LeGrande Lolo, a modern dance junior at UVU, can be seen laughing with friends, sharing his heart through dance and trying to make others smile. He’s a son, a believer in the LDS faith and he’s also attracted to men. These are all different parts of what makes LeGrande, LeGrande.
It was in December 2011, when he turned 15 years old, that LeGrande recognized his attraction to men; he kept this realization to himself for a while. When he decided to come out to church members, he was met with love, even if people were unsure how to respond.
One of his friends within the church responded to the validity and difficulty of the situation. Even though she admitted she was unsure of what to do, she let him know that she loved and cared for him, and was there for him.
LeGrande’s bishop reacted similarly. “The first thing my bishop said was ‘God loves you, I’m here for you and care about you,’” said LeGrande.
In his current young single adult ward, or congregation in Orem, LeGrande started selectively coming out to people. In 2018, he felt the prompting to come out while sharing his testimony, which was responded to with positivity. Members of his ward thanked LeGrande for his bravery and for sharing his experiences.
“A lot more people are more open-minded in the church than people give them credit for. There are those that think you’re wicked . . . but the rising generation seem more open-minded, more compassionate,” said LeGrande.
LeGrande, although grateful that people were well-receiving about his sexuality, discussed the dichotomy of being both LGBT and LDS and how it isn’t always easy.
Although his parents were understanding, LeGrande describes a sense of sadness whenever he discusses things relating to his sexuality with them. “It’s hard separating that and the love that I know they have for me,” LeGrande said.
Certain topics can be difficult for him as well. LeGrande discussed a time in sacrament meeting when someone was talking about the plan of salvation.
“I think the hardest thing is when there are talks about the celestial kingdom, plan of salvation, it’s something I can’t be a part of,” he said. “I’m not calling out the standards of the temple, that’s me explaining how I feel.”
In the LDS church doctrine, there are three degrees of heaven. The highest one is the celestial kingdom. It is believed that an individual must be wed in the temple in a traditional male and female marriage to obtain it, which makes it difficult for LGBTQ+ members.
LeGrande described understanding the decision of others to walk away. “We walk away because we feel hopeless in the church. I think that’s something that a lot of people forget. Some people don’t understand why it’s hard for us to understand …[If] you are a white, straight, RM [return missionary] who is married, how hard is it to live the gospel for you? I am Polynesian, away from home, gay and away from family. How easy is it for me to live the gospel compared to you? It’s really difficult sometimes when others don’t understand why I can’t figure it out . . . There are people who want to stay here, who also kind of want to fall in love with someone and it’s tearing them apart.”
He described how often these emotions can make people feel like they need to choose between their religion or their orientation. “Sometimes, people seem to think that one must be completely gay and anti-LDS, or completely LDS and anti-gay….This obsession with needing to choose…with what’s your label, is no one’s business. I am a human being, a child of God and everything is subsequently additional to what that is,” LeGrande said.
When the LDS church reversed the November 5th ruling regarding apostasy, LeGrande was on his mission and said it didn’t affect him personally at the time. But now that it has changed, he has thought more about the weight it can present for LGBTQ+ and LDS members.
“When it was reversed, I thought about why people were upset about it. I felt good, happy, it’s an improvement. But, there are people who have killed themselves over this. People who chose the church over their children. Disowned family members. And people think, ‘if this is God’s will, why did they change it?’”
LeGrande described his stance on how policies can reflect men’s effort to understand God. To him, policies can be an extension of “you don’t know what the right path is until you’ve gone the wrong path.”
“I feel sometimes in the zeal for goodness and standing up for the gospel, rash decisions can be made. Maybe this was a rash decision [and] the reverse was after realizing the consequences of such a ruling.”
Going forward, LeGrande discussed what improvements he’d like to see in the church.
“I think we, as people, members, but just as people in general, need to improve on and get better at, is [understanding] it’s okay to one be different, and it’s okay to be yourself as a person. When we use identifiers, when we use labels, I feel that we limit ourselves or that we limit people. That all you are is gay, all you are is LDS, all you are is your job, it’s harmful to anyone in this situation. You don’t have to be LGBTQ to realize that. People can be marginalized just for being who they are as a person. I feel people in and outside of the church can work on being more compassionate, more willing to just listen, more willing to be respectful…We don’t have to be cruel, we don’t have to be mean, we don’t have to be easily offended because someone doesn’t understand. I think the biggest thing is realizing we can do better. We can’t afford to use ignorance as an excuse for consistent mistakes.
I feel like the biggest thing I’d want to change is to allow us to be people. See us as people, as someone who needs to be saved. We all need to be saved. Allow us to exercise our agency, be willing to actually try and listen. Do you think it is easy and rainbows for us? You’re never seen or treated the same. Christ went to those that were outcasts in society, the least we can do is listen.”
LeGrande expressed his thoughts that although it isn’t always easy to be a member of the LDS faith, he has plenty of reasons to remain in the church.
“Where would my life be without the gospel? Who would I be without the gospel? [There is a] greater need than ever for people being willing to stay. It’s not the moments where I say no, it’s the moments where I say yes. I choose to stay, I choose to be here because Christ wants me to be here, people here want me to be here. I don’t think I can survive without that in my life.”