A 12-year-old girl who came out as a lesbian in front of her Eagle Mountain Mormon church ward was told to sit down midway through a speech in which she said she was not a “horrible sinner”.
Speaking at the Cedar Crest ward’s monthly Fast and Testimony session, the girl, Savannah, said she was a child of “heavenly parents” who had “made me to be gay,” according to a video taken by someone in the audience which has been watched by more than 200,000 people.
But, as she was speaking, the microphone went silent and Savannah looked toward the stake leaders who were running the meeting. President Gregory Hooke, first counselor of the Silver Lake Stake, leaned toward her and told her, loud enough to be picked up by the smart phone recording the speech, to sit down.
A man then addressed the congregation, using the same mic, telling them he was grateful that the “Heavenly Father has made us all unique.”
Savannah began by saying she wanted to “share my testimony with you.”
“I believe I am a child of heavenly parents. I don’t know if they talk to us, but I feel in my heart that they made me and that they love me. I believe I was made the way I am, all parts of me, by my heavenly parents,” she said.
“They did not mess up when they gave me brown eyes, or when I was born bald. They did not mess up when they gave me freckles or they made me to be gay. God loves me just this way because I believe that he loves all his creations. No part of me is a mistake. I do not choose to be this way and it is not a fad. I cannot make someone else gay and being around me won’t make anyone else this way.
“I believe that God wants us to treat each other with kindness, even if people are different — especially if they are different. Christ showed us this.
“I believe that we should just love. I believe I am good. I try my best to be nice to each other and stick up for those that are hurting.
“I know I’m not a horrible sinner for being who I am. I believe God would tell me if I was wrong.”
She said she hoped to one day go on dates, to school dances and eventually to find a partner, get married, have a family and find a “great job.”
“I know I can have all of these things as a lesbian and be happy. I believe that if God is there, he knows I’m perfect just the way I am, and would never ask me to live my life alone or with someone I am not attracted to,” she said. “He would want me to be happy. I want to be happy. I want to love myself and not to feel shame for being me. I ask you…”
The microphone then went dead and Savannah was told to sit down.
A man then rose to say: “Brothers and sisters, I ask you to recognize that we are all children of God, we are loved by our Heavenly Father.
“And, I have no doubt that Heavenly Father has made us all unique in different ways and for that I am grateful.
“And I am grateful for all of you that are here today as sons and daughters of God.
“And I know very much and I’m grateful for Heavenly Father’s plans for us. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
Her mother, Heather Kester, said that Savannah left the stage in tears.
“She came off crying to me. We both walked out of the hall, and I held her face in my hands and told her over and over that she is perfect and good, that there is nothing wrong with who she is, that she is brave and beautiful,” she added.
“I was angry that they chose to hurt her for whatever reason they had.
“My husband and I both were reluctant to let her share her testimony because of the potential rejection. She asked to do it in January, we finally agreed in May.
“She had worked so hard at perfecting it so that it would portray exactly how she felt. We decided to let her do it because we thought it would be more harmful to silence her or give her reason to feel she is wrong in any way.”
In an interview with Jerilyn Pool of the blog “I Like to Look for Rainbows,” Savannah explained her relief in being able to talk to the ward members after finally getting the go-ahead from her parents.
“I was happy because I could finally get out to everyone, and show that gays aren’t weirdos,” she said, also saying she was embarrassed when told to stop. “I was like, ‘I think the microphone’s broken,’ but then he stopped me, and said, ‘can you go sit down now?’”
After the video stops, Savannah says the stake president addressed the ward once more.
“When I walked out of the foyer, he got up and told everyone that only Christ-like testimonies are to be said, and you could only go up if your name was called,” she said.
Savannah told Pool that she knew she was lesbian in elementary school.
“I figured out when I was in sixth grade, when I didn’t have any … imagination kind of things with boys, but when I saw a girl, I always thought, ‘I wonder what it would be like to kiss her?’ And then, that sort of changed things, and I pushed myself away from girls, and made myself like boys. But then, after sixth grade, and during, like, the summer, I felt like I didn’t have to do that, and I came out to my mom,” Savannah said.
Pool asked Savannah what she looks forward to, being an out lesbian.
“Holding hands. Finding someone who loves me the way that I love them back. Just finding someone to love me; that would be so nice,” she said.
Kester said her daughter has received “the most beautiful, supportive outpouring of love from allies, and members of the LGBT+ community. She is full, happy, free, and has a fire in her soul that is ready to blaze forward. I’m so lucky to have her, and privileged to get to watch her grow into the powerful person she has inside.”