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 The Advocate 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 first publications.
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.'"
Mortensen and Robert Jacob were married 30 years after they met--on July 21, 2008, in West Hollywood, California.
(This biographical statement provided by Hugo Salinas, associate director of Affirmation.)
Mortensensen wrote an account of the founding of Affirmation that was published in their 1987 newsletter and is now posted on the Affirmation web site: http://archive.is/L7khY