book of mormon

Writer Sees Growing Gay Acceptance Among Mormons

Jerry Argetsinger gives a talk at the University of Missouri. Photo via RNS.

Jerry Argetsinger gives a talk at the University of Missouri. Photo via RNS.

Jerry Argetsinger never felt a twinge of tension between being gay and being Mormon.

Nobody talked about homosexuality in his Oregon congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was growing up in the 1960s. Nobody asked him about his attractions. Nobody made cruel or even not-so-subtle comments about him. Nobody made him feel guilty.

It came as a bit of a shock, then, when Argetsinger was beginning his sophomore year at LDS church-owned Brigham Young University in 1965 and heard university President Ernest L. Wilkinson say that the school didn’t want any gays on campus.

Gay Mormon Characters Step Out of the Shadows

Religion News Service graphic by Tiffany McCallen and Kellie Kotraba/Columbia FA

Religion News Service graphic by Tiffany McCallen and Kellie Kotraba/Columbia FAVS


Twenty years ago, a gay Mormon character stepped onstage for the first time. His name was Joe Pitt, and he was in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches.

Pitt lived in New York with a good reputation and a bad marriage to a woman addicted to Valium. As colleagues dealt with the devastation and uncertainty of AIDS — it was the 1980s — he grappled with openly acknowledging his sexuality. He was Mormon. And gay. And the two didn’t mix.

Before Pitt, there was a gay Mormon character in a novel: Brigham Anderson, in Allan Drury’s Advise and Consent, published in 1959. But words like “gay” and “homosexual” weren’t used; it was all innuendo.

Now, the scene has changed: Gay Mormon characters and themes have a growing role in theater and literature.

Mormons Steal a Page From ‘Book of Mormon’ Popularity

The satirical “Book of Mormon” has prompted ads for the real thing. Photo courtesy Religion News Service.

Liked the show? You should try reading the book.

That’s the message the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is sending in three full-page advertisements in the playbill of the stage musical “The Book of Mormon.”

The occasionally blasphemous musical, which won the Tony Award for best musical in 2011, follows two hapless Mormon missionaries who are dropped into a remote village in Uganda to evangelize the locals. The hit show, already sold out for its run at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre from April 30 through June 9, was co-written by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Robert Lopez, who also helped write the similarly irreverent “Avenue Q.”

12 Myths About Mormonism That Persist Despite the ‘Mormon Moment’

SALT LAKE CITY — As Americans cast their ballots and the clock ticks toward midnight in Mitt Romney’s quest for the White House, this much is clear: Americans didn’t know much about Romney's Mormon faith when this “Mormon moment” began.

Now, thousands of headlines, dozens of TV newscasts, and one Tony-winning Broadway musical later, Americans still don’t know much about Latter-day Saints and their beliefs.

But they know more. All those stories educated millions of observant Americans about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Still, some “understandings” remain misunderstandings — and many views of the religion are still skewed, exaggerated or flat-out wrong.

Here are 12 persistent myths about Mormonism.

Missouri Remains Land of Religious Promise for Mormons

RNS photo by J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Missouri Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. RNS photo by J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

In 1831, Mormon founder Joseph Smith declared that the righteous would gather in Independence, Mo., to greet the Second Coming of Jesus Christ — just one of the prophecies that estranged his faith from traditional Christianity.

Thousands of converted Mormons moved from Ohio and upstate New York to claim their New Jerusalem. Disputes with Missourians led to a bloody Mormon War that ended only when the state's governor issued an "extermination order" to expel Smith's followers.

Today, few places are better to contemplate the evolving — but still uncertain  relationship between Mormonism and the country where it was founded.

On the one hand, Missouri symbolizes how far Mormons have come. At least 66,000 Mormons now live in the state, more than triple the number of just three decades ago. Most recently, the LDS church has built a temple in Kansas City, Mo., near the epicenter of the Mormon War.

But Missouri also serves to highlight the intractable differences between mainstream Christianity and Mormon theology.

How a Mormon Scholar Went From Doubter to Believer

As an 11-year-old boy, Don Bradley went looking for gold plates.

After all, Mormon founder Joseph Smith said he was directed to a set of such plates, buried in a hill near his house in upstate New York.    

On a childhood visit to that hill, Bradley turned over lots of rocks, feeling certain he might find some sacred record overlooked by others.    

That quest for Mormon gold became a metaphor for Bradley's lifelong spiritual journey. It led him first to dig into Smith's history to enhance his LDS devotion and then to uncover uncomfortable facts and omissions in the faith's story, which bred disillusionment and distance.    

Eventually, Bradley's research helped bring him back to the Mormon fold, this time with a broader view of Smith's spiritual abilities.    

"I could describe many of the events of Joseph Smith's life, but I couldn't explain the thing that really mattered: why it all worked," Bradley, now 42, said in a July speech at the annual Sunstone Symposium, a conference in Salt Lake City for Mormon intellectuals. "Joseph Smith wasn't of interest because he'd been a merchant, a mayor, or even a much-married husband, but because he was the founder of a religion. And it was precisely the religious dimension I couldn't account for."    

Besides rediscovering Mormonism, Bradley learned how to balance faith and facts, science and spirituality, reason and revelation.