Dear Elder Holland,

Guest Post by Maren Chen. Maren Chen is an aspiring writer, who moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Salt Lake Valley in the early 2000’s. She can usually be found reading a book, writing poetry, crafting, or chauffeuring her kids.

Dear Elder Holland,

I get it. You don’t want students to come out as LGBTQ during their valedictory speeches at BYU. I have a few ideas about how you can achieve your goal. I’ll warn you in advance that you probably won’t like my ideas. But I can speak with some authority on this subject because the University I attended is one where no school valedictorian has ever come out as LGBTQ during their graduation speech. You see, I received my Bachelor of Arts from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!) in the year 2000. The U of O is located in the small city of Eugene, Oregon, the only place I know of where tie-dye has been continually in fashion since the 1960s. It’s a town with hippie vibes, lots of green trees, and a thriving University. And nobody would ever even think of coming out publicly during their valedictory speech at that University. Why? Because nobody would care. Because the University of Oregon has a great deal of resources and support for LGBTQ students, and they have for decades. Because, for the most part, it’s not a big deal to be gay in Eugene, Oregon. Of course depending on various factors such as one’s upbringing, culture, family, and social circle, it certainly can be challenging to be LGBTQ no matter where you live and attend school. However there is nothing intrinsic to Eugene or to the U of O that would make a LGBTQ student’s life more difficult. So here’s what you’ve got to do: Create an environment in Provo, at BYU, where nobody would even consider coming out during their graduation speech. Create a strong support network for LGBTQ students. Make it a non-issue. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But here’s the thing: Your method of solving this problem- saying “Don’t come out during your valedictory speech at BYU”– is guaranteed to fail. I can promise you that. Your muskets will ultimately backfire. The method I am proposing is one you will hate. It’s rainbows and flags and parades and love. But it’s the only method that’s sure to succeed.

Sincerely yours,

Maren Chen


  1. What a wild idea! Promote kindness and respect so no one has relational violence, discrimination persecution or ostracism motivating them to come out in a speech approved by administration.

    • I’m thankful to live in an era and location where science is evaluated and recognized. How can it be a sin to be born gay? Is it a sin to be born with other genetic traits? If we fully adhered to every rule and regulation in the Bible our lives would be miserable. The books of the Bible were written by men with a cultural bias just as the words of our leaders are now – I do not believe every word came from God. It took committees to decide what went in to it and over the centuries translations have changed context and wording. The few passages in the Bible that may or may not touch on homosexuality are ambiguous at best. Different translations on some scriptures point to laying with young boys – not consensual sex between adults. Slavery was ok in the Bible and so was polygamy – do you want us returning to that too?

  2. I think a better method would be to focus on our identity as children of Christ. Let that common identity shared by the Lord’s people subsume and bridle all other aspects of who and what we are–making us fit to be citizens in the Lord’s Kingdom.

    • So naturally you are against heterosexual people mentioning their spouses, children, or temple covenants. Because the only identity that matters is being a child of Christ. The difficulty with this sort of argument is that it just reinforces heteronormative privilege. I’ve never heard anyone criticize a straight person for talking about being married – in fact in the Church it is practically de riguer. But that is every bit as much a discussion of sexuality as saying you are Queer. It’s just that it is invisible because being straight is seen as normative and therefore there is nothing shocking or controversial about expressing love for your opposite-sex spouse.

  3. As a proud lifelong Duck, I second this. Condoning or condemning other people is really not my business – in fact Christ specifically forbids it lest with what judgement we mete we also be judged. That leaves me with one responsibility, which is to love my fellow beings. It is much easier to love and be loved if we’re all our authentic selves.

    I know that Eugene is not some cruelty-free utopia. But I often question whether I could withstand being a member in a place where it is normal and comfortable for people to openly express bigoted opinions in Church. Indeed my answer for my own faith crisis was “the Church is true in your ward. Serve and love here. Don’t take to heart what emanates from Salt Lake.”

    Go Ducks!!!!!!!!!!

    • I can relate to this. I grew up hearing “the church is the same no matter where you go,” but . . . It’s really not. I might have been able to stay longer if I was still in western Oregon as opposed to Utah. Then again, maybe not ‍♀️.

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