When faith and lifestyle clash: the story of homosexual Mormons
A news article by Peggy Fletcher Stack titled, “Study Reveals What Really Happens When Gay Mormon Men Marry Straight Women,” Huffington Post, 15 January 2015
(http://tinyurl.com/o7l8b96), explains a recently published study from Utah State University. A video interview with the researcher is provided along with the written article. According to the study, divorce is more likely in Mormon marriages when spouses have mixed sexual orientations compared to matching ones. An astonishing 80% of homosexual respondents said that they made ongoing efforts to try to change their sexual orientation through “personal righteousness” and “reparative therapy” techniques such as praying, fasting, temple worship, and seeking help from a psychologist. None of the respondents reported a successful sexual orientation change using these methods, but rather experienced psychological damage by trying. The researchers found that the technique that was most psychologically healthy required an open balance between religion and their sexuality, although this was difficult for most people.
I found it surprising that 80% of the homosexuals in the study attempted to change their sexual orientation because the Book of Mormon states that acting on homosexual attraction is a sin, but feeling this attraction is not (and there seems to be quite a bit of support from heterosexual Mormons, as shown in Carol Kuruvilla’s article “Mormon Allies Promise LGBT Christians: You Can Sit With Me At Church,” Huffington Post, 28 December 2014 (http://tinyurl.com/pr3g6oh)). In hindsight, I understand that individuals may feel pressured by their religious community to ‘recover’ from their sexuality and live a ‘normal life’ by seeking reparative therapy (1), even though individuals who have not acted on their homosexuality are not considered sinful.
In the sarcastically titled video “SHOCKING Study Finds Gay Mormon Men Married to Women Likely Divorce” that accompanies the written article, Stack is clearly poking fun at the obvious results; most people would expect less successful marriages when spouses have incompatible sexual orientations. I think the sarcastic tone may draw in readers because it makes the article seem fun and agreeable, but I found this tone to be condescending and almost rude. People may question why we are wasting time and money on researching these apparently obvious things, and the article essential de-valuates the hard work of the researchers and the importance of knowing these devastating statistics.
Overall, I think this article is shedding light on a tough situation that is not unique to Mormons—a conflict between sexual orientation and loyalty to a religion that condemns it. Although I think the author did not approach it with the most appropriate angle, I did appreciate that they were spreading the word about the mental distress that is associated with this conflict of faith and sexuality, and the best and worst techniques to use to cope.
- Jacobsen J., and Wright R. 2014. Mental Health Implications in Mormon Women’s Experiences With Same-Sex Attraction: A Qualitative Study. The Counseling Psychologist 42(5):664-696.