In an unnerving turn of events, once again the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (AKA The Mormons) have found themselves buried in a quandary in a quarry. Never has the “Modern” Mormon Church been in such a delicate situation, with all eyes on it, now forcing change to happen, that they have paved the way, dug the grave, and now have to lay in it. March 6th 2020 was the day the church never wanted to arrive, or be in the mess to dig themselves free. Where faith, love, charity, hope, the principles that the LDS teaches are the very foundations of the message of Jesus Christ, those same principles are causing the church to unravel and lose yet more of its institutional power. As the sands fall away we are able to now see a beautiful sculpted entity, living and breathing the true gospel of Jesus Christ, carved with pure Love, Faith, Hope, and Charity, charity being “The Pure Love of Christ”, it is found in the members, queer and straight, coming together to push back.
From May of last year, until today, the LDS church has tried to “Clarify” God’s position on “Same Sex Attraction”, and in clarifying these things, they have muddied the waters greatly, the only way to navigate this mess, which has been to just love, love one another, and trust that this ship of loving misfits is going to make it safely to loving and welcoming shores. From reversing “The Policy” as it has been called by the dissenters, stating that same sex marriages will be cause for immediate excommunication for apostasy, and preventing the children of gay couples to be baptized, overnight, it was changed, and the church wanted to erase the fiasco of bad PR, and loss of membership.
On February 12th the church leadership handbook was released with updated clarifications on how to handle the matter. On finally saying “The church has no position on the cause of same sex attraction” they were able to throw out vast amounts of history where leaders had said prior that it was a choice, and or a curable mental illness. They said that “Same sex behavior is no longer to be treated as apostasy, but will be treated the same as heterosexual behavior” thus, as long as people are not having “sex” people can date, and explore loving relationships with the same gender now. They attacked the queer community this time with smaller fangs, and less venom, but it still caused a great deal of anger as they forced transgender people into a box refusing to accept or allow them within the bounds of the church to transition, or even identify as anything other than their “biological and birth gender.”
For queer Mormons, it was a bittersweet victory, however, for the LDS Church, it turned out to be a tsunami of problems, where LOVE crept out from between the cracks, weakened the structure of the flood walls, and eventually pushed through, and LOVE conquered, while it flooded across the campus of Brigham Young University. The BYU Honor Code Office has been literally the “Moral Police” of the university since it began. Anything that can be construed as a sin and against the Honor Code, from drinking coffee, wearing too short a pair of shorts, to suspected of being homosexual would land a student in the Honor Code Office, facing nothing short of the Spanish Inquisition.
After the church updated its protocol on same sex attraction and activity, the BYU Honor Code Office stated that it would no longer penalize students for same sex relations, any different from heterosexual activity.
On February 19th, BYU tweeted that the school had updated the Honor Code “to be in alignment with the doctrine and policies of the Church” laid out in “the recently released general handbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” With that new directive in place, students across the campus “came out” in droves, stated their sexual orientation, and talked about dating, and even had begun kissing and holding hands on campus. The Honor Code Office stayed silent about the matter, many professors and pundits spoke of it as a good move, being inclusive and more loving and Christlike. For two weeks, BYU became a safe place for queer people, they were allowed to be themselves.
On Wednesday February 4th, the director of the LDS Church Educational System wrote a letter to the BYU Honor Code Office stating that, according to the principles of eternal families, same sex behavior is incompatible with the teachings of the church, and thus is not allowed on BYU or any other church college campus.
Immediately the newly “out” Mormon students at all of the church schools found themselves suddenly in a dilemma of possibly facing church discipline, when they were clearly told by the Honor Code Office that they were fine to be open about their sexuality.
As the LDS church had once again painted themselves into a corner, and flip flopped on the issues, sparked outrage among the students, both queer and straight immediately began protesting. BYU had never experienced actual “on-campus” protests like this. There were further protests planned at LDS institute protests all across the country for Friday afternoon February 6th.
The one I managed to attend was in front of the LDS Church Office Building, the church headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City. Again, the church never had such a protest even there, adjacent to Temple Square, several hundred BYU students, queer and straight lined the street and had a rally in the City Creek Park across the street, in the shadow of the Church Office Building, the tallest building in Utah.
I arrived, and met some old friends, and made many new ones, I even saw my daughter’s Sunday school teacher there. I also saw one of the LDS church security spies I knew there. Clearly this event is seen as a threat to the leadership.
I yelled into the crowd “Is there any gay BYU student willing to be interviewed on film for this publication”, knowing that he was now putting himself at risk for going so public. I met such a brave young man, his story is heartbreaking. Meet Danny Niemann, a courageous young BYU student, whose only crime was falling in love with another man, and realizing he was unable to change his sexuality. Here’s what he had to say (sorry about the bumb audio, I wasn’t prepared for the crowd’s size and noise).
It was announced that the OUT FOUNDATION had increased its size by 5,000 members by 3 pm that day.
I also met a woman who flew in from Oakland, California. She organized the protest and explained how she had been married for years and was finally able to come out to her husband. They spoke of the church being at a crossroads, as the LGBT community, allies, and friends have now refused to be silent.
Several BYU students, allies, Troy Williams of Equality Utah, and LDS Lesbian Theologian spoke at this rally. Even the NFL Legend Steve Young (the great great grandson of Brigham Young, oh the irony) tweeted his support for the students.
— Steve Young (@SteveYoungQB) March 6, 2020
I also learned that several universities have offered direct one-to-one credits for any BYU student wanting to transfer, and many others are waving transfer fees, and will administer the transfer of student loans, all because these students were sacrificing who they were in order to get an education.
The situation now is leaving too much to question, what will the church leaders do? What will the BYU Honor Code Office do, now that students have publicly come out, and been seen on campus kissing, and holding hands? Are all of these kids going to be disciplined, and kicked out? We will have to wait and see the outcomes for these current questions and many more that will come out of this LDS debacle.
I am not sure why every time I engage in hearing stories, sharing love with the marginalized, I am forced to the mat and take a serious emotional beating.
I came home from this event, hoping to tell the story, and hope that you all might feel some of what is happening around us. We can no longer be silent against any of this.