2013 SEPTEMBER 13–15
SALT LAKE CITY
Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons

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Speakers      Barb and Steve Young     Benji Schwimmer     Daniel Parkinson     Carol Lynn Pearson!     Judy Finch     Wendy & Thomas Montgomery     Caitlin Ryan     Erika Munson    Robin Linkhart     One Voice Choir     Bryan Horn     Robert A. Rees
 
 
Barb and Steve Young

Saturday's Evening of Affirmation

Keynoting the Saturday evening session will be Steve and Barb Young. Steve is well-known as a Hall of Fame quarterback, but he – along with Barb – are also known for their work with children's charities both here and abroad.

Together they operate the Forever Young Foundation, a non-profit “focused on passing on hope and resources for the development, strength, and education of children.” One of their recent exciting projects was the opening of Sophie’s Place at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, a special room offering the healing power of music.

Another commitment that the Youngs have had for many years is that of bringing more understanding and love to the LGBT community, beginning with the many gay and lesbian friends and family members that have blessed their lives. Barb and Steve have been long time supporters of the Trevor Project, an organization providing "crisis intervention and suicide prevention services" for LGBTQ youth; the Family Acceptance Project, a research-based organization that uses a "culturally grounded approach to help ethnically, socially and religiously diverse families decrease rejection and increase support for their LGBT children"; and individuals doing great work in the area of teaching us all more what it means to "Love One Another."

Both committed members of the LDS Church, Barb and Steve are happy to be part of Affirmation’s International Conference, where they hope to lend their voices to the healing work of making our families, our society and our church more welcoming places for our LGBT brothers and sisters.
Barbara and Steve Young
Dance with Benji Schwimmer!

Friday Evening Program, Saturday's Evening of Affirmation

Benji Schwimmer, winner of Season 2 of “So You Think You Can Dance,” will MC the opening event on Friday evening and spend time teaching us all some of his dance moves and some fun line dancing.

A former BYU student and a returned missionary, Benji struggled for years as he tried to repress his same-sex feelings. When he was 17 he started an online Yahoo group for gay Mormon youth. After years of attempting to fit into the Mormon model of heterosexuality, Benji finally accepted his sexual orientation as a gift rather than a curse. He came out in a 2012 interview with Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin.

Benji Schwimmer
Benji Schwimmer
Daniel Parkinson: God’s Affirmation

Saturday Luncheon & Plenary

Led by Daniel Parkinson, this plenary session will feature highlights from the No More Strangers blog, the Gay Mormon Stories podcast, and the Far Between project. “As we have been conducting interviews for Gay Mormon Stories and the Far Between project,” says Daniel, “we have been impacted by a phenomenon that has been striking and consistent: if we are open to it, God will affirm us as LGBT individuals and give us a confirmation of his love and approval of our relationships.

“How do we know it? You can’t hear these stories and not be impacted by the profound experiences that these individuals describe. They come to the issue broken. They come to the issue with openness. They come to the issue with a willingness to obey God’s will and they are surprised at the answer received.”

Daniel Parkinson was born and raised in Utah to a Mormon family with a thick Mormon Heritage. He comes to this issue as a psychiatrist, with a strong sense of activism, and a desire to help the two communities that he inherited as his birthright: the Mormon community, and the gay community.

Daniel was married to Diego, his partner of 12 years in Canada as soon as it became legal there in 2004. Unfortunately, they are unable to live in the United States due to discrimination. Since their marriage is not recognized in the USA, Daniel can not sponsor Diego for immigration, so they are forced by this to live abroad. However, they have made the most of this situation and divide their time between two cities they love: San Jose, Costa Rica, and Montreal, Quebec.

In this presentation we will hear and see excerpts from Far Between interviews and Gay Mormon Stories interviews where the participants describe these life-changing events. We will then follow with excerpts or live descriptions of these events by some of the people who were interviewed and other people who have had this affirming experience. We are anticipating a very moving program as we stand as witnesses to the loving response that God has given to the prayers of these seekers.

Daniel Parkinson
Daniel Parkinson (right) with husband Diego
Carol Lynn Pearson: A Hero’s Journey

Saturday Morning, Opening Session

Carol Lynn Pearson will speak on the vital themes that appear in her recent book The Hero’s Journey of the Gay and Lesbian Mormon, encouraging us to embrace our calling as LGBT members of the Mormon Tribe as a gift rather than a problem. She will encourage us to realize that we are a special part of the healing that must occur in our families, our society, and our church. The healing can only come when we have healed our own hearts and stepped into the grandeur of who we really are, confident in ourselves and in our God, able to bless and forgive all those we meet along the way.

Carol Lynn Pearson
Carol Lynn Pearson
Judy Finch

Saturday's Evening of Affirmation

Judith Finch’s story is featured on the LDS Church’s new official MormonsAndGays.org website (see “Judy’s Story”). An Affirmation board member with a gay son and two gay grandchildren, Judy will also speak at conference. Judy will talk about how it is no mistake for our children to be gay and how Latter-day Saints can practice what they have been taught about love, respect, and inclusion of all, including LGBT people, in their families and the Church.

Judy Finch
Judy Finch
Wendy & Thomas: New “Families Are Forever” Video

Friday Evening, Opening Program

The Family Acceptance Project will screen its new film “Families are Forever,” a moving short documentary about a devout Mormon family’s journey to support their young gay son. Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project will outline more about the video and the Family Acceptance Project. The Wendy Williams and Thomas Montgomery family --the family featured in the documentary-- will take questions from the audience.

Tom Montgomery is an active member of the LDS Church who has recently traveled the road from going door-to-door in support of Prop 8 in California to having a great love for the LGBT Mormon community. He is the father 5 children, the oldest of which is gay. His wife calls him Ghandi because of his unusually calm and peaceful demeanor; as well as his sense of hope, optimism and faith that the Savior is pulling some mighty strings in our day. He has no political or activist agendas other than to help LGBT Mormons find a place within the Church. He owns his own marketing business and in his limited spare time he can be found watching the San Antonio Spurs and playing computer games.

Wendy Montgomery was born and raised in Southern California. She has always been a member of the LDS Church. She and her husband were married in the Los Angeles Temple in 1995. They had 5 children in 7 years – not recommended. They found out in January of 2012 that their oldest son (13 years old at the time) was gay. It has at times been unbearably painful. But it has also been an enlightening, spiritual and joyful journey. Wendy has many new heroes, many of which are here at this conference. The Montgomery family lives in Central California. Wendy is a voracious reader, loves history, and is doing everything she knows how to make the LDS Church more welcoming and inclusive of its gay members.

Thomas and Wendy Montgomery
Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW

Friday Evening, Opening Program

Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW is a clinical social worker who has worked on LGBT health and mental health for nearly 40 years, with a focus on promoting health and well-being for LGBT adolescents. She is a graduate of Smith College School for Social Work and received her clinical training with children, youth and families. Dr. Ryan directs the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University -- a research, intervention, education and policy initiative to help ethnically and religiously diverse families to support their LGBT children in the context of families, culture and faith traditions. Dr. Ryan and her team are developing an evidence-based family intervention model to help families decrease rejection and prevent related health risks for their LGBT children – including suicide, homelessness and HIV – and to promote family acceptance and positive outcomes, including permanency.

Her multilingual, research-based family education materials – including a version for Latter-day Saint families with LGBT children – were designated as the first “Best Practice” resources for suicide prevention for LGBT young people by the Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Ryan and her team have been developing a wide range of materials to help families and caregivers decrease rejection and risk for their LGBT children and youth, including a series of family education films that show the journey from struggle to support of ethnically and religiously diverse families with LGBT children. Her most recent film – Families Are Forever – is the documentary of a faithful Mormon family’s story of acceptance and support for their 13-year old gay son.

Dr. Ryan’s work has been recognized by many major professional associations, including the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association, Division 44 that gave her the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award for groundbreaking research on LGBT youth and families, and many other groups. She serves on many national advisory groups including the LGBT Suicide Prevention Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. She is collaborating with institutions, agencies, faith communities and practitioners to develop an international movement of family acceptance to promote wellness and healthy futures for LGBT children, youth and young adults.

Dr. Caitlin Ryan
Erika Munson

Sunday Closing Luncheon

A descendent of Mormons pioneers, Erika Munson was raised in Cambridge Massachusetts. She has a B.A. in Fine Arts from Harvard College. After twenty-five years of happily working at home raising her five children, she began a career teaching English at The Waterford School in Sandy, Utah. In 2012 she founded Mormons Building Bridges with Kendall Wilcox and Bianca Morrison-Dillard. She is a member of the Willow Creek III Ward in Sandy where she currently serves as choir director.

Erika Munson
Erika Munson
Robin Linkhart and the Community of Christ

Sunday Closing Luncheon

Robin (Kincaid) Linkhart, president of Quorum Six of the Seventy in the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) will also speak at our conference. On April 21, the National Conference for Community of Christ in the U.S. recommended to the First Presidency that the Church start marrying gay couples in states where same-sex marriage is legal. For states which do not have marriage equality, the Conference recommended blessing same-sex couples with commitment ceremonies. The same conference recommended allowing priesthood ordination for lesbians and gays who are in monogamous, committed relationships.

Robin Linkhart
Robin Linkhart
One Voice Choir

Sunday Closing Luncheon

Our passion is music. Our belief is that choral music lifts the human spirit. It is a language that spans borders and cultures. Our goal is inspiring and excellent performance. The choir began as a simple dream by Musical Director Bryan Horn in August 2012. He wanted to bring together members of the gay/straight communities through the singing of sacred music, to testify to the reality of God and Jesus Christ, and their universal love for all. Horn envisioned a choir where politics about homosexuality, ignorance, and hate would be non-existent so as to create a safe place where everyone can come and sing, regardless of church membership, orientation, or musical ability. Since its establishment, the choir has received worldwide acclaim. Form an initial story on KUER radio in Salt Lake City, national affiliates of NPR picked up the story, which was was then picked up by German Public Radio, and aired the story of the small Utah choir throughout that nation. The One Voice Choir had their world debut concert on April 20, 2013 to a sold-out house. The choir was featured on Salt Lake Fox 13 News, as well as The Salt Lake Weekly Magazine.

The One Voice Choir
Bryan Horn

Sunday Closing Luncheon

Bryan Horn is the founder and musical director of The One Voice Choir. Dubbed as "Utah's Most Radical Choir", One Voice was founded to welcome people of all races, religions, and sexual orientations together in the singing of sacred music, and the building of bridges between the LGBT and Straight communities. Bryan is a former member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and served an honorable mission to Las Vegas, NV. He is former chapter leader of the Utah County Chapter of Affirmation. He holds a BS in Criminal Law and MS in International Relations from The University of Utah, as well as a JD from The SJ Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah. Bryan is active in the sport of rodeo as a team roper. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his dog, Belle.

Bryan Horn
Robert A. Rees

Friday Evening, Opening Program

Bob has taught at the University of Wisconsin, UCLA, UC Santa Cruz and at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania, where he was also a Fulbright Professor of American Studies (1995-96). Currently he teaches Mormon Studies at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and at the University of California, Berkeley. He blogs on LGBT issues at No More Strangers: LGBT Mormon Forum.

Bob’s views on homosexuality evolved rapidly in the 1980s when he was called as bishop of the Los Angeles Singles Ward. “I could no longer reconcile what I had been taught about homosexuality by my church and culture with my experience with those to whom I had been called to be a spiritual guide and pastor,” Bob later confessed. “What I discovered was that most if not all of these gay and lesbian Mormons had accepted the idea that they were terribly flawed in the eyes of their family, their church, their culture and God, and that unless they could find some way out of the labyrinth in which they found themselves, they had little hope of happiness in this world or the next.”

Near the end of his term as bishop, Bob gave a major address in sacrament meeting titled “No More Strangers and Foreigners: A Mormon Christian Response to Homosexuality.” Later published, this was the first in a number of important publications in which Bob challenged the LDS community to treat LGBT people with love and respect, to seek for greater understanding and compassion, and to “turn our hearts with greater love and acceptance toward all those whom we consider strangers.”

Bob is the author or co-author of a number of publications relating to LGBT issues, including “A Failure of Love,” in Michelle Beaver, The Gay-Mormon Decade: Changing a Church from Within (2013); “Forward” to Carol Lynn Pearson’s No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones (2007); A Guide for Latter-day Saint Families Dealing with Homosexual Attraction (2002); The Persistence of Same-Sex Attraction in Latter-day Saints Who Undergo Counseling or Change Therapy (2004); “Requiem for a Gay Mormon” (2007); “’In a Dark Time the Eye Begins to See’: Personal Reflections on Homosexuality among the Mormons at the Beginning of a New Millennium,” (Dialogue 33:3 [Fall 2000]) (winner of the Lowell Bennion Award); No More Strangers and Foreigners: A Mormon Christian Response to Homosexuality (1998), trans. Into Spanish by Hugo Olaiz, “El Amor y la Imaginación Cristiana.”

More recently, Bob co-authored (with Dr. Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University) Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Latter-day Saint Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children--hailed by many as the best resource for LDS parents and leaders with LGBT children and young people in their families and congregations.

In addition to his writings on LGBT people and the Church, Bob is well known in the LDS community for his explorations of other LDS-related issues, from the Book of Mormon to a broad array of subjects relating to Mormon culture and religion. The former editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Bob continues to make significant contributions to Mormon scholarship in such journals and presses as Dialogue, Sunstone , The Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University Press, Signature Books, and other venues.

For the past twenty years Bob has been active in humanitarian and interfaith work. Currently he serves on the Advisory Board of S.A.F.E. (Save African Families Enterprise), a non-profit organization providing antiviral drugs to HIV-positive pregnant women in Zimbabwe. He is a founding member and Vice-President of the Liahona Children’s Foundation, an organization that provides nutrition and education to children in the developing world. Currently he serves on the Board of the Marin Interfaith Council and as the Ward Mission Leader in the San Rafael II Ward.


Robert A. Rees




































 
 

© 2013 Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons

Questions about the conference? Contact Randall Thacker: randall@affirmation.org Attendees will be welcomed regardless of sex, race, color, age, national origin, religion, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.