On 7 May 2017, one member of the Mormon congregation at Eagle Mountain, Utah, stood up in front of the flock with an announcement.
Savannah, who is in 8th grade, and came out to her parents as a lesbian in 2016, chose to share the news with the members of her church in a testimonial, aged just 12 years old at the time.
In Mormonism these testimonials are given on first Sunday of every month, known as ‘Fast Sunday’ when Mormons forgo food and drink for two meals and donate the equivalent to the Church.
According to Mormon Newsroom:
The sacrament meeting on each fast Sunday, called fast and testimony meeting, is devoted to the voluntary expression of testimony by members.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) does not accept homosexuality.
According to their official website's section on same sex marriage:
God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society.
His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
Despite this, Savannah, now aged 13, decided to speak to her fellow worshippers about her God, and her belief that he had accepted her for who she is.
The speech was filmed, as was the moment her words were cut off by the leaders of the church sitting beside her.
Hi, my name is Savannah and I want 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...
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. 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 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 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 -
At this point the microphone was cut by the congregation’s Stake President, and Savannah was asked
Can you sit down?
According to Savannah:
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.
See the speech here:
Savannah’s story came to light on the Mormon LGBT podcast, ‘I Like to Look for Rainbows’.
Following her testimony, Savannah spoke with Jerilyn Pool.
At first, Savannah thought the microphone had broken. She told Pool:
I was like, 'I think the microphone’s broken,' but then he stopped me, and said, 'can you go sit down now?'
She said the reaction from her classmates, some of who are also Mormons, was positive,
Ok. So what happened is, at school, a couple of people came up to me, and said that they supported me, which I was surprised about how many they were.
And the stake president’s daughter came up to me and said she didn’t agree with his decision, and supported me.
She said she worked on the testimony wit her parents, working through several drafts.
According to the New York Times, Savannah’s mother Heather Kester said:
Eventually we decided to let her do it because we didn’t want to keep her voice from her.
And if we taught her now that she wasn’t allowed to speak, then she might keep that with her for the rest of her life.
The final part of Savannah's speech which was cut off, ends with this sentiment:
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.