Graduates listen in their cars, as commencement speaker, Wendy Watson Nelson speaks, at Utah Valley University's graduation program in Orem, on Friday, May 7, 2021.

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In the face of concern and controversy over her speaking, Wendy Watson Nelson — a former family therapist and the wife of the president of the Latter-day Saint Church — directed graduates in her address Friday night to drop their contentions, open space “for the existence of another” and, through those actions, come to find love in their lives.

“We don’t need to agree with another person’s ideas,” she said. “But when we open our ears and hearts to their ideas, love enters in.”

Nelson, who was the keynote at Utah Valley University’s commencement, said everyone would be healthier if they let go of their disagreements and really listened.

Her message came, though, after several students at the campus expressed frustration that she was chosen as speakerbecause of her past remarks about the LGBTQ community — and they argued that Nelson, herself, has failed to listen to gay, queer and trans folks in her work in medicine and advocated against their love.

“Having her talk is an explicit endorsement by the university of that rhetoric. And I thought this was a safe space,” one student said earlier.

The university has defended the choice and even reiterated its support from the lectern during the ceremony Friday.

This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aim to inform readers across the state. To read the full article, click here.


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