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Tabernacles of Clay

Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism

By Taylor G. Petrey

288 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5622-9
    Published: June 2020
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5621-2
    Published: June 2020
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5623-6
    Published: April 2020

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Taylor G. Petrey’s trenchant history takes a landmark step forward in documenting and theorizing about Latter-day Saints (LDS) teachings on gender, sexual difference, and marriage. Drawing on deep archival research, Petrey situates LDS doctrines in gender theory and American religious history since World War II. His challenging conclusion is that Mormonism is conflicted between ontologies of gender essentialism and gender fluidity, illustrating a broader tension in the history of sexuality in modernity itself.

As Petrey details, LDS leaders have embraced the idea of fixed identities representing a natural and divine order, but their teachings also acknowledge that sexual difference is persistently contingent and unstable. While queer theorists have built an ethics and politics based on celebrating such sexual fluidity, LDS leaders view it as a source of anxiety and a tool for the shaping of a heterosexual social order. Through public preaching and teaching, the deployment of psychological approaches to “cure” homosexuality, and political activism against equal rights for women and same-sex marriage, Mormon leaders hoped to manage sexuality and faith for those who have strayed from heteronormativity.

About the Author

Taylor G. Petrey, associate professor of religion at Kalamazoo College, is author of Resurrecting Parts: Early Christians on Desire, Reproduction, and Sexual Difference.
For more information about Taylor G. Petrey, visit the Author Page.


"[A] landmark work on gender and sexuality in Mormon thought. . . . Information-packed, with a forceful thesis and jargon-free prose, this is an important contribution to Mormon studies as well as a convincing consideration of the ways religions construct and maintain frameworks. Any academic studying the intersection of religious practice and progressive social change will want to pick this up."--Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Petrey is at his best when he’s demonstrating both the ambiguity as well as the sincerity of these ideological debates, and the core of his argument is found in the nuance of his analysis. Indeed, Tabernacles of Clay is a model for how scholars can use a singular tradition to tell a much larger lesson.”--Benjamin E. Park

“Meticulously researched and well-balanced in structure and argument, Petrey’s book provides new insights into the church’s relationship with gender and sexuality policies. . . . Accessible and addictive in content, this book comes highly recommended.”--Segullah

“Petrey . . . looks at how post–WW II political, social, and cultural transformations shaped LDS church leaders’ conceptions of race, sexuality, and gender. . . . Adding nuance to the history of Mormonism, Petrey’s book is a remarkable addition to the literature.”--CHOICE

"A fascinating, invaluable resource for those interested in Mormon ideas of sexuality and gender."--Association for Mormon Letters

“Bold, original, and timely, Tabernacles of Clay is a field-defining book that does for Latter-day Saints what they have never fully done for themselves: lending a degree of ideological continuity to their shifting views about gender, sexuality, and marriage. A landmark step forward in both documenting and theorizing modern church teaching on sexuality and sexual difference, this is a work that Mormon studies has been waiting for and will come back to again and again.”–Patrick Q. Mason, Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture, Utah State University