This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
For Affirmation President John Gustav-Wrathall, the recent meetings for LGBT Mormons in Brazil were a "highlight of [his] spiritual life."
Some Mormons in that South American nation began seeking a connection to the U.S.-based support group for LGBT Latter-day Saints about two years ago, when Jean Carlos, a gay Mormon living in São Paulo posted a photo of the word "Affirmation" in the sand, along with the plea, "We are waiting for you."
That wish became reality earlier this month with two gatherings: one for a half-dozen members in Fortaleza (April 8-10) and another for about 30 in São Paulo (April 15-17).
Each weekend began on a Friday night, when participants shared their spiritual journeys of being gay and Mormon.
Saturday workshops followed on "themes of self-acceptance, the relationship with God, relationships with family, and relationships with the church," Gustav-Wrathall writes in a report on the group's website. "The workshops mostly consisted of open discussion, preceded by brief talks on each theme."
The conferences concluded with a Sunday devotional, which included sermons and singing.
A participant said the Affirmation conference "was like spending three days in the celestial room of the [LDS] temple," Gustav-Wrathall reports. Another wrote, "What a wonderful morning. … And the Holy Spirit is still present as it was on Friday. And the meeting was inspiring as everyone opened themselves up to learn."
Coming in the aftermath of the November 2015 policy from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that dubbed same-sex LDS couples "apostates" and denied their children religious rituals until they turn 18, Gustav-Wrathall notes, it was "hard to resist" a sense that they were meeting at "a momentous time. "
"The faith expressed by members of the Affirmation Brazil community was palpable," he writes. "Tears were shed often, hugs freely given, singing heartfelt, prayers fervent. Goodbyes were long and difficult."
Since returning home, Gustav-Wrathall who had traveled to Brazil from his home in Minnesota with his husband, Goran Gustav-Wrathall has continued to connect via technology with his South American peers.
"Being down there, seeing them face to face, and interacting with them live was huge," he says in an email. "It really changed the dynamics of how we will continue to work together."
What they have now, he says, "is an incredible esprit de corps."
Peggy Fletcher Stack