PITTSBORO, N.C. — Bryan Michael Egnew, 40, spent the last decades of his life building up the courage to come out to his family and Mormon church. Once he did his life, family and religion were stripped away from him, and he committed suicide within a matter of weeks.
Growing up in the Mormon (aka LDS) Church as a gay man isn’t easy. The pain and guilt pile-on as for years you are hammered with lessons telling you that unless you live a perfect heterosexual life, marry in a Mormon Temple, and follow the Church’s laws perfectly, you run the risk of never seeing your family again after death.
It’s a deep hole that many never escape from.
Unfortunately, we have lost another beautiful person to the man-made hell of depression, created when he tried to be honest about himself.
Egnew went on a Mormon Mission when he was 19, was married in a Mormon Temple to his wife Amy and had five children. He served within his local Mormon congregation for years, and outwardly was everything a Mormon man was expected to be. But inside, Egnew fought a constant struggle over whether to continue pretending, or to be honest about himself.
One of Egnew’s friends, Jahn Curran, tells us that he has known Bryan since they attended college together at BYU, and like Egnew, Curran was also hiding the fact that he was gay. Years later, Curran would find the courage to come out of the closet, but Egnew was too afraid of what the consequences would be.
But last month, Egnew found that courage and
came out to his family and his church. The results were tragic.
According to Curran, Egnew’s wife Amy
immediately packed up their children and drove them out of state to Tennessee, refusing to let
Egnew see them. His parents and family withdrew, and his Church immediately excommunicated him because he refused to denounce his sexual orientation.
PRIDEinUtah readers may remember our interview with Mitch Mayne, an openly gay man who currently serves in the bishopric of his local Mormon ward (as long as he remains celibate). His local church leaders are actually supportive of him speaking openly about the fact that he’s gay, and encourage his story to be told. Contrast that with the unfeeling heartlessness of Bryan’s leaders … it’s a stark difference.
You see, 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.
The result is the long trail of suicides of individuals who were left to face the wrath of local prejudices.
Egnew’s case is made worse by the fact that his family has tried to suppress and hide what happened and who Egnew was since his suicide on Sept. 10, 2011.
His obituary made no reference to the fact that he was gay or the horror that his Church put him through in the last weeks of his life. His Facebook page was scrubbed of any mention of the truth and family members blocked anyone who might tell Egnew’s story.
How long will the Mormon Church continue to let their members die before they decide that LGBT people are worth being treated as equals?
Calls to the Mormon Church for comment have not been returned.