- Brad Carmack
Biology graduate Brad Carmack presented “Why Mormonism Can Abide Gay Marriage” at the Sunstone Symposium in Ogden, Utah on 6 August 2011. He recently graduated with his MPA and JD from BYU, and earlier this year published Homosexuality: A Straight BYU Student’s Perspective (available for free to watch or read at bradcarmack.blogspot.com). Brad is an active member of the LDS church and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- David Baker
David Baker attended BYU and received his Bachelor of Science in Political Science from the University of Utah. He currently works for Google and will begin working as one of Google's political strategists beginning in late September.
David has been publicly out and active in his wards for the past two years and he has been profiled by a handful of LGBT publications. He has been a major contributor to the LGBT/LDS (MoHo) blogging network. Last year David was nominated for the Mortenson Award and this year is participating in two sessions: Acceptance within Families, and Sexual Ethics and the Law of Chastity.
- F. Joseph Finnigan
F. Joseph Finnigan, MA, holds a master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Saint Martin's University in Olympia, WA. He also holds bachelor's degrees in Business Adminstration, Philosophy, and Religious Studies. After spending five years as a vowed Benedictine Monk, he left the sanctuary of the abbey to be a Christian servant and openly gay man. He currently works as a mental health professional in Portland, Oregon. He also volunteers with the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, and with the Portland Queer Resource Center.
Joseph will be speaking about the experience of being both religious and gay, why our churches hate and need us, and why we hate and need our church.
- Sam Wolfe
Sam Wolfe helped launch the Southern Poverty Law Center's LGBT Rights Project and continues as a leading team member of the project. Previously, Sam was a litigation associate at a leading international law firm in New York City where his pro bono practice focused on representing LGBT clients. He is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center where he was an editor of the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal. During law school, he worked as a senior paralegal specialist at the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. Department of Justice. Sam obtained his undergraduate degree at BYU and served a mission in the Belgium Brussels Mission.
- Jerry Argetsinger, Ph.D.
Gerald Argetsinger, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor, Department of Cultural and Creative Studies, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. Received his B.A. in Theater at BYU, then continued for his M.A. and Ph.D. at Bowling Green State University, OH.
His scholarship includes two volumes on the Danish playwright Ludvig Holberg and over 100 articles on theatre, literature, and magic. As a playwright, he has had twenty scripts published and/or produced, including Equality of Rights: the First Woman’s Rights Convention presented at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, NY, on the occasion of the Sesquicentennial of the 1848 Convention. His revision of the Virginia State Outdoor Drama, Trail of the Lonesome Pine, is produced annually at the Tolliver Theater, Big Stone Gap, VA.
He is the founder of the Gay Mormon Literature project and has presented extensively on Gay Mormon Fiction and Drama. He is a nationally recognized director of outdoor drama, including the original production of Utah! in the Tuacahn Amphitheater, St. George, UT and the historical dramas Sword of Peace and Pathway to Freedom at the Snow Camp Outdoor Theatre near Greensboro, NC. He was director of The Hill Cumorah Pageant during the "golden years" 1990-97.
In the LDS Church he has served a mission to Denmark and the usual list of ward and stake leadership callings primarily in the area of the Young Men's program. He currently serves on the Rochester NY Stake High Council and works with the the Rochester NY Bi-Stake Public Relations Committee.
"Gay Mormon Film and Drama"
Since 1959 a total of 23 plays and films have been professionally produced that include Gay Mormon Themes and/or characters. Some of these have won two Pulitzer Prizes, three Tony Awards for "Best Play" and numerous other awards. This session will discuss a brief history of this mushrooming phenominon and describe emerging themes and significant insights in these productions. Several scenes will be "performed" to illustrate significant dramatic moments from these scripts. Copies of every script will also be on display.
- Alma "Al" Smith
Alma "Al" Smith was born and graduated from high school in Monticello, Utah. He went on a mission to Argentina and got married in the Manti temple. After coming out, he helped start the Lesbian/Gay Student Union at Salt Lake Community College. He has lived in San Diego, CA for the last 23 years where he has led workshops for a local club. He recently reached life's milestone of retirement.
Al will be facilitating a workshop called "Transitions" where participants will be invited to share transitioning moments of their life along the path of the gay mormon experience.
- Rev. Jill McCrory
Jill, an ordained Baptist minister and presently the Intentional Interim Pastor of Open Door Metropolitan Community Church in Boyds, MD, has worked to include LGBT individuals in the churches in which she has ministered and has sought to make a safe, welcoming space for those who have been rejected by other churches or religious denominations. She has marched for the full inclusion of LGBT individuals in both civil and religious life, forming a large Baptist contingent in the D.C. Pride Parade over the last seven years. She is a proponent of marriage equality for LGBT people and testified before the D.C. Council in support of the marriage bill, which is now law. She is also working toward marriage equality in Maryland,has officiated at several same sex marriages in D.C., and was honored this June as a 2011 Capital Pride Hero.
In January of 2011 Jill became Chair of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, a national association of churches that have come out in support of all people being welcomed into the full life and ministry of Baptist churches across the land. This new position as Chair of the Board has allowed Jill to take her passion onto a larger stage where she hopes to see Baptist churches become more welcoming and affirming of LGBT individuals who seek to practice their faith openly as LGBT Baptists.
Jill is a principal of Leadership Outfitters, a leadership development company that specializes in training governing boards, volunteers and staff of non-profits, associations, professional societies, and faith organizations. She is married to Jack (yes, Jack and Jill) a retired Navy Captain. Jill has a Masters of Divinity from The John Leland Center for Theological Studies.
- David Yost
David Yost grew up as a member of the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) Church. His grandma always said, “The Saints are good people.” And it’s true, they are. There was always a passion and excitement about being within the church community especially while attending the numerous youth oriented activities like summer and winter camps or weekend retreats.
The love of God seemed ever present over the years but as time went on and as David started to mature and realize the truth of who he was (a gay youth) the love of God slowly started to retreat and seemed not to apply to him…at least the Bible said so and the members within the Church seemed to think so.
“I can remember being over at another Church families house after Church one Sunday for a Barbeque. As our families said goodbye in the front yard they pointed out a teenager who had just pulled up in a car across the street. ‘He’s gay,’ one of them said, ‘he always wears purple.’ Everyone stood around and laughed at the comment and I can remember sinking within myself because I knew I was like this kid and even though the comment wasn’t overly harsh, the tone and feeling was that being gay was something to be made fun of, judged and not right. I can remember the lady of the house saying how she felt for his parents and the embarrassment they must feel. I remember how embarrassed I felt…what would my parents think if they knew the truth about me.”
After graduating from Graceland University, David moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and within three months he landed the starring role of Billy the Blue Ranger on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers which went on to become one of the most popular Children’s Television Franchises in history. David completed over 200 episodes of the television series as well as starred in the feature film Power Rangers: The Movie which was produced by 20th Century Fox. It would appear that all was well in this young actors life. However, rumors about David and his sexuality started to surface in his work environment which continued over the course of his years on the show. “It felt like middle school, high school and college all over again…I wondered if the rumors, the comments, the antagonizing ever would really stop.” Eventually David became overwhelmed with some of the comments that were being said and contemplated suicide on several occasions. In order to get a handle on what was going on both internally and externally, he resolved that he needed to walk off set and never look back. Which he did.
Unfortunately, David fell into a deeper darkness and began an intense two-year process of “praying the gay away.” He made a commitment to God to change and went so far as to pay $16,000.00 in the hopes of having God perform this so-called miracle upon him. Prayer, meditation, reading five different versions of the Bible, laying on of hands, psychics, past life regressions, spiritual healers, contemplation, atoning for the “sin” all came to a head when David had a nervous breakdown which landed him in the hospital for five weeks. “That night as I lay in my hospital bed and felt the medications taking over I made one final appeal to God, ‘I’ll be gay Lord if I can just have my mind back.’”
David is honored and privileged to participate in the 2011 Affirmation Conference. What does it mean to be a gay Latter Day Saint in 2011? Many have renounced their church memberships, many have been excommunicated and our churches still think it appropriate to vote on our worth and salvation. Our families have been divided, we have been witness to suicide among our Latter Day brothers and sisters, and have listened as God has been pitted against us. It’s time to place our hearts on the altar of God and allow God to alter them so that we may serve fully in altering our churches. “Like my grandma always said, ‘The Saints are good people.’ And that we are.”
- John Hamer
John Hamer, a gay man whose roots in the Restoration go back seven generations, will be featured as a presenter at the Affirmation conference to be held September 16-18 in Cleveland and Kirtland. An independent researcher, historian, and mapmaker, John is the president of the John Whitmer Historical Association and the editor of John Whitmer Books.
John, who illustrated House of the Lord: The History of the Kirtland Temple, will be speaking about the history of the Kirtland Temple during an optional Saturday afternoon tour to Kirtland (September 17). (Please note that in order to take the tour, you must register and pay a $20 which will cover lunch and transportation from the Hilton Garden to Kirtland, located 23 miles northeast of downtown Cleveland).
The eldest of five children, John grew up in an LDS family in the suburbs of Minneapolis. After high school John attended BYU, where he became the publisher of the Student Review, an independent student newspaper that explored issues without BYU censorship. In December 1990, at age 20, John came out to his sister, to friends in the Student Review, and to his parents. “Everyone was very supportive,” John says, and “some were positively excited.”
After graduating from BYU, John attended graduate school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he focused on Medieval European history. Although John resigned his membership in the LDS Church and thought that he had left everything to do with Mormonism behind, his interest in his culture and heritage became rekindled when he began exploring his own family history. John visited a number of historic sites owned by the different branches of the Restoration, including the historic Kirtland Temple which is owned by the Community of Christ (formerly known as the RLDS Church). He was surprised by the honest way in which the Community of Christ dealt with historical issues, which contrasted with the LDS practice of sanitizing Mormon history. In the Community of Christ, he also found a progressive church working toward equality for LGBT people.
As John connected more and more with his heritage, he hoped to connect with other Mormons as a “cultural Mormon” or a “secular Mormon.” He purchased the domain name “culturalmormon.org” and for a time was the administrator of an online social network for non-practicing Mormons. But after years looking for a Mormon community outside the LDS Church, John finally realized that he had found a home in the Community of Christ—a church dedicated to peace, justice, and equality. His April 6, 2010, baptism was attended by the president of the Community of Christ, Steve Veazey, and three members of the Quorum of the Twelve.
“For Mormons of good conscience, fervently praying to see their church reformed, the Community of Christ has already blazed that path and achieved reform,” says John. “The Community of Christ is good and its path is true. I am called to be part of it, and I affirm my commitment to honoring and fulfilling that calling.”
- John Behn
John Behn was born in May of 1947 to Howard Willard Behn and Gertrude Maryann Wright in Brockton, Massachusetts, where he was raised, being the youngest of three children. John graduated from Brockton High School in June of 1965. John’s interests during his high school years resided squarely in the musical arena participating in the school band, orchestra and male chorus. John’s music has been a constant companion throughout his years.
Leaving high school he attended University of Massachusetts, interrupting his college experience for a tour of duty with the United States Army where he ended up serving in Korea for 13 months. During his tour of duty with the army, John converted from his religion of youth as a protestant Congregationalist to become a Catholic with the hope of eventually entering into a Catholic order called The Little Brothers of Jesus. Just before being discharged from the army, John knelt in prayer to confirm his plans to join the Catholic order and received definitive personal revelation that he was to wait and that he had “more to learn”. After being honorably discharged from the army, John went back to school completing a bachelors of Arts degree in theatre arts from the University of Massachusetts in 1972 during which time John sought out missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and during the process of being taught sought once again to determine if he should become a member of the LDS church and receiving confirmation that this was, indeed, the additional learning that he was meant to receive, was baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in which church he remains a member to this day having served as a branch clerk, Scoutmaster, branch president, bishop, stake young mens presidency member, member of high councils and stake clerk. John currently serves as a member of his high priest group leadership and as the music chairman, chorister and choir director. John also plays piano for his high priest group.
After graduating from college, John spent the next 27 years working for various businesses in data processing working into a position as programmer and systems analyst for main frame computers for large scale manufacturing and life insurance businesses. It was during this time that John met his current wife, Dorothyann Guppy, whom he married in June of 1979. John and Dottie are the parents of five children, three of whom are currently living, the eldest of whom is Joshua, currently a Vice-President of Affirmation. Also during this time John returned to military service by serving with the Naval Reserve retiring from that service in 1998 as a Chief Petty Officer.
John relocated to Florida, accepting a position as manager of a systems development group for John Hancock Life Insurance. Five years later the company was bought out by a Canadian company and the Florida facility was closed which resulted in John’s choice to go into education where he began to pursue a masters degree in education from the University of Southern Florida. During this time John taught language arts and geography at a middle school in Tampa.
It was during this time that John was offered the opportunity to work for Boy Scouts of America and in 2006 John became a professional Scouter accepting the position of District Executive for Utah National Parks Council, Boy Scouts of America serving in Price, Utah, where he remains today.
John’s involvement with the Gay experience spans many years beginning with friendships during his high school and college years. However, his definitive interrelationship with the gay experience did not occur until his son came out to John and Dottie which resulted in many years of deep and heartfelt soul-searching as a parent and as a strong member of the LDS Church. John’s story, in particular, reflects the struggles to balance familial love with church doctrine and personal religious duties and allegiances.
John joins Affirmation’s annual conference this year in Kirtland, Ohio, to share that journey that has resulted in an effective balance of love and support for his son and continued support and affiliation with his Church and his current professional position as Senior District Executive with the Boy Scouts of America who have very specific policies relating to adults who are gay. John is looking forward to sharing his experiences and meeting others who have travelled the frequently rocky and uneven road of discovering one’s relationship within the world of LGTB.
- Joanna Brooks
Award-winning American religion scholar Joanna Brooks will be one of the speakers at the devotional to be held on September 18 at the Kirtland temple as part of “Visions and Blessings,” the 2011 conference of Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons. Her topic is “Visions of an Inclusive LDS Faith.”
Brooks grew up in a conservative Mormon home in the orange groves of Orange County, California. She attended BYU, where she wrote for the Student Review and became a courageous voice in support of academic freedom at a time when professors were being harassed by the BYU administration. Brooks also published poetry and was a guest editor for Dialogue: A journal of Mormon Thought (Issue 30:1, Spring 1997).
After completing her PhD at UCLA, Brooks became an associate professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University. She is also the co-founder of the Mormon Women Writers project, a group showcasing the diversity of voices among LDS women. In 2010 Mormon Women Writers toured universities and performed readings at campuses in California and across Utah.
Brooks is a permablogger at Religion Dispatches, a daily online magazine dedicating to broadening and advancing public conversation on religion. Brooks often writes on issues relating to minorities and social justice, including women, immigrants, and LGBT people. She is a regular guest on the Mormon Matters podcast and maintains Ask Mormon Girl, a column with unorthodox but friendly perspectives on Mormon thought and culture.
Brooks lives in San Diego with her husband and her two daughters. You can visit her at joannabrooks.org, friend her at Facebook, and follow her tweets at askmormongirl.
- John Donald Gustav-Wrathall
A fifth generation Mormon, John Donald Gustav-Wrathall will talk about “the blessings of keeping the spirit in our lives.” After serving a mission in France and Switzerland, John returned to BYU, where he had D. Michael Quinn as a teacher and mentor. Aware of his own homosexuality and frustrated with BYU’s climate of hostility toward honest inquiry, John became severely depressed and suicidal.
After a healing experience with Lutherans in Finland, John enrolled in a Ph.D. program in history at University of Minnesota. There he had a profound spiritual experience which led him to finally accept his orientation as a God-given gift. John also became involved in student organizing—an effort that resulted in the creation of the LGBT Programs Office at the University of Minnesota, one of the first such programs in the country.
In 1992 John met his life partner, Göran. “For me, what makes an eternal marriage eternal is learning to love the way God loves,” John said in 2007. “That’s how I understand my relationship with my partner. I see it as a very important part of my own spiritual development and part of what I was sent down here to learn.” In April 2006 he published "A Gay Mormon's Testimony," in Sunstone magazine.
In 1998 John published Take the Young Stranger by the Hand: Same-Sex Relations and the YMCA. Currently he is an adjunct professor of American Religious History at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, Minnesota.
In 2005, John took the somewhat unusual step of re-affiliating himself with the LDS Church, despite the fact that he remains excommunicated and cannot hold callings, give talks, pray publicly, or take the sacrament. In 2007 he began a prolific blog in which he explores Mormonism, LGBT issues, and what it means to be a gay active Latter-day Saint.
In a recent blog entry, John argues that true religion is not “the religious souvenirs we acquire like in so many gift shops, the beliefs, the dogmas, the foolish rationalizations we use to explain why somebody of a different skin color, or sexuality, or religion or whatever is worse than we are.” “True religion is a kind of stripping away, until it is nothing but this turning to God, and the love, faith and hope that flow from that,” John writes. “And if we don’t have that kind of religion yet, that religion of relation, all I can say as someone who has had that encounter, and whose life has become a process of renewing that encounter daily, is that it is worth everything you can do to get it.”
- William D. Russell
William D. Russell is well known to Affirmation members for his conference presentations and his writings in favor of LGBT acceptance, will talk on “the legacy and blessing of the community and Temple created by the Prophet Joseph Smith in Kirtland in the lives of all types of Latter-day Saints.”
A lifelong member of the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS), Bill began to take a serious look at the issue of homosexuality in the mid-1980s, when his brother came out as a gay man. “At about the same time I began to teach the course on racism and discrimination,” says Bill, “and I realized I needed to get up to speed on the issue.”
Bill’s quest intensified in 1999, when he attended, along with his wife Lois, a retreat organized by GALA, a group for LGBT members of the Community of Christ. “Among those present at the retreat were six of the best students I had ever taught in my thirty-three years at the Community of Christ-sponsored Graceland College,” he later wrote. “As I heard fine, God-fearing, moral people tell their heart-breaking stories of loneliness, rejection, and suicide attempts, resulting from their awareness of being different, I resolved to do what I can to support the acceptance of people without regard of their sexual orientation.”
“We need to confess our sin of homophobia and repent from it,” Bill writes in the conclusion to his book Homosexual Saints: The Community of Christ Experience. “To support loving, committed relationships --whether they be straight or gay— is part of Christian discipleship. It can be a healing ministry. And in the context of the Church, I must accept and appreciate the ministry that is brought to the household of God by men and women who happen to be homosexual.”
Bill is a former president of both the John Whitmer Historical Association and the Mormon History Association. A retired professor and former chair of the Division of Social Science at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, Bill has been supporting progressive causes, civil rights, and women’s issues for five decades. “As the Community of Christ worked to face up to challenging aspects of its history and to rethink its mission, so did Bill,” reads a September 2005 biographical sketch that appeared in Sunstone magazine. “For both of them, the life and ministry of Jesus ultimately became the first source of authority, and a Christ-centered theology of peace, their overriding concern.”