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Gay Mormon Gets Excommunicated, Loses Family, Takes His Own Life

by David Badash on September 23, 2011

in News,Religion

Bryan Egnew, a 40-year old gay Mormon man who had a wife and five children, lost his family, his place in his church, and ultimately his life by suicide, after being excommunicated, according to a report in Pride In Utah. “How long will the Mormon Church continue to let their members die before they decide that LGBT people are worth being treated as equals?,” Eric Ethington, who writes about gay life and politics in Utah at Pride In Utah —  especially stories revolving around the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) — asks. He adds, “despite the thousands of reported suicides among LGBT Mormons the Mormon high-leadership still refuse to put into place any official guidelines or provide training to local leaders on what to do when a person chooses to be honest about themselves.”

Ethington writes,

Bryan Michael Egnew went on a Mormon Mission when he was 19, was married in a Mormon Temple to his wife Amy and had 5 children. He served within his local Mormon congregation for years, and outwardly was everything a Mormon man was expected to be. But inside, Bryan fought a constant struggle over whether to continue pretending, or to be honest about himself.

One of Bryan’s friends, Jahn Curran, tells us that he has known Bryan since they attended college together at BYU. and like Bryan, Jahn was also hiding the fact that he was gay. Years later, Jahn would find the courage to come out of the closet, but Bryan was too afraid of what the consequences would be.

But last month, Bryan found that courage and came out to his family and his church. The results were tragic. According to Curran, his wife Amy immediately packed up their children and drove them out of state to Tennessee, refusing to let Bryan see them. His parents and family withdrew, and his Church immediately excommunicated him because he refused to denounce his sexual orientation.

Zack Ford at Think Progress adds that Egnew died on Sept. 10, but, “news only came out this week, because his obituary and Facebook page were scrubbed of any details of what led him to take his own life. The Church of Latter-Day Saints still has no official guidelines for how to respond when someone comes out.”

Chelsea Hoffman at Gather calls the scrubbing, “a final act of cruelty of someone who found the courage to come out as being who he is on the inside.”

Egnew’s Facebook page lists him as “separated.” On Facebook, Egnew wrote of his profile photo, “Pic of family on vacation in Florida. Laissez rouler les bons temps!”

Editor’s note: The aforementioned photo was removed from this article after a request by someone who says she is a family friend.


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BeerandOnion September 23, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Some believe in superstition more than they believe in their families.

nightshad September 23, 2011 at 7:32 pm

This dude made his own choices and then he chose suicide. It's as simple as that.

wyocowboy62 September 23, 2011 at 11:26 pm

yes he did choose suicide but he had no support from his wife, friends, family or church…nightshad you are cold.

coxhere October 14, 2011 at 8:42 am

According to the first death in the Bible, Cain murdered Abel. God asked Cain where Abel was. Cain responded with a question: "Am I my brother's keeper?" The Old Testament myth goes on to intimate that, in fact, Cain WAS Abel's keeper. Remember this story? (Genesis 4:8-16) If this myth contains any truth at all, let's understand that the LDS church has responsibility in Bryan Egnew's death. Nightshad, your attitude seems to mimic Cain's attitude in murdering his brother. Your uncaring comment isn't "as simple as that." The Cain and Abel myth says there's a lot more to the story than you are wanting to admit. It concludes with a truth that there are negative consequences for our negative actions against our brother.

arthuride September 23, 2011 at 10:24 pm

A person with an incurable disease may commit suicide in preference to continued suffering, but this was a forced suicide (which makes it a societal homicide) as the victim was coerced into taking his own life by a religion that is different than most others but hypocritically rejects differences within its own membership, and by a family that was more concerned with social status and acceptance than any bond of love or togetherness. It is the Mormon church and Egnew's family that passed a death sentence on him–he merely carried out the injustice in the same way as Socrates by ending his life that his environment would not let him live to enjoy. I condemn his wife and children and the Mormon cult for its cruelty and arrogance, for they murdered Egnew.

Mojohowitz September 24, 2011 at 7:39 am

I agree with most of your comments. However, I don't feel that it is right to condemn his children. They weren't born with prejudices, they were taught them. I would imagine that his children are in torment. First to be told that their father identifies as something they have been taught to despise and they can't have contact with him. Then, to have to deal with his suicide. Those kids are going to have a ton of emotional baggage. I have a number of issues with the Mormon Church, as I do with most organized religions. What frightens me is they are the fastest growing religion in the country.

coxhere September 24, 2011 at 8:11 am

Evidently, the suicide victim didn't know how to reach out for help. Most likely, it was because he was so brain-washed by the LDS cult that he wouldn't have known how to take Gay community support if offered. Does anyone remember how it felt to have come out to spouses and biological children and families-of-origin? Does anyone remember standing alone against the religious institutions of our society? Does anyone remember and understand the loneliness that accompanies finally getting honest and coming out? Does anyone remember the feeling of being totally alone? Betrayed? Rejected? That everyone whom you thought were your unconditional friends and families, all of a sudden, aren't? I do. I felt ripped from everything that I knew, everything that was familiar, every unauthentic thing that I'd surrounded myself with. I remember thinking that I am on my own and I remember thinking that I am enough. I am sufficient. I thought and still think that I can stand against all of the dishonest homophobia and that I value my integrity more than any and every other thing on earth. I'm glad for those of us who didn't choose suicide as the way to cope. I'm glad that we have had the ego strength to live and to be free. I'm glad that our being alive today is a testament to honesty and genuineness. It did get better, even though, at the time, we didn't understand how, didn't it?

namdarmd September 25, 2011 at 11:54 pm

So sad to hear about this story. The same thing happened to me as I was excommunicated from my Orthodox synagogue after someone outed me. However, I used the opportunity to educate others in my congregation about growing up in a religious community. An heated online discussion ensued on my wesbite. While some compared my marriage to bestiality, others compared me to Rosa Parks as a pioneer in standing up for the right thing. That online discussion board can be found on my website

I also wrote a book about my experiences. It is called "In This Day and Age?! A Community at the Crossroads of Religion and Homosexuality". It is a must-read for all people struggling with their religion and their sexual orientation. I believe that if Bryan had read my book, he would be inspired by all the good that is in people's hearts despite the decrees of our religious leaders, and perhaps he would not take his life.

ricoh500 September 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Mormon Bishop here, we dont excommunicate people for being Gay. Never did never will. My take on this is he cheated on his wife, she left him, and took the kids, it happens to heterosexual guys all the time right? The only way he was excommunicated was because he was unfaithful to his wife and kids. Thats why he killed himself he couldnt live with it, Not because "Mormons don't care".

coxhere October 14, 2011 at 8:09 am

ricoh500, Have you read the book, "Good-bye, I Love You," written by Carol Lynn Pearson? It's a story about her, her family, her husband, Gerald, and their LDS church who turned their backs on all of them. It's a story of a family who experienced and witnessed bisexuality and AIDS. She's not a bishop but she wrote songs for the LDS choir. She's not a part of the LDS ecclesiastical hierarchy but she was/still is in the trenches of everyday life as a Mormon who loved her church. So was her incredible husband, Gerald. Ask Ms. Pearson if "Mormons don't care." If only her precious husband were still alive, you could ask him as well. Their story is similar to to story here in that the members of their church turned their backs and closed their eyes to this family's needs. By the way, bishop, why are you reading The New Civil Rights Movement, a Gay blog? Are you, perhaps, in the closet yourself? Does your archbishop know about your double life? How does it feel to be a bishop of a religious organization that hates the very core of your being and yet being the Special Gift of God in your sexuality?

Loqutor November 20, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Oooooorrrrrr maybe somebody who reads the blog linked him to it. Ever think of that?

coxhere November 20, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Not likely. Many self-loathing, closeted Gays lead two lives. Wonderful, traditionally married, traditional, family men who live shadow-lives, sneaking into the Gay sections of adult bookstores and having anonymous sex encounters, writing comments anonymously on Gay web sites. Many, many more than "….somebody who reads the blog linked him to it."

Loqutor November 20, 2011 at 8:56 pm

All most of these comments here prove is that Mormons are the only people in the country that it's acceptable to be bigoted against. Try to justify it as you may, the way that they're being treated is, in the end, no different than the way that Jews and Catholics were treated in America up to around the 1970s. It's completely uncalled-for, and it does nothing but breed resentment.

And allow me to put my two cents in here. I am a Mormon, and I am openly and unashamedly pansexual. I came out in Fast and Testimony Meeting (for those who haven't done their research–which is clearly 90%~ of you–that's where anybody in the congregation who wishes can come forward and speak), and after the meeting, instead of getting a couple walkouts and cold, judgmental stares like I expected, I got a lot of pats on the back and people thanking me for my words and courage.

What happened here was an isolated incident, with local leaders stepping out of line and acting on their own prejudices. Yes, it was wrong, but to say it's a reflection of Mormons as a whole is cowardly, inaccurate, and blatant pandering. That's like saying that what happened to Jesse Dirkhising is a reflection of the gay community as a whole.

You should all be ashamed of yourselves. Haven't you been victims of bigotry your entire lives?

coxhere November 20, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Why did Mormons pour money into the marriage inequality, H8 law in California that has since been declared unconstitutional? Why do they pour money into defending this unconstitutional law? By the way, it's not merely Mormons who poured and still pour money into Prop H8. The Roman church did and do. All evilgelical fundamentalistical churches did and do. Mormons aren't being picked on. This particular article merely tells the story of one Gay-Mormon who ended up killing himself after being excommunicated.

Loqutor November 20, 2011 at 11:54 pm

You know, that's one of the reasons I try to avoid gay activism despite being queer myself. So many of you go to such great lengths to try and claim people as your own, including rewriting history, and you seem to be under this delusion that nobody can be queer, religious, and happy at the same time. Your people tend to be whiny and mean-spirited, and you take any event that harms any one of you as a strike against all of you. What a joke gay activism has become since Stonewall.

I bet it just eats you up inside to know that I'm a living refutation of your closed-minded paradigm.

coxhere November 21, 2011 at 12:00 am

Is a refutation similar to a refudiation?

Loqutor November 21, 2011 at 10:32 am

Ah, so your intelligence level matches that of Sarah Palin? I'm not surprised, but thanks for confirming it for me.

coxhere November 21, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Thank you for who you are and your contributions to make a better American society. I have appreciated your positive and supportive comments.

Loqutor November 21, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I hope you'll forgive me for doubting your sincerity.

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