Good morning, and welcome to our 3rd Annual ALL Conference – “All Are Alike Unto God”! We’re so glad that each of you chose to be here.
We have a very diverse group of people in attendance here today. That excites me and makes me grateful for who we are and for all of our different life experiences. We have a lot in common with one another; surely more than our differences. And we have a lot we can learn from one another. I hope that this setting provides and environment for each of us to open our minds and hearts in a spirit of love, respect, and understanding.
For those of you less familiar with this group, ALL is a community of local Arizona members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and anyone else who identifies with a Mormon heritage who desire to fellowship with LGBT or same-sex attracted Mormons and their friends and family members. ALL’s primary purpose is to provide love, support, and friendship. The intersection of faith and attraction or gender identity can be a challenging experience; whether we are personally reconciling those different aspects of our identity or whether we are trying to understand and support someone we love who is personally experiencing those things.
As referenced on the Church’s official website mormonsandgays.org, “Few topics are as emotionally charged or require more sensitivity than same-sex attraction. This complex matter touches on the things we care about most: our basic humanity, our relationship to family, our identity and potential as children of God, how we treat each other, and what it means to be disciples of Christ.” I appreciate this statement and invite all of us to consider in what ways this topic touches on the things we care about most. I also remind us to be sensitive to one another. Each of us has our own journey. One of the foundational principles of ALL’s approach to our interactions with one another is to fully respect everyone’s choices. ALL does not take positions on matters of church doctrine or activities, relationship status, political policies, or any other topic that has the potential to divide. Instead, we choose to focus our interactions on things that unite us and help us follow our Savior’s counsel to love one another.
Now, there are probably a few of you who are still unsure about what you will experience here today. To you, I say that I completely understand. Almost exactly two years ago, I attended this conference for the first time. I don’t recall how I first heard about it, but I did have at least one friend who mentioned he would be attending. Honestly, I was very unsure whether I would attend. Although I was already progressing on my own personal journey, I was not yet in a position where I felt comfortable in these types of settings. I wasn’t sure at the time what convinced me, but I decided to attend that first conference. I can now confidently say that I was guided and prompted to do so. When I arrived at that conference, I sat towards the rear of the room and tried to remain unnoticed. After only a few minutes, however, I had a very clear feeling that I was in a safe place. The experience that followed was powerfully uplifting and one that I had never before experienced. I hope that each of you has a similar experience today.
My friends and family members who know me well know that I have a great appreciation for music. I recall an experience I had several years ago when I decided to upload my entire music library from CDs to digital format. When I completed that project, I clearly noticed that my music collection included more church music and Broadway cast recordings than any other genre. I guess some would say that that’s a pretty clear indication that I’m a gay Mormon. I’m not usually one to perpetuate generalities or stereotypes, but I guess in this case I have no defense. I’d like to continue my remarks today by referencing some of that music that I’ve grown to love and enjoy. Hopefully you recognize some of these familiar lyrics.
My experiences over the past several years have prompted me to focus on those things that matter most and that help me to remember my individual worth and improve my emotional well-being. Sometimes we can be distracted by life’s competing voices. It seems like some of those voices have the capacity to bring us down to an unhealthy place. Instead, let’s listen to and surround ourselves with helpful people who will walk our journey with us and help us progress towards our goal.
I’m grateful for helpful messages that remind us of our identity and potential.
A single thread in a tapestry, though its colors brightly shine
Can never see its purpose in the pattern of the grand design.
So how can you see what your life is worth or where your value lies?
You can never see through the eyes of man, you must look at your life through heaven’s eyes.
We just sang the primary standard “I Am a Child of God”. How often do we pause to think of ourselves as children of loving heavenly parents?
I am a child of God, and so my needs are great.
Many of us probably recognize that we are in constant need. Sometimes those needs might weigh heavy on our soul. As much as we hope for every day to be bright and productive, we may have times of struggle and fear. In those times, we must remember to look through heaven’s eyes.
When you feel trapped inside a never-ending night
If you’ve forgotten how it feels to feel the light
If you’re half crazy thinking you’re the only one
Who’s afraid the light will never really come
Just hold on. Hold on! The light will come.
Remember the refreshing light of dawn that surely comes after the darkness of night.
The sun will come up tomorrow
So you gotta hang on til tomorrow, come what may!
And when tomorrow comes, we can look forward with optimistic positivity.
I am a child of God. Rich blessings are in store.
Let us look to the future with confidence and hopefulness, anticipating God’s blessings for us to enjoy. Let us remember our individual worth and value. In our desire to remember these things, all are alike unto God.
Each of us is surely at different stages when it comes to our own understanding and comfort level regarding our identity, orientation, and testimony. I personally have found joy in trying to embrace the qualities and attributes that make me who I am.
And I see your true colors shining through
I see your true colors and that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors are beautiful like a rainbow.
Our Savior Jesus Christ taught us to not hide our candles but to instead let our light shine before men that they may see our good works. I hope that each of us can find a place of comfort, confidence, and happiness in who we are and in the many beautiful colors we add to the rainbow. Let us reflect on those things that make us special, instead of questioning why we’re different. Although all of our individual colors add to the Creator’s beautiful kaleidoscope of humankind, all are alike unto God.
There have been times in my life when I questioned where I fit in. Sometimes I felt out of place both at church and among my gay friends. What brings me comfort is knowing that I can carve out my own path that is defined by my own desires and priorities. When times of doubt and confusion cloud our vision, I hope we remember that there is a place where we belong.
There’s a place for us
Somewhere a place for us.
Time together and time to spare
Hold my hand and we’re half way there
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there.
Somehow, someday, somewhere.
I believe that when we allow ourselves to be guided by Him who loves us without condition, we will find that comfortable place where we can fully be ourselves. I believe that there is truly a place for all of us, for all are alike unto God.
Sometimes all we desire is to simply be understood and respected. Some of us might struggle to relate to one another.
You think the only people who are people are the people who look and think like you,
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.
I can probably speak for many of us who have had our eyes opened to a new perspective. I believe that when we value each other’s experiences, especially when they are different than our own, we learn invaluable lessons of how to better love and appreciate all of God’s children. We learn that even though others might be different from ourselves, all are alike unto God.
One of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had over the past couple years with my association with ALL has been the genuine friendships that I’ve found. Some of my favorite people are sitting with us in this room today.
I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them and we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today because I knew you…
I have been changed for good.
I am definitely a changed man because of the people who have come into my life and shown me love and friendship. In our desires to find those special friends, all are alike unto God.
Perhaps that most important friend is our Advocate, Savior, and Redeemer.
Our Savior’s love shines like the sun with perfect light,
Loud may the sound of hope ring till all doubt departs,
And we are bound to him by loving ties.
I believe that when we come together in love and friendship as a community of believers, former believers, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered, same-sex attracted, allies, friends, and relatives we create an environment where love replaces fear, ignorance gives way to understanding, and compassion blossoms from uniformed apathy.