“I believe I am a child of heavenly parents,” began the testimony of 12-year-old Savannah as she stood at the pulpit before members of her church. Almost a year earlier, Savannah had come out to her parents and embarked on the slow, steady process of telling her extended family and friends. Six months later, the middle-schooler, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told her parents that she felt called to speak before their local congregation about her sexual orientation and how it dovetails with her faith.
“I want to be a voice for those that might be positive,” Savannah’s mother Heather remembers her saying. “I want them to know that I’m an ally. That they’re safe with me. I want them to know that it’s OK to be Mormon and be gay.” According to official church documents that were leaked in 2015, the Mormon church renounces same-sex couples and bars children from receiving any church blessings until they reach adulthood. While the church says that it is possible to be “Mormon and gay,” members are asked to remain celibate and cannot marry their partners. Shortly after Savannah came out at home, Heather left the church because she felt unable to accept church policy knowing the truth about her daughter’s sexuality, but explained that she respected her daughter’s decision to stay and speak out.
Friends in the church secretly filmed Savannah’s speech as a keepsake reminder for the family. “I hope to find a partner and have a great job. I hope to get married and have a family,” Savannah says proudly on the video. “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.” Unhappily, Savannah’s microphone cut out prematurely, before she could finish her testimony. Although no explanation was given as to why she was cut off, a church leader echoed her testimony saying, “I also want to recognize that we are all children of God. And I have no doubt that heavenly Father has made us all unique in different ways.”
Watch Savannah’s brave testimony below:
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