Creating a Safe Space for the Homosexual in the Church

A Symposium
University of Washington
Mary Gates Hall 241
Seattle, Washington
8:30am – 5:30 pm

August 11, 2012


Taylor Petrey, PhD

Department of Religion

Kalamazoo College

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.

August 11, 2012

8:30 am -9:00 am – Registration

9:00 am -9:30 am

Moroni Benally, Co-Founder of Compassionate Cause

Moroni Benally is PhD Candidate in the Public Policy and Management Program at the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington. He received a BA in International Relations from Stanford University (2003) and a Masters of Public Policy degree from BYU (2006). He is from the Navajo Nation. His research is on strategic behavior in decision-determining structures, focusing on the ways power structures interactions and how it affects those inhabiting the political, social, and economic margins of society.

He served a mission in Seattle. He has served as the Elder’s Quorum Secretary and EQ President, Ward and Stake Single Adult Representative, and Young Men’s Advisor. He and a group of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formed Compassionate Cause in December 2011 in an effort to shed light on questions surrounding sexuality, specifically LGBT issues, in the Church.

Musical Number
Original Arrangement by Campbell Thibo


Personal Story

9:30 am – 10:30 am

Keynote Speaker
Professor Taylor Petrey, ThD

Department of Religion

Kalamazoo College

Taylor Petrey is Assistant Professor of Religion at Kalamazoo College and Chair of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality program. His area of specialization is New Testament and Early Christianity and teaches in those areas as well as Ancient Judaism. Dr. Petrey recieved his ThD from Harvard Divinity School (2010), MTS from Harvard Divinity School (2003), and BA in Philosophy and Religion from Pace University (2001, summa cum laude). His research interests include issues of gender and sexuality in early Christianity, early Christian identity, and the relationship between Judaism and Christianity.

Dr. Petrey teaches in the Jewish Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Programs. He is the founder of the Greater Michigan Ancient Christianity Society (GMACS), a regional academic organization.

10:40 am – 12:00 pm

Places of Refuge
Personal Story
Sam Vannoy
(15 min)

Moderator – TBD

“Finding Spaces to be Gay and Mormon in Latin America.”


John-Charles Duffy, PhD and Hugo Oliaz

John-Charles Duffy has a PhD in religious studies, specializing in religion in the Americas, and served an LDS mission in the Dominican Republic. He has written in a number of Mormon publications including Sunstone, Dialogue, and the Journal of Mormon History; he has also written articles on Mormonism for the encyclopedias Homosexuality and Religion and Hispanic American Religious Cultures. He currently teaches at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Hugo Olaiz was born in Argentina and served a mission in Paraguay. He has degrees from Universidad Nacional de La Plata and BYU. He is the news editor for Sunstone magazine and former webmaster for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. He has published in both Sunstone and Dialogue.

“You Can Make the Pathway Bright”
Bryan Horn
Utah County Chapter of Affirmation for Gay and Lesbian Mormons

BRYAN HORN is from Nashville, TN and has lived in Pleasant Grove, UT for 10 years. He was raised a devout Roman Catholic and entered into the Catholic seminary to be a priest. It was at seminary he had his first introduction to Mormonism, and joined the LDS Church in 2000. He served an honorable mission to Las Vegas, NV, has been a ward and stake choir director, and a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Bryan attended Brigham Young University for one year studying political science, and then transferred to the University of Utah to finish that degree. He also holds a Masters in International Relations from the University of Utah, and just graduated from the SJ Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, earning his Jurist Doctor.

Bryan is founder and president of Utah County Affirmation, a chapter of Affirmation for Gay and Lesbian Mormons, a spiritual support group for LGBT members of the LDS Church.

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

1:15 pm -3:00 pm

Perspectives of Clinicians and Therapists on Creating Safe Spaces
This panel is designed to provide a forum for therapists who work with members of the church who are gay, to share their insights into the challenges these individuals face in reconciling multiple identities.

Personal Story
Joshua Weed and Lolly Weed
(20 min)

Moderator – Brian Warren, MA, LMFTA

Dr. Aaron Glade, PhD, LMFTA

Dr. Glade is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Washington and a Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. He earned his Ph.D. at The Ohio State University where he also taught undergraduate courses in counseling, marital relationships, family studies, and child development.

Dr. Glade is a Seattle native and returned to the Northwest to enter private practice after spending many years in the academic world as a student, university instructor, researcher and therapist. He enjoys baseball, good food, and spending time with family.

Aimee Heffernan, MA, LMFTA

Aimee Heffernan graduated from Seattle Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy. She has a private practice in Redmond, WA where she specializes in illness, addiction, sexuality, and grief and loss. She is currently the marriage and family relations teacher in her ward. She loves being with her two little boys and husband, reading, enjoying the Burke-Gilman trail, and taking a rare nap.

Sarah Ellenwood, MA, PLC

Sarah Ellenwood is a couples and family therapist from Portland, Oregon. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and is completing her License for Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT). Sarah graduated from Lewis & Clark with a masters in both Marriage and Family Therapy and Community Mental Health. She has a private practice located in the heart of Portland where she specializes in trauma and attachment work with individuals and couples.

Sarah is a proud member of the GLBTQ family and uses this expertise with a large component of her clients. Sarah facilitates a coming out group at the Portland Queer Center with individuals that are coming out for the 1st or 500th time. Since coming out can be particularly challenging when religious beliefs conflict with who you are, Sarah has worked with clients from varied religious beliefs including LDS.
Sarah lives in Portland with her wife and sweet dog. She loves reading, thrift store shopping and impromptu dance parties.

Joshua Weed, MA, LMFTA
3:15 pm – 5:00 pm

Perspectives of Ecclesiastical Leaders on the Need for Safe Spaces
This panel is designed to provide a forum for Ecclesiastical Leaders to critically reflect upon their ministry to homosexual members of their flock. This panel will be largely reflexive and offer insight into the challenges Ecclesiastical Leaders face in their ministry to their gay brothers and sisters.
Personal Story
Moroni Benally
(15 min)

Official Doctrinal Statement From Church
President Robert Haynie

(10 min)
Moderator, Jared Boundy
Jared Boundy was born and raised in the Seattle area, and was baptized at the age of 8 in a duck pond on his family’s farm on Bainbridge Island. He served a mission in Guatemala, and earned a BS in Latin American Studies from Brigham Young University as well as a Master of Health Administration from the University of Washington. He has not been published. Jared currently works in clinic operations for a local hospital and serves as the bishop of the Greenwood Ward here in Seattle. He has a budding understanding of the issues at the intersection of homosexuality and faith through his interactions with gay friends, roommates, co-workers, and in ministering to members of his ward over the past 6 years.

Gary London

Gary London was born and raised in the bosom of the Church in rural Utah. After a mission to Finland, he attended BYU, where he became acquainted with his future wife, Kaisa, through the Finnish Club. They were married in late 1965 and soon moved to Seattle, which they and their three children and four grandchildren call home. Gary completed his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Washington in 1973 and taught that subject at Everett Community College for forty years, until his retirement in 2004. He now spends his time as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in children’s dependency cases, as president of Finlandia Foundation Seattle Chapter, as a member of an oral history team at the Nordic Heritage Museum, as a participant in several book clubs and, most importantly, as a grandfather.

Gary became directly and personally sensitized to issues surrounding gays in the Church when his second son — a faithful and conscientious youth — came out at age 17. Gary and Kaisa witnessed and were sometimes involved in their son’s efforts, while a student at BYU, to accommodate his sexual orientation to the strictures of the Church. Over the years since then, they have been allowed into the lives of many members who have had similar struggles. While bishop of the Seattle 5th Ward, Gary met, counseled, and learned from many gay members — some no longer actively involved and some with callings in the ward, like a counselor in the bishopric. During this ten-year period of time, Gary and Kaisa also maintained a close relationship with the local Affirmation group and its members, with some meetings in their home. In his more recent calling as a counselor in a stake presidency, Gary has had less opportunity to communicate regularly with gay members, but he is pleased that one of their last initiatives before being recently released was the stake presidency’s convening a meeting of ward and stake leaders to hear a presentation by Bob Rees on LDS family acceptance of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered children. The work of the Family Acceptance Project confirms Gary’s and Kaisa’s experience with their own son and the stories they have heard from other LDS gays that, whatever the doctrines and policies of the Church, parents and other family members help most when they love most. Guilt, shame, exclusion, blame and silence lead nowhere; rather, hope lies in communication, affection, support, advocacy and openness.

Stan Hall
Joseph Cutler
5:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Wrap-Up and Summary Remarks
Moroni Benally, Co-Founder Compassionate Cause

5:15 pm – 5:30 pm

Mix and Mingle


Papers, presentations, and other materials will be collated and available for distribution for a small fee to cover the expenses of publication.

Submission Guidelines:

Review the following guidelines before submitting a proposal to the Symposium:

Submission requirements:

  • You may submit up to 2 papers or 2 organized panel proposals. Additional proposals from the same author or organizer will not be reviewed.
  • The recommended length for abstracts is 500 words.
  • All submissions must be received by July 25, 2012.
  • Submit proposal (via pdf or word doc)  to the following email address:
  • Please include, name, organization, and contact information in submissionNotification:
    You will be notified no later than August 5, 2012 via email.Please email questions to