At "an unspecified Mormon ward somewhere in Utah" on May 7, 12-year-old Savannah stood up in front of her entire church to say some affirming things about her sexuality and being a lesbian — only to have a man shut her down.
Someone caught her heroic act on camera, and posted it to YouTube:
"I believe I was made the way I am, all parts of me, by my heavenly parents," Savannah began. "They did not mess up when they gave me brown eyes, or when I was born bald. 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."
Savannah continued, explaining, after a brief hiccup, that she believes "he made me this way on purpose" and that the church teaches kindness despite difference.
"I know I'm not a horrible sinner for being who I am," she said, adding that she hopes, one day, to date and go to college and find a job and a partner and get married and start a family.
I know I can have all 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 feel shame for being me.
And that's about as far as Savannah got before a man — identified in the footage as the "first counselor in the stake presidency" — seated behind her leaned in to ask, "Can you sit down?" According to the video, he also cut off her mic.
The Mormon church is not known for liberal or progressive policies, and has been forced to confront the question of how to address its gay and lesbian members. In 2015, it saw a mass exodus from its ranks after enacting a policy that barred same-sex couples from participating in community activities.
In 2016, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formally denounced one of its longtime practices: gay conversion therapy. It also launched a website called Mormon and Gay, which tells visitors that people can experience "same-sex attraction." A subpage clarifies that such members can "fully participate in the church" if they don't act on that attraction, and furthermore, that "homosexual or lesbian relations ... are sinful." A separate page on same-sex marriage basically says it's a hot-button issue, but while the higher-ups have a think on this one, God made marriage as a union between men and women.
Savannah's mother, Heather, told HuffPost that her daughter came out in June 2016. She also said that she was in "awe" of Savannah for standing up and saying her piece.
"She is brave and courageous," Heather said, adding, "I want the Mormon church to know that gay people are beautiful, they are just as good and whole as everyone else, and they deserve lifelong love. 'Tough love' won’t take the gay away. Christ would want us all to just love."