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Psychosocial Correlates of Religious Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction: A Mormon Perspective

  • University of Hartford, Graduate Institute of Professional Psychology

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This study examined the psychosocial correlates of following various church-based approaches for dealing with same-sex attraction, based on a large sample (1,612) of same-sex attracted current and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, or Mormon). Overall, this study found that biologically based views about the etiology of same-sex attraction (vs. psychosocial views), LDS church disaffiliation (vs. activity), sexual activity (vs. celibacy), and legal same-sex marriage (vs. remaining single or mixed-orientation marriage) were all associated with significantly higher levels of self-esteem and quality of life, and lower levels of internalized homophobia, sexual identity distress, and depression. The divorce rate for mixed-orientation marriages was 51% at the time of survey completion, with projections suggesting an eventual divorce rate of 69%.
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Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health
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Psychosocial Correlates of Religious
Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction: A
Mormon Perspective
John P. Dehlin MSa, Renee V. Galliher PhDa, William S. Bradshaw PhDb
& Katherine A. Crowell PhDc
a Department of Psychology, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA
b Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Emeritus,
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA
c Department of Psychology, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma,
Washington, USA
Accepted author version posted online: 25 Apr 2014.Published
online: 14 Jul 2014.
To cite this article: John P. Dehlin MS, Renee V. Galliher PhD, William S. Bradshaw PhD &
Katherine A. Crowell PhD (2014) Psychosocial Correlates of Religious Approaches to Same-Sex
Attraction: A Mormon Perspective, Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 18:3, 284-311, DOI:
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Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 18:284–311, 2014
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1935-9705 print / 1935-9713 online
DOI: 10.1080/19359705.2014.912970
Psychosocial Correlates of Religious
Approaches to Same-Sex Attraction: A Mormon
Department of Psychology, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Emeritus, Brigham Young University,
Provo, Utah, USA
Department of Psychology, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington, USA
This study examined the psychosocial correlates of following vari-
ous church-based approaches for dealing with same-sex attraction,
based on a large sample (1,612) of same-sex attracted current and
former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(LDS, or Mormon). Overall, this study found that biologically based
views about the etiology of same-sex attraction (vs. psychosocial
views), LDS church disaffiliation (vs. activity), sexual activity (vs.
celibacy), and legal same-sex marriage (vs. remaining single or
mixed-orientation marriage) were all associated with significantly
higher levels of self-esteem and quality of life, and lower levels of
internalized homophobia, sexual identity distress, and depression.
The divorce rate for mixed-orientation marriages was 51% at the
time of survey completion, with projections suggesting an eventual
divorce rate of 69%.
KEYWORDS psychology, LGBTQ, religion, celibacy, marriage,
Approximately 83% of U.S. adults self-identify as religious (Pew, 2008), with
11% (25.6 million) acknowledging at least some form of same-sex attraction,
and an estimated 3.8% (9 million) self-identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual,
Address correspondence to John P. Dehlin, MS, Department of Psychology, Utah State
University, Logan, UT 84322. E-mail:
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Psychosocial Correlates of Mormon Approaches to SSA 285
or transgender (SSA; Gates, 2012). While virtually every major medical as-
sociation has declared SSA and same-sex behavior (SSB) to be normal and
healthy variants of human sexuality (APA, 2009), many conservative religious
traditions continue to condemn both SSA and SSB as being inconsistent with
God’s will (Barry, 2001; For Faith & Family, 2005; Hinckley, 1998). These
religious teachings lead millions of LGBT adults to experience psychological
conflict between their sexuality and their religiosity (APA, 2009; Bradshaw,
Dehlin, Crowell, Galliher, & Bradshaw, in press; Dehlin, Galliher, Bradshaw,
& Crowell, in press; Dehlin, Galliher, Bradshaw, Hyde, & Crowell, 2014).
To assist lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) church mem-
bers in this conflict, many conservative religious traditions offer various
teachings and recommendations. For example, many discourage the belief
that SSA has a biological foundation (Mustanski et al., 2002), and instead at-
tribute SSA to one or more psychosocial factors (Abbott & Byrd, 2009; Byrd,
2008; Dahle et al., 2009; Eldridge, 1994; Mansfield, 2011; Park, 1997, 2006).
Such beliefs are theorized to help LGBT church members feel hopeful that
their same-sex sexuality can be “fixed,” with proper support. These religion-
based theories are often accompanied by promoting lifestyle choices that
encourage LGBT individuals to downplay or suppress their SSA in order to
live in harmony with church teachings. These recommendations often in-
clude (a) increased religiosity, including increased church attendance and
activity; (b) sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE); (c) celibacy; and (d)
mixed-orientation marriages (APA, 2009; Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; Dehlin
et al., in press; Dehlin et al., 2014; Jones & Yarhouse, 2007; Nicolosi et al.,
2000; Throckmorton & Welton, 2005). While select “success stories” are of-
ten publicized to tout the viability of such lifestyle options (Mansfield, 2011),
little research has been conducted regarding their psychosocial implications
(APA, 2009).
Considerable evidence implicates various biological influences on same-
sex sexuality including genetics, neurohormonal development (e.g., psy-
choneuroendocrinology, prenatal stress, cerebral asymmetry), and frater-
nal birth-order in men (LeVay, 2011; Mustanski et al., 2002). Nonetheless,
many religious organizations have a history of either explicitly denying the
biological etiology of SSA or of emphasizing less scientifically substanti-
ated psychosocial theories of SSA etiology (Dobson, 2013; LDS Church,
2010; JONAH, 2001). A number of studies over the past ten years have
sought to explain the reasons for and implications of psychosocial versus
biological views on SSA etiology (Arseneau, Grzanka, Miles, & Fassinger,
2013). For example, Whitehead and Baker (2012) found that sources of
moral authority (e.g., religion) heavily influence views about the etiology of
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286 J. P. Dehlin et al.
homosexuality. Literal beliefs about the Bible, belief that God is active in
the world, and high levels of religious behavior were all strongly associ-
ated with belief that homosexuality is a choice (Whitehead, 2010). Positive
attitudes towards homosexuality have been associated with the belief that
its origins are biological, whereas negative attitudes are associated with the
view that its origin is personal choice (Sheldon, Pfeffer, Jayaratne, Feld-
baum, & Petty, 2007). Smith, Zanotti, Axelton, and Saucier (2011) reported
that stronger belief that same-sex sexuality was due to nurture-related factors
predicted less support for LGBT-affirming legislation, and was mediated by
sexual prejudice, suggesting that beliefs about the origins of sexual orienta-
tion may serve as a justification factor in the expression of LGBT prejudice.
While Dehlin et al. (in press) found higher prevalence rates of psychosocially
based beliefs about SSA etiology among same-sex attracted Mormons who
identify more closely with the church, no known research exists exploring
the impact of such beliefs on the overall health and well-being of LGBT
Given the incompatibility of same-sex sexuality with many conservative re-
ligious traditions, four of the most common approaches offered by conser-
vative religious organizations to sexual minorities are (a) sexual orientation
change efforts (SOCE); (b) increased church activity; (c) living a single, celi-
bate life; and (d) entering into a mixed-orientation marriage (APA, 2009;
Besen, 2012; O’Donovan, 2004). While religious and therapeutic SOCE con-
tinue to be heavily promoted by religious institutions as a means to deal with
SSA (APA, 2009), SOCE will not be directly addressed through this study, as
the SOCE-related data from this study have been discussed elsewhere (Brad-
shaw et al., in press; Dehlin et al., 2014).
Increased Church Activity
While religious involvement is often associated with better physical health,
mental health, and longer survival, the interpretation of such studies is of-
ten complicated by factors such as sample quality and diversity, failure to
control for confounding variables, and failure to isolate the specific mecha-
nisms underlying associations with greater well-being (George et al., 2002;
Smith et al., 2003). George et al. (2002) suggested the following as possible
mechanisms underlying religion-associated well-being: (a) superior health
practices, (b) increased social support, (c) the development of psychoso-
cial resources (e.g., self-esteem, self-efficacy), and (d) a greater sense of
coherence and meaning.
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Psychosocial Correlates of Mormon Approaches to SSA 287
With regard to LGBT religiosity specifically, multiple studies indicate
that sexual minorities with positive, personal relationships with God have
higher self-esteem (e.g., Dahl & Galliher, 2010; Woods et al., 1999), and
that personal religious devotion among sexual minorities positively cor-
relates with mental health (Hackney & Sanders, 2003; Yarhouse & Tan,
2005). As an example, one qualitative study indicated that sexual minori-
ties’ exploration of sexual identity within their religious contexts ultimately
helped to increase self-acceptance and open-mindedness towards other peo-
ple, while allowing them to incorporate many positive values into their
lives, such as the importance of service, family, and avoidance of substance
abuse (Dahl & Galliher, 2012). In another study, Rosario, Yali, Hunter, and
Gwadz (2006) found that LGBT youth who no longer identified with their
childhood religion were more likely to have engaged in risky sexual be-
haviors, evidenced more emotional distress, indicated less social support,
and had lower self-esteem than those who maintained identification with
On the negative side, numerous potential psychosocial risks are as-
sociated with maintaining and increasing religiosity as a sexual minority.
Shilo and Savaya (2012) found that religiosity correlated with lower levels
of family and friends’ support and acceptance, lower levels of disclosure,
and higher levels of internalized homophobia. Dahl and Galliher (2010)
found that increased religious commitment, participation, and social support
were not protective factors for sexual minorities. According to their study,
negative religious experiences (e.g., seeing God as unkind, finding religion
too demanding) were related to higher levels of depression, lower levels of
self-esteem, and increased conflict about sexual orientation, with negative
religious experiences having a larger impact than positive experiences. These
authors also found that same-sex attracted young adults experienced feelings
of inadequacy and religious-related guilt, often persisting even after disaffili-
ation from their religion; depression related to coming out; and considerable
difficulties in relationships with friends/family. As a result, many LGBT in-
dividuals felt apprehensive about coming out to others in the future (Dahl
& Galliher, 2012). Finally, in another study with this sample of same-sex
attracted Latter-day Saints, Dehlin et al. (2014) found that religious attempts
to cope with or change sexual orientation were the most damaging and least
effective of all methods chosen, including psychotherapy, psychiatry, and
group therapy.
When an LGBT individual is unable to find success through one of
these faith-based methods, religious disaffiliation often becomes the next
logical choice. This is also problematic, however, since religious disaffiliation
is often associated with several psychologically distressing consequences
including anxiety, depression, family rejection, loss of social connections and
support, less satisfaction with life, and suicidality (Bjorck & Thurman, 2007;
Edmondson, Park, Chaudoir, & Wortmann, 2008; Exline, Yali, & Sanderson,
2000; Gauthier et al., 2006; Ryan et al., 2010; Wortmann, Park, & Edmondson,
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288 J. P. Dehlin et al.
2012). These negative associations often hold true even when controlling for
the positive effects of religion (Bjorck & Thurman, 2007; Exline et al., 2000;
Wortmann, Park, & Edmondson, 2012). What remains unclear in the literature
is whether or not the benefits of religious disaffiliation outweigh the costs
for LGBT individuals.
Staying Single and Celibate versus Getting Married
Since many religious denominations prohibit sexual activity outside the
bounds of legal, heterosexual marriage, one common recommendation made
by religious leaders is for religious SSA individuals to remain celibate (Olson,
2007; Sobo & Bell, 2001). However, as Richard Sipe (2008, p. 548) wrote,
“Most religious commentators...are loath to address the more practical re-
alities and difficulties of becoming celibate and maintaining the practice.”
Sipe continued, “The separation or disregard of the natural foundations of
celibate asceticism is a serious flaw in its achievement” (2008, p. 549). While
several studies reveal difficulty in maintaining a celibate lifestyle (Brzezinski,
2000; Jones & Yarhouse, 2007; Sipe, 1990, 2003, 2008), minimal data exist
on the mental health implications of celibacy (APA, 2009). Though a few
studies indicate that some find the choice of celibacy to be fulfilling (Jones &
Yarhouse, 2007), many other studies indicate that celibacy might lead to feel-
ings of loneliness and depression (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; Haldeman,
2001; Shidlo & Schroeder, 2002).
Marriage is often associated with significantly better mental health out-
comes when compared with never marrying (Williams, Frech, & Carlson,
2010). As noted by Carlson (2012, p. 744), “...marriage provides people with
several psychosocial and economic resources that are associated with high
levels of well-being...,” including, a sense of meaning, purpose and “mat-
tering to others” (Marks, 1996; Schieman & Taylor, 2001; Taylor & Turner,
2001), increased levels of social integration, and increased economies of
scale through the economic pooling of resources (Waite, 1995). As with
the benefits/costs of church participation, studies on the benefits/costs of
marriage contain important sampling limitations, are often limited in scope,
fail to control for possible confounding factors, and often fail to identify
the mechanisms for the improved well-being of married individuals (e.g.,
Carlson, 2012). Nonetheless, the general benefits frequently associated with
marriage, combined with the risks associated with celibacy, raise important
questions regarding religion-based recommendations to live a single, celi-
bate lifestyle as a way to deal with the conflict between one’s religiosity and
one’s sexuality.
Mixed-Orientation Marriages
A mixed-orientation marriage (MOM) involves a legal marriage wherein one
spouse identifies as bisexual, gay, or lesbian, and the other identifies as
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Psychosocial Correlates of Mormon Approaches to SSA 289
heterosexual (Buxton, 2004). While current and reliable prevalence rates are
difficult to obtain, it has been estimated that somewhere between 10% and
20% of gay men in the United States marry heterosexually at some point
in their lives (Ross, 1989), leading to an estimated two million-plus U.S.
families that have entered into a MOM (Buxton, 1994). Prevalence rates for
U.S. lesbians and bisexuals in mixed-orientation marriages were even more
difficult to obtain.
Religious socialization has been cited as one of the primary motivators
for such unions (Hernandez & Wilson, 2007; Ortiz & Scott, 1994). Unfortu-
nately, MOMs are often characterized by a considerable array of negative dy-
namics including sexual and emotional dissonance, disorientation, despair,
spiritual turmoil, insecurity, resentment, pain, and infidelity (Hernandnez,
Schwenkie, & Wilson, 2011). Most significantly, estimates put the divorce
rate of MOMs somewhere between 50% and 85% (Buxton, 1994; Buxton,
2001; Wolkomir, 2004).
The present study attempts to understand and explore the prevalence and
psychosocial correlates of religion-based and non-religion-based approaches
to same-sex sexuality, based on a large survey of current and former Mor-
mons who experience SSA. Specific religious approaches to be examined
include: psychosocial (vs. biological) beliefs about the etiology of SSA, re-
ligious belief and church activity (vs. disbelief and church disaffiliation),
celibacy (vs. sexual activity), and mixed orientation marriages (vs. same-sex
committed relationships and/or marriage).
Specific research questions to be explored in this study include the
What are the psychosocial implications for LGBT individuals who espouse
a biological versus psychosocial view of SSA etiology?
What are the mental health implications and effectiveness rates for the
various religion-based recommendations for dealing with SSA, including
increased church activity, celibacy, and mixed-orientation marriages?
What are the mental health implications of both religious disaffiliation and
entering into committed same-sex relationships for LGBT individuals?
Participants were recruited to participate in a web-based survey with five
main components: (a) basic demographic information; (b) sexual identity
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290 J. P. Dehlin et al.
development; (c) measures of psychosocial functioning; (d) exploration of
attempts to accept, cope with, or change sexual orientation; and (e) ques-
tions regarding religious affiliation, belief, and practice. Both quantitative
and open-ended questions were included in the survey, which required an
average of more than one hour to complete per respondent. Inclusion crite-
ria for participation in the study were as follows: (a) 18 years of age or older,
(b) baptism in the LDS church, (c) feelings of same-sex attraction at some
point in the participant’s life, (d) completion of at least a majority of the
items on the survey, and (e) indication that they only completed the survey
once. The final sample comprised 1,612 respondents who met these criteria;
the sampling design and recruitment will be described in detail below.
The basic demographic information for our sample can be found in
Table 1. The mean age for respondents was 36.9 (SD =12.58). Approximately
95% of participants lived in the United States (including 48 states and the
District of Columbia), and 90.9% reported to be White/Caucasian. The mean
Kinsey sexual attraction score reported by participants was 4.9 (SD =1.48).
Respondents answered several demographic questions, including age, bio-
logical sex, gender, country and state of residence, race, income, education,
religion, sexual identity, relationship status (e.g., married, committed rela-
tionship, single, divorced), and whether or not they have ever been married
heterosexually and the length of that marriage.
Regarding sexual orientation, participants were asked to rate sexual behav-
ior/experience, feelings of sexual attraction, and self-declared sexual iden-
tity on a 7-point Likert-type scale (modeled after the Kinsey scale; Kinsey
& Pomeroy, 1948), ranging from “0 – exclusively opposite sex” to “6 – ex-
clusively same sex,” with the additional option of “asexual” also provided.
Participants were also asked their level of sexual activity (e.g., celibate, sex-
ually active), and their opinions about the causes of SSA both in general,
and for themselves specifically.
Participants were asked to specify their current status in the LDS church.
Options included active (i.e., attends at least once a month), inactive (i.e.,
attends less than once a month), disfellowshipped (i.e., on probationary
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Psychosocial Correlates of Mormon Approaches to SSA 291
TABLE 1 Demographic Counts of Participants
Variable n% Variable n%
Biological Sex Sexual Orientation
Female 388 24.1 Gay 995 61.8
Male 1,222 75.9 Lesbian 221 13.7
Bisexual 234 14.5
Race/Ethnicity Heterosexual 79 4.9
White/Caucasian 1,466 90.9 SSA or SGA 20 1.2
Multi-racial 72 4.5 Other 62 3.8
Latino(a) 35 2.2
Other 36 2.2 Ever married heterosexually? 500 31.3
Currently a parent? 462 28.9
Age Cohort
Teens (18–19) 39 2.4 Relationship Status
20s 530 32.9 Single 657 42.4
30s 422 26.2 Heterosexual marriage 240 15.5
40s 312 19.4 Legal SS relationship 202 13.0
50s 216 13.4 Non-Legal SS relationship 366 23.6
60s 76 4.7 Divorced/Separated 83 5.4
70s 9 0.6
Current LDS Church Status
Highest Education Completed Active 444 28.8
Elementary school 1 0.1 Inactive 559 36.3
High school degree 42 2.7 Disfellowshipped 46 3.0
Technical or trade school 63 4.0 Excommunicated 103 6.7
Some college 469 29.7 Resigned 388 25.2
College graduate 537 34.0
Professional or graduate degree 467 29.6 Church Attended Most Freq.
LDS 745 46.9
Annual Income None/Agnostic/Atheist 634 39.9
$24,000 or less 493 30.9 Episcopalian 30 1.9
$25-000 - $49,000 420 26.3 Unitarian Universalist 29 1.8
$50,000 - $74,999 294 18.4 Buddhist 21 1.3
$75,000 - $99,999 162 10.2 Other 131 8.2
$100,000 and above 225 14.1
Sexual Activity
Country of Residence Celibate by choice 224 14.0
U.S.A. 1,515 94.5 Celibate due to no partner 290 18.1
Other 89 5.5 Sex. active comm. rel. 801 49.9
Utah State Residence 720 44.7 Sex. active no comm. rel. 290 18.1
status), resigned membership, and excommunicated (i.e., termination of
membership by the church).
The Quality of Life Scale (QOLS; Burckhardt, Woods, Schultz, & Ziebarth,
1989) is a 16-item instrument that measures six conceptual domains of quality
of life: material and physical well-being; relationships with other people; so-
cial, community, and civic activities; personal development and fulfillment;
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292 J. P. Dehlin et al.
recreation; and independence. Answers are provided on a 7-point Likert-
type scale. Scores are obtained by summing the items (16-112). Average
total score for healthy populations is about 90. Average scores for various
disease groups include: Israeli patients with posttraumatic stress disorder
(61), fibromyalgia (70), psoriasis, urinary incontinence and chronic obstruc-
tive pulmonary disease (82), rheumatoid arthritis (83), systemic lupus (84),
osteoarthritis (87), and young adults with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (92;
Burckhardt, Woods, Schultz, & Ziebarth, 1989). The QOLS has demonstrated
internal consistency (α=.82 to .92) and test-retest reliability (r =0.78 to
r=0 .84; Anderson, 1995; Neumann & Buskila, 1997; Wahl, Burckhardt,
Wiklund, & Hanestad, 1998). Cronbach’s alpha for the current sample was
The Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES; Rosenberg, 1965) is a 10-item mea-
sure of self-esteem developed for adolescents, but has been used with sam-
ples across the developmental spectrum. The RSES uses a Likert-type scale
(1-4), with higher scores indicating higher self-esteem (reverse scoring re-
quired). The RSES has a test-retest reliability of α=.85 and has demonstrated
good validity. Cronbach’s alpha for the current sample was α=.92.
The seven-item Sexual Identity Distress scale (SID; Wright & Perry, 2006)
assesses identity-related distress associated with sexual orientation. Total
SID scores are calculated by summing each of the items after reverse coding
negative items, so that higher scores indicate greater identity-distress. Wright
and Perry (2006) reported good reliability for the measure with Cronbach’s
α=.83. Cronbach’s alpha for the current sample was α=.91.
The LGBIS (Mohr & Fassinger, 2000) is a 27-item measure assessing sev-
eral dimensions of lesbian, gay, and bisexual identity including internalized
homonegativity/binegativity (internalized homophobia). Subscales for the
LGBIS are scored by reverse scoring several of the 27-items. High scores
on each subscale indicate greater distress with regard to identity develop-
ment. Reliability and validity information has not yet been published on
this measure. However, the authors suggest that the measure demonstrates
overall good internal consistency for each of the aforementioned subscales
(α=.81, α=.75, α=.79, α=.79, and α=.77) respectively, based on
comparison with a revised version of this measure that has been recently
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Psychosocial Correlates of Mormon Approaches to SSA 293
published (Mohr & Kendra, 2011). Cronbach’s alpha for the current sample
on the LGBIS subscales for Internalized Homonegativity was α=.90.
The CCAPS-34 (Locke et al., 2012) is a 34-item instrument with eight subscales
related to psychological symptoms and distress. It is based on the CCAPS-62,
which is widely used at university counseling centers to assess psychosocial
health (Locke et al., 2011). Items are scored on a 5-point scale. Positive items
are reverse scored such that higher scores indicate more severe symptoms.
The only subscale used in this study is Depression, which assesses levels
of nonclinical depressive symptomology. The authors reported CCAPS-34
test-retest reliability between α=.71 and α=.84 (depending on subscale).
Cronbach’s alpha for the current sample for the Depression subscale was
This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at Utah State
University. It was released as an online web survey from July 12 through
September 29, 2011, and required both informed consent and confirmation
that the respondent had only completed the survey once. While a more
comprehensive discussion of procedures has been published (Dehlin et al.,
2014), a brief overview will be offered here.
Journalists in the online and print media were contacted about this study
as it was released. Because of feature coverage by the Associated Press, ar-
ticles about this study appeared in over 100 online and print publications
worldwide, including the Huffington Post, Salt Lake Tribune,andSan Fran-
cisco Chronicle. In all, 21% of respondents indicated that they heard about
the study directly through one of these sources, or through direct Internet
search. Leaders of the major LDS-affiliated LGBT support groups were also
contacted directly and asked to help advertise this study within their respec-
tive organizations (e.g., Affirmation, Evergreen, North Star). In total, 21% of
survey respondents indicated learning about the survey from one of these
support groups. Careful attention was paid to include all known groups, and
to ensure inclusion across the spectrum of varying LDS belief and orthodoxy,
with special emphasis on reaching out directly and in multiple ways to con-
servative LDS LGBT support groups. Nonreligiously affiliated LGBT support
organizations such as Equality Utah and the Salt Lake City Pride Center were
also helpful in promoting awareness about this survey, ultimately providing
5% of respondents. Finally, 47% of respondents indicated learning about the
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294 J. P. Dehlin et al.
survey through some form of word of mouth including email, Facebook,
blogs, online forums, or other web sites.
Preliminary Analyses
A series of t-tests, one-way ANOVAs, chi square analyses, and bivariate
correlations was conducted to assess relationships between core demo-
graphic variables and the variables of interest. Demographic variables as-
sessed for potential inclusion as covariates in primary analyses included
ethnicity (White vs. non-White), age, biological sex, education level, and
residency in Utah or outside of Utah. A number of significant associations
with primary variables were observed, although almost all effect sizes were
small. Age demonstrated significant associations with nine of the twelve pri-
mary study variables, biological sex was significantly associated with seven,
and Utah residency was associated with eight variables. Given theoretical
links among those three demographic variables and the sexual identity and
psychosocial health indicators assessed in the primary analyses, all were in-
cluded in subsequent analyses as covariates. Ethnicity was not included as a
covariate, as it was less consistently related to other study variables (three of
twelve significant associations) and the lack of diversity in the sample neces-
sitated collapsing all ethnic minority participants into one group. Educational
status was significantly related to several other study variables (seven of 12
significant associations) but was not included as a covariate, as effect sizes
for all significant associations were very small (i.e., η2<.04, Cramer’s V <
Beliefs About SSA Etiology
Approximately 81% of participants (n=1,306) endorsed a biological etiology
for SSA, and 35% (n=566) endorsed at least one psychosocial explanation
for SSA. The most commonly endorsed nonbiological explanations were
early same-sex sexual experiences (n=356, 22.1%), dysfunctional parent-
child relationships in the home (n=330, 20.5%), sexual abuse (n=318,
19.7%), personal choice (n=167, 10.4%), and spiritual failure or weakness
to Satan’s temptation (n=70, 4.3%). Almost three-fourths (73.2%) of those
who reported an “active” LDS church status endorsed a biological etiology
for SSA. Active LDS participants endorsed developmental explanations for
SSA etiology (n=254, 57.2%) at the following rates: dysfunctional parent-
child relationships (39.9%), early same-sex sexual experiences (39.4%), being
a victim of sexual abuse (36.9%), and spiritual failure/Satan’s temptation
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Psychosocial Correlates of Mormon Approaches to SSA 295
TABLE 2 Mental Health Associations for Varying Beliefs About the Causes of Same-Sex
Biological Causes
Selected Not Selected
nMSDnMSDF df p η2
Intern. homophobia 1292 2.78 1.68 298 3.69 2.06 67.82 1,1585 <.001 .041
Sex. ident. distress 1293 8.41 6.70 298 11.68 8.61 55.50 1,1586 <.001 .034
Depression 1295 2.09 0.99 298 2.12 1.03 0.33 1,1588 0.568 .000
Self-esteem 1296 3.20 0.63 299 3.10 0.69 7.31 1,1590 0.007 .005
Quality of life 1296 82.65 13.7 297 1,1588 0.056 .002
Spiritual failure or weakness to Satan’s temptation
Intern. homophobia 69 5.59 1.41 1521 2.83 1.71 168 1,1585 <.001 .096
Sex. ident. distress 69 18.04 6.13 1522 8.61 6.98 118 1,586 <.001 .069
Depression 69 2.65 1.13 1524 2.07 0.99 21.9 1,1588 <.001 .014
Self-esteem 69 2.71 0.68 1526 3.21 0.63 39.3 1,1590 <.001 .024
Quality of life 69 75.84 16.19 1524 82.65 14.015.1 1,1588 <.001 .009
Dysfunctional parent-child relationship in the home
Intern. homophobia 327 4.44 1.84 1263 2.57 1.56 326 1,1585 <.001 .171
Sex. ident. distress 327 13.97 6.67 1264 7.74 6.78 207 1,1586 <.001 .116
Depression 327 2.45 1.03 1266 2.01 0.97 49.1 1,1588 <.001 .030
Self-esteem 327 2.94 0.63 1268 3.25 0.63 56.0 1,1590 <.001 .034
Quality of life 327 78.32 14.36 1266 83.40 13.95 31.3 1,1588 <.001 .019
Being a victim of sexual abuse
Intern. homophobia 315 4.37 1.85 1275 2.60 1.60 291 1,1585 <.001 .155
Sex. ident. distress 315 13.74 7.09 1276 7.86 6.75 184 1,1586 <.001 .104
Depression 315 2.41 1.06 1278 2.02 0.97 36.1 1,1588 <.001 .022
Self-esteem 315 2.98 0.65 1280 3.23 0.63 34.9 1,1590 <.001 .022
Quality of life 315 78.65 14.24 1278 83.27 14.02 24.5 1,1588 <.001 .015
(9.9%). Only 13.5% of those who reported an “Active” LDS church status
endorsed the belief that SSA was a choice.
As shown in Table 2, not endorsing a biological etiology for SSA was
associated with higher levels of internalized homophobia and sexual iden-
tity distress, with medium effect sizes (p<.001; η2=.041 and .034). The
endorsement of nonbiological causes of SSA were associated with higher
reported levels of internalized homophobia, sexual identity distress, and
depression, and lower levels of reported quality of life and self-esteem
(p <.001). The effect sizes for internalized homophobia and sexual identity
stress across all three psychosocial explanations were medium. The effect
sizes for depression, quality of life, and self-esteem were small to medium.
As shown in Table 3, those reporting an “active” LDS church status reported
the poorest scores of all the church-related groups across all five psychosocial
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TABLE 3 Psychosocial Health Associations with Level of LDS Church Participation
Active Inactive Disfellow. Resigned Excomm.
(n=435–437) (n=554–555) (n=46) (n=381–383) (n=102) One-Way ANOVA
M SD M SD M SD M SD M SD F df p η2
Intern. Homophobia 4.41 1.82 2.65 1.49 3.09 1.71 1.92 1.10 2.21 1.37 152.95 4, 1510 <.001 .288
Sex. Ident. Distress 14.11 6.92 8.25 6.37 9.76 7.43 5.11 5.47 5.69 5.56 111.27 4, 1511 <.001 .228
Depression 2.33 1.02 2.12 1.03 1.88 0.85 1.91 0.91 1.76 0.83 11.51 4, 1513 <.001 .030
Self-esteem 3.02 0.64 3.16 0.67 3.13 0.69 3.36 0.55 3.39 0.52 15.37 4, 1515 <.001 .039
Quality of Life 80.18 13.89 81.13 14.32 82.91 14.60 85.51 13.42 86.77 12.27 9.82 4, 1513 <.001 .025
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Psychosocial Correlates of Mormon Approaches to SSA 297
measures. One-way ANOVAs for LDS church status showed significant dif-
ferences among groups on all five psychosocial measures (p<.001), with
large between-group differences for Internalized Homophobia and Sexual
Identity (η2of .29 and .23 respectively), and small between-group differ-
ences on depression, self-esteem, and quality of life (η2of between .03 and
.04). Pairwise comparisons between groups showed medium to very large
effect size differences between the “Active” group and all the other groups
on Internalized Homophobia and Sexual Identity Distress (d=.61 to 1.66),
and small to medium effects size differences on depression and self-esteem
(d=.17 to .64). On quality of life, the effect size between “Active” and
“Excommunicated” was medium (d=.48).
Regarding relationship status, 47.8% of participants reported being either
“Single” (42.4%) or “Divorced/Separated” (5.4%), with the remainder falling
into one of three relationship types: “Committed, Non-Legal Same-Sex Rela-
tionships” (NLSSR, 23.6%), “Legal Same-Sex Relationships” (LSSR, 12.5%), or
Heterosexual Marriage (15.5%). Results regarding the psychosocial correlates
of relationships status can be found in Table 4 (divorced/separated category
was excluded from the results to focus on the major categories). Overall,
those reporting to be in the LSSR group reported the healthiest scores in
every category, with the NLSSR category consistently reporting the second
healthiest scores. The single and heterosexual marriage categories reported
the least healthy scores in every category, with the heterosexual marriage
category reporting the highest scores in Internalized Homophobia and Sex-
ual Identity Distress, and the Single category reporting the highest average
Depression score, and the lowest scores on self-esteem and quality of life.
ANOVAs for relationship status showed significant differences between
groups on all five measures (p<.001), with medium between-group dif-
ferences for Internalized Homophobia and Sexual Identity (η2of .19 and
.17, respectively), and small to medium between-group differences on de-
pression, self-esteem, and quality of life (η2between .05 and .08). Pairwise
comparisons between the LSSR group and the “Single” group revealed large
differences across all of the measures (d=.74 to .92). Differences between
the LSSR and “Heterosexual marriage” groups were medium to large (d=
.59 to 1.66). Differences between the LSSR and NLSSR groups were small
to medium (d=.21 to .42). Differences between the single and hetero-
sexually married groups for Internalized Homophobia and Sexual Identity
Distress were medium (d=.58 to .65), small for quality of life (d=.21),
and nonsignificant for depression and self-esteem.
Regarding success/divorce rates of mixed-orientation marriages
(MOMs), 31% (n=500) of survey respondents reported entering into a
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TABLE 4 Psychosocial Health Associations with Relationship Status
Non-Legal SS
Legal SS
(n=650) (n=235-237) (n=362) (n=198-199) One-Way ANOVA
Intern. Homophobia 3.17 1.82 4.34 1.86 2.24 1.30 1.89 0.98 111.32 3,1438 <.001 .188
Sex. Ident. Distress 9.99 7.28 14.12 7.22 6.61 5.76 4.46 4.43 96.95 3,1439 <.001 .168
Depression 2.33 1.01 2.28 1.08 1.87 0.92 1.61 0.73 35.90 3,1440 <.001 .070
Self-esteem 3.05 0.64 3.09 0.68 3.32 0.61 3.47 0.49 25.74 3,1442 <.001 .051
Quality of Life 78.34 14.45 81.36 14.30 86.31 13.33 88.83 11.59 39.54 3,1440 <.001 .076
Note. Those self-identifying as “divorced/separated” (n=83) were not included in this analysis.
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Psychosocial Correlates of Mormon Approaches to SSA 299
MOM at some point in their lives, with 14.9% (n=240) reporting a current
MOM. This represents a minimum 51% divorce rate for MOMs in our sam-
ple. Since the average length for surviving MOMs is M=16.6 years (SD =
11.0), it is reasonable to expect at least some additional MOM divorces over
time. For example, since 37% (n=99) of the MOM divorces in our sample
occurred after the 16 year mark, a flat projection based on the entire sample
would estimate the eventual divorce reach to reach 69%. Such projections,
however, are highly speculative, and fail to take into account the possibility
of multigenerational cohort effects (e.g., more recent generations might be
more or less likely to divorce than previous generations), so this estimate
should be viewed as such.
Finally, participants who remained in MOMs reported significantly lower
Kinsey attraction scores (n=225; M=3.74) than those who reported
being divorced (n=259; M=5.05) at t=-9.36, p<.001, d=−.86),
possibly suggesting that bisexuality is a significant factor in keeping a MOM
The majority (68%) of participants reported to be sexually active either
in a committed relationship (SAC, n=801, 49.9%) or not in a com-
mitted relationship (SANC, n=290, 18.1%), with the remainder endors-
ing either celibacy by choice (CC, n=224, 13.9%) or celibacy due to
a lack of partner (CLP, n=290, 18.1%). As shown in Table 5, those
reporting to be sexually active (whether or not in committed relation-
ships) reported the healthiest scores in every category, with the SAC cat-
egory reporting the healthiest score in every category except Sexual Identity
ANOVAs for sexual activity status across the psychosocial variables
showed significant differences among groups on all five psychosocial mea-
sures (p<.001), with medium between-group differences for Internalized
Homophobia and Sexual Identity (η2of .10 and .08, respectively), and smaller
between-group differences on depression, self-esteem, and quality of life (η2
of between .04 and .08). Pairwise comparisons between the SAC group
and the “Celibacy by Choice” group revealed medium to large differences
(d=.53 to .95). Differences between the SAC and “Celibacy No Partner”
groups were small to medium (d=.21 to .73). Differences between the
SAC and SANC groups were either non-significant (Internalized Homopho-
bia and Sexual Identity Distress) or small (d=.22 to .39). Differences be-
tween the celibacy by choice and celibacy due to lack of partners groups
were non-significant for depression, self-esteem, and quality of life, medium
for sexual identity distress (d=.71), and large for internalize homophobia
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TABLE 5 Psychosocial Health Associations with Reported Sexual Activity Status
Celibate – Choice
Celibate - No
Sexually Active No
Sexually Active
(n=220) (n=288) (n=287) (n=788–793) One-Way ANOVA
Intern. Homophobia 4.36 1.83 2.92 1.61 2.66 1.66 2.67 1.71 58.68 3,1576 <.001 .100
Sex. Ident. Distress 14.15 6.97 9.26 6.97 8.14 6.83 7.78 6.85 47.88 3,1577 <.001 .083
Depression 2.39 1.02 2.46 1.03 2.12 0.98 1.88 0.92 31.54 3,1579 <.001 .057
Self-esteem 2.98 0.64 3.01 0.64 3.17 0.66 3.31 0.60 22.67 3,1581 <.001 .041
Quality of Life 78.04 14.36 76.51 13.94 81.02 14.71 86.21 12.85 44.30 3,1579 <.001 .078
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Psychosocial Correlates of Mormon Approaches to SSA 301
This study assessed the psychosocial health implications of observing church-
recommended approaches toward same-sex attraction within one particular
religious tradition—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—based
on a large sample (N=1,612). The four main approaches assessed in-
cluded: (a) believing in nonbiological development etiologies for SSA, (b)
increased church activity, (c) entering into a mixed-orientation marriage, and
(d) maintaining a single status, and remaining celibate. The major findings
from the study are that non-biologically-based views regarding the etiology
of SSA, remaining active in the LDS church, remaining single, and engag-
ing in mixed-orientation marriages were all associated with higher reported
levels of internalized homophobia, sexual identity distress, and depression,
and lower levels of self-esteem and quality of life. Conversely, those who es-
poused biologically based views regarding SSA etiology, disassociation from
the LDS church, and engaging in committed same-sex relationships reported
significantly healthier scores on all measures.
Additionally, the divorce rate for mixed-orientation marriages in our
sample was reported to be 51% at the time of the sample and is projected
to reach as high as 69% (though only an estimate). A 51% “ever divorced”
rate is considerably higher than the U.S. averages for both males (23.3%)
and females (27.8%) overall, as well as for U.S. Mormons (males =22.0%,
females 28.1%; Heaton, Goodman, & Holman, 2001), though on the low
end of estimates for the national MOM divorce rate (between 50% and 85%;
Buxton, 1994; Buxton, 2001; Wolkomir, 2004). Additional research is required
to determine a more precise, current divorce rate for Mormon MOMs.
Beliefs About the Etiology of SSA
Participants overwhelmingly embraced biological views on SSA etiology, and
tended to eschew psychosocial views. Active LDS church members reported
much higher levels of endorsing psychosocial views, with early same-sex sex-
ual experiences, dysfunctional parent-child relationships, and sexual abuse
being the most commonly held “causes.” Past and current LDS church teach-
ings are likely to account for much of this difference (LDS Church, 2010;
Whitehead & Baker, 2012). One example from LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks
(LDS Church, 2006) illustrates:
I think it’s important for you to understand that homosexuality, which
you’ve spoken of, is not a noun that describes a condition. It’s an adjective
that describes feelings or behavior. I encourage you, as you struggle with
these challenges, not to think of yourself as a ‘something’ or ‘another,’
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302 J. P. Dehlin et al.
except that you’re a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints and you’re my son, and that you’re struggling with challenges.
While no studies could be located that attempted to assess the mental health
implications of believing in a developmental etiology of SSA, studies that
associate nurture-related explanations of SSA with sexual prejudice (e.g.,
Sheldon et al., 2007; Smith et al., 2011) could account for the high levels
of internalized homophobia and sexual identity distress reported by these
participants. Given current interest in more precise measures of sexual ori-
entation beliefs (e.g., Arseneau et al., 2013), future opportunities for research
Church Activity
Those who reported an “Active” LDS church status reported the poorest
scores across all of the psychosocial health measures, while those who were
no longer members of the church reported the healthiest scores overall, with
excommunicates reporting the healthiest scores. Pairwise comparisons be-
tween groups showed medium to very large effect size differences between
the “Active” group and all the other groups regarding internalized homopho-
bia and sexual identity distress, and small to medium effects size differences
on depression, self-esteem, and quality of life. These findings seem to sup-
port previous findings that LGBT church participation correlates with higher
levels of internalized homophobia, internal conflict, guilt, feelings of inade-
quacy, depression, and lower levels of self-esteem (Dahl & Galliher, 2010;
Shilo & Savaya, 2012), while also adding to the literature by showing overall
quality of life advantages for LGBT religious disaffiliation. Further research
is required to better understand why inactive and disfellowshipped church
members reported poorer outcomes than those who are no longer mem-
bers, and what specific advantages church membership resignation and/or
excommunication might offer to LGBT individuals. Partially holding on to
non-LGBT-affirming religious beliefs, identity, and affiliations, even when
one is no longer actively attending church, might allow much of the internal
conflict, guilt, inadequacy, and shame to continue.
Relationship Status and Celibacy
Findings from this study suggest higher levels of psychosocial health and
well-being across the board for participants who are in committed, same-sex
relationships, with those in legal relationships (e.g., marriage, civil unions,
domestic partnerships) reporting better outcomes than those in nonlegal,
committed relationships. Conversely, LGBT individuals who reported being
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Psychosocial Correlates of Mormon Approaches to SSA 303
either single or in heterosexual marriages reported significantly poorer scores
across all measures – with heterosexual marriage showing moderate disad-
vantages over being single in terms of internalized homophobia and sexual
identity distress, and a small advantage over being single in terms of overall
quality of life. These findings support the general research that marriage is as-
sociated with better overall mental health outcomes (Carlson, 2010; Williams,
Frech, & Carlson, 2010), while adding to the literature by confirming these
findings for the LGBT population specifically. These findings also provide
further support to previous research which has found mixed-orientation mar-
riages (Hernandnez, Schwenkie, & Wilson, 2011), celibacy (Sipe, 2008), and
family rejection of LGBT individuals (Ryan, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanches, 2009)
to be problematic from a mental health perspective. We do acknowledge
that there is complexity in the heterosexual marriages in our sample that we
may not have adequately captured. The term “mixed-orientation marriage”
was used throughout, referring to marriages between SSA participants and
their heterosexual spouses. However, we did not collect data on the sex-
ual identification of spouses, and it is certainly likely that some participants
may have entered into heterosexual marriages with other non-heterosexual
partners, both spouses thus gaining access to a relationship status that is
in accordance with their religious values. Such marriages may be unique in
their structure and trajectory and may warrant specific exploration.
Strengths and Limitations
This study’s large and diverse sample, containing detailed information re-
garding participant demographics, background, and experiences is certainly
a strength. Regarding limitations, our reliance on convenience sampling (vs.
random sampling) limits generalizability. For example, our survey likely over-
represents men, Caucasians, U.S. residents, gays (vs. lesbians or bisexuals),
those with higher education and income levels, and those who maintain
some relationship or interest in the LDS church. At best, this survey design
allows for identification of relationships between variables, but does not
allow us to determine causality as would other designs (e.g., longitudinal
studies, randomized clinical trials). Our reliance on self-report makes our
psychosocial health measures highly subjective. The psychosocial measures
used (e.g., CCAPS-34 Depression subscale) are not formal diagnostic mea-
sures, and do not provide clinical thresholds to aid in interpretation. Given
the distinctive nature of the LDS church and its culture, it is reasonable
to question the study’s generalizability outside of Mormonism. Finally, we
acknowledge that our data represent proxies for behaviors recommended
historically by LDS church leaders (e.g., celibacy, MOMs). We did not specif-
ically assess the extent to which specific individuals actually received or
attempted to follow such advice. While considerable such evidence exists in
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304 J. P. Dehlin et al.
the open-ended responses to our survey, space does not admit its inclusion
in this manuscript.
Conclusions and Implications
This study does affirm and extend the existing literature by suggesting that
psychosocially based beliefs about SSA etiology, active participation in non-
LGBT-affirming churches, being single and celibate, and mixed-orientation
marriages—all of which are common beliefs and/or practices within modern,
active LDS culture—are associated with poorer psychosocial health, well-
being, and quality of life for LGBT Mormons. Conversely, biological beliefs
about SSA etiology, complete disaffiliation from the LDS church, legal same-
sex marriage, and sexual activity are all associated with higher levels of
psychosocial health, well-being, and quality of life for LGBT Mormons.
Many of the findings from this study hold potentially important im-
plications for public policy, mental health professionals, religious leaders,
and friends/family/allies of religious LGBT individuals. As public officials
and voters continue to consider the legality of same-sex marriage in various
U.S. states, the positive associations between psychosocial health/quality
of life and same-sex marriage (vs. other types of less formal relationships)
should likely be considered. Relatedly, religious institutions that continue
to advocate for psychosocial views on LGBT etiology, along with celibacy
and/or mixed-orientation marriage as viable lifestyle options for LGBT church
members, should consider the mental health risks of promoting such po-
sitions. Those who are in a position to provide counseling to conserva-
tively religious LGBT individuals (e.g., family, friends, religious leaders, li-
censed mental health professionals), should consider the development and
dispersion of psycho-education regarding the possible benefits of biologi-
cally based views on LGBT etiology, disaffiliation from non-LGBT-affirming
churches, and legal, same-sex committed relationships for LGBT religious
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... A substantial body of research suggests that greater involvement in religion is associated with better health, and that an increased sense of belonging within a religion is associated with more positive health (Krause & Bastida, 2011). Personal religious devotion among sexual minorities has also been found to be associated with positive mental health outcomes, including increased self-esteem and life satisfaction (Dehlin et al., 2014;Yarhouse & Tan, 2005). Whereas religious belongingness is clearly protective for individuals generally, it may be less protective for sexual minority LDS. ...
... Because so few samples have examined sexual minority LDS (e.g., Dehlin et al., 2014;Lefevor et al., 2019), the descriptive data from the present sample may be instructive to those seeking to understand the characteristics of sexual minority LDS. Within our sample, sexual minority LDS self-report mild to moderate depressive symptomology, coinciding with previous research suggesting that sexual minority members of nonaffirming religions are likely to experience adverse mental health outcomes (Cole & Harris, 2017;Wolff et al., 2016). ...
... Such a stark difference between religious and LGBQ belongingness may be best explained by Festinger's (1957) cognitive dissonance theory, which suggests that our inner drive to hold our attitudes and behavior in harmony can lead to adverse mental health outcomes when inconsistency occurs. For participants who felt they belonged in the LGBQ community, inner conflict may have occurred as a result of feeling support from a group (LGBQ) that is opposed to another group (CJCLDS), thereby leading to more depression (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004;Dehlin et al., 2014). CJCLDS belongingness may provide some protection against depression, whereas LGBQ belongingness does not provide the same benefits, possibly due to the resulting conflict and dissonance of feeling a connection to the LGBQ community while simultaneously participating in a nonaffirming religion. ...
... For these individuals, religiousness may also facilitate health-promoting factors such as a positive disposition toward their identity and social support (Wilkinson & Johnson, 2020). However, many SMPs find religious places and people to be bastions of judgment, discrimination, and internalized homonegativity (e.g., Dehlin et al., 2014;Lefevor, Skidmore, et al., 2021). As such, SMPs in nonaffirming religions-religions (including denominations or congregations within religions) that prohibit individuals in same-gender relationships or who present as a gender differing from their sex assigned at birth from engaging in church leadership or fully participating in religious functions (Jeffries et al., 2008)-often report that religion is a source of harm (Jacobsen & Wright, 2014). ...
... This trend is particularly notable in literature examining sexual minority members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (CJCLDS), a historically nonaffirming religion. The majority of this literature describes challenges that sexual minority members experience, including identity conflict, social alienation, and internalized stigma (Dahl & Galliher, 2012;Dehlin et al., 2014). The fact that the preponderance of research has focused on challenges is likely due to the church's strong stance against samesex sexual behavior, with the penalty for same-sex sexual relationships being excommunication (CJCLDS, 2016). ...
... Due to the CJCLDS's strong stance against same-gender sexual behavior and diverse gender expressions, Latter-day Saint (LDS) SMPs frequently experience challenges such as conflict between religious and sexual/gender identities, difficulty finding social support, difficulty making decisions about openness or concealment of their identity, and internalized homonegativity (Dehlin et al., 2014;Skidmore et al., in press). Many LDS SMPs also report feeling mistreated and alienated for their sexual and/or gender identity in religious spaces (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004;Jacobsen & Wright, 2014). ...
This study explored common challenges and benefits reported by sexual minority people (SMP) in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). A sample of 438 LDS SMPs responded to a qualitative survey that asked participants to identify the challenges and benefits of identifying as sexual minority people in their faith. Participants reported several common challenges to identifying as an LDS SMP, including lack of belongingness, identity conflict/confusion, distal stressors, proximal stressors, religious/spiritual struggles, mental health problems, and sexuality struggles. Participants reported several common benefits including increased empathy or compassion, a sense of belonging and happiness, religious/spiritual improvements, and perspective/personal growth. The results suggest that some LDS SMPs experience more religious and sexuality struggles as well as a lack of belongingness due to their intersecting identities, whereas other LDS SMPs seem to benefit from their religious involvement and find a sense of belongingness. Therapists who work with LDS SMPs, and potentially other SMPs in nonaffirming religions, should be aware of both the challenges and benefits reported by SMPs to help clients most effectively navigate difficulties arising from their intersecting identities
... LDS individuals, including sexual minority LDS, are held to strict standards of sexual purity that forbid any sexual contact outside of heterosexual marriage, with the penalty for disobedience being restrictions in formal ecclesiastical practice or potentially loss of membership (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2016). Many sexual minority LDS consequently experience conflict between their sexuality and R/S that results in both internalizing and externalizing symptoms (Dehlin et al., 2014;McGraw et al., 2020;Wolff et al., 2016). Such individuals also report difficulties finding community support and belongingness (Author Citation; Beckstead & Morrow, 2004), which may exacerbate the effects of this stress. ...
... Research with LDS sexual minorities has suggested that samples of sexual minority LDS tend to be predominantly White and male (Dehlin et al., 2014;. Because survey panel samples were collected to compare to an sexual minority LDS sample, these samples were intentionally collected with a disproportionate number of White men to better control for the effects of gender and race/ethnicity in the study. ...
... We found that, although religious commitment was not significantly related to depression overall, religious commitment was positively related to depression for sexual minorities. This effect may reflect the conflict felt by many religious sexual minorities between their sexual orientation and their religious beliefs (Dehlin et al., 2014;McGraw et al., 2020;Wolff et al., 2016). Such increased depression can be the result of a myriad of factors related to religious commitment, including cognitive dissonance, fear of rejection from church members, and lack of sexual identity affirmation (Pew Research Center, 2013). ...
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Sexual minorities who engage in conservative religions may experience both stress and support from their engagement with their faith. However, it is unclear how religion/spirituality and minority stress may simultaneously affect mental health. To address this gap, we recruited 1,083 U.S. adults reporting varied engagement with a conservative religious tradition, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon; LDS), belonging to one of four groups: (a) heterosexual, LDS; (b) sexual minority, LDS; (c) heterosexual, nonLDS; and (d) sexual minority, nonLDS. We found that LDS sexual minorities reported more religiousness/spirituality and described experiencing more minority stressors, relative to nonLDS sexual minorities. Interaction analyses indicated that internalized homonegativity was more strongly associated with depression for LDS sexual minorities than for nonLDS sexual minorities. We suggest that aspects of religion/spirituality may buffer the effects of minority stress experienced by sexual minorities who choose to remain engaged with conservative religious traditions.
... Within the U.S., most sexual minorities report perceiving the CJCLDS as unfriendly toward sexual minorities (Pew Research Center, 2013). Due to the CJCLDS's strong stance on same-sex sexuality Wolff et al., 2016), sexual minority LDS often report a conflict between their religious and sexual identities, which can result in internalizing and externalizing symptoms such as difficulties in finding community support and belongingness, as well as increased IH and concealment (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004;Dehlin et al., 2014;Lefevor, Blaber et al., 2019;Lefevor, Sorrell et al., 2019). Many such individuals also report feeling mistreated and alienated for their sexuality in religious spaces (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004). ...
... Perhaps the best explanation for this phenomenon is rooted in understanding that sexual minority LDS may experience competing calls for belongingness from two seemingly contradictory communities, which may lead to feelings of conflict and distress (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004;Dehlin et al., 2014;Lefevor, Blaber et al., 2019;Lefevor, Sorrell et al., 2019). As such, the benefits of LGBQ belongingness may be outweighed by the resulting conflict and dissonance from the competing calls for belongingness. ...
... This finding, while in opposition to the suggested benefits of service attendance in causal pathway theory, may make sense when viewed through the lens of identity conflict. By increasing participation in the CJCLDS, a historically nonaffirming religion, sexual minority LDS may experience dissonance between their sexual minority identity and their religious identity, thus leading to distress and conflict (Dehlin et al., 2014;Lefevor, Blaber et al., 2019). Additionally, service attendance in a nonaffirming religion may increase likelihood of hearing homonegative messages and experiencing discrimination and judgment, thereby increasing exposure to minority stressors and leading to more adverse mental health outcomes (Joiner, 2005;Rodriguez, 2009). ...
Full-text available
This study aimed to provide insights into the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer/questioning (LGBQ) people within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (CJCLDS), and to explore how aspects of sexuality and religiousness relate to suicidal ideation. Through survey data from 910 participants across two separate studies, several conclusions were drawn. Feelings of belongingness in the CJCLDS may predict decreased suicidal ideation. LGBQ belongingness led CJCLDS service attendance to be more strongly predictive of suicidal ideation, whereas it decreased the negative effects of feeling negatively toward one’s sexual identity. More generally, concealing one’s sexual identity, feeling negatively toward one’s sexual identity, and frequently attending CJCLDS services predicted increased suicidal ideation. However, when participants felt they belonged in the CJCLDS or LGBQ communities, concealing one’s sexual orientation became more strongly related to suicidal ideation. These findings may be due to internal conflict experienced when concealing one’s identity from people and a community with whom one feels they belong. I suggest that clinicians working with religious LGBQ individuals should encourage clients who wish to remain in the CJCLDS to seek a deeper sense of belongingness to the CJCLDS, which can help protect against suicidal ideation and decrease the adverse effects of feeling negatively toward one’s sexual identity.
... The preceding is the context for the current study. Published papers from our data set (a survey of LGBQ+ members or former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (CJCLDS)) have addressed issues including the failure of reorientation therapy Dehlin et al. 2014b), navigating sexual and religious identity conflict , measures of psychosocial health (Dehlin et al. 2014a), and comparative religious experience (Bradshaw et al. , 2021. The current report contains a comparative analysis of measures of sexuality between the men and women respondents, and the resulting relationship to orientation change efforts, relationships, mental and sexual health, and activity status in the church. ...
... Other studies show how the MOM experience differs across different sexual orientation categories (Swan and Benack 2012), or assess the impact of religion on these relationships (Kissil and Itzhaky 2015;Yarhouse et al. 2009). Some research attention has been paid to MOM in the CJCLDS context (Dehlin et al. 2014a;Lefevor et al. 2020;Legerski and Harker 2018). The strongest predictor of sexual satisfaction among sexual minority LDS in mixed-orientation relationships was found to be the degree of other-sex attraction. ...
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We report here some of the results from an online survey of 1612 LGBTQ members and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (CJCLDS, Mormon). The data permitted an exploration of diversity—individual similarities and differences within and between the sexes. Men and women were compared with respect to sexual identity self-labeling and behavior (i.e., identity development, disclosure, activity), orientation change efforts, marital relationships, and psychosocial health—these variables in the context of their religious lives. More women than men self-identified in the bisexual range of the sexual attraction continuum. Both men and women had engaged in extensive effort to change their sexual orientation. Only about 4% of the respondents claimed that those efforts had been successful, and the claims were for outcomes other than an alteration in erotic feeling. In general, only those who identified as bisexual reported success in maintaining a mixed-orientation marriage and continuing activity in the church. For both men and women, measures of psychosocial and sexual health were higher for those in same-sex relationships and those disaffiliated from the church.
... As a result, an increasing awareness of problems in the church, both historical and contemporary, have been made obvious and subsequent calls to acknowledge diversity, a growing interest in fighting patriarchy in the Mormon feminist movement (Finnigan & Ross, 2013Johnson-Bell, 2013;Brooks, 2014;Brooks et al., 2015), and more people advocating for change around queer and trans issues, have emerged (Petrey 2011(Petrey , 2020Dehlin et al., 2014;Sumerau et al., 2014;Cragun et al., 2015;Cook, 1 Mormon Think, 2 Mormon Stories, 3 CES stands for "Church Educational System". 4 For purposes of brevity, full context of the relationship between Te Ao Māori and Mormonism is not provided here. ...
Full-text available
The following is a reflective commentary on the place of Critical Indigenous Studies, with a focus on Kaupapa Māori Research, within Mormon Studies. Specifically, the piece explores the following questions: What does Kaupapa Māori Research look like when engaging in Mormon Studies? What positionality needs to be taken by Kaupapa Māori researchers and Critical Indigenous scholars when engaging in Mormon Studies? What are the main areas Critical Indigenous scholars and Kaupapa Māori scholars should engage when tackling issues around Mormonism? These questions are important in light of thegrowing importance of the cultural renaissance in Te Ao Māori and the rise of Kaupapa Māori Research.
... Adherence to doctrine and dutiful austerity do not alter sexual/romantic feelings, and as a result GBTQ Mormon males are left to practice celibacy or enter mixedorientation marriages as ways to negotiate their non-heterosexual and religious identity . Being single or celibate and being in a mixed orientation marriage are associated with poor psychosocial health, and the same is true for those who experience non-acceptance of gender/sexual identity by families (Dehlin et al., 2014;Mattingly et al., 2015). Many same-sex-attracted Mormon adults face stress and anxiety related to constraints and stigma placed on their identity by the LDS church Grigoriou, 2014); Hinderaker & O'Connor, 2015. ...
Full-text available
This paper examines religious experiences of lesbian and bisexual women who are current or former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (identifying as LDS or Mormon). Data were obtained from LGBTQ individuals through a national and international online survey that queried personal/family relationships, romantic/sexual relationships and relationship with the religion. Individuals were placed in four orientation groups based on Kinsey behavior and attraction scores: Lesbian, Bisexual, High Attraction/Low Behavior, and High Behavior/Low Attraction. Some important differences among these groups emerged. Those self-positioned at the high (same-sex) end of the scale were most often disaffiliated from the Church. Bisexuality permitted a modest degree of non-disclosure, mixed-orientation marriage, and remaining in church activity. Conforming to the church’s standard of sexual behavior did not correlate with positive attitudes toward the Church. Instead, marginalization due to awareness that one’s sexual minority status was unaccepted in the religion was the overriding sentiment.
... LGBTQ Utah youth who are affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may be at particular risk given potential challenges in their religious home environments. Previous researchers have struggled to examine negative familial encounters, mental health concerns, and STBs among LDS LGBTQ samples because of sampling issues, such as inadvertently recruiting LGBTQ LDS folx who have had more negative experiences (e.g., Dehlin et al., 2014), a point brought up by recent examinations of LDS LGBTQ mental health issues (e.g., Lefevor et al., 2019;). ...
Utah ranks fifth in the nation for suicide and has experienced a rapid increase in youth deaths by suicide over the last decade. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth in Utah may be at heightened risk, given the major presence and stances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding LGBTQ identities and relationships. However, no research has yet examined the differences in or predictors of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs; i.e., suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts) among LGBTQ youth in Utah. Using a large representative sample of Utah middle and high schoolers (n = 73,982), we found that Latter-day Saint (LDS) and non-LDS LGBTQ groups reported greater levels of STBs than heterosexual/cisgender youth, with non-LDS LGBTQ youth reporting the highest levels of STBs, followed by LDS LGBTQ youth. Path-analyses demonstrated that LGBTQ participants’ reports of higher family conflict and lower parental closeness were tied to higher depression, self-harm, and substance misuse, and these three factors were, in turn, associated with higher levels of STBs for LGBTQ youth in Utah. This path model did not differ significantly due to LDS versus non-LDS religious affiliation. Findings suggest that LGBTQ youth in Utah would be well served if clinicians and advocacy groups pay attention to the ways that religious affiliation and family dynamics might indirectly lead to STBs among adolescents. Public Significance Statement: This study found that both Latter-day Saint and non-Latter-day Saint LGBTQ youth are at higher risk for experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviors than their heterosexual or cisgender peers. Additionally, for LGBTQ youth, higher levels of family conflict and lower levels of parental closeness were related to more depression, substance misuse, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts. These findings demonstrate the potential familial and religious risks that LGBTQ youth may experience in Utah.
For over two decades, the minority stress model has guided research on the health of sexually-diverse individuals (those who are not exclusively heterosexual) and gender-diverse individuals (those whose gender identity/expression differs from their birth-assigned sex/gender). According to this model, the cumulative stress caused by stigma and social marginalization fosters stress-related health problems. Yet studies linking minority stress to physical health outcomes have yielded mixed results, suggesting that something is missing from our understanding of stigma and health. Social safety may be the missing piece. Social safety refers to reliable social connection, inclusion, and protection, which are core human needs that are imperiled by stigma. The absence of social safety is just as health-consequential for stigmatized individuals as the presence of minority stress, because the chronic threat-vigilance fostered by insufficient safety has negative long-term effects on cognitive, emotional, and immunological functioning, even when exposure to minority stress is low. We argue that insufficient social safety is a primary cause of stigma-related health disparities and a key target for intervention.
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This study examined navigation of sexual and religious identity conflict among 1,493 same-sex attracted current or former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Participants were classified into four groups: (a) rejected a lesbian, gay, or bisexual identity (5.5%); (b) compartmentalized sexual and religious identities (37.2%); (c) rejected religious identity (53%); and (d) integrated religious and sexual identities (4.4%). Systematic differences emerged among the groups in sexual identity development histories, developmental milestones, relationship experiences, religious engagement, and psychosocial health. The findings suggest that rejection or compartmentalization of sexual identity may be difficult to sustain over time and likely comes at a significant psychosocial cost. Integration of identities may be equally difficult to achieve, and appears to be associated with optimal outcomes.
This article describes the development of new scales for assessing identity and outness in lesbians and gay men. Relevant measurement issues are reviewed.
We present the results of a survey of 882 dissatisfied homosexual people whom we queried about their beliefs regarding conversion therapy and the possibility of change in sexual orientation. There were 70 closed-ended questions on the survey and 5 open-ended ones. Of the 882 participants, 726 of them reported that they had received conversion therapy from a professional therapist or a pastoral counselor. Of the participants 779 or 89.7% viewed themselves as “more homosexual than heterosexual,” “almost exclusively homosexual,” or “exclusively homosexual” in their orientation before receiving conversion therapy or making self-help efforts to change. After receiving therapy or engaging in self-help, 305 (35.1%) of the participants continued to view their orientation in this manner. As a group, the participants reported large and statistically significant reductions in the frequency of their homosexual thoughts and fantasies that they attributed to conversion therapy or-self-help. They also reported large improvements in their psychological, interpersonal, and spiritual well-being. These responses cannot, for several reasons, be generalized beyond the present sample, but the attitudes and ideas are useful in developing testable hypotheses for further research.
• a first-ever comprehensive history of the “ex-gay” ministries and “reparative therapy”
This book is intended for an educated general readership and for use in college courses. It is also intended to be a supplement to other texts in introductory courses in various religious traditions, because the issues raised by its essays play pivotal roles in many cultures. Moreover, the chapters in this book are intended to introduce students to the role of celibacy, or a lack of it, in various religious traditions, and the contributors present the rationale for its observance (or not) within the context of each tradition.
In the midst of the worst crisis the Catholic Church has seen in almost 500 years, this book challenges Catholic authorities to renew, rethink, or reform the long-standing institution of celibacy.
There is increasing research evidence that religious involvement is associated both cross-sectionally and prospectively with better physical health, better mental health, and longer survival. These relationships remain substantial in size and statistically significant with other risk and protective factors for morbidity and mortality statistically controlled. In this article, we review the social and psychological factors that have been hypothesized to explain the health-promoting effects of religious involvement. The four potential psychosocial mechanisms that have received empirical attention are health practices, social support, psychosocial resources such as self-esteem and self-efficacy, and belief structures such as sense of coherence. Evidence concerning these potential mediators is mixed and inconsistent, suggesting there is more to be learned about the pathways by which religion affects health. Other possible explanations for the salubrious effects of religious involvement on health and longevity are discussed.