated that “an essential part of repentance” was to disclose to Church authorities the names of other homosexuals, in order “to help save others”. The packet also stated that the lesbian “needs to learn feminine behavior” while the gay man “needs to learn…what a manly priesthood leader and father does.” It also explained that “excommunication cleanses the Church….There is no place in God’s Church for those who persist in vile behavior.” (31)
1973– Joe Redburn opened The Sun Tavern on the northwest corner of South Temple and 400 West making it the first official gay bar for the Salt Lake gay community. (Since the 1940s, a handful of other locations had served as bars for the gay community, but they were not “gay bars.” Radio City Lounge opened in the downtown business district in 1948, the Crystal Lounge opened in 1952.) (32)
1975– Robert Isaac McQueen, a returned missionary and son of a bishop becomes editor of a small gay magazine called The Advocate. From 1975 until his death in 1989, The Advocate publishes over 16 articles about the intersection of homosexuality within Mormon culture and the Church’s treatment of its gay members. (33)
1975– “The Purge of ’75.” BYU administrators sent security officers to squash a “homosexual ring” on campus. Security officers pulled male dance and ballet students from class in the Harris Fine Arts Center and interrogated them in the hallways in front of other students. (34)
8 September 1975– Air Force Sgt. Leonard Phillip Matlovich, winner of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, appears on the cover of Time magazine with the headline “I am a homosexual.” He is the first ever openly gay man to appear on the cover of Time. He is also Mormon.
6 March 1975– A joint effort between Utah County Sheriff office and BYU security results in the arrest of 14 men on charges of “lewdness and sodomy.” The men were arrested at two freeway rest stops near Pleasant Grove, UT. One of the men arrested was Carlyle D. Marsden of Kaysville, UT. Marsden was 54 years old, a BYU music professor, a returned missionary, a World War II vet, and father of five children. Two days after his arrest, Marsden drove a few blocks from his home where he shot himself in the heart. The Ogden Standard Examiner is the only paper to publish an obituary. (35)
22 March 1975– The Salt Lake Tribune asked the President of BYU, Dallin Oaks, if “BYU security checked known homosexual haunts looking for BYU students” to which Oaks replied he did not know but “wouldn’t be surprised if security officers made such investigations over a period of time.” (36)
August 1976– Max Ford McBride completes his dissertation at BYU. He experimented on 14 gay BYU students to determine if using photographs of nude men and women from pornographic magazines helped during electroshock therapy. Two of the 14 men committed suicide after the torturous study. (37)
Copy of McBride’s Abstract:
October General Conference 1976– Apostle Boyd K. Packer gives his now infamous talk entitled “To Young Men Only.” He said some young men are “tempted to handle one another, to have contact with one another in unusual ways.” He commented that “such practices are perversion….Physical mischief with another man is forbidden.” Packer also essentially advocated anti-gay violence in his speech when he recounted the story of a male missionary who had “hit” and “floored” his mission companion, apparently for simply revealing his sexual orientation. Because Packer does not specify the reason for the violent response, the talk leaves interpretation open. Packer told the missionary, “Well, thanks. Somebody had to do it and it wouldn’t be well for a General Authority to solve the problem that way.” Packer told his audience, “I am not recommending that course [of violence] to you but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself.” The talk was published and is distributed today.
Link to a copy of “To Young Men Only”
1977 is a major year for the LGBT movement in Utah and within Mormonism.
1977– Anita Bryant rises to national prominence.
1977– The Payne Papers published. After listening to an anti-gay lecture at BYU given by psychology professor, I. Reed Payne, a gay BYU student, Cloy Jenkins, writes a well reasoned, thoughtful, articulate response to the lecture. Originally published as The Payne Papers, it is now called Prologue.
Read it here
June 1977– The LDS Church invited Ms. Bryant to come to Utah for the Utah State Fair, and both Spencer Kimball, and the General Relief Society President, Barbara B. Smith, held news conferences praising Anita Bryant and her work to save America from “the homosexual menace.” (38)
11 June 1977– Steven James Matthew Price formed Affirmation: Gay Mormons United. (Later renamed Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons.) Members were encouraged to go by a middle name and mother’s maiden name to keep their identities secret. (Price went by the name Matthew Price and later by Stephen J. Zacharias.) The mailing list of members was kept in a safe deposit box in Dallas. Within the year membership skyrocketed thanks to coverage in The Advocate. Affirmation marched in a Pride Parade for the first time in 1979 in Los Angeles. (39)
29 June 1977– House Bill 3 (HB3), by LDS Rep. Georgia Peterson, R-Salt Lake passed the Utah State House of Representatives by a landslide vote of 71 to 3 making “homosexual marriages in the state of Utah…illegal.” (40)
1977-1979– Mark E. Petersen attacked the Gay Rights movement with six harsh editorials for the Church News writing such things as:
Newsweek Magazine says that there are 20 million homosexuals in the United States. A 37 year-old woman, Anita Bryant of Miami, Fla., is waging a determined fight to keep this evil from spreading, by legal acceptance, through society….Every right thinking person will sustain Miss Bryant, a prayerful, upright citizen for her stand. Righteous people everywhere also should look to their own neighborhoods to determine to what extent the ‘gay’ people have infiltrated their areas….Immorality between the sexes has become a national disgrace. It raises a stench in the nostrils of every right-thinking person. But immorality WITHIN the sexes is at least as repulsive and disgusting and is severely condemned by Almighty God. When the Lord places sex sin next to murder in its seriousness, he most certainly included homosexual offenses. They are against every right principle.” (“Unnatural, without excuse,” July 9, 1977, p. 16)
“Every right thinking person should wholeheartedly battle the tendency to make unclean things and habits appear to be clean and respectable. The furore [sic] now arising over the homosexual issue is but one example. Legislators, like everyone else, must recognize that the unclean is unclean regardless of the attire in which it appears…Then on what basis do the adherents to this practice demand special privilege? Who are they that they should parade their debauchery and call it clean? They even form their own churches and profess to worship the very God who denounces their behavior – and they do not repent. They form their own political groups and seek to compel the public to respect them. Do other violators of the law of God receive special consideration?…Any reader of Leviticus (Chapters 18 and 20) knows the answer [referring to executing Gays].” (“Calling the kettle clean, ” March 18, 1978, p. 16)
“Since homosexuals have become a nationwide entity, and have come out of hiding to demand their place in the sun, many of them claim that they are what they are because they were born that way and cannot help it. How ridiculous is such a claim. It was not God who mad them that way, any more than He made bank robbers the way they are.” (“Sin is no excuse,” December 16, 1978, p. 16)
The insidious trauma caused by this kind of rhetoric is difficult to measure. Make no mistake, his words along with talks and printed books from Church leaders has influenced and continues to influence generations of gay Mormons who grow up learning to hate themselves for a crime they have never committed.
1985– Clair Harward, a 24-year old man from Ogden dying from AIDS went to his bishop, Bruce Don Bowen, to find “peace of mind” but was excommunicated. Church spokesman Jerry Cahill told the press that people with AIDS should consider the consequences of spreading the disease if they were to attend church meetings. The story makes national headlines. (41)
1986– Carol Lynn Pearson publishes Goodbye, I Love You, a memoir about her life, family, faith, and the death of her ex-husband from AIDS. This becomes a watershed moment for gay Mormons and opens dialogue and understanding that previously did not exist. (42)
1987– Representative Stephen J. Reese introduced SB 156 known as “Recognition of Common Law Marriages into the 1987 general session. The bill prohibited and “declared void” the marriage of a person “afflicted with acquired immune deficiency syndrome.” The bill passed, making Utah the only state to invalidate marriages if one partner contracted AIDS. The Utah Supreme Court overturned the law in 1993. (43)
4 April 1987 – First Counselor Gordon B. Hinckley tells priesthood session of general conference “marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices…” This reverses decades-long church policy formulated by Spencer W. Kimball. (44)
Thanksgiving 1988– Gordon Church, a 28-year old Southern Utah University theater student and gay Mormon was heinously murdered by Lance Wood and Michael Archuleta in what is one of the most horrific hate crimes in Utah history. The trial judge put a gag order on reporters, the reason, it was rumored, to protect the family of Lance Wood, a prominent Mormon family from Delta. Michael Archuleta received the death penalty, while Lance Wood, was sentenced to life in prison. (45)
March 1990– “The World of Anne Frank” a touring Holocaust exhibit came to Salt Lake. A volunteer committee sent the State Office of Education a packet of supplementary materials that would be sent to teachers around the state that included information about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. The Office of Education deleted 3 pages titled “The Fate of Homosexuals Under Nazi Rule” and decided to not distribute the historically accurate information to Utah schoolteachers. The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Utah protested this decision and the three pages were distributed. (46)
1992– The Utah Stonewall Center opens. Today it is the Utah Pride Center.
1992– Utah lawmakers pass into law a hate crimes bill based on a person’s religion or race. Absent from the law is any mention of sexual orientation.(47)
18 May 1993– Boyd K. Packer says in a talk that there are 3 enemies of the Church: Feminists, Intellectuals, and Homosexuals. He says the gay rights movement is one danger where members of the Church “influenced by social and political unrest, are being caught up and led away.” (48)
14 February 1994– The First Presidency issued a statement declaring opposition to same-sex marriage in response to Hawaii’s attempt to legalize same-sex marriage. The Church urged members to support efforts to outlaw marriage equality. (49)
1995– Utah governor Michael Leavitt signed the country’s first Defense of Marriage Act legislation, which indicated that Utah would only recognize marriages between one man and one woman. (50)
1996– The Salt Lake City School Board votes 4-3 to ban all extracurricular clubs, rather than allow East High’s Gay Straight Alliance Club equal access. (51)
1998– Members of the Salt Lake City council revoked the newly enacted anti-discrimination law for gay and lesbian people in a 4-3 vote. (52)
November 1998– Voters of District 30 in Salt Lake elect Jackie Biskupski, an openly gay woman, to the House of Representatives by a 3 to 2 margin. She serves until 2011.(53)
16 January 2000– President Gordon B. Hinckley releases a statement that is read in every Latter-Day Saint congregation in California that urges members to “redouble their efforts” to pass Prop. 22 a law stating “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.” Prop 22 passed. (54)
16 February 2000– Utah lawmakers excluded unmarried, single adults who live together from adopting children in an attempt to keep gay couples from adopting. (55)
22 February 2000– Three days before his suicide, Stuart Matis wrote a letter to the student newspaper at Brigham Young University, from which he graduated in 1994, urging students to harbor more tolerance toward gays.
“I am gay. I am also LDS. I realized the significance of my sexuality when I was around 13, and for the next two decades, I traveled down a tortuous path of internalized homophobia, immense self-hatred, depression and suicidal thoughts. Despite the calluses on my knees, frequent trips to the temple, fasts and devotion to my mission and church callings such as Elders’ Quorum president, I continually failed to attenuate my homosexuality,” Matis wrote. ” . . . I read a recent letter to the editor with great regret. The author compared my friends and me to murderers, satanists, prostitutes and pedophiles. Imagine having to live with this rhetoric constantly being spewed at you.”
25 February 2000– Stuart Matis commits suicide on the steps of his local LDS building. His note stated: “I am now free…I am no longer in pain and I no longer hate myself. As it turns out, God never intended for me to be straight. Perhaps my death might become the catalyst for some good.”
2004– The Church officially endorses and amendment to the United States Constitution banning marriage except between a man and a woman. (56)
November 2008– Proposition 8 in California ripped to the heart of the Church and exposed deep pain and division. Prop 8 did not cause the pain so many people felt, it simply gave a name to it that so many gay members and their families had felt for decades. The name of that pain became known as Prop 8.
ProtectMarriage, the official proponent of Proposition 8, estimates that about half the donations they received came from Mormon sources, and that LDS church members made up somewhere between 80% and 90% of the volunteers for early door-to-door canvassing.
2008-2010– Christine Johnson introduces anti discrimination bills to prohibit discrimination in housing and employment in 2008, 2009, and 2010. All fail. (57)
April 2012– USGA BYU release the video “It Gets Better”. Video grabs national news attention including CNN, Time and Yahoo.
25 April 2012– LDS Church accepts new Boy Scout Gay Policy allowing gay scouts to participate in LDS scouting programs.
June 2012– Mormon Building Bridges forms and marches in the Salt Lake Gay Pride parade. Members dressed in their Sunday best carried signs quoting primary songs like: “Love One Another” and “Jesus says love everyone”. MBB inspire thousands of LDS members to march in Pride parades around the nation.
2012– The LDS Church releases the website Mormons and Gays entitled Love One Another: A Discussion of Same-Sex Attraction. The website states: “Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them.”
2013– Legislators introduce another anti-discrimination bill that includes sexual orientation. It fails in the Utah legislature. (58)
1) Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 2011, p 78-87; History of the Church, Vol 5 p 257
2) Deseret News, April 18, 1855
3) Brigham Young to Daniel H. Wells and Brigham Young Jr., 18 November 1864, in “Correspondence”, Latter-day Saints Millennial Star 27 (7 January 1865): 14, as quoted in Quinn, Same-sex Dynamics, pp. 273 and 296
4) Quinn, D. Michael, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, Appendix 5, Selected Chronology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1848-1996
5) Quinn, D. Michael, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, Appendix 5, Selected Chronology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1848-1996 p 767
6) “The Crime Against Nature,” Compiled Laws of Utah, 1876, p. 598; “Sodomy,” Utah Code Annotated, 1953, 8B, title 76 (76-5- 403)
7) Cannon George Q., April 6, 1879, Journal of Discourses Vol 20, p 200.
8) Quinn, D. Michael, Same-sex dynamics among nineteenth century Americans: A Mormon Example, p 40-41; James Henry Moyle, “My History”, as quoted in Gene A. Sessions (ed.), Mormon Democrat: The Religious and Political Memoirs of James Henry Moyle
9) Quinn, D. Michael, Same-sex dynamics among nineteenth century Americans: A Mormon Example, p 276; also note 57 on page 299.
10) “Mary and May,” Children’s Friend, 18 December 1919, p 421.
11) “Oscar Wilde’s Visit to Salt Lake City”, Utah Historic Quarterly, Fall 1987, Vol 55, No 4, p 322-334; “Art Decoration: Oscar Wilde Enlightens a Large Audience on the Subject,” Salt Lake Tribune, April 11, 1882.
12) “Evan Bach: A True Story for Little Folk, by a pioneer”, Children’s Friend 18 (October1919) p. 387; On Stephens’ impersonation of the “old maid”, see “Yesterday’s Concerts,” Deseret News, 30 September 1882; Evan Stephens, “To the Choir Members,” Deseret Evening News, 31 August 1887, p. 5. Ray L. Bergman, The Children Sang: The Life and Music of Evan Stephens (Salt Lake City: Northwest Publishing Inc., 1992), pp. 6, 83-86.
13) October 1897, Report of the 68th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 65-66
14) Quinn, D. Michael, Same-sex dynamics among nineteenth century Americans: A Mormon Example, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996), p 427-428
15) Quinn, D. Michael, Elder Statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002) p. 191 and p. 488, note 55; and D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997) p. 307. See note 291 on page 566.
16) George Albert Smith diary, 10 July 1946; Joseph Fielding Smith diary 10 July 1946; D. Michael Quinn, Same-sex dynamics among nineteenth-century Americans: A Mormon Example (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 370-371
17) J. Reuben Clark, “Home and the Building of Home Life,” Relief Society Magazine 39: 793-794, (December 1952);
18) October 1954, Report of the 125th Semiannual General of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Conference Reports, 79.
19) Douglass A. Winkler, “Lavender Sons of Zion: A history of gay men in Salt Lake City, 1950-79” (PhD diss. University of Utah, 2008), 85
20) Wilkinson private journal, May 21, 1959, copy in possession of Connell O’Donovan
21) Advise and Consent. Information about the book on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advise_and_Consent
22) Wilkinson private journal, September 12, 1962. Copy in possession of Connell O’Donovan.
23) “A Counseling Problem in the Church” – BYU Devotional for LDS Seminary & Institute Instructors, 10 July 1964.
24) Ernest L. Wilkinson, “Make Honor Your Standard”, Deseret News, Church News supplement, November 13, 1965, 11
25) “Outside the Temple Gates- The Gay Mormon” The Advocate 13 August 1975 p 14
26) “Annual Report/Summary of Cases,” BYU, 1 September 1967 to 31 August 1968, copy in possession of Connell O’Donovan
27) Bush, “Excommunication and Church Courts,” 84.
28) Kimball, Spencer W. The Miracle of Forgiveness, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), 61.
29) Kimball, Spencer W. Hope for Transgressors, (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1970), 7
30) Kimball, Spencer W. New Horizons for Homosexuals, (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1971), 32
31) Homosexuality: Welfare Services Packet I (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973).
32) Douglass A. Winkler, “Lavender Sons of Zion: A history of gay men in Salt Lake City, 1950-79” (PhD diss. University of Utah, 2008), 202.
33) O’Donovan, Connell. “The Rise of the Mormon Mafia” http://www.connellodonovan.com/lgbtmormons.html
34) Huffaker, Dean “Homosexuality at BYU- Part 2” (originally published on April 12, 1982 in Seventh East Press.) Text available on Affirmation.org
35) Obituary can be seen at http://www.connellodonovan.com/lgbtmormons.html
Keyword search “Marsden”
36) Salt Lake Tribune, March 22, 1975.
37) Max Ford McBride, Effect of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy, PhD Dissertaion, BYU, August 1976. Copy in my possession.
38) “Relief Society Leader Hails Anita Bryant’s Homosexual Stand,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 11, 1977; “LDS Leader Hails Anti-Gay Stand,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 5, 1977; and “Relief Society commends Anita”, Deseret News, June 11, 1977, B1. “Unnatural, without excuse,” Church News supplement of the Deseret News July 9, 1977;
39) “Gay Mormons Organize,” The Advocate. 2 November 1977, p 30-31; December 1977 newsletter located here http://people.ucsc.edu/~odonovan/1977_letter.pdf
40) “House Opposes Marriages of Gays” Deseret News 29 June 1977. A-7
41) “Mormons Excommunicate Repentant AIDS Victim: He Is Asked Not to Attend Church” Salt Lake Tribune, 10 January 1986, B-1
42) Mormon Stories Podcast, “Carol Lynn Pearson- Mormon author, poet, playwright, feminist, and philosopher” 15 August 2010, http://mormonstories.org/questions-for-carol-lynn-pearson/
43) S.B. 156, 1987 General Session, “Recognition of Common Law Marriages,” Rep Stephen J Rees, http://images.archives.utah.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/428/id/137694/rec/2
44) “Reverence and Morality” Ensign, May 1987.
45) Williams, Ben. “The Murder of Gordon Church,” Q Salt Lake, 19 November 2009.
46) “Controversy over Frank Display Selected as Censorship Example,” Deseret News, 30 August 1990; Carroll Jack, “Homosexuality & Public Policy- Gas ‘em to death!” City University of New York, 29 March 1990, http://www.holysmoke.org/sdhok/homo05.htm
47) “Hate-Crime Bill Now Excludes Gays,” Salt Lake Tribune, 1 Feb 1992, B-11
48) Packer, Boyd K. “Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council” 18 May 1993.
49) As cited in Mormon Social Sciences Association
50) “Timeline to the Prop 8 Ruling” Deseret News 4 August 2010;
51) “School Board Bans All Clubs to Prevent Gay Group,” The Seattle Times, 22 February 1996.
52) “S.L. Council nears consensus no anti-discrimination ordinance” Deseret News 18 March 1998.
53) “64 of 65 House incumbents re-elected, most win easily” Deseret News, 4 November 1998.
54) “Mormon Church: The Powerful Force Behind Proposition 22” San Francisco Chronicle, 6 February 2000
55) “Deal would allow some adoptions Unmarried couples could take kids under certain conditions,” Deseret News 16 February 2000.
56) “Homosexuality and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
57) “Buttars may co-sponsor gay rights bill” KSL, 1 December 2009; “Anti discrimination Study Announced by Rep. Christine Johnson” Utah House Democrats, 29 January 2010; “Some wonder why Utah lawmakers backed off on gay-rights bill, “The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 Feb 2010.
58) “Anti-discrimination bill for gays is dead for 2013” The Salt Lake Tribune, 11 March 2013.
Great, comprehensive compilation! What stands out to me is how much of this seems directed at men – meaning there seems to be an emphasis on viewing homosexuality as a particular threat to manhood and masculinity. Which makes sense in a lot of ways for our culture.
Also, the example of Louie Felt and Mary Anderson reminded me a lot of the Boston Marriage culture which while a relative minority, was not unheard of at the time. I am NOT discounting the very real and visceral hate and bigotry that lesbians have experienced, but it’s interesting to me that there have been times in our history where close, romantic, and even erotic relationships between women have been portrayed so positively vs. the almost uniform negativity surrounding male/male relationships.
If the church is what it claims to be….the one true church guided by God …… how can we have this history regarding homosexuality? Is God just not speaking clearly enough? Are the leaders not listening? We can try and explain this pattern away by saying culture and biases held by our leaders have been the reason and that most likely has played a part in it but I have a hard time looking at this and finding a valid way to argue God has been involved. Does God just passively sit by and allow this sort of treatment of his gay sons/daughters for years and years waiting until people get educated enough to figure out what they are saying/doing is wrong? Does he require this of gays…. that they patiently bear this and try to hold onto their faith? I refuse to accept if there is a God that he has inspired/participated in this sort of hateful behavior or that the words that have been spoken over the pulpit are what he wants said.
To me this is a very clear argument for the reality that the church is a man made organization led by men who are trying to do their best and perceive they are being instructed by God. That the church doesn’t have any special claim to authority/inspiration and that is why they make mistakes like this for years and years. Either God has a very inefficient means of communicating to his authorized leaders…..or something is very wrong with our idea of revelation/inspiration to church leaders. Something is not working.
Thanks for your post. Over time, I’ve come to feel much the same way. The term I usually use is ‘imaginitive’ religion; not without value, just not what many purport it to be.
There’s just so much crap to wade through, it seems.
Alison and JS,
I completely agree with your thoughts. If a church is lead by God, then why would their statement change now that it has become unpopular with society? This pattern is repeated and repeated in the Mormon church. When was the last time that you heard a conference talk on how people of different races can one day be “white and delightsome”? Bruce R. McConkie said in 1978: “Negroes in this life are denied the Priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. (Abra. 1:20-27) The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them… negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is no of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing, is based on his eternal laws of justice and grows out of the lack of Spiritual Valiance of those concerned in their first estate.” President McKay was asked by a news reporter ‘When will the Negroes receive the Priesthood?’ And he relied over national television ‘Not in my lifetime, young man, nor yours…”
It wasn’t too long after that the church caved in to the social pressure. They made crude statements about race all over the place. A man was excommunicated for “ordaining a black man” into the church’s priesthood. However, when faced with the fact that they would lose a lot of members (and subsequently a lot of tithing), Spencer W. Kimball put forth a written revelation for the bestowal of priesthood on “the blacks”. Kimball refused to talk about the revelation, stating that it “came because conditions and times have changes… the world is ready for it.” After relentless comments about how people with darker skin would have to wait until the second coming, what brought on this drastic change? What could have possibly changed in 20 years?
There is not one single place, person, or event described in the Book of Mormon that can be validated; everything from DNA research concludes that his doctrine is not divine “DNA vs. the Book of Mormon”). (which can be studied further with the video Professor Ray T. Matheny, one of the top ten professors at BYU in the 20th century, left the church because all archaeological evidence points against the Book of Mormon; there was no iron mining in the western hemisphere in pre-columbian times, nor were there any products like steel, gold, silver, wheat, flax, vineyards, dogs, horses, asses, oxen, swine, elephants and absolutely no remains of the cities in the Western Hemisphere. The absence of these in the Mormon doctrine back up the fact that they were fabricated (David Whitmer wrote an account further on how Joseph and Hyrum Smith saw the Book Of Mormon as something that would earn them money).
John L. Lund said that “The Church is either true or it isn’t. If it changes its stand on the strength of the ‘great stream of modern religious and social thought,’ it will be proven untrue. If that happens, the more serious members would do well to join the Cub Scouts. It’s cheaper and there is less work and less criticism… If the Church is true it will hold to its beliefs in spit of its members. If it is false, more power to the easy-way-out philosophers who claim to know the ‘imperious truths of the contemporary world.”
Sadly, I could go on for hours on this subject. There is countless evidence against the Mormon Church. I studied relentlessly to figure out whether Mormonism was true. And the day that I told my parents was the most difficult day of my life. I was completely rejected by my own family. The great news that I discovered was that the Bible stands up against the criticism. I now go to a Christian Church and have never been happier. I would recommend a book called “The Case for Christ,” it really was a great book for me. I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that Christ died for me. As for anything else, if you have questions on other topics within Mormonism or Christianity, let me know.
And to the people who will call me out for being “rude” or “hateful”, I lived in the church for 19 years. I was even attending BYU-I, when I realized that things didn’t add up. I studied the Book of Mormon and the words of the prophet. That is how I know that these things are false. I’m not saying that the teaching are all wrong; in fact I still live by the Word of Wisdom. I would just recommend checking into the background of any church. If you can reason with everything within the church, then I’m happy for you. I don’t think religion is black and white, but I think it’s important to know what you’re supporting. If after studying, you still have faith in the Mormon Church, then I respect you and wish you all the best.
This list is quite incomplete for the past few years. I’m actually quite disappointed in the lack of positive changes that the church has implemented. Let’s at least be fair here. Why not list the housing law that passed in Salt Lake City a couple of years ago making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual preference? Why not list the church statements leading up to that decision that helped sway the votes?
Why not list the development of the new church website http://www.mormonsandgays.org? Why not list the recent change in stance by the church that they now acknowledge that homosexuality isn’t always a choice and some individuals are born that way?
Why not list the change in attitude/policy at BYU that students can now be homosexual and attend? Why not list the inclusion of a gay, lesbian and transgender club on campus at BYU?
Why not list the recent statements in Hawaii leading up to the marriage vote? The church came out and told the members to pray about it and vote according to their conscience. That is quite the stark contrast to Prop 8 in California.
While this piece is incredibly eye opening and filled with historical data in the early years of the church, it is woefully inadequate at showing the positive changes that have been occurring the last several years. I highly recommend that
you include these wonderful changes over the past few years out of fairness and integrity to the issue.
I am a member in Hawaii. Originally, the letter that was released and read to congregations was a much improved tone allowing for differences of opinion among members, and requested we unite to push for stronger religious exemptions in the legislation. Then about three weeks ago, a second letter was released. It has been read in every congregation weekly. Last week, it was read twice in our ward. The more recent letter is quite similar to the approach from California’s Prop 8. It made me sad. So very sad.
Sorry, not the lack of positive changes, the lack of including those positive changes that have occurred.
I agree. This article seemed more like a witch hunt than an honest look to me.
The great thing about hindsight and history is it’s twenty twenty and easy to learn from. Which, if all the progress that had been made in recent years had made it onto your timeline, would be seen.
It’s really easy to focus on past mistakes and sins. On ourselves and especially religions. I think that the past is there to learn from, not to focus all our energy on how wrong it is.
I don’t think God just sits around passively. We know the way we are to treat each other, with love and kindness, but humans have agency and God won’t take that away from us to do his will. That was Satan’s plan.
So while, yes, this was a very painful article to read. And even sadder that people had to live through this, I think it’s unfair to not account for the Church’s new way of approaching the situation.
Sorry Cody, I know this isn’t your article. I didn’t know it would make my reply like I was writing a letter to you.
Thanks for your comments.
This chronology could be powerful if more ballanced. Elder Oaks’ conference talks and the Chuch’s pivotal voice on the gay scouting question this last year ought to be included, in addition to the other omissions that others have brought up. The whole story deserves to be told. Most of it is ugly, but the transition steps need to be recognized and praised.
I appreciate the time and energy that went into creating this timeline compilation. I believe it would be eye opening to take this timeline and to superimpose in over a timeline of the historical experiences of the Gay and Lesbian community in the US as a whole. Just one example is that you would find that during the time period in which gay bars were being raided in SLC there were also bar raids happening nation wide including the infamous Stonewall riot where the gay community fought back against the police for the first time.
Examining the church’s positions on homosexuality without also examining that of the nation’s attitudes and positions is incomplete. It is my belief that if this additional analysis were to be done that it would be even more clear that the church’s positions are a reflection of the prevalent attitudes of the times in which the leaders grew up during.
I’m just not sure that I’m willing to wait the 50-100 years that it will take for more progressive leaders to rise through the ranks.
“I’m just not sure that I’m willing to wait the 50-100 years that it will take for more progressive leaders to rise through the ranks.”
This is exactly what I struggle with. Can I really keep going on this way? It is so sad and frustrating.
I agree and am doing just that in graduate school.
Interesting article covering a lot of information and events although with only a few sentences each. Please provide references of some sort so that we are able to do additional research on the subjects. Much of this article could be heavily influenced and from a research position holds very little, if any, academic integrity.
I must have missed the citations the first time reviewing the article. My error for missing them.
Sorry that my citations were not up… they are now.
To the points raised about topics being left out, I specifically addressed that concern in my intro,
“This list is by no means exhaustive; In fact, many points below on this timeline require a tremendous amount of reading to understand the full context. There are topics, people, and dates I have left out because of the denseness of the details. For example, entire volumes could be written on the history of homosexuality at BYU. I’ve also not attempted to address John C. Bennett and the scandals of “buggery” that rocked Nauvoo in this list, nor did I address the LDS Church’s reaction to AIDS in Utah in the 1980s.”
To be honest, I was working under the assumption that many people who follow this topic closely would be aware of the more recent developments in this long and on going story. This list is more of a survey of events throughout the 20th century, that I, as the author, deemed important. I hope that that is totally obvious. I have not tried to hide anything, I have tried to shed light on events, statements, and political developments that have been forgotten, but that are essential to know.
Congrats to you!!! You and your husband deserved to be one of the very 1st to be married in Utah!
No mention of Amendment 3 and it recently being overturned?
This is a very nice resource. I agree with others that there have been interesting developments of late that would be interesting to include. On the the other hand, some of the things that seem big to us now might seem small in the hindsight of history. It’s hard to write very recent history!
In the spirit of being helpful, here are some things I thought of, some big some small):
— Mormons for Marriage an unprecedented show of public support for gay marriage by current, active members. (note they are, for the most part, not subject to discipline)
— Steve Young’s wife Barb Young announces opposition to Prop 8 and support of gay marriage
— Cary Crall, a BYU student, writes s letter to the editor of the Daily Universe criticizing the church’s involvement in Prop 8. The letter is initially published, then retracted.
BYU related items:
— Firing of adjunct BYU professor Jeffrey Nielsen for opposing the church’s fight against gay marriage. Subsequent excommunication of Peter Danzig, who was in the Orchestra at Temple Square.
— BYU changes policy, specifically allowing openly gay students to be in good standing (with reservations, such as they are totally chaste including no kissing etc).
Neither Peter (or his wife, Mary) Danzig were excommuicated from the LDS Church, but chose to have their names removed from Church records. I know this because Peter and Mary are personal friends.
Yes, but Peter Danzig had been threatened with excommunication.
I must admit when I first read this I bought into all of it, but in a matter of only 3 sources I found out that a lot of this information is totally out of context. I found a great article that was written on this very subject where they give the other side of the story.I know this doesn’t answer every question that is posted here, but I hope that people who are really looking for the truth of what happened will read the attached article and read both accounts before they make a decision as to what really happened. Its also important to note that the person who wrote most of these articles was a man by the name of Quinn who was kicked out of BYU as a professor and excommunicated for his homosexual relationship. After that he wrote a book about Homosexuals and the early church. On top of that note that everyone has a past the church is not perfect and never will be, but the the gospel is read the recent talk by Elder Uchtdorf. He talks about how the church does have its faults, but what matters is that these men doesn’t give you salvation only the savior does. Anyhow here is the link if you want to hear both sides I suggest you read it.
2004: In response to the brethren’s support for a homophobic amendment to the United States Constitution, the LDS Safe Space Alliance organizes a flower protest that calls attention to the suffering of gays at the hands of their ecclesiastical leaders.
Hundreds of Mormons send flowers to the Church Office Building. In response, the Church’s PR department acknoweldges for the first time that gays suffer and need to be treated with respect.
You should be able to find a source in the archives of the SL Tribune.
2004: The Washington, DC stake initiates excommunications proceedings against a gay member for being married to another man. As other Mormons rally around the man, the stake president is eventually dissuaded from proceeding with an excommunication because he realizes that there will be consequences for his intolerance.
There is a Mormon Stories episode that you can use to source this information at least partially.
I am a current member of the LDS Church and struggle with being gay in the Church as well. As I get older, the concept of being celibate for the rest of my life is less and less appealing. I think the Church should come clean about where the homosexual members of the Church fit in, or that they don’t. I often get told by my well meaning ward members that my “trial” is like Job’s, which is a totally different scenario. I think that if this is the best explanation members can come up with for my dilemma, then I am really screwed.
This makes me sad Tristan. I hope you can make decisions for your life that make you feel good. Don’t rely on an organization to do what’s right….they have been on the wrong side of history for too long on too many social issues…..go and find your happiness!
You forgot 3 of the most important events from the 1990s – basically where President Hinckley and Dallin H Oaks began to help the church to find compassion for our gay brothers and sisters.
1) Letter of First Presidency 1991
2) Family: Proclamation to the World 1995
3) Same-Gender Attraction – by Dallin H Oaks – Ensign Oct 1995
On the whole, this is amazing. But what gives in your coverage of recent years? 1985-1988 has five events, while between 2000 and 2012 has three, all of them LDS legal opposition to gay marriage?
It seems to me that most of the consequential evolution has been recent. But it’s mostly not covered here. I realize that you did the timeline in 2013. But how in the world did the Mormons and Gays website escape notice??
The history of the LDS church has on a number of occasions changed course from what they were teaching or believing. Their excuse for these changes was that God doesn’t dictate to the leaders of the church exactly what to do, but expects them to figure it out on their own. This excuse has been paraded before the membership again and again and they drink it down like so much cyanide laced Kool Aide.
You may want to check your message about Boyd K Paker’s address in Gen. Conference, 1976. You stated that the boy hit his companion, “for simply revealing his sexual orientation.” I read the text. The circumstances whereby the missionary hit his companion were not disclosed. No where did it say that he was “simply revealing his sexual orientation.” You have done a good job compiling these events but please relate them in an unbiased and honest manner.
The pamphlet “To Young Men Only” is out of print and the digital download copy has been removed from lds.org
I found this timeline very beneficial in helping me understand why I had so much guilt and shame over being gay. I grew up in Provo from the time I was 8, in 1967, while the BYU witch hunts were going on. I lived it. I even lived next door to one of the University leaders responsible for the threatening environment.
So, thank you for your efforts.
For those that want to say the church has made much progress recently, I say you are wrong. Allowing someone to admit they gay as long as they do not even hold hands or kiss isn’t progress, it’s just smoke and mirrors to attempt to convince people the church has improved. The punishment of children of same sex couples by denying them church rites is just plain wrong! Not to mention pulling out of scouting for boys once they turn 14. None of this sounds like progress!