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Navigating Sexual and Religious Identity Conflict: A Mormon Perspective

Authors:
  • University of Hartford, Graduate Institute of Professional Psychology

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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.
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... In total, 438 individuals met these requirements and completed the qualitative question. Similar to most research examining LDS SMPs (e.g., Dehlin et al., 2015;Skidmore et al., in press), the sample primarily identified as being a man (58.7%), White (90.9%), queer (42.9%), educated (.95% completing at least some college), and between the ages 20 and 40 (M = 31.79, ...
... Supporting the majority of existing literature regarding SMPs in nonaffirming religions, there are potent challenges related to religious involvement. It is important to note that the majority of our participants no longer affiliated with the CJCLDS, coinciding with research suggesting that LDS SMPs typically leave the religion and that SMPs more broadly report not affiliating with a religion over twice as often as their heterosexual counterparts (Dehlin et al., 2015;Pew Research Center, 2013). SMPs are frequently exposed to heterosexist messages and teachings, as well as difficulties interacting with church leaders (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004;Dehlin et al., 2014). ...
... For example, mental health professionals may benefit from targeting sexuality struggles as a point of intervention for SMPs in nonaffirming religions in order to improve their well-being (e.g., APA, 2011;Jacobsen & Wright, 2014), focusing on whichever form of sexuality struggle they may be experiencing due to their level of activity within their religion. Additionally, therapeutic interventions focused on successfully navigating homonegative experiences within the religion or on transitioning out of the religion may produce the most positive outcomes for sexual minority clients, including increasing coping skills that can be utilized when such homonegative experiences occur (e.g., Dehlin et al., 2015). Therapeutic interventions and advocacy aimed toward helping LDS SMPs garner a sense of belonging to their communities may also lead to improved mental health outcomes. ...
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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
... Identity centrality refers to the degree to which one's sexual orientation is central to their overall identity (Mohr & Kendra, 2011). In the absence of identity conflict or interference, centralized identities have been related to better psychological well-being (Settles, 2004) and greater quality of life (Dehlin et al., 2015). However, centralization of a sexual minority identity in a heteronormative culture may be problematic. ...
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... In this model, identity integration is the most desirable outcome because it alleviates conflict and integrates religious beliefs and sexual identities into a single positive identity [47]. In turn, an analytical framework with identity conflict as a starting point and identity integration as an implicit goal was developed [48][49][50]. In general, Avishai's understanding of identity conflict is context specific. ...
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