top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureJacob Hansen

A Review of Blaire Ostler's "Queer Mormon Theology" (Yes, that is its real title)

Updated: Dec 15, 2021



The most shocking thing about this book is not that it got published, but the fact that people are taking it seriously. Patrick Mason, a prominent LDS author and scholar, called the book "outstanding" and hosted an event at Utah State promoting the book. Mason is no outsider or fringe character among the Church's intelligentsia. He is right there with BYU's Maxwell Institute scholars like Terryl Givens, Rosalynde Welch, Melissa Inouye, Phillip Barlow and Darius Gray as part the Faith Matters podcast advisory team. On a recent Faith Matters episode critiquing Elder Hollands recent talk to BYU faculty, Mason said that people like Blaire were doing the theological legwork in order to open the door for a new revelation from the Brethren on gay marriage. Mason and many in the churches intelligentsia see themselves in relation to gay marriage, like the people in 1977 opposed to the priesthood ban (though they often disingenuously deny it). So it's not surprising to see people like this excited about Blaire's book. But what is the book about?



The book is actually a sad story. It's really the story of Blaire's attempt to deal with her gender dysphoria by embracing it and wildly trying to merge it into mormonism using ideas she usurps from academic queer theory. The book oozes the linguistics of academic critical theory. Words like "Queering" "discourses" "queer bodies""inclusion""equity" etc pepper the book. She attempts to fit the round peg of mormonism into the square hole of queer theory with radical and absurd interpretations of selective and esoteric notions from the LDS tradition. The thesis is a classic example of our social obsession with expressive individualism. We live in a society where the autonomy of the self and authenticity, self expression and self definition are the idols of the day. In fact Blaire is explicit about it as the ultimate destiny of man:


"The most beautiful and queerest of creations is godhood—a future of our own making through a queer Christ...The world is changing. Humanity is evolving. The question is, how do we want to evolve? God isn’t going to stop us. It may seem like no one is behind the wheel when everyone is behind the wheel, but that is not an excuse to avoid introspectively asking yourself, what kind of god do you want to be? "


I always thought the question of what manner of men ought we be was answered by Jesus when he said, "Even as I am"and then gave us commandments to follow so we could be as he is. But this book is about breaking down normative notions. The only meaningful norm in the book so far as I could tell was "don't be a bigot". But in the end that is to be expected as queer theory is ultimately about breaking down "oppressive" normative notions like male and female and extolling ones right to complete freedom to express oneself.


The book is broken up into 7 chapters dealing with theology, the nature of God, Jesus Christ, The Family Proclamation, sexuality, polygamy, church policies and how to make change in the church. Below I will quote some of the highlights I found.


Sexuality


Both plural marriage and gay marriage should be enthusiastically welcomed by Latter-day Saints as a symbol of commitment to the doctrine of eternal marriage… Under the Queer Polygamy model, plural marriage may include multi-gendered partnerships, such as sealings among sister-wives that may or may not allow sexual relations between them. If a man is married to two women and the women are bisexual, they may choose to be sealed to each other and have a romantic and sexual relationship with each other as well as with their common husband.


Yes she really said that. Yes... it's real. It's in the book. It's the theology in a nutshell. Oh and there is more as she mixed in some of her ideas from transhumanism (note a "transgender woman" is a man)... Eventually, uterus transplants may allow transgender women to gestate children too. It seems fitting for individuals who were assigned male at birth to aspire to motherhood when Latter-day apostles teach “the highest and noblest work in this life is that of a mother”


Let's hope Patrick Mason had not read the book when he called it "outstanding". Oh and just in case you fall in love with someone else she has that covered too:


Yet, in the expanse of eternity, I suspect we will fall in love more than once. Who knows how many times and in what ways a god falls in love? Even in our short time on earth, falling in love happens more than once…In my short 37 years of life on earth, I have fallen in love more than once. I was even in love with another man when I knelt across the altar and married my husband.


There are two kinds of people in the world: 1) Those who think this is an insane interpretation of the family proclamation 2) Postmodernists.


The text beautifully and prophetically states, “Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.” This sentence explicitly states that there are “other circumstances” which require “individual adaptation…. Other circumstances could also include a trans woman married to a cisgender woman. The trans woman may have identified as a man prior to her transition, but after she transitions, the couple’s biological offspring could have two mothers. Think of it: trans women show us that there are ways a lesbian couple can have their own biological offspring…Other circumstances could include a mixed-orientation marriage of an asexual man and heterosexual woman who is impregnated by a sperm donor.


Confusing. Well it might be confusing when you child starts "chestfeeding" on dad. But let's keep in mind she is doing this work for the kids.


Depending on the anatomy of the persons involved, a transgender man and a cisgender man can already reproduce their own biological offspring together. Transgender men who desire fatherhood as gestational dads can even nurse their babies in a practice called “chestfeeding.”


As I listen to my own daughter tell me about her dreams of marrying a girl, I cannot help but yearn for a better theology for our queer children.


"Queer kids need to know that in this current climate, it is okay not to be at church… They need to know there is happiness outside of the Church"




False Notions About Doctrine


There may exist many Gods of various genders in the council of the Gods...If it (God) is singular, then God is intersex. I prefer the interpretation that God is composed of many diverse embodiments.


It's interesting how she just says these things without any basis outside of her own "reimagining". Then she just rejects the power of the atonement and resurrection using the academic newspeak of genocide (which is different from actual genocide).


Theological interpretations that advocate for queer persons being “fixed” before entering heaven are tantamount to “Celestial Conversion Therapy,” or more accurately put, “Queer Celestial Genocide.”


Remember, love= unconditional affirmation. Anything that challenges that must be rejected no matter what.


The acceptance of the queer through unconditional love isn’t entirely up to me. I need grace, just like you.If any other command or request conflicts with the first commandment of “thou shalt love,” it should be reworked, reimagined, or discarded…. God didn’t say, “ye must be obedient to racist, sexist, heterosexist, or cissexist policies.” …God didn’t say “women shall not seek after priesthood ordination.”…According to Mormon theology, God said love Us and love your neighbor… Any leader who is telling you to obey a command that conflicts with loving God and your neighbor is acting as a false prophet...If a leader is telling you it is an act of love to exclude same-sex couples from the temple, ask the same-sex couple if they feel loved by that policy of exclusion. If you are ever in doubt about whether or not a request, policy, commandment, talk, or even comment is an act of love, ask the person(s) whom the policy, talk, or comment affects...At times you must disobey an unrighteous authority to obey a higher authority, and that higher authority is love.


Also keep in mind that for radical queer activists its not intention that matters it's if your words offend queer folks. So offense is a lack of love and must be stopped in order to create inclusive spaces.


If a leader is telling you it is an act of love to exclude same-sex couples from the temple, ask the same-sex couple if they feel loved by that policy of exclusion. If you are ever in doubt about whether or not a request, policy, commandment, talk, or even comment is an act of love, ask the person(s) whom the policy, talk, or comment affects.


God did not say that we all need to have the same sexual orientation, that we need to identify with our gender assignment, that we need to have the same skin color, or that we need to belong to the same religious denomination to be a valued member of the body of Christ.


Wait what? Oh also redemption does not mean redemption from sin, it means radical liberation theology applied to those dealing with gender dysphoria or SSA even if that means breaking up their family.


Redeeming our queer siblings means to give us back the life we never got to live. It means celebrating the trans woman in her fifties when she wears pink “Hello Kitty” rainboots because as a seven-year-old, she was told, “Boys don’t wear that.” It means celebrating a lesbian in her thirties who finally finds the love of her life, even after marrying a man and raising children with him. It’s never too late to celebrate love. Redeeming queer folks means giving us back the debt that is owed—a life of love, authenticity, and flourishing unincumbered


I was taught that motherhood was the most important thing I would ever do and that nothing else I accomplished would compare to bearing and raising children.


Yeah and I was taught that nothing in my life was more important than my role as husband and father. And that is 100% true. What exactly in life is more important than my wife and kids? What is going to go on my headstone? My gender, or "Loving Father and Husband"? What could be more important than those roles?


Unmarried and childless members who wish to remain childless or unmarried should also be welcomed into the highest degree of glory, even though their contributions to “eternal increase” are not of a biologically parental nature.


Neat. And think I should be able to ride unicorns to work. Have you not read the Doctrine and Covenants?




Activism


It's important to realize that central to critical theory and thus queer theory is the idea of praxis. That is to put in practice the theories and engage in meaningful activism to change institutions. Hence her constant drive in the book to create activism and make the church into a democratic institution by radically interpreting common consent and see general revelation is as a community affair rather than something done by those holding priesthood keys. She is explicitly working to change the doctrine.


But this is not all. To queer a familiar phrase: “Queer philosophy, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”


I agree that policy is important, changing policy without revising theology is an empty gesture. Policy reflects theology. For policies to improve and stick, they must be within the bounds of our theology.


Continuing revelation is an ongoing process implemented by all who are seeking improvement. Continuing revelation is the percolation of powerful ideas through a robust network of individuals and influences.


Mormonism, like all living organisms, must learn to adapt in order to survive. Mormonism’s ability to adapt to and accommodate new truths and new perspectives cannot be overstated.


In this section, I address and critique such interpretations in favor of a theology that supports autonomy, inclusivity, and liberation from rigid gender assignments.


It should also be noted that she is encouraging her fellow activists in the church to do things to begin to change the culture in the church in order to make her ideas more acceptable. Such as:

- Use the term heavenly parents instead of heavenly father.

- Talk about women and priesthood whenever you can.

- Host firesides with activist speakers

- Combine activities so boys and girls don't think of gender differences.


In line with her indoctrination from critical theory she views the priesthood in terms of power and oppression. She sees it as a privilege.


If the priesthood is about masculinity and maleness, then surely those men who were assigned female at birth should have the privilege of priesthood ordination too. But alas, they too are prohibited from ordination, along with cisgender women... Therefore, priesthood ordination is a privilege of assignment, not a privilege of desire or merit... The rejection of transgender men from priesthood ordination implicitly tells cisgender women who desire ordination that their gender is a sin they can never repent of.




Other


I wanted to include this quote just because it oozes the critical theory environment this comes from with its intersectionality, lived experience epistemology etc


It is with epistemic humility that I do not speak directly to issues of race within the queer experience. I am limited by my experience as a white person, and it is not my place to tell a story that isn’t mine. However, the intersection of queerness and race in Mormonism is important and needs to be addressed. Those who share their lived experiences as queer Mormons of color deserve our attention.


This last one is very sad. I think it actually explains why this book exists. We are not looking at a serious theology, we are looking at a good, intelligent and articulate woman who trying to make sense of her experience. No I don't have any ill feelings toward Blaire, my bigger concerns are those who can't see what is really going on with this book.


Seven years ago, I stood in front of a bathroom mirror in my swimming suit, hating my body. I sobbed heavy, uncontrollable sobs. I ripped off my swimming suit, threw it in the trash, and laid on the shower floor while hot water pounded on my naked body. I hated my breasts. I hate the men who looked at them. I hated the women who judged me for them. I hate the men who freely walked around the swimming pool unashamed. I wanted them to feel just as shameful as I felt. I hated the indecency of my body. I hate the women who found my body obscene and protected their husband’s virtuous thoughts by attacking my body. I hated the way I felt. I even hated the women I wanted. I hated myself for hating them.


I had to understand my dysphoria, not as a mental illness but a prompting from the Spirit. The sanctification of the Spirit could only happen by accepting my queerness, my body, my agency, and my desires as divine gifts and blessings. I stopped crying and grew quiet. Instead of denying my dysphoria, I listened to my dysphoria. I listened to my body, and the Spirit came back. I was instructed to stop denying myself the joy I was promised.22 The Plan of Happiness is not a plan of shame, hatred, or self-denial. The Plan of Happiness is a plan of joy. The Spirit confirmed this truth through my body, and I acted upon those promptings. I called a surgeon, and within a week I was in the operating room. When I awoke from the anesthesia, I was in considerable pain. My chest throbbed and screamed under the compression binder, but I didn’t care. Physical pain couldn’t hold a candle to the years of mental torture I had endured. I welcomed the pain and greeted it with a grateful heart. Once I got home, I stood in front of the full-length mirror in my bedroom and carefully undressed. Each layer I removed brought me closer to seeing me, the new me, the real me. My robes dropped to the floor, exposing a wonderful, brilliant, bloody, bruised body that was wholly mine. The stitches laced through my purple flesh made me look like a science project gone awry, but I didn’t mind. The tubes and wires which were still attached to my body didn’t bother me in the slightest. My chest was black and blue. I was a beautiful disaster in desperate need of a shower, but I was overjoyed. It was only when I allowed myself to fully feel my gender dysphoria that I was able to create my gender euphoria. Is this what it meant to be transfigured and crowned with glory?

















312 views1 comment

1 Comment


spowzer
Dec 13, 2021

I read this book weeks ago, just now reviewing it?

I wish you would have stopped after the first paragraph. I think you were on to something there. But instead you tore into Queer Mormon Theology.

I really loved this book and learned a lot from it, sorry you were unable to do the same

Like
bottom of page