Gay activist Eric Ethington, an ex-Mormon who left over disagreement with the Church's policies towards gays, explains the situation on Pride In Utah. The individual is identified as Bryan Michael Egnew. In short, Egnew went on a mission when he was 19, was married in a temple to his wife Amy, and sired five children. He served within his local LDS congregation for years, and outwardly seemed to exemplify the textbook LDS man. But it turns out that during this entire period, Egnew was struggling with same-sex attraction, as verified by a former BYU classmate, Jahn Curran.
Finally, Egnew had gone as far as he could go. He decided he had to quit pretending to be someone he was not. And so in August 2011, Egnew came out to his family and his church. This decision seriously backfired; according to Curran, his wife Amy immediately packed up their children and drove them out of state to Tennessee, allegedly refusing to let Bryan see them. In addition, his parents and family also allegedly withdrew their fellowship (although comment #24 was posted by a family member who denies this), and local church leaders excommunicated him, reportedly because he refused to denounce his sexual orientation. Unable to cope with this wholesale rejection, Bryan Egnew committed suicide on September 10th, 2011. He is survived by his wife, Amy, his five children: Chaz, Shelby, Zach, Liam, Jemma; his parents, Edward and Marva Egnew, his four brothers: Mark, Jeff, Brent, Paul; his five sisters: Wendi, Kari Lortscher, Peggi Williams, Mary Ann Castanon, Holli Cahoon, and 31 nieces and nephews.
Pride In Utah does not disclose whether Egnew merely had a homosexual orientation, or if he actually confessed to engaging in homosexual practice. The distinction between orientation and practice is important, because while the LDS Church professes no issue with those who merely confess to a homosexual orientation, they sanction anyone who practices it. Recently, the LDS Church called an openly gay man, Mitch Mayne, to be the executive secretary to the bishopric in the Bay Ward in San Francisco despite his sexual orientation. Mayne practices celibacy. The LDS Church defines authorized sexual relations as only between a husband and wife, and defines marriage as only between one man and one woman. This means that a gay person must practice celibacy in order to remain a member of the Church in good standing. Like polygamy and the Priesthood ban against blacks, this is fundamental doctrine that can only be changed through revelation given to the President of the Church, with spiritual confirmation given to each member of the Quorum of the Twelve.
I find it difficult to believe that Bryan Egnew would be excommunicated merely for disclosing a same-sex attraction. Another LDS blogger, Michael Crook, also wonders if there's more to this story. I also can understand why his wife would bail out; it must come as a shock to find out after all these years that your spouse prefers to swing from the other side of the plate, so to speak. But what's inexcusable, and what may have pushed Egnew over the edge, is when his wife forbade Egnew from seeing his kids. Unless she can show evidence that he behaved improperly towards the kids, his right to visit and interact with them is absolutely non-negotiable, particularly if he would have ended up paying child support after a divorce.
The official obituary about Bryan Egnew understandably made no reference to the fact that he was gay; most obituaries are published to summarize the important facets of one's life. One's sexual orientation is not generally pertinent to an obituary unless that person was an activist for that cause. Egnew's family clearly prefers to remember him for his other accomplishments; that is their right.
Many of the comments appended to the Pride In Utah story are bigoted and hateful towards the Church. One individual with an evident fascist orientation against freedom of speech and freedom of worship posted this utterly ridiculous comment (after the jump):
Dr. Arthur Frederick Ide (Comment #38):
More than 20 million people every year attempt suicide, and as the World Health Organization notes, more than one million succeed, making it among the major reasons for death. Most people who commit suicide do so because they fear there is no one who will listen to them, attempt to understand, or to extend a charitable, nonjudgmental hand–instead push them into killing themselves, writing negative comments on FaceBook when an individual admits to being LGBT, screaming for them to “jump” or “kill” themselves, and worse. Those who bully others are the true murderers, as if they had shown tolerance the suicide would not have taken place. Suicide is a cry for help and compassion, but when the cry goes unheard, unanswered, unresolved, the victim gives up and gives into the societal insanity that judges him or her as if the society were a god. The LDS and Egwin’s family are the true murderers–Bryan merely did as Socrates and accepted their judgment and killed himself. That is the tragedy. The LDS should lose its tax-exempt status and be labeled a hate-organization and the wife and children should be arrested and tried for a hate crime that led to the death of a person.
Most of the anti-Mormon comments fortunately don't go that far, however. But one individual identifying himself as Bryan's brother posted the following comment:
Brent (Comment #24):
Well…I dont really know where to begin. I will start by saying I knew Bryan for the last 35 years and I knew him better than any of you especially Jahn. Bryan was and will be forever my brother. He was my oldest brother and my most admired brother in life. He was Mormon, smart, funnny, hard working, a great father, husband, everything he was supposed to be….and yes even gay.
As you all know living a gay lifestyle in the LDS church is not accepted, just as many other sins (as deamed by the church and God) are not as well. But what you all don’t know about my brother is that he had many other more serious problems in his life that attributed to his suicide. These other problems I will not expound on because I don’t believe you really care and you shouldn’t know all of his problems and what is more hurtful than my brother dying are the lies that have been written on this blog. Your facts are all wrong. I believe Jahn was hurt because we censored my brother’s FB page. My brother’s children did not know he was gay and we felt it was important that his children were not informed of this fact on FB from a complete stranger. That is why Jahn was censored and for that alone. Should we apologize? I think not because it is none of anyone’s business why we did that, but the truth should be known.
To answer the question, yes Bryan was excommunicated because he did not live up to promises made to his wife and for other reasons that you need not know about, nor will they be devuldged in this forum.
The biggest falocy on this page “His parents and family withdrew”. Know that is completely false. Bryan had other problems as stated earlier that attributed to his suicide. My mother went to North Carolina to be with him and he told my mom that he was gay. My Mother, Father and the rest of us were all immediately at his side for support via telephone, email, text messaging and literally at his side for the next three months. My parents were with him everyday for the last three months. Never once was Bryan pushed away, alone, or was not supported and the fact that that lie was written to diminsh my families efforts to save my brother’s life, is well, trully sad! It seems there may be another reason for these lies to be written about my brother. I don’t understand! I don’t care that my brother was gay. I loved my brother and I will for forever. I hope that the truth about my brother will not continue to be slanted on this blog. I have nothing against the gay community and I would hope that if there are trully people out there who consider taking thier own lives becuase they are gay in life, that they can see the pain that is left on the shoulders of those who are left behind. Also, again know my brother leaving this life at 40 years old is the most tragic event my family has ever dealt with and he being gay was only a small factor in his suicide.
The following comment was posted on LBGTQNation by Melissa Averett, who represents the Egnew family:
Melissa Averett Posted on Friday, September 23, 2011:
I am the attorney representing Amy Egnew, the wife of Bryan Egnew. The pleadings in this case are public record. She did not prohibit contact with his children because he was gay, and he was not excommunicated because he was gay. He was having visitation with his children. This is a tragic story. This article appears anytime his name is googled. He has 5 children mourning his death. Please respect them and keep in mind they can read the comments, and the misinformation, that you post.
Attorney at Law
NC Board Certified Family Law Specialist
And finally, a Jack Mormon like myself posted the following comment on Pride in Utah:
Wilson (Comment #18):
It is sad this guy pulled the trigger… But is it the churches fault? Churches, organizations, groups can have standards and rules. If you don’t agree with this teaching that’s cool, get out and start your own church.. Is anyone stopping you? Wanting the church to change because it is inconvenient is stupid.
I’m LDS and I don’t go because I don’t want to live aspects the church teaches, should I pull the trigger? Hell no, its not the churches fault that I don’t want to live within the teachings of the church. It is my choice not the churches fault.
But hell lets blame the church for not complying to my desires too…
Or is this just for Gays?