So, last Friday, I sat by one of my very out, gay, former Mormon friends and a bunch of other people–active and not active Mormons–and sang the entire score of _Saturday’s Warrior_. My friend was the best. I think I came in third. He knew EVERY WORD. It was a riot. Even though he has started a different spiritual journey from the one he first began, he is at peace with his Mormon tradition–which includes not only the First Vision but “The Circle of Our Love.” The best part, of course, was that all of us at the sing-along are academic types in our day-to-day. I think we hid it extremely well as we tried to hit the notes of “Jimmy, Oh Jimmy, don’t listen to them–how can they say they’re your friends?”
I began my Sunstone at San Jose adventure by taking a call from my husband just as I was checking in to the hotel. His father had just died. My first instinct was to get back on the plane and fly home to hug Bruce. I didn’t fly home, but I thought a lot about companionship. I have been with my husband twice this past year for hard losses: first when his baby sister died, and then, only a few months later, when his heartbroken mother passed. I hated having him go through the first parts of grieving without me at his side. My thoughts about companionship continued.
The truth is, my in-laws did not have a terribly good marriage. There was a lot of fighting. But once Grandma died, the lack of companionship proved simply too much for Grandpa. In his last years, there wasn’t much in his life–Bingo, Perry Mason books, church activity, and “Wheel of Fortune”–but she had been beside him, shouting out the right letters. Her presence and her absence mattered, it seems, down to his very cells.
At Sunstone events, active Mormons associate with inactive or former Mormons and find common ground and room for respect and conversation. I never feel the conflict _Saturday’s Warrior_ sets up–between friends, family, and self. We are not defined by our differences, though differences are certainly acknowledged. We manage to celebrate and explore what we share. All such gatherings ultimately remind us of how precious we are to one another. Yes, we might gain a little knowledge in the process, but it’s the communal experience which abides. I would say the same of the Church: it’s not just that we’re there; it’s that we’re there with others, learning simple lessons about getting along.
In a similar vein, let me endorse a superb gathering which is only for women. Let’s face it, we women sometimes need time just with our own gender. Men can hamper things a bit. The gathering is called the Rocky Mountain Retreat, and is held at a beautiful cabin at the Snow Mountain Ranch, Colorado. I attended one year and loved it. The speakers are always superb, the food spectacular, the scenery to die for, conversation and companionship invigorating. You can even take a lovely trip to some natural springs for a natural, healing sauna. For more information on this year’s retreat, go here: