Mormons Building Bridges (MBB) recently gathered in downtown Salt Lake City to march in the Utah Pride parade. The event was my first ever experience marching with MBB and my first ever Pride parade.
Mormons, dressed up in their “Sunday best”, marched to show love and support for their LGBTQI brothers and sisters. The theme of the march was, “Allies Are Everywhere.”
For those unfamiliar with MBB, they advocate for love, kindness, and understanding to be shown to all. As they state on their community Facebook page, “In accordance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Mormons Building Bridges is a community of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicated to conveying love and acceptance to all those who identify as LGBTQI and those who identify as experiencing same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. The MBB community asserts that all our sisters and brothers are inherently worthy of love and belonging in our homes, congregations, and communities – no matter where their life path may take them.”
After hearing about MBB and this event through Facebook, I was all too eager to make the trip down. I was fortunate enough to be only two hours away from Salt Lake City, an easy drive for someone who has made an odd habit out of cross-country driving.
Thousands of people lined the streets, both to march in and observe the parade. SLC police estimated between 35,000 and 40,000 people were present, nearly twice as many people who can fit into the nearby Utah Jazz arena!
Parking in downtown Salt Lake City among all the traffic was a tad tricky, but eventually I found a spot on the street in front of a McDonald’s. Thankfully the parade took a few extra minutes to get going, because I needed every one of them to walk the streets and track down MBB’s meetup spot.
While waiting for the parade to start moving, our group huddled together (out of the sun and into to the shade) to say a prayer and sing the hymn, “There is Sunshine in my Soul Today.”
The parade began quietly as we began walking, but soon we were received highly favorably by thousands of individuals. Cheers, screaming, hugs, high-fives, and even tears were shared with us as we walked past.
During the parade, I heard parade narrators over a small PA system discuss how our MBB group was the largest group marching. I can only imagine the positive message this sent to all in attendance.
I had many wonderful experiences interacting with complete strangers. Walking back to my car (wow, what a long walk) from the end of the parade route, I received quite a few hugs and cheers from people who wanted to tell me thank you. Even on the drive home, people would honk and wave at me on the I-15 as they saw my white dress shirt and rainbow tie. I’m thankful the message we wanted to share was successful.
If I had to pick a favorite moment from this day, it happened while waiting for the parade to start. A man, dressed in a rainbow-themed outfit, walked up to me and asked if I wanted any sunscreen. He had observed from afar how I was a fair-skinned redhead sitting under the sun and didn’t want me to get burnt. He shared his sunscreen with me and we were able to talk briefly while I put some on. It was a kind gesture and bonding moment which I will always remember.
I was honored to march with MBB and can’t wait for a chance to do it again. Before the event, I was filled with excitement but also a smidgen of nervousness about participating. I knew MBB’s message was one I wholeheartedly supported and is in line with the Mormon church. Most of my nervousness, actually, came from a fear of friends or family who might lash out at me. I figured to get a Facebook comment or two which condemned or questioned me for participating. Thankfully, everyone who made a comment to me was in favor of my decision. I would’ve participated no matter how much a friend or family member may have hinted their “disappointment”, but it was relieving to not deal with that and instead see all the messages of approval.
I was able to talk with many church members within our group, all of whom had their own distinct reason for being there that Sunday. I can’t recall a Sunday in church where I’ve ever felt so overwhelmed with a sense of love and gratitude for the people around me.
MBB marches in pride festivals in many cities across the US during the month of June. If MBB is not marching in your local city, you can change that by filling out an application here. I hope my positive experience will encourage others to join in on future events.
Next time around though, I’d be smart to remember water and sunscreen.
Braden Jenks is studying addiction counseling at Minot State University and Rio Salado College. You can contact him at Braden.Jenks@gmail.com.
* This post was originally published at bradenjenks.com and has been republished here with permission. *
Cover photo and video credit: Braden Jenks