SALT LAKE CITY - A video of a young Mormon girl revealing to her congregation that she is a lesbian before her microphone is turned off by local church leaders is sparking a new round of discussions about how the religion handles LGBT issues.
Thirteen-year-old Savannah spoke earlier in May in Eagle Mountain, Utah, during a once-a-month portion of Mormon Sunday services where members are encouraged to share feelings and beliefs.
Savannah told the congregation she believes she is the child of heavenly parents who didn't make any mistakes when she was created.
"They did not mess up when they gave me brown eyes, or when I was born bald," she said in the video as she read from her notes at the pulpit. "They did not mess up when they gave me freckles or when they made me to be gay. God loves me just this way because I believe that he loves all his creations."
Her microphone was muted after about two minutes, shortly after saying she believes that God wants her to be happy and would never ask her to live her life alone or with someone she is not attracted to.
"I want to love myself and not feel shame for being me," she said seconds before the microphone was turned off. She then turned to listen as a man spoke to her and was walked down from the pulpit.
"I was devastated for her," Kester said. " I was angry at how that was handled."
Kester said that her daughter was passionate about coming out in church to be a voice and example for other LGBT children who struggle for acceptance within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She asked that Savannah's full name be withheld to protect her privacy.
Kester said she is not Mormon, but her husband is, and Savannah has been raised in the religion.
The video, which Kester says was taken by a friend of Savannah who came to support her, has been circulated online this month and featured on "I like to look for Rainbows," an LGBT Mormon podcast.
While some consider Savannah a hero, other Mormons are upset that it was videotaped and is being circulated by church critics to try and paint the church in an unflattering light.
Judd Law, the lay bishop who leads the congregation south of Salt Lake City, said in a statement distributed by church headquarters that Savannah is a "brave young girl." But he says that the unauthorized recording and "disruptive demonstration" by a group of non-Mormon adults who were there were problematic.
Britt Jones, a bisexual Mormon who runs "I like to look for Rainbows," told AP the leaders should have allowed Savannah to finish.
"Queer issues don't get talked about in the church enough," said Jones, who is married to a woman and has children. "It was really brave and really admirable, particularly for somebody that young, that she not only wanted to talk about it herself but be a voice for others suffering in silence."
© 2017 Associated Press