Mormons and homosexuality topic of weekend conference

Conference : Therapists from diametrically opposed points of view to appear.

The Salt Lake Tribune/February 20, 2014

By Lindsay Whitehurst

Mental health professionals from diametrically opposed points of view on homosexuality and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be part of a conference in Salt Lake City on Saturday that includes a public meeting organizers say is the first of its kind.

The Circling the Wagons conference will include both a therapist who works with gay men to "diminish homosexuality" and a psychologist who worked on a report that found efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation can be harmful.

David Matheson was trained at the recently shuttered Evergreen International, a group founded to help Mormons eliminate same-sex attraction. Lee Beckstead, a former Mormon, is a psychologist who served on an American Psychological Association task force on therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people. Both will be keynote speakers.

Titled, "Coming together: Listening to Gain Understanding and Find Common Ground," the conference will be held Saturday at Wasatch Presbyterian Church, 1626 South 1700 East. It’s open to the public; for more information visit

The Circling the Wagons Coalition is made up of mental health professionals and community leaders and is designed to build understanding between LGBT Mormons and members of the LDS Church, according to a conference brochure. Past speakers have ranged from Josh Weed, a gay Mormon blogger whose post about his happy marriage to a woman went viral in 2012, to Jim Dabakis, the state senator and chairman of the Utah Democratic Party who married his longtime partner during the two weeks that gay marriage was legal in Utah.

The church’s doctrinal position is that sex should happen only between a married man and a woman, and members have worked against legalization of same-sex marriage in California and elsewhere. But in an official statement on the issue, the church also stresses "kindness, compassion and understanding," and in recent years groups such as Mormons Building Bridges worked to bridge the at-times contentious divide.

More than two dozen people from a variety of religious backgrounds will speak at the conference, which includes a workshop for "families in conflict," on Friday evening and officially starts at 11 a.m. Saturday.

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