Regarding that testimony by a 12-year-old girl with same-sex attraction

This very fine post by Scott Gordon of FAIRMormon is quite good.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

25 thoughts on “Regarding that testimony by a 12-year-old girl with same-sex attraction

  1. Scott Gordon’s description of the event does not quite match what actually happened. He said:
    “After Savannah spoke, the Church leader conducting stood up and repeated the uplifting and true statements that Savannah made. There was no harsh language. There was no condemnation. There was no negative judgement. There was no lack of support for Savannah as a daughter of God. What occurred was a stake leader protecting the purpose of the Sacrament meeting and refocusing it on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This was simply a case of inappropriate venue and advocacy.”

    What actually happened was the church leader turned off the girl’s microphone and escorted her off the stage, then he returned to the pulpit and said no one would be allowed to bear their testimonies except those that he personally called on.

    I’ve conducted meetings (as a member of a bishopric) and felt impressed on a few occasions to correct doctrine (and did so). In such cases I made every effort to explain why a correction was being offered and at the same time made an effort to reach out to the person who had stated an incorrect doctrine in the hopes of preventing offense. Taking my direction from D&C 121 – e.g., persuasion and long suffering, striving not to give offense, recognizing that no power or influence can, or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood alone.

    In this case inviting the congregation and the girl (and her family) to review the Proclamation on the Family and to summarize recent teachings of the prophets and apostles regarding gay members being able to fully participate in all Church ordinances up to and including the temple ordinances might have been in order.

  2. What actually happened was the church leader turned off the girl’s microphone and escorted her off the stage, then he returned to the pulpit and said no one would be allowed to bear their testimonies except those that he personally called on.

    Scott’s account is imperfect in that it doesn’t rehash what everyone knew–that her mic was cut off–but the above account is misleading in that Savannah was not “escorted” from the podium and that any regulation of future testimony-givers (if such occurred) is not in the video, which only shows the SP member acknowledging the universality of God’s love as Scott describes.

    It’s very easy to Monday-morning quarterback what the SP member *should* have said; but frankly–in the moment, and without having specifically anticipated such a stunt, I don’t know a single person who could have offered the requisite combination of doctrinal correction and Christlike love in a way that the masses would have found satisfying. My sense is that this SP member did a pretty OK job.

  3. I’ve also conducted meetings as a member of the bishopric. I also would have let her finish, I believe (though I can’t be sure, as I wasn’t there).

    That said, it’s clear there were a group of non-members there to hear this statement read at an inappropriate time and place. It’s my guess that the Stake President decided to call people to speak to forgo having cut anybody else off who decided to turn an ordinance room into a bully pulpit.

    Given what we’ve heard from that sister that’s exposing John Dehlin’s actions, i.e., that he wanted to stay a member and meet with his Stake President only to get him to say incriminating things, it’s clear the gay movement is willing to be underhanded to represent the church in an unfavorable light.

    My initial reaction is this seems very much like a setup. I’ve read that many people believe she’s sincere and I hope so, because the alternative would be that she was put up to this by people using her to make a point, something incredibly underhanded and inappropriate.

    I’m also skeptical about the sincerity of this because the gay media has exploded with this “story” when the headline here is “Church asks 12-year-old to stop saying things she knows the Church disagrees with.” Of course, the subtitle should “…and then tells everybody they are all children of God and to love all people no matter what.”

    But then, that doesn’t feed the narrative they clearly want to tell.

  4. Years ago, I was once visiting a ward during a F&T meeting, when a woman read her short exit letter from the pulpit, uninterupted, and walked out. I don’t think she explicitly said it, but the implication she gave was that she was lesbian. No one referred to her or what she said for the rest of the meeting.

    The 12-year old may have initiated this, but no way did she do it without some help, or direction, or cues, or encouragement along the way, either from online sources, or friends, or family. This was just too manipulative, contrived (friends having video at the ready), and used too many lines from the “playbook.”

    Though I think this is a watershed moment, and the church may change how F&T meetings are run. There are too many SJWs out there who don’t want to be showed up by a 12 year old.

  5. Fast and testimony meeting is always a little bit of a gamble, you never know what people are going to say up there.

    This was sad though, especially with people there to record it.

    Too bad her parents didn’t put a stop to it before she even got up there, they had to know what was going on too.

  6. Every open pulpit is potentially a threat to the spirit that exists when testimonies of truth are shared. I am fairly certain that all of us have witnessed self serving ‘speeches’ masquerading as testimonies that focused on politics, commercial enterprises, bragging about family exploits, sports events, travelogues and so on. While more regulation may seem called for, we already have a tradition of calling on members to prepare talks for sacrament and other meetings. By keeping to the practice of letting the Spirit move those who bear their testimonies, true gems of inspiration come forth. I witnessed one sad example of a bishop who was over eager to correct and contain the message. The sister bearing the testimony had previously shared the story of an uplifting spiritual experience with me and as she spoke at the pulpit the Spirit moved her so intensely that she paused before completing the thought. The meeting was nearing the time appointed to end and the bishop took the pause to be the end and stood and interrupted, guiding the sister back to a seat. Then, to further the interruption of the spirit, he called on another member of the congregation to bear a testimony. The person called on fumbled and muttered and finally gave almost reluctant witness. Unless we return to the practice of pioneer times when testimony meetings were held completely separate from other church meetings, I see little profit in changing the way they are structured.

  7. From an interview with John Dehlin (on his public Facebook page), the mother claims that there was nothing setup as a gotcha kind of thing. The video was taken by some friends of Savannah who she had invited to hear her testimony. Her mother said they did not plan on the video hitting the internet and did not distribute it. However, Savannah was just a few days past her 12th birthday. While I think a 11-12 yr old could feel they were attracted to the same sex and end up being gay, because of the fluidity of sexual orientation particularly for females it seems premature to promote the fixing of her orientation by supporting her coming out to an entire ward, rather than encouraging her to just not worry about boys and girls right now and enjoy a few more years of childhood. Nonetheless, I know I’m making a judgment about how to raise someone else’s child which is always ill advised.

    Are we really so concerned with what a 12 year old is saying over the pulpit? But, the stake leader probably felt the obligation to be a watchman in Zion (Elder Christofferson https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/04/the-voice-of-warning?lang=eng) and in a moment no one could be completely prepared for had to make a call. Savannah was weeping as she walked off the stand. The leader probably wasn’t familiar with the statement on lds.org’s mormonandgay site that states, “If you decide to share your experiences of feeling same-sex attraction or to openly identify as gay, you should be supported and treated with kindness and respect, both at home and in church. We all need to be patient with each other as we figure things out.” —
    https://mormonandgay.lds.org/articles/frequently-asked-questions

    And, now the more vocal and strident LGBT groups will run with their side of the story seeking to show how the Church is so terrible and the apologists will run their views up the flagpole with infallibility rhetoric for the leader.
    To me poor choices were made all the way around. And the outcome is further polarization of those in and out of the Church on this issue for which I am sad.

  8. James, I agree with you that she is, especially now. I don’t want to conflate the mother and her daughter, though.

  9. Correction. My post above at 10:14am had an error in it. Savannah is just turning 13, not 12. That is a critical error for which I am sorry for having made.

  10. KarlS,

    Agree about not conflating the mother and daughter. IMO Savannah is being manipulated by at least one of her parents. This isn’t to say her SSA doesn’t exist, but if it is, it’s being exploited.

  11. James, I’m backing off the second guessing someone’s intentions at this point. I’m feeling that too much judgment is going on, including from myself. It doesn’t feel good, regardless if the judgment is accurate or not. I feel it’s my responsibility as a thinking human to make judgments so I can move forward in my own life, but think I need to be more selective on when I deem it warranted to broadcast my opinions about someone else’s heart on the internet.

  12. Thanks for sharing the link, Anon. I think the difference between Ben and Savannah is the way they approached coming out to their wards. In Ben’s case, he asked the Bishop if he could mention it in his talk. And in his talk he stated his desire to stay active and keep the commandments.

    Savannah on the other hand not only came out in an improper setting (coming out not the purpose of fast and testimony meeting) but she preached false doctrine. She said, “I hope to find a partner and have a great job. I hope to get married and have a family,” she said. “I know these dreams and wishes are good and right. I know I can have all of these things as a lesbian and be happy.”

    Note that the mic was cut AFTER preaching false doctrine, NOT after coming out. Savannah’s story could have had a different ending if she and her parents had handled it like Ben did.

  13. Anon, Thanks for the link. It was a great post by Ben. He had a number of other posts that were insightful, too.

  14. Kind of reminds me of the reported speech where William Smith “came out” as advocating spiritual wifery (aka free love and extramarital sex). After William did that, John Taylor got up and did some correction.

    At least it’s a 12-year old girl talking against revealed Doctrine, rather than an apostle.

  15. All I can say is that I’m glad I wasn’t the Priesthood Leader on the stand. That’s a hard place to be in. He does need to protect the church. This put him in a very precaruious situation.

    I do serve in a bishopric and probably would have let this young girl have her say. What could it have hurt?

    And then afterward I probably would have reiterated the love of the Savior like the priesthood leader did. But I also would have clarified our belief in the Law of Chastity in that we believe a man or woman should not have initimate relations with someone our of wedlock, before marriage or with someone of the same gender.

    And I would have left it at that.

    But it was a hard call and I’m glad I didn’t have to make it.

  16. “There’s no kindness in misdirecting people and leading them into any misunderstanding about what is true, what is right, what is wrong, what leads to Christ and what leads away from Christ.”

  17. I think when you hear the “testimony” start knowing how good it would be to commit apostasy (get married to same gender, an automatic excommunication pretty much), you have to shut down the speech over the pulpit. Especially when it’s clearly not some meandering testimony that says something poorly, but planned and written ahead of time.

    It’s only more concerning then to see it being filmed as a show for outsiders. No one has that right in church without approval first.

    I’m truly sorry for the confusion that this girls confused and mistaken parents are creating.

  18. I’d just add that it seems like apostasy in the parents to not only teach the child that she should marry a woman, but encourage her to teach that over the pulpit.

    We don’t decide who gets ex’d but that’s not a whole lot different than someone getting ex’d for actually doing it. If it’s bad to do it, surely it’s worse to teach your daughter she should to do it and then testify of it over the pulpit to others.

  19. One hopes the 12 year old wasn’t actually testifying of having had sex (with whomever or whatever) but the rightness of hoping to enjoy that life someday.

    A 12 year old shouldn’t be testifying to how wonderful the sex they have had was in any setting. To do so is grounds for calling someone in to find out what is going on.

  20. Meg, please tell me that wasn’t you who made that post. I’m trying to be understanding and never be personal and not continue discussion of this unfortunate event, but in good conscience I can’t remain silent when someone of your influence and stature makes a comment that appears to be to be so out of character and misleading. You’ve been given a pass on this one by the rest of MS, I guess. Insinuating that she may have been testifying of having sex with “whatever”. Really? Insinuating that she may have been testifying about how wonderful that sex was. Really? Regardless that some of her comments were inappropriate for sacrament meeting she never came close to saying or inferring those things. If you listened to her, why would you make this post?

  21. Karl, I’ll let Meg explain/defend herself, but after reading the transcript, I can mentally connect the dots from what was said to Meg’s characterization. If one were to parse the “testimony” as literally as possible, Meg’s comment is not unreasonable. “I know that…” statements have both literal meanings and implications. It is not always a Mormon shibboleth or figure-of-speech.

    The more I review the particulars of what happened, the more I think the whole thing was a setup/gotcha moment. I’ll buy that the scenario was mainly done by the young girl, if they insist on that. But for a 12/13 year old to get to that point, she had to have had role models, and lots of guidance/teaching by adults to teach her the doctrine, vocabulary and rhetoric of LGBT. It’s on TV and in school textbooks of various subjects. Children don’t spontaneously develop doctrine and rhetoric on their own. At the least, they absorb it by observation, if not explicitly taught it.

  22. Karl, the other thing that struck me, was that it wasn’t just a “coming out”. She was playing SJW, and doing too good of a job at it.

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