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Affirmation wins acclamation
When Spencer Cox was 2 years old, a band of gay Latter-day Saints began huddling quietly at Provo’s Brigham Young University with dreams of forming a national organization.
Forty-five years later, Affirmation, with thousands of followers across the country and the world, stands as the oldest support group for LGBTQ Latter-day Saints, and Cox sits as Utah’s governor.
In that capacity, Cox welcomed Affirmation — no longer relegated to private meetings but now publicly celebrated — to Salt Lake City last week for its first in-person international conference in three years.
“We recognize the important work this organization is doing to foster greater understanding and cooperation among residents of our state,” Cox wrote in his formal greeting. “You encourage our communities to have relevant and vital conversations about how to support and understand each other.”
The first-term Republican governor said Utahns “greatly benefit” from diversity, adding that his state seeks to “sustain a culture of hope, love, understanding, service and respect.”
Cox closed his letter, read to conferencegoers by Affirmation Vice President Laurie Lee Hall during the opening session, by reminding the attendees that they are “loved, appreciated and accepted in the state.”
Nathan Kitchen, Affirmation’s outgoing president, deemed the three-day gathering a “great success.”
“So much optimism and joy,” he wrote in an email. “After three years of pandemic restrictions, this reminded us all why in-person connection is vital for the wellness of our community.”
More Affirmation: A changing of the guard
The conference also marked Kitchen’s final bow as head of Affirmation.
The Arizona dentist was elected to the first of two two-year terms (presidents are limited to a pair of them) in 2018 and led the group through the challenging COVID-19 pandemic.
Board member Melissa-Malcolm King has filed to succeed him and awaits the verdict of the group’s membership.
The successor-in-waiting, who uses the pronoun they, vowed to work on “creating a broader opportunity to increase leadership development among marginalized groups, raising awareness and education for intersectional experiences, with a focus on supporting transgender, BIPOC and disabled individuals.”
“Affirmation has always been a refuge for me,” they wrote in a candidacy letter, “as I navigated my spiritual journey and my various intersections being queer, intersex, disabled and a person of color. Being a member of Affirmation has saved my life and, in turn, the lives of countless others.”
An Oscar winner’s journey
The network says the show, which premieres Oct. 18, “explores his childhood roots, gay identity and close relationship with his mother, who overcame childhood polio, abusive marriages and Mormon dogma, while becoming Black’s emotional rock and, ultimately, the inspiration for his activism.”
The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: Affirmation yesterday, today and tomorrow
• Leaders of Affirmation discuss diversity, Dallin Oaks and the future for their LGBTQ support group. Listen to the podcast.
From The Tribune
• After remaining “closeted” for years, a longtime geography professor came out as gay and retired early from BYU to work instead at a “safe” space at nearby Utah Valley University. “I felt burdened,” Chad Emmett said, “by being gay at a school that would never accept me.”
• Students and allies staged a walkout at BYU on Tuesday as part of a national protest against restrictive LGBTQ policies at religious colleges.
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