September 14, 2014

Affirmation Conference 2014 - My Review

My mind has been flooded with thoughts, ideas, inspiration, motivation and excitement. I attended my very first Affirmation Conference this weekend. It was a wonderful concoction of people with their own views, stories and experiences. It was far better than I had expected it to be. I am not sure I can recite every thought I had this weekend and quite frankly, I am not sure I want to. Some thoughts and revelations should just be for me. However, there are some I want to share with you.


Growing up LDS and gay I had heard of Affirmation. Though from my perspective, today's Affirmation is not the one I knew growing up. I had come to see Affirmation to be a community of inactive or former Mormons, who had been so hurt by the church they wanted nothing to do with it. In my understanding that hurt often turned into opposition. Today's Affirmation is a place of love, community and inclusion of all reaches of the Mormon spectrum. I am so glad that I have come to understand Affirmation better and that Affirmation has come to a position of power and influence for good in the lives of LGBT Mormons.


I have known Evan for five to six years (we counted). Back in the early days of the MOHO blogging community, we found each other's blog and commented back and forth. Then came the Facebook friending. There was even a close encounter down in San Francisco a couple years back where I missed the opportunity to meet him.

I know some of Evan's story and have been in awe of his growth and strength in life. I was honored to be sent a wedding invitation last year, though I was a thousand miles away and was not able to attend.

Monday before the conference, I got a Facebook message from Evan asking if I would be at the conference. I informed him I would be and he said he was going to be there too. Then, Friday night, I was able to meet Evan for the first time. It was great to finally put characteristics and personality to a face and story I have known for so long.

I also met other amazing individuals who I hope will stay friends and in touch for a long time to come. I am extremely shy in social gatherings where I don't know people and thus lacked the courage to meet as many people as I could. However, the few that I did meet are quality people, who I am excited to get to know more over the coming years.


I saw so many parents and siblings at this conference with their gay son or daughter. The large presence of supportive family members at this conference was pretty awesome to see. Evan noted at the end of the first evening that he was going to invite his parents (who live in Utah), though he doubted they would come.

It really wasn't until the second evening that I wondered how my parents would react if they were sitting the audience with me. There would be a few comments shared that would bring disapproving thoughts and there would be a few which would make my parents (particularly my mom) uncomfortable. However, I like to think, that overall, my parents might walk away with an increased understanding of what life is like for a gay mormon—what life is like for their son.

On the third day of events I told myself several times that I need to invite my parents to next years conference. I don't think they will come. However, I will continue to invite them every year hoping one invitation would be surprisingly accepted.

Since they know I went this year maybe I'll start by asking them now to attend next years conference. Then I can ask again before it starts and get two invitations out.


The first night, with Darius Gray, I had so many partial thoughts I have had over the years come together in a single coherent thought. It was a spectacular arranging from Darius which made my thoughts whole and then expand.

Then there was Eri Hayward, such a young woman but such a old, wise spirit. I am amazed at her ability to cope with societies cruelty and comprehend the eternal picture.

There were so many fantastic speakers and wise words to ponder. I believe I am a changed man and a better person because of them all.


Because this was my first year and moving expenses took a toll on my budget, I only bought tickets to the evening sessions of the conference. However, after having such a positive experience, I am most definitely planning on attending the conference next year in its entirety. Thank you to all those who put time and effort into making it happen.


  1. Your's is the second MOHO blog I have read saying you used to think that Affirmation was just for bitter ex-Mormon gays who hated the Church. I have never been involved with Affirmation because I am not one to join organizations - just not my thing. However, I was a gay LDS man who was coming to terms with my sexuality in the 1970s and 1980s. This was a time when within the Church there was no real distinction between same-sex attraction and acting on it. Senior Church leaders taught over the pulpit and in Church publications that being gay was an evil choice that could be changed with enough prayer and faith. Gay people were actively encouraged to marry opposite sex partners to fix them. Being openly gay at Church - even if you were a virgin and worthy of a temple recommend - was absolutely unthinkable. Your standing in the Church (and at BYU) would have been in real danger and you might even have got sent to reparative therapy. So I think we should give the pioneers at Affirmation some credit for the incredible courage it took in the late 1970s to set up such an organization. I am sure it helped a lot of men heal from the awful wounds they suffered at the hands of the Church. And I firmly believe that it was voices like Affirmation that pushed the Church to rethink its stance on gay people - allowing for a distinction between attraction and acting on it, no longer insisting it was a choice that could be fixed, no longer pushing mixed orientation marriages, allowing someone to identify as gay and still attend BYU, etc. These changes did not happen in a vacuum. They happened because organizations like Affirmation made the Church face up to how it was treating its gay members. The pioneers of Affirmation deserve our gratitude. And if some of them were bitter towards the Church they had every right to be considering how the Church had treated them. Not all of us had the blessing of growing up in a more tolerant time. If Affirmation has become more welcoming to LDS of all kinds and levels that is great. But it only got there from the sacrifice of gay pioneers who had to trek through a harsh desert before finding a more welcoming land.

    1. I don't believe I disagree with your statement here Edward. I think you may have mistaken my words of description for words of judgement, and that they were not. I was simply explaining what I had grown up thinking Affirmation was about, which according to your own words was spot on. However, my understanding of Affirmation back in the 1990's (when I was growing up) was not a judgement or condemnation.

      Am I more pleased with what I see Affirmation standing for today, yes I am. But that doesn't cast a condemnation on what it was.

    2. Thanks for your kind reply. I think we are on the same page.

  2. Wow Edward, I really like your perspective. We have our own pioneers who crossed a rugged plain with their own burdens...what an image. We really do owe a lot to those individuals who started things out for us. I was amazed at all of the teenagers who were at the conference. I NEVER could have done that when I was a teen. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Trevor, I actually got to spend one-on-one time with Darius at dinner right before his talk. Unfortunately, I did not realize until later who he actually was. We had a fascinating discussion on many different topics, but I can tell you, if I ever have a chance to talk with him again, I have a million questions for him. He was such a down-to-earth guy. So friendly. His wife was very friendly too. If I had only known who I was sitting by at the time...aarg!

    1. I too, am grateful for those who suffered so much for us to enjoy the more open world and society we have today. I even commented to one of my friends at conference about such a gratitude.

      I actually ran into Bro. Gray at the Chapel with a Affirmation AIDS quilt and though brief I too saw his approachability and charm. If I had the one-on-one time with Bro. Gray as you did, I am not sure I would be able to sort out my own thoughts enough to form even one question. It would simply be too awesome (in the traditional sense of the word).

  3. So glad you came and enjoyed the conference! I forgot you were coming (had read on your blog earlier, I think), and I don't think I talked to you. Too bad :-/. Maybe I'll see you at future Affirmation things, though.