In an attempt to bring all interested parties together, a conference exploring the issues of homosexuality within the Mormon faith is planned for Nov. 4-6 in Salt Lake City. The event, called Circling the Wagons, is sponsored by the Mormon Stories Podcast and will feature Utah Democratic Party chairman Jim Dabakis, Family Fellowship members Carol Lynn Pearson and Bill Bradshaw, Brigham Young University professor Kendall Wilcox and others. The conference will have two general sessions as well as several breakout workshops.
“The Mormon Stories Podcast offers a chance for people to tell their stories honestly, without judgment,” said Anne Peffer, event co-organizer. “We want to use this as a chance to explore the issues and let people tell their stories. No one is going to try to change anyone. We hope everyone can come to the conference and participate, regardless of what your views are.”
The conference starts Friday, Nov. 4, 3:30 p.m., at the McGillis School, 668 S. 1300 East in Salt Lake City, with a presentation, by Bradshaw and Pearson, exploring issues such as homosexuality in the Mormon Church and mixed-orientation marriages. The workshop is $28. That evening a potluck dinner will be held with guest Jim Dabakis, 7-9:30 p.m., First Baptist Church, 777 S. 1300 East. The cost is $13, and attendees are asked to bring dessert, salad, or bread.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, also at the First Baptist Church, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., the main session will continue with two breakout sessions with Dabakis, Pearson, therapist Lee Beckstead, and Revs. Jimmy Creech and Mary June Nestler. The workshop is $38, or $25 for students.
Closing the conference will be Interfaith Services with Reverends Jimmy Creech and Mary June Nestler, Sunday, Nov. 5, 10:30 a.m., First United Methodist Church, 203 S. 200 East, and there is no cost to attend the services.
“Who you love and how you worship god is so much of your identity,” Peffer said. “We recognize that and we don’t represent any other group like Evergreen or Affirmation. We want to make sure everyone is invited, but there’s no prevailing agenda here other than discussion.”
Too often Mormon culture engenders an attitude of ostracizing those that do not follow all the beliefs, Peffer said. The conference and the podcasts attempt to break that paradigm and insert a new belief of inclusion and discussion, she said.
“Maybe this is an impossible idealistic hope, but we don’t believe that we always need to be fighting. We want everyone to walk away from the conference with personal gratification and personal growth, regardless of personal religious belief,” Peffer said.
For more information and to preregister visit MormonStories.org.