LDS apostle Jeffrey Holland’s ‘musket’ speech is part of class for new BYU students

Support group fears the message “perpetuates harm” to LGBTQ students.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Students walk between classes on Provo’s BYU campus in 2022.

Starting next fall, Brigham Young University will require all incoming students to read Latter-day Saint apostle Jeffrey R. Holland’s controversial “musket fire” speech.

And an off-campus LGBTQ support group worries about the message that may be sent to the Provo campus, warning it could cause “considerable mental, physical and emotional harm.”

In his 2021 remarks, Holland sharply criticized faculty members and students who challenge the teachings of the school’s owner, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, against same-sex marriage.

BYU faculty and staffers should take up their intellectual “muskets” to defend the Utah-based faith, especially “the doctrine of the family and…marriage as the union of a man and a woman,” the popular Latter-day Saint speaker said, but some choose to aim “‘friendly fire’ — and from time to time the church, its leaders and some of our colleagues within the university community have taken such fire on this campus.”

Sometimes it “isn’t friendly,” he added, “wounding students and the parents of students.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland speaks to faculty at Brigham Young University on Aug. 23, 2021. This talk has now been included in a class for incoming BYU students.

Now, a lightly edited version of Holland’s address that includes the musket reference will be assigned in a class known as “BYU Foundations for Student Success,” which is meant to help new students understand the “unique mission and purpose of BYU.”

Tested as a pilot program, the class was offered in the winter semester. The syllabus includes the Holland talk and one by the church’s commissioner of education, Clark Gilbert, titled “Dare to Be Different.”

“The materials for this course involve several important and significant addresses that have been given at BYU,” spokesperson Carri Jenkins said Thursday evening. “The class has been well received by our students, who are enjoying the small class sizes, the connections they are forming and the introduction to the mission of BYU. Additionally, this class acquaints students with resources at BYU that have been provided for them to succeed in their university experience.”

BYU administrators “want all our students, including our LGBTQ students, to feel both the love of the Savior and the joy associated with living his commandments as part of a covenant-keeping community,” Jenkins said. “We believe that we have a shared primary identity as sons and daughters of God. We welcome LGBTQ students and are grateful for all those who choose BYU because of its environment of covenant belonging.”

That’s not how it feels to some Latter-day Saints.

The inclusion of the apostle’s address “is deeply concerning,” according to a statement expected to be released Friday from the RaYnbow Collective, a nonprofit support group for LGBTQ BYU students. “The use of this speech, which was originally intended for staff and faculty, has significant implications for queer students, suggesting they do not belong and fostering an unsafe environment.”

By including Holland’s words in a class on BYU’s mission, “insinuating that queer students lie outside the boundaries of the university’s mission and vision,” the statement said, “the speech perpetuates harm and undermines efforts to foster a sense of belonging.”

In the past 2½ years, the talk “has caused considerable mental, physical and emotional harm and has been used to justify acts of violence,” the support group said. “This decision is insensitive, inconsiderate, and fails to recognize the diverse experiences and needs of our student body.”

The RaYnbow Collective urged the school to reconsider including Holland’s comments in the class and instead explore “alternative messaging that promotes unity and respect for all members of the BYU community.”

The group advocates for “initiatives that foster a kinder campus community,” it said, “where all students feel valued, supported and included.”

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