Circling the Wagons held its 2nd annual conference over the weekend for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Mormons in Salt Lake City. The event is intended to be a supportive place for LGBT Mormons and their families, but some were offended by some of the invited speakers, and chose not to attend.
The controversy centered around speaker Josh Weed, a family therapist from Seattle. He’s an out gay man, and devout Mormon, who says he is happily married to his wife. Circling the Wagons organizer Anne Peffer said she knew inviting Weed to speak would upset some.
“We’re charting new territory, something that hasn’t been tried before, and I was ready for a pushback” said Peffer, “What I wasn’t ready for was the size of the pushback and the source of the pushback.”
Peffer says thousands took to the Internet to voice their disapproval when the speakers were announced, most notably Mitch Mayne - executive secretary to the bishop of a San Francisco LDS congregation and an openly gay Mormon. Mayne wrote on his blog that Weed’s message is routinely co-opted by many within the faith as the preferred path for LGBT Mormon youth.
But in his speech, Weed condemned those who would use his story as a tool of fear, or to pressure loved ones into a choice they would not make for themselves. He asked anyone who has experienced this to contact him so he could apologize. Weed made it clear that he was not there to condone or encourage reparative therapy. Afterwards, other speakers, organizers, and attendees shook his hand, some gave hugs.
“I feel that there was a really profound spirit of love and sharing that has moved me,” said Weed, “Even as I’m talking, I’m feeling the emotion well up. I feel grateful for those that did come, and grateful for the organizers who orchestrated such a healing event and such a unifying event. It’s just been phenomenal to be here.”
Circling the Wagons organizers said in a statement that the group holds the view that same-sex attractions do not indicate a mental illness or development disorder. They also said that they welcome all who wish to participate in a spirit of fellowship and openness, with condemnation for none and compassion for all.