La Familia versus The Family: Matriarchal Patriarchies in Peruvian Mormonism

Jason Palmer,  University of California, Irvine

Abstract. By sacralizing the Western categories of gender and kinship and by exalting the husband-centric, nuclear version of family, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not only alienated its transgender and feminist members, but also its Peruvian families. This study employs ethnographic encounters, kinterm linguistics, and home décor analysis to situate the existence of Peruvian Mormon matriarchies in the context of a phallocentric religion that spanned two strikingly different, patriarchal societies: one in the Southern Andes of Peru and the other in the US state of Utah. Thus situated, the article then dwells on the transcribed oral history of Ofelia, a Peruvian single mother who utilized the power of the male-only Mormon priesthood to preside over her household as the acting matriarch. Ofelia’s fealty to patriarchy during the very enactment of forbidden priestesshood brings to the fore the profound contradictions that some Peruvian Mormons in the late 2010s disentangled as they sought to become legible to their church as participants in eternal families. 

Palmer, Jason. 2022. “La Familia versus The Family: Matriarchal Patriarchies in Peruvian Mormonism,” Journal of the Mormon Social Science Association 1, no. 1: 123-151.