Timeline of LGBT Mormon history in the early 20th century

This is a timeline of LGBT Mormon history in the first half of the 20th century, part of a series of timelines consisting of events, publications, and speeches about LGBTQ+ individuals, topics around sexual orientation and gender minorities, and the community of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Although the historical record is often scarce, evidence points to queer individuals having existed in the Mormon community since its beginnings. However, top LDS leaders only started regularly addressing queer topics in public in the late 1950s.[1]: 375, 377 [2]: v, 3 [3]: 170  Since 1970, the LDS Church has had at least one official publication or speech from a high-ranking leader referencing LGBT topics every year, and a greater number of LGBT Mormon and former Mormon individuals have received media coverage.




  • March – Fourteen-year-old Clyde Felt of a prominent Mormon family cut the throat of Samuel Collins, allegedly as an assisted suicide for blood atonement.[4] Sixty-two-year-old Collins had exhibited hebephilic or ephebophilic pederasty, giving gifts to Felt and two other teenage males with whom he had sex. Felt was cleared of the killing and later married in an LDS temple.[5][6][7]: 804 


  • January – Kate Thomas who never married published a poem with homosexual themes of taking joy from a feminine kiss and using the word 'gay' in the Young Woman's Journal while living in New York City's Greenwich Village where gay was used as slang for homosexual.[1]: 426 [8][9]: 128–131 


  • July – Ogden bishopric member and school superintendent Heber H. Thomas receives publicity for his involvement in beating seven teenage male students for having group sex on a campout. He later resigned as superintendent as a result of a legal investigation.[1]: 327, 427 [10]


Mormon actress Ada Dwyer Russell was in a relationship with poet Amy Lowell for over a decade until Lowell's death in 1925.[11]


  • May – Actress Ada Dwyer Russell of Mormon upbringing entered a lesbian relationship with poet Amy Lowell.[1]: 427  The next year it was reported to the First Presidency that her father James Dwyer, the cofounder of what is now the LDS Business College, had been teaching young men that same-sex sexual activity was not a sin. Upon learning this the First Presidency had Dwyer withdraw his name from membership.[1]: 428 



  • 1923 – Cornelia (Cora) Kasius, a lesbian woman, began working as secretary to the Relief Society general president. She had been a staff member at their headquarters since 1920 and published articles in the Relief Society Magazine in 1925.[12][13] She was one of the subjects in Berryman's research on Salt Lake City lesbian and gay people, and later moved to the gay hot spot Greenwich Village in New York City.[9]: 131 [1]: 385, 431–432 


  • November – Mormon-raised[14][15] young lovers Ruth Drake (19) and Sarah Lundstedt (22) drank cyanide poison together in North Salt Lake City after being pressured by family to end their four-year relationship and move away from each other. Their tragic love story, complete with love letters,[16] made national news.[17][18] LDS sociologist Dr. Arthur Beeley, a BYU alumnus and professor at the University of Utah, stated in an article about the two women that homosexuality was an abnormal and pitiful condition caused by one having characteristics of the opposite sex and not being attractive to the opposite sex or not being attracted to the opposite sex and filling the want for companionship with someone of the same sex.[19][20]



  • Late 1930s – Beginning in 1935, newspapers in the largely LDS Utah cities of Salt Lake and Ogden discussed ways of altering sexuality such as hormone treatment, by educating young children in mixed-sex schools, and by one attempting to wean oneself from same-sex attractions via an opposite-sex romantic relationship.[21][22][23] Another article stated that one woman's homosexuality stemmed from a traumatic witnessing of her mother in a painful delivery of a sibling, and that increased divorces and decreasing young marriages contributed to an increase in homosexuality. The article added "it is possible" but, "very difficult to change an adult homosexual into a normal man or woman", and "they must be determined individuals."[24]



Grave marker for the resting place of lesbian researcher Mildred Berryman who wrote a groundbreaking thesis on Salt Lake City queer community in the 1930s
  • NovemberMildred Berryman (born 1901) ends working on her groundbreaking[30] thesis The Psychological Phenomena of the Homosexual[1]: 223, 433  on 23 lesbian women and 9 gay men, whom she met through the Salt Lake City Bohemian Club.[31]: 20 [1]: 73  She was a lesbian woman who joined the LDS church at the age of 19,[32] received a patriarchal blessing at the age of 21,[1]: 226–228  and later entered a relationship with a Mormon woman for over three decades.[33] Her study spanned well over a decade, but was only published posthumously by her choice.[31]: 20 



  • 1945 – The apostle J. Reuben Clark asked church employee Gordon Burt Affleck to organize a surveillance for possible homosexual activity in the steam room of the church's (now-demolished) Deseret Gymnasium at Temple Square.[7]: 307, 566 [34]: 191, 488  The Church Office Building now occupies the space where the gym was located.[31]: 22 


Patriarch Smith was released amidst accusations of homosexual affairs.


  • January – It appears church leaders were aware of several instances of homosexual behavior by members in Utah since apostle Charles A. Callis had been assigned to these cases before he died in 1947.[41][42]: 271  After Callis's death the apostle Spencer W. Kimball was appointed to preside over homosexual cases.[42]: 271 [43]


  • 1948 – Radio City Lounge bar opened becoming a major gathering point for Salt Lake LGBTQ community despite occasional raids from local police. Patrons included many gay Mormon men married to women like Bob Sorensen who met his husband there in 1966 after divorcing his wife. The bar closed in 2009, and was considered the oldest gay bar West of the Mississippi.[44]
  • April – Gay BYU students Kent Goodridge Taylor and Richard Snow,[45] who were in love, went to visit with church president George Albert Smith, who told them to "live their lives as best they could" in their companionship. Smith wrote the words "Homo Sexual" in his appointment book.[1]: 434  Earl Kofoed, who went from BYU from 1946 to 1948, similarly reported a "live and let live" attitude of leaders towards LGBT Mormons, and described a thriving gay community of friends at BYU. He stated that there were no witch hunts, excommunications, or pressure to change one's sexual orientation at BYU like there would be in later decades.[45]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Quinn, D. Michael (1996). Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0252022050.
  2. ^ Winkler, Douglas A. (May 2008). Lavender Sons of Zion: A History of Gay Men in Salt Lake City, 1950–1979. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Department of History. ISBN 9780549493075.
  3. ^ Young, Neil J. (1 July 2016). Out of Obscurity: Mormonism Since 1945. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199358229. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  4. ^ Quinn, D. Michael (15 January 1997). The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (1 ed.). Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books. p. 804. ISBN 1560850604. 5 Apr., 'Clyde Felt has confessed to cutting the throat of old man Collins, at his request. The old man was a moral degenerate. The boy is a son of David P. Felt.' Grandson of former general authority, Clyde Felt is fourteen. Despite this blood atonement murder, LDS leaders allow [the] young man to be endowed and married in temple eight years later.
  5. ^ Williams, Ben (21 March 2014). "Murder at Hell's Hollow". qsaltlake.com. QSaltLake Magazine.
  6. ^ "Told How Collins Died". The Salt Lake Tribune. 4 April 1902. p. 1.
  7. ^ a b Quinn, D. Michael (15 January 1997). The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (1 ed.). Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books. ISBN 1560850604. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  8. ^ Thomas, Kate (January 1903). "Song". Young Woman's Journal. 14 (1): 34. A Scarlet West. / An East merged into eventide, / A bare, brown plain; and by my side / The one, the one in all the world / I love the best! / Last night's gay mask— / The outward wildness and the inward ache— / I cast forever. From her lips I take / Joy never-ceasing. Brown plain and her kiss, / Are all I ask.
  9. ^ a b O'Donovan, Rocky Connell (1994). "'The Abominable and Detestable Crime against Nature': A Brief History of Homosexuality and Mormonism, 1840-1980". Multiply and Replenish: Mormon Essays on Sex and Family. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. ISBN 1-56085-050-7. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Thomas Is Given Thorough Scoring" (PDF). The Salt Lake Tribune. 79 (77). 30 June 1909 – via The US Library of Congress. Also available here and here
  11. ^ History Project (Boston, Mass.) (1998), Improper Bostonians: Lesbian and Gay History from the Puritans to Playland, Beacon Press, p. 75, ISBN 978-0-8070-7949-2
  12. ^ Kasius, Cora (June 1925). "The Transportation Problem". Relief Society Magazine. 12 (6): 303.
  13. ^ Kasius, Cora (July 1925). "The Relief Society Social Service Institute". Relief Society Magazine. 12 (7): 345.
  14. ^ "Ruth Drake is Suicide Says Inquest Jury". Daily Herald. Vol. 57, no. 142. Associated Press. 3 December 1926. p. 1. Archived from the original on 24 March 2018 – via Newspapers.com. Funeral services for Sarah [Lundstedt] will be held in the Twenty-third ward chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Mormon, at Layton Sunday afternoon.
  15. ^ "Murder and Suicide Bared in Love Pact of S.L. Girls". The Salt Lake Telegram. Vol. 25, no. 304. Associated Press. 29 November 1926. p. 5. Archived from the original on 24 March 2018 – via Newspapers.com. On January 1, 1925, Ruth Drake came to Salt Lake to attend L.D.S. business college and lived with the Lundstedt family. First part of the article archived here, second part here.
  16. ^ "Order Inquest in Deaths of Girls of Strange Love". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. Vol. 25, no. 304. Associated Press. 30 November 1926. pp. 1–2. Archived from the original on 25 March 2018 – via Newspapers.com. Tone of the letters ... show that an intimacy began with a schoolgirl friendship and developed to the point where their correspondence was filled with burning admissions of love. Page 2 of the article archived here.
  17. ^ "Girls' Suicide Pact is Proved". The San Bernardino County Sun. Vol. 59, no. 92. Associated Press. 29 November 1926. p. 1. Archived from the original on 23 March 2018 – via Newspapers.com. For four years a strange affection had existed between the girl, and it is the opinion of the authorities that they chose death together rather than separation ....
  18. ^ "Unusual Love Believed Back Two Girls' Deaths in S.L." The Ogden Standard-Examiner. Vol. 57, no. 138. Associated Press. 29 November 1926. p. 1. Archived from the original on 25 March 2018 – via Newspapers.com. The dead young women are: Miss Ruth Drake, 19 ... Miss Sarah Lundstedt, 22 Page 2 of the article archived here.
  19. ^ "Prof. A. L. Beeley Gives Causes of Homosexuality". The Salt Lake Telegram. 29 Nov 1926. pp. 1, 7. Page 7 archived here.
  20. ^ "Dr. A. L. Beeley Dies; Noted Criminologist". The Salt Lake Tribune. 24 Sep 1973. p. 29.
  21. ^ "Doctor Produces Artificially Made Health Hormone". The Salt Lake Tribune. United Press. 20 Aug 1935. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
  22. ^ Crane, George W. (31 Mar 1938). "Case Records of a Psychologist: Case K-110 Vera G." Ogden Standard Examiner. Northwestern University. p. 3 – via Newspapers.com.
  23. ^ Crane, George W. (31 Dec 1936). "Case Records of a Psychologist: Case F-104 Carney P." The Ogden Standard-Examiner. p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
  24. ^ Crane, George W. (27 Apr 1937). "Case Records of a Psychologist: Case G-108 Alden B." The Ogden Standard-Examiner. p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
  25. ^ Ware, Susan (11 March 2005). Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century, Volume 5. Harvard University Press. p. 622. ISBN 978-0674014886.
  26. ^ Howe, Susan Elizabeth (Fall 1996). "'I Do Remember How It Smelled Heavenly': Mormon Aspects of May Swenson's Poetry" (PDF). Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 29 (3): 141.
  27. ^ "Women of Caliber, Women of Cache Valley: May Swenson". usu.edu. Utah State University.
  28. ^ Lythgoe, Dennis (1 April 2007). "'Body My House' is stellar tribute to Swenson". Deseret News. LDS Church.
  29. ^ "Lesbian poet's portrait to be hung at Smithsonian". advocate.com. Advocate. 16 July 2005.
  30. ^ Jordan, Sara (March 1997). "Lesbian Mormon History". affirmation.org. Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014.
  31. ^ a b c Anderson, J. Seth (29 May 2017). LGBT Salt Lake: Images of Modern America. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9781467125857.
  32. ^ Wood, Stacy; Cubé, Caroline. "Mildred Berryman papers 1918-1990". oac.cdlib.org. University of California, Los Angeles.
  33. ^ McHugh, Kathleen A.; Johnson-Grau, Brenda; Sher, Ben Raphael (2014). Making Invisible Histories Visible (PDF). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles Center for the Study of Women. p. 68. ISBN 9780615990842. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Also hosted online at escholarship.org
  34. ^ Quinn, D. Michael (2002). Elder Statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark. Signature Books. p. 345. ISBN 1560851554.
  35. ^ Salinas, Hugo. "Queer Mormons of the 19th Century". affirmation.org. Affirmation. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  36. ^ "Book on LDS Patriarchal Blessings Published". signaturebooks.com. Signature Books Publishing. Archived from the original on 23 February 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  37. ^ Gibson, Doug. "Remember that Gay Mormon Patriarch?". realclearreligion.org. Real Clear Religion. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  38. ^ O'Donovan, Connell; Quinn, D. Michael. "Chronology of Events on Patriarch Joseph Fielding Smith's Homosexuality". affirmation.org. Affirmation. Archived from the original on January 22, 2010. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  39. ^ Whitefield, Jim (21 May 2009). The Mormon Delusion: The Secret Truth Withheld from 13 Million Mormons (1 ed.). Lulu. pp. 261–262. ISBN 978-1409278856. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  40. ^ Bates, Irene M. (1996). Lost legacy: The Mormon office of presiding patriarch (1 ed.). Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252021630.
  41. ^ Mohrman, K. (May 2015). "Queering the LDS Archive". Radical History Review. 2015 (122): 154. doi:10.1215/01636545-2849585. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  42. ^ a b Kimball, Edward L.; Kimball, Andrew E. (1977). Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft. ISBN 0884943305. Also available at archive.org
  43. ^ Lore, Lambda (1 Sep 2011). "The birth of Mormon homophobia". Q Salt Lake Magazine. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  44. ^ Kane, Rich (11 April 2017). "Whatever happened to ... the Radio City Lounge, Utah's oldest gay bar?". The Salt Lake Tribune. Salt Lake City's Radio City Lounge was known as the oldest gay bar west of the Mississippi. ... 'I was raised a very staunch Mormon. ... I prayed a lot to change because I knew this was not acceptable and the church was not going to accept me,' he says. He [Bob Sorensen] met his future husband, Jim Swensen, at Radio City in 1966. They now live in Arizona. ... [Rose] Carrier played the traditional role of bartender-slash-psychiatrist for her customers, many of whom were married Mormon men with children at home.
  45. ^ a b Kofoed, Earl (April 1993). "Memories of Being Gay at BYU". Affinity. Affirmation: 5, 9. Archived from the original on 17 June 2006.