Mormon girl’s coming-out ignites fresh debate
A video of a young Mormon girl revealing to her congregation that she is a lesbian and still loved by God – before her microphone was turned off by local church leaders – is sparking a new round of discussions about how the religion handles LGBT issues.
Savannah, 13, spoke on May 7 in Eagle Mountain, Utah about her belief that she is the child of heavenly parents who didn’t make any mistakes when she was created. Her comments came during a once-a-month portion of Mormon Sunday services where members are encouraged to share feelings and beliefs.
‘‘They did not mess up when they gave me freckles or when they made me to be gay,’’ Savannah said. ‘‘God loves me just this way.’’
Her mother, Heather Kester, said yesterday that her daughter was passionate about coming out in church to be a voice and example for other LGBT children who struggled for acceptance within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints.
The Mormon religion is one of many conservative faith groups upholding theological opposition to same-sex relationships amid widespread social acceptance and the US Supreme Court’s decision legalising gay marriage. At the same time, the Mormon church is trying to foster an empathetic stance towards LGBT people.
The video, which Kester said was taken by a friend of Savannah who went to church to support her, has generated a buzz after it was circulated online and featured in a Mormon LGBT podcast.
While some consider Savannah a hero, other Mormons are upset that her speech was videoed and that it is being circulated by church critics to try to paint the church in an unflattering light.
Judd Law, the lay bishop who leads the congregation south of Salt Lake City, said in a statement distributed by church headquarters that Savannah was a ‘‘brave young girl’’, and that the congregation was making sure she and her family felt loved.
But he called the unauthorised recording, and a ‘‘disruptive demonstration’’ by a group of nonMormon adults ‘‘problematic’’.
Law did not address or explain the decision by two of his counsellors to cut the microphone. He was not at the service.
‘‘I do not choose to be this way, and this is not a fad,’’ Savannah said. ‘‘I cannot make someone else gay . . . I believe that God wants us to treat each other with kindness, even if people are different, especially if they are different.’’
Her microphone was muted after about two minutes, shortly after she said she was not a ‘‘horrible sinner’’ and that she some day hoped to have a partner, get married and have a family.
‘‘I was devastated for her,’’ Kester. ‘‘I was angry at how was handled.’’ who were there, said that
After the Utah-based Mormon church received a backlash in 2008 for helping to lead the fight for a California constitutional ban on gay marriage, its leaders spent several years carefully developing a more empathetic LGBT tone. That was interrupted in 2015 when the church adopted new rules banning children living with gay parents from being baptised until age 18.
In October, church leaders updated a website created in 2012 to let members know that attraction to people of the same sex is not a sin or a measure of their faithfulness, and may never go away. But the church also reminded members that having gay sex violated fundamental doctrinal beliefs that would not change.
Savannah, 13, has been called a ‘‘brave young girl’’ by the lay bishop who leads her congregation for a speech in which she revealed that she is a lesbian, before she was silenced by church leaders.