As 2016 — a difficult year for LGBT Mormons — draws to a close, we reached out to LGBT Mormons, their families and friends, and asked them what Affirmation has meant to them. They told stories of lives changed, hearts opened, families strengthened and faith renewed. Here are some of their statements and stories.
Affirmation is important simply for the community aspect- especially when it comes to the youth. A lot of us struggle with the church’s influence on our lives, even those of us who have left. But getting to know other kids who are going through the same thing, and being able to help them and receive help from them, lessens the burden quite a bit.
— Lottie Ann Roberts
After coming out as gay and losing my sense of safety in the church, discovering Affirmation for me was like the moment the ugly duckling realizes he is really a swan. It became my new safe haven: a place where I always felt love and belonging, regardless of how I lived my life. As a teenager, having a community from which I always felt unconditional love was essential for me in order to grow and learn to love myself.
— Kayden Maxwell
There was a constant struggle between my mind and my heart until I decided to talk about my situation, following which came a much harder struggle, because of the scrutiny and misinformation on the part of some leaders. After some time I decided that if I wanted to be in peace, free from rejection, I had to withdraw from the Church that had formed my core values. I felt desolate, like in that passage of the Bible: Tossed by every wave of the sea, without purpose or direction.
I remember asking in prayer to the Father for comfort and courage to continue living. But above all I wanted to continue to feel his love for me. And so many years passed.
The first time I heard there was an organization that helped people like me I could not believe it. Until that moment he did not know its name. I prayed to the Father and asked with great fervor to guide me to the right people to reach that organization. Affirmation appeared. When I went to my first Affirmation activity, on the way I was thinking: “Will they treat me well? Will they treat me warmly? Will I feel the same feelings I felt when I first encountered the Church?
When I arrived at the meeting I remember that I extended my hand and received a strong hug from an Affirmation leader. And at that moment I felt that I had found what had been missing in my life.
A miracle had happened in my life! God is real, he listens to me, he loves me and he wants me to be close to Him. No matter what others say about us, God loves us all the more because He knows the goodness of our hearts.
— Humberto Chiu Wong
Affirmation is amazing! We took our 15 year old gay son to his first conference last September. He participated in the youth track and had an incredible experience. Within an hour, he went from not knowing anyone to feeling fully embraced and having one of the best experiences of his life. Every adult mentor working with the youth was so committed and full of love. Seeing the pure joy in Austin’s face as he interacted with other teens who could perfectly relate to the experience of trying to navigate the path of both growing up Mormon and being LGBT was something I’ll never forget. We could not have found this kind of experience anywhere else for him. Meanwhile my husband and I were soaking up every moment in the workshops for parents. Having a chance to meet and share similar experiences with other parents confirmed in so many ways the decisions we had made in supporting our son. There was such a feeling of love all weekend, it was hard to leave. Attending Affirmation had immediate positive benefits for our family. We can’t wait to go back next year.
— Laura Webb
It was March 13, 2015, that I dared to write Randall Thacker, to ask questions about the Affirmation Conference that would be held in Chile in May 2015. I did not have much hope of a response. However only one day later I received a beautiful response.
From that day, my life has been most blessed, thanks to Affirmation, by being able to attend the conference, participate in the activities, talk with other sisters and brothers who felt the same as me, to feel that they had experienced the same hardships and pains that I had in the process coming to accept myself.
I went several years without attending church. However Affirmation gave me the tools to decide for myself, and make the determination to return to the Church. It is already my 41st week attending every Sunday and participating in the activities of the Church, I stopped thinking about what I can not do in service in the Church, but in what I can do and I do it with all my heart.
I have also had the opportunity to serve in the presidency of Affirmation Chile and doing so has brought me great joy.
In conjunction with Affirmation I had the blessing to attend the International Conference in Provo in 2015, and to see and feel how great the task is, how great the service, the welcome, the benefit of Affirmation!
While in Chile and throughout Latin America we do not have as many members as in the US, still I feel that the foundation is being laid for the future, for those who will come, because Heavenly Father loves us, and we will never be alone!
Thank you for the blessing of Affirmation in my life!
— Carmen Paz
I remember my first Affirmation meeting in May 1988. I was surrounded by 31 gay and lesbian Mormons, and finally realized that I wasn’t the only gay Mormon on the planet. Affirmation literally saved my life. They loved and accepted me as I am, and let me come to my own conclusions of what it meant for me to be Mormon and gay. Since then, I have been paying it forward to future generations of gay and lesbian Mormons.
— James Kent
At the beginning of my transition, I felt so alone. Then I was introduced to Affirmation, and it has given me so much hope and strength to keep going – knowing there are others just like me.
— Emmett C. Michael
Inside of Affirmation you will find all kinds of people; that’s what makes us strong. From faithful same-sex attracted members of the church to the most radical thinkers I’ve ever met, all people work together to make a beautiful community that is capable of much more than we are apart.
Affirmation helped me, and helps hundreds of others. Affirmation is not interested in numbers, they aren’t interested in statistics, they’re interested in people. Affirmation and the people within have loved and supported me when I wasn’t able to do so myself. I owe so much to Affirmation, not the least of which is my life.
— Justin Marks
Without Affirmation, I wouldn’t know a lot of the people I now consider friends.
— Brianna Cluck
Affirmation is the community that saved me and my relationship with my parents. Finding people like me that understood me was a life changer.
— Augustus Crosby
Attending affirmation my first year as a newly-out, unsure 15 year old was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I am so grateful for this loving community that has become my family.
— Kenna Delton
Since I found Affirmation in 1998, I was able to understand that I was not the only person in the gay Mormon world, but because of the absence of social networks, I had only found friends in the U.S. I went on a mission, and after a long journey through the world, Affirmation rescued me.
I felt that I would finally have a space to be myself, and not to be ashamed to speak of God. I could stop being afraid to express that I am gay and a believer in God and in Jesus Christ. Thanks to this space, I stopped the self-destructive behavior that had been common in the gay world. Today Affirmation has helped me to find ways of living and thinking, but it has surrounded me with hundreds of people who are examples to me, who have given me tools for life, and taught me to be a better human being.
Before I had created a hidden life, secret and separated from my family where a few knew I was gay. But now, my whole family including extended cousins, know me as I am and continue to express the same affection as always. That is a blessing without price.
Affirmation has given me the spiritual freedom that Jesus spoke of when he was on earth and of the Light that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught us we could achieve. I know that I still have a long way to go, and I am willing to continue walking here, on this path. Thank you, Affirmation.
— Adrián Sánchez Roman
For me, Affirmation was the first space where I felt at ease connecting with other queer folks. Though I’m no longer in the same place with regards to the church, it was important to me at first to interact with people who were still involved in their wards while pursuing same-sex relationships or expressing their true gender. Affirmation has been a space that empowered me to make peace with God and then actually grow and evolve spiritually and personally after a period of spiritual and personal stagnation.
— Christian Jacob Frandsen
My testimony has kept me secure in what I hope for. Knowing the Church has been a blessing in my existence because I found the ideal tool to be true to my feelings. In all these years I have learned that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people and Affirmation gave me the ideal place to work and fulfill the reason I came into this world. I am in the service of my neighbor and it will be a true privilege to serve always without putting a time limit on my service. It is also how I helped myself to grow and move forward because while I helped others, I helped myself.
Some people have called me rebellious. The Lord knows me and knows the intention of my heart. I have learned to encourage others not to give up on life. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ and work on affirming Mormon LGBT families and friends because that is where the Lord wants me.
— Roxana Lopez
In 2012 I was a parent of an LGBT youth just discovering his sexual orientation. As the defined lifeplan of Mormonism shattered around him, we were terrified of everything we didn’t know. We were left to our stereotypes because we really didn’t know any gay people. We lived in our sheltered Mormon community and shared the community’s bias against LGBT people.
Our first Affirmation conference was a revelation. We met some of the most wonderful people. From everyday common people as normal as the next person to truly extraordinary people. Spiritual giants and people of integrity.
It was at that time that my fears melted away. My son’s life would not be the cookie cutter Mormon life, but in many ways it would be far more extraordinary. Knowing the Affirmation community is the difference.
— Thomas Palani Montgomery
I was born on October 23, 1984, in a home that was a bit religious and rigid. Since childhood I knew that my feelings were different. After an adolescence filled with fears and insecurities, the Lord gave me two wonderful blessings, the first of which was to know through the missionaries the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which taught me the Truths of God, as well as entering an environment where I came to feel accepted, where I could break out of the bubble in which I lived. The second blessing was to know Affirmation, since through Affirmation I understood that our Heavenly Father’s love is not limited to a few, but is for everyone regardless of anything.
From that encounter with Affirmation folks I began a path of discovery and acceptance of myself, and as well had the opportunity to surround myself with other people who share with me my faith and many more things.
I am grateful to have received the strength to open up with the people who love me, such as my family and friends, in whom I saw the fulfillment of the promise: Families are Eternal. The love of my mother, my brothers and nephews has greatly strengthened me, as well as that of all my Affirmation friends and the Church, who are my second family.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, that we should all be respectful of what each person thinks and lives, in all aspects of life, as part of the moral agency that is given to man by Our Heavenly Father.
I know that our Heavenly Father loves us and does not deny us anything, for we are His children, and He desires the best for us, I know that Affirmation exists to help us understand that we are equal in the sight of God and that we are entitled to the same Blessings that all our brothers and sisters, I know we are instruments in their hands to provide comfort and joy to those who need it so that they can shine the light that is in them …
— Israel Flores Alvarez
For me Affirmation has become a Faith strenghening Column! 4 years ago I was struggling with my Faith and Mormon beliefs as I could not understand why the Church I have given my best years and youth to in service was not welcoming anymore as they learned my sexual orientation was different from what they had thought. I suffered discrimination or was viewed with apathy and was no longer treated with the same love and friendship I was used to for many years. I learned about Affirmation online and contacted Randall Thacker who then helped me with all info I needed about Affirmation. I then started to organize meetings here [in the Dominican Republic] and followed all Affirmation media news and articles, and shared it with many other friends. We then created the First Dominican Chapter for Affirmation. Affirmation is the greatest Blessing in my life and it is blessing many others as I and many others find it as a place to reconcile our beliefs and find hope and spiritual strength.
— John Rodriguez
Affirmation saved me. In a place where I felt so alone and worthless, Affirmation welcomed me in and embraced me just as I was. It is my home and my family.
— Braxton Barham