Friday , February 21, 2014 - 11:01 AM
LOGAN — With the hope of creating a positive dialogue, groups of Latter-day Saints have begun to meet every month to discuss LGBT issues not only within the state but within their own communities and congregations.
Headed by Mormons Building Bridges, a group focused on bringing together LDS people and members of the LGBT community, these public conversations attempt to defuse hostilities and clear up confusion between the two groups, who often find themselves at odds.
“The purpose behind the decision to hold these monthly conversations is we just realized that especially within the LGBT community and the Mormon community, there was a lot of friction, a lot of misunderstanding and a lot of confusion,” said Doree Burt, a member of Mormons Building Bridges and the facilitator of the local community conversation meetings.
“And if we were only carrying on conversations with people who were either concerned about LGBT issues or dismissive of them, then no progress would be made,” she said.
During the most recent meeting Tuesday at the Logan Library, the question for discussion was, “How do I want LGBT issues discussed in my child’s school?” The conversation covered gay-straight alliances, safe spaces for LGBT students to gather and the possibility of putting books in elementary school libraries that discuss things like having two dads or two moms.
The topic of LGBT issues in schools was chosen mainly out of concern over LGBT youths having a higher suicide risk, Burt said.
“A student who is not accepted by their family or congregation or school is eight times more likely to attempt suicide,” Burt added. “We’re always looking for ways to address that within our Mormons Building Bridges community.”
While Mormons Building Bridges advocates changes such as gay-straight alliances in secondary schools, the group also acknowledges that parents may be uncomfortable with such changes.
“So we wanted to really discuss what is good and what is too much — because you do have to take the temperature of the community and meet that,” Burt said. “And you have to be sensitive to that and be polite to that.”
While the core of Mormons Building Bridges is predominantly active Latter-day Saints, non-members or former members are also participants in the discussions.
“But it’s tons of people who either had a relationship with the (LDS) Church at one point, who maybe had been members and left. We have so many people who served missions, realized that they’re lesbian or gay, and they just can’t navigate it,” Burt said. “And they try, but in their congregations, there doesn’t seem to be a place for them, and that’s sad.”
Similar community conversation nights take place monthly in Provo, Salt Lake and Park City, all focusing on creating more positive dialogue.
“You have someone who will listen to a parent of a child who has come out — or they might not be a parent of a gay or lesbian child, but they hear the authentic story of what those parents thought when that child came out — how family members reacted. And then you can realize, ‘If ever I’m in that situation, or if I have a friend in that situation, how can I be a support? How can I behave more like I really should as a Christian and a Mormon?’” Burt said.
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