No, my dads aren’t serial killers


Daily Universe letter to the editor sparks controversy

Mention the show “Modern Family” at BYU, and you’re bound to start some arguments.

The show concludes each episode with sentimental music as the characters reflect on the lessons they learned about love, family unity and forgiveness. BYU students eat family values like that up. It should be the perfect show for a student body such as ours, except for one little thing … there’s a gay couple on the show. A gay couple who adopted a kid.

The debates that have raged in dorm rooms and classrooms about “Modern Family” for months erupted across the opinion page of the Daily Universe recently. Senior Alex Hairston acknowledged the Church’s stance on homosexuality, but he also wondered if two loving gay parents raising a child was all that bad in a letter to the editor last week. Since then, several have been published in response.

One in particular struck a nerve. Taylor Petty, a student from North Carolina, disagreed that homosexuals are fit to be parents.

“Just as if we wouldn’t want a child to grow up with a prostitute for a mother or a serial killer for a father, we shouldn’t accept a lesbian, gay or transgender parental model for young people,” he said in his letter (some of the text from Petty’s letter has been removed from the site, but can still be accessed on the PDF by scrolling down to the third page).

Regardless of your opinions on gay adoption and parenting, words like that are unproductive, offending those that disagree and failing to bring legitimacy to your argument.

I assumed most students would feel the same way, and in the coming days, students would respond to Petty in their own letters to the editor.  I mean, no one would take this seriously, right? Most people would just roll their eyes when they read it I thought. But no, people took it seriously.

A few hours after posting a link to the letter on social media sites, I was surprised at the thread of comments that had sprouted as well as how many other students had posted the link. As of Friday morning, Petty’s letter was shared online more than 3,100 times. The viral nature of its spread brings to mind Michelle Peralta’s letter to the editor in February when she condemned Jimmermania and earned the wrath of BYU (as well as the attention of ESPN).

While some BYU critics used the letter to deride the university for its closed-minded student body, I see the response of so many upset students as a sign that’s not the case.

Petty used the phrase “love the sinner and hate the sin” in his letter, but so many BYU students understand how hollow those words are when their gay brothers and sisters are compared to prostitutes and serial killers. Their anger over such language is in line with LDS Church spokesman Michael Otterson who spoke out against “acts of cruelty or attempts to belittle or mock any group or individual that is different” a year ago. Otterson called on Latter-day Saints and others to be sensitive to the “vulnerable in society” and speak out against bullying and intimidation whenever it occurs, including “unkindness toward those who are attracted to the same gender.”

Some BYU students support gay adoption and parenting while some are opposed. Some like “Modern Family” while others prefer(red) “Community.” I think there might even be some who still watch “The Office” like it’s 2009. We have our differences, but as Christians, we can be united in our responsibility to love one another.

Photo courtesy ABC.



  1. I personally think that we have sort of an impasse. The religious types call the behavior what they see it to be by the definition that they have been taught to use: sinful. The more liberal types call such a forceful reaction to their rights to free expression by one key word which labels and nullifies any ability for constructive argument: bigot. I think the broader issue here doesn’t have much room for debate, acting upon homosexual impulses is a sin. The real issue is this: How do follow Christ’s command to love the sinner but hate the sin? We cannot condone such behavior but we miss the mark when we condemn the person. The problem: as soon as a dialogue starts it gets shut down either by extreme intolerance from the right or cries of bigot from the left. I think we need more open minded dialogue addressing this issue on both sides of the table.

    • “The real issue is this: How do [you] follow Christ’s command to love the sinner but hate the sin?”

      The real problem with this statement is that Christ never gave that commandment. It’s not mentioned anywhere in the scriptures. Not even once.

      At the very least we need to stop treating homosexuality like a sin and start treating it like a religion. When our Jewish friends get married do we call their marriage a sin? Do we tell our Catholic friends that we love them, but we just can’t accept their lifestyle? We need to stop running around and shouting sin! sin! sin! Mormonism would be a lot better served if it had a reputation for loving unconditionally some of the gay, lesbian, and transgendered people who are so often bullied and outcast from society. But instead of being the good Samaritan, not only do we not stop to help these people, but we continue to cast stones at them. When will enough be enough?

      • Joshua Butler /

        “He loved the sinner; he condemned the sin. I think the Church does the same thing, imperfectly perhaps, but that’s what we teach our members: love the sinner, condemn the sin.”
        Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Same-Gender Attraction, Ensign Oct 1995

        “…whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants it is the same.” D&C 1:38 Just because we have no record of Christ saying something during his mortal ministry doesn’t mean it’s not his word and his will.

        Mormonism, if by that term you refer to the practice of the restored gospel, does love everyone unconditionally. We, as a church, seek not only to help but to exalt them. We, as a church, do not cast stones but offer embraces. It is not our fault if others refuse to recognize the difference between loving an individual and accepting their behavior, and it is not the fault of the church if an individual member does not live according to the gospel.

  2. Great article, Hunter.

  3. The problem with “Loving One Another” in the context of religious authoritarianism is that the religion gets to define what “loving” means. So, for example, “loving” gay people at BYU may include attaching electrodes to genitals to reconvert gay people.

    • Assuming that you’re referring to grad student Max McBride’s 1974 study on homosexuality and “aversion therapy” (as it’s the only time anything close to “attaching electrodes… to reconvert gay people” has been done at BYU), it’s important to note a few things before attacking a university and the church and faith community that fund it.

      First, similar research was done at dozens of other universities (see link at bottom for details), and was considered common professional practice at the time. Second, university administration didn’t approve or back the study, it was modeled on prior work, with outside advice from the doctors at a veteran’s hospital in Salt Lake. Third, the subjects volunteered for the study and were free to stop participating partway through(3 of the 17 did). Fourth, they were shocked in their underarm area, not genitals. Fifth, the purpose of the study was not to “reconvert” the students, but to test the methodology of the time period’s aversion therapy. Finally, 1 grad student’s research project far from defines a university’s educational interests, much less its 400,000 alumni or their definition of love.

      I think this article is effective in fostering constructive dialogue and demonstrating tolerance and love toward those whose opinions differ from one’s own. I agree with the author that such an attitude is far more indicative of the BYU student body (not to mention LDS teachings)than the Daily Universe letter it was written in response to.

      Please spread the attitude of pluralism and free love by refraining from trolling or hate speech, especially when it’s based on bad information. If enough decent people show each other what love means, nobody will have the need to learn it from an “authority”.

      • Joshua M. Butler /

        Well said Dave.

      • ExMoHoMoDon /

        I regret not seeing this article and in particular Dave’s post sooner. Interesting that Dave posits himself as an authority by ‘correcting’ some factual things, which I will now correct for him. As a subject of the McBride study, I can first say that it was conducted as a study for a doctoral dissertation, published in 1976, ‘Use of Visual Stimuli in Electric Aversion Therapy’, McBride, 1976, BYU. The statement that the ‘university administration didn’t approve of or back the study’ is interesting, since it was conducted in accordance with Utah law, which required full approval of the University and that it be supervised by a licensed therapist, who was in fact a BYU faculty member. That therapist was Dr. Eugene Thorne. To have conducted the study without University approval would have been a violation of Utah law, The purpose of the study was not merely a testing of methodology, but an attempt to reorient the subjects’ sexual orientation and arousal. I know, I was there, and any interested party can read the dissertation for themselves, rather than taking mine or Dave’s word for it. This false and faulty rewriting of of what happened is not surprising–in the early eighties, BYU lied and said that it had NOT taken place, until I produced for the press a copy of the dissertation which BYU had hidden and denied existed–a clear violation of BYU’s accreditation contract. So yes Dave, bad information doesn’t help the situation, so please arm yourself with facts before spreading bad information. Don Harryman, Walnut Creek, CA

  4. the prostitutes and serial killer comments lend a lot more insight as to why there was such a response.

    p.s.–this is the kind of article that will actually have me reading the student review. interesting, pertinent, and reasonable. good work.

    • ExMoHoMoDon /

      BTW, FWIW, serial killers who are convicted and incarcerated, are legally able to marry in the US. See Turner V Safley, while in most States, including Utah, law abiding gay people are not. I don’t see anyone upset about REAL serial killers legally able to marry. Charles Tex Watson of Manson Murders infamy has married and fathered children while in prison.

  5. Slayton /

    The letter has been removed from both the Daily Universe website and from the linked PDF, does anyone have a copy of the original?

  6. Tyson Hekking /

    I first learned of Mr. Petty’s letter from a post on Facebook. The sharer was definitely not in support of his ideas, and neither were those who commented. I am glad that this has been taken seriously and from what I have seen the majority of comments about the issue are sensitive to homosexuals who struggle being BYU students. If this amount of attention is what it takes to rid someone of ignorance than I welcome it. It has obviously had its affect because the letter has been taken off the Daily Universe.

  7. Hanna Hiatt /

    I say this without any exaggeration: I don’t know how I would be able to stay sane at BYU without The Student Review. Thank you for every aspect of this publication. My support for it increases each time I read an article.

  8. Marshall /

    As I understand it, the question of gay parenting, or any gay relationship in general, is a moral dilemma, meaning that it is either right or wrong.
    When I say right or wrong, right means it is good and worth doing, and wrong means it is bad and not worth doing. If something is right, it makes sense that we would want to encourage people to do it. If it is wrong, it makes sense that we would want to encourage people not to do it.

    So are gay relationships right or wrong?

    As a Christian, and a member of the LDS faith, I believe that the closer we get to living the laws that Christ gives in the Bible and the Book of Mormon as well as through living prophets, the better off society is both individually and collectively. This includes the law of chastity, which means that physical intimacy is reserved for marriages between a husband and wife. This implies not between a man and a man.

    Could a gay relationship be right for an individual, like, it might not be right for you, but maybe it’s right for him?

    There are some choices that have very little effect on society, like whether you wear a green shirt or a blue one. Other choices have larger effects on society, such as killing another person, or giving life to another person. The law of chastity protects the giving of life. Since not living the law of chastity has a large impact on society, for me this makes sense that it would be beneficial for everyone to live it.

    That’s what I think.

    • Alicia C. /

      To Marshall:
      The issue here is not whether homosexual relationships are considered right or wrong, but what if any consequences society should impose on a person participating in homosexual relations. For example, if homosexual sex is wrong, could we as a society also prevent the homosexual person from having a job, owning a home, having a driver’s license, voting in the next election?

      I agree that not living the law of chastity will have a profound effect on our society, but do we really want to prevent those that are homosexual from being adoptive parents without regard for the consequences to our society. Could we then prevent homosexuals from doing anything else just on the basis of their violating one law of God? Should we remove the children from the home of someone who was heterosexual and is now homosexual?

      What about other violations of the laws of God? We could prevent those that drink coffee, tea, or alcohol from adopting? What about lying or gossiping or being hard-hearted? All of those effect society too.

      As far as the argument for the law of chastity protecting the giving of life, homosexuality is not a threat as it doesn’t produce life. So, obviously this is not the reason the Lord counsels against homosexuality.

      The issue of who should qualify to be adoptive parents is a far-reaching one. Unfortunately, any idiot who is blessed with fertility can make a baby even if his/her situation is inappropriate to raise a child, but those who adopt must meet certain criteria. Not allowing homosexual parents to adopt is not as simple as whether these people are “good” people. And no one is a “good” person based on their sexual preferences alone.

  9. So glad to see this publication up and running again. Ah the memories. Any time a child comes to people who love it, that is a win. Until someone can demonstrate that a child is worse off with gay parents (which they can’t, and believe me the evangelicals are trying) they should reserve their judgment. It is unfortunate that this issue got elevated to one of such paramount importance in connection with Proposition 8, but it is nice to see Otterson and others back away rhetorically from much of the harsh thinking that accompanied it. Losing Ken Wilcox today, however, as a step in the wrong direction.

  10. Lauren Nielsen-Hilton /

    Excellent article.

  11. To be honest I was surprised that anyone at BYU had a problem with Modern Family. I’ve discussed the show with many people and have never heard anyone say anything homophobic or judgmental about it. I think the majority of BYU students are more open-minded than Petty’s comments suggest. I think most of us see it as a funny and generally clean show. A lot probably reacted like I did, thinking “why would anyone have a problem with Modern Family?”

  12. I would think that most students would be loving towards a person attracted to the same sex. I told a few students at BYU that I was gay while I was a student there. I met many students who were scared to tell others that they were gay. Many of these students were great people and well known on campus. I am uplifted anytime I hear of sincere talk on this issue. Being gay at BYU and in the church could be made a lot easier if treated with love and empathy.

  13. I’m pretty sure there are no arguments started when you talk about Modern Family at BYU. Are you the self-appointed spokesperson for this? Anywhere you go, there will be a clump of people with a crazy opinion. Get over it.

    • I was pretty shocked when I heard about BYU being bent out of shape about Modern Family and it representing gay people adopting etc…. I wondered to myself and I am using this mode of delivery to mention: Then why doesn’t BYU students protest TLC and the show “Sister Wives” … many children on that show are exposed to just as morally questionable behaviors that should be discussed. If people don’t agree with what is on TV then don’t watch = I certainly don’t watch TLC because of Sister Wives…that show makes me sick!

  14. Victoria /

    The offensive letter in question, for anyone who hasn’t been able to read it:

    Good article, Hunter.

  15. Yeah, I also failed to notice any raging debates over modern family here at BYU. Your first few paragraphs, while excellent rhetoric, do not represent the situation here and only perpetuate a stereotype not unlike the one responders to Petty are trying to dispel. That we are bigots who think way too much about this stuff and have no regard for others who are different from us. Seriously, in 3 out of 4 apartments I’ve lived in here at BYU with a random selection of roommates in each one, we have watched South Park as an apartment. In all of them, we’ve watched Family Guy. How I Met Your Mother is the favorite of my current apartment. None of these shows has the best morals, but they’re funny. We do not sit around and debate the morals of shows like Modern Family. Sorry.

    @Timothy: What the heck. That is a sick and terrible thing to say. I have a feeling you hate Mormons (or maybe religious people in general?) much more than BYU students actually hate gays. Just saying…

    Seriously people, get over your stereotypes, listen to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, and come back when you’re ready to love each other for who you are.

    –A BYU Student

  16. Hold up – I’m not a fan of “Modern Family” just because that’s not my kind of humor. And I read the student letter that is being discussed. What I got from the prostitutes and serial killers line is this – a gay marriage should not be presented to young people as a “model” for family life. As a member of the LDS church, I don’t want my children, or my nieces/nephews to watch “Modern Family” and get the idea that having gay parents is the ideal family model.

    That being said, there was another letter in either the same edition or the day before that played on the “good, better, best” idea. It basically said that the “best” would be children raised by a loving Mother and Father who are of the LDS faith. So even children raised in a similar home with Catholic parents are “better” off, but still not great. And this theory was applied to gay marriage and subsequent families with gay parents. While I know and accept that homosexuality breaks the law of chastity and should not be adopted as normal practice, I don’t see a problem with couples who are gay adopting/having children of their own. I just don’t want said couples to frown on me for not presenting their family as “ideal” to my children. And I think this is what Taylor Petty may have been trying to get at, or at least that’s what I got.

    • Natalie /

      I stumbled across this site/article just now and while reading through the hot and cold comments I had to stop here and actually say thank you for sharing a valid point. In my greater extended family there are gay/lesbian members and while I certainly do not love them any less (and I also enjoy watching Modern Family each week) I am not in support of ‘gay marriage’. I have recently signed the petition here in New Zealand to oppose the bill of redefining marriage in our country to include homosexual marriages. While I could easily jump on the bandwagon a few comments up of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ I feel that is a pretty shallow statement that doesn’t yield much love because you’re telling the sinner that you ‘love them’ and are ‘there for them’ but are not actually supportive of them whether that support may be in a meaningful relationship or in supporting them have a child of their own.

      More effective I feel is the statement you’ve raised of ‘Good, Better, Best’. This is absolutely how I feel. While I don’t support Brad Pitt cheating on his wife, I do support the fact that he and his current wife have adopted children from a third world country and given them hope, love and opportunity. I feel the same with the fictional gay couple on Modern Family. From what I remember, Lilly is from Vietnam and has been given a better life in a beautiful home with no want for food or shelter and is being raised by two loving parents. Gay parentage is certainly not the best option – not because I don’t want homosexuals to be parents – but because I believe that men and women bring different things to the table, share similar and different roles and can provide a full and complete environment and outlook on life. My wording is not the best but hopefully you’ll understand my motive here. I agree that a loving lds husband and wife are ‘best’. I believe that a loving male and female ‘partner’ (not married) are great but not best (I could expand here on the topic of eternal families). I believe that a loving and hardworking solo parent is great and I sure look up to all the mums and dads that have been left to fend for themselves, but again, not the most ideal situation as one parent cannot provide the dynamic of two parents.

      Any two loving parents will create the best home environment for their children and while I don’t want for my children to think that marrying the same gender is best, I certainly want them to know that we live in a diverse world where good and evil meet, where we need to choose between good, better and best. I want my children to know that homosexual families do exist so that they don’t turn around and treat someone with cruelty because they come from a different family model.

      If you want to love the sinner, lead by example.

  17. I think the bigger story is about the DU publishing the letter and its subsequent removal, not the viewpoint of this or that student. Certainly there must be many letters to the editor that don’t see the light of day in the DU, so why did this one? Look past Taylor Petty and tell us which persons at the DU were responsible for letting his letter get published and what caused it to be removed? It’s no surprise (and not particularly newsworthy) that there is a full range of positions at BYU about homosexuality (or hundreds of other topics) and that passions will arise when the extremes are voiced. All that emotion gets readers involved without typically adding much to the collective knowledge base nor changing anyone’s opinion. On the other hand, a well-written article about the editorial review process at the DU could be enlightening.

  18. muucavwon /

    @Andy: I don’t think Timothy is saying anything hateful towards Mormons. The LDS Church has a history of using “reparative therapy” to “cure” homosexuality, and while I don’t know if LDS Family Services ever condoned electrocuting people’s genitals like some other Christian conversion therapists, the counseling techniques of LDS Family Services have often been described as negative and counterproductive by gay people who have received them.

    • Joshua M. Butler /

      Timothy’s language is specifically framed to be hateful toward mormons. The effect of his framing is demonstrated by your interpretation of electrocuting genitals. This has never happened at BYU or LDS Family Services. (See Dave’s reply to Timothy’s comment.)
      What is one to understand by the statement “the counseling techniques of LDS Family Services have often been described as negative and counterproductive by gay people who have received them”? Could one or two people’s complaints make this statement valid as long as they reiterated those statements often enough or would these comments need to be substantiated by several others? Furthermore we can’t assume that those who say such services were negative or counterproductive are an accurate cross-sampling of all who have received such services. Those who feel the services failed are significantly more likely to openly campaign against them than those who felt they were successful are to campaign for them. If you’d sought counseling for something and achieved your goals I doubt you’d go around loudly proclaiming “I had serious issues that led me to seek counseling but I’m all better now!”

  19. I am a BYU student and I actuallu attend church with Taylor. When i read his article i was shocked and disgusted that he would ever say such. I was so rattled that i even commented on it, with a link called “I’m Christian unless you’re gay” which is all about how we need to love one another and support each other regardless of what they believe. What he wrote and said was wrong!! And generalizing all of us is too. Please know there sre those who are disgusted as well.

  20. I am a BYU student and I actually attend church with Taylor. When i read his article i was shocked and disgusted that he would ever say such. I was so rattled that i even commented on it, with a link called “I’m Christian unless you’re gay” which is all about how we need to love one another and support each other regardless of what they believe. What he wrote and said was wrong!! And generalizing all of us is too. Please know there sre those who are disgusted as well. He is not representing the church, but rather his own warped opinion, the church i was raised in loves all no matter what. Having many homosexual friends i know the struggles they havebfaced, and i believe and so do many other saints i jnow that we must love all. That regardless of sge gender,or sexual preference God loves them all.


  1. BYU newspaper letter compares gay parents to serial killers | QSaltLake - Utah's Gay and Lesbian News and Entertainment Magazine - [...] offending those that disagree and failing to bring legitimacy to your argument,” wrote Hunter Schwartz in the Student Review.“The Family: A …

Feel strongly (or maybe not)? Comment away.