It was the most Mormon of rallies Friday afternoon as hundreds of young people — many draped in rainbow flags and carrying signs about God’s love — gathered in Salt Lake City to share their concerns about Brigham Young University’s changing position on “romantic behavior” by same-sex couples.

Demonstrators were organized, orderly and unfailingly polite. They sang LDS hymns, including “Love One Another” and “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?” They chanted “Love means love,” “Let all students date,” “Love is a human right,” “Trans lives matter” and “L, G, B, T, God loves you and God loves me.” They carried signs, saying, “God would not renounce me,” and, “I learned to rise & shout at BYU.”

Around 3 p.m., they congregated on the northeast side of the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a collective response to the school’s reaffirmation Wednesday that same-sex relationships were still “not compatible” with the school’s Honor Code — despite removing the code’s ban on “homosexual behavior” last month.

The Utah-based faith teaches that being homosexual is not a sin, while acting on those attractions is.

“The teachings of the church and the policies of our universities are consistent with eternal principles, and seek to encourage and strengthen relationships that lead to eternal covenants made with God,” church spokesman Doug Andersen said Friday. “The church and its leaders continue to teach that though there may be disagreement on an issue or policy, we should treat one other with love, respect and kindness.”

The rally’s theme was “Just Let Us Love One Another,” and its tone was respectful. But the sentiments were strong and feelings were raw.

“We’re hoping this demonstration shows we don’t agree with their decision this week to reinstate the homophobic, anti-homosexual relations clause,” said Jorden Jackson, one of the rally’s organizers. “Ideally, we want to be at least where we were two weeks ago with gay rights.”

After leading a prayer, church member Allison Dayton told the crowd: “Your heavenly parents love you. They made you. They love you no matter what happens.”

Her son is a gay student at BYU, and she wants him to stay, she said later. “We have to create a path for him to stay in the gospel.”

She had asked the group to pray “that there will be change in the hearts of those who need to change. Take a moment to pray for change. We know that the spirit can change people.”

Rachel Slawson, Miss Utah USA 2020, was on hand, wearing her sash. Slawson, who identifies as bisexual, was the first openly LGBTQ person to compete in Miss USA.

BYU student Danny Niemann, who is openly gay, said the removal of the Honor Code’s ban on homosexual behavior two weeks ago had empowered and bonded queer students, who “got a glimpse of what [being accepted] would be like. Going back is worse.”

Niemann, who is from Virginia, said he has had difficulty sleeping and concentrating on schoolwork since the reversal. It "was incredibly frustrating and isolating,” Niemann said. “It’s a very tangible reminder that straights have it easier at BYU.”

After the ban was deleted, some students said they came out as gay because they believed — and were told by some Honor Code staff — that holding hands, kissing and dating a same-sex partner no longer violated the code.

One of those students was sophomore Lilly Bitter. She was one of the speakers who addressed the the crowd of hundreds after it lapped the LDS Church plaza and settled in City Creek Park.

Bitter told more than 500 that while she has always felt God’s love, she struggled with her place in the church and the school. When news broke that the “homosexual behavior” section of the Honor Code was removed, she said, “I felt safe. I came out much more publicly, and I started to tell people about my girlfriend and about my dating life.”

Bitter went down to the campus statue of Brigham Young that day and snapped a photo of herself in a quick smooch with a female friend. She posted the photo on her social media, where it was viewed widely.

After this week’s “clarification” by church officials, Bitter said, “I felt heartbroken and betrayed. I felt like an idiot for ever believing that there’s a safe place for me at this school and this church.”

She said she was “so, so tired,” and just wants the church and BYU to "listen to our experiences.”

Blaire Ostler, a queer Latter-day Saint theologian, opened her speech with a lesson from Mormon scripture, saying doctrine teaches that humans exist so they “might have joy.” She asked the crowd: “Tell me, does your queerness make you joyful?”

The response was a resounding cheer. She explained that the Bible also says that to know love is to know God. Love is essential, she said. “They may say our love is unholy, unworthy and unrighteous, but we know better. There’s no sin in queer love.”

Troy Williams, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Utah, said Friday’s rally is part of an arc of LGBTQ history in Utah — which includes Mormon Building Bridges marching in the Utah Pride Parade and the state’s recent ban on so-called “conversion therapy.”

“I know it’s hard. I know it’s painful, and I know you are hurting right now,” he said, “but step back and see change is happening and it is so powerful.”

Williams told the crowd that opposition to LGBTQ people was fueled by fear of the unknown, and the best way to counteract it is by living authentically.

“Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your strength,” Williams said. “Go out and love and live and love and live.”

A similar rally is planned for Latter-day Saints and former church members Saturday in New York. The rally is set for 1 to 4 p.m. Eastern time, at the corner of Columbus Avenue and 65th Street, across the street from the Latter-day Saint temple in Manhattan.

Reporter Sean P. Means contributed to this story.

Final live update, 5:10 p.m. • The rally is winding down, ending with a moment of silence, reports The Tribune’s Paighten Harkins.

“We will keep fighting for you,” says organizer Jorden Jackson.

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Update, 5:05 p.m. • Now speaking to the demonstrators: Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah.

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Update, 4:55 p.m. • “There is no sin in queer love,” Blaire Ostler, a queer Latter-day Saint theologian, says to the crowd.

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Update, 4:50 p.m. • Lilly Bitter, a BYU student who was photographed kissing a girl in front of the Brigham Young statue on campus, speaks at the rally.

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Update, 4:41 p.m. • The speeches are starting at City Creek Park. The Tribune’s Paighten Harkins has the first comments from the organizers.

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Update, 4:34 p.m. • Tribune reporters and a photographer estimate about 500 people are walking in Friday’s demonstration in support of LGBTQ students at Brigham Young University.

The demonstrators have done a lap around the perimeter of Temple Square, headed back to City Creek Park. Speakers should be making speeches shortly.

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Update, 4:18 p.m. • Beginning with a UTA bus at the start of the rally, passing motorists have been honking in support.

On the other hand, officials for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have remained silent about the rally, declining to comment immediately.

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Update, 4:08 p.m. • Another Twitter dispatch from the Tribune’s Paighten Harkins, talking to a former BYU student who dealt with a lot of self-hatred there.

(If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255.)

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Update, 3:55 p.m. • After leading a prayer, church member Allison Dayton told the crowd: “Your heavenly parents love you. They made you. They love you no matter what happens.”

Her son is a gay student at BYU, and she wants him to stay, she said later. “We have to create a path for him to stay in the gospel.”

She had asked the group to pray “that there will be change in the hearts of those who need to change. Take a moment to pray for change. We know that the spirit can change people.”

Allison Dayton speaks at the rally in front of Church Office Building on Friday, March 6, 2020, in response to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changing the BYU Honor Code back to banning "homosexual behavior."

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Update, 3:53 p.m. • Rachel Slawson, Miss Utah USA 2020, is in attendance at the rally, wearing her sash. Slawson, who identifies as bisexual, was the first openly LGBTQ person to compete in Miss USA.

Here’s a recent interview Slawson gave to Teen Vogue.

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Update, 3:46 p.m. • BYU student Danny Niemann, who is openly gay, said the removal of the Honor Code’s ban on homosexual behavior two weeks ago had empowered and bonded queer students, who “got a glimpse of what [being accepted] would be like. Going back is worse.”

Niemann, who is from Virginia, said he has had difficulty sleeping and concentrating on schoolwork since the reversal.

“[The reversal] was incredibly frustrating and isolating,” Niemann said. “It’s a very tangible reminder that straights have it easier at BYU.”

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Update, 3:43 p.m. • The marchers are on the move. A bullhorn-wielding organizer gave them their instructions: “Please don’t run. Please do not engage any counter-protesters.” They were also told to walk single-file, and not block traffic on the sidewalk.

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Update, 3:38 p.m. • The Tribune’s Paighten Harkins introduces us to a student named India:

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Update, 3:35 p.m. • The rally has its own mascot: Rosie, who’s wearing a sign that reads “Homophobia Watch Dog.”

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Update, 3:31 p.m. • Jorden Jackson, one of the rally’s organizers, said: “We’re hoping this demonstration shows we don’t agree with their decision this week to reinstate the homophobic, anti-homosexual relations clause. Ideally, we want to be at least where we were two weeks ago with gay rights.”

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Update, 3:29 p.m. • More from the Tribune’s Paighten Harkins:

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Update, 3:27 p.m. • Benjamin Park, author of the book “Kingdom of Nauvoo” and co-editor of the Mormon Studies Review, tweets a photo of the demonstrators standing outside of the Church Office Building.

Park was featured in the Tribune’s “Mormon Land” podcast last week. Click here to listen.

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Update, 3:20 p.m. • The Tribune’s Paighten Harkins captured video of the marchers arriving at the Church Office Building.

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Update, 3:18 p.m. • Adam Smart, whose personal support of same-sex marriage ended up derailing his mission for the LDS Church recently, said, “It wasn’t fair to put a rule in and take it away. Not fair to LGBT students.”

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Update, 3:15 p.m. • The demonstrators are alternating between chants — “hey hey, ho ho, homophobia’s got to go” and “don’t just stare, come stand with us” among them — and Latter-day Saint hymns, including “Love One Another” and “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?,” reports the Tribune’s Peggy Fletcher Stack.

More chants: “Love means love,” “Let all students date,” “Love is a human right,” “Trans lives matter” and “L,G. B, T, God loves you and God loves me.”

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Update, 3:10 p.m. • First photos of the rally from the Tribune’s Trent Nelson:

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A demonstration about BYU's changing position on “romantic behavior” by same-sex couples, in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 6, 2020.
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A demonstration about BYU's changing position on “romantic behavior” by same-sex couples, in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 6, 2020.

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Update, 3:07 p.m. • A sampling of signs being held by people rallying at the Church Office Building, in support of LGBTQ students at BYU:

• “God would not renounce me.”

• “Get Over It. It’s 2020.”

• “Why is this still a debate?”

• “I learned to rise & shout at BYU.”

• “Love is not immoral.”

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Update, 2:57 p.m. • Some 200 people have gathered at the corner of North Temple and State Street, outside the Church Office Building, just before the announced 3 p.m. start, according to Tribune reporter Paighten Harkins.

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Update, 2:38 p.m. • Allies of Brigham Young University’s LGBTQ students are speaking up on Twitter.

NFL legend Steve Young — the star quarterback for BYU’s Cougars in the early 1980s, and great-great-great-grandson of the school’s namesake — tweeted his support early Friday morning, with the statement “I stand with the LGBTQ+ students of BYU.”

Broadway star Will Swenson, a Provo native who attended BYU and starred in a series of Latter-day Saint-themed movies in the early 2000′s, posted the same message on his Twitter feed. Swenson included a verse from scripture, 1 John 4:8: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”