Guest Post: BYU, LGB Policies, and the Death of Stuart Matis

Stuart Matis

by Rebecca Simpson Craft

My feelings are bittersweet this morning. I’m feeling proud of my alma mater, Brigham Young University, over the past week. I’ve been waiting for the dust to settle a bit to write.

And at the same time, I’m remembering. We have a sad, even tragic, past with regard to lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and still a way to go in our faith tradition.

My husband was mission companions with Stuart Matis in Rome, Italy in 1986 and 1987. Brian lived in an apartment with Stuart twice, and he loved him as a dear friend. Last night we were reminiscing about the Christmas and New Year’s Brian spent in Italy, with Stuart, in the seaside town of Pescara. Some sweet Italians, not members of our faith, had these American missionaries over for Christmas dinner, and gifted them with new colorful underwear for New Year’s! Picture the young Brian and Stuart with these colorful Speedos on their heads, all silliness and joy. This is the kind of stuff young missionaries, so far from home, never forget.

I didn’t know Stuart personally, but he’s someone dear to my husband. We lost him to suicide in 2000, a few days after he had written this heartfelt article, published in the BYU Daily Universe.  He shot himself on the steps of an LDS church building. This was years after we’d all graduated and moved away, but this was all going on at the same time our church was involved in Prop 22 (the precursor to Prop 8) in California. These intersections in life sometimes blindside us, and break us open. We have never been the same. Unfortunately, there are far too many stories like this.

Change always happens in small steps, as hearts soften over time, and we understand more about the experiences of those who may be different. To quote Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can, until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” May we keep doing better for all of God’s children. This is such a positive and healthy step forward, bringing the BYU Honor Code into alignment with new and positive changes for LGB people in the LDS church handbook. Our gay young people can now date much like their straight counterparts. Hopeful things for those who would like to stay within their faith.

For those of you who would like to know the history, below are links which relate to Stuart’s life and the sad history of LGBTQ issues at BYU generally, along with some of the very positive changes from the past week. I hope members of my faith tradition will be willing to be familiar with these new changes. If you haven’t watched the YouTube video with a BYU professor teaching his class, I hope you will take the time to listen. We all have LGBTQ youth and families in our congregations. They need our love and support. Jesus always reached out to those who were different.

While I’m talking about Stuart today, and our gay members… Transgender friends, I see you and love you.❤️

Rebecca Simpson Craft. M.Ed.S., Licensed Educational Psychologist, is a life-long member of  the church. She and her husband have served in the Newport Beach Stake in Southern California for 27 years. Together, they have three children, including a returned missionary son who is gay. Rebecca has been active in developing LDS LGBTQ ministering resources, outreach to LGBTQ members, and parent support. She has consulted with leaders and church members in fostering welcoming and inclusive families and church communities within the LDS tradition.

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2 Responses

  1. Risa says:

    Thank you for sharing your personal experience in this stunningly beautiful post. My cheeks were wet with tears reading Stuart’s letter to editor. All of us have blood on our hands for being complicit in how the church has treated our LGBTQ brothers, sisters, and siblings. I’m glad policies are changing in micro-inches, but it’s just too damn late for so many lives that have been lost.

  2. Ryan says:

    I remember Stuart vividly even though we never met. This all happened when I was at BYU. I wrote a paper about Stuart for one of my psychology classes. I was told by my professor to go reread Boyd Packer’s then recent talk about why homosexuality was evil. After I graduated and started teaching in Salt Lake, a gay former student of mine killed himself. We have so much to answer for. Incremental change is good- but keeping our loved ones alive is better.

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