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“I fear that our society is losing its ability to come together with respect and civility and to find solutions when we see things differently,” said Elder Craig C. Christensen, area president of the Utah Areas, who welcomed the NCAA Common Ground Executive Committee to Temple Square.
Church leaders hosted a luncheon Friday, November 2, 2018, for the committee members from around the country. Elder Christensen was joined by Elder Allen D. Haynie of the Seventy; Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president; Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president; as well as women auxiliary board members.
Common Ground is a program that brings together LGBTQ advocates and athletic administrators, largely from faith-based institutions, to explore the issues of religious freedom and sexual orientation on college campuses in the United States. The group’s leadership met this week on the Church-owned campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
“Common Ground as a principle has great importance to us,” said Elder Christensen. “I understand the importance of effective college athletic programs in the lives of student athletes, and I applaud your work to make things better for all involved.” Elder Christensen once played center on the BYU football team.
“We greatly appreciate your concern for the dignity and the physical and spiritual well-being of LGBT student athletes,” said Sister Bingham. “I believe that when common ground is sincerely sought between any of God’s children, it is always found.”
“As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, really the core to all that we do is our love and dedication to the Lord and also the love of our fellow man,” explained Sister Cordon.“We try to follow the example of Jesus Christ, and we really think of you as family because we’re all children of God.”
“Having the NCAA Common Ground leadership team visit Temple Square means a great deal to me personally,” said Liz Darger, senior associate athletic director at BYU and a member of the Young Women general board. “These are my dear friends who took time to come and see some of the sites that are most sacred to me. I loved having my Latter-day Saint friends meet my Common Ground friends and vice versa. These are all people who care deeply about the welfare of others. To be able to sit and talk and share together was powerful.”
“At the NCAA, we are involved with Common Ground because we feel passionately that we’re in the human development business, and we know the Church cares very much about its young people and making sure they’re safe and taken care of and respected,” said Amy Wilson, managing director of inclusion at the NCAA. “We have a lot in common here in this room today. It’s been a really great four days.”
“This is incredible,” said Nevin Caple, cofounder of LGBT Sportsafe. “I love being in a space with people that I don’t often get an opportunity to engage with. I think it just teaches that we have so much more in common than any of us ever realize. … I’m really heartened knowing that there are so many caring and welcoming people that are receptive to learning more about not only how we’re different, but how we’re the same.”
The Common Ground committee toured Temple Square and the Bishops’ Central Storehouse at the end of their meetings in Utah.