Gender Identity: What Have Prophets and Apostles Said About It?

Free stock photo of love, cute, young, happyMany members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are very concerned about gender identity and the concept of transgenderism these days and, as a result, might be wondering what the doctrine and teachings from prophets and apostles are on the subject.

We know that the Family Proclamation outlines LDS doctrine clearly and concisely: “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” But what else has been said about it? A lot, actually! Keep reading to learn about what LDS Church leaders have said on the topic.

Quotes on premortal, mortal & postmortal gender identity

“All people who come to this earth and are born in mortality, had a pre-existent, spiritual personality, as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father.” Statement of the First Presidency, 31 January 1912.

Your gender existed before you came to earth.” Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness,” General Conference, Oct. 1996.

From our premortal life we were directed into a physical body. There is no mismatching of bodies and spirits.” Boyd K. Packer, “A Message to Young Men”, General Conference, Oct. 1976.

Our gender was determined before we came to earth and is part of our eternal identity.” Virginia U. Jensen, “Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice,” General Conference, Oct. 1998.

“The scriptures and the teachings of the Apostles and prophets speak of us in premortal life as sons and daughters, spirit children of God. Gender existed before, and did not begin at mortal birth.” Boyd K. Packer, “For Time and All Eternity,” Ensign, Nov. 1993.

For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. … And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.” (Moses 3:5-7)

The spirit and the body are the soul of man.” (D&C 88:15)

“We affirm as reasonable, scriptural, and true, the eternity of gender among the children of God. The distinction between male and female is no condition peculiar to the relatively brief period of mortal life; it was an essential characteristic of our pre-existent condition, even as it shall continue after death, in both the disembodied and resurrected states.

Female in Blue Top Holding Baby in Blue and Gray Stripe TopThere is no accident or chance, due to purely physical conditions, by which the gender of the unborn is determined. The body takes form as male or female, according to the gender of the spirit whose appointment it is to tenant that body as a tabernacle formed of the elements of earth, through which means alone the individual may enter upon the indispensable course of human experience, probation, and training.

… These Scriptures attest a state of existence preceding mortality, in which the spirit children of God lived, doubtless with distinguishing personal characteristics including the distinction of gender, for “male and female created he them,” spiritually, “before they were [created] naturally upon the face of the earth.

With such definite word as to the actuality of a bodily resurrection, which shall come to all, righteous and sinners, is it conceivable that the essential differences of gender shall be eliminated? Children of God have comprised male and female from the beginning. Man is man, and woman is woman, fundamentally, unchangeably, eternally. Each is indispensable to the other and to the accomplishment of the purposes of God.Elder James E. Talmage (The Essential James E. Talmage, the Millennial SFtar, 24 Aug. 1922, p. 539) and the Young Woman’s Journal 25 [October 1914]: 600-604).

We know that gender was set in the premortal world. “The spirit and the body are the soul of man.” This matter of gender is of great concern to the Brethren, as are all matters of morality. A few of you may have felt or been told that you were born with troubling feelings and that you are not guilty if you act on those temptations. Doctrinally we know that if that were true your agency would have been erased, and that cannot happen.” Boyd K. Packer, “How to Survive in Enemy Territory,” Seminary Centennial Broadcast, April 2012.

Individual identity began long before conception and will continue for all the eternities to come.” Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” General Conference, Oct. 1993.

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that our creation as male and female children of God “was done spiritually in your premortal existence when you lived in the presence of your Father in Heaven. Your gender existed before you came to earth.” Richard G. Scott, “The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness,” General Conference, Oct. 1996.

That women were born into this earth female was determined long before mortal birth, as were the divine differences of male and female. I love the clarity of the teachings of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in the proclamation on the family, where they state, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”1From that statement we are taught that every girl was feminine and female in spirit long before her mortal birth.” Eternal Marriage Manual,

Elder Boyd K. Packer once spoke about a class of small children who believed they could determine the gender of a kitten by voting. Elder Packer followed up by explaining: “Natural and spiritual laws which govern life were instituted from before the foundation of the world. … They cannot be changed” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 29; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 22).

Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy (address given at a conference held at Brigham Young University on March 5, 2010) said that “The differences between men and women are not simply biological. They are woven into the fabric of the universe, a vital, foundational element of eternal life and divine nature.”

Quotes on gender identity – maleness and femaleness

Free stock photo of man, couple, love, woman“Maleness and femaleness, marriage, and the bearing and nurturing of children are all essential to the great plan of happiness. Modern revelation makes clear that what we call gender was part of our existence prior to our birth. God declares that he created “male and female” (D&C 20:18; Moses 2:27; Gen. 1:27).
Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” General Conference, Oct. 1993.

“The premortal and mortal natures of men and women were specified by God Himself.”
M. Russell Ballard, “Women of Righteousness,” Ensign, Apr. 2002.

That women were born into this earth female was determined long before mortal birth, as were the divine differences of males and females. I love the clarity of the teachings of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in the Proclamation on the Family. They state: “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” From that statement we are taught that every girl was feminine and female in spirit long before her mortal birth.” Margaret D. Nadauld, “What You Are Meant to Be,” New Era, Oct. 2002.

“Your gender was determined in the premortal existence. You were born a male. You must treasure and protect the masculine part of your nature.” Boyd K. Packer, “Counsel to Young Men,” General Conference, April 2009.

“For divine purposes, male and female spirits are different, distinctive, and complementary.” David A Bednar, “Marriage Is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Ensign, June 2006; Liahona, June 2006.

“As spirit daughters of God, women ‘received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth’ (D&C 138:56) on the earth. … Female roles did not begin on earth, and they do not end here.” Julie B. Beck, “A Mother Heart”, General Conference, April 2004

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has addressed this issue: “[Satan] seeks to undermine the principle of individual accountability, to persuade us to misuse our sacred powers of procreation, to discourage marriage and childbearing by worthy men and women, and to confuse what it means to be male or female. … Some kinds of feelings seem to be inborn. Others are traceable to mortal experiences. Still other feelings seem to be acquired from a complex interaction of ‘nature and nurture.’ All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior.” 6

Quotes on social issues and gender identity

We live in a day when there are many political, legal, and social pressures for changes that confuse gender and homogenize the differences between men and women.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Oct. 2003.

More recently the devil has attempted to combine and legally validate confusion about gender. … Satan works unremittingly to confuse understanding about gender, to promote the premature and unrighteous use of procreative power, and to hinder righteous marriage precisely because marriage is ordained of God and the family is central to the plan of happiness. … [Satan] persistently strives to confuse the divinely appointed purposes of gender, marriage, and family. Throughout the world, we see growing evidence of the effectiveness of Satan’s efforts.” David A. Bednar, “Marriage is Essential to His Eternal Plan,” Ensign, June 2006; Liahona, June 2006.

When evil wants to strike out and disrupt the essence of God’s work, it attacks the family. It does so by attempting to disregard the law of chastity, to confuse gender.” M. Russell Ballard, “Let Our Voices Be Heard,” General Conference, Oct. 2003.

“Some people are ignorant or vicious and apparently attempting to destroy the concept of masculinity and femininity. More and more girls dress, groom, and act like men. More and more men dress, groom, and act like women. The high purposes of life are damaged and destroyed by the growing unisex theory. God made man in his own image, male and female made he them. With relatively few accidents of nature, we are born male or female. The Lord knew best. Certainly, men and women who would change their sex status will answer to their Maker.” Spencer W. Kimball, “God Will Not Be Mocked“, General Conference, Oct. 1974.

When Satan truly wants to disrupt the work of the Lord, he attempts to confuse gender and he attacks God’s plan for His children.” M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood,” Ensign, March 2006; Liahona, March 2006.

“I am concerned about what I see happening with some of our young women. Satan would have you dress, talk, and behave in unnatural and destructive ways in your relationships with young men. The adversary is having a heyday distorting attitudes about gender and roles and about families and individual worth. He is the author of mass confusion about the value, the role, the contribution, and the unique nature of women.” M. Russell Ballard, “Women of Righteousness”, General Conference, April 2002.

Disciplinary councils may also be convened to consider a member’s standing in the Church following serious transgression such as abortion, transsexual operation, attempted murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, intentionally inflicting serious physical injuries on others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations, child abuse (sexual or physical), spouse abuse, deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, embezzlement, theft, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, or false swearing.” M. Russell Ballard, “A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings”, Ensign, Sept. 1990.

No legislation can alter the sexes. …  any legislation which is designed to neuter gender of that which God created male and female will bring more problems than benefits. Of that I am convinced.” Gordon B. Hinckley, “Live Up to Your Inheritance”, General Conference, October 1983.

Satan bombards us with bizarre messages about gender, marriage, family, and all male-female relationships. … Our Father knew exactly what He was doing when He created us.” Sheri L. Dew, “It is Not Good For Man or Woman to be Alone,” General Conference, Oct. 2001.

“Since the proclamation came out, time has overwhelmingly proven its prophetic insight. As a church we are more focused than ever in supporting and strengthening the family. Sadly, the family continues to be assaulted relentlessly throughout the world. You need only to read a newspaper or turn on the television to see how openly and viciously the war against the family is being waged. Gender is being confused, and gender roles are being repudiated.” M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Roles of Parenthood”, Ensign, March 2006.


Quotes on understanding gender identity

Are you confused with gender identity or searching for self-esteem? Do you—or someone you love—face disease or depression or death? Whatever other steps you may need to take to resolve these concerns, come first to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Trust in heaven’s promises. In that regard Alma’s testimony is my testimony: “I do know,” he says, “that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions.” Jeffrey R. Holland, “Broken Things to Mend”, General Conference, April 2006.

“When we speak plainly of divorce, abuse, gender identity, abortion, parental neglect, we are thought by some to be way out of touch or to be uncaring. Some ask if we know how many we hurt when we speak plainly. Do we know of marriages in trouble, of the many who remain single, of single-parent families, of couples unable to have children, of parents with wayward children, or of those confused about gender? Do we know? Do we care?

“Those who ask have no idea how much we care; you know little of the sleepless nights, of the endless hours of work, of prayer, of study, of travel—all for the happiness and redemption of mankind.

Because we do know and because we do care, we must teach the rules of happiness without dilution, apology, or avoidance. That is our calling.” Boyd K. Packer, “The Father and the Family”, General Conference, April 4, 1994.

“Brothers and sisters, I am very grateful for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It provides light to guide us in this world darkened by immorality, iniquity, and infidelity. It teaches us to love all of God’s children, some of whom struggle with gender issues or other conditions that may not be fully understood. We need to help and encourage them and their family members without, of course, condoning sinful behavior.” Russell M. Nelson “The Doctrinal Importance of Marriage and Children”, Worldwide Leadership Training, 2012

“One of the great blessings of understanding our true eternal identity as a child of God is that our personal sense of self-worth can only be high. … He loves each one of His children. We are each His son or daughter with the potential to become like Him. … Satan does not want us to understand our divine potential, but the Lord certainly does. He has provided us with countless scriptures and prophetic promptings to help us counter and resist these satanic pulls. … I pray that we may ever remember who we are: sons and daughters of a loving Father, who have the potential to return to His side and dwell with Him as celestial beings.” Robert C. Oaks, “Understand Who You Are”, BYU Devotional, March 2006.

“One of the most important things to know is something Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: “You have been you for a long time.” He’s trying to help us remember who we are. Because knowing who you are changes what you do.” Bonnie D. Parkin “Remember Who You Are”, BYU Speeches, March 2004.

“Is our heavenly parentage our first and most profound identity? Here on earth, we identify ourselves in many different ways, including our place of birth, our nationality, and our language. Some even identify themselves by their occupation or their hobby. These earthly identities are not wrong unless they supersede or interfere with our eternal identity—that of being a son or a daughter of God. … In today’s world, no matter where we live and no matter what our circumstances are, it is essential that our preeminent identity is as a child of God.” Donald L. Hallstrom, “I Am a Child of God”, General Conference, April 2016.

The Doctrine of the Soul – Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

First, we simply must understand the revealed, restored Latter-day Saint doctrine of the soul, and the high and inextricable part the body plays in that doctrine. One of the “plain and precious” truths restored to this dispensation is that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C88:15; emphasis added) and that when the spirit and body are separated, men and women “cannot receive a fulness of joy” (D&C93:34). Certainly that suggests something of the reason why obtaining a body is so fundamentally important to the plan of salvation in the first place, why sin of any kind is such a serious matter (namely because its automatic consequence is death, the separation of the spirit from the body and the separation of the spirit and the body from God), and why the resurrection of the body is so central to the great abiding and eternal triumph of Christ’s atonement.

… May I quote a 1913 sermon by Elder James E. Talmage on this doctrinal point:

We have been taught . . . to look upon these bodies of ours as gifts from God. We Latter-day Saints do not regard the body as something to be condemned, something to be abhorred. . . . We regard [the body] as the sign of our royal birthright. . . . We recognize . . . that those who kept not their first estate . . . were denied that inestimable blessing. . . . We believe that these bodies . . . may be made, in very truth, the temple of the Holy Ghost. . . .

It is peculiar to the theology of the Latter-day Saints that we regard the body as an essential part of the soul. Read your dictionaries, the lexicons, and encyclopedias, and you will find that nowhere [in Christianity], outside of the Church of Jesus Christ, is the solemn and eternal truth taught that the soul of man is the body and the spirit combined. [CR, October 1913, p. 117]

… Exploitation of the body (please include the word soul there) is, in the last analysis, an exploitation of him who is the Light and the Life of the world. Perhaps here Paul’s warning to the Corinthians takes on newer, higher meaning:

. . . Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. [1 Corinthians 6:13-20; emphasis added]

Our soul is what’s at stake here–our spirit and our body. Paul understood that doctrine of the soul every bit as well as James E. Talmage did, because it is gospel truth. The purchase price for our fullness of joy–body and spirit eternally united–is the pure and innocent blood of the Savior of this world. We cannot then say in ignorance or defiance, “Well, it’s my life,” or worse yet, “It’s my body.” It is not. “Ye are not your own,” Paul said. “Ye are bought with a price.” Jeffrey R. Holland, “Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments”, BYU Devotional, Jan. 1988.

Additional information

  • Gender is part of our eternal identity and is necessary for our eternal progression. President Packer explained: “The plan of happiness requires the righteous union of male and female, man and woman, husband and wife. … A body patterned after the image of God was created for Adam, and he was introduced into the Garden. … Confusion about gender issues is rampant today. … We can remember that we are God’s sons and daughters, that He created us in His image, and that His plan prepares us for life eternal. If we obey His commandments, He will not withhold from us any of the blessings He has promised.”  “Strengthening the family: Created in the Image of God, Male and Female,” Ensign, January 2005.
  • We know that gender did not begin at birth; it existed in the pre-earth life. 8 In the document “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” we read: “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Robert Woodford, “In the Beginning: A Latter-day Saint Perspective”, Ensign, January 1998.
  • “Scenario 2: A young woman has been told that gender is a matter of chance. She has begun to question if gender matters and whether it should influence any of her choices in life. Read scenario 2 again and the following statement from “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”: “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” (Ensign orLiahona, Nov. 2010, 129). Consider why it is important to know that your gender is not a matter of chance or a temporary condition but is part of your eternal identity and purpose. How would you use Genesis 1:26–27 and the statement from the family proclamation to help the young woman in scenario 2?” “Introduction to Genesis”, Old Testament Study Guide,
  • “After Joseph Smith’s death in June 1844, Brigham Young assumed leadership of the Church as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. During the winter of 1844-1845, he introduced an additional refinement to the practice of baptisms for the dead and explained this development at the April 1845 Conference. In their hurry to administer this ordinance for their loved ones, the Saints had performed the baptisms without regard to gender, men being baptized for women and women for men. Henceforth, Young taught, the Saints “never will see a man go forth to be baptized for a woman, nor a woman for a man.” Matthew McBride, “Letters on Baptism for the Dead”, Church History,
  • “Heavenly Father allows Satan and Satan’s followers to tempt us as part of our experience in mortality (see 2 Nephi 2:11-14; D&C 29:39). Because Satan “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27), he and his followers try to lead us away from righteousness. He directs his most strenuous opposition at the most important aspects of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. For example, he seeks to discredit the Savior and the priesthood, to cast doubt on the power of the Atonement, to counterfeit revelation, to distract us from the truth, and to contradict individual accountability. He attempts to undermine the family by confusing gender, promoting sexual relations outside of marriage, ridiculing marriage, and discouraging childbearing by married adults who would otherwise raise children in righteousness.” Topics, “Satan”,


Angela Fallentine

Angela Fallentine is the Co-Founder of Mormon Women Stand. She is a native of Alberta, Canada but has loved living in the USA, New Zealand and briefly in Turkey and Europe with her equally adventurous husband. She is a researcher and analyst for a policy institute that focuses on current social issues, religious liberty and international policy affecting the family at the United Nations. She holds a specialized associate's degree from BYU-Idaho, a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Utah State University and is currently pursuing a master's degree in Human Security and Peacebuilding.