Pearson, Gay & Mormon Is Family Affair
by Steve Weinstein
New York Editor-In-Chief
Monday May 21, 2007
For Carol Lyn Pearson, the issue of
gays in the Mormon Church is very much a family affair.
The author and playwright came to national attention
with "Goodbye, I Love You," a memoir of nursing her
ex-husband through the final stages of AIDS.
Now, 20 years on, Pearson, 68, lives in Walnut Creek,
Calif., and is still very much a member of the Church of
Latter Day Saints. She is fighting the good fight from
within the notoriously closed organization to change the
embedded notion of homosexuality as wrong. But her
involvement doesnít stop there: Her former son-in-law,
Steven Fales, is the author and actor in the acclaimed
one-man show "Confessions of a Mormon Boy," which was an
Pearsonís daughter, Emily, had been married to Fales,
who, like his father-in-law, had tried to adapt to
Mormon convention, which stresses marriage and
procreation above all. Emily is one of four children,
three surviving, of Pearsonís marriage.
Pearson comes from solid Mormon stock, being the fourth
generation to practice and having lived in Salt Lake
City. Her new play, "Facing East," which opens in
Manhattan on May 29, is another step in her long march
toward changing hearts and minds in the faith she was
"Nobody had written it before," she said of her latest
work. "It was crying out to be written. I got a focus of
ongoing outrage that we religious people do so badly on
the subject of our gay loved ones."
The play focuses on the funeral of a gay son and the
lover the parents never knew. Pearsonís work comes in
the wake of other works confronting the Mormon Church on
the subject, such as the film "Latter Days," which
Pearson said she had not seen.
Her new play she calls "circling the wagons, looking at
goodbyes at ill-fated marriages." She remains active in
the Mormon Church, and "very distressed that we, along
with the other conservative religions, donít understand,
donítí have the information or will or compassion to
make some steps forward to make sure everyone has a
place at the table."
Her decision to stay and fight leaves people "amazed"
that she has not simply dropped out--or been
excommunicated. To the contrary, she has never had
words, let alone a confrontation, with church elders on
her very vocal position about homosexuality. "Iíve had
nothing but good respect and appreciation from the
leaders," she said.
Since she wrote "Goodbye, I Love You" 20 years ago, the
Mormon Church, like society in general, has moved
forward, she said. "The worst language is no longer used
or suggesting electric shock," which was used at one
time to "cure" homosexuals at Brigham Young University.
More recently, the church has begun discouraging people
who know theyíre gay from marrying.
"We religious people do so badly on
the subject of our gay loved ones."
In fact, Salt Lake City and BYU have established a
reputation as being among the more liberal and accepting
places for gay men and lesbians in recent years. "At the
bottom where people live, thereís been more progress and
understanding and acceptance than in the ecclesiastical
realms where policy is made," Pearson said. "The leaders
of the church are concerned about the issue and donít
know where to go with it."
"As far as being in the church, I believe where I am
supposed to be," she added. "I love the community and
have an unusual opportunity to move the education
Her new play reflects her activism and her personal
story in its dynamics as to relationships within the
characters to one another and their concept of their
religion. The deceased son, a cellist, took his life
because of unresolved conflicts. Then his partner Marcus
shows up. For the first time, these three meet. The
father more than the mother makes some significant
breakthroughs in re-examining his position.
"I love seeing father having the largest arc of moving
through the position of loving his son but knowing this
is a ísiní--they try to do the ílove the sinner, hate
the siní thing," she said. "By the end of the play, the
father says to the mother--the one we cannot accept his
sin-íThatís the one stone I can no longer cast.í"
"Facing East" played to sold-out houses during its run
in Utah. Pearson describes the audience there as
"hungry. These were not just people out for an evening
in the theater. They knew thereís something remarkable
going on. The emotion in theater was palpable."
After the performances, she would talk to audience
members, who thanked her for presenting the issue at
all, let alone in a favorable light. At audience
discussions (where almost nobody left), she heard
stories from Jews, Catholics and Protestants, in
addition to Mormons.
"The only reason I did this was to change the lives of
people," she said.
This remarkable woman already has.
Plan-B Theatre @ Atlantic Stage 2
330 West 16th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)
Previews being May 25, opening May 29, through June 17