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Be one: Listening to the LGBTQ+ students at BYU

I am a Child of God Poster BYU Honor Code by Jacob Payne
Photo: Jacob Payne

April 22, 2020

I am a Child of God Poster BYU Honor Code by Jacob Payne

Photo: Jacob Payne

by Laurie Illions Rodriguez

A lot of mainstream Mormons are asking this question on social media, “Why are those students protesting? Why did they go to BYU in the first place? Why don’t they just leave us and our religion alone?”

The answer is that it is THEIR religion too. And they wouldn’t be protesting if they didn’t feel any connection to it. They were born into OUR Mormon families. They grew up singing the same Primary songs, learning the value of family relationships and wanting that for themselves, being taught they are each a child of God, learning to love one another, learning to get their own answers through prayer, and learning to stand up for what is right, even if they must stand alone.

Now they are put into a situation where they are being told to choose between either the Church or their own emotional health and safety. (If you don’t understand why this is the case and would like to learn more about it, listen to Richard Ostler’s Listen, Learn, & Love podcasts to hear some personal experiences and you can begin to gain a greater understanding.) They are being asked to internalize unhealthy messages that detract from the Spirit in their lives and to live a life that is unsustainable and emotionally unhealthy for most (and only they know whether that is true for themselves) OR to distance themselves from the Church they love and feel is theirs.

They are not asking the BYU Honor Code to allow anything it does not allow everyone else: normal non-sexual dating and companionship experiences.

They are not saying “give up the plan of salvation.” They are saying “listen with your hearts. We have prayed and God is telling us that we belong, that there is an emotionally healthy, joy-filled, connection-filled place for us. Listen with your hearts. Hear Him. Make space for us. We want to be here too.”

To hear them is NOT to give up the gospel and the plan of salvation. It is to more fully embrace it. It is to live it. And it is to make a place for them to live it too.

Because there ISN’T a them. There never was. There is just one big US.

Where Love Is

“Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (Doctrine & Covenants 38:27)

This article was submitted by an Affirmation community member. The opinions expressed are wholly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Affirmation, our leadership, or our staff. Affirmation welcomes the submission of articles by community members in accordance with our mission, which includes promoting the understanding, acceptance, and self-determination of individuals of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and our vision for Affirmation to be a refuge to land, heal, share, and be authentic.


  1. Stephen Gragert on May 3, 2020 at 4:40 PM

    I quite understand. I have been abused all my life. I had same sex attraction at the age of seven. I always wanted to fit in. My parents would not show love. I would be sent to my grandparents in Oklahoma for the summers. These were my mom’s parents. My dad’s parents tried to intervene also. Kids at school would push me around. I did have a couple of friends. Life was not good. One morning while it was still dark outside my grandmom from Oklahoma appeared in my room at the foot of my bed. I called out to her. She said it was going to be alright. She was going to be with Jesus. She asked me to forgive Richard, her son, for what he did. I asked what did he do but Jesus forbid her to tell me. We visited for a while and I asked her if grandpop was going to be there too. Yes, he will. I knew I would miss their love toward me. Whatever Richard did it was not good. She asked me to not tell the kids at school because they would hurt and make fun of me and I had been hurt enough. She said He was calling her and she had to go. She told me she loved me and I told her the same and added to tell grandpop I love him too. She said she would. She faded up into the ceiling and was gone. I sat there thinking about what had just happened. The phone rang and the Spirit said go downstairs. Mom was on the phone crying. Mom and dad’s dead, Richard shot them. He took his own life as well. I know I said. “You know”, she said. I told, Well I didn’t know exactly what he did but grandmom came to my room and asked forgiveness for him because he wasn’t in his right state of mind. She said,”Then that’s what we have to do. We had joined the church in October and this was December. Life got harder for this gay boy. Others in the neighborhood coaxed me into performing oral sex on them and my dad’s brother used me fo every sexual activity you could think of. At age 13 I had a rope tied to the swing set twice but the Spirit intervened and said He had better plans for me. I knew exactly how Joseph Smith felt when he had his first vision. I married and have five children but we divorced two years ago. I had a breakdown after major back surgery and touched someone inappropriately. Now I have to register as a sex offender even though a lot of lies were told. But even after being excommunicated I still have a testamony. But I would rather go to a church where I am accepted worts and all than to go where I cannot say prayers or partake of sacrament. I have to be me. God loves me and has been there always for me.

  2. Alma Smith on May 4, 2020 at 9:52 PM

    Wow, what a sad, sad story. Sad because of the murder/suicide. Sad because of the abuse.

  3. DEAN ROGER SNELLING on May 4, 2020 at 11:02 PM

    We all have challenges. YOU have certainly had more than your share. Although I can relate to some of your challenges, I am fortunate that I have not experienced all of them. You are certainly correct, God DOES love YOU. Because I believe in personal revelation, I still have faith that one day, we ALL will be able to attend our Latter-day Saint Wards as members of Christ’s Church. For some unknown reason, Heavenly Father has not been able to gently lead the brethren in that direction. Perhaps they are not ready to receive guidance, or perhaps there are still too many people in the world not ready to head such a message… but whatever the reason… eternity is on our side… and so we have patience. Each of us must wait in different ways. I still attend a very friendly ward and am very open. I am loved by the members, my Bishop and my Stake President, but we are not all the same. What has been good for me, may not be what is best for others. I hope you will continue to find a path that gives you comfort, joy and peace.

  4. Jessie Smith on May 10, 2020 at 2:44 PM

    I am a teenager, a 16 going on 17 year old, and a Mormon. I believe with my whole heart in this religion, I’ve been raised a Mormon since i was born. But i am attracted to women, the same gender as me. I don’t know what to do, i don’t want to be kicked out of my church because i was taught that it was away’s one man and one woman. I don’t know what to do, I’ve always been faithful in my church, praying, singing the hymns, attending class and sacrament, given my testimony, yet i feel out of place, because i don’t know if it is okay for me to be this way even though i can’t change. It wouldn’t be right for me to change churches but i don’t know what i should do. Should i speak to my bishop about this?

    • Laurie Rodriguez on July 2, 2020 at 9:07 PM


      I just saw your question, but it has been two months since you asked it, so I am not sure what has transpired since. I hope things are going well for you.

      Some people have had good experiences talking with their bishops and some people have had really bad experiences. Know that if something is true, it will make you feel peaceful and hopeful. If anyone tells you something that makes you feel despairing or worthless, you can know is NOT from God, no matter who says it.  If you are going to talk to your bishop, I recommend talking to someone you KNOW will be a support to you first so that they can support you if it turns out that the bishop is not prepared to understand and support LGBTQ members. Even though we believe bishops are called of God, they deal with their own shortcomings and biases and are still learning themselves. 

      As far as church, some people feel more peaceful, emotionally healthy and inspired in our church and some people feel more peaceful, emotionally healthy and inspired attending a more accepting  church. 

      God will be with you wherever you go. Only you can know what is best for you. But the most important thing is to be kind to yourself. Find a support system. You are precious. You are loved.

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