Reports of a mega-sized gay protest during the LDS Church’s General Conference in April are greatly exaggerated. Instead of picking up signs and banners, a local gay activist is asking gay and transgender Utahns to pick up litter in parks and food for families in need.
Activist Jacob Whipple initially scheduled General Service Weekend to take place April 4 and 5 during LDS General Conference. Bad weather, however, forced him to move the date to April 11 and 12 for projects in Salt Lake City. Projects scheduled for Northern Utah will go on as planned.
In the wake of a bizarre email forward alleging that gays and anarchists would crash the conference as well as anger at the LDS Church for its support of a successful attempt to re-ban gay marriage in California, activist Jacob Whipple said he received a number of calls asking if there would be a protest during General Conference.
Whipple said he didn’t want to call for one. Instead, he said he wanted to take advantage of this desire for activism and “organize that into something positive.”
Thus, Whipple’s request that gay and transgender Utahns and their allies dedicate their time to community service.
“I believe one of the most necessary things for us to come out and be seen,” he said. “We need to do these kinds of projects with the label of LGBT so the [larger] community knows who we are and what we’re doing and can see us for the vital and productive asset to the [larger] community that we are.”
With a number of projects for volunteers to choose from, Whipple called the first Community Service Weekend “ambitious.” Projects include two in Ogden and a number in Salt Lake City. Ogdenites will be building a ramp for wheelchair users with the Weber Housing Authority and cleaning up parks in Weber.
Salt Lake City Volunteers will be assisting the Road Home (nine homeless halfway houses) and Utah G.A.R.D.E.N.S. with yard work; cleaning up Dimple Dell and Wasatch Park; repainting classrooms with the Utah Head Start Program; and making home visits to new refugee families to ascertain their needs. They can also sort medical supplies to be used in humanitarian efforts.
Salt Lake City clubs are also participating in this call for volunteerism. On April 1, Club Jam held an April Fool’s Fundraiser to benefit local refugee families. On April 3, Club Sound host an opening party complete with free admission for donations of food and clothing (doors open at 10:00 p.m.). On Saturday, the Depot will hold a silent auction to benefit refugee families.
Whipple said that he and other activists would “be looking closely” at how General Service Weekend works to determine “how often we can perform this service for the community.” Ultimately, he said he would love to hold such a weekend during LDS Conferences in the spring and fall.
“I could see it becoming a quarterly event,” he added.
However, Whipple stressed that the service weekend was not started to compete with LDS General Conference.
“You have one segment of our community in General Conference learning about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and another segment of our community out performing the Gospel,” he said. “[The weekend] reaffirms the need for Christian acts of kindness in our society.”
Despite the change of time, volunteers in Salt Lake City are still asked to meet at the Utah Pride Center, 361 N 300 W, at 10:00 a.m. on April 11 and 12 to get their assignments. Cafe Marmalade, the Center’s in-house bistro, will offer 10 percent off purchases as well as free oatmeal to volunteers from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Ogden volunteers are asked to meet at 10:00 a.m. on April 4 and 5 at the Unitarian Church on 705 23rd St. Their projects will go on as originally planned.
For more information call (801) 918-6906 or email [email protected]