Natasha Helfer Parker interviews Duane E. Jennings on the topic of his extensively researched volumes, Stumbling Blocks & Stepping Stones, where he examines the history in Mormonism in regards to the theological and social messages focused on LGBTI+ members. His work and attention to detail is impressive. And his goal is to embolden dialogue so that we can reach a point where this population is not excluded as it is presently from the faith community, rituals, traditions, lifestyle trajectories and even the very plan of salvation.
DUANE E. JENNINGS was born in Mount Pleasant, Utah, and raised in Salt Lake City in a devout LDS family. His parents stressed scripture study, prayer, and meditation as the source of revelation and personal growth. This active mind-and-spirit approach to religion may be attributed to living in an LDS community situated between the University of Utah and Westminster College. He graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor of arts (BA) degree in English and history, and a secondary education teaching certificate (junior high and high school), as well as graduating from the LDS Institute of Religion at the University of Utah. He served his mission in South Africa.
Duane has been aware of his sexual orientation since about age fourteen and, after confronting what seemed to be the contradictions between being a devoted Latter-day Saint and his sexuality, embraced these contradictions and has transferred his energies into harmonizing the two. He has held leadership positions in the Salt Lake Chapter of Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons and in 1996 received the Mortensen Award, Affirmation’s highest award for excellence in continual service.
Duane has also represented Affirmation at the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, which supports gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals in religion. In addition, he edited and published the Salt Lake Affirmation chapter’s newsletter for over 10 years, and was religion/spirituality editor and writer (1994-1996) for The Pillar magazine (Utah’s LGBT Magazine (published from 1993-2007)). In 2000 Duane worked with an Episcopal minister and Metropolitan Community Church ministers and together started what has become the annual Pride Interfaith Service that kicks off the annual Utah Pride events each June.
A sixth-generation Mormon, Duane proudly claims his spiritual place in creation and his relationship with God, in spite of limitations in religious traditions, including Mormonism.
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She writes at The Mormon Therapist for Patheos: Hosting the Conversation of Faith, runs Mormon Sex Info and is the current president for the Mormon Mental Health Association.