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.


  1. 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. 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.

  3. I truly don’t understand those who believe that practicing a gay lifestyle isn’t sinful (I do not believe it is sinful), and yet who remain in the LDS faith. The effort required to hold these two demonstrably contradictory positions must exceed the capacity of most mortal creatures. It isn’t that I don’t feel sympathy and compassion for those born into circumstances such as this; it is that attempting to reconcile that which is irreconcilable is simply an exercise in futility. It has no foundation in rationality at all.

    Many things in life are difficult, Leaving one’s faith behind appears to be one of those things. But I have yet to find a truly happy person who subjects themselves to a fatih in which they disagree fundamentally, and I have a difficult time finding sympathy and compassion for those who have opportunities to better their own lives, yet insist on remaining faithful to an institution with whose tenets they foundationally disagree.

    Religion is about conformity, it always has been and–at least in the western world–it is non-compulsory as far as the law is concerned. I know it is difficult, but you do yourself a grave disservice, generally speaking, sticking around somewhere that, at least philosophically speaking, doesn’t seem to want you. Existence sucks sometimes. Irrationality only lends itself to more suckiness in that regard, not less.

  4. I Meet Stuart when I was a 18 year old right out of High school. he was 26 we became friends and to say he was one of the most wonderful people I have ever meet. It has been 20 plus year sense the last time I had spoken to him, but he had crossed my mind over the years, and for some reason today decide to search for him when I saw the articles it made me sad that he was never able to find some peace or a balance with who he was in this life. the 18 year me of course had a crush on him like some many other that had meet him, I always suspected that he was gay we had conversation about certain things. He knew that I had friends who were part of the LGBTQ Community. I wish that the 18 year old me would was able to say what the 47 year old me knows. Though thing are changing it is a slow process, it makes me sad that felt he had to choose between his faith and who he was attacked to or fell in love it with. that his beautiful soul live in such conflict. I hope that one day the Stuart of the world will not have to live this way and can live their best

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Click to subscribe for new post alerts.

Click to subscribe to our magazine, in circulation since 1974.

Related Posts

A Spiritual Practice for All Saints Day

On November 1, many Western Christians observe All Saints Day. Some groups will focus on those who have died, but there is considerable variety...

Guest Post: Redeeming My Soul, Part I

by Sabra I was always a supporter of gender equality in the LDS church; any time women in my classes at church wanted to serve...

Filmmaker Tells Little Known Story from the Life of Anne Frank

By Sally Meyer, Writer/Director of Hanneli and Anne I'm writing to introduce a film project that I am working on. Hanneli and Anne tells a true story between...

Guest Post: Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel

You can’t shame yourself into liberating the world.
submit guest post
Submit a Guest Blog Post
subscribe to our magazine
Subscribe to Our Magazine
Social Media Auto Publish Powered By :