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“Why Would Our Heavenly Father Do that to Anyone”: Oppressive Othering through Sexual Classification Schemes in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐Day Saints


Symbolic Interaction

Published online on


In this article, we examine how leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐Day Saints (LDS or LDS Church) responded to the emergence of homosexuality as a prominent social issue by engaging in “oppressive othering” (Schwalbe et al. 2000), which refers to the process whereby elites classify members of other groups as morally inferior. On the basis of LDS archival materials, we analyze how LDS elites accomplished “oppressive othering” by constructing sexual classification schemes defining homosexuality as the result of (1) familial, (2) gendered, and (3) sexual dysfunctions. In conclusion, we draw out implications for understanding (1) how elites, religious, or otherwise, construct sexual classification schemes that facilitate the ongoing subordination of sexual minorities, (2) the importance of taking an intersectional approach to oppressive othering, and (3) the ways elites revise institutional doctrines in response to shifting societal issues and concerns.