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Mormons Building Bridges Looking for "Love" at World Congress of Families

Andrea Smardon
Mormons Building Bridges co-founder Erika Munson at her home in Sandy, UT before the World Congress of Families gets underway. (October 26, 2015)

The controversial World Congress of Families gets underway in Salt Lake City Tuesday. While many LGBT advocates have protested the event, one group is taking a different approach.

Last year, the co-founder of Mormons Building Bridges, Erika Munson wrote an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune saying that the World Congress of Families should not be welcomed in Utah. Munson says she is still troubled by the term “natural family” that is promoted by the WCF, but she’s decided to attend because she sees an opportunity for dialogue.

“We all know that in every LDS ward and congregation, there are many different kinds of families, and no one should feel left out in the conversation about how to strengthen families,” Munson says.

John Gustav-Wrathall is a member of Mormons Building Bridges in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He’s a gay man in a same sex marriage, who says he nearly committed suicide in the 1980’s. Now Gustav-Wrathall says even though he’s been excommunicated from the church, he’s found love and acceptance from people in his ward.

“We don’t want to argue with the ideals that people want to hold up,” Gustav-Wrathall says. “We just want to say in practicality, what are the ways we can show love? It literally saves lives.”

Dave Buer is Communications Director for Sutherland Institute, a conservative organization that is hosting the conference. He says while not everyone is happy with the event in Utah, it has prompted good discussions with local LGBT advocates.

“Sutherland believes deeply that there needs to be compassion, there needs to be understanding, and there also needs to be compromise by both sides on this issue,” Buer says.

Mormons Building Bridges submitted a proposal to present research on best practices for raising gay children, but it was rejected by event organizers. Buer would not provide an explanation, saying that numerous proposals were rejected, including many by World Congress partners, and they do not discuss the details of those decisions.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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