Friday, February 26, 2010

Memorial held for gay Mormon who committed suicide

Excerpts of Memorial held for gay Mormon who committed suicide in Los Altos by Diana Samuels

Ten years ago, Henry Stuart Matis walked up to the steps of a Mormon church in Los Altos with a note reading "Do not resuscitate" pinned to his shirt, and shot himself.

He was a 32-year-old gay man and devoted member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and after a lifetime spent struggling to reconcile the two, explained in a suicide note that "for the first time in over 20 years, I am free from my pains.

"As I believed that I was a Christian, I believed that I could never be gay," he wrote. "Perhaps my death ... might become the catalyst for much good ... Your actions might help to save many young people's lives."

Early Thursday morning — the 10th anniversary of Matis' death — a group of local Mormons and others held a memorial vigil for Matis in Los Altos.

Robert Rees of the Santa Cruz stake, who served as a spiritual adviser to Matis, said the event was meant "to honor a good man who left life much earlier than he should have, whose passing was tragic but whose message was one of hope to other people."

George Cole, a San Francisco resident who is gay and serves on the executive committee of Affirmation, a support and advocacy group for gay and lesbian current and former Mormons, said he didn't know Matis personally but has "lost too many very good friends to suicide.

"I know what it is like to seriously consider taking your life, he said.

Cole said he left the Mormon church in 2002.

"I chose happiness and fulfillment at the cost of not having the church in my own life," he said.

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