On Aug. 23, 2021, Jeffrey R. Holland gave a speech around 67 miles south of the University of Utah at Brigham Young University, highlighting The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ stance on the LGBTQ+ community.
Holland, one of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church, quoted a speech given by Elder Oaks in 2014. The speech discusses musket fire in the sense of learning, turning to address the controversial issue of marriage being “a union between a man and a woman.”
He continues, quoting the line “a house divided against itself … cannot stand,” implying the academic mission of the Church.
Holland referenced the 2019 BYU Valedictorian Matt Easton, a man who came out as gay in his convocation speech.
“What might another speaker feel free to announce the next year until eventually, anything goes?” he then said. “What might commencement come to mean — or not mean — if we push individual license over institutional dignity for very long?”
Holland said they have to be careful that love and empathy is not confused for advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. He continued to describe the need for defenders of the Church and its doctrine and that “friendly fire” has been “wounding students and the parents of students who are confused about what so much recent flag-waving and parade-holding on this issue means.”
U Student Alexis Reid, a questioning member of the LDS church and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, said she felt disappointed after hearing the speech.
“The whole point of Mormonism or what it’s supposed to be is love and Christ, and he loved everyone perfectly and died for our sins,” she said. “Even if LGBTQ people [are] sinners that doesn’t give you the right to judge them.”
She also noted the distasteful rhetoric of “musket fire,” in Holland’s speech, referring to the death of Kylen Carrol and Crystal Michelle Turner, a lesbian couple who were shot to death near Grand County just days before.
“Even if your intention is not to cause violence or hatred, that’s what it’s doing,” Reid said.
She expressed how the U has been a safer place for her and the resources in the area.
“BYU has never been a safe place for LGBTQ+ people … I think they need to take these steps, getting new representatives and changing their code of conduct and accepting LGBTQ+ people, and adding LGBTQ+ people to the board,” she said. “Even if they think it’s against the religion, it’s important to listen.”
Reid expressed her internal conflict with the LDS religion.
“I don’t know how I can support that organized part of it when it’s causing so much violence and oppression against a community that I am also a part of,” she said. “It’s been a long history of oppression towards different groups of people.”
She said she empathizes with those struggling at BYU, particularly members of the LGBTQ+ community, wishing safety upon them.
“Don’t come out, you don’t have to and you don’t owe that to anyone,” she said. “For a lot of people coming out is unsafe, so to say it’s necessary is like guilting people into coming out which is not right. It’s a personal decision.”
She expressed how she had a difficult coming out experience herself.
Bree Peacock, office manager of the LGBT Resource Center, said the center is open and willing to help anyone struggling with safety and sexuality.
“The LGBT Resource Center empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual/aromantic (LGBTQIA+) students to grow as leaders and learners by supporting students in navigating university systems, exploring their identities, finding community, and developing as leaders with a social justice lens,” said Peacock in an email interview. “Too often we feel like we have to struggle alone, but there are resources available to students for finding community, mental health support, wellness, financial and basic needs support, etc.”
While the resource center doesn’t have everything, Peacock said they can be a stepping stone to connect students with others.
“If someone isn’t sure where to look for resources or how to get started, they can always ask to meet with our staff and we can help connect them to resources,” she said. “We do take privacy very seriously in our office, and we protect student information.”
She also expressed her knowledge of the intersection between faith and the LGBTQ+ community in Utah and said the LGBT Resource Center is willing to assist anyone struggling in this area as well as others.
“I think having an LGBT Resource Center on our campus is important because we foster ways for students to receive support, find community, and develop as leaders as LGBTQIA+ people, as their holistic selves,” she said. “Research shows us that LGBTQIA+ students who have a community of peers and mentors who affirm their identity do better overall: they have better health outcomes, they are more likely to graduate and meet other goals in their lives [and] they have stronger sense of self-acceptance.”