It can be difficult to imagine two identities more conflicting than being queer and Mormon.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called the LDS or Mormon church, teaches that heterosexual marriage and binary gender roles are divinely dictated. Prophets and other leaders previously taught that queerness was a sinful condition that could be cured, although today the church tells members “a change in attraction should not be expected or demanded.”
LGBTQ people face similar challenges in a variety of religious traditions. Yet there are unique aspects of LDS doctrine, particularly how it emphasizes the importance of family, that intensify queer church members’ struggle to reconcile their identities and relationships. This can be especially challenging for one group not often discussed when issues about LGBTQ individuals and the LDS church make the news: asexual Latter-day Saints.
We are both communication researchers who study how cultural messages affect queer and transgender communities: One of us researches the intersections of race and queer identities, while the other focuses on queer and asexual issues within Mormonism.
People along the asexual spectrum experience little to no sexual attraction. A common term for people who identify as asexual is “ace.”
Since asexuality is a spectrum, it’s important to note some ace folks still desire and form romantic and other intimate relationships. Folks who do not experience romantic attraction – which is separate from sexual attraction – are known as aromantic, colloquially called “aro.” Ace and aro are usually represented as “A” in the popular acronym LGBTQIA+.
Because of the church’s emphasis on chastity – its own version of the “purity culture” many Christian groups promote – some closeted ace teenagers may find themselves applauded, because avoiding sexual activity comes easily to them. Once in high school and college, however, religious pressure to date increases. Many young Latter-day Saints serve as missionaries – men for two years, women for 18 months – and are often encouraged to get married soon after.
Church policies prohibit same-sex relationships and gender-affirming care or transitioning for transgender members. In contrast, leaders have not issued a specific policy against asexuality. Mormon scripture does, however, teach that heterosexual marriage is required to achieve “exaltation” in the highest level of heaven.
This teaching does not specifically discriminate against asexual church members, since some ace individuals desire marriage, while some non-asexual folks – commonly referred to as allosexual or zedsexual – do not want marriage.
But LDS culture prioritizes dating and childbearing in unique ways. For example, in addition to scripture teaching marriage is required for heavenly exaltation, the current prophet, Russell Nelson, has said, “Every woman is a mother by virtue of her eternal divine destiny.”