by Randall Thacker
Please join us September 13-15 for Affirmation’s annual conference to be held in Salt Lake City. These are some of the remarkable people who will be featured:
Dance with Benji Schwimmer!
Benji Schwimmer, winner of Season 2 of “So You Think You Can Dance,” will MC the opening event on Friday evening and spend time teaching us all some of his dance moves and some fun line dancing.
A former BYU student and a returned missionary, Benji struggled for years as he tried to repress his same-sex feelings. When he was 17 he started an online Yahoo group for gay Mormon youth. After years of attempting to fit into the Mormon model of heterosexuality, Benji finally accepted his sexual orientation as a gift rather than a curse. He came out in a 2012 interview with Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin.
Led by Daniel Parkinson, this plenary session will feature highlights from the No More Strangers blog, the Gay Mormon Stories podcast, and the Far Between project. “As we have been conducting interviews for Gay Mormon Stories and the Far Between project,” says Daniel, “we have been impacted by a phenomenon that has been striking and consistent: if we
are open to it, God will affirm us as LGBT individuals and give us a confirmation of his love and approval of our relationships.
“How do we know it? You can’t hear these stories and not be impacted by the profound experiences that these individuals describe. They come to the issue broken. They come to the issue with openness. They come to the issue with a willingness to obey God’s will and they are surprised at the answer received.”
Daniel Parkinson was born and raised in Utah to a Mormon family with a thick Mormon Heritage. He comes to this issue as a psychiatrist, with a strong sense of activism, and a desire to help the two communities that he inherited as his birthright: the Mormon community, and the gay community.
Daniel was married to Diego, his partner of 12 years in Canada as soon as it became legal there in 2004. Unfortunately, they are unable to live in the United States due to discrimination. Since their marriage is not recognized in the USA, Daniel can not sponsor Diego for immigration, so they are forced by this to live abroad. However, they have made the most of this situation and divide their time between two cities they love: San Jose, Costa Rica, and Montreal, Quebec.
In this presentation we will hear and see excerpts from Far Between interviews and Gay Mormon Stories interviews where the participants describe these life-changing events. We will then follow with excerpts or live descriptions of these events by some of the people who were interviewed and other people who have had this affirming experience. We are anticipating a very moving program as we stand as witnesses to the loving response that God has given to the prayers of these seekers.
Carol Lynn Pearson: A Hero’s Journey
Carol Lynn Pearson will speak on the vital themes that appear in her recent book The Hero’s Journey of the Gay and Lesbian Mormon, encouraging us to embrace our calling as LGBT members of the Mormon Tribe as a gift rather than a problem. She will encourage us to realize that we are a special part of the healing that must occur in our families, our society, and our church. The healing can only come when we have healed our own hearts and stepped into the grandeur of who we really are, confident in ourselves and in our God, able to bless and forgive all those we meet along the way.
Judith Finch’s story is featured on the LDS Church’s new official MormonsAndGays.org website (see “Judy’s Story”). An Affirmation board member with a gay son and two gay grandchildren, Judy will also speak at conference. Judy will talk about how it is no mistake for our children to be gay and how Latter-day Saints can practice what they have been taught about
love, respect, and inclusion of all, including LGBT people, in their families and the Church.
The Family Acceptance Project will screen its new film “Families are Forever,” a moving short documentary about a devout Mormon family’s journey to support their young gay son. Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project will outline more about the video and the Family Acceptance Project. The Wendy Williams and Thomas Montgomery family –the family featured in the documentary– will take questions from the audience.
Robin (Kincaid) Linkhart, president of Quorum Six of the Seventy in the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) will also speak at our conference. On April 21, the National Conference for Community of Christ in the U.S. recommended to the First Presidency that the Church start marrying gay couples in states where same-sex marriage is legal. For states which do not have marriage equality, the Conference recommended blessing
same-sex couples with commitment ceremonies. The same conference recommended allowing priesthood ordination for lesbians and gays who are in monogamous, committed relationships.
A descendent of Mormons pioneers, Erika Munson was raised in Cambridge Massachusetts. She has a B.A. in Fine Arts from Harvard College. After twenty-five years of happily working at
home raising her five children, she began a career teaching English at The Waterford School in Sandy, Utah. In 2012 she founded Mormons Building Bridges with Kendall Wilcox and Bianca Morrison-Dillard. She is a member of the Willow Creek III Ward in Sandy where she currently serves as choir director.