Teaching Students About Joyce McKinney

In an ever-evolving education landscape, it’s crucial to expose students to a diverse range of interesting figures and events. One such figure is Joyce McKinney, the former Miss Wyoming who became notorious in the late 1970s due to her involvement in what’s now known as the “Manacled Mormon” case. Although Joyce McKinney may not be prominently featured in school curriculums, her life story and the sensational criminal case can be used as a springboard for broader, thought-provoking discussions with students. This article highlights the importance of teaching students about Joyce McKinney by dissecting her unique story, analyzing its broader implications, and offering effective teaching strategies.

Joyce McKinney’s Background and the Manacled Mormon Case

Joyce McKinney was born in 1949 and grew up in Avery County, North Carolina. She later became a beauty queen, winning the Miss Wyoming title in 1973. A turning point in her life came when she moved to Provo, Utah, where she took an interest in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, converting to Mormonism.

The Manacled Mormon case unfolded in 1977 when McKinney was accused of kidnapping Kirk Anderson, an American Mormon missionary based in London. The alleged kidnapping involved handcuffing Anderson to a bed and forcing him to engage in non-consensual sexual activities – an act McKinney claimed she carried out only because she believed Anderson had been brainwashed by his church and needed saving. The story attracted substantial media attention at the time, resulting in a high-profile criminal trial that saw McKinney fleeing Britain before facing her verdict.

Teaching Strategies For Exploring Joyce McKinney’s Story

1. Encourage Critical Thinking

As teachers discuss Joyce McKinney with their students, they should encourage them to analyze media coverage of her during that time and to assess how public perception is shaped by the media. Investigating the news stories about McKinney, students can dissect sensationalism in journalism, examine biases, and question how society views complex characters and events.

2. Address the Role of Religion

Teachers can start a dialogue about the impact of religion on individuals’ lives and in shaping societal expectations. By examining McKinney’s actions from a religious perspective, students may gain valuable insights into how faith influences people’s beliefs, decisions, and judgment.

3. Engage in Ethics Discussions

Discussing the moral implications of McKinney’s actions presents an opportunity for students to grapple with real-world ethical dilemmas. Teachers can facilitate in-depth discussions by posing questions such as “Do the ends justify the means?” or “Is it morally permissible to break the law for a larger cause?”

4. Explore Gender Roles and Stereotypes

Another compelling theme for discussion is how gender norms affected perceptions of McKinney at the time. Teachers can invite students to reflect upon how women’s behavior or methods were scrutinized more heavily compared to men’s during the late 20th century – and how those archaic attitudes may persist today.


Teaching students about Joyce McKinney offers rich opportunities to broaden their understanding of complex individuals, sensational media narratives, gender dynamics, and religious influence on society. By engaging in thought-provoking conversations that arise from McKinney’s fascinating life story and controversy, educators can not only encourage intellectual growth but also prepare young minds for informed discussion on a wide range of topics beyond traditional curriculums.

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