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Soulforce meets with Mormon Church officials

Queer-rights activists met with officials from the Mormon Church on April 23 to discuss the Church’s policies that can be harmful to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Members of the Soulforce 2012 Equality Ride reached out to Church leaders to ask them to cut ties with Evergreen International, a group that promotes so-called reparative therapy; to stop funding and promoting groups that are fighting marriage equality; to encourage LDS Business College to bring its policies on gays current with Mormon teachings and to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the faith’s policies for church employees.

The Church declined to allow the group to meet with any key members of leadership, including representatives from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, to whom the letter was addressed. Through weeks of negotiations however, the church agreed to provide members of their public relations and public policy teams for the meeting.

“I’m so disheartened that the leaders of my church refuse to meet with me,” said Robert Moore, a Mormon “Equality Rider” who organized the Salt Lake City stop. “I am a member of this church, and because I am gay my leaders apparently find me so revolting they refuse to be in the same room as me. It just makes me realize how important it is to have this dialogue.”

The Soulforce Equality Ride hopes to engage in dialogue with the Church about ways it can be more inclusive of LGBTQ people and their allies. The advocates met with Mormon legislative lobbyist Bill Evans, public-affairs representative John Taylor, former reporter Ruth Todd and attorney Alexander Dushku, who wrote briefs defending the Mormon Church’s involvement in Proposition 8.

“There is such a culture of silence around LGBTQ identities within the Church. It is so oppressive,” said Jason Conner, co-director of this year’s Equality Ride and former member of the LDS Church. “These issues are so important to me because I was forced into church-sponsored ex-gay therapy while on my mission, and it was a harmful experience. Young LGBTQ people are taking their lives at an alarming rate, and LDS young people are doing so at an even higher rate. I firmly believe this is happening because of the oppressive nature of the policies and messages coming from Church leaders. It is important for this conversation to happen, and it is even more important for members of the church to know it is happening, to end the silence.”

The meeting concluded with the agreement to have future dialogue around these issues, coordinated through local leaders of Equality Utah. Soulforce will be proposing dates and times for future meetings and training workshops within the next few weeks.

“I come away from our meeting today being cautiously optimistic about the future of LGBTQ people and the LDS church,” stated Conner. “While I am still disappointed that key leaders of the church were not willing to be at the same table as us, I am encouraged by the ability to have dialogue. We came to many mutual agreements, including that no one should ever question the value of their own life, and that no family should kick out a member, regardless of their LGBTQ identities.”

For more information about the Equality Ride, go to soulforce.org.

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10 Comments

  1. Polygamy= politically inconvenient = prophecy; Banning blacks from the priesthood = politically inconvenient = prophecy; Gay and lesbian basic civil rights opposition = politically inconvenient………

  2. I don't think the Mormon church will change in our lifetime; and they will continue to defy their own teachings by being involved in politics and trying to push their agendas on non-members. As long as their young gay members continue to buy into the church's teachings and kill themselves, the church wins. The more gay youth that kill themselves, the fewer gay adults they have to deal with and I think the church considers this a 'win-win situation'. I think it's sad that so many people give the church so much power in their lives……time to move on and live your life….if it's without your biological family and your so-called 'friends in the church'…..so be it.

  3. I think they will put up a good facade as long as Romney is in the race, then it will be back to their same old games.

  4. Exponents of queer behavior talking with the exponents of a queer religion can only result in one, big, queer conversation. It's like one pig wallowing in the slop telling (if it could speak) another pig wallowing in the same slop that he doesn't like his slop.

  5. Basically, this just shows that Mormons want to play nice. Equality Riders shouldn't be offended about not meeting senior leaders, I'm a Mormon and I wouldn't be able meet a senior leader either; it's rare for them to schedule meetings on request.

    As for Evergreen, I don't think they have any ties to the Mormons' church, though they claim to be compatible with it's teachings. LDSBC, I believe, has the same policies as BYU, which basically says gays are welcome as long as they are celibate; same policy for hetero students who aren't married. In fact, I saw somewhere that they recently has a "It gets better" meeting there, for gays and friends, that was very well received.

    I don't expect mormon teachings on homosexuality to change, but it's obvious that they don't want to be seen as "bad guys" and try to be cooperative as much as their beliefs allow. I appreciate that.

  6. I think what's gonna happen is that the President will have another "revelation" like the 1978 "Curse of Cain is removed, Blacks can now have the priesthood. And no, this totally isn't due to the civil rights movement."

    It's sad that they'll never admit they're wrong.

  7. "no one should ever question the value of their own life, and no family should kick out a member, regardless of their LGBTQ identities." LDS Leadership already believes this, and have since before this soulforce group ever existed.
    That was already a given, and should be common sense for anyone not just Mormon individuals or Mormon families.

  8. It's pretty obvious what motivated the leaders of the church to not want to meet with you. It wasn't because they find you disgusting. It's because they don't trust that you won't make a PR spectacle of the whole meeting. And, frankly, I don't blame them.

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