A Letter From an Alumni of Brigham Young University

My name is David. I attended Brigham Young University (BYU) from January 1988 to October 1989. On October 13, 1989, I was officially expelled from BYU because I was gay and living in a relationship that was sexually active. The following is my story.

In high school, I had a girlfriend, Julie (not her real name), and it was because of this relationship that I ended up at BYU. Julie was aware that I had homosexual inclinations and one gay sexual experience. I really liked Julie; we had many common interests and skills including music and language. We had also both served missions for the LDS Church. I was interested in this relationship because of these common interests and because it was my duty as a Mormon male to get married in the temple. I was struggling with my sexual orientation because the Mormon Church teaches that one’s sexual orientation is changeable and therefore, all I needed to do was to repent and find a suitable wife. After six months of dating, my personal feelings of longing for a physical relationship with a man, and the lack of physical desire for Julie became too intense and we broke up. I figured that I had not found the right marriage partner.

Some eight months later, I met another girl. Pam, (not her real name) was also a “return missionary” from my same mission in Geneva, Switzerland. We spoke French, we were music majors, and we loved art, literature and all things beautiful. Further, we loved each other. This relationship lasted about six months, as well. These same tensions between sexuality and Mormon teachings eventually led me to consider that they might be irreconcilable. At that point, I realized that I had hurt and used another person I loved. I knew that if we were to marry that I would not be living true to her, nor to myself. I broke off that relationship and explained to Pam that I loved her but that I could not use her for my salvation.

Shortly thereafter, Mark (not his real name) saw me during one of his frequent visits to the supermarket where I worked. I had been attracted to him since I first arrived at BYU. He asked me casually to go to a movie one night. I accepted. After watching his favorite movie “Beaches,” we had a long conversation. Inevitably sexuality came up and we both admitted that we were gay and that we were attracted to each other. This started our relationship together at the beginning of summer term. Eventually we moved into the same apartment and same room. By the start of fall semester we were technically “roommates” but slept together in a twin bed in our shared room. Several weeks later our immaturity and inexperience began to manifest itself in our relationship. I was too possessive and needy, he needed his space, neither of us had support or places we could turn for support or help. On Tuesday, October 9, 1989, I went to the apartment manager and requested to move to another apartment since I was having “roommate problems.” They told me that they were full and had no openings until Thanksgiving when someone was getting married. I made arrangements to move into that apartment over Thanksgiving, and resolved to endure the situation until Thanksgiving, just six weeks away.

Meanwhile, Pam had been observing my steady decline during the fall semester. She sang in choir with Mark and me, and had a French course with me. Daily, she saw the dysfunction in our relationship and my failing grades and appearance. She was concerned and decided to do something to help me. Not knowing what to do, and unbeknownst to me, on Wednesday, October 10, 1989 she went to BYU Standards office and spoke with someone there regarding the situation. She did not use our names and indicated that we were both within a semester and a half of graduating and that graduating was most important for both of us and that she did not want anything to postpone our graduation. She was told to return the next day and that the officials would intervene with housing so that we could be separated, meet with the church authorities, finish school and graduate the following April. Pam felt hopeful and trusted what was told to her.

The next day she went to the Standards Office and was asked to divulge our names so that they could help us. After she disclosed our names, Standards Officials informed her that we would both be expelled. Further, they added, that she should convince me to turn myself in to Standards so that the consequences would be less harsh for me. I could get a partial refund of tuition, a referral to my local bishop and the opportunity to return to BYU when I was “worthy.”

Thursday afternoon, Pam called me and asked me to come to her apartment as she had some important and pressing news for me. I knew she was upset when she talked to me over the phone. But when I arrived, I could tell that this was no ordinary conversation. She prefaced by apologizing and saying that if she had known in advance the way this would be handled she would not have gone to Standards. Then she told me the deceptive ploy that was executed by BYU Standards. I was touched by her concern and crushed and hurt by the results. I agreed to attend the meeting that she had set up for me on Friday at 1pm. I then called my parents who lived in Idaho Falls, ID and told them of the situation. They agreed to come to Provo and be there to support me. They had known that I was living with Mark and that I was having a difficult time with my relationship and my grades. Although they did not approve, they were concerned for my well-being.

On Friday, October 13, 1989 at one o’clock my parents, myself, Pam and Pam’s roommate walked into BYU Standards to face the consequences. The proceedings were a blur to me; however a couple of things stand out vividly in my mind. While we were discussing the fact that Mark and I were sexually active, my father asked the Standards Officer if this was standard procedure. She was perplexed by this question, and then he asked her if the consequences would be the same if a student was having a sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Her response was a definite “No,” because, “the General Authorities have said that ‘homosexual immorality is different.'” I remember feeling hurt and full of shame. I felt confused; the teachings of love and mercy that I had believed in were not being practiced. My predicament was confirmation to me that for the LDS Church, sin was hierarchal, the teachings that all sin is equal as taught in the New Testament were not followed. The other realization occurred when Pam asked why she had been lied to. The response was that this sin was so grave that they had to use all means to eradicate the “presence of homosexuals at BYU.”

Because I had “volunteered” to come into the Standards Office and confess my behavior, I was given a partial refund of tuition and told that after a certain amount of time (including counseling and weekly visits with my bishop), that I could return and graduate. If I did, I would need to re-sign the Standards Behavior agreement that included no sexual activity.

After the proceedings, we left campus, and my parents helped me pack my belongings so we could leave for Idaho Falls. Mark drove in the parking lot while we were packing my car. He stayed in his car until we left. Monday he was summoned out of class and escorted to the Standards Office. There he was expelled from the university and his university approved housing.

I did go to see my Bishop for weekly interviews. Since my father worked for LDS Social Services and I knew everyone in his office, I found another counselor, a Mormon counselor at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho). This man was a godsend. To my surprise he showed me the Kinsey Scale and asked me where I might fall on that scale. I appreciated his honesty when he admitted that he did not believe the Mormon Church knew all the “mysteries” of sexuality. He taught me about co-dependency, boundaries, and helped me realize that I had choices in my life. Further, he reminded me that God was a loving God and that he loved me regardless of my sexuality.

This October will be sixteen years since I was expelled from BYU. In the meantime I finished my Bachelor’s degree at another university. I endured an unhealthy relationship that lasted seven-and-a-half years, (I still had issues with boundaries and codependency). But today, I am in a committed, loving and healthy relationship of three-and-a-half years, and I am working on a master’s degree in counseling. My faith in God has gone through an enormous transformation. I have been baptized in the Episcopal Church; my partner and I are active members of the Cathedral Choir; he is a member of the vestry, I am a Lay Eucharistic Minister, and we are active in Integrity, the GLBT Episcopal ministerial and support group.

In addition, we are active in the community and advocate for equality for the GLBT community. We have been interviewed about gay marriage and our relationship on radio and television. And, we frequently write letters to the editor of the local newspaper and letters to our congressmen regarding GLBT equality. In January of 2005, my partner and I had the opportunity to testify before the Idaho State Senate during hearings on a legislative bill that would further erode the equality of GLBT persons in Idaho.

It is my hope that GLBT people everywhere can learn that spirituality and sexuality can be integrated. We are joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. As treasured children of God, we have the rights and responsibilities to maintain our relationship with Him. Despite the messages of inequality and rejection from some churches and from some within society, GLBT persons can find acceptance, peace and joy to live holy, healthy and productive lives.