11 October 1997
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to request that my name be removed from the membership record of your church. After careful consideration I do not believe that your church has a place for me. Furthermore, I do not believe any more in the principles taught in your religion.
I am a twenty-eight-year-old gay man. I have been a member of your church since I was born. My parents are both active members of your church. Though it is not my will to hurt them, your church, including its members, its leaders, and its doctrine, has hurt me in many ways. Ultimately it has caused me to lose my family. I do not wish to belong to such an institution any longer.
I was a very faithful member. I was a leader in every quorum that I belonged to. I served a two-year mission teaching church doctrine to the people of Holland and Belgium. I participated in all church ordinances, including temple marriage. However, during all this time I was and am gay.
After my mission I sought help through the Church concerning this issue. It was my intention to do only what was best. I was counseled to live a chaste life and to marry. This is what I did. After I confessed my secret to my girlfriend, we were married. We continued to receive counsel. We received counsel from our stake president as well as from LDS Social Services. We were told that we would be okay and that many gay men in the Church choose to marry.
I soon fell into depression, as I had no one with my common issue to speak to. I was instructed to avoid such people so that they might not encourage me to live the same life-style. After many years of depression with no relief from medical help, I left my wife to make friends in the gay community. I loved her very much and we had a child together, whom I love very much. I felt, however, that I needed to give up on this dream in order to be happy.
It was not easy. Your church led me to believe that being married would be a life that would make me happy. It was not. Besides hurting myself, I hurt my wife, my daughter, and my entire family. I am now left with a family who does not accept me and a former wife who harbors hard feelings for me. I have lost everything I wanted in life and am forced to start over completely. My former wife now is a single mother, and her dream of the perfect family, which your church encouraged her to have, has been crushed. My parents’ reject me because, through the years, they have read countless articles, published by you, that condemn homosexuality. They believe me to be a bad person, and cannot accept the reality that has tortured me for so long. Ironically, your church claims to put the family first, but it is the very cause of the break-up of my family. Not only do I not have a wife and child, I do not have the family that I grew up in.
I would plead with you not to encourage others like me to pursue the same sad life. It brought me a great deal of grief.
I am now living the life that was meant for me. I have friends who accept me and love me. For the first time in my life, I do not feel like an outcast or an immoral person. I am happy. Your church teaches that one cannot find happiness in this life-style, but the truth is that a gay man cannot find complete happiness in a life-style that includes lying about who he is and hiding that fact from those he is closest to.
Your church must encourage members to accept these people instead of rejecting them. People like myself are constantly being ridiculed by members of your church and are sometimes even the victims of violent acts. Attitudes of nonacceptance feed these mentalities of hatred and rejection. It is not enough to simply take a quiet position on this matter. Much harm has been done to many in the past, and it will take an incredible effort to undo the damage.
Because of church publications, many youth feel they are bad people. Some will even take their own lives because they have been led to believe that it is better to die than to be gay. They may fear nonacceptance by their LDS parents and peers. I was one of these people. I believed that it was an awful sin to be gay and that death was an acceptable solution. Fortunately my attempts to take my own life were not successful. You see, I realized that it is not better to be dead than to be gay.
You must realize that if you do nothing, the result will be exactly what I described. How many members will you allow to die in order to avoid taking action? I wish that not one youth would be lost in this way. I will do what I can to prevent that. I am pleading with you to do the same. Thank you for your consideration.
On 25 October, Tony’s bishop, whom he had never met, sent him the following letter:
Dear Mr. West:
In accordance with your written request to the Church Presidency, I hereby confirm that your name has been removed from the records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The removal of your name can still be rescinded by your written request to President... within 30 days after the date of this letter.