If you’re in the Seattle area and you’re not busy this Saturday, August 11 — or even if you think you are busy — you might check out what looks to be a very interesting symposium at the University of Washington on homosexuality and Mormonism. Taylor Petrey is giving the keynote address! Josh Weed will be on a panel! The LDS Church has agreed to read a relevant doctrinal statement! It looks to contain a very diverse set of viewpoints among its varied participants, and I’m intrigued to see how the conversations play out. Here is the agenda. Here is a description of the symposium’s purpose:
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often struggle to adequately address questions related to homosexuality. Although the standard of morality (sexual relations only within the bonds of marriage) is clear, members often do not know how to create a safe space for those who have same-sex attractions.
The Church acknowledges that same-gender attractions itself is not sinful, but “acting on” it is. While this distinction might be satisfying for some, it avoids the larger issue of how mortal experiences fundamentally shape a person’s eternal identity, potential, and destiny. Those who are attracted to the same sex or confused about gender are left in a state of confusion about who they are; they are told they cannot act on what they feel. The advice typically attending “don’t act on it” emphasizes the need to understand our relationship with our Heavenly Father as His children. What does it mean for the gay man or woman to draw closer to Heavenly Father? Do they repress their feelings to draw closer? Do they discount the experiences that come with same-sex attractions? Does the promise of “having all restored” in the next life sufficiently motivate them to remain committed in the Church? What conditions can the Church and its members create to ensure that there is a safe space (emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and socially) in the Church for its homosexual members?
This symposium seeks to explore these questions, and more, in a way that meets the needs of a diverse audience. Leaders of the Church struggle in their pastoral duties with limited experience in counseling members who are attracted to the same sex. Members of the Church often feel helpless as they see their brothers and sisters suffer because of real or perceived loss of safety in the Church. Homosexual members yearn for a connection to the Church while being weighed down at the sight of the greater burden they are asked to bear for membership: sacrificing any hope of a healthy monogamous relationship and future family, as the de facto Church policy of celibacy is put before them.
A dialogue around these issues can identify ways to address these various concerns within the present doctrinal framework. The goal of this symposium is to start a dialogue to address this complex issue with a focus to reach deep within ourselves so that we might begin to see each other as our Heavenly Father sees us. As we collectively wrestle with these questions before God, and as we “study it out in our minds” we can then reach upward to heaven for answers.
The Symposium will take place on August 11, 2012, from 8:30am – 5:30 pm, at Mary Gates Hall 241 on the UW campus.
Looking forward to seeing some of you BCC readers there.