This weekend is already marvelous and it's barely begun.
I arrived in Salt Lake at the end of what was, quite literally, my worst plane trip ever. Minneapolis was struck by a blizzard Thursday night, and by the small hours of Friday morning, despite the faithful snow plows that ever save Minnesota from imminent disaster, the streets had not quite recovered, and de-icing of airplanes at the airport was behind schedule, so my flight was delayed an hour, starting a chain reaction that included a missed connection, more flight delays, and the longest car rental line I've ever experienced at Salt Lake International Airport. The result was a cold, exhausting journey that began at 3:30 a.m. Central Time and didn't end till 2:30 p.m. Mountain time (a twelve hour trip that normally would have taken about five hours). But it was all worth it.
The rest of that long, exhausting but oh-so-satisfying day (which didn't wind to an end until 11:30 p.m. Mountain Time) was spent in conversation with Mormons in high places and low, and all along the spectrum of LGBT or “SSA” (“same-sex attracted”) experience, and all along the spectrum of experience with, connection to and devotion in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Prior to the Circling the Wagons conference, I had looked at the program and saw in prominent places some prominent names of folks I recognized from Evergreen, names that I'd learned somewhat to dread over the years, mostly because of quotes I'd seen attributed to them in the media, or things I'd seen they'd written on the web, or things people had told me about them. I have to admit, the prospect of actually running into these people was intimidating to me, because I assumed that people like that just plain wouldn't like or respect me or respect my journey and the difficult choices I made. But the reality of them was quite different. Very different kinds of conversations than I ever would have expected happened. Curious conversations; people just wanting to get to know each other. Conversations about the importance of autonomy and respect and safety.
The result was I went home with twin feelings of euphoria and skepticism. Euphoria that the impossible really seemed to be happening, and skepticism that what seemed to be happening actually was happening, or maybe that if it actually was happening that it couldn't possibly last outside of the rather artificial confines of a 2-day conference. I had come to the conference with some misgivings about the utility of the exercise. (Why couldn't we each just work on this issue in our own ways, doing the best we knew, according to the lights that have been given us each. I can respect them but best from a distance.) But the experience changed my mind about all that; I suddenly did see the utility, and it had all to do with building a real community where everybody really cares for everybody else, and where we all make sure that those who are falling through the cracks, those who are falling into homelessness and despair and suicide, find a safe way forward that works for them, and with the blessings of the entire community!
While here in Utah, Sister Myrna Thacker, Randall's mom, has generously offered me hospitality. So I've been sleeping in a guest room here. And last night I had the most incredible dream. In the dream, Göran and I were moving into a new apartment building, and Randall Thacker was helping us move in. We had all our boxes in our new home, and we were getting ready to unpack them. But before doing that, Randall took us on a tour of the apartment. It had an incredible view of some beautiful western city, with gorgeous open balconies for us to enjoy the view for the mountains and the trees and the beautiful buildings. Then Randall showed me that at the center of the apartment was a large circular pillar. He explained that by anchoring ourselves to something immovable in the apartment, and exerting torque against the pillar, we could actually rotate the apartment so that the apartment could have any view or facing of the surrounding landscape that we wanted. So Göran and I started experimenting with this, and we found that indeed, we could rotate the apartment until we had a facing that we thought was just perfect. But just as we had gotten it into the position we wanted, we noticed that the apartment was continuing to move, seemingly on its own, erratically, first in one direction, then in the other. I was puzzled, but then I understood. We were in an apartment building, and every apartment in the building was connected to all the others, and the building was continuing to move, because people in other apartments were doing exactly what we had been doing, adjusting the view to their liking. Then it dawned on me: until we began to communicate and work with all the other people who shared the apartment building, we would each all be working against each other; we would need to cooperate with all the other people living in the building if we wanted to find a facing that worked for all of us.
I woke up and realized that the building was the Church, and all the people in it were my brothers and sisters with many very different needs, desires and perspectives. And I realized I had just dreamed about this conference! And even though my bed was warm and the room was chilly, I got up and wrote down the dream.
Later that morning, as I said my morning prayers, the following came to me from the Spirit: I prayed for God to teach me in the way that He knew would circumvent my pride. And then the Spirit prompted me to pray a prayer that the Spirit has been prompting me to pray ever since I first began my journey back to the Church over eight years ago: to pray for the Spirit to be poured out on the entire LGBT community, and to pray for it to be poured out on the entire Church. And I felt, I wondered, if I am seeing those prayers begin to come to fruition. And I wondered how many other people the Spirit has been prompting all these years to pray for the same thing.