Latest from Mormon Land: Utah Gov. Spencer Cox welcomes queer Latter-day Saints

Affirmation, the oldest support group for LGBTQ members, assembles for its first in-person international conference in three years. HBO documentary about “Under the Banner of Heaven” creator Dustin Lance Black premieres next week.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Gov. Spencer Cox, shown in August, welcomed Affirmation, a support group for LGBTQ Latter-day Saints, recently to Salt Lake City for its international conference.

The Mormon Land newsletter is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Support us on Patreon and get exclusive access to Tribune subscriber-only religion content and podcast transcripts.

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

(Courtesy) Nathan Kitchen, the outgoing president of Affirmation.

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

(ABC/Image Group LA) Dustin Lance Black, the creator, executive producer and showrunner of "Under the Banner of Heaven," is the subject of a new HBO documentary titled "Mama's Boy."

The trailer is out of the HBO documentary “Mama’s Boy” about the life of Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, the driving force behind the FX/Hulu series “Under the Banner of Heaven.”

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.”

View the trailer. Listen to our “Mormon Land” podcast with Black.

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

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Former BYU professor Chad Emmett at Bicentennial Park in Provo on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022.

• 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.

Want more?

Subscribe here to get our full newsletter items free in your inbox each week.