This Mormon valedictorian came out to 10,000 people in a stirring graduation speech.

On Friday, April 25th, Matthew Easton gave a commencement speech at Brigham Young University to 10,000 people that included a rather unexpected declaration: he came out as gay.  

“I stand before my family, friends and graduating class today to say that I am proud to be a gay son of God," he said. His words were immediately met with deafening cheers from people in the audience, including his sister, who momentarily dropped the phone she was using to record his speech in her excitement.

“Four years ago, it would have been impossible for me to imagine that I would come out to my entire college,” he continued in the speech. “It is a phenomenal feeling. And it is a victory for me in and of itself.”


“I am not broken. I am loved and important to the plan of our great creator. Each of us are.”

His announcement comes at a significant moment at BYU when students are taking a stand against the university's strict and archaic "honor code" which declares homosexual intimacy and relationships forbidden.  

However Easton, like the activists fighting against the honor code, made it clear that his declaration is by no means a break from the Church of Latter-Day Saints, in fact, quite the opposite. It's more about reclaiming his faith as the person he's always been rather than keeping his inner truth hidden because previous generations of Mormons are having a hard time embracing differences.

“My generation, and even more so the generation after me, we’re changing the way we talk about our identity and who we are,” Easton told the Washington Post. “It’s okay to be different, or not fit the norm. When I started at BYU, I didn’t think that. I thought that I had to be what everyone before me was. I do feel from my own experience that this is changing, or maybe I’m changing. I hope that our country, my faith, my community will follow in a similar fashion.”

But Easton's speech was much more than a personal declaration. He's paving the way for other LGBT people who might be at odds with their religion to stand up and embrace who they are.

Representation in the public spotlight matters. In fact, another gay man who's been getting a lot of media attention lately is part of what inspired Easton in the first place.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana and presidential candidate who's been making waves in the democrat pool, has spoken numerous times about the intersection of his faith and his sexuality. He's also stood in support of younger Christians who are speaking out against the more traditional, often bigoted teachings of their church, and thus protesting having Vice President Mike Pence speak at their graduation ceremonies.

“That’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand: That if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me,” Buttigieg said earlier this month in his speech at the LGBTQ Victory Fund. “Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

Easton was thrilled with the overwhelmingly positive response his speech has garnered, not just within BYU, but around the world. He's still got a long way to go in terms of his personal journey, but coming out publicly was a big step forward.

"To have a group that I had for so long thought would hate me or ostracize me actually celebrate and accept me, it was awesome."

Watch Eaton's whole speech here:

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When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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