- The Magazine
A professor at Mormon-affiliated Brigham Young University has apologized after calling a gay student a term associated with an anti-Christ.
Hank Smith, a prominent assistant teaching professor in BYU’s religion department, made the comment on Twitter last month after voicing his opinions about those ex-communicated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns the university.
Smith was commenting on the recent ousting of Natasha Helfer, a sex therapist, who was excommunicated over her positive opinions on masturbation and same-sex relationships.
Things became heated after Smith tweeted that those who left the faith were “leaving the doctrine as well,” the Salt Lake City Tribune reports.
He received criticism from a number of women, which led to Smith branding them nonbelievers and encouraging his followers to do the same.
Calvin Burke, a gay BYU student and practicing Mormon, responded by tweeting out an apology for Smith’s comments.
“On behalf of Mormonism, I apologize for Hank Smith,” Burke wrote.
Smith responded by calling Burke “Korihor,” a term from the Book of Mormon associated with the anti-Christ. In the book, he is punished by God, who renders him mute and a crowd kills him by trampling him to death.
The backlash was immediate, which led to Smith deleting the tweet and issuing an apology.
“I do need to apologize for calling Cal what I did,” Smith tweeted. “I deleted the reply. That was unjustified and unfair. My emotions got the better of me. I am very sorry.”
I do need to apologize for calling Cal what I did. I deleted the reply. That was unjustified and unfair. My emotions got the better of me. I am very sorry.
— Hank Smith (@hankrsmith) April 23, 2021
Students at BYU have urged the school to condemn Smith’s remarks, with Carolyn Gassert, incoming president of BYU’s unofficial LGBTQ student club, told the Tribune that Smith’s tweet was “terrifying for other students who are gay.”
Gassert said by not speaking out against it, BYU was setting a precedent “that professors could attack students for being gay and not face any repercussions.”
The school administration said it “wouldn’t be able to comment on an individual situation,” but a BYU spokesperson told reporters that the school has “processes in place to address personnel matters. These are handled on a confidential basis.”
Earlier this year, LGBTQ students at BYU illuminated a giant school sign in the colors of the Pride flag, in protest over guidance issued to students instructing them that homosexuality was incompatible with its teachings.
In February 2020, BYU removed a passage banning “all physical intimacy that give[s] expression to homosexual feelings” from the school’s Honor Code in February 2020.
Its removal led to multiple LGBTQ students coming out or openly sharing affection with one another on campus, believing the school finally accepted them.
However, on March 4, 2020, BYU reiterated that, while it had removed the anti-gay passage from its Honor Code, gay people are still considered “not compatible” with the university’s “principles.”
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