Matt Easton is a political science genius, slammer, practicing Mormon and, in the words of his faculty advisor from Brigham Young University, John Holbein, “a gem of a human being.” As of yesterday, he is also proudly, publicly, openly gay.
After being named valedictorian in political science at the University of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Easton addressed a packed meeting room: “I stand today in front of my family, my friends and my graduates to say that I am proud to be a gay son. of God,” he said. “I am not broken. I am loved and important in the plan of our Grand Creator. Each of us are.
As the audience erupted in cheers and boos, he continued, “Four years ago, it would have been impossible for me to imagine that I would be coming out all over my college. It’s a phenomenal feeling. And that’s a win for me in itself. Although Easton dated individually with family and close friends, he later wrote on Twitter, it was the first time he publicly acknowledged his sexuality. He praised the college for giving him the foundation to meet both spiritual and secular challenges, as well as supporting his faith.
It is hard to overstate how historic and courageous this speech is. Although openly LGBT students can attend BYU, located in Provo, Utah, its restrictive honor code prohibits “homosexual behavior” and “all forms of physical intimacy that express homosexual feelings.” Acting on these feelings can and does lead to expulsion from college. (Heterosexual couples found guilty of “sexual touching” also face penalties, which can include compulsory worship, probation or withdrawal of their degrees.)
The university’s policy largely echoes that of the wider Mormon community. From 2015 until earlier this month, as the attorney reports, the Mormon Church’s so-called “exclusion policy” remained in place. Human rights lawyer Kate Kelly, who is a queer Mormon, writes: “He said all gay couples were apostates and children of same-sex couples could not be blessed or baptized as as Mormons before they turned 18 and disavowed their parents. Current Mormon prophet Russell M. Nelson specifically stated that this policy was divinely inspired and the “will of the Lord.” In the three months since the policy was passed, according to LDS parent support group Mama Dragons, more than 30 young people have taken their own lives.
For many, revoking the policy, which now allows children of same-sex couples to be baptized, is just the start. Same-sex marriage is still considered “a grave transgression,” church president Dallin H. Oaks told the general assembly April 4, even though it will no longer be “treated as an apostasy for the purposes of the Church.” discipline of the Church”. LGBTQ people and their allies have called for a formal apology from the church, as well as a doctrinal shift that same-sex relationships are sinful, and a more inclusive approach for women and people. trans. Those demands are unlikely to be met anytime soon in a church in which doctrinal disputes over matters as minor as caffeinated soda have historically taken decades to resolve.
Yet that Easton felt empowered and emboldened to speak out in front of thousands of his peers – and his bravery was met with unambiguous Warm welcome Mormons and non-Mormons – indicates the beginning of a radical change. The comments on the YouTube video of Easton’s speech were moving and proud: “It gives me hope! You are whole and marvelous”; “I don’t know you, but I was a little moved watching this”; “I couldn’t have imagined this when I graduated in 2009. Courage and confidence.