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Concerns raised over BYU students being required to read controversial ‘muskets’ talk



Provo, Utah – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a contentious speech in 2021 “required learning” for incoming students at Brigham Young University. LGBTQ+ organizations on campus claim the presentation is harmful.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that as of the fall of next year, all incoming freshmen at Brigham Young University will be required to read the so-called “musket fire” speech by Latter-day Saint apostle Jeffrey R. Holland as part of a course called “BYU Foundations for Student Success.”

The course’s goal is to help students comprehend the university’s “unique mission and purpose.”
Holland’s initial speech, which she gave in 2021, attacked teachers and students who disagree with the faith’s doctrines regarding marriage and family as being between a man and a woman. He went on to say that they ought to pick up their “intellectual muskets” to protect LDS doctrine.

“This talk is one of the most recent examples of a very explicit and implicit message that queer students don’t belong on campus,” says Gracee Purcell, president of the RaYnbow Collective, a non-profit support group for LGBTQ+ BYU students.

According to a BYU statement provided to The Salt Lake Tribune, the course materials include several noteworthy speeches that have been delivered at the university. During the winter semester, the course was tested as a pilot program, and according to the university, it was highly welcomed.

“When you sign the Honor Code, there are other things you know that you’re agreeing to,” says Lydia McPhee, a BYU student currently in her second semester. “If they require [the class] as part of the admissions process, I would probably agree with that and be happy to participate…”

Different perspectives are held by students such as Rachel Billings, vice president of the RaYnbow Collective.

“I was a student when the speech was originally given,” says Billings. “I remember in the days after it was given there was just a tangible hurt in the community.”

According to Billings and Purcell, the speech has turned into something of a call to action for people who oppose the LGBTQ+ community’s civil rights movements, especially those who attend or reside close to BYU. One such instance occurred recently when a group of demonstrators brought a variety of weapons to the RaYnbow Collective’s September back-to-school Pride event.

In the same statement to the Tribune, BYU says welcome LGBTQ+ students, calling their campus an “environment of covenant belonging.”

“It’s really devastating that students in one of their very first experiences at BYU will get this messaging that either they don’t belong, the people they love don’t belong, the people they’re friends with don’t belong,” says Billings. “especially in a university that talks so much about belonging.

The RaYnbow Collective says they’ve launched an email campaign directed at decisions at the university, including university president C. Shane Reese. They also suggest similar LGBTQ+ support groups band together and try to support members of their community who may be fearful of what could come in the future.

“We can’t advocate for policy change,” says Purcell. “But we can hold each other tightly.”


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