All posts in History

Paper Abstract- “The Wages of Sin is Death”: AIDS in Utah and the LDS Church Response

I haven’t posted in forever and I feel bad about that. It’s not that I’m not writing, I’m actually writing a lot for graduate school I’m just not posting my research here.

However, I submitted an abstract to the University of Utah History Conference about my research regarding AIDS in Utah in the 1980s. I’m posting the abstract here for anyone interested. This is a distilled version of the 30 page paper I wrote last spring.

“The Wages of Sin is Death”: AIDS in Utah and the LDS Church Response

In 1986 the Mormon Church shocked the gay and lesbian community in Salt Lake when a Mormon bishop in Ogden excommunicated a young Mormon man dying of AIDS. A national public relations fiasco for the Church followed and resulted in the Church issuing its first statement about AIDS, which only made matters worse. Spokesman Jerry Cahill stated that the Church had no official policy on homosexuality or AIDS but asked infected members to stay away from church meetings for fear of spreading the disease.

Church leaders grappled with the existence of homosexuality within Mormonism and by extension, a disease that devastated the gay community as well as women, children, and racial minorities. Church leadership refused to acknowledge or respond to the public health crisis until national media shamed them into making a statement in 1986 even though AIDS had spread in Utah since the early years of the decade. In addition the majority of members in the Utah legislature identified as faithful Church members and they too made no effort to combat the growing epidemic with state funds. The Catholic Church responded first to the AIDS epidemic in Utah. Nuns opened a wing in the Catholic hospital to men dying from AIDS and provided food and services. Other men and women from the Utah gay community organized the first AIDS organizations and public health outreach to combat this terrifying new disease.


Hands Off My Marriage Governor Herbert!

My friend Troy Williams (left), me, Michael, and Senator Jim Dabakis.

Today, December 23, Republican Governor Gary Herbert has declared the State of Utah will go before a judge to ”defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah.” I don’t know how he can say that as a Utahan and as a Mormon. Traditional marriage in Utah is non-traditional. How delightfully ironic that today, December 23, Mormons will remember the birthday of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, a man who had 34 wives, 1/3 of whom married Joseph while simultaneously married to other men and 1/3 of whom were under the age of 20. The founder of Salt Lake City and colonizer of Utah, Brigham Young, had 55 wives and 34 children. 21 of his wives had never been married, 16 were widows, 6 were divorced, and 6 had living husbands.

Governor Herbert knows all this, he’s just trying to save face and appease the rabidly homophobic Mormon constituency in Utah. Plus he’s trying to make up for how ill prepared and incompetently the state acted on Friday.

That’s why the state filed an emergency motion with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to request a stay. (While writing this, I received a message that the 10th Circuit Court denied the stay. It was denied without prejudice which means the state can and will ask again.) What I did not expect the state to do was request that my marriage be declared void. The Salt Lake Tribune reported the state said in its motion that ”A ruling from the 10th Circuit is ‘crucial to maintaining that status quo,’” and “‘in the event that the district court’s decision is reversed, the licenses issued and the marriages performed in the absence of a stay may be void.’” (emphasis mine).

Yes, the state would void my marriage, or in other words, forcibly divorce me and my husband plus the hundreds of other couples who married on Friday and the hundreds more who will marry today, Monday, December 23…the birthday of Joseph Smith.  Continue reading →

Response to Gayle Ruzika’s latest claptrap about gender identity


Today the Deseret News published a “My View” letter written by Utah’s own Mrs. Gayle Ruzika. You can read her letter here. (If you don’t know who she is, Google her name. She is no friend to the LGBT community.)

A person sent me the link to the article and asked for my thoughts. Below is my reply.  Continue reading →

My Post on Rational Faith- Timeline of Mormon Thinking about Homosexuality


A few months ago the people at Rational Faith asked me to create a timeline that tracked the issue of homosexuality within Mormonism. I knew it would be a time consuming task but I knew it would be mostly a work of synthesis, meaning the information was already available online and in books, I just had to compile it.

I wrote the post and sent it off last summer and forgot that it would be posted in November. When it when up I realized my citations were not included and I take full responsibility for that. I had created sources in a second document because at the time I made the timeline, I had not decided how I was going to cite sources. I realized when the post went up that I had not resolved that, so I quickly added footnotes and crossed checked the information.

As I say in the intro to the timeline, it is by no means exhaustive. Some of the first comments criticized the timeline for not including more recent developments. To this I said, “This list is more of a survey of events throughout the 20th century, that I, as the author, deemed important. I hope that that is totally obvious. I have not tried to hide anything, I have tried to shed light on events, statements, and political developments that have been forgotten, but that are essential to know.”

To create a list like this I am indebted to a few people. First, Connell O’Donovan and his extensive and thorough research about homosexuality within Mormonism is a treasure. Second, D. Michael Quinn for the same reasons. His books have proven time and time again to be invaluable resources, and finally, Ben Williams for his work in preserving and archiving so much of the Gay Rights movement in Utah. They deserve our gratitude.

The post can be read here

MappingSLC- Salt Lake is a Gay Ol’ Town!


By chance I saw a post on Facebook a few months ago about a new project called Mapping SLC. The idea was to create a community-written atlas of Salt Lake City that maps the city’s changing histories and people through art, writing, and multi-media projects.

So I of course jumped at the opportunity to participate.

I wrote a piece called “Salt Lake is a Gay Ol’ Town!” and mapped the gay bars and gay owned or gay friendly businesses in Salt Lake during the 1970s. Then I made a map to illustrate where all these places were. I plan to continue this project in to the 80s and 90s to see the change over time, specifically, as the places where the gay community met were systematically demolished.

You can read the post here.


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