Bob Rees’s Talk at the Affirmation 2013 Annual Conference (Transcript)

Robert S. Rees

Robert S. Rees

I don’t know about you but uhm, is this working? I don’t know about you but, I’m always glad when uhm sacra-meetings start without long announcements so, for future affirmations let’s try and set a good *inaudible*.

The theme of this conference today, tomorrow and the next day is new frontiers. More than 50 years ago when John F. Kennedy gave his acceptance speech, in the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, He said quote“we stand today on the edge of a new frontier, the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfulfilled hopes and unfulfilled dreams” end of quote.

These words could certainly apply to who Mormons are today in relation to our LGBT brothers and sisters. I hope we can grasp the unknown opportunities and I hope we have learned enough from our past mistakes to avoid the unknown perils, certainly there are unfulfilled hopes and dreams for all of us although I believe that many of us are far more hopeful today than we have been for a very long time and that we continue to dream of an even better world. What is surprising about the past decade is not only about how much improvement has been made, but how much the pace of improvement has accelerated. Proposition 8 was only 5 years ago and yet in many years the church and as culture we have seen a c-change in terms of church policy and cultural acceptance of gay men and lesbians.

We clearly are not yet where we need to be. Kennedy went on to speak of the frontiers of uncharted areas and unsolved problems. Well he was speaking of science and space in the first instance and of war and peace in the second; I think we can speak of uncharted areas of psychology and religion and unsolved problems of love and hate. His third category is something we have in common – frontier of quote “unconquered problems of ignorance and injustice”.

Like many of my generation – I was braved by Kennedy’s speech, even though at the time, dare I admit it, I was a Nixon republican. That’s what going to BYU did to you in those days. In those days I thought it was necessary to be a republican to get a temporal recommended. I soon repented however; I was caught up in the hopes and dreams of my generation.

Looking back at Kennedy’s speech; I think we can agree that we have made progress in many areas including in areas of race and gender. A democratic platform in 1960 was the rights of man, the civil and other rights essential to the dignity of all men and women. One group not included in that particular platform are the men and women whose sexual identity and orientation bled them to desire sexual intimacy with those of their same gender. That particular group and its rights are still under siege and it is fallen to those of us of the present generation to fight for their full rights.

Those of us privileged to be caught up in the hope of the generation of the 60’s and 70’s were inspired by many who stepped forward to end segregation, to fight for equality of minorities and women, to end war and establish peace…still a little bit of work to be done in that area.

People like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Danny Verdan, Gloria Styna, Eugene McCartha and many others took very seriously President Kennedy’s charge as Americans; we should ask what we can do for our country. The current fight for the equality and dignity of our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters who have been blessed by those whose courage, dedication and vision whose personal [inaudible] dedication have moved us forward often against the tides of institutional resistance and the [inaudible] of public opinion and in the face of significant obstacles.

One of those whom history will regard as hero of our time is Dr Caitlin Ryan, the director of the family acceptance project and the executive producer of the film we are about to see. Dr Ryan rightly is a respected doctor of research and practitioner who has been a pioneer in the field of LGBT health and wellbeing for nearly four decades. Her contributions have been recognised by many professional organisations and groups and her approach to promoting wellness and reducing health risks and negative social outcomes such as suicide and homelessness of LGBT young people is changing the paradigm of care for how LGBT young people are served across discipline and health care systems.

Our work with families and faith communities is opening new ways for families and congregations to support LGBT people in the context of religious belief and values. She has been honoured by the nation’s leading mental health organisations, including the American Psychiatric Association, which recently presented her with a distinguished scientific contribution award.

Her research and new approach to family-based care is being utilised across the United States and in a number of other countries and by clergy and other religious leaders and other religious organisations. When I introduced Dr Ryan at uh last month’s uh [inaudible] I observed that in this nearly 2 centuries, Mormons and Mormonism has survived and even thrived through the help of friends and other believers who believe in us and have sacrificed to help us and serve us, Kaitlyn Ryan is such a friend.

It has been such a pleasure for me to be a collaborator, a collaborator on this booklet supporting families, helping children helping latter day saint families of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children. The is booklet has been used throughout the church and is a model for other churches who are going to be developing programs similar to the one uh Dr Ryan uh is developing.

This booklet is available, I believe, in the uh the uh entry there for those of you who would like to get one. Kaitlyn is also the executive producer of this film which we will see this evening. Kaitlyn’s interest in producing the book and the film is motivated in large part by her recognition and I think this is really important for us, of the unique role of families in Mormon theology practice. It is her hope that the application of her research she has been doing on LGB children and adolescents will inspire other faith traditions to adopt the same principles and thus affirm, protect and bless their LGBT individuals and family er families, she started doing similar work with other groups, religious groups with other families as I mentioned. The way thing as we do that the holy spirit can inspire anyone who does God’s work. [inaudible] Kaitlyn’s work has been so inspired the ways in which important research is helping latter day saint families and leaders can be seen, I believe, as heaven directed. Kaitlyn has devoted many thousands of dollars and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring her research to latter day saints, to help us to deal with the issue in a more enlightened and more Christ centred way. It is my hope as latter day saints, we will not only recognize the importance of Doctor Ryan’s work for us but we will find ways to be as gracious and as generous with her as she has been with us especially in producing this film and this booklet. I’ll say a few words later on in the evening about how you might be able to do that. In the meantime a you watch the film and listen to the panel of participants, consider how much you might be able to contribute personally and how you can apply what you have learned from her research in your own lives as well as those in your family, friends and congregations.

President Kennedy ended his speech in 1960 with these words from the book of Isaiah; “they that wait upon the lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up the wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary” He added “as we face the coming challenge, we too shall wait upon the lord, and we too shall wait upon the lord, and I ask that he renew our strength, then shall we be equal to the test, then shall we not be weary, then shall we prevail. May that also be true of us. In preparation for seeing the film, I would like to ask Doctor Ryan to say a few words about the research and the family acceptance project as a relation to this film especially her research on the profound differences that she and her colleagues have found between families who are accepting and families who are rejecting of their LGBT children. After Doctor Ryan’s remarks, we will see the film, following the film I will ask erm two of the stars Wendy and Tom, I put quotes around “Tom”, to come up and join the panel so you’ll have the opportunity to ask them and Dr Ryan to write down any questions relating to the film or research or what’s going on in their lives ehm right now then we’ll hopefully have some time for you to ask questions. Dr Ryan.