LGBT/SSA Social to be Held This Week in Salt Lake City
April 5 Event Is Your Opportunity to Meet a Large Group of LGBT Mormons, Family, and Friends
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.
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 a dessert buffet 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.
Plan to join us September 13-15 in Salt Lake City for our Annual International Conference
by Randall Thacker
New Frontiers is about expanding our vision around the unknown possibilities and opportunities for LGBTQ/SSA Mormons. We will explore how we can come together as a community of LGBTQ/SSA Mormons, partners, spouses, families, friends, and church leaders. How we can support each other in realizing our full potential as children of God, be empowered to make valuable contributions within and outside of the Church, and find purpose and integrity in our unique journeys.
Workshops and activities will focus on individual growth, family acceptance, creating strong partnerships/marriages, how to be an ally, how members and church leaders can be more inclusive, reconciling one’s spirituality and sexuality, living a fulfilling and joyful life as a LGBT Mormon, advocacy, and more!
The 2013 Affirmation conference will be more fun, musical, spiritual, and educational than you can imagine! The leadership and board meetings will take place Friday morning and early afternoon, and the rest of the conference will officially kick off late Friday afternoon, with an excellent social with even dancing Friday evening. The rest of the weekend will include workshops, activities, and a devotional and testimony meeting. More details will be announced in the coming months, including some additional amazing keynote speakers.
Be sure to mark the date on your calendars and join our Facebook event. Online registration will become available soon. This year’s conference registration fee will be only $99. 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.
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.
Images of Equality
Curtis Penfold: “I love the idea of marriage so much that I want everyone to be able to get married”
Compiled by Hugo Salinas
Last week, as the Supreme Court prepared to hear oral arguments on cases related to Prop 8 and DOMA, Americans of every faith expressed their support of marriage equality. Thousands attended candlelight vigils and rallies held across the country, and hundreds of thousands wore red or changed their Facebook profile picture in support of giving LGBT people the right to marry. The following vignettes describe LDS participation in many of these events.
In Provo, Utah, over 100 BYU students and local residents gathered at the Utah County Courthouse, where they sang the national anthem, prayed, and lit candles. “I love the idea of marriage so much,” BYU sophomore and organizer Curtis Penfold told KSL5, “that I want everyone to be able to get married.” Brook Swallow carried a “Gay is OK” sign. Sara Vranes, a returned missionary and BYU graduate, said that she regrets having voted yes on Prop 8. “Now people have repented of their votes,” she told the crowd. “That is exactly the journey I am on. I want to make my vote a ‘no.’”
At the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington DC, Spencer Clark, executive director of Mormons for Equality, represented Latter-day Saints during an interfaith prayer service held in support of marriage equality, where he read a scripture from the Bible. Along with wife Cherry and daughter Clementine, he marched to the Supreme Court holding a sign that read, “MARRIAGE IS LOVE, COMMITMENT, FAMILY.”
In Providence, Rhode Island, Lexi Magnusson, a Mormon and a mother of four, was invited to testify at the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of marriage equality. “I am Mormon, but I don’t believe this is a religious issue,” Lexi wrote. “I believe that when you protect the rights and freedoms of others, you are also protecting your own rights and freedoms. It happened with the women’s, civil, and disability movements. In each case these people received their rights and their dignity, really, and the world didn’t come to a crashing end as was believed by many at the time.”
In Salt Lake City, Utah, 400 supporters of equality gathered at the Main Library amphitheater, including Family Fellowship co-founders Gary and Millie Watts. Russ Baker-Gorringe, a returned missionary and BYU graduate, spoke at the event flanked by his son on one side and his husband on the other. Russ and his husband married during the 2008 Affirmation conference held in Los Angeles.
In Bakersfield, California, PFLAG supporter Wendy Montgomery spoke at a candlelight vigil and apologized for having once supported Prop 8. “As Mormons, we do a lot of things right,” she told the audience. “There is so much that is beautiful and good with our faith. But we have this issue wrong. And I will fight to make a place in our congregations for my son, and other gay Mormons. If they want to be there, they should be allowed to be there.”
In the studios of ABC4 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Affirmation member Alasdair Ekpenyong spoke about his involvement with the Provo event. “Our faith drives us, as Christ reformed the community, to explore questions of social justice,” said Alasdair, who is a BYU sophomore and returned missionary. “It’s the lessons that I learned in Gospel Doctrine, for years, about being who I am and speaking forth that give the courage and the innermost conviction that it is correct to go forth and speak the truth that I have within myself.”
On Facebook, thousands of Mormons changed their profile picture to a red equality sign to express their support for equality. “I changed my profile picture because I believe in love,” says Amanda Klein Nokleby, a straight Mormon supporter from Durham, North Carolina. “Any two people who share this love should be able to enjoy the rights of marriage in this country, and it's time to allow our LGBTQ friends that privilege. Facebook has become a wonderful medium to share opinions and thoughts on very pressing topics like marriage equality, and I hoped that by changing my profile picture, conversations would start, and change, bit by bit, would happen.”
At the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington DC, Michael Amesquita, who identifies as gay, Mormon, and Latino, participated in a rally for marriage equality. “In a country that boasts so many freedoms, it should not be this hard to be able to love the person you want to, and to have that love be equal and validated,” Michael wrote about that experience. “The Mormon pioneers were forced out of Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois because their neighbors thought they were different and wouldn’t allow them to be who they were or live how they wanted to live. How can our fellow sisters and brothers not see the irony?”
On YouTube, LDS vlogger Christopher Allen posted a clip explaining why he supports marriage equality. “I always just thought that being gay was wrong… until I met people who were gay and realized they weren’t that different from me,” says Christopher. “When I saw that they were just regular people who wanted to laugh, and cry, and love just like the rest of us, I kind of had to rethink my opinion about the whole marriage thing.”
In North Carolina, Affirmation member Dean Scott Tingey, who was recovering from back surgery and couldn’t attend a local vigil, wore red in support of marriage equality. “I wore red today,” Dean wrote on his blog. “Someday I hope to wear black and white… a tuxedo. I hope to hold my guy’s hands, look into his eyes, and say, ‘I do.’ I hope we will have that right.”
In Floyd, Virginia (population: 432), Affirmation member Jim Best helped organize a candlelight vigil which included “music and laughter, colorful hand-lettered signs, and pleas for acceptance and compassion.” Held in front of the county courthouse, the event attracted over 50 people. “I choose love over fear every single moment that I’m able,” wrote Jim in a report about the event. “And I deserve the right to get married.”
On ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer, Marie Osmond spoke about her lesbian daughter Jessica in terms that suggested support for marriage equality. “I believe in [my daughter's] civil rights, as a mother,” Marie said. “I think that my daughter deserves everything that she desires in life. She's a good girl. She's a wonderful child.” She then added, “I don't think God made one color flower. I think He made many.”
In Logan, Utah, nearly 140 people gathered at the Historic Cache County Courthouse for an event co-sponsored by PFLAFG, Allies on Campus, and Love Is For Everyone. “The God that I know … is focused on breaking down laws of hate and exclusion,” said the Rev. Paul Heins of the First Presbyterian Church. “The God I know welcomes and invites all God’s children to discover freedom and equality and the depths of human love and relationship, and that invitation is not contingent upon the gender identity or the sexual orientation of the persons involved. God welcomes us all.”
The Lord is My Light: Mormonism and Equality
“When the interviewer asked me how I reconciled my belief in equality with my belief in the gospel, I knew exactly what to say”
By Alasdair Ekpenyong
One of my favorite memories is the Sunday morning that I visited Logan, Utah, for the first time. I was in town over winter break to visit two of my mentors, and since the man was a high councilman, I went with him and his wife to his family ward instead of going to the young single adult ward. I remember the beauty of the wooden pews and the beauty of the decorated bodies—the beauty of seeing a full Mormon church building for the first time after months of only experiencing small, struggling branches in California.
We sang “The Lord is My Light” as the sacrament hymn, and as the voices of the men blended with the voices of the women in harmony, I had a special experience where I was brought to marvel at all of the different forms of light that are present and vibrant in the Lord’s church. There were audible lights: the words, harmonies and melodies that brought us together as one community. There were spiritual lights: the priesthood leaders and the Relief Society leaders, the bishop and the mothers and fathers who were determined to bring Christ a little closer to the souls that had been entrusted into their care. And there were visible lights: natural and indoor lights shown and sparkled that Sunday morning, adding a beauty and freshness to our perfect communion.
I sat there that morning as a closeted Mormon —a Mormon who, as a feminist, a gay man, and an intellectual— fit all three of the criterion that have in past times been identified as anathema. But the light and the music and the harmony brought me peace—and I knew in an unconquerable way that I was at home and welcome in the community just the way that I am.
Since that time, I have carried my testimony of the Lord's light with me. Treasuring God’s light within my heart, I have also watched with wonder as God’s light has spread in peace throughout the world, inspiring change and inquiry, teaching people to become more Christlike. I never thought that I would see the day when a cloud of equality consciousness would sweep the state of Utah, but I watched with wonder during the past two weeks as meet-up groups, coming out stories, peaceful rallies, and television interviews have brought discussions of GLBT equality and marriage equality to the forefront of Mormon consciousness.
My own small chance to bear testimony of the Lord’s light came in late March when I appeared on a Utah television network to answer interview questions about an upcoming rally that had been organized by BYU students. When the interviewer asked me how I reconciled my belief in equality with my belief in the gospel, I knew exactly what to say:
I said that the Gospel has taught me that I am a child of light and that the Lord himself is the source of that light. We are taught to share our light like a city on a hill, and these teachings have been shared and repeated since the time that the Savior walked the earth. I know that everything within me yearns to share the gifts that I have been given. I share my capacity for charity. I share my capacity for intelligence and inquiry. I also share my capacity to form romantic relationships and better other people’s lives. I am not ashamed of the light that I have been given, “for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
LDS Psychologist Lee Beckstead
Important Workshop Held at University of Utah
Bridging Religious and Sexual/Gender Differences
by Ron Schow and Yvette Zobell
An important —and perhaps unprecedented— one-day workshop on bridging religious and sexual/gender differences was held March 16, at the University of Utah School of Social Work. Sponsored by the Affirmative Therapist Guild of Utah, and lead by therapists Lee Beckstead and Jim Struve, the workshop had about 90 participants, including professional therapists from a variety of settings, as well as representatives from many of the LGBT/SSA support groups in the Intermountain area.
The workshop started by identifying guidelines for our discussions, with emphasis on the need for respectful discussion on LGBT/SSA issues, especially within the context of religious beliefs. About 20 small working groups representing various support and therapy perspectives were each asked to produce a list of three possible interventions. As each group presented its interventions, we could all start to see some common ground emerge around respecting differences.
The workshop leaders discussed how we can become polarized, then used a physical demonstration to show how we can move from opposition to building bridges of understanding. We all partnered up to practice the exercise. One partner would go straight towards the other almost as if attacking him or her. This represented the way we feel when someone “comes at us” with an opposing view. The person being “attacked” could stand his/her ground, push back, or avoid contact. The leaders then demonstrated a better way: Respond to the person's momentum toward you by turning with them, perhaps walking with them for a time, then turning back to the direction you were originally going. This represented the concept that it is possible to turn in a friendly way, try to understand the opposing view, but then continue to move thoughtfully in ones' own direction.
This exercise was followed by a “fishbowl discussion.” focused on the question, “Can a person be in a gay relationship and still be a worthy and righteous member of the LDS Church?” A volunteer shared her reasons for answering “No,” and another shared her reasons for saying “Yes.” As each one told her point of view, the other used active listening skills to fully understand the other point of view. Then, with the help of a moderator, they looked for common ground —a bridge— between their perspectives. In the end, there were still differences of opinion, but they also found some common ground.
A final discussion of the whole group demonstrated some of the significant difference that still hold (e.g., an almost exclusive emphasis for some on sex as the prevailing standard of righteousness), but it also showed that people and groups that typically have talked past each other can, with training and goodwill, have mutually respectful conversations. With that, we left this well-managed workshop with much to ponder—and looking forward to future opportunities to practice our new skills to “build bridges” together.
Berta Marquez, of Mormon Building Bridges, reminded the crowd that “the Mormon story, in the political history of the United States, has gone from one of persecution to power.”
Mormons Participate in Utah Rallies, Oppose Discrimination
Neca Allgood: “I want to make sure that he and all of my sons are treated fairly under the law”
by Hugo Salinas
With heavy LDS participation, two rallies were held on the steps of the Utah capitol last week in support of a state bill protecting housing and employment for LGBT people.
The sponsor of the bill was Steve Urquhart, a Mormon state senator from St. George.
Mormons for Equality sponsored a rally on Tuesday. BYU professor Steven Goates told the crowd that he has known many students who struggled with their sexual orientation. “A nondiscrimination bill is important,” Goates said. “Christ was condemned by the Pharisees ... we ought to love one another.”
“Christ asked us to love and serve those people. And when we serve others, it is like we are serving him,” said Neca Allgood, a Syracuse Sunday School teacher and mother of a transgender son. “I want to make sure that he and all of my sons are treated fairly under the law -- that they have access to housing and are judged in their employment on whether they can do the work, not on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
On Wednesday, Mormons Building Bridges, along with representatives from Mormons for Equality and a broad coalition of civil and religious groups held a second rally. Erika Munson, founder of Mormons Building Bridges, said they would work within their wards to encourage support for a nondiscrimination bill.
“Where we talk is person to person in our congregations, and we want to keep those conversations going,” Munson said. “That’s where I think hearts really get changed and this can start.”
Berta Marquez, a lesbian Latina Mormon woman, reminded the crowd that “the Mormon story, in the political history of the United States, has gone from one of persecution to power.”
“We believe that it is our very faith and doctrine that urge us to build a Zion people,” Marquez said, “the Beloved Community where there are no more foreigners or strangers among us and all are alike unto God.”
LDS Family Fellowship Forum to Feature Berta Marquez
Sunday, April 21at 5:00 PM in Provo
On Sunday, April 21, at 5:00 PM Berta Marquez will speak at an LDS Family Fellowship Forum to be held in the Northwest Auditorium of the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (1134 North 500 West, Provo, Utah). The auditorium is adjacent to the InstaCare Clinic on the corner of 500 West and Bulldog Boulevard. (Enter the InstaCare clinic to get to the auditorium; Parking is available just north of the clinic.)
Marquez’s topic is “Safe and Sound: Changing the Landscape for Utah's Homeless LGBT Youth.”
Berta Marquez is a BYU student and co-founder of Safe and Sound, an LGBT homeless youth host home program in the state of Utah. She also supports Mormons Building Bridges, where she is working on encouraging love and acceptance for LGBT youth, suicide prevention and wellness, and creating affirming home environments for LDS LGBT young people.
Marquez enjoys singing in the One Voice Choir, a choir for LDS LGBT people and allies, and occasionally supports other LGBT-related initiatives, such as doing editing work for Far Between, an upcoming film and community-building project seeking to improve the conversation around the topic of Mormonism and the LGBT experience.
LDS Family Fellowship is a support organization engaged in strengthening relationships between LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) individuals, their families and friends.
Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons
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To see a directory of current Affirmation chapters, visit www.affirmation.org/chapters
AFFIRMATION GAY & LESBIAN MORMONS is a non-profit support group serving Gay and Lesbian Mormons, their families and friends since 1977. AFFINITY is the official publication of the Affirmation National Executive Committee.
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