Lowell Paul Mortensen was born in 1941 as a fourth generation Mormon and was
raised in Riverton, Utah. In 1960, he went on a Mormon mission to the Eastern
Atlantic States, an experience that he would later describe as rewarding and
successful. After his mission, he attended the University of Utah, where he
majored in electrical engineering.
The two greatest events in Paul's life took place in 1978,
while he was living in Los Angeles. After reading an October 1977 article in
about a gay Mormon group operating in Utah, Paul decided to organize the Los
Angeles chapter of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons. The chapter's
membership skyrocketed almost overnight. Also in 1978, Paul met his life
partner, Robert Jacob.
It is not easy to summarize Paul's contributions to Affirmation. He was the
first director of the Los Angeles chapter and the first national secretary. With
Paul at the helm, the Los Angeles chapter helped establish Affirmation chapters
in San Francisco, Washington DC, and other cities. Under Paul's vigorous
leadership, Affirmation proclaimed itself to the world, established a national
phone line, launched a national newsletter, and produced some of Affirmation's
One of the milestones in Paul's life occurred at the 1988 national
conference, when Affirmation celebrated its tenth anniversary. During the
conference banquet, it was announced that Affirmation leaders had established an
award to be granted annually to one individual who had given outstanding service
and leadership to the organization. Appropriately, the distinction was named the
Paul Mortensen Award, and Paul was the first recipient.
We will never how many hundreds of hours Paul spent on the phone counseling
with people who felt rejected, unworthy, even suicidal. We will never know how
many lives he helped save. Paul filled this and other positions in Affirmation
enthusiastically, with a personal conviction about the importance of
Affirmation's mission. He wrote, "My feelings about what Affirmation should be
are firmly enrooted in my Mormon upbringing and my testimony of the gospel of
Jesus Christ. I really believe that we are our brothers' keeper and should be
actively involved in helping them."
He also wrote: "I firmly believe that being gay is a gift from God. I firmly
believe that God has blessed me with being gay, and with blessings go
responsibilities. I am expected to magnify my blessings and special gifts. I am
reminded of the words of Christ, 'Let your light so shine before men that they
may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.'"
(This biographical statement provided by Hugo Salinas, associate director of