Circling the Wagons conferences are safe places for LGBTQ/SSA Mormons and their families, friends, ward members and allies to meet together to express themselves authentically and share their personal stories.
The first Circling the Wagons conference, Circling the Wagons around our LGBTQ and SSA Loved Ones, was held in Salt Lake City in November of 2011 and featured Carol Lynn Pearson, Lee Beckstead, Bill Bradshaw, John Dehlin, Julia Hunter and an original composition by David Zabriskie that set Carol Lynn’s poem Pioneers to music. Kevin Kloosterman, an acting bishop, courageously came out as the first Mormon clergyman to publicly support LGBTQ/SSA Mormons.
In 2012, two regional Circling the Wagons conferences were held in Washington D.C. and San Francisco. The objectives of these conferences, like the inaugural conference in November of 2011, were to align with the Circling the Wagons Statement of Purpose and to address the conference themes Building Bridges of Understanding and Joined in Fellowship. Both of these conferences featured Mitch Mayne and Carol Lynn Pearson.
In November of 2012, Circling the Wagons invited Josh Weed, a gay Mormon blogger who is openly married to a woman, to speak alongside two gay Mormon bloggers who had previously been married to women but had left their mixed-orientation marriages and pursued relationships with men. Circling the Wagons keynoted gay men of different perspectives and life decisions side-by-side for the purpose of upholding the inclusive standards set in the Shared Values, and the Statement of Purpose and to communicate to conference attendees that all Mormons are invited into the Circle of Wagons regardless of belief, sexuality or attraction, or decision to be in same-sex or opposite-sex relationships. Josh Weed gave his seminal talk “Lessons in Unconditional Love.”
In February of 2014, the conference opened the wagon circle by keynoting two therapists, Lee Beckstead and David Matheson, who have different perspectives about how to respond to same-sex attraction. Lee is a former Mormon who sat on the APA task force that made the recommendation that the appropriate response to same-sex attraction be LGBT-affirmative, and David is a Mormon who has been a prominent leader of the Mormon change therapy movement. To our knowledge, this was the first time a professional who supports an LGBT-affirmative response to sexual orientation and a professional who has spearheaded change therapy have peacefully keynoted side-by-side at one conference. Both therapists hope to model effective conflict resolution strategies and the value of coming together to listen, gain understanding and find commonalities. Please refer to our 2014 keynote speaker decision FAQ for more information about the decision to keynote Lee and David.
In addition to the conference, Circling the Wagons held its inaugural meeting of the Circling the Wagons Coalition in 2014. The Coalition is a body of professionals, community leaders, religious affiliates, and others who have put a considerable amount of effort into improving the lives of LGBTQ/SSA Mormons. The purpose of the Coalition is to facilitate communication and collaboration between community leaders having different religious and political ideologies and is founded on the principle that those who have similar commendable objectives can work together to reach their collective goals despite conflicting perspectives.