A BYU professor writes an editorial for The Daily Universe

by Roni Jo Draper, Ph.D
BYU education professor

BYU has again been ranked as the No. 1 Stone Cold Sober school. That’s cool. Sobriety deserves celebration. BYU has also been ranked as the No. 4 LGBTQ Unfriendliest school. This should give our community pause and cause us to reflect on our values and treatment of others.

I teach a multicultural education course at BYU. The primary purpose of the course is to prepare teachers to teach all children regardless of ethnicity, family income, gender, sexuality, ability or language. As such, we talk about the fair treatment of youth who do not conform to gender norms (for example, boys who act and dress in ways that we associate with females) and transgender youth. We also discuss the need to create safe spaces for kids questioning their sexuality or who do not identify as heterosexual.

These are sensitive topics. Many here at BYU believe that standing up for what is right means rejecting or disassociating with LGBTQ individuals. They justify these actions by citing scripture and Church-produced texts to explain that deviations from heterosexuality or traditional gender norms are sinful and wrong. While I understand these interpretations of our sacred texts, these interpretations are not helpful in determining how to treat one another. Thus, rather than use sacred texts as weapons to condemn the actions of others, we should use them to learn how to love and befriend others.

Christ invited us to love. He didn’t put conditions on who we should love. He didn’t say, “Love people who believe the same things as you,” or “Love people who want the same things in life that you want.” He never even qualified it by saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” He simply said, “Love one another.” This includes loving our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

The For the Strength of Youth standards say, “Be a good friend. Show genuine interest in others; smile and let them know you care about them. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, and refrain from judging and criticizing those around you. Do not participate in any form of bullying. Make a special effort to be a friend to those who are shy or lonely, have special needs, or do not feel included.” This serves as prudent guidance for how to befriend our LGBTQ peers.

I am the mother of a queer son. He is a returned missionary and a graduate of BYU. Despite living the Honor Code, he did not always feel safe at BYU. The effort he spent trying to protect himself from people who professed affiliation through Christ took a heavy toll on him. Some days he believed that he would be better off leaving this life and even made plans to do so. It terrifies me even now to recall this dark time in his life. As a mama, I continue to feel the stings of pain when I hear words said in hate or even misunderstanding about LGBTQ people — it simply doesn’t feel friendly.

As an LDS community we can be better. Let us lean on the Atonement of Christ that unburdens us from judging and condemning others. Let us lean on the Atonement of Christ and seek the strength necessary to love everyone. Let us lean on the Atonement of Christ that provides us the way to be better.
Let’s do this because BYU can be a sober school and BYU can be an LGBTQ friendly school, too.

Roni Jo Draper, Ph.D
Department of Teacher Education
Brigham Young University

– See more at: http://universe.byu.edu/2014/09/02/byu-challenge-helping-everyone-feel-loved/#sthash.FtVOF1Pd.dpuf

20 comments for “A BYU professor writes an editorial for The Daily Universe

  1. BBC
    September 28, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    “Thus, rather than use sacred texts as weapons to condemn the actions of others, we should use them to learn how to love and befriend others.” PROFOUND!!

  2. laura
    September 29, 2014 at 1:38 am

    As a mom of a gay son who is now in his 30’s and happily partnered, I thank you. It was a difficult couple of decades with experiences we are all happy are in the past. He was his mission’s “gay elder” behind his back, but loved his service to the church and the Lord and the people. Later, realizing that he could not remain alone and faithful for the rest of his life, he requested a church court, then faced despair as his paradigm changed–the future he had assumed with an lds spouse and kids happily attending church was gone and rebuilding a new view of his future was jarring. As was entering the same gender dating world, dealing with thoughts of suicide, etc. If only we could create a special path for our young people where they could create a life withh their same gendered partners under the umbrella of the church and never ever have to cause them or their families feel the horror of pain and rejection usually experienced…

  3. Bruce Alan Bradshaw
    September 29, 2014 at 8:28 am

    Yes, it’s an important message. However, the ranking of LGBTQ friendly schools has little to do loving and caring for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, it has to do with celebrating and PROMOTING it. That cannot be done while promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ. The honor code prohibits celebrating and promoting ANY sexual behavior outside of a one man/one woman marriage. Therefore, no amount of Christ-like love will ever change that ranking.

    • Sarah
      September 29, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      I don’t understand why you think people are promoting it by showing love and understanding. Not to mention it isn’t a “sin” to be gay. But rather to “act” on it. Nowhere does this say “act on it kids!” – it’s talking about not condemning someone for the way they could be born. We can teach truths, but if you don’t understand or try to- you cannot love them. And love is the key to bringing people closer to Christ and his atonement. Not by becoming Westboro mormons… We all sin. Doesn’t mean we should ever act like we are not worthy of compassion. Visit the mormonsandgays website to learn more.

    • H.
      September 29, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      LGBTQ individuals having the courage to live authentically — as GOD made them — should be encouraged, validated, celebrate AND promoted. Anyone who claims otherwise misses Christ’s message entirely and should seriously consider whether they’re truly “christian.”

      “I like your Christ;
      I do not like your Christians.
      Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

      – Mahatma Gandhi

      • Doug
        October 1, 2014 at 3:55 pm

        I’m not sure you entirely understand Christ’s message either. Let’s stop pretending that Christ was accepting of everyone, because he wasn’t. I understand that it is convenient to believe that Christ was so loving and accepting of everyone, that He would never stand for any kind of exclusion or discrimination. This could not be further from the truth. Yes… it is true that Christ loves everyone and yes it is true that we should practice the doctrine of inclusion, but Christ was far from accepting behaviors that were not in accordance with the commandments.

        Elder Quentin L. Cook stated, “As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.”

        We should be “loving and compassionate” but we should never allow ourselves to believe that Christ just accepts us how we are. That was never in the program. He’s always asked us to change, to repent, to get better, and to overcome the things that we struggle with. When we quit trying to align our wills with God, and start trying to get God to align His will with ours…that is when we start to lose our way.

        • Matt
          October 10, 2014 at 8:58 am

          The problem is that some of us seem to feel that it’s our job to stand in for Christ and judge others.

          He specifically told us not to do that. We need to accept each other so that he can work with each of us one-on-one through his atonement.

          To do otherwise, I think, shows a lack of faith in his power.

  4. Phil
    September 29, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    This article is lovely and makes a very important point.

    But I wonder how much of the ranking of BYU as 4th Unfriendliest has to do with treatment from other students. I’m sure that plays a role and I’m more than sure that many BYU students can be thoughtless and cruel. But doesn’t the administration probably play a bigger factor in that when you consider that the Honor Code prohibits all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings or the inability of a GSA or LGBTQ club to form?

    I can’t find if the Princeton Review posts their standards for that ranking anywhere but I do wonder about it.

  5. Sarah
    September 29, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Let me get this out of the way- LOVING AND TREATING OTHERS WITH COMPASSION IS NOT CONDONING A SIN. Im so sorry about your son’s experience. I feel those who will start to preach to you in comments lack the empathy and love thy the savior has for him. Which shows just how far away those who read his words are in their hearts. We should never assuming how the atonement plays out in anyone’s life. Just as the Sadducees and Pharisees used the gospel as a weapon, so do many members tht profess they are doing the right thing for their neighbor without actually thinking twice for their actual well being and spirit. May we all not turn into Westboro mormons.

  6. Kevin
    September 30, 2014 at 6:25 am

    Superb article! Thank you so much for writing this Dr. Draper.

  7. Dave
    September 30, 2014 at 6:55 am

    This article was very good. I’m gay. Yes! But it doesn’t change by beliefs. I served a full time mission and I still do all the things I’m supposed to. I think members make it hard at times with comments that they make, but I think it’s up each individual and their personal testimony that will help them. To be honest I dont know why I’m attracted to guys. But I do understand that there is a God that created me, and the he has simple laws that he asked me to follow. I stayed in the church with the hope that I can see God again and maybe then get my answers to this weakness. But until then I’ll just have keep calm and carry on living the gospel.

    • Spencer
      October 1, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      Dave, I admire your courage and commitment. We don’t always know why God has given us certain crosses to bear, on,y that he gives us the strength and power to carry them and make our “weaknesses become strong”. I admire you and am inspired by your commitment and testimony. God bless you.

  8. mitzek345@gmail.com
    September 30, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    This is precisely why our child changed majors and decided against the teacher education program at BYU!

    • rebek68@Yahoo.com
      September 30, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      Ours left the English program, and transferred to BYU-I because he said so many of his class were anti church doctrine at BYU Provo.

      • Trevor
        October 2, 2014 at 8:27 am

        I’m sorry your son felt the need to leave BYU because of the ideas he heard. I struggled at first with some of the ideas I heard expressed in my classes (I received my English degree from BYU).But then I came to understand that learning how to listen openly, yet with a critical mind, to ideas and perspectives that I do not share is precisely what makes any Humanities degree so valuable. It is because of the non-conformist views I heard expressed (both sincere and for the express purpose of having other opinions to think about in class discussions) that I was able to ask myself what I truly believe. My testimony and intellect were strengthened because of the challenge to question my ideas, beliefs, and perspective against those I was presented with. Hearing those differing opinions also helped me be more compassionate with those who do not share my opinions because I learned to see and recognize the value of others’ opinions, especially those I don’t agree with. I can’t help but think your son lost out on a wonderful learning experience because he chose to take a path that would not challenge him and allow him to grow in a way that is not always comfortable, but was, in my experience at least, wonderfully enriching.

  9. Kim
    October 1, 2014 at 9:29 am

    My very wise Relief Society president said (paraphrased), “Christ knows each one of us individually. He is the only ONE capable of judging us, in a just way. Therefore, I don’t have to judge. That frees me up to just love.” I believe that says it all.

  10. Justin
    October 1, 2014 at 10:36 am

    > Some days he believed that he would be better off leaving this life

    Yes, yes he would!

    **(admin note…this comment was approved by NoMoreStrangers simply to draw attention to the attitudes that LGBT people face)**

    • Spencer
      October 1, 2014 at 10:44 pm

      Justin, it’s unfortunate you have so little understanding of the atonement and the example of Jesus Christ. I hope a day comes when you can be more enlightened by His spirit and understand what He did that earned Him the right, and no other, to judge another person. You didn’t carry that burden, feel that pain, or sweat and bleed for the sins of others. You didn’t earn the right to decide anyone’s punishment or reward. This renders your condemnation impotent.

  11. Mariah
    October 1, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    This was a really great post. I think like many other sensitive topics alot of LDS people just don’t know how to approach this. They don’t want to seem like they are condoning it because it is against the teachings of the Church. They are not sure how to walk the line of loving the person without accepting the sin. Not excusing poor treatment of others, and I know there are those who act unkindly on purpose, but I think for the most part it is just not knowing what to say or do. Above all, I just believe, along with the author, that love and compassion for every person is what will bring the greatest blessings. Christ indeed commanded us to love everyone and I know that we will be blessed and those around us will be blessed. we are all sinners and therefore have no right to judge or condemn another. “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”

    P.s. sorry if that was random and scatter-brained!

  12. October 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    As a missionary, people often asked why God, if He is loving, would let disasters happen. I answered that one reason is to provide others the opportunity to serve and to reach out with compassion to others.

    What if the test of others being LBGT is really OUR test to see if we are able to reach out with compassion in spite of our tendencies to judge and condemn.

    “Without charity you are nothing” seems clear. And the definition of charity is “to be kindly disposed toward others in thought and deed.” Charity towards others is not about condoning behaviors. It is about being the best people we are capable of being in the moments we are most likely to be otherwise…including situations like responding to articles and posts.

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