Circling the Wagons – a conference for LGBTQ Mormons and their friends, families and allies

We are VERY excited to announce our first-ever Mormon Stories conference dedicated to the issues of homosexuality/same-sex attraction within Mormonism.  The conference will be held in Salt Lake City November 4th – 6th, 2011, and will be geared towards: 1) those who come from a Mormon background and who self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, same-sex attracted or same-gender attracted, as well as 2) their families, friends, and allies.  LGBTQ supporters of other faiths or no faith will be equally welcomed.  Presenters will include Carol Lynn Pearson, Bill Bradshaw, Jim Dabakis, Jimmy Creech, Kendall Wilcox, Lee Beckstead, David Zabriskie, Joseph Broom and John Dehlin.  While we will only be able to podcast some portions of the conference, an audio recording of the entirety will be made available for purchase.  A full tentative schedule can be found below.

We would like this conference to be open to everyone; it is important that no one be excluded because the cost of the conference exceeds his or her ability to pay.  As Mormon Stories is a small, nonprofit organization with limited funds and is not presently able to cover speaker airfare, facility rentals and administrative costs without charging admission, we have decided to allow registrants to choose the price that best matches their own budgets.  We encourage you pay the registration amount that you feel most accurately reflects the right registration cost for you personally.

The standard registration price for the main Saturday event (session 3) is $38.  If your budget prevents you from paying $38, please select $10, $20 or $30 from our drop-down menu.  If you feel you can afford to pay more and would like to help subsidize others’ registrations, you may select $50 or $75.  Anyone who does not have $10 may email to request free admission.  Donors interested in sponsoring or subsidizing the conference may also contact us at  Again, please choose the price that you feel best reflects your own ability to pay.  We want to have you there.  Your participation is more important to us than your pocketbook.  Please come.

The conference will be divided into four sessions.  Registration for each session is separate.  The main portion of the conference will take place on Saturday and is listed as session 3 below. Sessions 1 and 2 are seen as supplementary and are scheduled for Friday afternoon and evening respectively.  Session 1 is intended for those who would like a more personal experience.  Session 2 is a potluck social event. Session 4 is an interfaith religious service and will be free of charge.

Those wishing to be filmed for the Mormon Stories It Gets Better Project (footage will be taken by Kendall Wilcox) may contact Julia Hunter for an appointment.  Filming will take place during the conference. All interested in singing with the conference chorus (see below) may contact Mark Packer.  A “Circling the Wagons” Statement of Purpose can be found at the end of this post.

More Details below.  Click here to register:

Conference Registration Options (per person)

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Session 1: Workshop with Carol Lynn Pearson and Bill Bradshaw

Carol Lynn Pearson and Bill Bradshaw will share their wisdom on the topic of  How to Navigate the Issues Surrounding Homosexuality and Same-Sex Attraction as a Latter-day Saint. Carol and Bill will each deliver a short presentation then attendees will be given time to share personal experiences and ask specific questions.  Topics such as mixed-orientation marriages, how to support SSA or LGBTQ family members, and ways to personally deal with SSA within Mormonism will be open for discussion.

Date: Friday, November 4, 2011

Time: 3:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Place: The library of The McGillis School located at 668  S 1300 East in Salt Lake City.

Preregistration: $28.


Session 2: Potluck with Jim Dabakis

We’ve got the cultural hall reserved…. so come join us for some good ole socializing and friend-making.  A generous donor has offered to provide us with barbeque pork or beef sandwiches (yummmm).  Attendees should bring a salad, a dessert, a bag of chips or some soda.  Once our stomachs are round and we’ve had our fill of chatting, John Dehlin will interview Jim Dabakis in traditional Mormon Stories style.  Admission fees will go towards the costs of the facility rental and the recording of the Dabakis interview.

Date: Friday, November 4, 2011

Time: 7:00 – 9:30 p.m.

Place: The dining hall of The McGillis School located at 668  S 1300 East in Salt Lake City.

Preregistration: $7. Walk-ins will pay $10.  Please register now so that our donor will know how much food to bring.


Session 3: Main Conference

Get ready for a day full of intellectual stimulation, inspiration, practical advice and community.  We’ll begin with a speech by the Salt Lake City therapist Lee Beckstead to be followed by a keynote from our beloved Carol Lynn Pearson.  Following their addresses, attendees will select a breakout session of choice.  We’ll break for lunch then meet back to hear from Jimmy Creech, a former Methodist minister known for his book Adam’s Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor’s Calling to Defy the Church’s Persecution of Lesbians and Gays, to be followed by a panel moderated by John Dehlin featuring Carol Lynn Pearson, Bill Bradshaw, Jim Dabakis and Renee Galliher on the topic of Where then shall we go: what does the future hold for LGBTQ Mormons? We’ll finish off the day with a Mormon Stories open mic “testimony meeting.”  If there’s money left over once the costs of the conference have been covered, we’ll have pizza delivered so that we can spend our last few minutes together chowing down.

A full tentative schedule can be found below.

Date: Saturday, November 5, 2011

Time: 8:00 a.m to 7:30 p.m.  (Registration and gathering begins at 8:00 a.m. The first session will begin at 9:00.)

Place: The First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City located at 777 S 1300 East in Salt Lake City.  Ample parking available.

Registration: The standard registration price is $38.  If your budget prevents you from paying $38, please select $10, $20 or $30 from our drop-down menu.  If you feel you can afford to pay more and would like to help subsidize others’ registrations, you may select $50 or $75.  Anyone who does not have $10 may email us at to request free admission.  Donors interested in sponsoring or subsidizing the conference may also contact us at  Again, please choose the price that you feel best reflects your own ability to pay.  We want to have you there.  Your participation is more important to us than your pocketbook.  Please come. Walk-ins will pay a minimum of $20.  Please register now.


Session 4: Interfaith Services with The Reverend Jimmy Creech, The Reverend Mary June Nestler, and Bishop Kevin Kloosterman.

Date: Sunday, November 6, 2011

Time: 11:30 a.m.

Place: The First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City located at 777 S 1300 East in Salt Lake City; Skaggs Chapel

There will be no cost to attend services.  All who are interested in attending Music and the Spoken Word before the interfaith services may meet just east of the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square at 8:15 a.m. Sunday morning.


Main Conference Schedule – SESSION 3 – Saturday, 5 November 2011

8:00–9:00 a.m. REGISTRATION AND GATHERING, First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City located at 777 S 1300 East

9:00-10:30 a.m.  FIRST GENERAL SESSION

  • Presentation of the Statement of Purpose: Joseph Broom
  • Speaker: Lee Beckstead
  • Original Composition by David Zabriskie and the Conference Chorus: Pioneers
  • Keynote Address: Carol Lynn Pearson
  • Musical Number: Be Still My Soul performed by David Zabriskie and the Conference Chorus

10:30–11:00 a.m.  MORNING BREAK

11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.  BREAKOUT SESSIONS 

  1. * Kendall Wilcox with Brent Kerby: Panel with Affirmation, Family Fellowship, and North Star representatives, along with someone who identifies with Evergreen’s historical approach to LGBTQ issues.
  2. Julia Hunter, Elise Mortensen West, Kelly Hill: To Be or not to Be: The Power of Authenticity as a Mormon Lesbian
  3. Stephen Cohen: A Father’s Journey Toward Understanding Homosexuality
  4. Lee Beckstead: What Helps (and Hurts) in Resolving Sexual, Religious, and Social Conflicts
  5. Jimmy Creech: A National Perspective on the Church and LBGTQ Issues
  6. Jim Dabakis: It HAS Gotten Better: An Overview of LGBTQ History in Utah over the Past 30 Years

* This panel will only happen if representatives from each organization agree to participate.

12:00–1:30 p.m. MID-DAY BREAK

  • 4 local restaurants will be prepared for conference attendees who choose to meet for lunch: Litza’s Pizzas (716 E 400 South), Hires Big H (425 S 700 East), Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine (912 E 900 South), and Olive Garden (2272 S 1300 East).
  • Booths will be available for perusal in the cultural hall.
  • Attendees will have the opportunity to be filmed for the Mormon It Gets Better video project with Kendall Wilcox and Julia Hunter.  Please contact Julia Hunter if you are interested in participating.


  • Keynote Address: Jimmy Creech
  • Musical Number: For Good performed by Mark Packer and Tyler Kofoed
  • Panel Discussion: Moderated by John Dehlin featuring Renee Galliher presenting her research findings to be discussed by Bill Bradshaw, Carol Lynn Pearson and Jim Dabakis.  Where Then Shall We Go – What Does the Future Hold for LGTBQ Mormons?

3:30-4:00 p.m. AFTERNOON BREAK

4:00-5:15 p.m.   CONCLUDING SESSION

  • Conducting: Bishop Kevin Kloosterman
  • Musical Number: Blessing performed by Devin O’Donnell
  • Open Mike Story Sharing (“Testimonies”)

5:15 p.m.  If there’s money left over, we’ll end our day with pizza.


“Circling the Wagons” Statement of Purpose

The goal of the Mormon Stories “Circling the Wagons” conference is to create a space where LGBTQ or SSA individuals and their families and allies can gather to acknowledge, explore and honor shared experiences.  No issues strike more deeply than who we love and how we understand and honor God.  These issues carry an especially profound weight in Mormon communities and have been the source of a great deal of misunderstanding, judgment and hurt.  Consequently, gay Mormons are deeply divided over how to address same-sex attraction and negotiate the choices they face.

In convening this conference, we are inviting LGBTQ Mormons and their families and allies to step beyond historic divisions to establish a shared space where all who have ever self-identified as Mormon and have experienced same-sex attraction can speak truthfully and respectfully.  Mormon Stories and the Open Stories Foundation are hosting this conference as an expression of our longstanding commitment to LGBTQ issues and in the spirit of our “Shared Values”:

  1. We acknowledge the richness of Mormon heritage, teachings, and community in all of its diversity.
  2. We believe that one can self-identify as Mormon based on one’s genealogy, upbringing, beliefs, relationships, and other life experiences, regardless of one’s adherence or non-adherence to the teachings or doctrines of any religious organization.
  3. We seek spaces where we as Mormons can live lives of intellectual and spiritual integrity, individual conscience, and personal dignity.
  4. We acknowledge and honor different spiritual paths and modes of religious or non-religious truth-seeking.  We respect the convictions of those who subscribe to ideas and beliefs that differ from our own.
  5. We recognize the confusion, distress, emotional trauma, and social ostracism that people on faith journeys often experience.  We seek constructive ways of helping and supporting people, regardless of their ultimate decisions regarding church affiliation or activity.
  6. We affirm the inherent and equal worth of all human beings.  We seek spaces where Mormons (and all people) can interact as equals regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.  In this spirit of egalitarianism, we prefer non-authoritarian and non-hierarchical means of organization and affiliation.

We welcome all who wish to participate in a spirit of fellowship and openness, with condemnation for none and compassion for all, in the hopes that all will experience personal renewal and discover a basis for common ground in our shared heritage.

Registration fees will pay for speaker airfare, facility rentals, administrative costs and food.  Donors interested in sponsoring or subsidizing the conference may contact us at


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  1. Darn it, it sounds great and some of my favorite people are involved.  Would love to attend, but will be in Morocco that week with my family.  Will it be recorded or on YouTube or something for those of us who must miss it? 

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  3. Dadsprimalscream

    If I go I’ll be coming from out of town. I have some air miles I can use… any hotel recommendations nearby?

  4. Is there anything like this posted on line for those of us closeted types that would be fired or excommunicated for being “outted” by less accepting local church leadership?

    1. Dan, would you be fired or excommunicated for attending as a friend, family member or ally?  Just a thought, potentially.  I don’t know how hard-core your bishop or boss are.

      1. The suspicion that would come from being a “gay friendly” or “accepting/tolerate” ally would be enough to for them to judge me “guilty by association” and it would end badly.  In my position, I’m supposed to encourage people to continue to “pray it away” or not “to chose this lifestyle.”  Just can’t risk it at this point. 

        1. Sorry we’ll miss you, Dan. Truly. We will definitely share the audio w/ you when it’s done. Hang in there, brother.

  5. I wish I could go to this but I will be on a business retreat in Mexico. I love what you are doing John! I have been getting caught up on listening to Mormon stories as of late and am so impressed!

  6. There is no pre-registration for session 2 on Friday even though it is listed within the text of the program.  I’m excited about attending this conference; it will be my first for Mormon  But when Carol Lynn Pearson and Bill Bradshaw are on the program, it’s a must to attend.

  7. I am so confused… this is like being upset that the hockey club is about hockey and not basketball, and having a conference about how difficult it is to be in the hockey club when you could just revoke your membership with it and go to basketball practice every day….

    1. If you’re confused, I hope you chose to attend today to clear up that confusion. The deeply held identities of our inborn sexual orientation, of our cultural and spiritual upbringing, of our family and ancestral ties, of our personal and group history – these are identities that are not as easy opted into or out of as, say, hockey or basketball. To suggest that one should just “drop out” of ones association with a group that one holds to deeply as part of ones identity is either a sign of having not given it much thought, or of projecting ones own shallow self-identification onto others. Many of us in attendance at this conference today either HAVE revoked our membership in the LDS church or have, in cases like mine, effectively done so through years of inactivity (while still technically remaining on the records). That hasn’t changed the fact that we live in Mormon communities, have Mormon families, and, perhaps most importantly of all, first pondered our own spirituality and relationship with God in Mormon terms. Even if those terms have changed, the fact that they were our starting point means they are forever embedded in us. We don’t want to drop out of this community. We want to prove that all the facets of our identities add up to one whole, not two fragmented and opposing parts of an incomplete self.

  8. SoConfused- You are missing the point entirely. Think about it a little more deeply and broadly. If you still don’t get it, say so, and I’ll gladly explain. :)

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  10. Registered for the Friday afternoon workshop, all I have now is the paypal receipt to Open Stories foundation. Do I just show that at the door?

    If you are able to make audio or video available at some point, I’d be happy to pay for access…just can’t physically be there Saturday.

  11. This is a wonderful thing that you are doing. It’s an issue that must be addressed and dealt with.  Thanks for all your efforts!

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  14. What a wonderful conference.  I was only able to attend a portion of Friday evening and Saturday, but it was worth every minute.  How inspiring and heartwarming!  I’m so grateful for Mormon Stories!  Thank you, John Dehlin! 

  15. SLC_Doug’s response to So Confused was succinct and perfect.  I am a severely heterosexual male, born and raised in the LDS church (not in Utah but have now lived in Utah a long time with a wife and 3 kids), but I have had a growing concern about the issue of how the church as an organization handles the issue of homosexuality on the social level, which undoubtedly cannot separate itself from the doctrinal teachings on this subject.  In my teens and twenties, I held to the common (not just to mormons) belief that homosexuality was a choice, or perversion.  As the joke goes, God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.  However, as real life and maturity took hold in my life, I began to really ask myself if homosexuality could be something more innate to those who are oriented that way.  I am no expert, but I have paid much attention to the subject so that I could truly form my own opinion and not just toe the line.  I have definitely come to the conclusion that my homosexual brothers and sisters do not choose to be that way.  So if God made them, as much as he made me in my stubborn heterosexuality, who am I to say I have all the answers.  I wish John and everyone else in attendance all the best!

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  18. I must make one more comment about this heartwarming conference.  Carol Lynn Pearson, you are one of my new heroes!  I have always loved you from afar, but after the conference, I promptly came home and got out all of my CLP books…not just a few!  :)  My son and I reveled in your love and beauty! You looked like an angel preaching messages of hope!  Thank you!  Also, all of the presenters and talks were wonderful and filled with much-needed encouragement!  Thank you so much to each of you!!!

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  20. This conference was wonderful.  I want to have a podcast and a transcription of every moment so I can study it and replay it the way I do General Conference.

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  25. Thanks again to everyone who helped put this together and everyone who participated. It was such an amazing experience. Thank you!

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