This open letter is in regards to Elder Holland’s recent remarks at BYU on August 23, 2021. You can read the full transcript of his speech here: https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/elder-jeffrey-r-holland-2021-byu-university-conference
Dear Elder Holland,
In my 35 years of life I don’t think I’ve ever written to an apostle before. I hope this helps illustrate the sense of urgency it would take to start now. With that in mind, I would like you to, first, confront a hypothetical situation…
The murder of a Latter-Day Saint family
Imagine for a moment that someone had just shot and killed a Latter-Day Saint family – and then a couple days later, an influential leader gave a speech critical of Latter-Day Saints while making metaphors about shooting guns. Then, right after that, you start seeing that leader’s followers talking about grabbing their guns to deal with the Latter-Day Saints.
This is the very real situation that played out for people in Utah and beyond when you gave your lecture on muskets and the “same-sex challenge” on August 23. Just a few days prior to your lecture, a lesbian couple was shot and killed in Utah. Then, within hours of your lecture, people were talking about getting out their muskets to deal with LGBTQ people in Seminary.
I hope you can understand how alarming and distressing this would be to LGBTQ people and their friends and family. Your words have directly resulted in increased depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I only hope they don’t also lead to suicide or murder.
Unconscious Bias & Limited Experiences
In addition to confronting the effects of your actions, I hope you will also see the limitations of your experiences as a single human being and the reality of your unconscious biases. You talked about needing to represent everyone – but your entire lecture focused on the viewpoints and experiences of white heterosexual men. You publicly condemned a BYU alumni for being too focused on a certain group’s experiences in his speech, but turned around and did the exact same thing yourself.
What’s worse, you had the chance to tackle white supremacists and neo-nazis thriving inside the church’s walls – and even call them out by name; but instead you chose to go after LGBTQ people and publicly criticize a kid from BYU who really isn’t much different from yourself.
Lack of Inspiration
Your regurgitated rhetoric espousing a very narrow definition of inclusion and love combined with your poorly thought-out use of violent metaphors reveal the lack of inspiration in your words. It is your words that have led to division and harm. Not the words of people like Matty Easton. It is evident there is no great truth in your speech and its emptiness belies the lack of divinity in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a whole.
I am not saying this must be the case. I’m not saying God doesn’t work through the church and its leaders. But the growing cold-heartedness of its leaders and their inability to listen makes it increasingly difficult.
Love & Hurt
Let me be clear: Things that allow people to love and thrive and grow are of God. Things that hurt and hinder people are not of God. LGBTQ people were made as-is by God and they simply want to live and love to the fullest of their God-given capability. Their existence and relationships hinder no one. They hurt no one. And when they thrive we see the fruits of that in better mental health, stronger communities, and happier families.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of you and your colleagues. Your words have hurt thousands, if not millions. People have committed suicide after listening to conference sermons (I know a couple myself who attempted, but luckily didn’t succeed). The words of church leaders cause pain and suffering. People seek refuge from them rather than turning to them for refuge. These are clearly not the words of God. These are the words of fallible men.
The Real Same-Sex Challenge
The “same-sex challenge” is not acting on gay urges or getting married to a partner of the same gender. The “same-sex challenge”, elder, is you.
I pray that you will deeply ponder these things and make some serious and sweeping changes not only to yourself, but the church you help lead – so God can shine through both.