This past Spring, Affirmation organized three conferences in Brazil with an attendance of about 100 LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends. The Brazil Affirmation leadership team worked hard during the past year to grow the organization and its ability to reach those in need.
Affirmation in Brazil
Affirmation Brazil started almost two years ago when a small group of gay Mormons wrote the word “Afirmacão” (Affirmation in Portuguese) in the sand on a beach and then posted it on Facebook and tagged leaders from the International Board of Directors saying, “We want your support, we are waiting for you!” Shortly thereafter, planning began on the first conferences in Brazil that were held in 2016 in Fortaleza and Sao Paulo. During these conferences a leadership team was formed, with Cristina Sandra Moraes, a lesbian Mormon married to her spouse Viviane of 11 years, as President. Jean Carlos, vice president helped reach out to many people across the country, facilitating the growth of the organization. During the year, the groups in Fortaleza and Sau Paulo grew dramatically and a new group was formed in Recife.
Our Individual Impact
The most common thing heard in the stories and testimonies of those attending the three conferences in Brazil was that “Affirmation was an answer to prayer.” For some, it was the answer to months or years of praying for help to reconcile and move forward with their lives as LGBT Mormons.
One of Affirmation’s 4 founding objectives from 40 years ago is to “encourage spirituality, prayer and the practice of all Christ-like and charitable behavior in the recognition of members as whole and complete children of God.” The conferences in Brazil seemed to really help fulfill this objective along with the other 3 as seen in the image below.
The following are quotes by those attending the conference shared in the days following:
Quote from a participant from Pernambuco: “I now know that God is with me and that he doesn’t abandon us. I’m so grateful to each one of you who was present. It had been a long time since I had felt the Spirit of the Lord touch my heart like it did in those 3 happy days together. I feel that living is worth it again and I left with such new perspective on my life. Especially, I learned that I am not unworthy to pray to my Heavenly Father just because I’m gay! Thank you to all who helped me and may God bless you!”
Quote from a participant in Recife: “I feel like a returned missionary again with all that same excitement and joy that I had then, yet this time I’m openly a lesbian in a relationship and I know God’s okay with me that way!”
Quote from a participant in Sao Paulo: “I had been struggling with the recent end of a relationship just prior to the conference and the day after the conference I cried so much about this loss and then I remembered what I had heard in the conference about how I could reach out to God for help, even as a gay Mormon talking about his relationship. In that moment, I prayed to God to help me get through this grief. After my prayer, I felt so much peace which is helping me move forward each day. If there is one thing of which I do have a testimony, it is of prayer.”
Two dozen LGBT Mormons gathered the weekend of April 14-16 in Recife. On Friday evening, they ate dinner together and shared with each other their personal stories of efforts to reconcile their sexual orientation and their faith, learning from each other in the process. Delicious food for the conference was prepared by Neuza Maria, Mormon mother of a gay man who is part of the group. On Saturday, attendees participated in workshops on self-acceptance, improving relationships with family members and friends, and developing your own personal relationship with God.
In the afternoon, the group did a walking tour and lunch in the nearby historic city of Olinda, Brazil, founded in the early 1500s by the Portuguese, followed by some swimming in the pool at the conference site. This time for social interaction is always so important as it provides each person the opportunity to make friends who usually end up being a support for many years to come. The evening included a talent show, karaoke and dancing, always a favorite and especially fun and lively in Brazil!
Sunday included a devotional with a variety of talks and musical numbers followed by the sharing of testimonies and spiritual stories. Again, the most common thing heard from attendees was that Affirmation had been an answer to their months or years of prayers.
Another two dozen LGBT Mormons gathered the weekend of April 21-23 in Fortaleza, Brazil. Because Friday the 21st was a holiday in Brazil, the conference started at noon with a buffet lunch, followed by a walk along the boardwalk and pier and then swimming in the ocean. In the evening, the group shared their personal stories with each other and ate dinner together.
Saturday morning and early afternoon were filled with workshops on self-acceptance, relationships with family, and a workshop on ways to identify and grow the influence of the spirit in our lives as LGBT Mormons. Gildo Sousa, leader of the Fortaleza group, shared a presentation on the need to constantly fill our buckets with living water and presented to each member of the group knitted miniature homemade buckets he had made. The late afternoon included time for swimming and games in the conference venue’s pool. The evening included a talent show, karaoke and dancing. It was a lot of fun!
Sunday consisted of a workshop on developing a healthy relationship with the Church and how to have difficult conversations with Church leaders and others, followed by a testimony and spiritual story sharing meeting with musical numbers. The conference concluded with lunch together and lots of farewell hugs and photos. Five of those attending the conference had traveled long distances by bus from the two surrounding states of Piauí and Rio Grande do Norte. They returned to their states with the goal of developing Affirmation groups there and possibly organizing a conference there next year.
47 people attended the Sao Paulo conference the weekend of April 30 – May 1. The conference began Saturday with a “circle of friendship” in which each person attending shared their personal story, followed by a walk and socializing in a nearby park and then dinner. In the evening, a presentation was given by Jean Carlos, Affirmation Brazil Vice President on the history of Affirmation in Brazil, followed by Randall Thacker presenting the history of Affirmation during its past 40 years. Afterwards, the group broke up into some who played games together and others who sang Karaoke or just visited together.
Sunday included a variety of workshops, including a presentation by a transgender male and the mother of a transgender female who work tirelessly in the Sau Paulo metropolitan area to combat transphobia and homophobia. Cristina Moares presented a moving workshop on self-acceptance, followed by a presentation and Q&A by an attorney regarding LGBR legal rights in Brazil which generated many questions from members of the group. The final presentation was one on LGBT health and safety provided by Renata Gomes, a nurse and member of the group.
For dinner, we all went to a Churrascaria – the famous Brazilian buffet style dinner with all kinds of meats, vegetables and fruits. After dinner, we were privileged to listen to a live talk show hosted by Affirmation member Diego Lima. He asked questions of two long-term married couples in the group – a gay couple and lesbian couple. It was quite moving to hear their authentic stories about how they met, how they committed themselves to each other, and how they worked through their challenges and grew in their love for each other over the years. The remainder of the evening included karaoke and board and card games played in small groups.
Monday was a holiday in Brazil, so the conference continued. The morning included a presentation by Vitor Silva on how to improve relationships with family and friends, then a presentation by Luiz Correa on developing a healthy relationship with the Church that works for you. He was followed by a moving talk by Affirmation International Vice President, Adrian Sanchez Roman, who spoke on how to open ourselves up to the positive energy available to use and leave the hurt, anger and pain behind. The conference concluded with the sharing of testimonies and spiritual stories and the recognition of the Brazil leadership team’s efforts throughout this past year.
After the conclusion of each conference, members of the International Board of Directors –Adrian Sanchez Roman, Randall Thacker, and Ezequiel Rojas – facilitated leadership training sessions with each group – reviewing Affirmation’s objectives, values, principles and operation handbook, and working with the groups to set goals for the following year. We are truly grateful to all our volunteers and their work in building a worldwide team and structure that will last for however long Affirmation is needed.
In 2018 Affirmation Brazil plans to open additional new groups in other cities. Brazil has over 1.4 million Mormons, which means if conservatively 3 percent are LGBT, then there are over 40,000 LGBT Mormons along with their family members, friends and church leaders who can benefit from Affirmation.
Follow Affirmation Brazil’s activities and stories via:
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/afirmacaomormons/
YouTube: Afirmacão SUD