April 9, 2012

LGBT Brigham Young University Students Bravely Share Their Stories

 
The Official LDS Church Position: Only Celibate LGBT Members Allowed!

A group of amazing and very brave students at Brigham Young University, made an “It Gets Better” video, and came out publicly, despite the long history of bigotry and hate that the Mormon church has exhibited toward LGBTQ individuals.  


Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - Current Church Doctrine


On September 23, 1995 Gordon Hinckley read a proclamation entitled “The Family - A Proclamation to the World.” Hinckley was the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), from 1995 until his death in 2008. The Proclamation begins with:

We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.

The President of the church, and the Twelve Apostles, write the church “Handbook of Instructions,” which contain the rules and policies that govern the church, and guides LDS church leaders. The handbook states:

Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance.

If members engage in homosexual behavior, Church leaders should help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth.

While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out to understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.

If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances.

 The Mormon church makes it clear that they do not support same-sex marriage, and that LGBT Mormons are welcome in the church as long as they live a life of chastity. Failure to adhere to these rules results in excommunication from the church. Some families disown their LGBT children to preserve their standing in the church, while other LDS families are told they must leave the church if they support and stand with their LGBT children.


Brigham Young University


The LDS church owns and operates Brigham Young University (BYU), which is located in Provo, Utah. BYU is the largest religious based university in the United States, with almost 35,000 students. It is also the third largest private university, and is popularly known as the “Lord’s university” in the Mormon community. The Princeton Review says that “BYU is consistently ranked as one of the most unfriendly campuses for LGBT students.”

BYU employs an “Honor Code” that each enrolled student must live by.



"As a matter of personal commitment, faculty, administration, staff, and students of Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University—Hawaii, Brigham Young University—Idaho, and LDS Business College seek to demonstrate in daily living on and off campus those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and will

  • Be honest
  • Live a chaste and virtuous life
  • Obey the law and all campus policies
  • Use clean language
  • Respect others
  • Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse
  • Participate regularly in church services
  • Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards
  • Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code"

— BYU Honor Code Statement  


All students, faculty, and staff must adhere to the Honor Code, that is administered by an Honor Council. Any violation of the Honor Code is reviewed by the Council, and they can issue a warning to faculty members and students, or expel a student, or revoke the tenure of faculty members.

With the anti-gay climate that exists within the Mormon Church, and presumably within the BYU community, a very brave group of students made an “It Gets Better” video, that they called “It Gets Better at Brigham Young University.

According to ABC news:

Until 2007, BYU students could risk expulsion for discussing their sexual orientation, under the school's honor code. In 2007, the honor code was changed to, "One's stated sexual orientation is not an Honor Code issue."

All BYU students are prohibited from having premarital sex, but heterosexual students can show affection in public. Homosexual students cannot.

The BYU 2011 Honor Code states, "Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards."

In 2010, a gay-straight alliance group called Understanding Same-Gender Attraction (USGA) was founded on the BYU campus. On its Facebook page, the group clarified, "Please note that USGA meets outside of any sponsorship, endorsement, or support by BYU."

The students interviewed in the video, who are members of the USGA, hope to make other gay Mormons realize that they are not alone.

The video states that there are over 1,800 LGBT students at BYU, and that 1,300+ students have contemplated suicide, while over 430 students have attempted to harm themselves. Those are pretty sobering statistics.

I don’t know how much more honest someone can be, but Mark, the first BYU student featured in the video says “If I’m going to be authentic, I don’t know if ‘It Gets Better’ but I’m trying to believe that.”

These amazing students speak openly and honestly to the camera, and articulate their inner struggles, and discuss how some of them felt that death was preferable to being gay. That really breaks my heart to hear that.

This video is exceptional, and it ends on an upbeat note. I hope that you’ll watch it, and I’ll embed it at the end of this blog post.

ABC news also reports:

Despite the restrictions, homosexual Mormons are reluctant to leave the church because Mormonism plays a significant role in the formation of a person's identity, said Kendall Wilcox, the former BYU student and faculty member who produced the video.

"Your Mormon identity comes first and then all the other categories like nationality or even sexual orientation," Wilcox told ABC News. "So by the time a homosexual Mormon comes into their sexual maturity, they have already 'found themselves' comfortably within the Mormon identity. So to then consider giving up that identity and faith, even though the principles of that faith may seem diabolically against you and cause you to severely question your self-worth and status before God, it can be equally traumatizing to consider oneself outside the Mormon identity and experience."

I’ve heard that when you’re an LDS member, that your Mormon identity comes first. That’s why I can’t imagine that Willard Mitt Romney will just sail through to the election in November, without examining his faith and the central role it plays in his life.

Rosemary Winters wrote in the Salt Lake Tribune:

In recent years, the LDS Church-owned school has adjusted its Honor Code to allow students to identify as gay without facing sanctions so long as they avoid physical intimacy with members of the same sex. Chastity before marriage is expected of all students.

"Students who are upholding the Honor Code are welcome as full members of the BYU community," school spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said Friday. She declined to comment specifically on the new YouTube video, which was produced by former BYUtv broadcaster Kendall Wilcox. He’s currently working on an independent documentary called "Far Between" about being gay and Mormon.

White hopes the video not only lets young gay Mormons know they are loved but changes perceptions about BYU. As a student there, he insists it’s not as conservative or closed-minded as some people might think.

These students put everything on the line in this video, and it’s fantastic. I hope that their families at home embrace them, and accept them, in the same spirit that they articulate in the video - about how their peers on campus have supported them.

It’s very gratifying to know that they have built a support system for themselves, within the university community. That will serve them well in the future, when they are living their dreams, and discovering that it truly does get better.


If you think about harming yourself, you’re in danger, or are contemplating suicide and need help, please call the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).


straight talk in a queer world.





 


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