The goal of the 2011 Mormon Stories “Circling the Wagons” conference was to create a space where LGBTQ or SSA individuals and their families and allies could gather to acknowledge, explore and honor shared experiences.

  • 1st General Session: Joseph Broom conducted, psychologist Lee Beckstead discussed his perspective on the Mormon LGBT journey, David Zabriskie shared his original composition called “Pioneers” based on a Carol Lynn Pearson poem of the same name, and Carol Lynn Pearson spoke on the Gay and Lesbian Mormon’s “Hero’s Journey.”
  • 2nd General Session: Noted author and LGBT activist Jimmy Creech speaks, and a panel including Bill Bradshaw, Carol Lynn Pearson, and Julia Hunter is moderated by John Dehlin.
  • 3rd General Session: Conference attendees share their stories.
  • 4th General Session: Allen Miller conducts.  LDS bishop Kevin Kloosterman, Episcopal Reverend Canon Mary June Nestler, and Reverend Jimmy Creech share their perspectives on church and LGBTQ issues.  Julia Hunter performs on the violin.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:



  1. Muscogean April 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    Carol Lynn Pearson, how can you be my Auntie Mame? My Mame was dear Aunt Verna,
    who passed from my sight in 1996, at the age of 97. She was the one who cried when I was baptized as a LDS at the age of eighteen, because she had peeked into my future and was afraid for me, so very afraid.

    You Ms. Pearson, who are a stranger to me, brings me full-circle to my elixir. You pull the anger from my being and replace it with love. The famed artist Van Gogh said once in a letter to a young friend, “I find it just as interesting to paint with words as with a brush.” Your kind words bring connection to all those within our tribe. It is beautiful. It is funny. And if it be so, one day in the cosmos, we will smile and laugh and love together.

    From the Navajo language; Shi’aa’you’ee’o’o’nii (I love you).

  2. Ozpoof April 29, 2012 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    First of all, I want to thank John Dehlin and all other participants for undertaking this project and for devoting their time and efforts towards it.

    I enjoyed listening to all podcasts. I felt a wide range of emotions during the presentations, including some anger directed at a few speakers. I seem to be afflicted with a lot of anger still.

    Carol Lynn Pearson, you can call yourself Mormon all you like, but there comes a time somewhere when you are no longer a “believing” Mormon because your beliefs are no longer those held by the mainstream Mormon church. You could still call yourself a cultural Mormon, whatever that means, but you are no longer “Mormon” in thinking. Even cultural Mormonism is so tied up in doctrine, it seems difficult to be able to define where the pot luck dinners stop being social and become reactivation tools. Carol Lynn, you are able to state openly what you believe even if it is contrary to Mormon doctrine. Even this is outside the tenets of Mormonism. It’s Unitarianism isn’t it? You are a cultural Unitarian.

    I could call myself a Zoroastrian not believing a thing about that faith. Does that make me a cultural Zoroastrian? Surely you are a Mormon if you believe in the tenets of Mormonism. I don’t see that you do. In my opinion that’s a good thing, because Mormonism is a damaging belief system for anyone who does not fit the Mormon cultural norm. It’s probably damaging to a lot that do fit the expected norm.

    Carol Lynn Pearson, you are telling gay kids that one of their options is to somehow change the church from within. If they want to they can stay Mormon and everything will be fine as long as they are in a ward or stake where the leaders have some empathy for them. I believe that’s just more false hope. Again, the basic Mormon doctrine of eternal breeding leaves absolutely zero room for gay people. This is why the LDS church is so terrified of homosexuals. The fact we exist and that we were born this way makes it difficult to explain if you attribute everything to a Heavenly Father.

    The “change from within” notion is problematic in another way. Why would a church that claims direct revelation from God himself need changing from within? This questions God does it not? If the Brethren have got LGBT issues so wrong, how can they be communicating with God? How can we trust anything else they say? 

    I can only see more cognitive dissonance and angst for gay people who choose to remain Mormons. If you stay, and somehow change they church to better suit gay people, this confirms that the church was wrong (again) and puts into doubt the truth claims of every church leader and puts into doubt every other doctrine and belief. A true church led by a God would not have to fumble around in the dark and wait for the secular world to figure it out before changing (if ever) decades too late for countless gay people.

    I can’t see how anyone can be gay and stay Mormon without ignoring the fact that the assertions of LDS leaders are not inspired of God. Being gay is confirmation that the church is not true, because we know what we are and we know that everything LDS leaders say about us is false. This is one reason I accepted my homosexuality. It gave me 100% affirmation that the church leaders did not speak truth. To still believe the church is true as a gay person is to accept and then ignore that the leaders are telling lies and are either unworthy to lead the church (which begs the question why millions are put into confusion because of a few individuals who are placed in a position by God), or have no idea what they are talking about because they don’t speak to God and have never received inspiration because there is no God.

    How on Earth can remaining in the church be good for anyone’s mental health if they are gay?

    • Gap May 1, 2012 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      I can not begin to imagine how it feels but have to say that the treatment of so many of the human race as inferior, be it gay, transsexual, black or woman has been an issue for me for many decades which is why I have not been TBM for decades! Trying to change from within has such emotional and mental repercussions that not many are able to handle… That one has to question the wisdom in doing so. That said only people who have experienced it can understand and if all walk away who will be there to help the next generation as they try deal with this! Don’t we owe that support to one another! 15 or 20 years ago there was no way to even connect with like minded people within Mormonism ! I don’t know the answers and at least people who have never thought of these issues before are at least giving them some consideration now.

    • Heather Marks May 7, 2012 at 10:57 pm - Reply

      Having several gay friends go through this struggle, it’s difficult to understand, yes. But being born homosexual (as opposed to a ‘life choice’) does not mean that you don’t fit into Heavenly Father’s plan, and therefore Mormon Doctrine and the Church are somehow proven false. It means if you want to meet God’s standard, instead of changing His to meet your own, you will have to struggle. The same way members of my family have had to struggle with the genetics that make them predisposed to alcoholism, my two small children with Type 1 Diabetes, or beautiful, good people who are born with brain malfunction through no one’s fault. (And NO, I am not saying LGBTs are brain-damaged, sick or addicted!!! Stick with the analogy for a minute here…)

      Heavenly Father gives us ALL things to struggle with in this earthly life (whether you believe in Heaven, reincarnation, or ‘other’, most folks believe in something after this mortal existence) that shape us, try us, and test our faith. He doesn’t ‘do it’ TO us, but yes, He allows it to happen, just like murders and car crashes. Are these proof He doesn’t love us? Saying your trial is somehow harder to overcome than other people’s tragedies is not worthy of your possibilities.

      Do I think if gay people have ‘enough’ faith, they’ll become straight? Probably not. Just like if my my brother will always want to drink. But he doesn’t because he knows it isn’t what he needs to do to make his life as close to God as possible, when he does what he wants instead of what God wants, he moves farther away from the potential blessings Heavenly Father has in store for him – even though he may have a happy, fulfilling time doing it. (BTW, he – nor any other members of my family – are LDS).

      I think there are MANY committed, loving, same-sex couples out there. Good people, trying to have a good life. But if Heavenly Father has asked you to maintain a standard of Chastity (gay or straight) and has declared that marriage is between a man and a woman, it seems pretty clear what he expects of us. The only question now is whether we have the faith to follow those guidelines – at whatever personal cost to ourselves (and people have suffered more for the gospel than remaining single for their entire lives) – or not.

      This discussion always veers into whether ‘the Church’ thinks LGBTs are ‘evil’, whether the Church is ‘accepting’ or ‘hopelessly outdated’, or how members of the Church only love perfect people, so you need to be straight to fit in. Ridiculous. The idea that someone’s sexuality defines them is belittling to all people, especially homosexuals. And the notion that your sexuality is somehow more central to who you are than your beliefs and faith is demeaning. It makes our human spirit seem small, and petty, and so near-sighted. Why shouldn’t all of us, regardless of sexuality, try to maintain an ETERNAL perspective?

      I don’t think other people’s views are ‘wrong’, everyone’s ideas are shaped by their individual experience. But this is what I believe to be true.

      • ozpoof May 8, 2012 at 2:47 am - Reply

        The church does not oppose marriage between diabetics, or even alcoholics. I fail to see how trying to refrain from drinking alcohol in order to fit into the Mormon culture is anything like the demand on gay people that they either select a partner who they are not fully in love with, or avoid any sexual outlet for life.

        The eternal perspective is that the LDS authorities who for decades have told gay people they chose to be gay, and were evil, dangerous, and next to murderers in sin, were 100% wrong. They were also wrong about equality for Blacks and women when they fought against Black civil rights and the ERA. They are demonstrably wrong about so much that they cannot be men of God.

        I’m curious as to exactly how much false doctrine, lies and damaging assertions you believe a God can foist on his people?

        • Nessa October 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm - Reply


          I think you have great points and I understand what your are saying. I think it would be so hard to stay to facilitate change. It does bring to the forefront the truth claims of the church and if their leaders are being led by God. But I am glad there are those who brave it just for the prospect of helping the kids who are being taught these hurtful ways of life. There are more people now that can show them a better way to live with love and acceptance when they may not find it in their wards or families. I also think those who leave like you and still stay in touch with the community (through internet or conferences etc.) are just as important to pave the road for a healthier life for the LGBT people who need love, community, and acceptance and sometimes religion and spirituality. These forums are what opened my eyes and heart. Now I can pay it forward by being supportive, opening my mouth to help others wake up to this cause.
          Heather, I don’t believe a God would create any of His children in such a way to expect and watch them suffer at the hands of their very being. The roots of this belief in homosexuality actions as a horrible sin started in Leviticus, if you read the whole chapter it also states adulterers should be put to death, also if you have sex while a woman is menstruating. We don’t cling to that scripture. When they quote scriptures of sexual sin being next to murder. Who decided masturbation or homosexuality fell in that category? I think it was meant as rape, child sex abuse. I am not a expert on any of this, but just wanted to put my 2 cents in.

          John and all those who took part of this conference,

          I am so glad I listened to this podcast. I have felt edified and enlightened. I have had a loss of all faith for a while, but I have wanted hope in believing something. I felt stirrings during several talks or testimonies of this podcast that gave me some hope. Thank you!

  3. […] The Mormon Church is undergoing its own debate and change on gay matters. There are clear efforts being made in several quarters to liberalize attitudes toward and treatment of gay and […]

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