Is Gay Mormon Conference Getting Unwarranted Attention?

Clearly there is an intense interest from the public at large, to understand the relationship of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with its gay members.  This past weekend, Salt Lake City was host to the Circling the Wagons conference for LGBT and SGA Mormons, sponsored by Mormon Stories.  The conference focused on the relationship of gay LDS members with the Church.

Surprisingly, with an estimated attendance of only 300 at the conference, media outlets such as the Huffington Post, have picked up on the event as news worthy.  But some have a very interesting reason for this, and I'm not sure that it's necessarily focused on the true content and purpose of the conference...  at least I hope not.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune (SLT), an LDS bishop from Illinois, a featured speaker at the conference on Sunday, reportedly said that "the way gays are treated and perceived by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an "atrocity"".  The bishop also said that "If you leave here not remembering what I have to say, remember this: I'm sorry".  He then went so far as to say that " The straight members of the church have a lot of repenting to do".

However, conference sponsor and friend of sponsor are defending that what was reported by the SLT was not really what was said, or intended.  They feel the bishop's talk was wrongly interpreted and have concerns that the bishop's message is being misrepresented.  I've included video of the LDS bishop's talk below.

From my perspective this is really unfortunate, because in the end, this confusion only lends itself to a further communication breakdown between gay Mormons and the official LDS Church's position on homosexuality.  In my opinion, a local bishop has no authority to ever speak in such a way that his words or personal position might be mistaken as official -- even if he covers himself by saying that they are not.   This seems to be one of those situations where a decision was made to allow his opinion to be made public, knowing full well that the possibility of misrepresentation existed.  One can only speculate as to the real reasons and motives this acting LDS bishop was allowed to address the conference.  A recent blog post over on the LDS Newsroom comes to mind, titled: Informed Reading in This "Mormon Moment"

I think it's important to know, if you don't already, that there is an ongoing conversation amongst gay advocates, both inside and outside of the LDS Church, in regard to the responsibility that the Church should officially assume for the unfortunate suicides of young gay Mormons.  It is a sad and sensitive issue -- one that easily incites extremely passionate feelings.  There has been for sometime now, a call for the Church to officially apologize for its perceived mistreatment of gay Mormon members.  Also, the position that the LDS Church takes, in particular the involvement of California's Prop 8, on same-sex marriage --  hotly debated as being anti-gay.

These are only two of the hot button issues that continue to fuel the chasm between gay Mormons and the LDS Church, and continue to create a divide that to many seems insurmountable.  And yet, it is my understanding that conferences such as this one, hosted by Mormon Stories, is intended to help bridge this great divide and encourage healing for gay Mormons and their families.   So it makes me sad when the purported focus of such an event is overshadowed by a potential misrepresentation that will only continue to fuel the fire.

I'm a firm believer that education creates understanding, and that as we come to understand others, our ability to love and accept increases.  I believe that this principle works both ways.  If we continue to find fault with each other, we will never find healing for those things that divide us.  I also believe that  intention is at the heart of all action.  It is my opinion that the intentions of the LDS Church in relation to those with same-gender attraction has never been oppositional to individuals personally -- only toward the act.

Certainly I am aware of the 'history of homosexuality' in the Church, and its ongoing and unfortunate misrepresentation.  I also know that much has been done and is currently being done to heal those wounds and create greater respect for those, within the Church, who struggle with same-gender attraction.

There is no question, in my experience, that members of the LDS Church are growing in their ability to better understand, love and accept gay members.  And I believe that this is happening in direct relation to our embracing the official position of the Church, on the issue of same-gender attraction, and putting those principles into action.

Personally, I have a very tender place in my heart for faithful and active gay Mormons, who truly desire to be included in the gospel family.  I am confident that there are many just waiting to feel confident enough, that members will embrace them with open arms, without judgement, truly emulating the love of Jesus Christ -- to safely welcome them back home.

I also believe that the majority of 'straight' members of the Church, sincerely desire to do just that...

Kathryn Skaggs

Deseret News: Conference explores unique challenges of gay Mormons


  1. As a former Bishopric member I know that the counseling given to members of the Church are designed to be a love-driven embracing of fellowship. Even in cases of discipline it's done with hope.

    Yes, I agree that we all need to open our minds and understand each other more. It's vital in order to ensure a peaceful society pleasing in the sight of God.

    However, in a decaying world we must remember that a foundation is essential. The order of the family is set forth by the Lord through the mouths of the prophets. Does this mean we shun everyone else? No! What it does mean is that we safeguard the family as ordained and holy.

    Yes, we must hold strong to the iron rod but that doesn't mean we can't reach out with the other hand along the way.

    I admit I don't know all the answers. I do, however, know that we are becoming a more and more confused society which breeds contention and false compromises.

    God willing we'll come out on the Lord's side.

  2. He sounds like a very sincere, well-intentioned man who has learned to do what we are all told to do -- love everyone. Unfortunately, as a Bishop, I think he overstepped a bit, which is very sad.

  3. Aaron, I wish this blog had a Like or a +1 feature for comments. Very well said, and so far as I understand doctrinally accurate. My understanding is that we love the person, but do not approve acts falling outside the Lord's moral standards.

  4. I for one feel compassion and love for homosexual members of the church. I can't imagine what it must be like to grown up knowing you're created to have a family but also created with an attraction to the same gender. I don't know what the answer is other than to keep loving and supporting them in their decisions. The Lord will work it all out in the end. Visit me at

  5. Certainly I am aware of the 'history of homosexuality' in the Church, and its ongoing and unfortunate misrepresentation.

    This doesn't parse. The history of homosexuality in the Church includes some ugly, unfortunate, well-intended stuff, from high and low, for quite a long time. Things are improving, and reparative therapies and marrying heterosexually as a cure are no longer as prevalent as they once were, but there's still a lot of fear, ignorance and discomfort being processed into inappropriate anger.

    I really couldn't say that this conference was getting too much attention -- if the issue could have been addressed openly and publicly a decade or two ago, there would not be a need to address them candidly now. But that need exists, and the institutional Church has a great deal of culpability for having not dealt with it sooner. So a bit of discomfort in seeing the issue pushed into public view is an easier price to pay in that accountability than gay folks had to pay because of it over that time.

  6. First: I hope my English is good enough to express what I mean. I hope not to use unappropriate expressions.

    While reading your very lovingly article I tried to find out, what I think the right way may be.

    Then I read the first comment and said "that´s it"!

    In Germany we call the first steps that make us leave our foundation "Grauzone" (greyzone?).

    On the one side of a Grauzone you agree to this or that argument that still seems to be in a way an acceptable compromise. But exactly this attitude leads to more and more compromises and at the other end of the Grauzone your opinion no longer is white or lightgrey. Your view has changed and you are almost up to agree that e.g. gay marriage and intercourse (is that the word?)are Gods idea for us.

    It is important to love all our brothers and sisters.

    And it is important not to leave the straigth way.

    Dearest greetings from Lehrte near Hannover/Germany



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