Pillars of my Faith

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by John Gustav-Wrathall

(Originally presented at “The Pillars of My Faith,” Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium, August 1, 2014.)

I feel obligated in a forum such as this to say at least something about intellect and faith. I first became acquainted with Sunstone as a young student at BYU, when a couple of my professors, namely Mike Quinn and Bill Bradshaw, assigned Sunstone articles as readings in history and religion courses, respectively. My time at BYU, between 1981 and 1986 (including a brief 2-year interlude for a mission), began shortly after Elder Boyd K. Packer’s statement to C.E.S. teachers that “There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.”[1] This was also when Leonard Arrington was released as Church historian and the Church archives were closed, and the time of the Mark Hoffman forgeries, murders and scandal. It was, putting it euphemistically, an exciting time to be an aspiring Church historian.

Questions related to the historicity of the Book of Mormon, and related to challenging aspects of early Mormon history, and related to the role of intellect and free inquiry in the life of the Church weighed heavily on me during my last year at BYU. They played a role in a downward spiral into depression that nearly led me to commit suicide during the summer of 1986.

Resigning from the Church in 1986 freed me to explore and to read books I had previously avoided as heretical or suspect, like Sonya Johnson’s From Housewife to Heretic and Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History.[2] Resigning from the Church freed me to read literature about Church history and about the Book of Mormon with an open mind, and from any perspective I wanted, skeptical or faithful or in between. It freed me to dig into books like Brent Lee Metcalfe’s New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology (1993), or newsletters of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (to which I subscribed for a time), or D. Michael Quinn’s 2-volume study of The Mormon Hierarchy (1994), or Greg Prince’s David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (2005), or Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling (2007), or Armand Mauss’s All Abraham’s Children (2003), or Darron Smith and Newell Bringhurst’s Black and Mormon (2004), or Juanita Brooks’ Mountain Meadows Massacre (1950).

At this point, there are a few affirmations I am willing to make about the relationship between faith and intellect.

First, faith without knowledge is meaningless. If I do not know, for example, the facts of Joseph Smith’s career as a prophet, belief that he was a prophet would be meaningless.

Second, faith cannot be counterfactual. If Jesus Christ did not in some literal way descend to and minister to a remnant of the House of Israel living in the Americas near the meridian of time, there is no meaningful sense in which the Book of Mormon can be “another testament of Jesus Christ.” I continue to feel driven to evaluate historical and scientific data that are relevant to theological truth claims, which is why, for instance, I’m currently reading Brian Hales’ three-volume history of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy,[3] and plan to read Earl Wunderli’s Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us About Itself.

Third, everything is not always what it superficially appears to be. The problem of what a “fact” is and how we decide we “know” it is not trivial. And the older I get, the more I learn that much of what I once thought I knew is really nothing more than prejudice, and that what I actually do “know” with anything approaching fullness is relatively little. The life of faith and the life of intellect seem more alike to me than different. Both require patience, perseverance, and at times irrational leaps.

Fourth, that being the case, I regard with skepticism intellectual critiques of faith having as an a priori that there are no such things as angels, spirits, gods or miracles; that all there is to know is what is seen and tangible. I accept my own spiritual experiences as data that are at least as reliable as other sensory data and logic, all subject to validation through a continuous process of observation and discernment.

In other words, I tend to look at my life as an experiment, the results of which can only be known when it is completely finished, in which each experience, either good or bad, is an opportunity to validate or disprove my various working hypotheses about what is true and what is not.

_____

There was never a time growing up in my home, when I did not feel the power of the Spirit. There was never a time when I did not have absolute trust in the power of the priesthood that my father exercised righteously and lovingly. I was extraordinarily lucky.

I still remember, as if it were yesterday, the first time my father sat down with me on the couch, opened the Book of Mormon in front of me, and we read it together, and I felt the Spirit. I grew up in a home where prayer was the fabric of our home life and where answers to prayers were received frequently. I remember one day when I was in the fourth grade staying late after school to work on an art project. My mother came to pick me up and drove us home. We were in a terrible car accident. I remembered as soon as the car had stopped spinning saying to my mother, “I think we need to pray.” So we took turns praying for the well-being of the family in the other car. In our home, whenever there was illness, whenever there were surgeries or other medical procedures, we received priesthood blessings, and we were never surprised by full and speedy recoveries.

I remember one Sunday after Sacrament Meeting, my dad said something to me along the lines of, “You have to make your own decision about which religion is true.” At the time – and even now – to me this was an astounding statement. Could my dad really countenance the possibility of my leaving the faith that he had devoted his life to? Was I truly free to make my own decision?

How could I, growing up in such a home, fully appreciate what I had? I never knew anything else. I didn’t know what it would have been like to grow up without such blessings. Maybe that’s why I had to leave. Maybe the intellectual doubts that drove me away in search of answers where the greatest gift of my life. They were a pathway to understand what I had always had and what I needed most.

_____

It was not inevitable that I leave the Church, simply by virtue of the fact that I am gay and came of age in the early 80’s. Other gay men and lesbians of my generation found other paths within the Church. Perhaps the chain of events that led me to resign my membership after nearly committing suicide in 1986 had as much to do with the fact that at the end of my sophomore year I moved from on-campus university housing to off-campus housing, and as a result went from a ward with a gentle, compassionate bishop who possessed a sense of humor and sensible attitudes toward sexuality, to a ward with a bishop who was legalistic, authoritarian, and seemed unhealthily obsessed with sex. If I had stayed in the former ward, perhaps that bishop could have helped me reason through some of the intellectual doubts that were tormenting me, and I wouldn’t have been denied a calling and a temple recommend and the right to take the sacrament, for admitting that I occasionally masturbated. Perhaps with a calling, and regular opportunities to partake of the sacrament and to pray and meditate in the temple, and an understanding bishop, I would have found a way to stay and make it work, even with the tremendous burdens and limitations of being gay under such circumstances.

There have been lots of twists and turns of that nature in my life, like that fact that I chose to leave the Church during a BYU-sponsored internship in Helsinki, Finland, which helped me establish connections with the Finnish-American community in Northern Michigan, which is where I fled after deciding not to go back to BYU. It was my work with the Finnish-American collection at Northern Michigan University that led me to enter a PhD program in immigration studies at the University of Minnesota, where I received a full, four-year fellowship. I moved to Minneapolis in 1987, the same year the man I ultimately married moved there after a falling out with his parents in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Seemingly inconsequential decisions resulted in chains of events with momentous impact. But while my life has been shaped in unanticipated ways by random events, my life has also been guided at key crossroads by powerful – sometimes visionary – spiritual experiences.

In August 1986, after nearly committing suicide, after a long period of depression and inability to speak to God, those communications channels were reopened when I felt the Spirit inviting me to pray. As I got on my knees and began by confessing to God that I was gay, the Spirit poured out on me the peace that passes understanding, and God reassured me that he knew that I was gay because he knew how I was woven “from my inmost parts.” It was shortly thereafter that the Spirit also made clear to me that it was time to leave the Church “for a time.” I wrestled with and resisted the notion that it could be possible or right for me to leave the Church. As I prayed for guidance to write letters announcing my intention to my parents and my bishop, I was carried away, up and out of my body, beyond the confines of the earth, and I saw the throne of God. I saw multitudes of people dressed in white, worshiping God, and among them I recognized deceased members of my family. I heard a voice reassuring me that all would be well.

In 1988 I decided I needed clarity about how to deal with my sexuality. I told God I would begin a fast and not end it until I received an answer to an urgent question: should I commit myself to a life of celibacy, or should I pursue the possibility of marriage to a woman? It was the morning of the third day of my fast, while I was walking across the University of Minnesota footbridge between the east and the west banks of the Mississippi that the Spirit gave me a clear answer to my query: “Consider all the options.”

All my efforts at dating women over the previous decade had demonstrated to me that that was a dead end, for me and for them. After spending the summer of 1989 in a Roman Catholic monastery to learn more about celibacy from people who had experience with it; after spending many hours in prayer and meditation every day during matins and vespers and while working on the monastery farm, I received clarity that God’s calling for me did not involve celibacy. It was then I opened myself to the possibility of a relationship with a man. After dating men for a few years, I met my husband Göran in 1991.

I met my husband Göran at a gay bar in Minneapolis called “The Gay 90s.” Göran invited me to dance. We dated briefly. He knew I was the right one for him. I didn’t know that yet, and broke it off with him. We met again nine months later quite by chance in a meeting of the Association of LGBT Student Organizations, I as a co-chair of the LGBT grad students’ organization and he subbing for the representative of the gay fraternity, Delta Lambda Phi. It was finally then that the emotions the sight of him stirred in me made me realize he was the one for me. He’s always said he knew I was “the one” from the beginning. It took me a year longer to figure that out, a fact he’s never let me live down.

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In August 2005, at the Sunstone Symposium here in Salt Lake, during a session by Lavina Fielding Anderson critiquing the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet, the Spirit spoke to me with a clarity and power I had never before experienced in my life, telling me that it was time for me to come back to the Church. I wept, I cursed, I tried to deny it. But in the end, I realized that I wanted the peace that came from following that prompting more than I wanted a life free from contradiction and conflict. I started attending my ward in Minneapolis in October 2005. I felt the Spirit at Church more powerfully than I had felt it in more than 15 years.

When I met with my bishop, he listened attentively to my story, asked questions intended to get to know both me and my husband better, prayed with me, blessed me, encouraged me to live as much of the Gospel as I could within the constraints of being excommunicated and in a committed same-sex relationship, and promised me that I belonged, and that he would personally deal with anyone in the ward who gave me any problems. We continued to meet regularly, as I have with all my bishops since then. There were times I met with my bishop when I saw a visible heavenly light filling the room. On occasion I have seen that same heavenly light in my ward meeting house, and in the lobby of the temple. I know that the priesthood these men hold is real.

As my testimony of different Gospel principles was reaffirmed – most often through practicing them – and as I became more and more convinced that this Church was true, I faced a stupendous conflict. How could I have received such clear and convincing directives from God – promptings that I myself had mentally resisted because I had found them so difficult to believe – that my gayness was an inherent part of who I am “from my inmost parts,” that my relationship with my husband was commended to me and blessed by God, but also have such a clear, compelling, undeniable sense that the Church was true and the men who led it held true priesthood authority from God, when what they taught about homosexuality seemed so utterly to contradict my personal experience?

Periodically I would attempt to pray about it, but always the Spirit put me off and told me not to worry about that right now. Still, I wrestled. I had never in all my life been filled with such an abundance of peace and happiness and a sense of perpetual companionship of the Spirit. I thought, I want my life to be in harmony with the Gospel in every particular. And finally, in April 2006, I put it before the Lord very bluntly, and I said I need to know. If you need me to leave my husband I need to know now. And then the answer came to me unequivocally. Under no circumstance was I to leave my husband. Under no circumstance was I to, through inattentiveness to his needs, cause him to leave me. To do so would be a sin.

In May 2008, as soon as I heard of the California Supreme Court ruling that legalized marriage for gay couples, the Spirit said to me very clearly, Go now and get married. Göran and I were prepared to fly out to California with our foster son Glen as soon as the ruling went into effect in mid-June of that year, but ended up delaying one month at the insistence of my parents, who wanted to be able to meet us in California and attend. After our return to Minnesota, I felt different. I felt blessed for having done what the Spirit told us to do, and I experienced access to spiritual gifts intended to bless my family, my husband and our son.

The morning of March 29, 2009, as I was preparing to go to Church, I felt prompted to bear my testimony during Fast and Testimony Meeting, something I knew I was not permitted to do as an excommunicated member. My bishop at the time was a stickler for rules, but the Spirit told me to ask my bishop for permission to bear my testimony. The Spirit warned me against couching the request in a fancy speech, or thinking ahead what I would say in my testimony. I arrived at my bishop’s office just as a ward executive committee meeting was ending. Without fanfare I asked him simply, “May I bear my testimony today?” He looked me in the eyes and said nine words: “You have the gift of faith. Yes you may.” My bishop later confirmed that he would not likely allow me to repeat the experience, but the Spirit had prompted him to make an exception that particular morning. He called it “a tender mercy of the Lord.” So with no plan aforethought as to what I would say, I stood at the podium as soon as it was opened to the congregation and simply told my story – of learning I was gay, of nearly leaving the Church by way of suicide, of my relationship with my husband, of the spiritual experiences that had brought me back to Church and taught me it was true. And I bore testimony of Jesus Christ, of what I knew from an experience I had had in October 2007, that he was real, that he lived, that all power given to him by the Father, and that he was coming again, and that it was easier for me to disbelieve my own existence than to disbelieve his. After my testimony, individuals stood up and bore their testimonies of what they knew of me. A throng surrounded me afterwards to encircle me with hugs and tears. I’ve never been permitted to bear my testimony in my ward since, but for me that was an eternal mercy.

In the past year, as the tide has turned nationally in relation to the issue of marriage for gay and lesbian couples, Church leaders have responded by, first, preaching a message of tolerance and love toward those who disagree with the Church accompanied by, second, an unequivocal rejection of same-sex marriage.
I have frequently heard the notion expressed that the Church must inexorably evolve toward acceptance of same-sex relationships; that Church leaders would quietly phase out high profile statements expressing opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage; that the shifting tide of public opinion on this issue would force Church leaders to reevaluate their position or risk losing a critical mass of Church members (particularly in the upcoming generation). Obviously, folks who were expecting that path forward have been disillusioned, at least for now.

Recent Church statements have not surprised, disillusioned or upset me. Unless our leaders receive a revelation revising our current understanding of the doctrine of Eternal Marriage, I’m not sure our leaders have any other choice than to do this. Since I personally have little interest in belonging to a Church not governed by revelation, ironically perhaps, recent statements reassure me that the Church operates in the way my testimony has taught me it should operate.

Still, the recent high profile statements in General Conference have had the overall effect of making it more awkward and uncomfortable than ever to be a gay married believing Latter-day Saint.

_____

There’s a temptation in my situation to resolve the conflict through the assumption that the Church will eventually receive light on the subject of homosexuality that will make better sense of my experiences and the experiences of so many others in the framework of eternal family.[4] I have found that I lose the Spirit when I succumb to the temptation to believe that I know more on this subject than those who have the keys to receive and reveal doctrine. I know that the Spirit is at work in my life, and I have a relationship with God, and I know what I am supposed to do, within the constraints of my particular circumstances. I accept the possibility that mine may be a lesser path than that of others who are strictly obedient to the current teachings of the Church in relation to marriage.[5] But I accept the assurances I’ve received from God that my present offering is accepted by Him, despite my faults and weaknesses.

I’ve looked for outward signs of God’s grace in my life. Shortly after returning to activity in the Church, I felt prompted to pray for the resolution of a problem that put my husband and our relationship in serious jeopardy. When he was four years old, his mother kidnapped him and went into hiding from the rest of his family, going under an assumed name. After she passed away in 1996, we discovered that he had never had a birth certificate, and were informed by an attorney that if he could not prove his citizenship, he was at risk to be incarcerated indefinitely. We worked for eight years trying to resolve this situation without success. I received a prompting from the Spirit early in 2006 that if I would pray for help with this situation, the Lord would help us resolve it. In 2007, even though repeated previous efforts to seek help from elected officials had been rebuffed, we felt prompted to approach our newly elected congressman, Keith Ellison. His office agreed to help, and asked us to provide copies of all the documents we had collected over the years attempting to establish Göran’s citizenship, with a summary of what we knew about his situation. Shortly after we did so, Congressman Ellison’s office located Göran’s birth certificate in Tennessee, and secured the state’s agreement to release the document to us.

I still remember the day we learned the news, ending a long nightmare of fear and uncertainty we had experienced in relation to his citizenship status and our ability to remain together as a couple. I felt an outpouring of the Spirit confirming that this was the answer to the prayers I had been offering for over a year on his behalf. I also felt a strong impression that this breakthrough was symbolic of a breakthrough we would someday receive in the eternal world in relation to our marital covenants with each other. The Spirit said to me: “Have faith.”

A series of blessings came into our lives in rapid succession after that. We became foster parents of a wonderful gay son later that year. (Our son Glen will soon be graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in urban studies and urban planning, and next month will be legally marrying his fiancé in our home state.) In early 2008, using information that had become available to us through the release of Göran’s birth certificate, we made contact with his birth family in Memphis, Tennessee, and he was reunited with his father, three half-siblings, his grandmother, his aunt, and a plethora of cousins, great aunts and uncles and other extended family, all of whom had been praying and searching for him some forty years. We met them in Memphis in a dramatic, tear-filled, laughter-filled reunion, one month after Göran and I were legally married in Riverside, California. All of these events made a deep impression in my mind and my heart as symbolic of blessings of family available in the eternal world, if we continued faithful.

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Since then, we have also suffered challenges and setbacks that have humbled us and reminded us of our utter dependence on God. In August 2012, toward the end of our second foster care placement, I was involved in a bike accident that resulted in a severe head injury. I had a subdural hematoma that went undetected by my doctors for over six weeks, and that, according to my doctors, would have resulted in my death had it not been for the intervention of a member of my ward. I requested and received a priesthood blessing prior to my brain surgery, and have since made a full recovery, with no discernible mental impairment from the injury or the surgery.

Last year, a few months after I returned to work following post-surgery disability leave, my husband experienced a disturbing decline in health. He was diagnosed with kidney failure. Since July 2013, my husband has been on dialysis and is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. In the past year my family has experienced a number of additional emotionally and physically difficult challenges which I won’t detail here.

In the midst of the trials and challenges of the past two years, I have on bad days wondered if I was somehow being punished. On good days, I view the challenges, like the blessings, through eyes of faith, and like Nephi I can say, “having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God,”[6] I bear testimony of my proceedings.

At the heart of my predicament is the question I think all people of faith must answer, though for me the question is particularly poignant. To what extent should I rely on internal versus external guides in order to answer the great questions about my life’s meaning and trajectory? Should I reject my own perceptions and spiritual experiences as too subjective, in favor of definitive statements of modern-day prophets and apostles about same-sex marriage? Should I dismiss teachings, no matter how ecclesiastically authoritative, that don’t make sense in my world? Is it possible to find in my life good fruit born of a good tree objectively manifesting God’s hand in my life and his blessings on my marriage? Or is my perception of good or bad fruit hopelessly indistinguishable from my presuppositions and subjectively constructed narratives?

The great temptation in my life has been to prematurely call the question, to resolve the problem quickly and easily in one direction or another. But I find that kind of resolution ultimately unsatisfying. There have been profound moments in my life when I have been forced to acknowledge, like Moses, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.”[7]

It is better to be annihilated by the truth than to be saved by a lie. But if that rings true it is only because deep down inside we know that it is not us, not our true selves that the truth can annihilate, but only our ego, that false god in each of us. We know in the marrow of our bones that the truth will exalt and free the true us. Shouldn’t we stake our salvation on that? But it takes patience to discern what is exalting, liberating truth, and what is masquerading as truth, what is our ego clamoring to be god.

My soul demands that the outward, external world align with and validate my inward, subjective world. Until the outward and the inward align, I am determined to dismiss neither, but to patiently work, listen, watch and wait.

_____

So what does that mean?

It first of all means abstaining from self-judgment, as I also abstain from judgment of others. It means acknowledging that God is the sole judge, of me as well as of all others. When I stand in judgment of others, I find myself less sure of my own standing before God.

I will not criticize or speak evil or put myself in the place of Church leaders, first of all because I find that I lose the Spirit when I do. But also because, I realize, it is from their lips that I look for my salvation to be declared, if there is salvation to be declared to me. At key moments in my voyage, when I have felt almost overwhelmed by the contradictions of my life, it has occurred to me that Christ, whose will is the Father’s, had rather we sink or sail together than that we do either separately. So I abide with the Church, and find comfort in the abiding.

I dislike the idea that we should stay in the Church in order to change it. It assumes we know how the Church ought to change. In the past few months, there have been enough Mormons foundering on the shoals of that idea. I think it’s a terrible idea. We should stay in the Church because we find growth and joy and truth in it; and if we don’t, we should go somewhere else where we can find those things. That is healthy.

But I can say that if we find that growth and joy and truth, and if we do stay, the church will be different and better for our staying than if we left. And we will be different and better too. And I believe there is a place for every single one of us in the kingdom of God, if we have the love and humility to find the place Christ has prepared for us in it.

I love my husband Göran. I have loved him for twenty-two years as of our upcoming anniversary at the end of next week. In that time my love for him has only grown stronger, through every fight we have resolved and every challenge we have faced. It was a long, long time ago I realized I would give my life for him. What diminishes him diminishes me. My soul, body and spirit, cleaves to him. And I can honestly say that today, on this day, I love him more than I have on any other day that has preceded this. And I can honestly say that that love has always elevated me. It has always made me want to be, and has helped me to be, a better man.

I love God. I love his Church because I love Him. And I have found that this love elevates and exalts my soul, and makes me want to be more, to be better, to be like God. This love has made me see more clearly than any other the connections between me, my husband, our son, my parents, my siblings, all my brothers and sisters of every nation, all my brothers and sisters, human, animal and element; all creation.

I yearn for all those loves and connections to be eternal. I yearn to love in a way that is worthy of eternity.

Those are the pillars of my faith.

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[1] Boyd K. Packer, “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect,” Address to the Fifth Annual CES Religious Educators’ Symposium, 1981; see also Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991), 101-122; see also Boyd K. Packer, “‘The Mantle is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect.’,” Brigham Young University Studies 21 no. 3 (Summer 1981), 259–278.

[2] I credit Fawn Brodie at least in part with the renewal of my testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith. Though I found her narrative of Joseph Smith as a conscious, pious fraud who came to believe his own lies fascinating, data she presented in her own book convinced me that whatever the prophet’s failings might be, he was not a fraud.

[3]I thank Brian C. Hales for, in his three-volume study of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy (Greg Kofford Books, 2013), presenting a wealth of primary source materials and historiographical analysis. His perspectives on the Prophet’s character and on the place of polygamy in Mormon theology are much needed counterpoints in the literature.

[4] It’s tempting to assume that the Church has taken the position it has because our leaders haven’t yet asked God the question about homosexuality, that our Church leaders’ views on this subject are so colored by a thousand years of cultural homophobia that they can’t figure out how or why it would be necessary to ask such a question. Maybe. In Acts 10, Peter was shocked by the vision of the canopy of unclean animals that God commanded him to eat. He was shocked in Acts 11 to see the Spirit being poured out on uncircumcised Gentiles. The Church as a body was convulsed and divided by the implications of Cornelius’ baptism, resulting in the contentious Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). Jewish Christians like Peter had been raised from childhood to view the Levitical law as “a statute forever.” (See Exodus 28, 29, 30; Leviticus 6, 7, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24; Numbers 18, 19; and Deuteronomy 4, where the Lord repeatedly refers to Levitical statutes as “a statute for ever.”) Gentiles already had a mechanism for joining the Church that required no new revelation. They could be circumcised and submit themselves to the law. Through Cornelius and through the vision of the unclean beasts, the Lord made it known that the Church was no longer bound by laws they had taken for granted to be eternal. Maybe the issue of homosexuality is similar, and it will take some dramatic act on the part of the Lord to open the Church’s eyes to a new paradigm. But maybe not.

[5] In 1995 I made a public, marital commitment to my husband Göran before family, friends and God. Maybe in so doing I was binding myself in the manner described in Numbers 30: “If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth…. Every vow… wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against [them]” (verses 2, 9). Perhaps that is the reason the Lord has made it clear to me that to leave my husband would be a sin, even if the end result is to restrict my eternal potential. I feel I have no objective basis to deny that possibility.

[6] 1 Nephi 1:1.

[7] Moses 1:10.

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One Comment

  1. Kerry Harding says:

    This was beautiful in every way, John. You are a blessing to the lives of everyone who knows you.

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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.

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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 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.

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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 http://www.tiptonssaxquartet.com

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Justin

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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, www.clpearson.com, where her books are also available.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sam Wolfe

Sam Wolfe is a civil rights lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center where he helped launch the LGBT Rights Project and continues to help lead the nation-wide project. Sam’s work, often set in the deep south, focuses on achieving greater respect and equality for gay and transgender people. The project’s cutting edge legal action has been reported on the front page of The New York Times, CNN Presents, Rolling Stone Magazine, and in an hour long program for Anderson Cooper 360.

Previously, Sam was a litigation associate at a leading international law firm in New York City where his pro bono practice focused on representing LGBT clients. He is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center and is a member of the Alabama and New York bar associations. The National LGBT Bar Association recently recognized Sam as one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40. Other experience includes service in the armed forces as part of a special operations team and as an English teacher in Taiwan where he also was a bungee jump master.

Sam is the oldest of twelve children. He completed a two-year Mormon mission in northern France, Luxembourg, and Belgium. Later, he obtained an undergraduate degree at BYU in Mandarin Chinese and international relations. Although he recognized his orientation much earlier, it was at BYU that Sam 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 affirmation.org 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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