Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Circling the Wagons

Mormon Stories.org has recently announced its first LGBTQ Conference, to be held in Salt Lake City the weekend of November 4-6.  I am very pleased to have had a part in the planning and organizing of this conference, which I personally feel will be an historic event.  Some of the speakers and presenters who will be participating in the conference are Carol Lynn Pearson, Lee Beckstead, Bill Bradshaw, Jim Dabakis and Jimmy Creech (whom I've written about here and here).

In keeping with Mormon Stories’ Values Statement (incorporated below), the conference is aimed at (i) anyone who self-identifies as “Mormon based on one’s genealogy, upbringing, beliefs, relationships, and other life experiences, regardless of one’s adherence or non-adherence to the teachings or doctrines of any religious organization,” (ii) anyone who self-identifies as LGBTQ or SSA or SGA, along with such person’s family, friends, relatives and allies, and (iii) anyone else who is interested in the issues to be discussed at the conference.

The Statement of Purpose that Mormon Stories has issued in connection with the conference is as follows:

The goal of the Mormon Stories “Circling the Wagons” conference is to create a space where LGBTQ or SSA individuals and their families and allies can gather to acknowledge, explore and honor shared experiences.  No issues strike more deeply than who we love and how we understand and honor God.  These issues carry an especially profound weight in Mormon communities and have been the source of a great deal of misunderstanding, judgment and hurt.  Consequently, gay Mormons are deeply divided over how to address same-sex attraction and negotiate the choices they face. 

In convening this conference, we are inviting LGBTQ 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 and have experienced same-sex attraction can speak truthfully and respectfully.  Mormon Stories and the Open Stories Foundation are hosting this conference as an expression of our longstanding commitment to LGBTQ issues and in the spirit of our “Shared Values”:

1.   We acknowledge the richness of Mormon heritage, teachings, and community in all of its diversity.
2.   We believe that one can self-identify as Mormon based on one’s genealogy, upbringing, beliefs, relationships, and other life experiences, regardless of one’s adherence or non-adherence to the teachings or doctrines of any religious organization. 
3.   We seek spaces where we as Mormons can live lives of intellectual and spiritual integrity, individual conscience, and personal dignity.
4.    We acknowledge and honor different spiritual paths and modes of religious or non-religious truth-seeking.  We respect the convictions of those who subscribe to ideas and beliefs that differ from our own.
5.    We recognize the confusion, distress, emotional trauma, and social ostracism that people on faith journeys often experience.  We seek constructive ways of helping and supporting people, regardless of their ultimate decisions regarding church affiliation or activity. 
6.    We affirm the inherent and equal worth of all human beings.  We seek spaces where Mormons (and all people) can interact as equals regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.  In this spirit of egalitarianism, we prefer non-authoritarian and non-hierarchical means of organization and affiliation.

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.

Further information and registration details are available at Mormon Stories.org.

The lead illustration was prepared by Geoffrey Blackmer specifically for the conference.

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