Affirmation 1996 Conference Report
By James Kent
The 1996 Affirmation Conference was held at the Indian Wells Resort Hotel in Palm Springs, October 11-13, 1996.
The leadership of Affirmation gathered Friday afternoon.
There was a poolside reception, followed by a "Primary Program,” including Primary talks, Primary songs, and an action figure talk on the Trinity.
On Saturday, there was a poolside breakfast, followed by the first general session introduced by Dan Cash, who introduced the theme: "To Everything There is a Season.”
Paul Mortensen took us back to our Affirmation roots when we first organized in Los Angeles in 1977.
The workshops included: "Spirituality does not equal religion,” "Smoothing
the way for emerging gay identities,” "Homosexuality and scripture,” "Life
and love for the young at heart,” "Coming out to your children,” "PFLAG
for Mormon parents,” "Alternative paths to spirituality,” "HIV and positive,”
"In the Church but out of the closet,” "Bungee jumping from grace,” "Testimony
meeting,” and "Beyond Birkenstocks.”
The second general session, conducted by Sue Otto, introduced us to
our keynote speaker: Carol
Lynn Pearson. Sister Pearson is well known for her poetry, her book,
Good-bye, I Love You, and her national touring of her one woman play,
Mother Wove The Morning. She gave a very moving talk on the theme
of love. The most horrible acts that human being inflict on each other
are the result of the tormentors crying out for love.
The Paul Mortensen Award, established to honor member of Affirmation
who have shown outstanding achievement and service for Affirmation,
was presented this evening. This year's Mortensen Award recipient was
Duane Jennings of Salt Lake City. Duane Jennings has played a major
role in the Wasatch Chapter of Affirmation as well as with the gay &
lesbian community in Salt Lake City.
One of the highlights of this weekend was the gay positive balled singers,
Ron Romanovsky and Paul Phillips. They kept us in stitches with such
songs as "Some of my best friends are straight,” "Don't use your penis
for a brain,” and "Homophobes in Robes.” Ron sang a very
bittersweet song of a high school boy who thinks of suicide as on only
escape for being gay and growing up in a small town.
Sunday morning, Ben Jarvis conducted the general session.
Ken Salzman sang, "The Man With Many Names.”
A key note address given by Rick Pace of Palm Springs. As he shared
his life and coming out experiences with us, I was again reminded how
similar and yet different all of our experiences are. His humor, honesty
and candidness was very moving. Being gay and living with HIV is often
life living in a double closet.
The devotional service was another highlight.
The LDS AIDS quilt was first displayed at the West Hollywood Conference in 1988. It was again displayed at this conference. More panels were added to it for the Santa Cruz Conference in 1992. There were another two dozen panels added at this year's conference.
Ricky Gilbert quoted the lyrics to the son, "Empty Chairs and Empty Tables,” from the musical Les Miserables. Ricky then began unveiling the new panels to the Affirmation AIDS Quilt.
James Kent celebrated the lives of two people who fell victim to the pandemic of AIDS, Brad Schow and Doug Kolling. His talk included the theme, "The loss is temporal, the love is eternal.”
Don Harryman, Sue Otto, and Ernie Horstmanshoff all gave excellent talks. Mark Packer sang, "You'll Never Walk Alone.”
We closed the conference by joining hands and singing, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again.” That was followed by a big brunch buffet.