This article elaborates a symbolic interactionist approach to the scientific study of sexual sin. We draw on archival materials from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and explore recurring themes within the archival materials that signify and outline stages of a sexual sinners’ moral career. Our findings demonstrate how LDS leaders constructed a sinner’s moral career as characterized by (1) seeking out sinful temptation; (2) causing social and spiritual destruction; and (3) seeking and finding redemption. Further, we draw out implications for understanding the ways religious leaders conceptualize sexual sins for their followers, and the usefulness of conceptualizing various religious traditions, adaptations, and conceptualizations of sin as moral careers.


Religion, Sexualities, Content Analysis, Sin, Pornography, Mormonism

Author Bio(s)

J. E. Sumerau is an assistant professor and director of applied sociology at the University of Tampa. Sumerau’s teaching and research focuses on the intersections of sexualities, gender, religion and health in the historical and interpersonal experiences of sexual, gender, and religious minorities. For more information and examples of this work, please visit www.jsumerau.com. Please direct correspondence to jsumerau@ut.edu.

Ryan Cragun is an associate professor of sociology at The University of Tampa. His research focuses on Mormonism and the nonreligious and has been published in various scholarly journals. He is also the author of several books. Please direct correspondence to rcragun@ut.edu.

Harry Barbee is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at Florida State University. Their research explores the resistance, reproduction, and management of inequality within the realms of gender, sexuality, and health/medicine. Please direct correspondence to hbarbee@fsu.edu.


The authors would like to thank the editors and reviewers of The Qualitative Report for their exceedingly helpful comments.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.