Bodies of Zion: Toward a Latter-day Saint Gender Theory and Sexual Ethics Open Access

Schleifer, Grant Douglas (2015)

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A common tenet of LDS doctrine maintains that both marriage and family life transcend earthly existence to constitute an eternal destiny considered essential to cosmology. To fulfill such an eternal destiny, practitioners must choose to participate in a temple ritual known as sealing to secure their eternal marriage, and any children born between eternal partners are forever sealed to their families. These doctrines manifest in the LDS cliché that families are forever. Given that embodiment in a physical body serves as a key benchmark in LDS cosmology, procreation between heterosexual partners is imperative to the eternal progression of LDS spirits who are otherwise held back in the spirit world prior to their embodiment. Often referenced as Heavenly Father's Plan, LDS cosmology establishes a conservative yet fluctuating matrix of beliefs and practices regarding gender, sexuality, and embodiment that has historically restrained LDS members from taking liberal positions on many LGBT and feminist issues, like California's Proposition 8, while concurrently providing a substrate for doctrinal innovations on LDS issues like plural marriage. This study begins with an examination of the early church's emphasis on marital and family practices as constructive of an LDS community envisioned in the ministry of Joseph Smith and other early prophets of the LDS church. Subsequently, I investigate both members' and the church's response to LGBT and feminist issues by relating them back to the central dogma of LDS marital doctrine. I conclude by compiling and analyzing a select corpus of LDS pamphlets that reinterpret the church's body of knowledge regarding gender, sexuality, and embodiment into a series of directives for youth. Taken together, these inquiries into LDS doctrine and practice lead toward an incipient, LDS-specific gender theory and sexual ethics.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: Eternalizing Kinship: History of the Doctrine of Celestial Marriage...7

Persecution of Latter-day Saints in the Early Church...9

LDS Bodies, Marriage, and Eternity...13

Marriage and Identity Formation...16

Eternity and Deviance...18

Chapter 1 Conclusion...19

Chapter 2: Gender Politics and Cosmology in the LDS Church...20

LDS Politics of Gender, Sexuality, and Race...22

Gender and Cosmology in the LDS Church...26

Constructing LGBT-Inclusive LDS Theologies...28

Chapter 2 Conclusion...32

Chapter 3: Teaching Gender and Sexuality Through Religious Pamphleteering...33

Transition in Nineteenth-Century Pamphleteering...36

Moral Agency and the (Sexual) Ethic of Submission...39

Pamphleteering to Youth: Toward an LDS Theory of Gender and Sexuality...41

For the Strength of Youth...42

To Young Men Only: Interpreting and Regulating the Young Male Body...46

Young Women Personal Progress and Duty to God: Indexing the Sacred Qualities of Each Gender...48

Chapter 3 Conclusion...51



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