Affinity – March 2013

Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons—Serving LGBT Mormons and Their Family and Friends Since 1977

Inside This Issue

Michael McLean
Upcoming Social in SLC

Guy & Trey with daughters
Trey (left), Guy, Janessa (in Guy’s arms) and Emma Marie

Our Families: Trey and Guy

Trey: “I wish I could go back and tell my 17-year-old self that it didn’t just get better—it got unbelievable”

This is the latest installment in our series on LGBT Mormon families.

It was a Phase

Trey: After our missions (to Korea and Sweden) in the early 80’s, we both attended BYU. I met Guy for the first time when I joined Response, a group he also belonged to. He was the cute one in the group, but I was closeted, in fact attempting to change through “therapy.”

Guy: We weren’t close friends, but for two years learned to like and respect each other at the time as we worked together at the student peace and human rights group. We had no idea the other was gay. In fact, neither of us knew anyone gay at BYU and, living in accordance with the Honor Code of the time, were deeply closeted.

We graduated and went our separate ways in 1985. It wasn’t meant to be.

The Chance Meeting

Trey: I was asked to give a talk at Sunstone in Salt Lake City on the biology of sexuality in 1996. I declined on the advice of my Ph.D. advisor (I was getting a Ph.D. at the time in molecular biology) and my step-father. But a week before Sunstone, my mother called and insisted I go and give the talk. She didn’t know why, but she insisted something amazing would happen there. The skeptic I am, I told her she’d have to pay for the trip. It wasn’t cheap, a flight from New York to SLC at the last minute, but she did. At the last minute, decided to go and give the talk.

Guy: By this time, we’d both finally come out. He was speaking at a Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake where, sitting beside my mother, I whispered, “I knew Warren at BYU. He’s a great guy. Straight.” Just then he announced from the podium, “I’m a gay Mormon male.” I said, “Well, so much for my gaydar!” We hung out that weekend with a group of friends. The last night in Salt Lake we ended up talking until the wee hours of the morning, after which I left for Bryce Canyon and he for New York.

Trey: I emailed Guy when I got home. I was completely enamoured of him. So I took a step I never did before. I wrote him an email and asked if he’d consider dating long distance, by email.

Guy: I definitely wasn’t looking to date just yet as I’d just come out of my first relationship, which was way too long. I had never really experienced single life yet. I thought, “Well, perfect. The only way I’d consider dating right then was from a long distance so we could to take it slowly, while hoping to eventually find the right guy, a real soul mate.

Trey: We started writing emails. Long daily emails. I type fast and always have a lot to say. Before long he asked if we could talk on the phone instead.

Guy: Well, so much for my intentions! We knew we’d spend our lives together within a very few weeks of all night phone calls (often until the sun would rise in New York). Upon hanging up, there was still so much we wanted to share. It just felt so right, so wonderful.

Trey: I knew I found my soulmate.

Guy: I’d been planning a move to San Francisco, as had he eventually, and I happened to get an offer accepted on our Victorian Haight Street home the very week we re-met. That next summer, 8 months after we remet in SLC, he moved to SLC briefly while we prepared for our move to our new home.

Aside from four wonderful years in Heidelberg, Germany for Trey’s post-doc and some additional time just outside DC, where we currently live for Trey’s fellowship at the National Science Foundation, that home is where we’ve lived ever since.


Trey: My family, who are not LDS, accepted our relationship with open arms. It was immediate and loving. Guy’s parents were amazing. The very first time I met his father, he gave me a huge hug and said “welcome to the family.” His mother immediately let it be known I was another son :) .

Guy: We were fortunate to be welcomed into each other’s families and now have a great relationship with most family members. There are some relatives with whom we’ve had painful relationships, but overall it’s been really positive. When I first came out, that wasn’t exactly the case. My poor, sweet mother even threw up when I told her. But my family has come a long way to being extremely supportive, in part thanks to the passage of time, seeing our happy lives, and to Family Fellowship for my parents (now nearly 90).

Trey: I was still attending church at the time I met Guy. I was out and openly gay, but living in accordance with the Church rules. One day, my bishop called me. He heard I gave a talk at Sunstone that criticized the Church leaders. He said he read the text of the talk (though I never wrote it down) and it didn’t seem to be critical at all. But he also heard I had a new relationship.

Guy: I hadn’t been active since shortly after leaving BYU, where the VP, my stake president, told me he greatly respected the way I’d handled my situation, already in a relationship, and wished me well, so I decided to quit while I was ahead. Trey had devoted twenty years of his life to the church since he’d joined at 17 under unusual circumstance (when he joined he was even denied the priesthood because he had a distant ancestor who was black) and against his family’s wishes. Trey, ever honest and open, told the stake president about our commitment to each other. They held a court which we both attended and after three hours of searching, sincere questioning and despite what they said the high council would have decided had they had their way, the president said he had no choice but to ”follow the handbook” and excommunicate him. He felt that when Trey felt the loss of the spirit, he’d realize the mistake of his ways.

Trey: Upon hearing the decision I felt at peace and it was right for me. I could create the life I was meant to have.

The Children

Trey: When I met Guy I was planning to adopt as a single father. I wanted four children and two dogs. I make very specific plans in life sometimes.

Guy: I wasn’t sure I wanted children. It was a little while after coming out I had decided I could never have children. When I was with my former partner I had finally come to peace with that, feeling I could “multiply and replenish the earth” in many other ways than being a parent. So, we debated and eventually each convinced the other of our own positions and switched. In the end, we came to an agreement and pursued adoption. We settled finally on doing a private, domestic adoption even though we were by that time living in Europe.

Trey: It took over 2 years after we made the decision. We had to find an adoption agency that would work with same-sex parents, US citizens living in Europe. After tens of thousands of dollars, lots of home visits and paperwork, we were matched. We flew back to meet the expectant birth mother and anticipated the day. We learned while in Germany that the baby was born unexpectedly immediately after our return, so we flew right back to pick up our new child! It wasn’t to be. The mother changed her mind. So we returned to Germany, when soon after we got another call, there was a newborn near Seattle available for adoption. Guy immediately flew back to the US and I followed soon after. There we met our soon-to-be new 4lb 4oz baby daughter. We named her after our grandmothers, Emma Marie and took her home to Germany. We returned to the US by the time she was 1.

Guy: We started the process for a second adoption a few years later. We wanted two children and Emma really wanted a sibling. After almost giving up after a few more years of trying through foster adoption, Janessa, then nearly 4, suddenly joined our family. Trey got a call one night and asked if we could take a child… that night. We asked for a one day delay as Guy was in Mexico. We had to let Emma know in the morning that by the time she got home from school, she’d be a sister. The next day we had a meeting, they inspected our house again and brought our new daughter that afternoon. Janessa had a difficult and sad childhood to say the least and those first months were extremely difficult with lots of challenges, but she has made a lot of progress and is a really beautiful, sweet, girl.

The girls are now 6 and 10 and our family is complete.

The Marriage(s)

Guy: We had a commitment ceremony in December 1997 that we consider our most important anniversary as that, despite its lack of legal status, was where we formally committed to each other in front of most of our family and friends and truly felt the love and support of our community. We will always greatly cherish that time. At the time I don’t know that we believed we’d ever have the opportunity and blessing of a legal marriage.

Trey: The ceremony was amazing and deeply spiritual. Our friends and family read from Walt Whitman and the Book of Mormon (Men are that they might have joy), beautiful music, Our good friend Trevor painted a canopy.

A few years later California instituted Domestic Partnership and we took advantage of at least a semblance of legal recognition. I guess that was our second “marriage.”

Guy: Our third “marriage” was the remarkable Valentine’s Day weekend in 2004 when Mayor Newsom bravely opened up City Hall for weddings. We waited in line for two days with friends, who were also getting married, and our families, in order to make our commitment equal under the law. It was a huge pleasure seeing the thousands of committed couples and families like ours who, valuing the institution of marriage, were eager to commit their lives to one another with all the rights and responsibilities that accompany such a huge commitment. It was amazing, too, to see the love and support of the community, people coming out braving the cold and rain, bringing hot drinks, blankets and flowers to the couples waiting so long outside to enter and seal their love. Alas, it was very short lived when all our marriages were annulled (as we expected they would be, but still…).

Trey: Then, in 2008, about a week before the devastating Prop. 8 vote, we were married again in San Francisco City Hall (after a simple ceremony in front of friends and family in our home). This time it remained legal, in the eyes of the state of California anyway. That was our fourth “marriage.” We hope and pray for the day that marriage equality is realized and our family and the many families like ours will be not only equal under the laws of the land, but also in the eyes and hearts of its citizens.

Our Lives

Trey: Our lives have been deeply blessed. It hasn’t been without its struggles, challenges and sorrows. 36 years ago I survived the suicide of my first love, a boy who brought me so much joy. It scarred and devastated me and I thought at that time that I’d never find happiness. If a person from the future told me on that day 36 years ago that I’d have a soulmate who I was committed to, loved and cherished decades later, I would have not believed it. But if it had turned out that was all that was true, it would have been enough. If you told me that we’d have two sweet, wonderful daughters. I wouldn’t have believed it, but it would have been enough. If then you told me that we’d have a supportive, loving extended family and many close and wonderful friends. I’d wouldn’t have believed it, but it would have been enough. Then… if this person from the future told me that we be legally married, well, I would have had him committed.

But it’s all true. And we are blessed. I wish I could go back and tell my 17-year-old self that it didn’t just get better—it got unbelievable.

Affirmation Calendar 2013

March 10
Affirmation New York Potluck

March 12
Mormon rally for nondiscrimination at the Utah Capitol

March 16
LGBTQ Workshop at the University of Utah

March 26
Supreme Court hears oral arguments on Prop 8

March 31
“Sit with Me” Sunday

April 5
Mormon LGBT/SSA Social in Salt Lake City

April 5-6
Affirmation Leadership & Board Meeting in Salt Lake City

April 20
One Voice Choir Concert in Salt Lake City

April 27
LDS LGBT-related Conference in Arizona

September 13-15
Affirmation Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, UT

Michael McLeanLDS artist Michael McLean

Greg Prince
LDS author Greg Prince

The Hilton is located at 255 S. West Temple

Mormon LGBT/SSA Social to be Held in Salt Lake City on General Conference Weekend

April 5 Event to Include Music by Michael McLean

by Randall Thacker

All LGBT/SSA Mormons, their families and friends, are invited to join us for a fabulous evening of learning, music, food, and socializing. LGBT Mormons and allies have been holding well-attended monthly socials in Utah since last December.

In conjunction with LDS General Conference, an LDS LGBT/SSA gathering and social will be held Friday evening, April 5 from 7-9:30 p.m. at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center (255 S. West Temple).

The first part of the program (7:00 – 8:00 pm) will feature LDS author Greg Prince who will speak about his book David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. We will also have a performance by renowned musical artist Michael McLean, followed by time to socialize and meet new friends over light appetizers and soft drinks.

Invite your parents, family members, friends, church leaders, and others who love to socialize with LGBT/SSA Mormons. Spread the word to your friends who are coming to town for general conference.

Affirmation Leadership and Board to Meet April 5-6 in Salt Lake City

Friday Meetings to Be Held at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center 

by Randall Thacker

The Affirmation Board of Directors and Leadership Team will be meeting in Salt Lake City, April 5-6 in conjunction with LDS General Conference.

Their administrative focused leadership meeting will be held all day Friday at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center (255 S. West Temple). Agenda items include defining Affirmation’s brand and messaging for the future, board governance, developing the ally network, preparations for the annual conference, and outreach and membership processes.

On Saturday April 6, those interested will be attending a session of general conference together. The other half of the day (TBD) we will have a leadership development workshop for all members of the LDS LGBT/SSA community. Potential topics include leading change, leveraging our strengths, building relationships, and other general leadership principles.

If you are interested in participating in any of these leadership sessions please RSVP by contacting Sam Noble.

Mark Schneider
Mark Schneider

LGBT Mormons Represent Through the “Faces of Affirmation” Project

We are looking for people of all stripes to tell their stories as it relates to issues of LGBT identity and the Church

by Mark Schneider

» Send your story to Mark!

It seems that Mormons, LGBT or straight, can never escape the burden of representing. We like to put on black name tags and march around town in formal wear, so everyone around can raise their gaze and say, “Yep, there’s the Mormons.” It’s not everyone that gets so dressed up for Popeye’s Chicken. We like to inconspicuously place “pass along” cards in returned library books and think giddily of who they might reach, who might join the Church – maybe even the librarian (he would make a great member). Does that Book of Mormon that I tossed to you like it was something you’d wash your car with have an elaborately and punctiliously written testimony in the front cover with a picture of my gorgeous and happy family? I never knew!

Yes, Mormons do their fair share of representing. Of course, discovering that you are LGBT and Mormon can put a damper on your zeal. Suddenly, the thought occurs to you that that male librarian might be gay and might be better off never hearing about the restored Gospel. You think this because, notwithstanding any positive impact on your life, you think you might have been better off without it. Some of us continue to believe, walking the tightrope, and some of us quietly walk away, hoping to never have to represent again, at least not Mormonism.

But I contend that the burden to represent does not end for any of us, LGBT Mormons of belief or of background. Though our various representations might be different depending on where we situate ourselves, it is important to stand up and be counted. To be counted is to reflect the kind of culture we would like to see in the Church: a culture where LGBT people not only want to stay but would want to come and Church members could feel comfortable inviting them (indeed, sharing the Gospel). To be counted is also to clearly mark the paths available for LGBT Mormon youth, so they do not struggle to the same extent as people once did. Finally, to be counted is to make the world a more inclusive, friendlier place to be LGBT.

So how can you be counted? How can you represent? For our purposes, to represent is to tell your story. We are looking for people of all stripes to tell their stories as it relates to issues of LGBT identity and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Paul has already told his as has Brett, so check these out to see what kind of stories are being told. We are very interested in diverse perspectives and, particularly, in voices that we don’t hear as often: lesbians, transgender people, LGBT Mormons from around the world, and allies in the Church. If you would like to submit a story, reach me by email.

This is what we are calling the “Faces of Affirmations” project. You better represent.

Affirmation Contests Proposition 8 Amicus Brief Filed by LDS Church

National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Mormons Challenges LDS Church on Landmark Civil Rights Case

Salt Lake City – February 4, 2013 – Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons, the leading international organization for gay and lesbian Mormons, today presented its perspective on the Amicus Curiae brief filed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Church to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Proposition 8. Affirmation is also requesting clarification from LDS church officials on whether same-sex couples with or without children will be welcomed within congregations of the Mormon Church.

In contrast to the brief filed by the LDS Church, which hinges on the belief that a family can be only composed of a man, a woman and their children, Affirmation’s membership includes many same-sex couples, including couples who are providing foster care for children, have adopted children, or who are raising their own biological children. Affirmation firmly believes that these families deserve the same treatment, and the same legal and societal protection as opposite-sex couples and their children.

In 2008, the LDS Church more actively participated to pass California’s Proposition 8 than it had on any other political issue in the past. LDS officials urged members to become involved with the cause, who then contributed as much as half of the $40 million raised and up to 90 percent of the initial volunteer force to support the ballot measure.

Since then, the Church has lessened its involvement in ballot initiatives involving marriage equality, assisted in passing a housing and employment non-discrimination act in Salt Lake City and launched, an official website encouraging church membership to reach out and love “all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

Unfortunately, for many gay Mormons, their families, and fellow LDS Church members, the filing of the amicus brief calls into question the more inclusive tone and efforts the LDS church has made to address the needs of its LGBT members the past four years. The Church argues that marriage as an institution to bind parents to children is a public good that should be recognized and supported by the state, ignoring the fact that LGBT couples with children provide similar public good and deserve the same recognition and support from the state.

“I agree that churches should have the freedom to petition the government and that Proposition 8 should not be invalidated due to religious support of the initiative,” said Affirmation President Randall Thacker. “However, we believe Proposition 8 should be invalidated on the grounds that it denies protections to same-sex couples who have committed to care and provide for each other and their children, a grouping that is clearly defined as a family by the majority of society.”

Spencer Clark, President of Mormons for Marriage Equality and straight ally adds his voice stating, “I agree with the Church that the law should promote strong families and stable environments for the raising of children. Unfortunately, Proposition 8 provides no additional benefits to straight couples while denying substantial benefits and legitimacy to gay and lesbian couples who are also raising children. The brief argues for a conception of marriage that blatantly ignores the hundreds of thousands of children in the United States being raised by same-sex couples, pretending that these loving families don’t exist.

“I personally know and admire many loving gay families and find it unconscionable for them to be treated any differently under the law than I myself would like to be treated, and I invite everyone to get to know some of these families, who are our neighbors and fellow citizens.”

Affirmation advocates for LGBT Mormons, including those who are married, in a civil union or partnered with a member of their same sex. The organization firmly believes that marriage equality strengthens the institution of the family and that gay couples and their children deserve every societal and legal protection afforded to straight couples. Visit to learn more about the organization and read stories about the significance marriage means to gay couples and their families.

Peter van der Walt
Peter van der Walt

The Alma Proposition

The more you try, the more it grows. Good seeds grow. Good seeds bring good fruit.

by Peter van der Walt

I don’t know you.

I don’t know your story, your background, or your experiences. I am not here to tell you that you must see as I do, think as I do, or believe as I do. I haven’t found the truth–I’m just another human looking for it, constantly. You may want to know how to grow your own faith in God. Something that works for you – not for me, or one of the million or so self-appointed experts all over the world.

Maybe you already believe in God but feel distant from Him. Maybe you feel that you are not worthy. Maybe someone told you that you are not worthy. Maybe you haven’t prayed in years. Maybe you are not sure whether God exists or not. Maybe someone taught you to hate God. Maybe you don’t believe at all, ever or anymore, but something in you wants to.

The good thing is this: it’s not about what others say, what others do, how millions or billions of adherents or followers or brethren live and conduct their words, deeds, and thoughts.

The traditional definition of a relationship with God is one (1) person and (1) God. Redefining THIS relationship is idolatry.

It’s not about the sins committed by religionists, the strictures and codes of religious legalism, or the foot-in-mouth tendency of the religious who meddle in secular politics. It’s not even about the judgment, abuse, discrimination, false teaching or even violence that may have been inflicted on you by the members of your own or another faith.

This is about you and God.

It is separate and distinct from any particular religious background. It is a relationship that exists, or could exist, between you and a Heavenly Father that is kind, just, decent and holy. He is a good guy, not a bad guy, like many of his ambassadors will pretend.

You can find strength in that relationship. It can nourish you and nurture you–give you strength to deal with the religious and the non-religious alike. You can feel God’s presence in your life.

For a long time, I disbelieved entirely and totally. Then, one day, I read what seemed to me to be an infinitely rational, reasonable proposition.

How do you grow faith if you don’t know how? Considering how negative the majority of religious inputs may be in your life, or how irrational a concept it seems.

In Alma 32, I read how a “despised, shunned, cast-out, afflicted, unacceptable, not-good-enough” group of people went to hear Alma preach. Alma preached about faith, and told them that they are those who say, “If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe” (v. 17).

Alma’s response to this ultimate challenge on faith is almost blunt; starting on verse 27, he asks them to AROUSE THEIR FACULTIES (not dumb it down, not oversimplify, not say just do it ‘cause I say so). He tells them in that statement to start thinking, to start observing, to be willing to “experiment upon his words.”

Start with a little trust –whatever you can muster– and give it a go. See what happens. If it doesn’t work, well–you lose very little. If it does work, try a little more.

The more you try, the more it grows. Good seeds grow. Good seeds bring good fruit.

“But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow” (verse 30).

It’s simple karma, really. What you focus on you get more of.

If all you know is condemnation, then faith equals condemnation. Don’t let them rob you; empower yourself. It does not have to be a choice between fanaticism and unbelief, reason and faith, love and justice.

A billion people negotiate this issue in a billion different ways. You may like reading your scriptures. Or singing hymns. Or meditating. Or praying. Or fasting. Or serving. Work with your strengths, do what works for you.

In his personal writings, Joseph Smith wrote: “Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and at the same time more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect in every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be.”

Quorum of Twelve and First Presidency member Hugh B. Brown added: “A sense of relationship and co-partnership with God involves the concept of universal brotherhood and that will help to develop intelligent tolerance, open-mindedness, and good-natured optimism. Life is really a battle between fear and faith, pessimism and optimism. Fear and pessimism paralyze men with skepticism and futility.”

Another of my favorite Hugh B. Brown quotes: “Now I have mentioned freedom to express your thoughts, but I caution you that your thoughts and expressions must meet competition in the market place of thought, and in that competition truth will emerge triumphant. Only error needs to fear freedom of expression. Seek truth in all fields, and in that search you will need at least three virtues; courage, zest, and modesty. The ancients put that thought in the form of a prayer. They said, ‘From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half-truth, from the arrogance that thinks it has all truth—O God of truth deliver us’.”

So don’t be afraid, and don’t let yourself be bullied. Develop your relationship with God, so that you stand in a position of strength. Go ahead. Shake things up. Try a little and see what you get.

Affirmation Conference

2013 Annual Affirmation Conference: “New Frontiers”
To be held in Salt Lake City September 13-15

With activities and workshops specifically for parents, families, youth, friends, and church leaders, the 2013 Affirmation conference will be more fun, musical, spiritual, and educational than you can imagine! The conference will officially kick off Friday afternoon, lasting through Sunday.

Cost: This year’s conference registration fee will be only $99 or less depending on how much of the conference you plan to attend. This is a major reduction in cost from previous conferences. We also negotiated an especially low rate for the hotel: $99 for 2 people, $109 for 3 people, and $119 for 4 people per night.

Transportation: For the first time ever, you will be able to travel from the Salt Lake City airport to the conference without a taxi or a rental car: The city is expanding the light rail system to the airport, and getting to the University Guesthouse will be as simple as hopping onto the light rail and changing from the green line to the red line at the Courthouse station in downtown Salt Lake.

The Planning Committee, is hard at work, and we expect to open registration soon. If you have suggestions for conference speakers or events, this is the time to share them with us. Contact Doug Balls or talk with the committee in person at the April 5 social to be held in Salt Lake City.

Please make plans to join us September 13-15 in Salt Lake City for an unforgettable event. You’ll be glad you came.

Jared RipplingerJared Ripplinger

LGBT Mormons and Allies Share Bonds, Music, Food

Diversity Celebrated at West Valley Social

By Corey Howard

Utah’s March LDS/LGBT Monthly social was held at the lovely home of Sarah Irish Nicholson in West Valley.

As we all arrived, and the kitchen island filled with an array of delicious food brought by everyone, the house was humming with everyone becoming acquainted, or renewing acquaintance from past socials and other circles. It was great to have children present and participating—spreading their own sunshine through the room.

After a spiritually sweet opening prayer, we arranged ourselves in and around Sarah’s wonderfully long feast-type table and family room. Dr. William Bradshaw presented the spiritual message. Dr. Bradshaw is well-known as an ally, and his background as a retired professor of Biology from BYU equips him with a vital source of the solid, scientific knowledge we need. Many people openly spoke of their anticipation to meet and hear from him. His remarks went beyond biology and into the realm of compassion, addressing the flawed cliché of “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”. Dr. Bradshaw illustrated the broken behavior we promote by introducing Hate into the equation in any form. He has generously agreed to share his presentation in digital form, and we hope to make that accessible soon.

After Dr. Bradshaw’s remarks, everyone in the room gave a short introduction of themselves. As one of the group said : “It allowed for easy conversation and connection for the rest of the evening. As always, the best part was the opportunity for new friendships and connections. I was uplifted to witness the fellowship, hope, love, and laughter present among everyone.”

There were about 30 people present, from organized groups such as Affirmation, Family Fellowship, Mormons Building Bridges, Reconciliation, and USGA (BYU). There were also people attending who “heard it through the grapevine”.

Jared Ripplinger was our musical guest on viola—and for future reference, we need to ask him to play more than one number. He has written music since a very young age, and on this occasion performed “Thou Gracious God Whose Mercy Lends”. It was beautiful. He has released five albums—the most recent being “Spectrum”.

Scott Nicholson (from the Utah Gay Fathers Association) provided karaoke, and after another long period of socializing, the singing began. The majority of those brave enough were the band of young people from BYU. Their uninhibited enthusiasm made the music a success, and the fun lasted until about midnight, when they left to make the ride back home to Utah County.

One strength of this gathering is the bringing together of many perspectives of people who are in varying stages and positions as LDS/LGBT members, partners, and allies. Especially timely this month, as one guest was a father whose teen son came out only a few weeks before. This father is in the process of trying to learn and gather information. He expressed gratitude for the love and welcome he felt.

Scott and Sarah Nicholson were troopers. Sarah having broken her wrist, and undergone surgery only the day before the event. Their family set a tone of fun and welcome. The next day, after a late night house full of people, Sarah said it had lifted her spirits. This is representative of how everyone feels at the socials.

Some quotes from those who attended:

“I love the multi generational diversity that we have at these gatherings…. Also the variety of individuals: LGBT , MOM, and allies. Would love to see some church leadership show up at these gatherings. We should invite the prophet! Wouldn’t that be cool!”

“Many thanks – my kids had a really good time. One especially enjoyed having a place to hang out that was safe and not sexually charged, which he’s trying to stay away from. I think a supportive multi-generational setting is really helpful in this respect…”

“We met some great people, most of whom are parents of LGBT. I enjoyed meeting the kids from BYU. Cute doesn’t cover it. My husband says he felt a tremendous outpouring of the spirit and that everyone was so kind. “The openness and willingness of others to share their life stories and experiences was remarkable.” We compared how we were treated as parents of autistic children and their experiences as the parents of a gay child. Rejection was the key similarity. We talked about how hard it is to stay involved with your neighbors when they actively reject your children.”

John W. Mackay
Attorney John W. Mackay is one of many Latter-day Saints who believe in marriage equality

“Allowing People the Freedom to Plant Their Spiritual Roots”

On the Eve of Supreme Court Debate on Prop 8, a Growing Number of Mormons Are Coming Out in Support of Marriage Equality

by Hugo Salinas

Three weeks from today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Prop 8. Lawyers working for the LDS Church recently filed an amicus brief restating arguments against marriage equality, yet none of those arguments changes the reality of the historic time we live in: Today, a record 61 percent of Californians support marriage equality, and a majority of young Americans also support same-sex marriage. Do you know what that means? Even if the Supreme Court were to rule against marriage equality, LDS leaders are fighting a cause that they already lost in the court of public opinion.

For me, nothing is more hopeful than what I see at the grassroots: A growing number of Latter-day Saints who support equality not despite their religious beliefs, but because of them. Many Mormons today find inspiration in LDS teachings about justice and equality. To paraphrase a scripture we all learned in seminary, many Latter-day Saints want to “bring to pass much righteousness,” “do many things of their own free will,” and “be anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27). Not merely engaged, but anxiously engaged in good cause!

There are many examples of this dramatic move—from the grassroots organization Mormons for Equality to prominent Latter-day Saints like Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Jon Huntsman. Morris A. Thurston, a Mormon lawyer from California, recently wrote a critique of the Church’s amicus brief in which he compares some of the arguments the LDS Church is making for Prop 8 to the kind of discrimination that once banned interracial marriage. Kevin Kloosterman, who until last year served as an LDS bishop, joined a coalition of clergy and faith leaders on a press conference in support marriage equality in Illinois. Spencer Clark, executive director of Mormons for Equality, joined Affirmation leaders in a response to the LDS brief by saying, “I personally know and admire many loving gay families and find it unconscionable for them to be treated any differently under the law than I myself would like to be treated and I invite everyone to get to know some of these families, who are our neighbors and fellow citizens.”

The most recent of these Mormon voices calling for equality is John W. Mackay, an LDS lawyer from Utah who co-authored a 52-page amicus brief in support of marriage equality. “In places like Utah, there is a system of laws that chips away at hope and dignity at every step in the life of a gay man or lesbian woman,” Mackay told LDS author Joanna Brooks. “And to me, that was compelling enough, but it was also compelling to me that those are the same spiritual principles I identify within my Mormon faith. We care about human dignity and potential; we care about allowing people the freedom to plant their spiritual roots.”

I want to invite you to think about the historic moment we live in—a time when a majority of Americans no longer believe that same-sex marriage is a curse, but a blessing; not a threat to society, but one of its strengths. At this time, we join people of all faiths and stripes who believe, just like we do, that governments must make and administer laws “for the good and safety of society” (D&C 134:1) and that “happiness is the object and design of our existence” (Joseph Smith, April 1842).

Mormons to Rally for Nondiscrimination

March 12 at 5:00 pm at the Utah Capitol

A group of faithful Latter-day Saints will gather at the south steps of the Utah Capitol on March 12 to rally in support of nondiscrimination. The event is being organized by Spencer W. Clark, executive director of Mormons for Equality, and other Mormons who want Utah to pass legislation against discrimination.

“This is a faith-based family event for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to show our Mormon values of pure, unconditional love and inclusion,” the rally announcement reads. “We support nondiscrimination in our state, and believe that as disciples of Christ we must protect the most vulnerable among us.

“We will gather under the American flag at the south Capitol steps respectfully as families with children and strollers, wearing our Sunday best, carrying signs with the words of the Prophets, scriptures, and our Mormon hymns and songs.”


4:00 p.m.: Setup

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.: Event; speakers TBD

Opening Prayer
Opening Hymn: Come, Come Ye Saints, #30
Children’s Chorus: “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus”; parents, please accompany your primary-aged children who would like to join in to the top of the steps to sing before the assembly
Slow march from the Capitol steps to the promenade and back
Closing Hymn: God Be With You Till We Meet Again, #152
Closing Prayer

This is one of several Mormon groups supporting an anti-discrimination bill currently under discussion at the Utah Capitol. Mormons Building Bridges has also issued a statement in support of a statewide anti-discrimination bill. In November 2009, the LDS Church endorsed an employment and housing non-discrimination act in Salt Lake City which was the model for similar ordinances passed by 15 cities across Utah.

For more information about this event and ideas for signs, visit the group’s Facebook invitation.

Mormons Building Bridges

Mormons Building Bridges Announces Its Support for Statewide Anti-Discrimination Bill in Utah

Statement: “Ponder this issue and consider Jesus’ teaching to do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

From a statement posted on the Mormons Building Bridges website

“Mormons Building Bridges is happy to lend its support for legislation sponsored by Equality Utah that will ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity in housing and employment. In 2009, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was instrumental in the passage of the Salt Lake City municipal ordinance that guaranteed LGBT people the right to work and have a roof over their heads without being discriminated against. Since then, fifteen municipalities including West Valley City, Taylorsville, and Logan have passed similar statutes. Passage of this latest bill will extend these protections to all Utahns.

“Mormons Building Bridges is an organization devoted to reaching out to the LGBT community and making our congregations safe and welcoming for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Our religion teaches us the Golden Rule; securing basic housing and workplace rights for all our brothers and sisters puts that principle into action. We encourage our fellow church members to ponder this issue and consider Jesus’ teaching to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Mormons Building Bridges is one of several LDS groups supporting an anti-discrimination bill currently under discussion at the Utah Capitol. Another Mormon group will gather at the south steps of the Utah Capitol on March 12 to also rally in support of the bill.

A longer version of the Mormons Building Bridges statement is posted on their website.

John Gustav-Wrathall on CNN

Affirmation Vice President Featured on CNN

John Gustav-Wrathall: “Are we going to send people a message that you have to lie or hide?”

by Hugo Salinas

Affirmation Senior Vice President John Gustav-Wrathall was featured today on CNN’s OutFront show with Erin Burnett in a segment about the “Mormon influence on Boy Scouts as [the] organization reconsiders [its] gay ban.” The LDS Church, which sponsors over 30,000 Boys Scouts units nationwide, issued a statement today praising the Boy Scouts of America for delaying a decision that could have lifted the ban on gays being allowed in the program.

“I can’t see how being gay, having that sexual orientation, should be any kind of hindrance at all to participating fully in the Church in youth activities which include the Boy Scouts,” said John, who is an Eagle Scout and is active in his local ward, despite the fact that he was excommunicated in 1986.

“I just talked to an individual who is active in the Church today; he is gay, and he served as a Scoutmaster,” John added. “There are so many of us who have participated for a long time—our behavior within the organization has been exemplary. The question here is, ‘Are we going to send people a message that you have to lie or hide, [or] live in fear that other people are going to find out about this?’”

“I came to a point in my life journey when I almost committed suicide because of my anguish about this,” John concluded. “And to be open about it—this is a huge thing if you’re gay or lesbian.”

One week ago, Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons issued a statement urging the Boy Scouts of America to allow LGBT Mormon youth to participate fully in the youth programs of their wards.

Additional Stories Recently Posted on the Affirmation Website and Blog

Kerry L. Rutz (1959 – 2013)

One Voice Choir to Present Concert

MormonsAndGays Website Mentioned in ‘The Ensign’

Mormons to Hold LGBT-related Conference in Arizona

Brother Kloosterman Goes To Springfield

Still Straight after All These Years: The Boy Scouts of America

Lee Beckstead and Jim Struve to Facilitate LGBTQ Workshop

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Randall Thacker

Randall Thacker grew up in Taylorsville, Utah, the youngest of three children. He recognized his attraction to the same sex when he was about 8 years old. He grew up focusing prayers, fasts, and birthday candle wishes on removing this attraction.

Not long after returning from a Spanish-Speaking mission to North Carolina, he reached out for help to his BYU bishop who referred him to counseling. The counseling focused on changing Randall’s orientation because he longed to create an ideal Mormon family with many children.

After graduating from BYU with a B.A. in History, Randall moved to Salt Lake City, where after falling in love with a straight friend, he returned to reparative therapy and began attending group therapy as well. Luckily, one of the group therapists introduced Randall to the possibility of self-acceptance.

Randall’s journey of self-acceptance was a long one though, which included a moment of great despair shortly after moving to Washington, DC in 2002. Thanks to compassionate friends and family and a new understanding that he could separate God from emotionally harmful doctrine, Randall moved on. After almost ten years of studying and visiting other faiths and at times none at all, Randall returned to regular attendance at his local LDS ward in 2011, embraced by ward leaders who are welcoming and affirming. “I know that God and spirituality are broader than just the LDS church, yet I also have a testimony of the Restoration and feel the Spirit guiding me to walk my journey of spiritual growth as a Latter-Day Saint.”

Besides his work with Affirmation, Randall is passionate about improving education in Mexico and loves his work as a management consultant and leadership coach, helping individuals and organizations reach their potential. He enjoys rowing, bicycling, running, skiing, reading, and spending time with family and friends.


John Gustav-Wrathall

John Gustav-Wrathall is an adjunct professor of American Religious History at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. He is the author of Take the Young Stranger by the Hand: Same-Sex Dynamics and the Young Men's Christian Association (University of Chicago Press, 1998). He has also published articles in Sunstone and Dialogue on being gay and Mormon, and is the author of the Young Stranger blog. Though excommunicated from the LDS Church, John has a testimony, and has been active in his south Minneapolis ward since 2005.

John became an activist for greater understanding of LGBT people at the University of Minnesota in the late 1980s, and was instrumental in the establishment of one of the first university-based LGBT programs offices in the U.S. He pioneered the establishment of an inter-faith LGBT ministry at the University of Minnesota. For three years he was actively involved in Lutherans Concerned (now Reconciling Works), as a member of the Twin Cities Board, coordinating their “Reconciled in Christ” project for the state of Minnesota, helping to build a movement of LGBT-friendly Lutheran congregations. Over the years he has spoken in churches and community forums, on university campuses and in religious assemblies and conferences (including at the Sunstone Symposium and at Affirmation conferences) about the issues affecting LGBT people in communities of faith.

John has served as the Minnesota contact for Affirmation since the fall of 2005, and was part of the conference planning committee for the 2012 Affirmation conference in Seattle. He served as Senior Vice President of Affirmation, 2013-2014. He was actively involved as a volunteer, trainer, and faith community leader in the campaign that successfully defeated Minnesota Amendment 1, which would have constitutionally banned same-sex marriage in his home state. He organized Minnesota Mormons United for All Families, and the “Mormon Allies” contingent of the Twin Cities Gay Pride parade in 2012.

He currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his husband of over twenty years, to whom he was legally married in Riverside, California in July 2008, and with whom he has foster parented three sons.


Tina Richerson

Tina Richerson grew up off the grid (without electricity or running water) in a part-member LDS home in the Columbia Gorge of Washington State she the second of six children. Her mother taught her faithfulness, charity, and to follow Jesus Christ. At age 13, while praying, Tina received a spiritual confirmation that, just like her uncle Michael, she too was gay.

In addition to her LDS upbringing, Tina’s life has been enriched by experiences in other religious traditions. In college she accompanied a girlfriend to a Pentecostal church, where she was received with open arms and felt God’s unconditional grace. Later she found a new spiritual path as she explored Zen Buddhism and began practicing daily sessions of meditation.

Eventually, Tina read the writings of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh who affirms that one cannot simply convert to Buddhism and leave one’s religious roots behind—that there must be a union of Buddhist practice and what one was raised to believe. “When I read this, I knew it to be true.” Tina says, “I knew that eventually I would have to return to the [LDS] church.”

Tina is currently active in her local LDS ward, where she’s out as a lesbian woman. She serves in her ward as the Ward Coir Director and in her Stake as the Director of the Family History Center. Tina also actively participates in the New York chapter of Affirmation.

In a talk given to her Relief Society she shared “I have learned that God’s will is not what I thought. I didn’t need to spend years trying to make myself straight. I just needed to ask for the guidance and courage to become who He created me to be, and He has given it to me, and continues to give it to me.”

Tina concluded her talk by quoting 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” She follows the belief that change can only happen from the inside out. Attending church will spawn the growth and awareness we need.

Tina is classically trained in saxophone performance. She is a member of the internationally acclaimed Tiptons Saxophone Quartet and Drums, founded in 1988. Music is her passion and life’s work. When Tina is not touring with the Tiptons, she can be found playing with her own ensemble. As well as being a freelance musician in New York City, she enjoys physical activity and healthy food.

To hear Tina play the saxophone, visit her official website or the band’s website at


Karin Hendricks

Karin Hendricks grew up in Logan, UT in a loving and devout LDS family, and currently lives in Indiana with her spouse Tawnya. Karin has delighted in being a “mother” and “grandmother” to thousands of children and youth through her work as a music teacher and university professor. She and Tawnya also work locally, nationally, and internationally as researchers and advocates for music education, women, LGBTQ individuals, and youth.

Karin knew from an early age that she was “different,” and in her teens she began to privately meet with church leaders to find a way to change her sexual orientation. For the next 22 years she suppressed her same-sex attraction and endured a journey that mixed extreme church activity and leadership (including as President of every auxiliary organization) with various health problems, physical pain, and depression.

At age 39, Karin began a spiritual discernment process to help her reconcile her sexual orientation with her spirituality. It was in coming to recognize the powerful spirit in diverse places and people that she gained enough courage to be genuinely herself. She then came out to her parents and siblings, who amazed her with their unconditional love and genuine desire to understand. In her final trip to the temple, she had a powerful experience in which she came to understand that she should serve in a global capacity alongside her (then) best friend Tawnya. Karin and Tawnya were married in Massachusetts a year later, and have since enjoyed a loving, spirit-centered companionship that is modeled after the marriage ideals that were taught in both of their churches of origin.

Karin and Tawnya celebrate the diversity of divine expression in all people, religions, cultures, and individual life paths. Karin is grateful to Affirmation for providing her and others a safe and unconditionally loving space to be fully themselves. She is happy to serve among this community of unique individuals as they help one another cultivate a deeper inner peace.


Tawnya Smith

Tawnya Smith serves Affirmation as the moderator of the Teleconference Series on Healing. Tawnya became affiliated with Affirmation through her partner Karin Hendricks, the Spiritual Director of Affirmation. Tawnya is an arts educator with training in expressive arts therapy, and is currently conducting interdisciplinary research concerning spirituality and states of conscious awareness in arts learning environments.

Tawnya currently identifies herself as inter-spiritual, however, she grew up in and was a member of the Church of the Brethren in her youth. In her early twenties, at the time she came out to herself, she stopped attending church and began to study other religious traditions. During her late twenties and early thirties, she continued this intellectual study of the world’s religions and attended the Unitarian Universalist Church. Later she began to attend a Mennonite Church (a similar denomination to the Church of the Brethren) where she began to integrate and reconcile her spiritual self with her religious roots. Since that time, she has continued to open to new understandings and deeper perceptions of spiritual truths in any form. She especially appreciates Ken Wilber’s idea of the Three Faces of the Divine (first, second, and third person experiences of the Divine) as she finds that this honors and integrates all spiritual experience. Tawnya became familiar with the LDS church during the time of her courtship with Karin as she attended sacrament meeting and sang in the ward choir. Currently, Tawnya and Karin are exploring inter-spiritual understandings with the guidance of a spiritual director.


David Baker

David Baker grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and Amarillo, Texas with dreams of becoming an Air Force pilot probably inspired by the movie Top Gun. It was watching that beach volleyball scene that he should have realized his sexuality, but instead he went on to keep his attractions repressed until his freshman year at BYU when, after conferring with his bishop it was determined it was best if he didn’t continue his education at BYU.

David spent the better part of 3 years struggling to accept his sexuality as a part of his life instead of continually repressing it. The repression took the form of Evergreen-supported counseling to try to change his orientation, deep depression, and a suicide attempt. David rose out of his despair after a personal revelation in the temple in which he was told of the Savior’s love for him and the plan that he had for David to search for a husband.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from the University of Utah, David moved out to Washington DC where he finally embraced the love of the Savior, accepted himself fully and found a ward that embraced him as an openly gay Mormon. He has since served in that ward in several callings, most notably the chair of the cultural events committee. He loves his ward and the friends, allies, and fellow LGBT members that he has met and helped to come out while in that ward.

Far from becoming the Air Force pilot that he dreamed of as a child, David started working on political campaigns in Utah and ultimately in Washington DC. He now serves as a digital strategist to political campaigns and interest groups and enjoys every gut-wrenching moment of it because of the joy it brings. His favorite political experience is when he got to read the The Book of Mormon in the White House’s private library. In the little spare time he has you can find David reading a biography, fencing, playing video games, volunteering, or still following the Savior’s personal call and searching for a husband.


Todd Richardson

Todd Richardson grew up in Grand Junction, Colorado. He comes from a large family, the eldest of 6 kids and 2 loving parents. Growing up, Todd realized he was attracted to the same sex but was convinced that when he found “the right girl,” the “problem” would go away.

After serving a mission and graduating from BYU, Todd moved to New York City to teach at a middle school. He busied himself with as much church service and work as possible, so as not to have to worry about his sexuality. Having no intention of ever coming out of the closet, focusing on other aspects of life seemed like the best use of his mental energy. However, randomly watching a YouTube video of a gay Mormon touched him deeply. It prompted him, for the first time in his life, to truly seek divine guidance with an open heart and mind. Self-acceptance came as he felt the undeniable peace of God’s acceptance-an acceptance he quickly realized had always been there.

From that peace came the desire to come out to friends and family. He is grateful for their unyielding support. He is also grateful for the lasting friendships he has made through Affirmation. Attending the Kirtland Affirmation conference in 2011 was a pivotal moment in Todd’s life; he is grateful for the opportunity to serve in the organization.

Currently Todd works at a charter school in Harlem, and goes to school in Maryland. He enjoys spending time with his family and friends, attending church, running, golfing, and vacationing.


Alasdair Ekpenyong

Alasdair Ekpenyong is an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University. He is the first to admit that he does not have all the answers, and it is this sense of awareness that leads him to so value the work of creating safe spaces for spiritual growth and exploration and.

He believes that everyone can stand to benefit in some way from such practices as prayer, study, conversation, and introspection--everyone can stand to benefit from reflecting on past and present truths and discovering new truths.

Though well-versed in Mormon history and theology, Alasdair also studies many other forms of theism and nontheism as a participant in the interfaith academic community. He enjoys using the methods of postmodern critical theory to better understand the place of himself and others within contemporary society and culture.

Alasdair's writing has appeared in such forums as the BYU Student Review and the interfaith blog State of Formation. He hails from Baltimore, Maryland, and lives in the Salt Lake-Provo area.


Trevor Cook

Trevor grew up in Mesa, Arizona, served a mission in Calgary, Canada, and graduated from BYU in International Relations and Linguistics. He used the time he saved not going on dates or having much of a social life to learn Chinese and continues to be fascinated by things China. He spent a year between Nanjing and Hong Kong after graduation and now is living a dream working at the US consulate in scenic Shenyang, Liaoning.

Although he enjoys the Middle Kingdom, Trevor misses hanging out with his five younger siblings and their growing families. He is grateful for a loving family and mostly happy childhood during which he was able to gain a testimony of a Heavenly Father and his love that has served him through later darker days and continues to sustain him. He is very proud of his parents who are reaching out to love and encourage a new and growing LGBT family at home in Arizona.

Sometimes Trevor wishes he could ditch his faith because it would make his life a lot easier. However, he can’t abandon his personal relationship with God, and--whatever life brings--he can’t see himself not praying. Similarly, while he has mixed feelings about the Church and his enthusiasm for the institution waxes and wanes, he believes in Zion and imagines he will always strive--in one way or another--to bring it about.


Fred Bowers

Frederick “Fred” Bowers has been a part of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons for over 20 years. Fred has served in leadership roles at the chapter and national levels for many years including: Washington DC Chapter Director; Chapter-at-Large Director; Assistant Vice President for Strategy and Development; Affirmation National Board of Directors; Conference Director; and founder and current Director of the Affirmation People of Color and Allies Group.

A former career U.S. Air Force Financial Management Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, Fred is currently employed as a management and technology consultant for a leading international consulting firm and is involved with its LGBT business resource group. He also is involved with Out and Equal Workplace Advocates as part of their People of Color Advisory Committee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management from John Brown University, and a dual master's degree in Public Administration and Management from Webster University. Fred is a native of Fort Worth, Texas, and currently resides in Arlington, Virginia.


Lismarie & Michael Nyland

Mike and I met in 1995 while attending BYU in Provo, UT. We were married in 1997 and graduated together in 1998, Mike with a BA in Geography and Lismarie with a BFA in Design and Photography. We currently live in Bremerton, WA (a ferry ride away from Seattle) and stay busy raising two girls and two boys.

2012 was an eventful and busy year for our family as we became involved with Mormons for Marriage Equality, marched in the Seattle Pride Parade, and attended the Affirmation Conference in Seattle. We continue to support the cause of full acceptance and equality for all of our LGBT brothers and sisters.


Suzi Fei

Suzi Fei lives in Portland, Oregon, and is a wife, a mother of one young daughter, and an active and devout Latter-day Saint. She has a Ph.D. in computational biology and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon Health & Science University studying cancer genomics. Over the years, she has served in many callings in the church including Relief Society presidencies and Oregon State University Latter-day Saint Student Association president.

Suzi has a deep love for LGBTQ Mormons and serves in several capacities that aim to increase love and acceptance within the church. She's on the steering committee for Mormons Building Bridges and the ally committee for Affirmation. She also formed a local group for gay Mormons in Oregon and SW Washington. Her husband, Yiyang, is on their stake’s high council and works with their stake president to train leaders and members in how to be more loving to gay members.


Duane Andersen

Duane Andersen is a film producer, writer, and director. His films have been released theatrically throughout the world and have played at major festivals such as Sundance and South by Southwest. Films he has produced include White on Rice, Surrogate Valentine, Last Kind Words, Congratulations, Daylight Savings, Crazy Beats Strong Every Time, and others. He is also CEO of the start-up company Brainwave Accounting Systems which is developing accounting software for independent media projects. He received an MFA in painting from State University of New York at Buffalo and taught as an adjunct art professor at Brigham Young University for nine years.

While Duane works professionally out of Los Angeles, he lives in the lovely town of Salem, Utah with his wife Rachel and their three sons. An active member of his local LDS ward he has served as a Mission Leader, an Elders Quorum President, and as a Counselor in a Branch Presidency (in Brooklyn, NY). His involvement in Affirmation and other LGBT causes stems from being raised by progressive LDS parents in Palo Alto, California and from his close association with gay teachers, mentors, and friends throughout his life. Recently several of his film projects have been gay-themed including the forth coming drama Facing East based on the play by Carol Lynn Pearson and the documentary An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi Story.

Duane has for years thought that what the church needed were its gay Jackie Robinsons. “Jackie Robinson was chosen to be the first black player to play in the major leagues by Dodger general manager, Branch Rickey, not because he was the best black player available, but because he had the strongest character,” says Duane. “Branch Rickey knew that he was the one who would not spit back, who would not give up, who would keep at it no matter what people said or did to him. We also need are more Branch Rickeys. We need the Bishops and Stake Presidents who are the ones speaking up. Who are standing behind their man (or woman), who are setting the tone.”


Peter van der Walt

Peter van der Walt lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He grew up in various small towns in a relatively staunch Calvinist family. He realized he was different at age four… and at age fourteen, in a conservative, Afrikaans high school, came out. After reading the Book of Mormon, pondering about its relevance to him as an out gay South African man and praying (for the first time in years), he had to come out again… but this time as a Mormon.

He began his career as clown at a local steakhouse… no, seriously. Since then he’s been a waiter, a guest house assistant, a bankteller, an assistant real estate assessor, an auctioneer and a medical practice manager – among other things. For the past ten years he stopped pretending to want a real job and he now writes professionally, in the communications and strategy fields.

He enjoys listening to and making music in his spare time, tortures himself at a gym, practices some martial arts (if he feels very inspired, say, after watching an old Kung Fu movie) and hangs out with family and friends.

Peter believes that being a Gay Mormon is a fascinating and amazing journey and that it should be a joyous one. It is true that there are many personal histories that include their share of hurts, scrapes, bumps and bruises – but it is also true that LGBT Mormons are loved by their Heavenly Father. Pete strongly advocates having some fun with your life and living each day as joyfully as possible.

Peter contributes to networking and communications, seeing service to Affirmation as a religious obligation for himself, as a gay Mormon… and as a way to make amazing friends all over the world and have some fun being both gay and Mormon. When it comes to living up to the measure of your creation, there’s no time like right now.


Mark Schneider

Mark Schneider grew up in western Pennsylvania as a 2nd generation Mormon, the third of four siblings. An idealist at heart, Mark took his faith seriously and sought to please all the right people by doing all the right things, sometimes at the expense of being true to himself. At nineteen, he went on an LDS mission to Florida where he learned valuable lessons from the Haitian community there: levity in the face of hardship, faith in God’s ability to communicate with His children according to individual need, and how to eat enormous amounts of rice in one sitting.

Upon returning from his mission, Mark envisioned a typical LDS life for himself, one with a wife, kids, and a church calling. Instead, God put him on the eye-opening path of the gay Latter-day Saint. He learned what it meant to fast and pray and hope for a change that would not come. He learned what it meant to not fully belong in the Church and what it meant to not fully belong in the world either. And he learned that, in spite of what people say, sometimes even the “right” people, God cares less about who we love and more about how well.

While Mark does not count out the possibility of a wife, being one part gay and one part straight, he is committed to the cause of the LGBT community out of principle and out of love. From his Mormon eyes, he sees the full inclusion of LGBT Saints in the Church as a critical step in its long walk to Zion.


Sam Noble

Sam Noble grew up in Muncie, Indiana, served a mission in Taiwan, studied business strategy at BYU, and has recently worked in Minneapolis for two years. Mark Twain said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Sam has found that to ring true in his life as he’s successfully sought out opportunities to travel the globe since his mission, including working at the Beijing and London Olympics.

Although aware from a very young age of his attraction to other boys, Sam repressed his sexuality until after his mission. He then spent several years rediscovering God’s love and how his feelings for men align with that. During that time, he found love and support from Fred and Marilyn Matis and friends he met through their firesides. A counselor at BYU helped him come out to his wonderfully supportive family. He’s found love and truth to guide him in countless religious and secular settings, both in and out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He was introduced to Affirmation after meeting John Gustav-Wrathall while living in Minneapolis and is grateful and excited at the increased understanding happening in both LDS and LGBT communities. He has an ever-increasing testimony of the restored gospel and is currently active in the Muncie Indiana young-single-adult congregation.



Justin hails from Fairfax, Virginia, and before that, Texas. He served an LDS mission from 2006-2008 in Seoul, Korea. He's currently in medical school in Cork, Ireland.

Justin came out to his family on Christmas day in 2004, when he was a freshman at BYU. It was his Christmas present to himself. Since then, his family and friends have learned a lot about what it means to be gay and are now quite accepting. He continues to be pleasantly surprised and humbled by their understanding.

Justin was raised LDS but lost the faith as he grew up. He came back to the church in 2006--a journey inspired in part by Stuart Matis's story. He's glad for many of his experiences in the church but sincerely hopes for change in the organization and looks forward to when the LGBTQ community is fully accepted.


Prince Winbush

Prince Winbush III, 19, was born in Plano, Texas and grew up in suburban Chicago. He’s currently in his first year at Harold Washington College in Chicago, Illinois, studying Business Administration and Economics. Prince joined the LDS Church in 2008 with the full support of his Catholic family.

Prince came out to himself in late 2008 and struggled to tell his family for 4 years, but finally made the announcement in December of 2012. “I knew who I was and I knew my family still loved me, so I took the plunge,” Prince says.

Prince is still considering the next step--whether to continue with school or go on his mission. “I’ve wanted to be a missionary since the two elders knocked on my door and changed my life,” Prince says. He’s a bit hesitant as he fears making waves because of his sexual orientation.

This is Prince’s very first year in Affirmation. He found the group thanks to the Chicago Gay Pride Parade, where Affirmation Chicago marched. He’s very excited to meet new faces and work with everyone.


Melanie Carbine

Melanie Carbine moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan from Salt Lake City when she was 10. Fortunate to have grown up in a self-selected Mormon community of liberals and intellectuals, she has always been able to appreciate her religion for its spiritual benefits and community. Ironically, even though the first two people she saw kiss in public were women, she didn't realize her bisexuality was notable or different. She assumed all people's sexuality was as fluid as hers and would regularly conform to social expectations.

This understanding changed when she studied English Literature and Asian American Studies at the University of Michigan, studying also with performance artist Holly Hughes. It was among discussions with her straight and gay friends in college that she realized she was like both. Melanie didn't want to give up her religion but didn't think she should have to choose, so she hoped for change among Mormons and went on a mission in the Marshall Islands.

Working with so many young people and living in a developing country led her to a change in her career path. She received her teaching certification in K-8, Math and English. Teaching Middle School Math and English in both the Marshall Islands and now the DC area, she happened to be in the right place to find Affirmation. It's definitely a wonder to her to see the possibility of active LGBT Mormons accepted by their church communities. She also enjoys drawing, glass art and reading. Above all she loves traveling, being outdoors, and visiting friends.


Robert Moore

Robert grew up in Oregon and is 7th generation Mormon. When his family found out that he was gay, he was kicked out and disowned. He took what little money and clothing he had and bought a Greyhound bus ticket to Portland, Oregon.

“My first night sleeping on the street was very cold and rainy. On my second night in an effort to try to sleep indoors out of the cold put me in a situation that ended with me being raped." A few days later he was able to find a shelter for homeless youth. In the following months he found a paid internship and permanent housing.

Robert moved to San Francisco in 2007. Since the passage of Proposition 8 in California he has traveled the country fighting for Full Federal Equality for the LGBTQ community. Robert is an activist at heart and has stood up for marriage equality, women's rights, trans rights, worker's rights, LGBT people of faith, homelessness and suicide prevention. Since testing HIV positive on March 1, 2012 Robert is now working on HIV/AIDS awareness, advocacy and to end the stigma of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Since joining the leadership of Affirmation in 2009 Robert has served as the Young Adults Program Director, Outreach and Advocacy Director, Membership Director and in 2012 as Vice President.


Peter Howland

I currently work as a data entry specialist for a non-profit organization in Salem, Oregon, while residing in McMinnville, Oregon. I have attended Affirmation conferences since 2009, which is shortly after I became honest with myself and acknowledged that I am gay.

My spiritual journey continues to evolve. I am currently inactive in the LDS Church, but still (as far as I know) on the Church membership rolls. My path has led back to the Episcopal Church, which was the church my parents attended while I was growing up. Currently, I serve my local parish as a member of the vestry (the governing board of the parish).

I have no desire to completely sever my ties with the LDS church, and I fully support the members of Affirmation in whatever relationship they choose to have with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joining the LDS Church after missionary service age, I have not served a mission. However, I did host missionaries in my home for three years, which was an interesting experience.


Rapha Fernandes

Rapha Fernandes, 22, lives in Guarujá, on the coastline of Brazil near São Paulo. He knew he was gay since he was a young boy. At age 17, Rapha fell in love with a returned missionary. They dated and lived together for a long time.

The relationship eventually fizzled out, and Rapha returned to his parents’ home. “I had my first interview with the bishop in the Church [and] my parents together, and the stake presidency and the bishop began ‘the therapy’ without much result,” says Rapha. “Today I live a normal life, I am happy, I love making friends and meeting new people. I love doing different things, traveling going to the movies, theater, and the beach.”

Trying to reconcile his orientation with the gospel was an overwhelming challenge for Rapha, who tried to commit suicide twice.

“The Lord has always comforted me, taking away all the feelings of confusion I had in my heart and turning them into a single feeling: I KNOW THAT MY SAVIOR LOVES ME, KNOWS ME, UNDERSTANDS MY HEART ABOVE ALL THINGS. That was enough for me to live from that day forward, accepting who I am, happy to be a member of the Church and not to be confused in any way.

“I know that when we need it, God’s holding us in his arms and saying in our hearts how important and big we are.”


Carol Lynn Pearson

Carol Lynn Pearson’s first contribution to the LDS gay community came in 1986 with the publication of her book Goodbye, I Love You, which tells the story of her marriage to Gerald Pearson, a homosexual man, their divorce, ongoing friendship, and her caring for him as he died of AIDS. The book is credited by many as opening the conversation in many homes about the subject of AIDS and about homosexuality in general.

Since then Carol Lynn has spoken to and encouraged thousands of LDS gays and lesbians and their families, as well as educating church leaders about the damage being done through inaccurate and unloving teachings about this important subject. In 2006, twenty years after the publication of Goodbye, I Love You, she introduced a stage play, Facing East, which tells the story of a Mormon couple dealing with the suicide of their gay son. The play won the “Best Drama” award for the year from the Deseret News (tied with Hamlet at the Shakespeare Festival) and went on to a limited off-Broadway run, a run in San Francisco, and subsequent productions by many community theaters and universities.

Also in 2006 she published No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones, a book that has healed many families and saved lives. Her most recent work is a small gift book, The Hero’s Journey of the Gay and Lesbian Mormon, which she describes as a traveling companion to give LDS gay people a better vision of the calling they have been given.

Carol Lynn served as a resource to her stake presidency in the ground-breaking work they did in the Oakland Stake in 2009. A report on that work can be found at her website,, where her books are also available.


Judy Finch

A convert to the church, Judy Finch is retired from a long career in elementary education. For nearly twenty years Judy has had a private psychotherapy practice, currently from her home office in the Oakland hills. Judy and her husband Richard have blended their family of six children in three states, soon-to-be 12 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

“My interest and commitment in Affirmation results from a gay son and two gay grandsons who have all left the church,” says Judy. “Having negotiated the rocky path of parenting gays, I feel excited about positive changes in our society and our Church. I feel part of a beautiful process guided by our Heavenly Father to promote understanding and unity.”


Jorge Valencia

Jorge Valencia has served since 2007 as the Executive Director of Point Foundation. The organization empowers promising LGBTQ students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential ­ despite the obstacles often put before them ­ to make a significant impact on society. He brings to this job a wealth of experience in managing and growing nonprofit organizations, a proven ability to design and manage the infrastructure of expanding organizations and extensive experience with, and sensitivity to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth issues.

Before coming to Point Foundation, from 2001 - 2006 Jorge was the President and Executive Director of The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is a nationwide non-profit organization established to promote acceptance of gay and questioning teenagers and to aid in suicide prevention by operating the nation’s first round-the-clock toll-free suicide prevention helpline aimed at LGBTQ youth. Jorge’s leadership contributed to Trevor’s growth as a nationally recognized youth service organization.

As an openly gay man who grew up in a Mormon Latino family in Texas, Jorge has a keen personal awareness of many of the issues of rejection and marginalization faced by many LGBTQ youth, including Point Scholars. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brigham Young University in 1989. While at BYU, Jorge served as Vice President in charge of social activities for ASBYU (Associated Students of Brigham Young University). He performed for two years with Lamanite Generation, a performing arts group that travelled to China with late Apostle Neal A. Maxwell and then the southern states during Jorge’s tenure. Jorge served an LDS mission to Brazil and taught at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) for two years upon returning home.

Jorge’s diversity of life experience includes extensive travel abroad and within the United States. He is fluent English, Spanish and Portuguese and is a talented and accomplished public speaker. Jorge has a passion for helping LGBTQ youth and an ability to communicate that interest and passion effectively to both the LGBTQ community and the general public.


Gregory Prince

Dr. Gregory A. Prince was born and reared in Los Angeles, California. He attended Dixie College from 1965-67, graduating as valedictorian. He attended the UCLA School of Dentistry from 1969-73, again graduating as valedictorian. He received a Ph.D. in Pathology from UCLA in 1975, studying respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the primary cause of infant pneumonia worldwide. Over a period of fifteen years at the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University, he and his co-workers developed the thesis that RSV disease could be prevented by administering antiviral antibodies to high-risk infants. He co-founded Virion Systems, Inc. to commercialize this thesis, and serves as its President and CEO. In 1989, Virion Systems and MedImmune, Inc. formed a joint venture to conduct clinical trials that ultimately resulted in the licensure by the Food and Drug Administration of RespiGam™ (1996), and Synagis™ (1998) for the prevention of RSV pneumonia in high-risk infants. Synagis™ is the first monoclonal antibody ever licensed for use against any infectious agent. He has published over 150 scientific papers.

In addition to a career in science, he has developed an avocation as a historian. His first book, Power From on High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood, was published in 1995; his second, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, was the recipient of four awards and is in its sixth printing. He and his wife, JaLynn Rasmussen Prince, are the parents of three children. He serves on national advisory boards of six colleges and universities: Johns Hopkins University, Montgomery College, Wesley Theological Seminary, University of Utah, Dixie State College and Utah Valley University.


Yvette Zobel

Yvette Zobel is originally an Idaho girl who spent her growing up years in Idaho Falls, Idaho . She journeyed next door to the state of Utah to attend Utah State University and has a degree in music with an emphasis in piano. After great adventures living in Washington, Oregon, and California, she and her family now reside in Utah. She has taught piano in her private piano studio for many years. She considers teaching music one of the most joyful professions possible! She is a wife and the mother of 4 children including a wonderful gay son. Yvette is an active and devout Latter-day Saint.

Yvette has deep love and respect for LDS LGBT individuals. She serves on the board of LDS Family Fellowship, a support group for friends and family of LGBT’s. Her passion and love for LGBT individuals has led her on a wonderful journey. As a result she has become friends with and worked with many great and noble people who have touched her life profoundly.

Yvette enjoys hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, working out, and dabbling in music composition.


Doug Balls

Doug Balls is a man who loves the lessons of history and the world of travel. He grew up in the Cottonwood area of Salt Lake City. As a youth he spent his summers working on a ranch in the mountains of Northern Utah for his father. It was here that he acquired a deep appreciation and love for horses and the beauty and creation of nature. He served a mission for the LDS church in Scotland, attended the University of Utah, and later went onto embark on several entrepreneurial ventures mostly in the hospitality, travel and entertainment industry. Realizing his talents in event production and venue management, he has spent almost thirty years managing some of the finest venues in the world.

Doug knows that understanding is less important than that feeling of love and respect you can give to another. The goal is having more than mere acceptance, but experiencing the feeling of true inclusion and true pride. Currently residing in St. George, he lives his life expanding circles to bring others in. He is excited to be a part of Affirmation and is looking forward to making a difference.


Wendy Montgomery

Wendy Montgomery was born and raised in Southern California. She has always been a member of the LDS Church. She and her husband were married in the Los Angeles Temple in 1995. They had 5 children in 7 years – not recommended. They found out in January of 2012 that their oldest son (13 years old at the time) was gay. It has at times been unbearably painful. But it has also been an enlightening, spiritual and joyful journey. Wendy has many new LGBT-supportive heroes in the LDS community. The Montgomery family lives in Central California. Wendy is a voracious reader, loves history, and is doing everything she knows how to make the LDS Church more welcoming and inclusive of its gay members.


Ron Schow

Ron Schow splits his time between residences in both Pocatello, Idaho and Salt Lake City. He is Professor Emeritus at Idaho State University (ISU) where he has taught since 1975. Although semi-retired he continues to teach some in the School of Rehabilitation and Communication Sciences in the Division of Health Sciences.

A fifth generation Latter-day Saint with ancestors from Denmark and England, Ron grew up in Preston, Idaho. He served a mission for the LDS Church in the Central Atlantic States Mission (Virginia/N. Carolina, 1961-63). Later he graduated in Biology at Utah State University and then earned a Ph.D. in Audiology from Northwestern University in 1974. Before coming to ISU, he taught at Illinois State University (1972-75).

Ron is the author of numerous books and journal articles and was one of the editors of Peculiar People: Mormons and Same Sex Orientation (Signature Books, 1991). He had a close association with his nephew, Brad, who was gay and died of AIDS in 1986. That gave him a desire to study all the implications from professional and Church perspectives.

Ron has served in numerous church callings, including high council, bishopric, and as stake mission president. Currently, he serves as home evening chairman in a small branch for elderly members. He is the father of 5 children and 19 grandchildren. In addition to participating in his branch and stake in Idaho, he currently, attends when in Salt Lake City, an LDS ward and stake where sometimes there are several gay men attending. There he is in a supportive role to make the ward and stake a welcoming place for LGBT Latter-day Saints who continue to be or who might be encouraged toward activity in the Church.

Ron regularly attends LDS Reconciliation meetings in Salt Lake City, and Family Fellowship Forums in the Salt Lake/Provo area. These are groups in which he was a founding member and that he helped organize. LDS Reconciliation (now Affirmation FHE SLC) was formed in Idaho Falls in 1991 and continues to meet each Sunday night in Salt Lake City. Family Fellowship was formed in Salt Lake City in 1993. Many members of these groups are active in the Church and their meetings involve prayer, singing hymns and gospel discussion (Reconciliation) or scientific discussion (Family Fellowship) in a format which encourages wholeness and spirituality. Ron participates on the North Star Friends and Family discussion group and wants to support the emphasis in Affirmation of encouraging participation in the Church.


Fred Bower

Frederick “Fred” Bowers has been a part of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons for over 20 years. Fred has served in leadership roles at the chapter and national levels for many years including: Washington DC Chapter Director; Chapter-at-Large Director; Assistant Vice President for Strategy and Development; Affirmation National Board of Directors; Conference Director; and founder and current Director of the Affirmation People of Color and Allies Group.

A former career U.S. Air Force Financial Management Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, Fred is currently employed as a management and technology consultant for a leading international consulting firm and is involved with its LGBT business resource group. He also is involved with Out and Equal Workplace Advocates as part of their People of Color Advisory Committee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management from John Brown University, and a dual master's degree in Public Administration and Management from Webster University. Fred is a native of Fort Worth, Texas, and currently resides in Arlington, Virginia.


Sam Wolfe

Sam Wolfe is a civil rights attorney and advocate with the Southern Poverty Law Center who has led high-profile litigation of national significance. Sam founded and continues to help lead the Southern Poverty Law Center’s LGBT Rights Project. His work, often set in the Deep South, focuses on achieving greater respect and equality for LGBT people.

His cases include the first-ever, consumer fraud lawsuit challenging conversion “therapy” that purports to change sexual orientation from gay to straight. He represents transgender clients in employment and prison discrimination cases and initiated the first marriage equality case in Alabama. He also helped defeat a policy that prevented teachers from stopping anti-LGBT bullying, something never before accomplished by litigation. The suit also achieved a landmark consent decree that established a blueprint for remedying anti-LGBT school environments nationwide. Sam and his team have restored freedom of speech and expression to LGBT students in multiple Southeastern school districts – often negotiating resolutions without the need for litigation.

Previously, Sam was a litigation associate at a leading international law firm in New York City. He is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center. The National LGBT Bar Association has recognized Sam as one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40. Other experience includes service in U.S. Air Force special operations, and as an English teacher in Taiwan where he also was a bungee jump master.

Sam completed a two-year Mormon mission in northern France, Luxembourg, and Belgium. Later, he obtained an undergraduate degree at BYU. Although he recognized his orientation much earlier, it was at BYU that Sam met his first boyfriend and began activating as a queer Latter Day Saint. Sam has participated in Affirmation since “coming out” to his Mormon congregation during a fast and testimony meeting in 2006 and afterward facing excommunication.


Tom Christofferson

Tom Christofferson is the Chief Marketing Officer of J.P. Morgan Investor Services in New York City. Tom’s career in asset management and banking has given him opportunities to live and work in Europe and the US. Additionally, he has twice served on the global diversity council for his firm, and continues to be a senior sponsor there of its Pride business resource group. He is currently a member of the advisory board of his firm’s political action committee.

Tom was born in Utah and grew up in New Jersey, Illinois and Utah. He served as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Canada Montreal Mission. Before and after his missionary service, Tom attended BYU. As part of his coming-out process he was an active member of Affirmation in Los Angeles in the late 1980’s before moving to New York.

In addition to his efforts with Affirmation, Tom has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, on the finance committees of Senate and Presidential campaigns and is currently as a member of the National Advisory Council for the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. Tom lives in New Canaan, Connecticut, with his partner of eighteen years, Clarke Latimer.


Anna Empey

I was born and raised in a small town in Washington state on my family farm. From a young age I knew I was different I couldn't pin point exactly how. It wasn't until I was at BYU in 2007 that I really realized that I was fully attracted to girls and that this was something I could not change. I recently graduated from BYU (December 2012) with a degree in Anthropology and I have been working in marketing and public relations.

In the last year, I have gone from fear and self-hate to more self-love and understanding for who I am. Now as I strive to understand who I am in terms of being Lesbian and LDS, a place that is uncomfortable at times, I am learning that I can accept and understand all of who I am without giving up either part of my identity. One of my goals in life is to make the world a better place, and help others understand their individual importance to those around them, that they are lovable and important.


Ellen Koester

Ellen Koester grew up in Defiance, Ohio, and currently lives in downtown Salt Lake City. Ellen grew up dreaming of changing the world, and is currently studying constitutional law, and government policy, with the goal of becoming a civil rights lawyer.

Growing up Catholic in a small town, it didn't take much for her to realize that she was different from other girls. This internal contention caused rifts between her and her family that were made permanent when she joined the Church in 2009, and subsequently when she came out in 2011.

Ellen joined the Church knowing that the Gospel was true and pure, but was blinded by the missionaries claim that being baptized would bring blessings. After a failed attempt at a mission, and months of following the exact letter of the law, an experience in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple changed her entire outlook on life, and on being a lesbian in the Church. From that day forward, she has been active in her wards, while actively seeking, and engaging in same sex relationships. Her final goal is to find and marry a woman who can put up with her endless projects, overactive enthusiasm, and countless pranks and antics.

Latter Day Saint by summer, but Powder Day Saint by winter, Ellen is often caught sneaking out of the house in the early morning, skis in hand to catch the tram for first tracks at Snowbird and Alta. In milder season's however, Ellen trade's in her ski boots for a good book, and a jam session on her piano.


Jamison Manwaring

Jamison lives in Salt Lake City and publicly came out in March of 2013 via a Youtube video. Subsequently, he and members of his family have done interviews with NPR's Weekend Edition, and other news organizations, about the experience of being a gay Mormon. He has found peace and happiness being his authentic self - an active believing Mormon and a gay man. He is dedicated to providing a supportive community at Affirmation for all LGBT Mormons who live with honesty and integrity regardless of life path including those who are a) in same-sex relationships, b) celibate, or c) enter into a mixed-orientation-marriage with full disclosure.

Jamison founded and leads the Affirmation Millennial group, envisioned the recent redesign and is a managing editor of the web-site. He joined the board of directors in January of 2014.

Jamison has been an Equity Analyst covering the software sector for Goldman Sachs since graduating from the University of Utah in 2012. Prior, he was a Summer Analyst for Barclays Capital in New York City. Before attended college, Jamison founded an online based real estate firm in Phoenix Arizona. He was born in Idaho Falls and is the youngest of 8 children.


Bryan Clark

Bryan is a recent graduate from Brigham Young University, with a BS in Exercise Science. He spent his childhood in Upstate New York with his 8 siblings, two of them being his triplet sisters. While he remembers vividly in his childhood being attracted to the same sex, it wasn't till relentless attempts after his mission of dating woman, that he fully realized his sexuality. He believes that as hard as the experience has been in coming out, that it's made him a more loving, Christlike person.

As an running aficionado, Bryan enjoys training for marathons and hopes to one day run the Boston and then an Iron Man. In his free time, you can also always find him baking something in the kitchen, clinking away on the piano or acting out Parks and Recreation episodes with his friends.


Patrick Wendel

Like many around here, I was born and raised in the LDS Church. I was born in Washington, but moved to Utah when I was young, so I was raised on the “Utah Mormon” bran. Went through life happy as could be, graduated from High school, graduated from seminary, and started getting ready to serve a mission. That is when the “shizz” hit the fan. I had struggled with porn for a few years, and in preparation for a mission, I was put on probation, to get things under control. My bishop, curious if it mattered that it was same sex porn, wrote to some uppity in Salt Lake to see what needed to be done to ready me for my mission. He advised counseling through LDS Family services. They have mission prep specialists there, and they would be able to determine if I would be ready to go and serve. So, into counseling I went. I was passed from one to another, who specialized in SSA issues. He was the first one who told me that it actually might not be a good idea for me to serve. I was adamant, and told him I would be serving. So, we tried working through different issues, and I learned some good things, but eventually hit a wall with him, and so I was switched to a different program. This one was specifically tailored to help young men with addictions to pornography. I love/hated that place. Learned a lot of great stuff, but again, it eventually stopped being useful and helpful. By that point, the counselor of that program told my Bishop that I was ready to put my papers in. My Bishop let me and my parents know that we were good to go, and that’s when I started feeling like I shouldn’t go on a mission. My parents did not like that as an answer. My bishop told me to pray again, because he thought I was getting wrong revelation.

From there, I went back to school up at Utah State where I had to start accepting the fact that I am gay. I couldn’t say exactly when I came out to myself as gay, it was a very gradual process. Mostly because, at the time, the church was still teaching that SSA is something that can eventually be “cured,” so even though I knew I liked guys, I still wasn’t “gay.” As I came to realize that this was something that wasn’t going to change, and as even the church started saying that we don’t know why people are this way, or if it will be something that is changed in this life, I had to start accepting the fact that this is how it would be the rest of my life. Then I went through the phase where I was still 100% devoted to the church’s teachings, and if they wanted me to stay celibate, then I would. I had to. From 2010, to 2012, That’s about how life went for me. Along with all this came feelings of depression, self-hatred, the works. I had only just begun to crack open the egg of emotional turmoil I held.

In 2013, everything changed for me. I started out the year just like any other, walking through campus with my head down, trying to avoid acknowledging the fact that there were very attractive guys walking past, trying to keep things under control, etc. But in one of my classes, I made friends with someone, (someone VERY attractive) and as the year went on, and our friendship grew, I ended up falling in love. Being in love completely changed my outlook on “SSA.” First of all, I can no longer think of it as a disease, or a problem, or a trial that I need to endure. No disease, no trial could possibly be so wonderful!! I truly felt that these feelings could come from God alone. It is by far the closest thing to God I have felt in my life thus far, and the surprising thing, was that these feelings were mine! They were coming from inside me! God is the source of all love and goodness. As his children, we carry that same capacity within us, and for the first time in my life, I felt just a glimpse of what it must be like to love as God loves. I could now believe that I was a child of God, because I found such a powerful manifestation of him, within me! It was incredible to feel that way about someone. Depression? Gone. Life was beautiful in ways it had never been. For years prior, I was overwhelmed with depression. I remember feeling shocked that life could hurt so much, and for so long! Nothing helped. And now, suddenly, it was exactly the opposite. I was shocked that life could feel so wonderful! Sleepless nights, fraught with loneliness and pain, were replaced with sleepless nights, giddy with the thought of seeing him the following day.

I could go on, but you get the idea. After an experience like that, I just couldn’t view SSA the same way. It couldn’t be bad. I knew it couldn’t, because nothing so wonderful could come from something ‘supposedly’ so evil. I was still very confused as the school year came to a close. At the time, I still didn’t realize how real it was. I was still doubting my feelings, their authenticity, and where they were coming from. When he left for the summer, life ended for me. I cried the first week. And the second. And the third. I would sit in church, tears running down my face all through sacrament. My bishop probably thought I was very spiritual. I wasn’t. I was going through my first heart break. And it hurt. That was last summer, and it still hasn’t stopped hurting. I still love him, and I am grateful that I do. Because as confusing as it has been, as I have started questioning my church leaders, and as I continue to question my feelings, and whether God affirms my love or not, It is nice to have that constant reminder that, ‘Hey, This is real.’ The feelings are powerful, and wonderful, and I cannot believe they come from anywhere but God. So, when the church tells me that marriage is between man and woman, and when an apostle compares my “inclination” to someone who is alcoholic, or has anger issues, it is there to remind me that they are not 100% correct. They don’t know what it is truly like. It has taught me that my spiritual development is up to me. My decisions in my life are between me and God. I no longer follow the structure of the church, and I have learned to take my spirituality into my own hands. I still love the church, and I still go. But everything is evaluated. I am a lot more cautious with my worship.


Scott Halle

Scott studied Psychology at BYU and has been working in the child welfare world for the last 6 years. He recently enrolled at the University of Utah to go back to school for business. He served a mission in Oakland, California from 2005 - 2007. Scott came out to his family just two years ago after struggling to come to terms with his sexual orientation and his faith in the LDS church for many years. Though not active in the church, Scott hopes to one day see greater acceptance and love of LGBT mormons from church leaders and its members. Scott enjoys the outdoors and anything adventurous. He has been skydiving and bungee jumping multiple times and is always looking for something new and exciting to try. Scott joined Affirmation a year ago and has enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people supporting the LGBT community.


Devin Bourne

Devin was born in Calgary, Canada but has grown up in Utah for the most part. The oldest of 6 children in a very Mormon family, he became aware that he had different feelings from the age of 4. As a teenager, he finally started to understand what these different feelings were, but tried his hardest to ignore and suppress them hoping that they would go away.

After many years of struggling alone, Devin came out to his Bishop and parents at age 18. He attended a year of counseling and then he served a mission in San Jose, California. Upon returning home, he continued to hope that he could find a way to marry a woman and have the stereotypical mormon family he has always wanted. But after several years of struggling and numerous experiences, Devin decided to change his perspective to one of more self acceptance.

Getting involved with several groups, he was able to make wonderful friends and find much needed peace in his struggle with his sexuality. The church has been a huge part of Devin’s life and he continues to attend and serve in his callings actively. “I love the Savior and I know this is where he wants me to be….in the church.” He hopes to show others that is possible to embrace your sexuality and still maintain your spirituality.

Devin is attending the University of Utah School of Pathology and will graduate with a Bachelors Degree in Medical Laboratory Science in May 2014. After graduation, he plans to apply to Medical School and fulfill his dream of becoming a Thoracic Surgeon. He loves playing the piano, traveling, reading, watching Star Trek, Nova, Downton Abbey, and The Big Bang Theory, and having fun with his amazing family.


Derek Lundahl

Derek was raised in northern Utah county and is the oldest of 4 children.

After serving a mission in the south of France he furthered his education going from USU to UVU. Graduating in Biology with a minor in Music.

He's met with several church leaders in trying to understand his purpose and the origin of homosexual/heterosexual feelings.

While finding there are many opinions out in the world. He feels very strongly that God loves him and his fellow LGBT brothers and sisters. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is true.

Admittedly he doesn't have all the answers. But he does know that God gave him this life for a purpose. Knowing with all his heart that God wants him to happy.

When not in school or work he loves running, singing, cooking, being outdoors, swimming, random adventures, volunteering, traveling and playing with their dog Zoey. He loves serving and helping those in need, wherever he can.


James Brinton

James Brinton is a native of Mesa, Arizona and has been a life-long member of the LDS church. After serving a mission in Japan, he pursued an education and moved to the east coast, where he works with individuals with disabilities in the Washington DC metropolitan area. As a counselor at Mesa Community College's Student Diversity and Leadership Retreat, he recognized a greater need for dialogue between groups within his own community, and has since helped plan interfaith service gatherings in Arizona and Washington DC.

After attending the DC Circling the Wagons Conference in 2012, he felt a growing desire to somehow be connected to the LDS ward and community where he lived. He now lives with his partner in Arlington, Virginia, attends his local ward and is very grateful for the blessings both bring into his life. He is inspired by the many LGBT individuals, allies, and family members across a spectrum of spiritual belief and experience who contribute to the conversation around the intersection of Mormonism and LGBT issues.


John Rodriguez

John Rodriguez was born and raised in San Francisco de Macoris, Northeast of the Dominican Republic. He joined the LDS Church when he was 15 years old, he was the first one to join the church in his family, they all followed him and were baptized later. He served a regular mission for the LDS Church in the southern part of the Dominican Republic, Hispaniola Island.served a brief period of time in Central America, in Guatemala. (1992-1994) He was a leader in his mission and his stake as well. as a child he recognized his attraction to same sex and accepted his identity during his mission recognizing that he was created different for a special purpose.John has a strong testimony of the restoration of the Gospel of JesusChrist,he is actually a less active member of the LDS church by own choice. Suffered discrimination and persecution in his stake but his behavior and leadership helped him to gain respect from members and other leaders. John Studied Hotel Management in the USA. and is currently studying Psychology, marketing and couching courses at Harvard University Online or Distance learning. He is also an activist for LGBTQ marriage equality and manages facebook support groups Mormons building equality and worldwide gay mormons, His brother Carlos Rodriguez is also a Gay mormon, served a mission and helps John organizing Affirmation Dominican Republic Chapter meetings and reach out campaigns. they are planning to organize meeting groups in other regions in the Dominican Republic as well as in other Caribbean islands.

Natalie Darling

Natalie Darling is a wife, and mother of 3 wonderful children residing in Murray, UT. She has studied natural healing, color, and personality traits for the past 15 years and gives private consultations through email. Natalie has also been active in the theater community for the past several years, serving on the Draper Arts council, performing in many shows, as well as working as production manager, choreographer, costumer, and music director. Her favorite thing to do is spend time with her family and friends.

As a typical Mormon, Natalie was pretty ignorant of the LGBT community until a friend came out to her as gay while they were in a show together. Knowing her friend needed and deserved love, acceptance, and full support, she reevaluated her understanding of what it meant to be gay and how Heavenly Father felt about His LGBT sons and daughters. In March 2014, she walked into an Affirmation FHE activity not knowing anyone, and within a few months had helped decorate and man a booth for the LA Pride Festival and marched in the parade, worked as the production manager for the evening programs for the 2014 Affirmation Conference, and had the privilege of meeting and entertaining many LGBT friends at her home for dinner parties..

She is currently a co-chair for the upcoming 2015 Affirmation Conference and is grateful for the opportunity to serve her incredible LGBT brothers and sisters in this amazing organization.


Jen Blair

Jen Blair was born and raised in the Wasatch Front of Utah and lived all her school years in the same house. She attended Brigham Young University and earned a B.A. in Elementary Education. After college graduation, she and her young family joined her husband on the adventure of medical school and spent time living in Missouri, Ohio, and Iowa before settling down in Twin Falls, Idaho. She is interested in politics and recently served a term as a precinct committeewoman. She has 4 amazing, talented, and beautiful children that occupy most of her energy.

Spirituality has always been an important guiding force in Jen’s life and entering the world of LGBTQ individuals has been faith changing. When her oldest child and only son came out in September of 2012, she knew life would never be the same. Spirituality remains important as she navigates life and motherhood.

Jen is now passionate about helping other people understand and love their LGBTQ friends and family members. She believes we can save lives and help develop healthy relationships. Jen loves to talk with her friends, and considers most everyone she meets to be in that category. Reading is one of her favorite past times, and her interest ranges from serious literature on religion, to the entertainment of fantasy. Most of her time, however, is filled up with raising her children. She participates as a board member of a children’s theater group, which all her children have participated in. This plays to her strengths as an efficient organizer and thoughtful planner. One of her most recognizable traits is a hoodie, an article of clothing she wears with relish.


Ron Raynes

Ron Raynes, 58, loves his mixed orientation family. He and wife Sue have managed to come out of the closet together during the last ten years. They are proud parents of three beautiful, all grown up now daughters. Ron and Sue joined Affirmation three years ago, and have worked to establish and build the Affirmation Affinity group for Mixed Orientation Families, which is a healing place for a variety of people impacted by mixed orientation marriage in their family life.

Ron was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, and after forty years of prodigal wandering in the wilderness, is thrilled to be back home. Ron joined the LDS Church at age 18, served a mission and did most of the things a good Mormon boy should do, like getting married. The only problem was, back in 1981 he wasn't willing to identify as anything close to being gay. Ron currently serves in his LDS congregation as a Home Teacher and is the Ward Choir Director.

Ron enjoys a variety of interests, such as vigorous singing in the Eugene Concert Choir, raising chickens and vegetables, and writing poetry. Someday he vows to paint landscapes and burden his children with them.

In his everyday life, Ron employs his creative talents as a Food Scientist, inventing ice cream for the masses. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. He has played around in product development roles for 30 years in the food industry and holds degrees in Food Science from BYU and Utah State University. Ron particularly enjoys the challenges of incorporating fudge and sprinkles into as many flavors as possible.


Beth Ellsworth

Beth Ellsworth grew up in Austin, TX, but now calls Minneapolis, MN home. She comes from a devout Mormon family with ancestors on both sides who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in its early days. She served a Spanish-speaking mission in New York City from 2000-2002. The stories and experiences of the people she met in her mission led her to an interest in immigrant rights and social justice issues. After recieving her B.A. in Theatre Studies from Brigham Young University, she did two years of graduate work at the University of MN focusing on Latin American Theater and Theater and Social Change. She also graduated from a training program in a somatic therapy modality called Global Somatics, and is working to build a massage and bodywork practice. Beth's somatic work recognizes the interplay between body, mind, emotion, and spirit in societal as well as individual healing. She a is a founding member of the People's Movement Center in Minneapolis, MN--an emerging collective of indigounous, people of color, queer and trans healers, artists, and orgainizers whose work is dedicated to supporting movements for social justice.

Beth's involvement in somatic and social justice work over the past several years gave her the insight and courage to embrace her bisexuality and gender fluidity, parts of herself that she had denied and pushed away for most of her life due to her Mormon upbringing. While working in a community-based immigrant rights theater program as an allied supporter, she felt the strong spiritual prompting that it was time to re-direct her advocacy efforts towards her own Mormon community. Since then she has been working in connection with Affirmation in order to build support among LGBTQ+ Mormons figuring out their own paths to productive lives that are affirming of both their faith and sexuality or gender idenity. Beth maintains strong feelings of connection to her LDS heritage and faith, considering it her spiritual birth-place and the "home" where she is to do her work in life. Yet, her spiritual practice and belief have shifted and she claims a less orthodox version of Mormonism than she once did. Beth is active in her local Affirmation chapter and also is a member of the Affirmation Leadership Team where she helps to run the Women and Non-binary People and Bisexual+ affinity groups. She is also creating a performance piece which will explore the interplay between queer identity and religious/spiritual identity from a Mormon perspective. She hopes this piece will help to build understanding betweeen the LGBTQ+ and LDS communities.







Richard Keys

Richard Keys calls Sacramento, CA, home, and has been a life-long member of the church. In addition to BYU, a South German mission, and a temple marriage, he has held many church callings in teaching, music, and leadership. Along the way, Rich gained a strong testimony, as well as a very personal and practical relationship with his Heavenly Father, the Savior, and the Atonement. “When I go to my personal sacred grove, Heavenly Father is not standing above me or sitting on a throne; He’s on a sofa with His arm around me, and I’m feeling His unconditional love as we discuss how things are going in my life. He doesn’t judge; He teaches me.”
Rich majored in Music and Business Administration in college, minored in Silliness, and had a career in Human Resources Mgmt. Following a divorce, he realized he was gay and finally understood why West Side Story and Barbra Streisand meant so much to him as a teenager. He prayed how he could endure to the end as both divorced and gay in his church, and the Spirit’s plan was specific: “Keep your sense of humor, act a little silly, and spread that around and share it with others, because they’re going through tough times, too, and you may be able to help them endure things as you endure them too.”
He was led to a high councilor that he did not previously know, and was told the Lord had an important work for him to do: To help members understand what it means to be gay and what it does not mean, and to help build bridges among both members and non-members. Coming out as both gay and a temple-worthy Mormon, he’s been led by the Spirit in everything from sacrament meeting talks to the dating scene. That includes Affirmation, which he discovered and joined shortly after coming out to himself. Meanwhile, he volunteers as a pianist at various nursing homes and dreams of the day when cuddling will become an Olympic sport.





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