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Mormons and homosexuality topic of weekend conference

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

First Published Feb 20 2014 12:38 pm • Last Updated Feb 21 2014 01:13 pm

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.

At a glance

Circling the Wagons

The coalition, which focuses on building understanding between members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, will hold a conference starting 11 a.m Saturday at Wasatch Presbyterian Church, 1626 S. 1700 East. It will continue through Sunday and is open to the public. Visit http://bit.ly/MGgYB4 for more info.

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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 circlingthewagons.org.

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.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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