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Cover image: Kyle Manwaring.
When Kyle Manwaring got a notification on his phone Thursday morning and began reading the news about the Church’s policy change regarding blessings and baptisms for children of LGBT parents and the updates to the Church handbook, he left his class at Brigham Young University and took a moment in the hallway by himself with tears in his eyes. He was shocked.
“What made me emotional was just the realization that there might actually be a place for me [in the Church],” Kyle said. He had always tried to believe he had a place in the Church and always knew God loved him, but it gave him hope for the future, knowing he could maintain his relationship with the Church as he navigates being both gay and a faithful Latter-day Saint.
Calvin Burke, an economics major at BYU who also identifies as gay, was also overcome with emotion at the news. When the announcement was published, his phone was immediately ringing off the hook with family and friends sharing their thoughts and feelings with him. Ironically, he was on his way to speak on a LGBT panel for an Eternal Families class discussing these very issues. It made for an exciting panel discussion.
Calvin has been outspoken about his faith and experience being gay in the Church, blessing many people through firesides and leadership in the BYU Provo LGBTQ Outreach group. “I’m very honest about my experience and my testimony and my sustaining of the Brethren and my priesthood leaders and the fact that I follow the Honor Code, and that takes people off guard that have left the Church or have negative feelings towards the Church.”
In talking of these policy changes, Calvin expressed how it feels like a dawning of a new day. “I think it will signal to a lot of people that we are still learning about this issue.”
Both Kyle and Calvin in their processes of reconciling their faith and their sexuality have come to realize that their testimonies have to be founded in Jesus Christ regardless of policies that change. “There’s a reason the first principle of the gospel isn’t just faith—it’s faith in Jesus Christ,” Calvin said.
Though their experiences with members of the Church have been extremely positive, they both have worked in their own ways to advocate for and help other LGBTQ members of the Church who have not always had the same experience to understand their own divinity and traverse the difficult trail of finding their place in the Church.
Ultimately, Kyle feels that this policy change is aligned with what the Church teaches us about Christ. “I think it’s a good step forward to better align the reality of the Church with Church teachings, and I think that’s a good framework moving forward with possible changes and increased love and understanding between people,” he said.
What Calvin found most extraordinary about the announcement was the sentiment expressed with the policy change. “I love that President Oaks called for continued compassion and understanding and civility and kindness…to be there and be with LGBTQ members of the Church especially.”
Calvin hopes every single member of the Church, regardless of what they know or what they think they know about LGBTQ members, will adopt the same sentiments the First Presidency expressed. “I invite [members] wholeheartedly to follow that counsel that was given there—that divinely inspired direction for our day…When you reach out to minister to anybody, especially if you are reaching out to people who are members of the body of Christ who might be hurting, you are absolutely on the Savior’s errand.”
Each person who identifies with the LGBTQ community is different, but what both Kyle and Calvin expressed how important it is to listen, learn and empathize. “I always like to share my experiences on an individual level, one on one, or in small groups and try to listen to other people and try to hear their experiences and hear what is hard for them. Once you get to love someone, it’s hard to invalidate their experiences,” Kyle said.