We’re pleased that Taylor Petrey has written a short discussion of his recent Dialogue article, Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology to start a conversation here at BCC. We encourage you strongly (yea, with schoolmarmish scoldings and professorial pleadings) to read the full article before commenting. Taylor G. Petrey (ThD, MTS Harvard Divinity School) is Assistant Professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College, specializing in New Testament and Early Christianity. He also teaches in the Jewish Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality programs.
I hope that this piece will contribute to three hitherto largely separate conversations. The broadest of these conversations is about what LDS theology is or should be. In this article, I offer an interpretation of Mormon doctrine using Mormon sources of authority, exploring the vagaries and grey areas within those doctrines. I do not pretend to offer a recommendation for what Mormon theology should be like, but to provide a glimpse at what it might be like. Ultimate authority, of course, rests with the leadership of the Church, and their adjudication between possible theological alternatives.
One of the primary questions LDS theology faces is whether it merely offers a philosophically sophisticated window dressing to what is spoken over the pulpit, or if it has its own voice, its own purpose, and its own rules. Is LDS theology a given set of truths to be vindicated through philosophical theology, or can it produce new ways of thinking with the resources provided to it, and expose problematic elements of past and present articulations of LDS thought? I hope to have shown the benefits for taking up a more robust and engaged understanding of LDS theology’s relationship to broader cultural critique.
In particular, I have tried to connect this larger discussion of theology with feminist theory and Mormon feminist theology. While broader feminist conversations over the last three decades have shown how opposition to same-sex relationships is often rooted in ideologies about sex and gender roles, LDS feminist voices have rarely connected their concerns with those outside of heterosexual norms. While I am sympathetic to the concerns that that may drive LDS feminists to separate from LDS gay and lesbian voices, I suggest in this analysis that LDS feminist concerns are inseparably braided with the discourse on same sex relations.
As a particular case to which these theoretical paradigms can be applied, I examine the ongoing critical evaluation of Church discourse and practice about the issue of “homosexuality” and other relational and identity categories outside modern LDS discursive and juridical norms. Besides providing numerous models within LDS texts and practices for thinking about the possibility of same-sex relationships, ultimately I suggest that we think less about the types of sex that people are having, and more about the types of relationships that people are building.
In order to reimagine the possibility of married same-sex relationships within Mormonism, one has to consider how such relationships might make sense within LDS theology. While other Christians may have to confront scripture or tradition alone, and can make hermeneutical decisions about these sources of authority, Latter-day Saints are also informed by a particular theology that has thus far constrained acceptance of same sex relationships. Working from within LDS theology, texts, and ritual, I attempt to offer a plausible theological account of how Latter-day Saints may be able to accommodate same sex relationships.