In a few short weeks, we will be convening the first Arizona LDS LGBT/SSA conference, ALL Are Alike Unto God (www.ALLArizona.org) on April 27, 2013 in Gilbert, Arizona. This gathering will be the first of its kind in our area for LGBT/SSA Mormons, friends, family, and fellow members and leaders of the Church. Similar to the many conferences that have been held around the country, it promises to be an inspiring, uplifting and enlightening event.
Our hope is to build and strengthen a community of Latter-day Saints here in Arizona so that LGBT/SSA Mormons feel loved and supported through the challenging experience of being gay and Mormon. We want to reach out to SSA/LGBT members in a spirit of sincere fellowship to let them know that we value them and love them. We also think this conference will provide an opportunity for members and leaders to learn more about this issue. And, we want to provide a forum to hear from SSA/LGBT members, to hear their experiences so that we all may better understand and appreciate the unique struggles that these members of the Church endure, the choices they make, and how we can all be supportive of each other.
As stated on the Church’s new website, mormonsandgays.org, “This complex matter touches on the things we care about most: our basic humanity, our relationship to family, our identity and potential as children of God, how we treat each other, and what it means to be disciples of Christ.” This conference is designed as an opportunity to have a conversation about such matters. It is our hope that it might serve as a spark for increased love, understanding, awareness and welcoming of LDS LGBT/SSA in Arizona.
We hope that anyone who is in the area will join us on April 27, for this gathering. The program includes many Latter-day Saints from Arizona discussing their experiences and journeys as LGBT/SSA or as friends and family of LGBT/SSA. We will be joined by guest keynote speakers, Mitch Mayne, and Robert Rees, PhD, sharing messages about promoting greater love and understanding of LGBT/SSA members of the LDS Church.
I’ve included some descriptions of why many of my fellow conference committee members have stepped forward to plan and participate at this event, below. We hope to see many of you here in Arizona in a few weeks and look forward to sharing our experiences with all of you who follow the No More Strangers Blog after the event.
Bryan Hendrickson, ALL Conference Co-Chair, 2013
Bryce, ALL Conference Co-Chair:
The Church has a new website that encourages us to reach out to our gay brothers and sisters with love and fellowship. This conference gives us an opportunity to act on those words. As the father of two gay sons, I desperately hope that they will feel welcomed and wanted by their fellow church members wherever they live. But I worry about how they will be perceived and treated, and whether they will continue to feel like they have a place in our church. Conferences such as this one give us a chance to make a difference in their lives and show them that we care. By participating in this conference, I want to show my love and appreciation for my gay brothers and sisters in the Church. I also want to help my fellow straight members better understand and appreciate our gay brothers and sisters.
Adam, ALL Conference Panel Member:
I am participating in the ALL Conference, because I feel I am in a unique position to build bridges of understanding between two communities that I care deeply about, the LDS and LGBT communities. I am participating because I want to promote understanding of a complex and often misunderstood issue within the context of my faith. I am participating because I believe in creating safe spaces where gay/SSA Mormons can come together and seek support from one another no matter where they are in their journey.
Emily, ALL Conference Panel Moderator:
I believe that our Heavenly Father loves us all, and I’m concerned that in the current culture of the Church, we are not effective at showing this love to our LGBT brothers and sisters. I see the pain of my LGBT brothers and sisters, and it hurts me because I have covenanted to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. I want to do better; I want our church to do better. Being a part of this conference and engaging in dialogue is one important way to begin this process.
Stephanie, ALL Conference Panel Member:
The conference, to me, is a reflection of the hope I have for bridging the heartbreaking gap between the church and its LGBT members. I am attending in the hopes that we can create a space for understanding and dialogue between the general membership and, especially, the leaders of the church and their LGBT brothers and sisters. The first change I am hoping and praying for now is a change of heart.