LGBT BYU students and their supporters rally at church office building in Salt Lake City

Singing hymns and Primary songs and chanting “Let all students date,” a crowd of 250 grew to more than 500 in an afternoon rally outside the Church Office Building of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Friday afternoon to protest the honor code at the faith’s universities.

“We want to provide a space for anyone experiencing a range of emotions, from anger to sadness,” said organizer Jorden Jackson, 25, a BYU graduate student in sociology from Vancouver, Washington. “A lot of people are hurt, and not just BYU students. A lot of people are mourning.”

Salt Lake City granted the group a spontaneous protest permit for the sidewalks all around the office tower and the Temple Square block and for City Creek Park. The rally began at 3 p.m. and lasted until 6 p.m.

It was a response to a change in the honor code two weeks ago that Jackson and other BYU students said appeared to clear the way for same-sex dating but was followed this week by a clarification that it does not.

The clarification came Wednesday in a letter to students from the commissioner of church education, who wrote that same-sex romantic behavior is not compatible with the honor code.

On Friday evening, the church responded to the rally with a written statement:

“The teachings of the church and the policies of our universities are consistent with eternal principles, and seek to encourage and strengthen relationships that lead to eternal covenants made with God,” church spokesman Doug Andersen said. “The church and its leaders continue to teach that though there may be disagreement on an issue or policy, we should treat one another with love, respect and kindness.”

The rally was loud but peaceful. People sang Latter-day Saint hymns like “Love One Another” and the Primary song “I Am a Child of God.” They chanted “God loves queers,” “Love is a human right” and “Trans lives matter.”

Students and supporters held signs — “Enter to be gaslighted, go forth traumatized” — and moved into City Creek Park for speeches. That’s where one BYU student said that the enemy is not BYU, the Church Educational System or the church itself.

“The enemy is neglect, ignorance, pride and hate,” said Bradley Talbot, 22, a psychology major from Pleasant Grove. “I love BYU and am not leaving. I love the church and I am not leaving. I am a child of God and a disciple of Christ. It is not black and white. I cannot and will not choose one family or the other. It’s rainbow, and I choose both.