Gay Mormons chose to be born at this time so they could be leaders in the fight for love — and they seem to be winning the battle.
That is how it looks to Barb Young, an LDS convert and wife of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young.
"More and more people are opening their hearts every day," Barb Young said Saturday in the concluding speech at the 2013 International Affirmation Conference for LGBT Mormons, their families and allies. "You are teaching them about [gays] and Jesus and that his love is infinite."
Steve Young talked about his years in the NFL and said that at only 6 feet he was one of the shorter quarterbacks in the league. He often couldn’t see over the heads of the others players so he had to throw passes blindly.
"Throwing without knowing is pure faith," the football giant said. "Faith is the fuel for all human experience. … We are all too short at something."
His goal, Young said, "is to build bridges with my gay brothers and sisters. We need to see each other as Jesus sees us."
Barb Young, whose older brother is gay, actively opposed California’s Prop 8 in 2008, even though leaders in the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enlisted members to work for its passage.
At this conference, she urged Affirmation participants to be "patient like Jesus" and to love LDS Church members as they move toward understanding of their LGBT family members.
"One of the most beautiful things about this church is that it can evolve," she said. "It may not go as fast as everyone wants, but it is evolving."
The two-day conference at the University of Utah, including the Youngs’ speeches, attracted more than 250 people, said Affirmation president Randall Thacker of Washington, D.C.
"This has been the largest gathering Affirmation has had in the last decade," he said, adding, "possibly ever."
The U’s guesthouse ballroom, which holds 400, was packed for the Saturday evening session, which was broadcast live in English and Spanish to Affirmation chapters in Central and South America.
The evening began when the crowd sang the rousing LDS anthem, "The Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning."
Then audience members stood and said the names of gays or friends who have passed away, followed by a piece performed by the Affirmation Choir.
The mood for the conference has been hopeful and upbeat, Thacker said. "Everybody says there have seen such an amazing energy here, a feeling of the [Holy] Spirit, joy, celebration, and faith."
A lot of families with LGBT youths came together, Thacker said, as well as straight friends and activists.
"It was beautiful to see gay Mormon couples holding hands," he said, "and feeling comfortable and affirmed."
In the end, Barb Young said, everything depends on how fully Mormons live their faith.
"If we consciously embrace Jesus’ teaching of empathy, compassionate, and love," she concluded, "the future world will be different."
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