'Too many goodbyes'

Carol Lynn Pearson's sequel to her groundbreaking autobiograpy draws on her two decades speaking up for, and listening to, gays and lesbians

Salt Lake City Tribune/November 3, 2006
By Peggy Fletcher Stack

Carol Lynn Pearson has spent two decades as a kind of godmother to gays and lesbians. She fell into that role after the 1986 publication of her groundbreaking autobiography, Good-bye, I Love You: The True Story of a Wife, Her Homosexual Husband and a Love That Transcended Tragedy.

Pearson's was a searing tale of her husband's battle against his homosexuality, their attempts to create a faithful Mormon family, his leaving to live as a gay man and his eventual death from AIDS.

Her story of love, hope, betrayal, forgiveness and reconciliation put a human face on gayness.

Nothing like it had ever been written for a national audience, let alone a Mormon one. She was a guest on ''Oprah,'' profiled in People magazine, and, within weeks of its publication, the LDS Church's own store, Deseret Book, ordered 1,000 copies of her book.

Now, on the book's 20th anniversary, Pearson is publishing, No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones.

"Progress has been made in Mormon culture and in religious culture broadly," Pearson told The Salt Lake Tribune in August. "But we still say too many goodbyes due to suicide, ill-fated marriages and to family alienation."

The new book draws on Pearson's experience as confessor and advice columnist to scores of homosexuals and those who love them. During a time when many leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still saw homosexuality as evil and sinful, she preached love and acceptance, understanding and empathy, openness and tolerance to anyone who would listen. Many did.

Homosexuals everywhere shared their spiritual struggles in letters and e-mails or drove to her house in Walnut Creek, Calif., to tell her their stories in person. Many were LDS, but others were Jewish, Catholic and even Muslim.

She heard of families who shunned their gay children, and others who embraced them.

"We - people of all religions and no religion - are called to be one in love, but very often we trample love in our rush to the familiar comfort of fear and judgment," Pearson writes in the book's preface, "We are called to create relationships that are enduring, but we allow our beliefs about homosexuality to bring the most agonizing disruptions."

She tells of Jo, a Mormon lesbian from Chico, Calif., who discovered her attraction for women while serving an LDS mission; "Mark," a 35-year-old in Australia who, after praying and fasting to be made normal, began to cut himself; and "Jason," a man who has been celibate all his life and attends church every Sunday. There's Brad Adams, who tried to kill himself in the parking lot of the LDS temple in Provo, believing that "around that holy place he would find kind spirits to take him in."

Readers hear of a Muslim woman living in Egypt trying to find her way as a lesbian; Mel White, ghost-writer to Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who came out after a 25-year marriage; and Mormon painter and sculptor Trevor Southey, who "has never found a home for his homosexuality."

In No More Goodbyes, Pearson asks the question: Does God love a homosexual person? Should the family? She then answers with a resounding "Yes" to both questions.

The dust-jacket endorsement suggests that the issue of homosexuality touches all religions.

"Thank you, Carol Lynn Pearson," writes Rabbi Harold Kushner, famed author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, "for reminding us that the task of any religion is to teach us whom we're required to love, not whom we're entitled to hate."

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