April 10, 2012

It Gets Better?

Brigham Young Students Participate in the “It Gets Better” Campaign.

Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, is a 137-year-old school sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This Mormon institution adheres to strict observances of the Mormon faith, and students are expelled for failure to live up to the honor code of the university.

Based on understandings of the Bible, the Mormon faith has consistently taken a strong stance against homosexuality. While views have changed somewhat over the years, the official stance remains that, while same-sex attraction is not a sin,  homosexual behavior is always an abominable sin. Same-sex inclinations are considered temptations that can be overcome with worship and the help of the Savior.

While homosexual Mormons can never act upon their sexual desires in an acceptable manner, the church encourages individuals to persevere in their chastity, in the understanding that this mortal life is only a tiny portion of the immortal life.

The LDS stance is reflected in the university statement on homosexual behavior:

Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards. Members of the university community can remain in good Honor Code standing if they conduct their lives in a manner consistent with gospel principles and the Honor Code.

One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity. Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.

In this atmosphere, it is challenging for students to admit homosexual status, yet a group of BYU students has done just that, and on video no less, by participating in the It Gets Better campaign. The students are members of an unofficial campus group, Understanding Same-Gender Attraction. The group of 23 videos, with the main video receiving over 280,000 views on youtube thus far, is engendering much conversation and controversy, as well as coverage from media sources as diverse as Time, ABC, and NY Daily News.

The videos provide a raw and heartfelt glimpse into the experience of young gay and lesbian Mormons. It’s unmistakable the pain that has been experienced by the speakers, and the statistics on suicide thoughts and attempts are horrifying, and yet not that surprising.

For BYU students, is it getting better? I’m not qualified to say—but they are.

You can view the full set of videos at the BYU It Gets Better page.

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