On Monday, August 23, Elder Jeffery R. Holland addressed BYU faculty and staff at the 2021 University Conference just one week before the beginning of the academic year. During his forty-minute address, he honed in on LGBTQ issues, reiterating exclusionary positions and rejecting behavior that Queer people affiliated with the church are very familiar with. Shortly after the address, Nathan Kitchen, President of Affirmation, offered the following.
by Nathan Kitchen
Elder Holland reiterated in his speech to BYU faculty and staff that it is a serious sin for sexual minorities to participate in the blessings, stability, and safety of fidelity, family, and love within the bonds of marriage as their straight peers do. To teach otherwise requires a violent defending of the faith (insert musket metaphors here).
“Acceptable” sexual minorities must instead live their entire life as celibate singles, outsiders among their pair-bonded straight peers in a church that values fidelity, family, and love. Elder Holland stated BYU is prepared to lose professional affiliations and certifications over this issue, and he will personally go to his grave defending against marriage equality. This is PTSD “bury the foundation of the Salt Lake temple because an army is marching upon us” talk. In actuality, queer joy and equality is something deeper and ever so tender to talk about within our families in Zion.
You can posture all you want, threatening to bury the very foundations of BYU, but there is no gay army marching upon the church requiring muskets and fire. Instead, in homes across Zion, LGBTQIA+ children are born almost daily to families entrusted by their Heavenly Parents to care for these beautifully perfect, queer children of God. They are born into the covenant. They are not invaders of the covenant.
You cannot build walls and fortresses to keep them out, for they are already a part of us, already a part of the sealed network of Saints. But you can use musket fire to drive them out from among you, from their spiritual home and from their families, through exclusionary positions and rejecting behavior. You can teach them that they are different than their straight peers so they must carry the burden of difference, like a mark. Marks are a very Mormon thing, and find support throughout modern day scripture as a way to “other” family. Once othered, you can feel justified to withhold blessings and opportunity. It is a design flaw in our orthopraxy and it even colors how we obey the second great commandment.
This is where we must begin as families in Zion. We must begin to talk about what it truly means when we say, “Families are Forever” and then in the same breath, “All are alike unto God.” Why do the scriptures teach that God’s people are prosperous when their laws are formed according to equity and justice? And if you are lucky enough, you will be one of the thousands upon thousands of families in the church who have a queer child. Parents must begin the conversations under the Tree of Life, as a type and a shadow of Lehi and Sariah, on how they will not leave their queer children behind, to be driven into the mists of darkness or fired upon from the great and spacious building.
Unashamedly bring your authentic and completely whole queer children to stand with you under the boughs of Love.
Dig past the early Western frontier language of our young Faith of siege, muskets, armies, and isolation. Dig past the posturing, the fear, and the othering. Dig past it all and dig to uncover your family foundation to build a house that shelters your queer children. You are living in a home centered, church supported era and this holds just as true for homes with queer children. Insist that the church supports your home that you have built. The house you build will shelter them. You are not under siege, for in this world that Elder Holland admits is incredibly hostile to queer people, you are a sacred refuge for your queer children. Do not feel ashamed or intimidated that you want your queer children to have all that you have, including loving relationships built upon fidelity and blessed by God.
The Tree of Life is expansive, and so many queer Latter-day Saints are pressing forward towards it. Unfortunately, now able to make the same choice as their straight cisgender peers to partake in legal marriage, they must shield themselves from musket fire and endure the speeches, finger pointing and scoffs from others who are angered by this new ability of choice. Parents, keep calling to your queer children as they press forward in faith and authenticity. Build a house of love and refuge.
Begin today to have a family plan to meet under the boughs of Love.