I was fourteen the first time I thought about taking my life. I felt overwhelming shame, largely because I was attracted to the same gender, and I had been taught that was an abomination. The inner conflict was agony, and it was exhausting. I wanted relief–just some rest from it all. I seriously considered suicide as a way to have that relief when I was 18 and was about to go on a mission. In the end, it was that very mission that allowed me to iron out my issues, and I never again contemplated suicide, but it continued to affect me.
Two months after returning from my mission, and around the same time I was coming to terms with my sexuality and coming out of the closet, a young BYU student, who was gay, killed himself. It devastated my gay friends who had been close to him, and sent ripples though out our community. I felt a need to reach out to others who were gay and LDS and to encourage them to embrace a life that made them happy. I didn’t want death to ever be more desirable than life for anyone, but especially for these people I felt a connection to because of our shared history or condition.
Today is 10 years after Stuart Matis shot himself on the steps of his stake center. I believe that sharing his story prevents suicide. Awareness makes a tremendous difference. If I had known during those dark periods of my life that I wasn’t the only one suffering, it would have helped me come to terms with things so much sooner. It was ultimately the realization that I was not alone that lead me to accept homosexuality. Of course it would have also helped if I could have had even the smallest glimpse into the happiness I now have over my life, my partner, and my anticipated marriage.
Education would also have made a tremendous difference. My life was unbearable because I had been misinformed about homosexuality and because those closest to me had been misinformed about homosexuality. The only way to fight those wrong teachings is to do everything in our power to spread correct information. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it is the power to save lives.
To honor the memory of Stuart Matis I am recommitting myself to his hope, which was that “Perhaps [his] death … might become the catalyst for much good.” He wrote in a letter to his family, “I’m sure that you will now be strengthened in your resolve to teach the members and the leaders [of the Church] regarding the true nature of homosexuality.” So I promise today and in the future that I will do my part to teach Latter-day Saints about homosexuality and the love, peace, and fulfilling joy that comes in accepting it and embracing love.