This year’s conference theme Coming Together: Listening to Gain Understanding and Find Common Ground builds on the desires of LGBTQ and same-sex attracted Mormons to work together to create safe spaces where all are able to speak authentically about their own beliefs, experiences and life decisions without feeling that they will be judged, retaliated against, rejected or excluded.
Coming together can be surprisingly difficult. One possibility is that the difficulty arises because we have each experienced judgement and exclusion and carry memories of personal pain associated with that experience. Mormons who have decided to enter same-sex relationships often feel they are judged and excluded by those who have entered opposite-sex relationships or decided to remain celibate. Mormons who have entered into opposite-sex relationships or have decided to remain celibate often feel judged and excluded by those who have entered into same-sex relationships. The same sense of judgement and exclusion also occurs in regards to belief and church activity. Those who believe feel judged by those who do not believe and those who do not believe feel judged by those who do believe. Those who attend church feel judged and by those who do not and those who do not feel judged by those who do. These tendencies create a sense of rejection and hurt within people on both sides of the spectrum and that pain becomes an obstacle to coming together to meet in one room at one conference.
Circling the Wagons hopes to assuage some of the emotional pain that occurs as we experience exclusion and feelings of rejection by creating safe spaces where all can come together regardless of belief, life decisions, or sexual orientation or attraction. We believe that coming together for the purpose of sincerely listening to others who are in a different place than we are so that we can better understand them and working towards finding commonalities and shared experiences will help us discover that we share much in common and that we have a great deal of love and respect for each other despite our differences and disagreements. We also hope that this experience will help us each know that we are loved and accepted by those who are different than ourselves and that we will each consequently find personal healing that ends some of our own pain and makes it possible for us, in turn, to become more accepting of others.