Q: How can you expect to create a safe space when your keynotes are on opposite sides of the spectrum? Won’t that cause contention?
A: Contention can arise when people of differing positions attempt to change one another. However, none of our speakers will be preparing arguments meant to convince, convert or change. Rather, they will be addressing the conference theme “Seeking Authenticity and Understanding” and talking about their own thoughts and lives. It is possible to speak authentically without trying to convince and without contention.
Q: Why have speakers from opposite sides of the spectrum at all? Wouldn’t just promoting one side be a better way to prevent contention? Wouldn’t that be safer for the community?
A: We want all of our audience members to feel safe and we don’t assume that everyone in the audience will have the same opinion. We attempt, then, to find speakers of differing perspectives so that audience members of differing perspectives can feel comfortable during our program. The side–by–side respect of those who express different perspectives without contention actually communicates to audience members that whomever they are is OK and helps them feel safer to express themselves authentically during our Story Sharing meetings.
Q: I’m guessing that most of the people who run Circling the Wagons think that mixed–orientation marriage is a less preferable life–decision. Are you pitting Josh Weed up against Joseph Broom and Allen Miller so that they can expose what’s wrong with Josh’s choice to be married to a woman?
A: Of course not. It would be disrespectful for us to treat Josh that way. We want our audience to see that we value and respect all of our presenters. This communicates to our audience members that we value, validate and respect them regardless of their beliefs and life–decisions and contributes to their sense of safety within the community.
Q: Is Circling the Wagons intended to support people?
A: Definitely. Support is often found through participating in community environments that allow for authentic expression without fear of rejection. Circling the Wagons works to create a safe space for everyone regardless of belief, affiliation with the Mormon church or life–decision, allowing all to feel welcome and supported.
Q: I don’t remember speakers representing Josh Weed’s and Steven Frei’s perspectives at last year’s Salt Lake City conference.
A: Circling the Wagons invited presenters with their perspectives to last year’s conference. Most of our invitations were not accepted. Randy Dodge was gracious enough to represent North Star in Kendall Wilcox’s panel discussion, however. We are very thankful that Josh and Steven are willing to be part of our program this year because having presenters of all perspectives helps us align to our Statement of Purpose and create a community environment that communicates to attendees that they are all important regardless of belief, affiliation with the church or life–decisions.
Q: Has the Circling the Wagons Statement of Purpose changed?
A: No, it is the same. Please see excerpts below. Emphasis added.
“In convening this conference, we are inviting LGBTQ/SSA Mormons and their families and allies to step beyond historic divisions to establish a shared space where all who have ever self–identified as Mormon can speak truthfully and respectfully.”
“We welcome all who wish to participate in a spirit of fellowship and openness, with condemnation for none and compassion for all, in the hopes that all will experience personal renewal and discover a basis for common ground in our shared heritage.”
We seek to circle our wagons around Joseph Broom, Josh Weed, Allen Miller, Steven Frei and all others who wish to speak authentically and respectfully.
Q: I’m concerned the presence of speakers I disagree with could hurt the children I bring.
A: Most of our attendees are adults and we don’t make any attempt to put together a program that is appropriate for children. Parents are responsible to decide whether or not to bring the children they love. Some children report having thoroughly enjoyed our conferences. We would like to put together conferences specifically geared towards teens at some point in the future.
Q: Will Josh and Steven try to teach or convince LGBTQ/SSA attendees to seek relationships with people of the opposite gender? Will Joseph and Allen try to convince LGBTQ/SSA attendees to seek relationships with people of their own gender?
A: No. Josh, Steven, Joseph and Allen will all speak authentically about their own thoughts and life–experiences addressing the theme “Seeking Authenticity and Understanding.” Circling the Wagons conferences are about creating safe spaces where all can express themselves authentically. They are not about trying to convert, teach or change others.
Q: Does having Josh Weed and Steven Frei on your program mean that Circling the Wagons supports reparative therapy?
A: Of course not. That’s just silly. In regards to advocating for individuals to change, Circling the Wagons actually takes an extreme position in the opposite direction. All of our speakers are informed that they should seek to express themselves authentically without making arguments intended to change anyone in any way. Not only do we not seek to change sexuality, we do not seek to change beliefs, opinions or life–decisions of any kind. It’s not our job to try to change others.
Q: Do Josh Weed and Steven Frei support reparative therapy?
A: No. Josh Weed and Steven Frei choose to be married to women. It does not follow that they therefore support reparative therapy. Circling the Wagons seeks to create safe spaces for people of all life–decisions to express themselves authentically. That of course includes those who choose to be in mixed–orientation marriages. We would be hypocrites if we only worked to create safe spaces for people who make certain life–decisions. To do so would go against our Statement of Purpose and would undermine the safety of our communities.
Q: Does Circling the Wagons support the APA standards for the treatment of LGBTQ/SSA individuals?
A: Absolutely. Please read our position on the appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation.
Q: Do you make speaker decisions in order to demonstrate your loyalty to the Mormon church?
A: No. Circling the Wagons doesn’t have any relationship to the Mormon church nor does it seek to impact the church. We have complete independence. We do not make any of our program decisions based on what the church may or may not approve. Rather, we make our program decisions based on what we hope will create a safe sense of community.