Jared, 17, sat through the sessions of the conference flanked by his parents on either side, in hopes to overcome his temptations, serve a mission, marry a woman and enjoy a typical Mormons life, just like his two older brothers.
I have two years to conquer this, Jared said. By the time I turn 19, I am going to have this whole same-sex attraction mess taken care of so I can go on a mission and serve the Lord. I know hell bless me if I promise to do his will.
Jareds parents said they encourage him to pray and read his religious texts daily and if he does so, God will answer prayers.
We heard it in general conference last year. Packer told us that a loving heavenly father wouldnt make me this way. I just have to overcome all my sexual feelings and learn true control, Jared said.
As Jared listened to the speakers, he grew visibly excited and scribbled notes throughout the day.
I can do it. Just listening to these inspired men who receive inspiration from God lets me know that I can be normal and fit in with my older brothers and their families, Jared said. I want that more than anything else in the world.
Walking into the Evergreen International Conference at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, I felt butterflies in my stomach and took in my surroundings. It was my first time attending an event where the goal was to encourage participants to stop being gay and turn straight.
I was nervous, and all the preconceptions about the pious and faithful gathering were smashed just moments after walking through the door.
As married men propositioned me for sex, and very confused teens sat with their parents in what had to be an extremely awkward day, it seemed that the crowd was challenging the speakers assertion through their very existence. No one there chose to be gay. The diversity of age, body type and personality also combated the idea that sexuality is not an inborn characteristic. People from all walks of life were gathered and I became friends with construction workers, business executives and bankers.
It quickly became clear that the Evergreen method did not work. But equally as clear was that the method and rhetoric being spouted was damaging. Rather than expressing their sexuality in healthy ways, these men were relegated to attending the conference just to find a partner for sex and some sort of connection.
The only local TV news coverage I found was this unremarkable report:
Has Evergreen’s hermetically-sealed alternate universe become almost irrelevant? I mean, for example, by way of comparison, isn’t assembling several hundred Mormons in Utah small potatoes when Affirmation can gather similar numbers for an event in Kirtland, Ohio?