‘Allies Are Everywhere’
You can share the bridge building message by hosting an MBB Hugging Booth in Pride festivals across the country and around the world. If you would like to host a Mormons Building Bridges Hugging Booth in a Pride festival in a location other than Salt Lake City, please complete this simple MBB Hugging Booth application to get started.
Once your application is approved, a Hugging Booth mentor will contact you and walk you through the MBB Hugging Booth checklist as well as help you find out when and where there is a Pride festival in your area, suggest supplies and decorations for your booth, and explain how to get the MBB “FREE HUGS” banner and “Hugged by a Mormon building bridges” stickers. The mentors will answer all your questions or concerns you might have by adding you to the MBB Pride Organizers Facebook group.
If you have any concerns about whether or not members of the Church can participate in a Pride festival and remain in good standing, you can refer to Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s remarks in a 2015 interview. Elder Christofferson was asked about Latter-day Saints who march in pride parades or participate in gay-friendly communities such as Mormons Building Bridges and if they can do so without the threat of losing their church membership or temple privileges.
“We have individual members in the church with a variety of different opinions, beliefs and positions on these issues and other issues,” Christofferson said. ” … In our view, it doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders — if that’s a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines.”
Mormons building bridges give out hugs in pride festivals because of their belief in the most basic doctrines and admonitions of Christ, to “love one another.” Therefore giving out hugs in a Pride festival does not constitute “trying to draw others away […] from [the church’s] teachings and doctrines.”
GUIDELINES FOR PARTICIPATING IN A HUGGING BOOTH
Mormons Building Bridges provide a way for faithful Latter-day Saints to work within a church framework as we show love and support for LGBTQI/SSA people. To this end, disciplined messaging and dress standards are very effective.
WHAT TO WEAR
Dress in Sunday best: dresses or skirts for women, shirts and ties for men. This has become a Mormons Building Bridges’ trademark.
That said, if the “Mormon uniform” feels inauthentic, please know that you are welcome in whatever you feel is true to yourself (except clothing with political statements, those are not allowed).
Wear comfortable shoes. Water and sunscreen are also a must.
MBB seeks to provide a way for faithful Latter-day Saints to work within a church framework as they show love and support for LGBTQI/SSA people. To this end, we have found disciplined messaging to be very effective. All of your signs should be quotations from scriptures, LDS church hymns, or General Authorities. You can really make a powerful statement this way. Post pictures of your signs on the Facebook group wall to inspire others! Please DO NOT have any signs (or clothing) with political messages. If you are passionate about a particular political cause, consider marching with another group. We honor each individual’s decision to march with a group that seems right for him or her. Click HERE for a list of Approved Signage.
Since first marching in the 2012 Utah Pride Parade, MBB has been overwhelmed by the loving reception we’ve received from crowds across the country. Nonetheless, there’s always the possibility of a negative confrontation with angry individuals. If this happens–don’t get drawn into contention, just say a silent loving prayer for that person, smile, and focus on the folks who are happy to see you.
The purpose of the Hugging Booth is to reach out to our LGBTQI/SSA brothers and sisters to express love and to acknowledge our inherent shared human dignity. A hug is a simple, yet deeply human gesture that conveys these ideas. It’s wonderful to witness the surprise and sometimes confusion as questions are answered and feelings shared. Most people who come to visit an MBB Hugging Booth and get a “Hugged by a Mormon building bridges” sticker and a hug, leave knowing that we are sincere in our love and acceptance of all. We encourage having a mixture of allies, parents of LGBTQI/SSA kids, and LGBTQI/SSA members of the Church there to hug. It is a simple gesture, a hug, a smile, a sticker, all while looking into a person’s eyes with the hope that they will know and feel that they are not forgotten.
Of course, some people want to share their story, which we encourage. Many stories are filled with pain so be prepared to just listen and try to empathize. We encourage participants to be friendly, available, and genuine. All we ask is that you convey love and recognize that as a child of God, the person you hug has infinite worth in His eyes.
Because the LDS Church has a mixed history with LGBT issues, there may be instances where individuals want to engage in discussion. If you are willing to engage, please do so by only listening and restating what you understand they have shared with you. If you do not feel comfortable engaging, you could consider a simple redirection: “I understand you feelings. Today is about love, giving you a hug and letting you know that you are my brother/sister.”
-ask if the person would like a hug before giving a hug
-listen to and validate their feelings and reactions
-acknowledge each individual that approaches
-enjoy each interaction
-greet individuals with a warm smile
-be sensitive and understanding
-give a genuine hug
-argue about church doctrine or policy
-insist on giving a hug
-give the impression you speak for the Church
-get into politics
-rehash sore subjects
-worry if your numbers are few
-hand out candy, water, or other foods
If you are asked for an interview, you can never go wrong when you share your story. Why are you marching? Who did you bring with you? How did you come to this place where you want to publicly show support LGBTQI/SSA people? How are you working to make your ward safe and welcoming to LGBTQI/SSA people? Another important message to get out there: our church leaders have reminded us the being gay is not a choice, and being gay is not a sin.
There may be some, including the media, that will assume this is a Church sponsored activity. It’s imperative to clarify that we do not represent the Church, we are not affiliated with the Church, and we do not speak for the Church. We are individuals, who are Mormon, who believe it’s important to express our love toward our LGBTQI/SSA brothers and sisters.
Here are some examples of Hugging Booths…