By Tabitha Hanson (originally published at Feminist Mormon Housewives July 2012 under the title “The Tipping Point”)
Every Sunday, I attend worship services at the LDS church building where Stuart Matis took his own life 12 years ago. He was gay and he was LDS and the combination of the two caused him intense pain. Every Sunday, I cross the threshold of that building, where smiley faces and shiny families flow in and out – in palpable contrast to Stewart and his pain. They have their scriptures in hand, eager to learn, discuss and gather around the gospel of Jesus Christ… most are oblivious to the struggle and anguish of this beautiful life that ended on our steps. I’ve known vaguely of Stuart’s suicide for several years, but one evening about two months ago, as I settled in to go to bed, his story came rushing back to me and I needed to know more. I grabbed my phone, turned to Google, and I read and read. And I wept. How did this happen? Why did this happen? How could the source of most everything I know about Jesus Christ also be the source of such tragedy? This was my Tipping Point.
This was the gust of wind that would rip at my beautiful house, my testimony of the truthfulness of the LDS faith, and expose weak and damaged beams that I had been ignoring – Prop 8, patriarchy, church history. Fast and furious, this wind has blown and I now stand stark against the sky, like a tornado victim, amongst the rubble of what was. All that’s left, with the carnage of my house strewn about my feet, is my foundation. And for the first time, with the beautiful, yet flawed house removed, I can see my foundation clearly – it’s all I’ve got left with which to rebuild…and I love what I see. I see a foundation of a belief in the love of God for all mankind and the edict to go forth and live and love in manner of Jesus Christ. I feel less fear and a resultant capacity for increased love. Now unobscured, I see sunshine and an open sky.
These are my personal experiences between myself and God. What then of some of my other roles as mother-to-four and wife of a devout and dedicated orthodox Mormon husband? I like to believe that this house will not crumble in the same manner; that our foundation and majority of our framework is strong, and that the few now shaky beams can be re-built, or retro-fitted as we’d say in California. But, as I slowly rebuild my house of faith and I ponder my role within my Mormon community, and juxtapose it with my commitment to be honest with myself and others, I keep finding myself circling back to my gay brothers and sisters, particularly those who are or were Mormon. I have spent time listening to their stories on podcasts and even YouTube. Recently, I heard the story of one young gay return missionary as he expressed something to the affect, “I am Mormon. You can’t take the Mormon out of me any easier than you can take the Gay out me. It’s part of who I am.” He went on to share his sincere desire to be able to attend church with his partner some day, to hold a calling and to raise children within a ward community. He wanted to be able to feel welcome and loved in a ward, as a complete and sexual human being with a deeply fulfilling life and family. As I listened to his story, I wanted to shout back into the screen, “Come to my ward! I will be here! I will stand with you. There are members out there who want and need you here, if you decide this is where you want to be.” I don’t even know if this is where I want to be, but as long as there are gay LDS members who want to be here, I will be here waiting for you. I may be standing in my pile of rubble, the wind might even still be blowing, but my foundation is strong. We can stand together in a place of love and knowledge of our worth and goodness, and with hope for greater awareness and possibly even change. In the meantime, each Sunday, as I walk through the doors of my church building, I will see those shiny, happy people and I will love them, but I will see Stuart too.
(My full time job is as a busy mother of 4 kids, ages 4-14, and I consider myself to be a straight ally within the church. In studying and pondering LDS LGBT issues over the last 1.5 years, I have learned a tremendous amount about myself, spirituality, and discipleship.)