Growing up, I used to play basketball with my siblings in my backyard. Being the younger and smaller sibling, the likelihood of me scoring on a layup or even a close jump shot was low. In an effort to win I would often resort to taking as many three point shots as possible. I figured that if I wasn’t able to score as many times, then I should try to score baskets that are worth more.
It’s interesting to think of the commandments and rules of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in this way. It feels that some rules, guidance and doctrinal teachings are given more value by LDS Church officials. It raises the question, would God apply the same value to certain rules, guidance and doctrinal teachings as LDS Church officials do?
In a recent speech given by Elder Jeffery R. Holland, he gave direction to Brigham Young University faculty to “be careful that love and empathy (for the LGBTQ community) do not get interpreted as condoning and advocacy.” Holland discussed the LGBTQ community for a significant amount of his speech.
Ironically the overall message and the headline printed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints newsroom was “Elder Jeffery R. Holland Urges BYU to Embrace its Uniqueness, Stay True to the Savior.” Does that mean that the most important thing BYU faculty can do to ensure BYU stays true to the savior and his teachings is to criticize and publicly disavow LGBTQ LDS members?
Surely, there are more ways than this for BYU to embrace its uniqueness and stay true to the savior. Furthermore, if the point of the speech was to encourage faculty to stay true to church teachings, why did Holland choose the LGBTQ issue as the example?
A few other topics he could have chosen:
Emphasizing the recent church announcement encouraging all members to get vaccinated. The LDS Church has long supported and believed in the power of vaccines.
Emphasizing the importance of teaching students to be “stewards over the earth” and the church’s stance on climate change.
Emphasizing the church’s stance on racism and encouraging faculty to reprimand students who display racist behavior.
If God places greater importance and value on topics that LDS leaders choose to emphasize, I wonder what my total “life score” will end up being. I may score some points for being environmentally conscious, for loving my neighbor, for praying, etc. But, in the end, my gayness will inevitably cancel out any points that I may have scored. Similarly, a straight member who lies, is vocally hateful, but harshly criticizes LGBTQ individuals will come out with a higher score than me.
Some LGBTQ LDS members and, in particular, LGBTQ BYU students have hidden who they are and how they feel. Others have been vocal. The fact is it doesn’t matter if an LGBTQ member hides who they are, or announces their sexual orientation during their pre-approved BYU commencement speech. The response from the LDS Church is the same. You are not valid. You are not welcome. We don’t want you to be your authentic self in our pews.
Carlysle Porter is a born-and-raised Utahn currently living New York City, raised in the LDS faith, a graduate of Brigham Young University with a dual degree in public health and public relations and a member of the LGBTQ community.