Affinity – May 2013
Join us in Salt Lake City this September 13-15 for Our Annual International Conference
Online Registration is Available Now
by Randall Thacker, President of Affirmation
Dear LGBT Mormons, Families, and Friends:
New Frontiers is about expanding our vision around the unknown possibilities and opportunities for LGBT Mormons. We will explore how we can come together as a community of LGBTQ/SSA Mormons, partners, spouses, families, friends, and church leaders.
We will discuss how we can support each other in realizing our full potential as children of God, be empowered to make valuable contributions within and outside of the Church, and find purpose and integrity in our unique journeys.
We will also socialize together, rekindling old friendships and making new ones as we learn, sing, eat, dance, and give service together.
With activities and workshops specifically for parents, families, youth, friends, and church leaders, the 2013 Affirmation conference will be more fun, musical, spiritual, and educational than you can imagine!
Check out the session topics page for information on the different topics that will be explored. More details, including our amazing keynote speakers, will be announced in the coming weeks.
Be sure to mark the date on your calendars and join our Facebook event.
Online registration is available now. This year’s conference registration fee will be only $99. This is a major reduction in cost from previous conferences. We also negotiated an especially low rate for the hotel: $99 for 2 people, $109 for 3 people, and $119 for 4 people per night.
See you in September in Salt Lake City!
Mormon Pride event in Portland
Allies, LGBT Mormons to Participate in June Pride Events across the Country
Events listed at MormonPride.org
By Hugo Salinas
LGBT Mormons, along with LDS allies, family, and friends, will participate in a number of Pride events to be held across the country during the month of June. Many of these groups have already registered for Pride marches, and announcements are already being posted on Facebook.
Last summer, hundreds of straight Mormons marched with LGBT Latter-day Saints in a dozen different events held across U.S. cities and in Santiago de Chile. These LDS marchers received wide media attention and helped dispel the notion that all Mormons are anti-gay or homophobic. The Salt Lake City marchers, in particular, were featured in stories published in dozens of media outlets, including Reuters, CNN, and Salon.com.
To see the full list of groups and dates, visit MormonPride.org . If you have additional information about a local LDS group which is not yet listed on that site, please send an email to Hugo Salinas.
Teleconference on Healing: Healing the Self, Healing Relationships
Wednesday, May 22 (8:30-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time)
Many of us carry pain and conflict in ourselves as we navigate our relationships with partners, family, friends, and the LDS church. Carol Lynn Pearson, Karin Hendricks (Affirmation Spiritual Director), her partner Tawnya Smith, and a panel of guests will share stories of hope and offer practical wisdom for dealing with these challenges.
To reserve a space, please e-mail Karin.
Affirmation leaders at the LDS Conference Center, 6 April 2013
Salt Lake City Weekend Report: “Like a Net That Was Cast into the Sea”
Affirmation will play an important role in continuing to increase understanding across the church
by Jamison Manwaring
Jamison Manwaring, who has recently been featured on NPR and whose YouTube coming out clip has been watched over 15,000 times, writes about His Impressions of the Affirmation Leadership Weekend—And General Conference
I spent the past weekend at the leadership gathering of Affirmation in Salt Lake City (April 5-6). The leadership gathering was very well organized and attended. We reviewed the messaging and strategy of the organization and considered how we would implement ideas. As we discussed the many plans of the group, there was a tangible feeling of momentum about the shift in church members’ views about their LBGT sisters and brothers. We are excited about this shift, and believe Affirmation will play an important role in continuing to increase understanding across the church.
Members of the leadership team attended General Conference during the Saturday morning session. Attending conference was enriching to me, not because I agreed with everything that was said by every person, but because I was able to see how a person’s testimony can endure difficult and even hostile commentary while still maintaining faith in the core foundations of the gospel. I was strengthened by meeting other gay/SSA members of the Church who have decided to stay engaged in the gospel. Many of the more “seasoned” members have been treated unfairly by the Church in the past. Some are still restricted in their church membership. Yet they stay engaged. That is real faith and courage.
I was a little disappointed by some of the rhetoric from the conference, primarily by some of the senior members of the Quorum of the Twelve who seemed to input some cultural bias in their messages. But this disappointment was overshadowed by the love I felt from our prophet and his counselors, and by a majority of the Twelve. I left feeling that there was a lot of work to do so that gay members feel welcome. But I was also very encouraged about our future and about those who will lead the Church over the next generation.
I believe that a new understanding is beginning to develop regarding all members who feel like they don’t fit in or who that they are being judged because they aren’t perfect. There is a great cross over between the discomfort a gay person feels at church and other members who feel equally different. This movement is larger than just helping gay members feel welcomed in the church: it is also about redefining the culture of the church so that it welcomes good hearted, diverse people through the world into the kingdom of God –as they are. Too many good souls are not open to the restored gospel, not because they “know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12), but because they feel like they don’t conform to its cultural mold. But the message of Affirmation (and Pres. Uchtdorf) is that they are accepted and needed just as they are. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathereth of every kind.” (Matt 13:47)
From left to right: Mitch Mayne, Bob Rees, Wendy Montgomery, and Hollie Hancock at the Arizona event
Phoenix Conference Promotes Love and Understanding
“Now I have a fire in my heart that there is a place for me in the Church”
by Hugo Salinas
Over 120 Mormons, LGBT and straight, attended the “All Are Alike unto God” conference held April 27 near Phoenix.
The event was planned by Bryce Cook, of the Mesa Lehi stake along with other Latter-day Saints in the Phoenix area. Cook, a former high counselor and the father of a gay man, observed that many LGBT Mormons “do not actively attend church services because they do not feel welcome or understood.” “There are many of these men and women in our midst who desire to feel the love of the Savior in their lives and who need to be invited back into His fold,” Cook wrote in an invitation he sent to local church leaders. “We hope this conference will be one of the first steps in that direction by reaching out to them with Christ-like love and compassion.”
Speakers included Mitch Mayne and Robert A. Rees. “Our Savior loves us exactly as we are,” testified Mitch as he closed his remarks. “[His love] is ours, freely given, if we will just reach out and accept it.”
In a report posted at the blog No More Strangers, Robert Rees compared the gathering to a “garden in the desert” and quoted a speaker who was recently welcomed into his ward as saying, “Now I have a fire in my heart that there is a place for me in the Church.”
“I think the conference succeeded in accomplishing the goal of bringing understanding to many LDS faithful in a non-political way,” wrote Affirmation chapter coordinator David Douglas. “Thanks to Bryan Hendrickson, Bryce and Sarah Cook, and others for the hard work they put into it.”
A detailed report will be posted later at allarizona.org.
LGBT, Straight Latter-day Saints Gather in Chicago
Stake President Promotes Difficult but Faith-building Conversation
by Devan Hite, coordinator for Affirmation Chicago
Brooke Wardle, secretary of Affirmation Chicago, approached me during the fall of 2012 to inquire about hosting a special dialogue between straight Mormons and those who identify as LGBTQ/SSA around the question of what it means to be an ally. We discussed the proposal with other members of Affirmation. The motion was quickly approved, and we began arranging the details.
As we began discussions with local Church leaders, they were reluctant to grant us permission to use a meetinghouse, due to the fact that we were presenting our dialogue as an Affirmation event. In order to have the dialogue in an LDS church, and to secure the attendance of Mormon leadership in the area, we decided to disassociate the dialogue from Affirmation and organize it as simply a conversation among concerned members of the Church.
“You’re Missing the Empathy”
A total of twenty-five people were present at the March 24 dialogue. Twenty-three self-identified as Mormon; eight as LGBTQ (no one identified as strictly SSA), and seventeen as straight. Brooke and I set it as our goal to facilitate an emotionally-safe event, which simultaneously encouraged authenticity.
Just prior to the event, as Brooke and I auditioned a handful of clips from the website, we noticed that a participant who had arrived early to help set up was struggling emotionally with its contents, simultaneously expressing her anxiety and rage, while holding back tears. Her struggle was certainly something that I could identify and empathize with, as I had a similar reaction the first time I viewed the website. However, this also added to my anxiety, as I anticipated the force of how her reaction might affect the dialogue.
As our group assembled, Chicago Stake President Gary Blakely warmly welcomed those in attendance and turned the time over to me to conduct the proceedings. We began singing the children’s hymn titled “I Am a Child of God,” which was followed by a prayer, offered by President Blakely. I then presented part of a narrative I had gathered from an interview with Kendall Wilcox a week earlier in Utah. Kendall tells of the experience coming to terms with his sexuality through the course of a relationship with another male Mormon. Kendall described how his inner turmoil led him to a breakthrough moment:
I actually went to southern Utah to the place that I was going to take my life.… I went down there and went up on the mountain and had what I felt was my final conversation with God, saying, this is how I feel, this is my justification, why I don’t feel hope internally/externally. I don’t see any tenable options…. But, I said, if I’m missing something… let me know. And this feeling, prompting, voice—whatever it is—said, ‘you’re missing the empathy.’…
I concluded Kendall’s story for our group and reflected on the possibility that, for some in this room, dialoguing with us, our ability to empathize may be a matter of life and death. We followed this with an exercise that would help inspire empathic responses for one another, and then broke up into small groups to discuss a series of questions geared toward building common ground among participants.
Dallin Oaks and Jamison Manwaring Clips
After a five-minute break we reconvened as a large group and viewed the video clips. The first was of Elder Dallin Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Dallin Oaks is the highest ranking member of the Church to be featured on the MormonsAndGays.org website. Concerning the issue of same-gender attraction in the Church, Elder Oaks comments:
There is so much we don’t understand about this subject, that we’d do well to stay close to what we know from the revealed word of God. What we do know is that the doctrine of the church, that sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married, has not changed and is not changing. But what is changing and what needs to change is to help our own members and families understand how to deal with same gender attraction.
We followed this by featuring a testimony of Jamison Manwaring, his “coming out” video, which one can find on YouTube. The testimony is titled “I’m Gay, Mormon, and have a bright future.” Jamison takes us through his history of feeling attracted to men through adolescence, his two-year missionary experience, his engagement with Church authorities, the nature of exploring his dating/marital options, his experience with therapy, and coming out to family and friends. Reflecting on how he might go forward, Jamison says:
I can’t imagine living a life, where I don’t have the opportunity to really fall in love with somebody, and to share a life with them. I’m glad that I live in a time that things are different. I’m heartened by the changes my Church has made in its acceptance of gay people. Although, there are still some conflicts, I feel welcome in my ward, and I plan to attend Church and be active in my religion for the rest of my life. I love my religion. I’ve given years to fulfill its mission and to serve its members. I look forward to being a part of a Church that accepts me, even if I’m gay.
Pain, Frustration–and Hopes for the Future
What ensued was a very hearty discussion, where points of view from many sides of the issue were expressed and engaged in a safe forum that promoted faith, acceptance, and continued discussion. The following day (March 25), offering an assessment of the dialogue, John Gustav-Wrathall posted the following on Facebook (excerpt):
There were very frank expressions of pain and frustration. Straight participants were invited to share their observations (which took some courage, I think!). Some of the LGBT individuals present were invited to share with the group why they had left the Church and/or found it difficult to come back. Some of us also shared how and why we chose to stay connected to the Church. We all talked about our hopes for the future.
On the same Facebook thread, Kevin Kloosterman remarked, “The Spirit was so strong there,” observing how the evening as a whole was “an incredible event.” Beth Ellsworth, another participant, posted on Facebook:
This was a beautiful evening. All were truly working at creating Zion together. Space was made and held for authentic expressions of both pain and joy. You can’t bear one another’s burdens unless you feel truly free to share those burdens. [We were] invited… to be vulnerable with each other and to truly share our experiences, including the pain.
During our dialogue participants were free to entertain hopes that did not necessarily fit within the constraints of the Church’s official policies, which added to the authenticity referred to above.
President Blakely’s participation in the dialogue touched a few, as well. That is, both Kevin and John noted the way in which they were moved by his empathic, supportive, and inspired presence. John writes,
What was most moving to me was the participation of Devan and Brooke’s stake president, who set the tone of openness, listening and empathy, and who helped close the meeting by reminding us of the Great Commandment and speaking of his commitment to keep these conversations going.
It was essential to have President and Sister Blakely’s company. Latter-day Saints rarely take seriously activities in the Church that do not feature its leadership. Furthermore, both served as objects of hope for those bisexual, lesbian and gay Mormons present, as well as effectual objects for one’s process of working through pain, loss, hopelessness, anger/rage, and so forth. The large group dialogue lasted for about an hour and a half. We closed with another children’s hymn, “Teach Me to Walk in the Light of His Love,” followed by a prayer.
Dialogues Should Continue
The consensus of those who gave me feedback after the event was that the evening was productive and that the dialogues should continue. One attendee responded, by saying “I felt the evening was miraculous,” with the observation, “I felt a spirit of love and empathy and peace in the room.” One of our straight-identifying participants remarked:
I was quite impressed and touched by the spiritual strength of the members who are faithful and continue to be active in the church despite huge challenges, inner conflicts, and potential cruelty. The strength of their testimonies of the gospel is inspiring.
All agreed that the event was a faith-building exercise. Most of the responses from our straight-identifying attendees mention the desire to better understand the issues and experiences of LGBTQ/SSA Mormons.
As of early April, President and Sister Blakely, Brooke, and I have been in conversation about applying the model we utilized for this dialogue to a series of others. Furthermore, we are exploring ways that we might deepen the space, so as to encourage even more authentic discussion. The next dialogue is scheduled for sometime in the summer of 2013.
Compassionate Cause Symposium to Be Held in Seattle
Call for Papers/Presentations
With the theme, “Deepening the Conversation on Gays in the Church,” the 2013 Compassionate Cause Symposium is tentatively scheduled for August 16-17, 2013 at the University of Washington Campus in Seattle, Washington.
Compassionate Cause seeks honest dialogue on issues facing gay men and women associated with the Church. This second symposium seeks to explore and examine issues between faith and homosexuality within the Church.
The Symposium aims to:
- Create a safe space for compassionate dialogue on gay-related issues in the Church
- Educate members on issues facing gay men and women in the Church
- Discuss potential paths to reconciliation.
This symposium will consist of two parts:
Day 1: Mini-consortia exploring and examining the “gay question” in the Church drawn from submissions
Day 2: A keynote speaker (to be announced) and panels drawn from submissions.
Call for papers, presentations, panels, and personal narratives (stories)
Topics include (but not limited to):
Other topics are encouraged.
Please submit a 300 word abstract by May 30, 2013 to compassionatecause (at) gmail (dot) com
For more information, visit compassionatecause.org.
LDS LGBT Fireside and Social to Be Held in the Bay Area
June 2 at 7:00 PM
Supportive Latter-day Saints, LGBT Mormons, and family and friends are invited to a fireside and social to be held on June 2 at 7:00 pm at the home of Tom and Diane Oviatt in Moraga, CA. This evening of socializing and dessert will include remarks by Mitch Mayne and Judy Finch.
Hope to see you there! Bring your friends.
For directions and other questions, please contact: diane.oviatt@yahoo .com.
Posted on the Affirmation Website and Blog:
|LDS Church Casting “Rediscovering Faith” Project||A Weekend Full of Goodness and Surprises|
Posted on the No More Strangers Blog:
|Not My Job–Thank Heavens!!!||A Christian Reply to North Carolina Boy’s Gay Remarks|