Saturday, July 7, 2007

Eight Random Gay Mormon Facts About Me

I was tagged by GeistX. I'll let you check out his blog for the rules.

1. I was born in Provo, Utah. I grew up half-an-hour's drive from Palmyra, New York, and right near Mendon, New York where Brigham Young once lived. If Brigham hadn't joined the Church and if his family had stayed there, his great-great-great-great grandkids would have gone to my highschool. In 1983 my family moved to Topsfield, Massachusets, where Joseph Smith's grandfather is buried. So you could say that in my life, the older I've gotten, the further backwards I moved in the timeline of the Church's history.

2. My grandparents moved from Utah to Pittsburgh, PA during the Great Depression. There they were next door neighbors to the Jesse Hatch family. My dad was a childhood playmate of (now Senator) Orrin Hatch. In Pittsburgh, my grandfather helped convert Henry Matis to the Church. Henry went on to become the first mission president of Finland, where my dad served his mission and converted my mom. Henry Matis was the grandfather of Stuart Matis. I find it interesting to consider that if it hadn't been for the Church and if my grandfather hadn't converted Stuart's grandfather, and if Henry Matis hadn't helped to establish the first mission in Finland, neither Stuart nor I might have been born. I almost committed suicide the summer of 1986, but ended up having a spiritual experience in which God guided me to leave the Church instead. Henry's grandson Stuart was gay too, and did his best to stay faithful to the Church. He committed suicide on February 25, 2000. I wish Stuart were still here. I wish I could meet the grandson of the man my grandfather helped convert to the Gospel.

3. I was in the Hill Cumorah Pageant after my mission. During the first day of rehearsals, I overheard a sister crying and speaking French. She was frustrated because her English was not good enough for her to understand what people were saying during the devotionals. I had just returned from my mission in French-speaking Europe. I served as her personal interpreter for the rest of the Pageant, and we became the best of friends.

4. The picture (above) is of me as a Mormon missionary. I served my mission in the Swiss Geneva Mission under President R. Bay Hutchings. Before I left on my mission, I baptized one of my best friends from high school. He is now married and raising a family in the Church. On my mission I helped to convert a young woman who later served a mission in New Caledonia. I once regretted my role in converting others to Mormonism. Now I feel incredible gratitude.

5. I was a Kimball Scholar at BYU. After I got the letter informing me that I was a Kimball scholarship recipient, I was convinced they had made a mistake. I was so certain that I was unworthy to be a Kimball Scholar, I actually wrote a letter to a member of the committee to tell him I believed I was unworthy. He ignored my letter. I later ran into him at BYU, and he greeted me in a friendly manner without ever mentioning the letter.

6. I started out as a Political Science major at BYU. I had wanted to major in History, but my dad encouraged me to go into Political Science instead because he thought it would be the best preparation for an eventual law degree. However, I found Poli Sci types extremely arrogant and obnoxious. I eventually switched back to my first love, History. Inspired by my favorite professor at BYU, D. Michael Quinn, I decided I wanted to be a professor of Church History. I actually remember the night when I walked up around the Provo Temple, to pray and ask for guidance about what career I should pursue, and the Spirit confirmed to me that I should become a teacher of LDS Church History.

7. I gave up on a teaching career in 1997. After a three-year-long job search in which I sent my resume to over 150 schools around the country, I could not even land a single job interview. Last spring, a friend of mine who is an influential professor at United Theological Seminary, invited me to submit my resume. I've now been offered (and accepted) a position as adjunct faculty at the seminary to teach American Religious History, including the history of Mormonism. My friend is encouraging me to teach a course there on LDS Church History.

8. My partner Göran came from a family of seekers. They tried literally every religion -- Catholicism, Buddhism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Judaism, Pentecostalism, you name it. The only one they didn't try was Mormonism. Apparently the Universe strives for balance.

Beck, Forester, Bored in Vernal, MohoHawaii, Geckoman, Abelard Enigma, Playasinmar and Santorio, you all are now officially tagged.


GeckoMan said...

But, but, I don't even know four people yet with blogs, and you've just tagged all that I've started reading! I've just started this blogging business, so cut me a little slack. Besides, I'm really good at playing by own rules. However, I will submit to disclosing 8 random facts.

Bored in Vernal said...

I have posted my 8 facts. I hope you don't mind if they are not "Eight Random Gay Mormon Facts!"

J G-W said...

Geckoman - Ego te absolvo! Present your eight facts, and consider your duty fulfilled!

Bored - the rules stipulate that they must be eight random facts. So you are perhaps following them better than I did!

Bill McAlister said...


As the best friend from high school that you baptized, I feel honored to be mentioned in one of your 8 random facts....


Beck said...

I promise I will fulfill the assignment you've given me sometime soon, not because I like these pass-along games, but because I like you!

J G-W said...

Bill - It gives me such great happiness to remember your baptism, and to remember the afternoons that preceded it as we met with the missionaries and as you were preparing to receive the gospel. The only thing that possibly gives me greater happiness than these memories is the fact that you are my friend again, and that the testimony I once lost has been recovered!

Beck - Thanks for humoring me! I look forward to your offering!

n/a said...

my one question is why don't you have a car or use one much? maybe you've talked about it and I missed it?

J G-W said...

n/a - Cars cost too much, drink too much gas, and pollute too much to make owning one worthwhile, especially in a city like Minneapolis where we have so many fabulous bike trails and a (barely) adequate bus system. I live within walking distance of where I work downtown, and we do our grocery shopping via the Internet, so it has all worked out one way or the other over the years.