by Spencer Minnick
“You agreed to live by the Honor Code at BYU. If you don’t like it, you should just leave. There are plenty of other options.”
If your heart is open enough to hear what I have to say, please read why I believe this blanket statement is harmful, distasteful, and lacks empathy in every way.
Think about the time in your life when you were just graduating high school and beginning the next steps in your journey. You, like me, probably thought you knew a lot more than you did. Looking back, you’d likely tell those yourself that the next 10 years would be the most defining of your life.
Growing up in the church, we are taught being gay is wrong. I spent every second of my 21 years before going to BYU trying to change this one thing about myself. Serving an honorable mission didn’t “cure” it; maybe I could find just one girl at BYU that would understand and still want to be with me for eternity. It’s taught in the church that same-gender attraction isn’t a sin but acting on it is. Imagine how hard it would be at this pivotal time in your life to see everyone else pairing off and being happy, and you know that one slip up could cost you your scholarship or your education, or your place in the church. Just one slip up. You don’t know the pressure or the pain, or the war inside when everything you’ve ever been taught conflicts with who you are. You couldn’t possibly understand the fear of trying to navigate these waters—alone. Unless you’ve lived it, you don’t know.
I can tell you that when I went through the temple, I had no idea what commitments or “covenants” I was making. I didn’t yet understand what that meant. I couldn’t grasp the level of maturity and real-life experience I’d need before it was possible to truly and completely devote myself to what I was promising. The same goes for the honor code standards.
At what time in our lives are we supposed to figure this out on our own? When else have we been on our own without parents and bishops and mission presidents watching our every move? Would you prefer that we marry your daughters, knowing full well the demons they will have to face with us? Where is your line in the sand? If you’re telling us to go somewhere else, where do you expect us to go? Should we leave our only friends and family and support system during this impossible time? BYU is a private institution, so credits don’t transfer easily between universities—think about the hours of religious courses that are required but worthless in other places. Should we have to give up all of our hard work, time, energy, money, or future because we committed to doing something we didn’t understand?
We know that the church is unlikely to change. We know that the rules are not likely to change, but if you are telling me that a shred of humanity, understanding, and empathy toward those going through the most lonely thing they’ll ever experience is too much to ask for, I’m going to tell you that it might be time for you to check-in with Jesus. Check yourself against the very Christlike love that you preach.
I have a lot of love, patience, and admiration for those in my life who have chosen to be apart of the church. I respect your God-given agency to do so, and I expect that you’ll offer me, and people like me, the same in return. A little empathy to understand that it’s not as “simple as going somewhere else” would go a long way.
I don’t regret graduating from BYU, but I would never do that to myself again. I would never recommend it to anyone else. I’m ashamed to admit that back then, I would have been too scared to rep the rainbow on campus, but if by the grace of God I had been able to see the rainbow on Y Mountain during my time there, I would have spent a lot less time wishing I was dead instead of gay.