Department Chairwoman Ramona Hopkins introduced the students and explained to the audience why this panel was being held. She said this panel was designed to promote understand concerning this issue and support commitment for the BYU community, the Church and Honor Code. The four student panelists proceeded to tell the audience their stories about this issue. Each panelist, whether gay, lesbian or bi-sexual, openly told their personal experiences. Through all of their stories and experiences, one apparent underlying theme was their strong testimony of the gospel. No matter what they experienced and what they had gone through, they all maintained a strong foundation in the gospel.
Now for the panelists:
-- Brandon Baistain: Second-year law student. Came out to his bishop when he was a high school senior and was okay with it. Before his mission, his stake president's advice was don't tell any of his companions. He got as far as the MTC, and then he told his companion who was going through his own issues. They talked about a lot of things, and he eventually figured it out and was fine with it. Has had no problems at BYU. His coping mechanism was to get married to a woman, after he developed a physical attraction. However, he still feels attracted to men and stressed that his situation is atypical.
-- Bridey Jensen: Coming out was hard for her because many people reacted negatively. But when she came out at BYU, her bishop told her, "You are okay." But she still fell into depression and was suicidal for a while.
-- Adam White: When he came out to his bishop, the bishop directed him towards a sex addiction group, where he met others dealing with the same issues. When he started to prepare for a mission, his stake president told him that if he didn't get his gay issue under control, he would be a threat to his companions.
-- Nathan Paskett: Although he didn't tell anyone, his parents wondered and sent him to a therapist who asked him if he was gay. He served a mission in Hawaii, and when he first arrived at the MTC, it did affect his behavior. He was very careful not to let another guy be naked around him. He eventually came out to a mission companion who he trusted; his companion told him "Maybe you are shortselling people in the church and you should be talking about it". When he came out to his mission president, the president merely said "Don't let a certain elder find out, we're working through his homophobia".
Two of their biggest objections are questions about when they decided they were gay and what is the gay lifestyle like. To the latter, they say there is no uniform gay lifestyle, and they believe the phrase pigeonholes them.
An important theologically-oriented question asked was "How do you fit your attraction into God's plan for you?" Nathan provided the answer, saying "I've learned more about the gospel, more about Christ from studying the scriptures and trying to figure out things related to this than anything. This has brought me closer to Christ than anything else in my life. Some of the things i hear in church has taught me I need to question and study things for myself. Maybe in the long run, this is the best thing for me".
The Student Review's liveblogger seemed a bit creeped out over the presence of three people allegedly representing Standard Of Liberty. On March 27th, Standard Of Liberty urged readers to call influential people at LDS Church HQ and at BYU asking that the discussion be cancelled. They believed the discussion was one-dimensional, focusing exclusively on how to accept being gay, and not enough on overcoming it. Here's the pertinent excerpt:
What is striking is that these meetings and sites never talk about overcoming homosexual attraction. Speakers are invited who confirm and praise the gay orientation. No one speaks or advocates for the immeasurable worth of all souls, for purity, chastity, healing, or repentance, for overcoming the natural man. No one is invited to speak or advocate for schooling one’s feelings, seeking the Spirit to discern between absolute truth and error, or for rooting out and conquering wrong thought patterns, homosexual attractions, and sex addiction. Indeed, wisdom and knowledge and everlastingly true, gospel-based principles are taboo in these settings. Where is the kindness, support, and understanding for the valiant student silently struggling to overcome unwanted homosexual thoughts and feelings? Where are the resources?
The sanctimonious, self-righteous Peg McEntee caught wind of this and lit up Standard Of Liberty in her Salt Lake Tribune column, exhibiting far more intolerance towards them than they have toward gays.
But from the accounts of the panelists, it seems like many of those concerns were actually addressed at the discussion. The four panelists did speak of seeking out the Spirit and hewing to Gospel principles. Brandon even entered heterosexual marriage despite his same-sex feelings. Of course, none of the panelists spoke out in favor of what's called "reparative therapy"; the very name offends many gay people because it implies they're defective. Perhaps it would gain more acceptance if it was renamed "diversionary therapy". But the recent experience of a British man implies there may be a foundation for this type of therapy.
A textbook British alpha male who played rugby had a stroke in 2011 and was hospitalized. When he woke up, he discovered he had a same-sex attraction, dumped his fiancee, and moved in with a man. He switched from being a banker to a hairdresser. This implies the stroke rewired his emotions somewhat, which means there's got to be a key to transforming a gay person into a straight person. But if we refuse to do that research because it offends people, how will we ever discover the key?
Nevertheless, I found the account of this panel discussion most interesting, and it actually increased my own empathy towards gay people......somewhat.