The LGBTQ community has long faced hardships in society, especially when it comes to religious institutions. Last month, in seeking acceptance from her Mormon congregation, 12-year-old Savannah gave a brave coming out speech at her Utah church — only to be cut off when her microphone was shut down.
The young girl, Savannah, was sharing her testimony as a part of the church service that week. She walked up to the podium with her prepared speech and introduced herself, saying:
She also spoke of her dreams of getting married and having a family "I know I can have all of these things as a lesbian and be happy," she said. "I believe that if God is there, he knows I am perfect just the way I am and would never ask me to live my life alone, or with someone I am not attracted to. He would want me to be happy. I want to be happy. I want to love myself and not feel shame for being me. I ask you...
And then a man who appears to be identified as the stake president (who in the Mormon church oversees programs of his assigned congregations, similar to that of a Catholic diocese) b
ehind her said something to her, and her microphone appeared to be cut off. Savannah left the pulpit and the man got up to speak, saying that they are, "All children of God, we are loved by our heavenly father."
Members of the church had begun recording video of the testimony, and started spreading online.
In an emailed statement to CNN, Judd Law, the local bishop, said that sharing testimony was a common part of church service. He claimed that the videos of Savannah's speech were "unauthorized," and that a "group of visitors jubilantly left the service. ... Everyone is welcome and understands the standards of decorum and behavior if they decide to participate. It is unfortunate that this group of adults chose to violate them." He also told CNN that he thought the video was being exploited for "political purposes."
But he also did say, "This incident has created some tender emotions, first and foremost for a brave young girl. As a congregation, we continue to reach out, and do all that we can to make sure she knows that we love her and her family."
Savannah appeared as a guest on the podcast, "I Like To Look For Rainbows," which talks about the LGBTQ community within the Mormon church, to talk about the experience of coming out to her church. She explained that toward the end of her testimony, her mic was turned off and she was sad because "I wanted to finish it, and I felt like what I was saying should’ve been heard by everybody else," and happy "because I could finally get out to everyone, and show that gays aren't weirdos." Savannah also told the podcast that the stake president had asked her to go sit down after her microphone went off.
According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LGBTQ members who marry the same sex are considered apostate (basically renouncing the policies of the church), and their children are barred from blessings and baptism. The church doesn't necessarily bar members from same-sex attraction, but it does prohibit them from acting on the attraction.
Luckily, it doesn't seem like this situation will deter Savannah from living out her life the way she wants to and believes is right.