This forum is made possible thanks to support from the
Latter-day Saint Studies Initiative at the University of Utah.

This forum brings together academic, ecclesiastical, and community voices in a way that broadens what is too often an entrenched debate around the experience of queer people and the LDS church. In an address in 2017, Elder M. Russell Ballard identified the importance of LGBTQ Latter-day Saints having “a spiritual home” in the church. Without minimizing the conflict or offering simplistic solutions, this gathering invites all participants to dig deep into new ways of thinking about the issue.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27 – Salt Lake City Main Library Auditorium



⁖ Professor Petrey will present a formal analysis of LDS doctrine on gender and sexuality, its expression in Mormon culture, and a synthesis of the two in the LDS vision of eternal relationships.  In his exploration of Mormonism’s unique sacralization of marriage and family, he will interrogate the exclusivity of Mormon notions of eternal gender roles and heterosexual pairing. 

DR. TAYLOR PETREY holds a BA in philosophy and religion from Pace University, and both an MTS and a Th.D. degree from Harvard Divinity School in New Testament and Early Christianity. He joined the faculty of Kalamazoo College in 2010 and served as the Director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality program from 2012 through 2016. He was Visiting Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and Sexuality at Harvard Divinity School and a Research Associate in the Women’s Studies in Religion Program in 2016-17. He is currently chair of the Religion Department at Kalamazoo College and has been appointed the next Editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28 – Salt Lake City Main Library Auditorium


                     DR. PAUL REEVE – Latter-day Saints Studies Initiative, University of Utah

                     ERIKA MUNSON – Mormons Building Bridges

9:00 – 9:30 AM: KEYNOTE


An increasing number of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are challenged by what they see as an inherent conflict between the doctrines of their church that result in exclusion of some LGBTQ+ people and the commandment to love all of God’s children. Dr. Philip Barlow will explore this realm by analyzing the myriad factors that contribute to this sense of conflict; the theology, doctrine, church history and culture as well as the very human experiences of love, family resilience, Christlike compassion and empathy. Dr. Barlow will not attempt to reconcile or “fix” the conflict but rather will map it out in a way that sincerely reflects members’ experience. He will also provide a historical view of how the LDS Church has responded to this tension over the decades. 

DR. PHILIP BARLOW is the associate director of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. Having previously served as the Leonard Arrington Chair of Mormon History & Culture at Utah State University, his teaching engages religion and human suffering, religion and the concept of “time,” American religious history, and Mormonism. He has also served as president of the Mormon History Association.

9:35 – 10:40 AM: PANEL RESPONSE

Dr. Robert Rees will moderate a panel in response to the keynote address. Each panelist will give 8 minutes of prepared remarks responding to the keynote. The moderator will follow up with prepared questions to interrogate their responses.
(No audience Q&A in this session.)

JODIE PALMER is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is an open lesbian and married to a man. She is a student coach and faculty member of the Midwives College of Utah teaching dialogue and conflict transformation.

CAROLYN GASSERT is a queer Brigham Young University student studying Psychology and hoping to go in to clinical therapy with LGBTQ individuals and families as well as trauma survivors. She currently serves as Vice President of USGA, the gay-straight alliance for the BYU student community.

BIANCA CLINE is a transgender member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who volunteers with Mormons Building Bridges and Affirmation. She is a cinematographer who has filmed numerous productions for the LDS Church.

JOHN GUSTAV-WRATHALL has been an activist for the greater understanding of LGBT people since the late 1980s, specifically focusing on LGBT communities of faith. In August 2017, John became the first Executive Director for Affirmation, a community of support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Mormons. 


DR. ROBERT REES has taught at a number of universities, including the University of Wisconsin, the University of California at Los Angeles, and currently teaches religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Dr. Rees has served as a bishop in the LDS Church. Along with his wife Ruth, he served as an education, humanitarian, and service missionary in the Saint Petersburg Russia and Baltic States missions of the LDS Church.


Personal stories of LGBTQ+ members of the LDS Church are frequently trafficked and traded in order to bolster or debunk different life journeys, to condemn or validate personal choices, or to score doctrinal or political points. Panelists will engage in a moderated discussion about how the LDS and LGBTQ+ communities traffic in these stories – for good and ill. Even in stories about our own experiences, are we treated as objects rather than subjects? Do we comodify ourselves? Do we create avatars of ourselves rather than accurate reflections of our whole selves? As both storytellers and story-producers, panelists will dig deep and be vulnerable in offering genuine and insightful answers to the myriad ethical questions that must be considered in sharing and curating LGBTQ+ stories.

Each panelist will give prepared remarks after which the moderator will interrogate their remarks with prepared follow up questions and then will moderate 15-minutes of audience Q&A.

JENN LEE SMITH is a writer and film producer who focuses on underrepresented stories, including lesbian members of The Church of Jesus Christ. In her academic career, she has explored race and gender discourses in religion, particularly in Chinese cultures.

EMMETT MICHAEL CLAREN is a FTM transgender Mormon man who has partnered with Vice News on a YouTube video diary of his transitioning process, trying to help and inspire those going through the same difficult experiences. Emmett has a budding career as an actor in television and film with a specific intention of raising awareness of transgender representation in the media. 

TOM CHRISTOFFERSON has spent his career in investment management and asset servicing, living in the United States and Europe. He is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 2017 his book That We May Be One: A Gay Perspective on Faith and Family was published by Deseret Book. 

KEVIN RANDALL is a Senior Manager for Bright Horizons and a Producer with Parkway Media. He has been an on-air reporter with KSTU Fox 13 and a Video Producer for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He produced stories for the LDS Church’s website mornonandgay.org and for the “Voices of Hope” video project featuring stories about Mormons who identify as being same sex attracted.


BLAIRE OSTLER is a voice at the intersection of queer, Mormon, and transhumanist thought. She is a board member and former CEO of the Mormon Transhumanist Association, the world’s largest advocacy network for the ethical use of technology and religion to expand human abilities. She presents and writes on many forums, and speaks at conferences promoting authentic Mormonism.

12:30 – 1:45 PM: LUNCH PLENARY


DR. WILLIAM COX is an Assistant Scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Psychology of the College of Letters and Science. His work focuses on understanding and undermining the broad reach of narrow thinking. Specifically, he studies cultural, social, cognitive, and neural mechanisms that perpetuate stereotypes and prejudice, and leverages basic science about those mechanisms to develop and refine interventions to reduce the expression of stereotyping and prejudice. William was raised in the LDS Church and identifies as gay and is in a committed relationship with a man.


**Lunch will be served at The Leonardo on the south side of Library Square. You must register in advance to receive a lunch during this plenary by registering here


LGBTQ+ Mormons experience distress, trauma, and suicidal ideation at disproportionately higher rates than their LDS Church member cohort. This reality has featured prominently in headlines for several years. Dr. Brian Simmons will present his recent research exploring the relationships between religious orientations, orthodoxy, spiritual trauma, and PTSD in LGBTQ+ Mormons and ex-Mormons. Dr. Michael Staley will present a snapshot of his ongoing work in the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office attempting to understand suicidality rates in Utah – particularly within the LGBTQ+ population. Based on his decades of research and counseling practice focusing on resolving sexual, religious, and social conflicts Dr. Lee Beckstead will present a road map for how queer religious people, distressed by their experiences in faith communities, can experience post-traumatic growth.

Each panelist will give prepared remarks after which the moderator will interrogate their remarks with prepared follow up questions and then will moderate 15-minutes of audience Q&A.

DR. BRIAN SIMMONS received his PhD from the College of Social Work, at the University of Georgia Athens. His most recent research is into trauma and PTSD rates in LGBTQ+ Mormons.

DR. MICHAEL STALEY is the Suicide Prevention Research Coordinator in the Utah Office of Medical Examiner. He collects and analyzes data on suicides in Utah to better understand risk factors and assist other agencies with improving intervention programs.

DR. LEE BECKSTEAD is a psychologist with a private practice in Salt Lake City, member of the International Academy of Sex Research. He held a position on the American Psychological Association’s Task Force to provide therapeutic recommendations for those conflicted with their sexual orientation. His primary research and counseling focus is understanding how to resolve sexual, social, and religious conflicts.


DR. LISA HANSEN is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a PhD from Brigham Young University. She is the clinical director at Flourish Therapy Inc. specializing in addressing the needs of LGBTQ+ youth and families. An active member of the LDS Church, Lisa recently retired from singing each week with the The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.


In the aftermath of U.S. marriage equality, dominant political and legal rhetoric tends to pit religious liberty against LGBTQ+ rights. In this context, the LDS Church has been a prominent voice advocating for greater religious liberty protections. Mormon legislators have sponsored versions of a “religious freedom restoration act” across the country. But what if religion, sexuality, and gender identity were not seen as being at odds and instead LGBTQ+ equality were pursued on the basis of religious liberty? A growing number of mainstream faiths affirm same-sex couples’ relationships, including solemnizing their marriages. Diverse faith groups and religious observers also affirm LGBTQ+ persons’ place in civic life and agree that faith-based organizations not only should not discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals when those organizations enter the civil sphere but they should in fact defend LGBTQ+ rights as an expression of religious freedom and liberty. This panel of adjudicators, litigators and legal scholars will explore the potential impact of legal and legislative efforts to protect LGBTQ+ rights on religious liberty grounds. 

Each panelist will give prepared remarks after which the moderator will interrogate their remarks with prepared follow up questions and then will moderate 15-minutes of audience Q&A.

CHRISTINE DURHAM is a lawyer and judge, who served as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court from 1982 to 2017, including service as Chief Justice from 2002 to 2012 and she remained on the court as associate justice and later retired in 2017. Durham is a recipient of the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, one of the most prestigious judicial honors in the country. Recognized nationally for her work in Judicial Education, Christine Durham currently serves on the board of trustees for the University of the People. 

SHANNON MINTER is an civil rights attorney and the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco. Minter was NCLR’s lead attorney in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding student group policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, rejecting the argument that such policies violated a student group’s rights to freedom of speech, religion, and association.

ALEXANDER DUSHKU is a member of the Kirton McConkie law firm’s First Amendment and Religious Organizations section. His practice focuses on critical motions and appeals in complex civil cases in state and federal courts across the nation. He consults with a diverse group of clients, including state and local governments, concerning constitutional and civil rights matters. He has participated in numerous cases before the United States Supreme Court and other federal and state appellate courts.  He is the primary outside legal counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in matters of public policy and religious freedom.


BEN COOK is an associate professor at the J. Reuben Clark Law School and director of the Center for Conflict Resolution. He is a Utah court-qualified mediator, having received his training and taught negotiation through the Harvard Mediation Program at the Harvard Negotiation Institute.