There are many ways to interpret the Circling the Wagons metaphor. In common parlance, the phrase is used within the context of intentionally ending communication in order to protect oneself from outsiders who might be destructive. In Mormon history, it has a different meaning. While crossing the plains to reach the valley of Salt Lake City during the 19th-century, Mormon pioneers drew their covered wagons into circles each night in order to ensure that none of their oxen would stray. Inside their wagon circles they cooked, ate, sang, danced and slept to rejuvenate before the next day of work. The circles were community spaces.
Today, LGBTQ/SSA Mormons today seem to have many wagon circles. Some circles are only for those who believe in Mormonism. Other circles are only for those who disbelieve. Some are for those who support same-sex relationships, others are for those who support opposite-sex relationships. Like the Mormon pioneer wagon circles, each circle provides community for its members. Like the meaning of the metaphor in common parlance, more often than not, each circle’s communities have a tendency to end communication for the purpose of safeguarding their own people. As a result, LGBTQ/SSA Mormons are segregated and often have the sense that they must fight and that they are safer if they don’t communicate with those in other wagon circles.
Circling the Wagons presents, perhaps, a dream. The dream is that each of these wagon circles that exist side-by-side in close proximity might feel safe enough to open their circles, just slightly, to make a bigger, broader, grander circle using all of the wagons. The dream is that within this greater circle all might find inclusion and respite, and that, like the Mormon pioneers, within this circle we can sing and dance and speak and listen and gain a sense of community that will rejuvenate all of us for our days’ work ahead. The dream is that by mixing amongst ourselves and listening to accept and gain understanding, and that by allowing others self-determination and extending and receiving reciprocal respect, we might find commonalities, feel safe speaking constructively about our differences without fear of alienation or exclusion and find, together, cooperative solutions that will serve the community as a whole as well as the most vulnerable members we all care about.
In today’s world, our wagon circles must be big. We will find safety and community and commonality by coming together and listening to gain understanding. We will serve our individual selves, the vulnerable among us, and our people as a whole by safely uniting for healthy conversation that communicates to all that their value is inherent and they are wanted within the circle.