I have the pleasure today to officially welcome you to the 5th annual ALL conference. We’re glad that each of you has chosen to be here today. Many of you have joined us for past conferences and many of you are joining us for the first time. No matter if this is your first time with us or if you’re an old friend, you will notice that there are others in the room just like you. You’ll realize that even though each of us comes here today with our own experiences and perspectives, we have much more in common than we do any difference.
That leads me to the theme of this conference—and really the guiding theme of ALL as an organization. The theme comes from the Book of Mormon scripture referenced on the inside page of your conference program.
“And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, …all are alike unto God.”
Oftentimes we hear and are tempted to believe that God limits his love and acceptance to only some of His children. The reminder that we are all children of God and are all invited to partake in his goodness brings me peace and I hope it does for you also.
For those of you less familiar with this group, ALL is a community of 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. This organization—and especially these annual conferences—provide a great opportunity for people to connect with one another in a spirit of love, respect, and understanding. I’ve said this before, but some of my favorite people in the world are sitting in this room.
One of the things I love most about our ALL community is the generous love and acceptance shared with everyone. ALL’s official policy is that we take no position on topics that have the potential to divide us. Rather, we respect each person’s ability to choose for themselves what makes them happy and healthy. We do not take positions on church doctrine and instead leave that to church leaders. We don’t view one relationship status better than another. And we are not a political organization. We invite everyone—regardless of belief, church activity level, relationship status, or political affiliation—to participate with us. The simplicity of this approach is actually based on one of Christ’s foundational teachings. Another scripture referenced in your conference program is from the book of John.
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”
When we focus on love above all else, we remind ourselves that we truly are all alike unto God.
Each of us is likely coming to this conference looking for or expecting different things. Regardless of what that is, my hope is that you feel comfortable here and experience the peace that comes from feeling loved and accepted. As we were preparing the music for this conference it wasn’t until we had already chosen both songs that I realized that they share the same theme—Peace. Although initially thought to be by accident, I feel that we were inspired to focus on this important principle through our music today.
Speaking of music, I recently stumbled across an emotionally moving version of a song from Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Many of you are probably familiar with this song. In it, the lyrics begin as a humble prayer to God from someone who has been treated like an outcast by others and sees others still labeled as such. She pleads that “God help the outcasts, hungry from birth. Show them the mercy they don’t find on earth. The lost and forgotten, they look to you still; God help the outcasts or nobody will.”
Some of us in attendance here today might relate to that humble prayer and need to feel an abundance of heavenly peace. We may find ourselves asking “where can I turn for that peace?.”
As I continued to listen to that song that day, I thought of a perspective that I don’t think I had considered previously. The lyrics continue, “I ask for nothing, I can get by; but I know so many less lucky than I. God help the outcasts, the poor and down trod. I thought we all were the children of God.” I noticed the comparison of the longing plea for help of the first phrase and the empowered offering of charity in the second.
Just like some of us here today might need to feel a greater abundance of God’s love and peace, others among us can look back on similar past experiences when we too needed comfort and peace and are blessed to have gained the confidence and assurance to now ask to be made an instrument of His peace to help others. There are many instruments of peace in this room.
Let me be clear—none of us is an outcast to God. If there is any doubt of that for any of us, I hope that we can draw on the love and support of others to find the peace that stills our soul.
If we are looking for direction of how to better show the kind of love that has the power to fill our souls with peace, I direct us to the Church’s recently redesigned website, mormonandgay.org.
“What does it mean to love one another?” it asks. “Love cares. Love listens. Love includes. Love inspires. Love is at the heart of what makes us human, for we are children of God, and ‘God is love’.”
My invitation to each of us today is to follow that counsel. I hope we can all open our ears and our hearts as we participate in this conference. Look for ways to care, to listen, to include, and to inspire. Above all else, look for ways to love and equally important, to be loved. My hope is that this conference is a meaningful experience for you. We have a fantastic program filled with diverse perspectives and insights. My hope is that you leave here today with hearts full and with a greater appreciation and conviction of God’s love for all of his children. After all, all are alike unto God.
Thank you, and welcome to ALL!