Affirmation 1997 Conference Report
What a Conference!
Thursday: The Gathering to Zion's Camp
Friday: The Road Ahead is Made Easier by Those Who Have Walked Before
Saturday: Service to Each Other Makes the Road Easy
Sunday: Love and Spirituality Ease the Journey
Salt Lake City from the tops of the Everlasting Hills, the call went out to gather in Zion, a refuge from the world, for four days of activities, guest speakers, workshops, devotionals and entertainment. So we packed our suitcases and joined our people on the University of Utah Campus!
The conference theme focused on both our Mormon backgrounds and the challenges and blessing of dealing with same-sex attraction in a celebration of who we are as Lesbian & Gay Children of God. We studied the examples and contributions of our Lesbian & Gay Mormon Progenitors of the past as that history is being revealed by such historians as Michael Quinn, Rocky O'Donavan, Maxine Hanks, and others. We celebrated our current day leaders as exemplified in those who have been awarded the Paul Mortensen Award and others who are contributing to the Mormon community, the Lesbian & Gay communities and to the world community in the Sciences, the Arts, Business and the religious/spiritual realms. And finally, we looked to our future in finding and using our voices and talents to create positive change for all people.
Thursday: The Gathering
Reception: What better way to get things started than by having
a reception on the patio of the Student Union Building? There were
lots of happy surprises as old friends became reacquainted and new
friendships began on a beautiful summer evening.
Musical Number: "Season's of Love," from Rent.
Performed by The California Affirmation Boys, accompanied by Steve
Speaker: Ken Salzman, "Our Pioneer Roots - Past, Present and Future."
"A Mormon Boy," by Evan Stephens. Performed by The
California Affirmation Boys, accompanied by Steve Mitchell.
| Closing Song:
"Make Them Hear You," from Ragtime. Performed by
Ken Salzman, accompanied by Steve Mitchell.
Western Dancing: We gathered 'round the campfire! Line dancing
was both fun to participate in and fun to watch (especially the toe
Friday: The Road Ahead Is Made Easier by Those Who Have Walked Before
Breakfast: was enjoyed in the Panorama West Room, overlooking
the Salt Lake Valley. There were a few tired faces, but everyone was
excited to begin another conference day.
Devotional, Saltaire Room|
"Letters from the Closet," by Tony Ferrante and Paulette
Jacobson; adapted by Terry Nani.
Dramatic Presentation: Terri Nani and others
This moving presentation told the story of a young man struggling with his sexual feelings and how it affected his family. Even at an early age Adam knew he was different. Sure, there were ways he was like most young boys. But deep within there was a sense he didn't belong.
Unlike Adam, Katie was always the life of the party. Everyone loved her. Then, a broken relationship and a college reunion set the scene for an extraordinary correspondence between two people seeking to find themselves and a place in society.
Workshop: Singing a New Song
Lee Olsen shared his personal journey from returned missionary to LDS recording artist to divorced gay Mormon. Lee is a nationally certified hypnotherapist and family life educator. He is also a member of the National Council on Family Relations. Lee is working on his MSW degree at the U of U. He teaches marriage and relationship courses around the country and trains large companies and government agencies on management, communication, and customer service skills.
- Gay Mormon Artists|
A panel of professional gay Mormon artist shared their stories and their art.
| Workshop: Panel
- Gamofites 101|
Ken Taylor chaired a panel discussion on the history, goals, methods, and everything you'd like to know about this organization for gay Mormon fathers.
This documentary told the personal stories of four gay men who were subjected to aversion therapy, a popular treatment used nearly three decades ago by the LDS church and others to "cure" homosexuality. It made use of emetic drugs, electroshock therapy and hard core pornography. This "therapy" failed to achieve its goal, and the church has recently attempted to cover up that this method was ever used. This film and other written and spoken testimonies will help us not forget what took place.
Workshop: Minister, Heal Thyself|
Frank Mensel of Family Fellowship led this discussion that examined the discourse between the "iron rodders" from the rest of us. They insist that they alone are the true believers, and those who are unwilling to follow the iron rod alone are at best second-class members, or at worst hippocrates and apostates. He proposed a more-reasoned way to strengthen families than the narrow one proposed by many in the church.
Opening Hymn: Where Can I Turn for Peace
Keynote Address: D. Michael Quinn|
"Confronting Four Kinds of Homophobia: Within Ourselves, From Loving Relatives, From Hate-Filled Christians, and From Well-Intentioned Liberals"
Michael described his experience living for decades as a celibate gay man who avoided dealing with homophobia until he wrote a book about the same-sex relationships of early Mormons.
Michael served a mission to England, graduated from BYU in English literature and European philosophy, worked 3 years as a U.S. conter-intelligence agent, got a master's degree in history from the University of Utah, and a received a Ph.D. from Yale.
He taught 12 years a BYU, where he was a full professor of American history and director of the graduate program when he resigned in 1988.
Gainfully employed as a free-lance writer since then, Michael was among the "September Six" scholars and feminists excommunicated or disfellowshipped in 1993.
| Closing Hymn:
I Am a Child of God
Genealogical Tour, LDS Genealogical Building
of Legacy at Joseph Smith Memorial Building
Tanner Fountain Plaza|
Families, friends and a special visiting dignitary (Imelda!) joined together for a BBQ dinner and a few laughs.
The Saliva Sisters, OSH
These three sisters and their band can really swing! They performed music and dialogue that was unique to the Western U.S. and Mormon cultures. At times, a little naughty, they kept us laughing with their popular hits like "Brahide," "Shelly Winter Thighs," "Stairway to Nordstrom," and "I Do Adore the Bidet." They also wrote two songs especially for our conference.
Order tapes or book them for a show in your hometown by calling (801) 263-6699, or by writing them at 2191 East 3300 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84109.
Saturday: Service to Each Other Makes the Road Easy
Panorama West Room
Devotional: AIDS Memorial and the Affirmation Memorial AIDS
Quilt, OSH Auditorium
Panel: Peaks to Pits
Steve and Allison Dunn led a discussion about gay parents coming out to their children and families. Panel members included parents, children and siblings who have had to come to terms with their gay parents, children or siblings.
Panel: Dealing with Heterophobia|
Marvin Petersen of Family Fellowship chaired this discussion.
Panel: Out at BYU|
Three gay BYU stdents and one BYU student who is a daughter of a lesbian shared their experiences about coming out on campus and how they are pioneering change to help others. Channel Four in Salt Lake City was there to capture the moment for the evening news.
- Julie Hammer, 22, came out to her campus ward bishop in the fall of 1996. He insisted she enroll in pro-change therapy.
- David Orton, 23, started pro-change therapy in January 1996, gradually realized that his sexual orientation was something that didn't need to change.
- Sam Clayton, 23, has been actively involved in lobbying the BYU administration.
If I'm Doing So Good, Why Do I Feel So Bad?
Terry W. Nani, M.S., MEd., CSP, facilitated a discussion about loving relationships, intimacy issues, positive sexuality acceptance, self esteem, and personal growth.
| Communicating About Sex in an age of AIDS|
Neil Townsend and Val Murdock of the Utah AIDS Foundation led this discussion.
Panel: Four Roads to a Sucessful Life as a Gay ManThe Challenge
and Rewards of Spirituality
N. Michael Chase chaired this panel of four gay menDerek Casper, Todd Dayley, Sean Pearson, Richard Priestwho represent a broad spectrum in age as well as occupations. They discussed their problems, how they overcame them, and how their religious values have enriched and empowered their lives.
Panel: Gay/Straight Marriages: What to Do|
Once a straight partner hears the words, "I am gay," their world is never the same. This panel answered the question, "What should gay/straight couples do?" Robert Olsen chaired the discussion about the advantages and challenges to staying married and about how to keep the family together if a couple ends the marriage.
An Ethics for Same-Sex Marriage|
Dr. Thomas J. Mathews of Weber State University discussed same-sex marriage from an ethical stance, rather than political and civil rights points of view. Biblical, tradtional Christian, and LDS theologies were presented and arguments in favor of allowing same-sex marriage were explored. Tom has a degree in Spanish from Weber State, a master's in Spanish Literature from Madrid, and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Delaware. He has been an assistant professor of Spanish at WSU since last year. For five years prior, Tom taught Spanish and linguistics at BYU, where he was the first gay professor to come out publicly.
Creative Community Building|
Dr. Bonnie Lynn Mitchell-Green discussed the social position of lesbian, gay and bisexual Mormons within LDS church structure, and provided various strateges for coping with structural silencing.
A sixth-generation Mormon, returned missionary, and BYU alumni, Bonnie is Christian and pagan, bilingual, and bisexual, and she loves crossing boundariesracial, linguistic, cultural, religious, or otherwise.
She worked among Utah Navajos for three years and directed Southern Utah University's Multicultural Center for four years. Bonnie works with the Shivwits Paiute Band on language and culture preservation projects.
"Making Camp a Home," by Rev. Chris Glaser, Saltaire
As Mormons journeyed across the wilderness to find and make a home for themsleves and their faith 150 years ago, so lesbian, gay, and bisexual people of faith sojourn in a wilderness of homophobia and heterosexismseeking and making a spiritual home and family for themselves.
Chris is the author of Uncommon Calling, Coming Out to God, The Word Is Out, and Come Home! He has a masters of divinity degree from Yale University Divinity School and a bachelor's in religious studies from California State University at Northridge.
For 10 years Chris served as founding director of the Lazarus Project, a Presbyterian ministry reconciling the church and the gay community in Los Angeles.
He has worked with a number of religious congregations and has served on the National Presbyterian Task Force to Study Homosexuality.
Tour: Lesbian and Gay Historic Sites in and around Temple Square
Led by D. Michael Quinn, this hour-long, first of its kind, informational tour took us to many locations where documented homosexual activities took place or where homosexual persons worked or lived. While the group of 60 toured, it was interesting to watch the reactions of tourists that would stop to listen to the presentationuntil, that is, they realized what was being discussed!
Dinner and Entertainment: Leraine Horstmanshoff and Awhina
Pewhairangi, Union Ballroom
Leraine comes from a family of 11 children, 4 of whom are gay. She is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist. She has been playing since age 9, and her unique style and emotions shine through every instrument she plays.
Awhina, a native New Zealander, has played professional fastpitch softball and recently started playing percussion. When she met Leraine just over a year ago, they fell in love and have been making music together ever since.
The Mortensen Award|
Established in 1987, this annual award is Affirmation's highest honor. It is presented to an individual who has shown superior leadership and outstanding service to Affirmationsomeone who truly makes a difference in the lives of our sisters and brothers.
We danced the night away to the music of the Crestmark Orchestra, a 17-piece group of professional musicians known best for their scores from the Big Band Era. They have performed at sold-out engagements for the past 17 years in a series of dinner-dance productions at Utah State University. They provide New Year's Eve spectaculars every year at Sun Valley, Idaho and have played 11 years at the Utah Governor's Ball.
We all had a great time, including several guests who dropped in just for the Ball. Everyone participated, including one of our disabled members who danced on his knees surrounded by friends. The Bunny Hop provided a memorable finish to the evening.
Sunday: Love and Spirituality Ease the Journey
| Breakfast: Rising
and shining came harder for a few of us this day...|
Music and the Spoken Word, Salt Lake Tabernacle
Performed by the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle Choir, conducted by Craig Jessop, with John Longhurst accompaning at the organ. Today's program was titled "Blessed Are They Who Comfort," which left us wondering when the "church" was going to stop causing so many of its youth discomfort leading to higher rates of suicide.
Some of us could not help being a little irreverent when Bro. Newell described some "comforting" activities, including "a well-timed outing." One member turned around and asked the group, "I wonder how comforted he would feel if we "outed" the organist right now?!" causing the group to laugh "reverently."
The Den, provided by Sacred Light of Christ Metropolitan Community
Devotional, Saltaire Room|
"Come, Come Ye Saints," by Olin Thomas
This devotional, presented by the Washington DC Affirmation Chapter, allowed us to reflect on our journey through life and our experiences at the conference this weekend, with an hour of inspirational thought and song.
|Opening Hymn: Love
Keynote Address: World Comm-Unity: Come Unto Me, by Adonna Schow, Saltaire Room|
Adonna spoke about building bridges, healing relationships, loving and serving all people, and reverencing life in all its diversity.
Adonna, a founding member of the support groups Reconciliation and Family Fellowship, has a master's in mechinical engineering and was the first woman to graduate in engineering from Utah State University. Her career has been mothering five children.
A student of philosophical prophecy for more than 20 years, she is a lay philosopher of personal ontology.
Adonna is also a musician and accompanist for many soloists and for Camerata Singers, a 75-voice city choir in Pocatello, Idaho.
For 30 years she was a partner to Ron Schow, participating with him in his activities in the gay community. Those included publishing the book, Peculiar People, Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation, to which she contributed a chapter entitled "Sexuality as Spiritual."
Adonna was a keynote speaker for the 1994 Affirmation Conference in Las Vegas.
|Closing Hymn: Because
I Have Been Given Much
Lunch and Closing Comments|
Luncheon, Union Ballroom
Tears were common as we said goodbye at this final luncheon. Open sharing of souls took place at the microphone (reminiscent of a Testimony meeting), as anyone who wished was invited to share a few final comments with the group.