Blog

Affinity – September 2013


Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons—Serving LGBT Mormons and Their Family and Friends Since 1977


Inside This Issue

 

The Officers Club will be the venue of the Friday evening Reception and Opening Program, the Saturday Workshops, some of the service projects, the Saturday reception and story-sharing meeting, and the Sunday luncheon.

The Douglas Ballroom, recently added south of the Guesthouse, will be the site of the Saturday morning plenary, the Saturday lunch, and the Evening of Affirmation.

Conference Updates

You Can still Register for $99, Request Scholarship!

Conference Weather

» Check out the weather forecast for Salt Lake City

Workshops Program Finalized

The full list of Saturday workshops has been finalized and organized in three sessions. Two of the panels will be repeated during the Second and Third Session, allowing more people a chance to attend.

Deadlines for Scholarships, Discounted Registration Extended

The deadline for students and those with extremely limited financial resources to register for conference at the $50 price has been extended through September 12.

The discounted registration price ($99) has been extended through September 12.

As of September 11, registration by mail or email is closed. Online registration is still open through September 12.

Carpooling and sharing hotel rooms are suggested ways to save money.

Bring Friends, Family to the Saturday Evening Program

We strongly encourage conference-goers to invite family and friends to the Saturday evening program. Priced at $15, the program will include a 6:00 pm reception with heavy appetizers, a 7:00 pm testimony/story-sharing meeting, and an 8:00 Evening of Affirmation, followed by desserts and socializing.

The reception and story-sharing meeting will be held in the Officers Club. The evening of Affirmation will be held in the Douglas Ballroom, which is attached to the Guesthouse. We suggest that those driving for the evening park behind the Guesthouse as shown in this map and, if planning to attend the 6:00 PM reception and/or the 7:00 PM story-sharing meeting walk to the Officers Club.

The Evening of Affirmation will include musical numbers by the Affirmation Choir and presentations by some of our LGBT allies: Barb and Steve YoungBenji Schwimmer, and Judy Finch. With an inspiring lineup of presenters and music, this will no doubt be one of the highlights of our conference.

You can buy tickets for this event online or by mail, but we need to know the number of attendees a few days before conference so that we can order the food.

Attend Conference Events “A La Carte”

This year we are offering menu pricing for those who may wish to attend and pay for limited parts of the conference. This gives attendees total liberty to participate on a tight schedule and a tight budget:

You can register for these events either online (deadline: September 12) or by scanning a form and sending it by email (deadline: September 10).

If you can attend only limited events but your financial situation is not tight, we encourage you to consider making a tax-deductible donation to the conference fund, thus helping us defray conference costs. You can make a donation online (by typing a higher amount on the top section of the form) or by email (by using the “TOTAL ENCLOSED” line at the bottom of Page 2) as you register for specific events.

Join the Affirmation Choir!

The Affirmation Choir which will sing during the Saturday evening devotional. Whether you’re soprano, bass, anything in between, don’t miss this chance to be part of it. If possible, plan your flight so that you attend the first choir rehearsal on Friday, September 13, at 4:45 PM. For more information, visit the Choir Page.

When You Should Get There

    • Please note that for this conference, the General Business Meeting has been moved to Friday. All Affirmation leaders and members are strongly encouraged to arrive in time for this meeting, which will be held on Friday at 6:00 PM in the Officers Club. This meeting is the opportunity for members to learn about the current and upcoming work within Affirmation, to ask questions, and to volunteer to help.
    •  If this is your first Affirmation Conference, you’re strongly encouraged to attend the First Timers Meeting, which will start on Friday at 4:00 PM in the Officers Club. We will get acquainted, answer your questions, tell you what to expect at conference, and help you get into the swing of things.
    • If you’re a chapter or LGBT Mormon support group leader or are part of the international leadership team, please schedule your trip so that you can attend the leadership meeting to be held on Friday at 10:00 AM and the combined Board and Leadership Team Luncheon on Friday at Noon. Also, a Board of Directors meeting will be held on Friday from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM.

Light Rail from the Airport

For the first time, we will be able to travel from the airport to the University Guesthouse using the recently expanded light rail system. Fare: $2.50 each way. Change from the Green Line to the Red Line at the Courthouse going to the U. Medical Center and use the Fort Douglas Station.

» Walking from Fort Douglas Station to the Guesthouse (.4 mile, 8 minutes)

Note: The light rail does not run 24/7, and weekend hours are limited. Check the schedules for the Green Line and the Red Line before buying your plane ticket.

» More information on the venue, transportation, and parking

Affirmation Calendar

September 10
Deadline to register for conference by email

September 12
Deadline to register for conference online

September 13
Deadline to announce intent to run for Affirmation President

September 13-15
Affirmation Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, UT

September 14
Suicide Prevention Walk in Salt Lake City

September 20
PFLAG Launched in Ephraim / Sanpete County, Utah

September 21
Provo Pride Festival

September 21
“Families Are Forever” Screened in Palm Springs

September 22
Technicolor Sunday

October 13
Mormon Pride in Atlanta

Barbara and Steve Young
Barb and Steve Young

Bring Friends, Family to the Saturday Evening Program

Priced at $15, the program will be one of the highlights of our conference

by Hugo Salinas

» Conference Updates

We strongly encourage conference-goers to invite family and friends to the Saturday evening program. Priced at $15, the program will include a 6:00 pm reception with heavy appetizers, a 7:00 pm testimony/story-sharing meeting, and an 8:00 Evening of Affirmation, followed by desserts and socializing. All these events will be held in the Douglas Ballroom of the University of Utah Guesthouse.

The Evening of Affirmation will include musical numbers by the Affirmation Choir and presentations by some of our LGBT allies: Barb and Steve YoungBenji Schwimmer, and Judy Finch. With an inspiring lineup of presenters and music, this will no doubt be one of the highlights of our conference.

You can buy tickets for this event online or by email, but we need to know the number of attendees a few days before conference so that we can order the food.

Affirmation’s “Prepare Group” Launched

Affirmation Launches Facebook Group for Individuals in or Seeking Same-sex Relationships, Who Wish to Stay Active in the Church

by John Gustav-Wrathall

As understanding of and empathy for LGBT individuals grows among active members and leaders of the Church, more LGBT Saints are deciding to stay active in the Church or return to Church, even in situations where their relationship status prevents them from being able to participate fully. We also recognize that the Spirit is at work among both LGBT and straight Latter-day Saints, “extending the Saints’ understanding” and showing us ways forward that previous generations were not able to discern.

Several communities exist to support same-sex attracted individuals who remain active in the Church and choose not to pursue a same-sex relationship. However, many LDS LGBT individuals, through a personal discernment process that sometimes includes personal revelation, decide to seek a life partner. Historically, that has forced a choice between a loving companion or their Church.

Affirmation would like to announce a new Facebook community that will provide support and fellowship for people who: 1. Are active or desire to be active Latter-day Saints, and 2. Are in or seeking a same-sex relationship or are affirming of such relationships. This group will provide a safe place to discuss the experiences of staying in or returning to church, free from ridicule and judgment. We will be able to support each other and provide resources to help in difficult situations. To maintain confidentiality of membership and conversations, it will be a private (secret) Facebook group.

We’re calling it the “Prepare Group,” because in thinking about the purpose and goals of the group, we’re inspired by the lyrics of the hymn “The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare,” which remind us how God cares for and protects us very personally when we exercise faith. But it also reminds us to “prepare” for the Spirit’s work in our lives and in the Church.

To read more about Affirmation’s Prepare group, please visit: www.facebook.com/TheLordWillPrepare. To join, please friend the group moderator who can be found here: www.facebook.com/prepare.groupmoderator. To discuss options for joining that are not visible to your other Facebook friends, please send a private message to the moderator.

We know that to many it seems illogical for LGBT people to desire activity and involvement in the LDS Church. Folks in this situation often take criticism both from members of the Church and from the LGBT community. In spite of this, if you have the desire to stay or return and are able to do so in a healthy way, we are here to support you. We believe that all Saints, gay and straight, need each other in order for the Church to be complete, and in order for us all to progress and build Zion.

We are inspired by President Hinckley’s advice: “Every one… needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with ‘the good word of God’ (Moroni 6:4). It is our duty and opportunity to provide these things.” A goal of this group is to work to build wards and stakes that welcome their LGBT members warmly, include them in their ward and family activities, and give them opportunities to serve.

We love the gospel of Jesus Christ and all the beautiful truths that Joseph Smith restored. We have testimonies of God’s love for us and of our place in the Church of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. We hope this new Facebook community will strengthen our testimonies and provide us resources to accomplish the callings God has in store for each of us.

Las Vegas Mormons at Pride

 

Mormons March in Vegas Pride

Over Thirty Latter-day Saints Voice LGBT Support and Acceptance 

by Hugo Salinas

Carrying signs that read, “Pro-Gay Mormon,” “Jesus Said Love Everyone—Treat them Kindly Too,” and “I am the Rainbow Sheep of My Family,” a group of nearly 50 Latter-day Saints marched in Las Vegas Pride on the evening of September 6. Luis Merino came with colorful “[Heart] 1 Another” stickers to share with everyone. The local Channel 5 news mentioned Mormons Building Bridges in their Pride coverage.

“So excited to be walking again this year with an amazing group of people I have come to know and love,” Kari Earl Short wrote on Facebook. “We are hoping to get across the message that there is room for everyone in our church, and we as members want to reach out with love and acceptance to ALL our brothers and sisters wherever they are and let them know they belong!”

 

 

 

PFLAG Launched in Ephraim / Sanpete County, Utah

First Meeting to Be Held at Snow College Library Auditorium on September 20 at 6;00 PM

by Robert Buckner

PFLAG Ephraim / Sanpete County is having its first event as an ‘official chapter’! The is fifth chapter in Utah.

When: Friday, Sept 20, 2013 at 6 – 8 pm (a week after the Affirmation Conference in SLC)

Where: Snow College Library Auditorium, Snow College, Ephraim, UT

Speaking: Sen. Jim Dabakis – “Strength through Diversity, It has build America”

Music Number: Mark Allen from the live radio show: “Life Under the Horseshoe”, will sing a song he wrote of their gay friend “Chad”.

Co-sponsor: Snow College LGBTSA Club.

Everyone is invited.


David Melson, 18 September 2009

 


Portland, 20 october 2006
Washington DC, 5 October 2007
Washington DC, October 2007


West Hollywood, March 2008, with Bruce Maughan (left) and Affirmation founder Paul Mortensen


San Pedro, California, October 2008, speaking at a leadership meeting


Salt Lake City, September 2009


March 2010, with GALA and Affirmation leaders at the entrance of the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, Missouri


With Affirmation leaders in San Francisco, October 2010


With Affirmation leaders in Kirtland, September 2011

David Melson Remembered

Olin Thomas: “Dave was a part of our Gay LDS community and we are all diminished having lost him. I salute the lessons that he taught us and I will miss him.”

September 2013

» David Melson Dies     » David Melson on Facebook

Affirmation members were shocked and saddened to learn of the passing on the night of August 27, 2013, of David Melson, former President of Affirmation. Mary England, who served as an Affirmation leader during David’s tenure as Affirmation president, described him as “an inspiration to all who knew him.” “He was my biggest supporter in Affirmation and in life,” wrote Robert Moore, a former vice president of Affirmation. Mark Packer, long-time Affirmation member, wrote: “We have lost a good man and ardent supporter of the LGBT Mormon community. He was a man of seemingly infinite energy working in Affirmation’s behalf. I’m very sad he’s gone, and will miss him.” Marc Gravellese said: “I will miss his big welcoming smile and hugs.” “He was a gentleman and a blessing to the LGBT community. He made a difference in our lives by the life he lived,” wrote Velton Peabody.

Finding the LDS Church–And Affirmation

A native of the Midwest, David grew up in Belvidere, Illinois. In 1975, he graduated with a degree in Management Science from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and later moved to Orlando, Florida to accept a position with the Walt Disney Corporation. It was there, at age 28, that David encountered the Mormon missionaries, was converted and baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

David himself later served a mission for the Church in Asia. His mission president introduced him to the woman who would briefly become his future wife. After their respective missions, they married in the Atlanta Temple, though they were divorced six months later. David eventually relocated to Silver Spring, Maryland. It was while living there that he learned about Affirmation, becoming active in its Washington, DC chapter. “I found Affirmation on Google and attended my first meeting of the DC Chapter in January of 2003,” he wrote. “It was the start of a snow storm and there were a total of three other people there; those three are now all dear friends. There were more people in subsequent meetings, and I had found a home.”

Olin Thomas, also a former president of Affirmation also recalled that meeting: “Dave asked where all the gay Mormons were and I assured him they existed. I have always admired how he responded. Instead of deciding this group was lame, he kept coming back and helping to build up the chapter and was a major factor in a revival of the DC Chapter in the early 2002 to 2007 period. When I became Affirmation Executive Director (now called President) in 2004, Dave offered to take over my former duties as DC Chapter Director and did a wonderful job. Although our Chapter has had a booth at the Pride Festival for years, Dave greatly improved the look and content of it and showed a great flair for showmanship. We still use some of the display items he created after many years.”

Chapter Director and Conference Chair

This kind of commitment was typical. Lanette Graves recalled that at the annual Washington, DC Affirmation Thanksgiving gatherings, he was “first to arrive, and usually last to leave.” “He [would bring] along a cooler full of food and other things we might need. He even saved small plastic take-out containers all year long and brought them, too, so that… it was easier to share leftovers.”

David chaired the 2007 Affirmation conference, held in Washington, DC. Olin Thomas recalled of this conference, “I believe [this was] his finest hour…. [It was] an absolutely fantastic conference which Dave organized and poured himself into. Due to the high costs here in D.C., we needed to raise extra funds, and Dave inspired us to hold fund raising events and reached out to donors both individual and institutional. I think our little chapter raised something like $10,000 above the registration fees. Dave was not shy about calling people to a speak at the conference and assembled a great cast. We all smiled at his organizational approach, which included a script in the style of Disney Corp., taken straight from his days working with them.”

President of Affirmation

The following year, in 2008, David served with Olin Thomas as an assistant director of Affirmation. Starting in 2009, he served three terms as president of Affirmation, until 2011. During his tenure as president of Affirmation, David Melson was best remembered for his compassion in reaching out to individuals who were struggling, for his skills as a convener who empowered future leaders of Affirmation, and for his commitment to public activism and social justice.

Many remembered David as a generous and welcoming soul, and as a kind listener that individuals in need could turn to and receive comfort. Affirmation member Lanette Graves remembered “big hugs” and an instant connection. She recalled that he made her “feel loved, wanted and needed, not just as ‘straight allies,’ but as friends.” Peter Howland wrote: “I met Dave at my first Affirmation Conference, and the thing that struck me right off was his kindness and his compassion.” Judy, another Affirmation member wrote, “Dave was a dear mentor and friend and made my life so much easier. Whenever I was troubled about gay issues or things the Church or its leaders had said, I would call Dave and he would listen, talk with me, tell me stories and help me to feel better. We had a lot of long talks and I always felt loved and important to him…. He was a kind soul who really cared and looked out for me.”

James Kent, a member of Affirmation for over 30 years who has also served a term as president of Affirmation wrote: “My first memory of Dave was at the SLC Affirmation Conference in 2003. In spite of my shyness, he was warm, friendly and outgoing, and would be a friend to me from then on.” Olin Thomas recalled: “He assisted me when I needed help and I did the same for him…. I remember having an Affirmation chapter spaghetti dinner at my home (Dave’s idea) and how he lugged all the supplies and his own huge pot to cook the pasta over to my house, donned an apron and became a chef.”

Inspiring Others to Serve

Many of those in current and former leadership positions in the organization are there thanks to David’s skills as a convener, and his efforts to empower others to get involved. Randall Thacker, the current president of Affirmation, recalled, “I met Dave at the first Affirmation social I attended in 2005. He later recruited me to help with fundraising for the Washington, DC conference in 2007 and to plan the devotional for the Kirtland conference in 2011.” Olin Thomas remembered the concrete things that David did to encourage involvement and leadership: “After the [2007 Annual Conference in DC] Dave created mementos for the conference committee members, which was a nice touch. He could be very thoughtful. [Dave came up with a number of ideas] to honor long time contributors to Affirmation which showed his desire to recognize and encourage people.”

Robert Moore recalled, “I owe my service in Affirmation and the LGBT Mormon Community to Dave. In April, 2009 Dave asked me to attend the Cornerstone Conference being held in Phoenix, Arizona. It was that weekend that Dave asked me to accept the calling as Young Adults Program Director. I later served as Advocacy & Outreach Director, Membership Director and most recently as Vice President. Dave quickly became the biggest supporter of my LGBT activism, my mentor, close friend and close, protective big brother.”

John Gustav-Wrathall, current senior vice president of Affirmation described how David Melson drew him into the circle of Affirmation’s work on behalf of LGBT Mormons: “I became acquainted with Dave when he brought a contingent of Affirmation leaders to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the Creating Change Conference in February 2011…. Dave made it financially possible for me to participate in the conference as part of the Affirmation contingent. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot, and I have always been grateful to Dave for making that possible… At the end of the conference, Dave convened us at Keys, a popular downtown Minneapolis restaurant, to discuss our various conference experiences and our respective visions for Affirmation… I will always be grateful for the role he played in empowering future leaders for Affirmation. I think that will be his legacy as a former Affirmation president.”

A Passion for Equal Rights

Finally, David Melson was deeply committed to the cause of social justice, and wanted to give Affirmation a larger, more effective voice in the cause of LGBT equality. “He worked tirelessly to make the world better,” wrote Lanette Graves. “Dave was so devoted to the cause of equal rights. I’m happy to think he lived to see marriage equality become law in Maryland – a cause he devoted so much time to.” James Kent wrote, “Dave saw us through the challenges of California Prop 8, and the LDS Church’s unfortunate involvement in it. I am glad he lived to see it overturned, and the tide of Marriage Equality finally washing over this country.”

Olin Thomas credited David Melson as “the driving force behind Affirmation’s attempt to reach out and communicate directly with Church officials, which began in the last year of my Presidency and continues to this day. Dave began reaching out to other organizations, such as HRC and PFLAG, and involving Affirmation in the larger gay community.” “Dave was passionate about Affirmation and about fighting for equal rights in the state of Maryland. He gave many hours of selfless service for the LGBT community,” according to Randall Thacker. “Dave’s vision for Affirmation was to see it become a force for positive change for LGBT people,” wrote John Gustav-Wrathall.

David’s passion for political activism could occasion controversy. It is to David’s credit that he drew into activity and leadership in the organization many who had perspectives at odds with his own. “Our approaches to Affirmation, its mission and purpose were different,” wrote James Kent, “but I never doubted for a moment that he sincerely loved and cared for Affirmation and its membership.” “Whatever our differences,” wrote Olin Thomas, “Dave was a part of our Gay LDS community and we are all diminished [having lost him]. I salute the lessons that he taught us and I will miss him.”

In 2009 David Melson was honored by Affirmation with the Mortensen Award, the highest distinction Affirmation bestows on a member. Without question, David Melson modeled ways of reaching out to others, recruiting leaders, and building a diverse, vibrant community. He was a passionate advocate for LGBT Mormons, and his loss is mourned by the community he gave so much to.

“Dave’s passing is a huge loss in Affirmation, the LGBT LDS community and my life,” wrote Robert Moore. “Dave, I love and miss you, and you will always be in my heart.”

Recent Stories and Articles

Posted on the Affirmation Website and Blog:

Going to the Affirmation Conference in a Surrey!!!

Growing Up LGBT & Mormon in America

David Melson Dies

  Attending the Affirmation Conference… with My Son

Salt Lake Conference to Include Temple Trip

“Families Are Forever” to Be Screened in Palm Springs

Posted on the No More Strangers Blog:

My Personal Revelation

My Mormon Perspective: How to Teach the Value of Imperfect People and Families (and Putting the Proclamation into Perspective)

Gay, Mormon, and living honestly. Letting go with grace. 

Gay Mormon For Marriage Equality

To See The Face Of God

It Didn’t Happen Overnight 

Advice From a Psychiatrist to Mormon Mental Health Providers When Treating LGBT Youth (Also for Parents to Consider)

Thoughts on the Disorderliness of Lives 

It’s Complex 

No More Strangers Panel, Sunstone Conference 2013–John Gustav-Wrathall 

  No More Strangers Session, Sunstone Symposium 2013–Erika Munson

No More Strangers Panel, Sunstone 2013–Bob Rees

The Miracle of Forgiveness: An Open Letter Requesting Removal or an Update to Reflect Current Knowledge

The Greatest Commandments

My Dad’s Testimony

Lifesaver (A Mormon Teen Speaks Out for Others, Part 2 of 2)

Oblivion (A Mormon Teen Speaks Out for Others, Part 1 of 2)

God Understands Our Adversity and Accepts Our Offering: A Lesson from the D&C 

From Russia With Hate 

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2019 Affirmation International Conference

There’s still time to register for the 2019 Affirmation International Conference being held June 21-23 in Provo, Utah. You won’t want to miss the incredible speakers and workshops we have planned for you this year. Plus we still have special rates for couples and families!

More Info and Registration