The conservative town of Provo, Utah is about to get its first LGBTQ community resource center and it will be directly across the street from the Mormon temple.
“For LGBT youth who grow up in the Mormon Church, there can easily be a feeling of resentment or anger towards the church for not making them feel welcome, safe or accepted,” volunteer Trevor Johnson told NPR. “Like my own story, I think anybody who is gay and is struggling to come out – loneliness is, I think, the biggest and most destructive piece.”
Organizers how the center will be a way for those like Johnson to feel less alone, as well as a way to build a bridge between themselves and the church, which has traditionally not been welcoming to the LGBTQ community.
“There’s a need. You know, there’s nowhere currently that these kids can go that offer a no-judgment zone where they can feel the love and support of the community. And so that’s what we’re trying to provide,” said Stephenie Larsen, the executive director of the center. “I feel like Provo’s ready for this. We need to move forward. We need to start having these conversations. If we don’t, it doesn’t change.”
Larsen is a member of the church, but said she was in disbelief when a year ago the church updated its policies to exclude from baptism children living with same-sex couples, whom they have labeled apostates.
“I would hope that wards and church groups, you know, come here, serve, help, get to know somebody because that’s where I think change happens,” she said.
Listen to the full report from NPR below.