Mormonism and gender issues

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Mormonism and gender issues

This page is a summary or index. More detailed information on this topic is available on the sub-pages below.


  • Not official doctrine?
    Brief Summary: Some do not like the doctrines taught in the Proclamation on the Family, and claim that it is not "scripture" or not "official doctrine." What have Church leaders said on this matter? (Click here for full article)
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  • Longstanding doctrine
    Brief Summary: The doctrines in the Proclamation on the Family are not new, but have been repeatedly taught throughout Church history. (Click here for full article)
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  • Frequently taught
    Brief Summary: Official doctrine in the Church is taught frequently; the numerous and repeated references to the Proclamation on the Family confirm its status as official and important to LDS thought and doctrine. (Click here for full article)
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Question: Do Latter-day Saint teachings about childbearing put an improper burden on women?

Framing the problem of demanding home lives as an exclusively LDS problem is misleading

Some claim that LDS teachings about childbearing put an improper burden on LDS families, especially women.

Most women raising families, not just LDS women, encounter "burdens" as they run their households. Framing the problem of demanding home lives as an exclusively LDS problem is misleading. Recognizing the difficulties women face in family life, Church leaders have denounced male behaviors that add to these burdens. In speaking to women, Church leaders have reassured us that we are free to make choices -- including choices about childbearing and service in our homes -- that will better tailor our workloads to our individual strengths and abilities.

Childbearing in the Church

In 1995, the LDS Church re-emphasized its commitment to family life in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” The proclamation states: “The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”[1]

In harmony with these beliefs, LDS life is usually family life. In general, LDS people in the United States marry earlier than their neighbors outside the Church, are more likely to stay married, and have more children during their lifespans.[2] As the larger society surrounding the Church has moved away from traditional family life, the LDS lifestyle – or, at least, the stereotype of it -- has become more conspicuous. For some, it raises concerns particularly with regard to the roles women play in LDS families. Critics have inflamed these concerns arguing mostly by assertion rather than with data that the childbearing aspect of the ideal LDS family system places an unfair and unhealthy burden upon women.

Though US data do show that LDS families tend to be larger than other American families, there is no Church prohibition on birth control. LDS couples are counseled to carefully and prayerfully consider when and how many children to have but are assured that the decision is strictly between themselves and the Lord. For a detailed response, see: Birth control in LDS thought

Women's Workloads Inside and Outside the Church

No matter how many other people live in it, running any household can be difficult. It’s not a difficulty experienced by LDS women alone. Arlie Hochschild’s landmark work “The Second Shift” studied domestic workloads to see if household divisions of labor had become more fair for women as they started to take on non-traditional roles. What she found was that even when women worked at full-time jobs outside their homes, they still wound up doing most of the household chores themselves.[3] The assertion that women outside the LDS church are somehow immune from the burdens of running a household is simply wrong. Every woman – regardless of whether she’s involved in paid work, or how many children she has, or where she goes to church – is at risk of winding up doing far more than her fair share of household tasks. Inequalities like these are endemic problems that are not limited to any particular religion or family structure.

The Church's Position on Domestic Workloads

Despite the strong social pull of unequal household divisions of labor, leaders of the LDS church have counseled church members to work to alleviate the strains family life can have on women. Men’s overburdening of the women within families has been denounced by late Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley. Speaking of young mothers he said:

I see their husbands, and I feel like saying to them: “Wake up. Carry your share of the load. Do you really appreciate your wife? Do you know how much she does? Do you ever compliment her? Do you ever say thanks to her? [4]

While his approach to husbands was firm and corrective, President Hinckley took a different tone when speaking to wives in the same address:

You are doing the best you can, and that best results in good to yourself and to others. Do not nag yourself with a sense of failure.[4] Reassuring language like this has become a fixture in addresses made to the women of the Church. Another fixture is the assurance that there is no monolithic ideal of how to run a “proper” LDS household. As late member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Marvin J. Ashton said in 1987:

Sisters, do not allow yourselves to be made to feel inadequate or frustrated because you cannot do everything others seem to be accomplishing. Rather, each should assess her own situation, her own energy, and her own talents, and then choose the best way to mold her family into a team, a unit that works together and supports each other. Only you and your Father in Heaven know your needs, strengths, and desires. Around this knowledge your personal course must be charted and your choices made.[5]

What seems most important isn’t how LDS women shoulder their burdens but why they do it at all. In 1980, Melvin Wilkinson and William Tanner made a study of large family life in the LDS setting. The prevailing sociological wisdom was that large families yield less affection for children. However, the researchers found that the negative effect of large family life “is not so strong that it cannot be neutralized or even reversed.”[6] Furthermore, they found that the key to reversing the bad effects of a large family wasn’t an increase of the amount of time parents spent with their children (or in other words, not an increase of the size of the “burden” placed on the parents) but an increase in the level of the mother’s commitment to the Church. Temple attendance was used as a measure of the mother’s religiosity. From there, the researchers went on to find that the higher a mother’s religiosity, the more affection the children in the family reported feeling.

Apparently, gospel living can actually provide relief from burdens – even ones that seem universal and inevitable like the ones all women face in running their households. As the Lord himself taught, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Some claim that LDS teachings about childbearing put an improper burden on LDS families, especially women. (Click here for full article)

  • Bullying and unkindness
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that LDS teachings against homosexual acts lead to bullying of gay youth or unchristian treatment of members or non-members with same-sex attraction. The Church has consistently taught that all people are children of God, and ought to be treated with love, dignity, and respect. They have specifically mentioned people with same-sex attraction, including those who act on their attractions. (Click here for full article)
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  • Are family members taught to reject their LGBT children forcing many of them to become homeless?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed the LDS church encourages families to reject youth who are attracted to the same sex, identify as gay or participate in homosexual behavior, leading to a higher rate of homeless youth among Mormon families. In fact, LGBT youth nationwide are homeless at a higher rate than other youth regardless of religious affiliation. No causal connection has ever been made between being LDS, LGBT, and homeless. Furthermore, LDS scripture makes clear that parents have a duty to care for their children regardless of the circumstances. (Click here for full article)
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  • Church support of non-discrimination ordinances
    Brief Summary: Since the Church teaches that homosexual conduct is sinful, does this mean it opposes efforts to protect those who engage in homosexual acts? The Church sustains the principle that all citizens are equal before the law. Members of the Church are particularly sensitized to this issue because of their long history of persecution at the hands of private citizens and government agents in the nineteenth century. Even though Church members may disagree with the choices made by those who engage in homosexual acts, the Church has endorsed various measures to ensure fair treatment and others who are attracted to the same sex. (Click here for full article)
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  • Difficulties
    Brief Summary: Church leaders have encouraged members to be particularly kind and compassionate to those struggling with SSA. What are some of the unique challenges or difficulties faced by such members? (Click here for full article)
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     [needs work]
  • Persist beyond death?
    Brief Summary: Does attraction to the same sex persist beyond death? (Click here for full article)
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     [needs work]
  • Eternal fate of those unmarried?
    Brief Summary: In his article in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, James T. Duke explains the LDS doctrine on this subject: "People who live a worthy life but do not marry in the temples, for various reasons beyond their control, which might include not marrying, not having heard the gospel, or not having a temple available so that the marriage could be sealed for eternity, will at some time be given this opportunity. Latter-day Saints believe it is their privilege and duty to perform these sacred ordinances vicariously for deceased progenitors, and for others insofar as possible." (Click here for full article)
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  • Marriage as therapy?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Church leaders have advocated that those with same-sex attraction marry those of the opposite sex as part of the "therapy" for overcoming their same-sex desires or inclinations. The prophets and general authorities have, in their written statements, long been clear that marriage is not to be seen as a "treatment" for same-sex attraction. (Click here for full article)
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  • Marriage as a possibility
    Brief Summary: It is claimed it is harmful for Church leaders to allow those with same-sex attraction to voluntarily enter into a marriage. The Church has warned against entering into a marriage under false pretense, but there is no evidence that when done openly and honestly, these types of marriages fair any worse than other types of marriages. (Click here for full article)
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  • Why do some people have same-sex attraction?
    Brief Summary: What have past and present Church leaders taught about why some people are attracted to the same sex? The Church does not have an official position on the causes for same-sex attraction. Many Church leaders have indicated that we do not know the cause(s), and that this is a question for science. (Click here for full article)
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  • President Boyd K. Packer's October 2010 conference talk
    Brief Summary: On October 10, 2010, President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke during the Church's semi-annual general conference. Portions of President Packer's talk caused a firestorm of protest and, often, misrepresentation. This article examines President Packer's address, and compares it to past talks given by President Packer. As will be seen, President Packer's address has been misunderstood and misrepresented. (Click here for full article)
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  • Terminology
    Brief Summary: Why does FairMormon (and other LDS sources) typically refer to homosexual/gay/lesbian issues with such terms as "same-sex attraction" and heterosexual/straight issues with such terms as "opposite-sex attraction"? (Click here for full article)
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  • Can a person identify as gay or lesbian and still be a member of the Church in good standing?
    Brief Summary: It is asserted that: 1) Members are encouraged to lie about their sexual orientation, 2) This isolates them from other members, and 3) Denying your sexual identity is harmful. Those who identify as straight, gay or bisexual are welcome in the Church and can go on as all other members. When a person joins the Church, they take upon themselves the name of Christ. We are taught to shun any identity which conflicts with this identity. The Church recognizes that a person's orientation is a core characteristic, but emphasizes that it is not the only one. We are encouraged not to identify ourselves primarily by our sexual feelings, but this is different than being closeted. We are not encouraged to lie or pretend to have another sexual orientation. This counsel extends to all, regardless of sexual orientation. (Click here for full article)
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  • Aversion therapy performed at BYU in the 1970's
    Brief Summary: What was the history of BYU and aversion therapy for treating homosexuality in the 1970's? How did that relate to medical and psychological science as understood at that time? What was the role of the Church in BYU's treatments? (Click here for full article)
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  • Are members with same-sex attraction encouraged to be closeted or lie about their attractions?
    Brief Summary: Member with same-sex attractions are not encouraged to lie or hide their sexual attractions or to isolate themselves from others. All members are encouraged to avoid labels and not to identify themselves primarily by their sexual feelings. However, there is a difference between not identifying yourself primarily by your sexual feelings, and being "closeted". A person can be honest, share their feelings with others and be comfortable with who they are, including their sexuality, while still realizing that they are first and foremost a child of God. (Click here for full article)
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  • What are the ramifications from denying a gay identity?
    Brief Summary: Critics argue that in order to be happy and healthy, a person with same-sex attraction needs to identify as gay and have a same-sex relationship. The church encourages members to view themselves as sons and daughters of God, and discourages any identity that interferes with that identity. Members who refer to themselves as straight, gay or lesbian are free to go on as all other members, but are advised not to identify themselves primarily by their sexual feelings. (Click here for full article)
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  • Feelings versus acts
    Brief Summary: What have past and present Church leaders taught about the distinction (if any) between sexual temptations, desires, feelings, or inclinations, and sexual acts? (Click here for full article)
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  • Being able to associate with people with same-sex attraction
    Brief Summary: Does the church allow people with same-sex attraction to associate with each other? (Click here for full article)
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  • Did Christ teach against same-sex relationships during his mortal ministry?
    Brief Summary: Some critics have asserted that our stance on same-sex relationships are not substantiated by the teachings of Christ during his mortal minstry. This is not the case. Christ taught a very strict law for sexual morality. He taught against sexual relationships outside of marriage and that marriage was between a man and a woman. While he did not specifically teach against the modern concept of same-sex relationships, he was clear that the only legitimate expression of sexuality was in a marriage between a man and woman. (Click here for full article)
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  • Why wasn't the prohibition against same-sex relationships recinded when the rest of the law of Moses was recinded?
    Brief Summary: While the law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ, Christ specifically taught against fornication and adultery, which would include same-sex relationships. After Peter received a vision that the law of Moses had been fulfilled, the prohibition against fornication remained intact. (Click here for full article)
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  • Early LDS did not oppose homosexual acts?
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that Joseph Smith and other nineteenth century Mormons were not strenuously opposed to same-sex acts or intimacy, and that the modern Church's opposition to homosexual conduct is a later aberration. Historian D. Michael Quinn's book, Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example is almost solely responsible for this claim. Quinn's methodology and conclusions are shoddy, and have been severely criticized by LDS and non-LDS historians. (Click here for full article)
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  • False analogy between same-sex marriage and the priesthood ban
    Brief Summary: An examination and comparison of the differences between the way the Church approaches same-sex attraction as opposed to the Priesthood ban. (Click here for full article)
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  • False analogy between same-sex marriage and plural marriage
    Brief Summary: An examination and comparison of the differences between the way the Church approaches same-sex attraction as opposed to plural marriage. (Click here for full article)
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  • Latter-day Saints and California Proposition 8
    Brief Summary: The passage of California Proposition 8 during the November 2008 election has generated a number of criticisms of the Church regarding a variety of issues including the separation of church and state, the Church's position relative to people who experience same-sex attraction, accusations of bigotry by members, and the rights of a non-profit organization to participate in the democratic process on matters not associated with elections of candidates. (Click here for full article)
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  1. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Family: A Proclamation to the World (First read by Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held 23 September 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah.)
  2. Arlie Hochschild, The Second Shift (New York: Penguin), 2003.
  3. Arlie Hochschild, The Second Shift (New York: Penguin), 2003. [citation needed]
  4. 4.0 4.1 Gordon B. Hinckley, "To the Women of the Church," Ensign (Nov. 2003).
  5. Marvin J. Ashton, Be of Good Cheer (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 25–26.
  6. Melvin L. Wilkinson and William C. Tanner III, "The Influence of Family Size, Interaction, and Religiosity on Family Affection in a Mormon Sample," in Religion, Mental Health, and the Latter-day Saints, 93–106.