Pamela Koldewyn Johanson: “If this sounds like a testimony, it’s because it is”
by Hugo Salinas
With an interfaith service, an LDS social, two marches, and a popular booth known as “The Mormon Hugging Booth,” tens of thousands were moved by the participation of Mormons, LGBT and straight, at Pride celebrations held in Salt Lake City on the first weekend of June.
On Thursday, April 31, LGBT Mormons, families and friends participated in an interfaith service held at Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City. “Through God’s transformative power, anger and disappointment with our adversaries can become love and encouragement,” said Erika Munson of Mormons Building Bridges during the service. “This is not easy–it is a formidable act of faith. But we all know that when God tells us to love our neighbor, he’s talking about the neighbor who’s hardest to love.” The One Voice Choir provided some of the music.
On Friday, over 75 LGBT Mormons, families, and friends participated in an LDS social hosted by Jamison Manwaring. After a rooftop barbecue, there was some terrific community singing led by Christian and Dan. A counselor in a Salt Lake City stake presidency came with his wife. From Affirmation and Family Fellowship to BYU’s USGA and Reconciliation, many LDS LGBT-supportive groups were represented.
On Saturday, a group of transgender Mormons and allies participated in the Trans Rally and March. Leanorah-Loreli Grace, a Latter-day Saint who recently came out as transgender, rode the bus from Ohio to be there. She reported that singing “A Whole New World” during the Saturday events made her cry. “Luckily I was sitting between two remarkable and wonderful friends [who] wrapped their arms around me and I truly felt loved, for one of the first times in my life.”
On Sunday, hundreds of Mormons joined the main parade. Mormons for Equality marched with the ACLU and with the Unitarians. Curtis Penfold, a BYU sophomore who recently organized an event in Provo for marriage equality, led the ACLU group. One of the signs carried by the group read, “I SUPPORT MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND I’M A MORMON.”
Some 400 Latter-day Saints marched with Mormons Building Bridges. Several LDS families reaffirmed the selected theme, “Families Together,” by carrying signs with their family’s surname and the names of all the family members.
“I have marched in the Pride parade twice now,” wrote Pamela Koldewyn Johanson on the Mormons Building Bridges Facebook page. “Each time I was buoyed by a strong witness that I was where I was meant to be. I count both experiences as two of the most spiritual in my life. If this sounds like a testimony, it’s because it is.”
The Moore-Allgood Family marched with their transgender 18-year-old son Grayson. “I want other parents to have the rich experience we have had at supporting our kid,” Grayson’s mother Neca Allgood told KSL5.
“Having a supportive family behind me all the way has just made such a huge difference to me,” Greyson added. “I’ve had a so much happier life because my family has been there for me every step of the way.”
Sherri and Bill Park were part of a team of Mormons who hugged thousands of LGBT folks as they marched in the streets of Salt Lake and then at the booth. By Saturday evening, the day before the main event, they had already run out of “HUGGED BY A MORMON” stickers. At the site nicknamed “The Mormon Hugging Booth,” the hugging team embraced thousands of LGBT folks. Bill later reported that one of the LGBT folks he hugged, whispered in his ear something the person was too shy to say aloud: “I am a Mormon, too.”
Matthew Haws wrote about seeing his Mormon mother, who had once declared that she could never walk in a parade to support gay rights, stand up from her chair on the sidewalk and join the Mormon Building Bridges group.
“As she walked she turned and blew me a kiss and waved goodbye, I could see in her eyes what she couldn’t say, ‘This one is for you son,’” Matt wrote on the No More Strangers blog. “She turned back and marched on. I was not expecting the emotions of that moment… I cheered her on with a smile and the tears started to come, my sister came up gave me a hug and we wept together.”
» Mormons Building Bridges Marching In SLC Pride (YouTube clip)
» KSL5 Story (features Keith Trottier, Erika Munson, Neca Allgood, and Greyson Moore)
» View complete interfaith service (YouTube)