|In the News|
|Affirmation Calendar 2013
Joshua Behn: “My love goes with you all and with this organization which has been a tremendous blessing in the lives of LGBTI Mormons”
by Joshua Howard Behn
“IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way– in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
So opens Dickens immortal Tale of Two Cities, and is as accurate a representation of this year as ever could be. This has been a difficult year presenting a myriad of obstacles, yet it has also been one of great growth with an abundance of blessings, both personally and as an organization.
When I joined the leadership team in 2011, it was much apparent that Affirmation had its share of issues. An organization of 30-something years, while still a stately dame, she was showing her age. The organizational structure (both in charter, bylaws, and operation) was outdated and no longer served it effectively; those able and willing to serve in leadership capacities were few and far between; and there was an identity crisis: Affirmation has always been a motley bunch, with a diverse membership, and as such, spirituality has been a thorny subject. These issues were even more pronounced when I became president.
This past year has been a process of discernment, where the national leadership has truly tried to sense the feelings and thoughts of the membership in regards to the future of the organization. This year has seen the widest and most democratically inclusive series of discussions between the membership and leadership regarding our critical problems and issues. We encouraged and facilitated a deep and candid look into our organization, our people, our members and our work. We were willing to accept and put in place the will of our members, no matter how hard that could have been. We were ready to shut down the organization; to reorganize; to rebuild.
And then a curious thing happened: Though opinions were wide and diverse, there was a clear consensus that there was still work for Affirmation to do; that there was work that Affirmation was the best to perform. The members wanted the organization to continue. And so it will. There will be no more talk about shutting Affirmation down.
Affirmation will continue, but it will need to change, both in structure and organization. For years Affirmation has sought to be a place of refuge, a place of hope, a place of social interaction. We have tried to be everything to everybody. We have tried to be everything but that one thing in which we can best succeed: The sanctuary of faith and a beacon of hope for those who wish to retain their LDS identity. In the current society that we live in, there is no other place where LGBTI Mormons can express their faith and spirituality, in the manner in which they are most comfortable. This is the heritage which we have received, and the legacy that we claim. It is ours.
LGBTI Mormons increasingly want to remain within the church. Admittedly, this is not yet practical given the church’s slow progress toward equality, and so a place must be made for them at our table, with an eye toward the hope of an eventual reconciliation–an inevitable reconciliation. Each soul is great in the eyes of God, including God’s LGBTI children. Some of the general authorities have come to this recognition. The day is not too distant when all of the leaders of the church, the members of the wards, our friends and co-workers, our mothers and fathers, our brothers and sisters, will also see us as we see ourselves: worthy children of light and honor. Malachi’s great promise will happen: the hearts of the parents will
turn to the children and the hearts of the children to the parents.
The future of Affirmation is admittedly still uncertain; however, its path and identity is not. Yes, there are many critical issues needing to be worked through, and already the groundwork is being laid to creatively address them. Randall Thacker is an amazing individual, and I believe that he has the character and vision necessary to bring about the next chapter of Affirmation.
I am thankful for this year, and for the leadership team which was there at my side every step of the way. I am filled with gratitude towards those who have uplifted me, given me advice, and had faith in my abilities.
My thoughts, my hopes, my dreams, and above all, my love go with you all and with this organization which has been a tremendous blessing in the lives of lesbian, gays, bisexual, transgender and intersex Mormons. God be with you until we meet again.
“If we are to live our lives full and well, we must learn to embrace the opposites, to live in a creative tension between our limits and our potentials. We must honor our limitations in ways that do not distort our nature, and we must trust and use our gifts in ways that fulfill the potentials God gave us. We must take the no of the way that closes and find the guidance it has to offer–and take the yes of
the way that opens and respond with the yes of our lives.” (Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak)
Joshua Howard Behn
27 December 2012
Salt Lake City, Utah