Mormons Unite – SLC 2012 Press Release

Mormons Unite to “Circle the Wagons” around their LGBTQ/SSA Loved Ones Despite Differences in Life–Decisions and Perspectives

Featuring Josh Weed, Joseph Broom, Allen Miller, Elbert Peck, Lee Beckstead and Former SLC Mission President and Area Authority Seventy President Blake Sonne

Salt Lake City – October 22nd, 2012Josh Weed, gay marriage and family therapist known for speaking positively about his marriage to a woman, will keynote at the 2012 Salt Lake City Circling the Wagons conference along with gay bloggers Joseph Broom (Invictus Pilgrim) and Allen Miller (Clive Durham) who were both previously married and have now come out as gay. All three will address the theme “Seeking Authenticity and Understanding” and will together make an effort to create a safe conference space where LGBTQ/SSA Mormons and their families, ward members, friends and allies can express themselves authentically regardless of differences in life–decisions, beliefs or relationship to the LDS church. Their mutual hope is that individual and community healing will take place. Registrations are now being accepted at circlingthewagons.org. Preregistration is recommended; walk–ins are welcome. Free admissions are available.

The Mormon belief that gender and heterosexual relationships are eternal has historically had an adverse effect on Mormons experiencing same–gender attraction. Many report having felt rejected, excluded and belittled for their sexual feelings and have expressed the perception that there is no place for them within the Mormon church unless they are able to hide or change their sexual orientations. Straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and same–sex attracted Mormons have responded to this sense of rejection by working together to create the Circling the Wagons conference series allowing LGBTQ/SSA Mormons and their families and friends to meet together to authentically discuss their experiences without animosity or fear that any person or perspective will be rejected or belittled.

“Who we love and how we understand and honor God are deep, personal issues that carry an especially profound weight in Mormon communities,” says Circling the Wagons organizer Christian Wallin, a straight ally. “Same–sex attraction has been the source of a great deal of misunderstanding, judgment and hurt and has divided gay Mormons over how to address and negotiate the choices they face. In convening our conferences we are inviting LGBTQ and SSA Mormons and their families and allies to step beyond historic divisions and come together to share their life–experiences authentically and respectfully.”

The inaugural Circling the Wagons conference held in Salt Lake City in November of 2011 garnered national media attention thanks to Bishop Kevin Kloosterman’s courageous public advocacy for Mormons everywhere to open their hearts to their gay brothers and sisters. Previous conferences have been held in Washington D.C. and San Francisco.

Presenters at this year’s Salt Lake City conference will include representatives from gay–supportive Mormon organizations that have markedly different approaches to the issue of same–sex attraction. Steven Frei, President of North Star, Randall Thacker, Vice–President of Affirmation, Erika Munson, Founder of Mormons Building Bridges, and the USGA (Understanding Same–Gender Attraction) alliance at BYU will all participate in the program. Topics will include the experience of straight spouses, the transgender experience, lesbian authenticity, family conflict resolution, the value of transparency, and the roles parents, ward members, allies and families can play in the lives of their LGBTQ/SSA loved ones.

The main portion of the three–day conference will be held Saturday, November 3rd at the Wasatch Presbyterian Church located at 1626 South 1700 East in Salt Lake City between 12 noon and 6:00 p.m. Early comers will be treated to an art show. The day’s events will include keynote speeches, breakout sessions, and several community speakers. The final Saturday session will be an open microphone Story Sharing Meeting allowing all attendees the opportunity to briefly and authentically share their personal life–experiences. On Friday the 2nd, psychologist Lee Beckstead will co–facilitate an interactive mental health workshop with therapist Hollie Hancock, seeking to strengthen family relationships through healthy communication. The conference will conclude on Sunday the 4th with an afternoon interfaith service featuring sermons by former Salt Lake City Mission President and Area Authority Seventy Blake Sonne, Dr. Christine Contestable, Associate Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and Baptist Pastor Curtis Price.

Please visit circlingthewagons.org to register. Free and reduced–cost admissions are available.

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