12-year-old Savannah Ward from Utah in the United States gave her Mormon Church a powerful lesson in love and faith last month when she came out as a lesbian.
The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church) holds a monthly 'Fast and Testimony' meeting designed for congregation members to share their feelings towards the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Savannah took to the podium at her local church meeting, introduced herself and began her powerful testimony, printed here in full:
"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.
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 when they made me to be gay. God loves me just this way because I believe that he loves all his creations.
I do believe he made me this way on purpose, not 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.
I hope someday to go on dates, go to school dances, to hold hands and to go off to college. I hope to find a partner and have a great job. I hope to get married and have a family.
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. I believe that if God is there, he knows I am perfect, just the way I am and would never ask me to live my life alone or with someone I am not attracted to.
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..."
A few sentences before the end of the speech she had worked on for months with her parents, a Church official cut the sound to her microphone to stop her from finishing. Then a church official told her to go and sit down.
Savannah’s mother told the Daily Mail "She came off crying to me. We both walked out to 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.”
A few weeks later Savannah was interviewed by I Like To Look For Rainbows, a podcast for Queer Mormons.
Of having her speech cut short, Savannah said “I was sad because I wanted to finish it, and I felt like what I was saying should've been heard by everybody else.”
“I was happy because I could finally get out to everyone and show that gays aren't weirdos.”
Savannah told the podcast that she realized she was gay in 6th 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.”
Her parents took a few months of convincing before letting her speak at the Church meeting as they were scared she would be rejected. Savannah said she felt compelled to speak out as she was concerned by the way gay people and their children were being treated in her community. “…and they were just being super rude to everyone, and children would start coming up to their kids, and they would say mean things to them, and I found that really offensive. So, I wanted to be people’s voice.”
Savannah has been surprised by the number of children at school who support her since the speech but disappointed in the Mormon Church, which considers homosexual behavior to be a sin. Her mother has kept her away from the online hate she has received.
The podcast gave her the chance to finally finish her courageous church testimony:
“I had dreams of going to the temple and getting married and I was very sad when I found out that would never happen for me.”
“Today I choose to find my joy outside of my old dreams from when I was little. I have new dreams and I know my earthly parents and my heavenly parents love and accept me just the way I am. Amen.”