BYU semester starts with pray-in for LGBT students

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A group of LGBT BYU students and allies met outside the Abraham O. Smoot Administration Building Thursday morning to pray and share support.

Students kneel to pray in front of the Abraham O. Smoot Administration Building as part of the BYUQ24 pray-in. The group hadn’t received approval from BYU to hold a campus event beforehand but proceeded after an administrator had the group fill out necessary paperwork. (Preston Crawley)

Organizers had failed to get a permit to hold a campus event, but the BYUQ24 pray-in proceeded after a BYU administrator brought necessary Request for Public Expression paperwork for the group to complete so the event would have approval from the Dean of Students Office.

According to the BYU Public Expression Policy, university administration must approve any public expressions held by students, faculty or staff on campus.

Dean’s office administrator Nathan Ward had the group complete required permit paperwork and then observed the pray-in event from a distance. (Preston Crawley)

BYUQ24 co-founders Madi Hawes and Luke Romney created the Instagram account @byuq24 in July 2020, hoping to provide a safe place for LGBT students in the class of 2024 to connect. They plan to hold more pray-ins in the future that will bring allies and queer students together.

Romney acknowledged BYU administration was just doing its job by implementing its policies and emphasized the campaign’s need to work with school administrators. “I love the BYU administration. I’m not blaming anyone on this. It’s just the rules.”

Students wore rainbow masks to show their support of the LGBT community at the pray-in event. (Preston Crawley)

Hawes opened the event with a prayer as group member Rin Butler filled out the request forms. LGBT students and straight allies alike donned rainbow-colored masks and stood to share their faith that God loves all people unconditionally.

Romney shared a short prayer and pleaded for LGBT students to feel accepted and loved. “We’re done being divided down the middle.”

This student wore rainbow shoes to the pray-in event. (Preston Crawley)

The students then knelt to say their own silent prayers before ending the meeting.

Butler is part of the BYUQ24 leadership team. The organization plans to assign her the task of writing a newsletter in the future. She joined the campaign out of a desire to build a more welcoming community for LGBT BYU students.

“It’s important to recognize that there are queer students here and to love them,” she said. “I want to help uplift the other queer students.”

BYU students gathered for prayer and discussion to create an welcoming community for LGBT students. (Preston Crawley)

Romney said many straight allies showed their support at the event along with queer students.

Elisha Freitas, an ally to the LGBT community and BYU freshman, said the goal of the organization is to make a safe space for queer students to come and feel included.

“That’s the goal, to make every place a safe place,” she said. “It’s very important to me that people feel loved in the Church. I’m just really grateful to be here today.”

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