This year there are two candidates for President of Affirmation: Sara Jade Woodhouse and Carson Tueller.
The President of Affirmation is responsible to promote the mission of Affirmation. The President appoints a Senior Vice-President and a Vice-President who, together with the President, form the Executive Committee of Affirmation, which is responsible to direct the regular activities of Affirmation and establish policies, procedures and guidelines for Affirmation, and its affiliated chapters and groups. The President also presides over the Affirmation Board.
SARA JADE WOODHOUSE
Four years ago, on the evening of September 14th, I attended my first Affirmation Conference. Until that night, I had been traveling down my path of transition alone. I had met other Trans-women, but I had not met any that were still faithfully attending the Church that I had grown up in.
My transition from a life of pretending to be a straight Mormon male to one of truth by living authentically as the woman I was meant to be…had been unique. My priesthood leaders had embraced me and made certain that I would feel loved and accepted. In a world where the LDS Church had shown a public face of personal refusal to recognize LGBT Mormons as equal in value to other children of God, my experience was different to be sure.
The one thing that I had left behind was the joy of singing. Years of testosterone poisoning had left my voice decidedly unfeminine. I had tried to work on making it sound more like I felt it should…and I had succeeded to a certain extent…but singing was still a no go. I had not sung out loud in public for over 10 years.
I walked into the Main Conference Hall on the University of Utah Campus. The first thing that I noticed as I entered the Hall was the sheer number of people that were there. The Hall was filled with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight…Mormons! From all walks of life and all sorts of spiritual paths. The love within that room was overwhelming.
We all rose to sing the opening hymn. Voices rose around me, filling the Hall with glorious music. But…I did not sing. As the program went on, I listened to the powerful testimonies of those beautiful LGBT Mormons and their equally beautiful Allies. The spirit overwhelmed me and I found myself weeping openly. At the end of that Conference, everyone rose to sing the closing hymn. The most beautiful rendition of “The Spirit of God” filled the hall to the point of bursting. I rose to my feet and began to sing along with everyone else. I felt tears as they flowed down my cheeks. For the first time in 10 years…I was singing.
It was then that I knew…Affirmation is my home.
I have had the pleasure of serving as Affirmation International’s Senior Vice President under John Gustav-Wrathall and alongside Adryán San Roman. Additionally, I have served as Affirmation International’s President Interim for the past 4 months. This past Conference, I announced my intention to run for the office of President officially in November.
I believe that Affirmation is at an interesting juncture in its destiny. Affirmation has gone from being the haven for a few Mormon LGBT individuals, to being an International force for hope and peace for tens of thousands. It is my belief that Affirmation will continue to grow. That, much like the stone cut out of the mountain referenced in Daniel 2:31-45 and again in D&C 65:2, the work we do is of God and will continue to fill the earth reaching out to ALL of Gods children. Straight…Gay…it does not matter. God loves us all and THAT is the mission of Affirmation. To take that word to everyone! To shout it from the rooftops if necessary.
As President of this amazing organization, I vow to reach out to everyone in need. To listen to those who are comfortable in their spiritual peace as they testify to whatever path has brought them there…and to listen to those who are troubled, seeking and in pain. Affirmation MUST be the home for ALL who would have us. We MUST be the family for ALL those who need us. And the team that I bring with me will make it our SOLE mission to take this message to every corner of this world where we are needed. We will make it our goal to open the doors wide to those who have left…but might be seeking a reason to come back. We will have as our purpose, to save as many lives as stand in need.
Change is coming. It’s coming to our spirit…it’s coming to our faith…and it’s coming to our family! It is our hope that we will use this opportunity to LOVE each other. To hold each other close and comfort each other when needed. We will work to maintain that Affirmation is for EVERYONE! That love, respect and understanding is first and foremost among the attributes of all those who would call themselves part of Affirmation’s family. We will tirelessly serve you. ALL of you.
Affirmation is a unique organization whose mission is to create a place of community for LGBTQIA Mormon individuals and allies, wherever they are along their journey. I was first introduced to Affirmation 4 years ago, and quickly realized that it provided a community that I had longed for all through my years of coming out as gay. I felt for the first time the freedom to navigate my sexuality and faith in a way that met my personal needs. I also felt that regardless of what I chose, Affirmation had a place for me.
As I began serving in various capacities within Affirmation leadership, I quickly realized that one of Affirmation’s most trying tasks is finding a delicate balance in meeting the needs of every individual within its circle of ministry. Our membership is diverse, and composed of such a wide variety of identities, values and life decisions, that this can prove to be a daunting task. As Affirmation continues to grow in size and influence, fostering a culture of true belonging and inclusion of all people will be paramount to our success.
Along with continuing to maintain what has made Affirmation great, I am passionate about affecting certain changes within the organization. Having a spinal cord injury has increased my awareness of the importance of intersectionality within Affirmation. I long to see greater visibility, voice and leadership of underrepresented groups such as women, people of color, differently-abled people, etc. As Affirmation president, I will work to foster such a community among us.
Additionally, to many, Affirmation has become safer than ever for individuals who feel actively connected to their traditional Mormon faith. I personally celebrate this reality. At the same time however, there are also many individuals who no longer feel that their connection to Mormonism is either safe or healthy, and who, for various reasons, do not wish to maintain traditional ties with the LDS church. This is particularly true for millennials like myself, as well as for our younger members who are coming out earlier than ever before, and who need greater support. I want Affirmation to be equally relevant to those who have left Mormonism as it is to those who wish to remain actively connected to it. As Affirmation president, I will work to create a culture that better meets these important needs.
I love this community. I stand firmly in my belief that LGBTQIA people are whole and perfect as they are, and are worthy of love, inclusion, and acceptance in not only the LDS church, but in all the world. We have work to do to build upon the achievements of our past leaders and members who have made this organization an influential and empowering one. It would be my great honor to continue the work of Affirmation as its next president.