Carol Lynn Wright Pearson
Poet, Teacher, Screenwriter,
Playwright, Author,
& Conscientious Advocate

Carol Lynn Wright Pearson

Brigham Young High School
Class of 1957


Introduction

Carol Lynn Wright Pearson has earned her place as one of the most significant LDS poets and writers of our time.

A self-described homemaker-writer from Provo, Utah, she first became widely known and appreciated as the author of two volumes of poetry, Beginnings (1965), and The Search (1970).

She has been an acclaimed professional writer, speaker, and performer for many decades. Her poems have been reprinted in college literary textbooks. Her poems appeared in an early compilation, Picture Window (1996), and in a recent compilation, Beginnings and Beyond (2005).

A thorough-going professional writer, Pearson has published widely in LDS and non-LDS periodicals, and has written films for the Brigham Young University Motion Picture Studio. Two of her musical plays were commissioned by Robert Redford's Sundance Theater.

She stepped onto the national stage after her stunning autobiographical book, Goodbye, I Love You (1986, Random House), was published. This book tells the story of her marriage to a homosexual man, their divorce, ongoing friendship, and her caring for him as he died of AIDS. She has appeared on many national television shows discussing this book.

Carol Lynn Pearson has progressed to become a conscientious and determined advocate for the legions of Mormon and non-Mormon youth who discover themselves to be unexpected strangers -- gay and lesbian people in a Mormon environment.

She seeks support and love for people are outcasts from a faith that has yet to reach out to provide the hope of Christ's atonement to them, simply because their God-given biological norm differs from that of most people.

Carol Lynn has also been a fascinating advocate for people to acknowledge and seek out both our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. She sees herself as a player in the great drama of welcoming back the Heavenly Mother to our culture.

At the same time that she has championed these causes, she has steadfastly maintained her faith and dedication to her LDS roots.

She continues to publish remarkable books and plays that illuminate her personal life, sharing her uniquely insightful ways of looking at life.

Her diversity of interests is rich and eclectic: She recently spearheaded a remarkable project called “Voices to Afghanistan” that helps teach English to Afghani schoolchildren.

She has an M.A. in theater, is the mother of four grown children, and lives in Walnut Creek, California.

Carol Lynn Wright Pearson is widely considered to be one of the most influential, highly regarded and accomplished living graduates of Brigham Young High School.


Beginnings

Beginnings

By Carol Lynn Wright Pearson
In fourth grade, in Gusher, Utah, I won four dollars in a school district essay contest on "Why We Should Eat a Better Breakfast." And yes, this morning I had a bowl of my own excellent granola, followed by a hike in the hills and then a large glass of fresh carrot-apple-beet-celery juice.

In high school I began writing in earnest. I have now in my files a folder marked "Poetry, Very Bad," and another, "Poetry, Not Quite So Bad."

Writing served a good purpose for that very dramatic, insecure adolescent. Also at that time I began to keep a diary, which I still maintain and which has been indescribably useful to me both as a writer and as a pilgrim on the earth.

My mother was Emeline Sirrine Wright, born in Dingle, Idaho, a school teacher, who passed away when I was in the ninth grade. The other day I found a card Anna B. Hart had given me at that time, expressing her condolences and her support. My mother loved books and cultural things, hated coarse language, and always wished she had time to write a poem (I wrote a poem about that: "The Unwritten Poem.")

My father, Lelland R. Wright, came from Hinckley, Utah, had a dry wit, wrote dozens of little verses, was scandalized that a lot of my poems didn't rhyme, was very proud of me, wished I'd kept my maiden name (I wish I had too; I deeply miss being Carol Lynn Wright).

After graduating from Brigham Young University with an MA in theatre, teaching at Snow College for a year, and traveling for a year, I taught part-time at BYU in the English department, and was then hired by the motion picture studio on campus to write educational and religious screenplays.

While performing at the university as Mrs. Antrobus in Thornton Wilder’s "The Skin of Our Teeth," I met and fell in love with Gerald Pearson, a shining, blond, enthusiastic young man, who fell in love with me and my poems.

"We’ve got to get them published," he said on our honeymoon, and soon dragged me up to the big city, Salt Lake City, to see who would be first in line to publish them. "Poetry doesn’t sell," insisted everyone we spoke to, and I, somewhat relieved, put publishing on the list of things to do posthumously.

But not Gerald. "Then I’ll publish them," he said. Borrowing two thousand dollars, he created a company called "Trilogy Arts" and published two thousand copies of a book called Beginnings, slim, hard-back volume with a white cover that featured a stunning illustration, "God in Embryo," by our good friend Trevor Southey, now an internationally known artist. On the day in autumn of 1967 that Gerald delivered the books by truck to our little apartment in Provo, I was terrified. I really had wanted to do this postumously.
Beginnings

Today
You came running
With a small specked egg
Warm in your hand.
You could barely understand,
I know,
As I told you of Beginnings–
Of egg and bird.
Told, too,
That years ago you began,
Smaller than sight.
And then,
As egg yearns for sky
And seed stretches to tree,
You became–
Like me.

Oh,
but there's so much more.
You and I, child,
Have just begun.

Think:

Worlds from now
What might we be?-
We, who are seed
Of Deity.

~ ~ Carol Lynn Pearson

We toted a package of books up to the BYU bookstore, and asked to see the book buyer. "Well," she said, "nobody ever buys poetry, but since you’re a local person, let me take four on consignment." As they came in packages of twenty, we persuaded her to take twenty, on consignment. Next day she called and asked, "Those books you brought up here -- do you have any more of them?"

I had anticipated that the two thousand books, now stacked in our little closet and under our bed and in my Daddy’s garage, would last us years and years as wedding presents. But immediately we ordered a second printing. Beginnings sold over 150,000 copies before we gave it to Doubleday and then to Bookcraft.

Beginnings was followed by other volumes of poetry: The Search, The Growing Season, A Widening View, I Can’t Stop Smiling, and Women I Have Known and Been. Most of the poems from the earlier books now appear in two compilations, Picture Window (1998) and Beginnings and Beyond (2005). The poems have been reprinted in such places as Ann Landers’ column, the second volume of Chicken Soup for the Soul, and college textbooks such as Houghton Mifflin’s Structure and Meaning: an Introduction to Literature.

That first little volume of verse, and my husband’s determination, laid the foundation for my entire career.

Another characteristic of my husband was to have a profound effect on both my career and my life. Soon after our engagement, he informed me that homosexual feelings and behavior had been part of his past. But he desperately wanted to do things the "right" way. He loved me and wanted a family. I loved him and knew we could make it work: all that was needed was his repentance and my love.

We each gave the best we had. But after twelve years of marriage and four children, it was evident we were in an impossible situation. We divorced in 1978, remained friends, and six years later I sang to him as he lay on my couch dying of AIDS.

It never occurred to me that I would tell that tragic story, but seeing that I was in a position to shed light on a very misunderstood subject, I wrote Goodbye, I Love You, published in 1986 by Random House.

I am fortunate to have been able to support my four children through a writing career marked by a wide variety of books, films, plays, speaking and performing. Those first copies of Beginnings, tucked away in the closet, opened the door to a rich life, for which I am very grateful.


The Moving Border of "Now"

The moving border of now

By Carol Lynn Wright Pearson
I have been a professional writer, speaker and performer for many years. My autobiography Goodbye, I Love You (1986, Random House), tells the story of my marriage to a homosexual man, our divorce, ongoing friendship, and my caring for him as he died of AIDS.

It sold 40,000 copies in hardback, well over a hundred thousand in paperback, but more important, it has softened attitudes and changed lives in positive ways.

Because of this story, I have been invited as a guest on such programs as “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and “Good Morning, America.” I have also been featured in “People Magazine.”

My recent book No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones examines the tragic and unnecessary goodbyes we continue to say around the issue of homosexuality, and also presents many inspiring stories of families finding new and positive ways to relate to their gay children.

Rabbi Harold Kushner (author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People) says of No More Goodbyes,
“Thank you, Carol Lynn Pearson, 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.”
There are many other books. A Stranger for Christmas, published by St. Martin's Press in 1996, had a large sale. Also with St. Martin's is Morning Glory Mother, released in 1997. Fall of 1998 saw the release of The Modern Magi with St. Martin's, a Christmas story filmed in the summer of 2001.

A series of gift books, Fables for our Times published by Gibbs Smith has done remarkably well, beginning with The Lesson in 1998, which has now sold over 40,000, followed by four others including What Love Is; Will You Still Be My Daughter?; Girlfriend, You Are the Best!; and A Strong Man. I also wrote Fuzzy Red Bathrobe: Questions From the Heart for Mothers and Daughters, for the same publisher.

My recent stage play premiered with Plan-B Theatre in Salt Lake City. Called Facing East, it is the story of a Mormon couple dealing with the suicide of their gay son. The off-Broadway show played to sold-out houses, and had a successful run in San Francisco. It was made into a successful film.

Consider the Butterfly: Transforming Your Life Through Meaningful Coincidence tells forty-four of my personal stories, showing how the phenomenon of synchronicity can bless our lives daily. This book was a finalist in the Inspiration/Spiritual category of the 2002 Independent Publishers Book Awards.

My initial major success in writing, however, was in the unlikely area of poetry. My first book, Beginnings (self-published initially and then taken over by Doubleday and then Bookcraft), has sold over 150,000 copies, and subsequent books have also sold extremely well -- The Growing Season, A Widening View, and Women I Have Known and Been.

Other of my writings include another book for Random House, One On The Seesaw: The Ups And Downs Of A Single-Parent Family, several books on the history of Utah women, a juvenile novel, a book on diary keeping, several books of humor, a variety of children's stage musicals, educational motion pictures (one that has become a classic and received many international awards, "Cipher in the Snow"), and a variety of magazine articles.

For the last ten years a major project of mine has been performing a one-woman play I wrote, Mother Wove the Morning in which I play sixteen women throughout history in search of the feminine divine.

I have performed this play now over 300 times across the country and abroad. Three years ago I produced a videotape of the play, which earned an award from "Booklist" as "one of the top 25 videos of the year." Now adapted for multiple performers, the play was given an “equity showcase” production in New York City in May of 2005.

Over the years I have spoken to countless audiences. Recently I addressed a national conference of women judges, and an international conference of Sisters of Mercy.


I have a calling. I don't remember asking for it, but Gerald assured me that I must have. "You know, don't you," he said, "that you've been set up to do something more than write nice little poems. Somehow you and I volunteered to do a really hard project together. I'm sorry it's so painful, but I know you've got an important work to do."

I accept my calling. I don't do it perfectly, but I do it as well as I can, and I do it with reverence. I see myself as one of the advance scouts who have been assigned to walk a rough landscape and come back to report.

This is my report. We are not yet in the promised land. We cannot proclaim, "This is the right place," as Brigham Young did in 1847 at the mouth of Emigration Canyon above Salt Lake City. You and I may not agree on what the promised land will look like when and if we finally get there, but let us agree on one thing. We are not there yet.

Human sacrifice


LDS gays march in SLC

We can look down at the landscape, watch history as it goes back and back and back. We can see the darkness of unconsciousness illumined from time to time by the light of consciousness. Look! There -- hard to believe --
-- we thought the gods appreciated human sacrifice

-- we thought it just fine for one man to own another in slavery

-- we accepted the idea that women did not have souls

-- we were indifferent to the genocide of millions of Native Americans

-- large numbers of us accepted that Hitler's ethnic cleansing was a fine idea.
Looking down at that slowly moving demarcation, that border of "now," we see the ongoing birth of higher consciousness. It is not a straight climb, but surely it is three steps forward for every one back.

Where, then, will our consciousness be ten years, thirty years, fifty years from now, assuming our world lasts? You have your list of hopes, I am sure. I have mine.
I hope and believe there will be more consciousness of our human family being part of the larger creation, part of the environment.

The feminine principle, both mortal and divine, will have established a larger presence.

We will be closer to a cease-fire over who owns God.

Our religions will have remembered that each has deeply imbedded in its platform a version of the Golden Rule.

We will have stopped creating divisions and will instead celebrate our common humanity and divinity.

We will be more reverent of the place and power of sexuality.

Our heterosexual majority will have ceased reviling and persecuting our gay brothers and sisters, and we will look back and shake our heads and say, "Can you believe that in the name of religion we drove these people to suicide?"
Not an impossible dream, I think. I know the human family, and I say with Anne Frank,
"I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart."

~~Several Excerpts from No More Goodbyes


Carol Lynn Pearson play and film takes on the agony of Mormon gays


Photo: Deseret Morning News
By Rebecca Rosen Lum
Contra Costa Times
Friday, March 30, 2007

Author and poet Carol Lynn Pearson wrote a groundbreaking book 20 years ago called Goodbye, I Love You about her gay husband and his death from AIDS.

At the beginning of her new play, Facing East, Walnut Creek writer Carol Lynn Pearson places her main characters, a middle-aged Mormon couple, in a cemetery. Their gay son has killed himself.

"This is the grave of my son, Andrew Isaac McCormick," says his father, Alex. "None of us ... knew him." Stuck between their faith and their new reality, they encounter their son's partner, Marcus, for the first time.

The play - opening off-Broadway in New York City this coming summer - takes on the divide between Mormon family loyalty and the faith's belief that homosexuality offends God.

Pearson in 1986 ignited a slow-burning conversation on how the Mormon community treats its gay members with her seminal book, Good-bye, I Love You, about her 12-year marriage to a gay Mormon man.

The emotional calls and letters she received, many having to do with the suicide of gay relatives, provided the material for Facing East and a second book, No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones.

Her message: Mormons are a loving people, but Church stigma has brought misery to gays and lesbians and left families bereft.

"To me it is clear that many suicides among young Mormon homosexuals, as well as gay people in other religions, can be traced directly to a hostile social and religious environment," she writes.

In drawing her conclusion she cites two facts: Utah leads the nation in self-inflicted deaths of young men ages 15 to 24, and federal statistics that show that gays and lesbians commit as much as 30 percent of youth suicides.

"I am not here to dictate policy to my church or any church," she said, relaxing on the couch in her living room, which is rich with paintings, sculpture, books, instruments, and play-writing trophies from Brigham Young High School in Provo, Utah.

"I'm here to tell the stories so we can hear the pain. I'm here to issue an invitation for us all to do better."

She began with her own story. In Goodbye, I Love You, she writes of the luminously attractive Gerald, who shared her passions for art, theater and music. He urged her to publish her first book of poetry (The self-published Beginnings sold out quickly and went into additional printings). The couple married in the Mormon temple and had four children.

Before the birth of her youngest, she learned her husband had lost his quiet battle to defeat his gay desires. The couple set out for California and its comfortable anonymity, their shaky marriage in tow.

Ultimately, they divorced, but her initial devastation, sorrow and bewilderment gave way to a friendship that lasted through his exploration of gay life in San Francisco to his 1984 death from AIDS. She nursed him through his final days in her home.

Phone calls from her readers often begin with sobs, she said.

She has counseled young gay Mormons wracked with suicidal thoughts. She has helped patch frayed families.

The Church's message has softened since Pearson wrote Goodbye.

"There's been a movement away from 'It's an evil choice,'" she said.

But Church support for California's Proposition 22, and other laws banning same-sex marriage, stung.

"The 'Protection of Marriage' concept did not protect my marriage ... or that of a significant number of other women and men," she writes in No More Goodbyes. "On the contrary, it created the ground on which a marriage was built that could have been predicted to fail."

The Church does not comment on individual works, said Michael Otterson, the Salt Lake City-based spokesman for the Latter-day Saints. Mormon elders are "trying to be sensitive," he said, while cautioning gays and lesbians against acting on their feelings.

"We expect celibacy of any person that is not married," said Elder Dallin Oaks, member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, in an online interview.

Pearson said Church elders treat her with warmth and respect. She treasures a note Gordon B. Hinckley sent her before he became president and prophet: "I appreciate the good you have done and are doing," it says.

Carol Lynn Wright Pearson
Photo: Dan Rosenstrauch/Contra Costa Times

Her play seems to have deeply touched Utah's Mormons.

The theater critic for the Deseret Morning News pronounced Facing East the best play of the year, in a tie with the Utah Shakespeare Festival's Hamlet.

The play packed in audiences when it opened in Salt Lake City -- "young kids in punk clothing, elderly people in a wheelchair, middle-aged couples in their church clothes," Pearson said.

It will have its off-Broadway premiere at the Atlantic Theatre in New York in May, and it will be staged in San Francisco in August.

One could get the impression from reading No More Goodbyes that despite their see-sawing feelings, Mormons stick by their gay children.

There is the mother who, after initial tears of stormy confusion, sews her daughter's lover a wedding dress and makes her daughter a blouse of the same fabric for the ceremony.

In truth, many have banished their children from the family home, or bluntly announced they would be better off dead, Pearson said.

"I wanted to pave a road with good stories," she said. "We need a map."

"It is our highest hope" that the stories will spur a rapprochement, said Olin Thomas, executive director of Affirmation, a national support organization for gay Mormons.

"Her work is one more drumbeat in making the Church aware that people will look at how it treats its members. They have to put on a kinder face."
_____________________________
Republished with permission.

Rebecca Rosen Lum covers religion. Reach her at 925-977-8506 or rrosenlum@cctimes.com

Source Publication: Contra Costa Times at: http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/16999597.htm

"Us" And "Them" No More

By Carol Lynn Wright Pearson
March 2007
Last November I was in Utah for performances of my play, Facing East, (about how a Mormon family deals with suicide of their gay son).

Early Thanksgiving morning I left my hotel to walk to TRAX to take the local train to Sandy to meet my brother and daughter to travel to a family celebration.

The streets of Salt Lake City were cold and totally deserted except for an occasional street person. As I hurried along, suddenly a young man approached me.

"I'm so sorry to bother you, but I'm trying to raise enough money to get a bus ticket so I can make it home for Thanksgiving. The bus leaves at one, and my parents said they wouldn't give me any more money. I'm trying to raise it one or two dollars at a time..."

He didn't look scary or unkept, just a teenage boy.

"Do you do this every day?" I asked.

"No, no," he said. "Honest, I just want to get a bus ticket home."

Remembering how I would feel if this were my child, remembering a certain King Benjamin about our all being beggars, remembering that it was Thanksgiving, after all –- I opened my backpack and got out the sum he needed for his bus fare, from the little blue plastic box filled with cash from book sales from the theatre, and handed it to him.

"Oh, thanks!" he said in surprise. "Wow. Where are you from? What do you do?"

"I live in California. I'm a writer."

"You are? I love poems!"

"I write poems."

"You do?" His eyes widened in amazement. Then –- "Would you tell me one?"

Would I tell him a poem? Here on the cold streets of Salt Lake City in the early morning of Thanksgiving –- would I tell this boy a poem?

Suddenly my reality shifted. A moment ago we had been "us" and "them" -– me a privileged woman who had never accosted someone on the street to ask for money, and him a boy who -– for whatever reason -– had at the moment no resources. And then, in the time it took for him to say five words, all that had shifted. We were two people who loved poems.

"Sure," I said. It would have to be a short poem, as I had to catch the train.

"Here's one that I have to tell myself every now and then. I wrote the two parts of this tiny poem two years apart -– the first section in the darkest time of my life, the second when things looked brighter.
Drama in Two Acts.

"I dim
I dim
I have no doubt
If someone blew–
I would go out.

I did not.
I must be brighter
Than I thought."
"Ahhh. Will you say it again?"

I did. Then I gave the boy a hug and made him promise that he will do whatever it takes to get into a position where he can take good care of himself and make a contribution to the world.

I hurried down the street to catch the train -– only to discover that, unlike BART in the Bay Area where I live, Salt Lake's TRAX does not run on holidays.

I called my brother in Sandy and asked him to come and get me. It seems we all need help getting home for Thanksgiving. As King Benjamin said, we are all beggars.

Finally there is no "us" and "them."

Carol Lynn Wright Pearson and friend, SLC


Author List, Carol Lynn Pearson

1968 Beginnings, Trilogy Arts, 1974 Doubleday, 1985 Bookcraft
1970 The Search, Trilogy Arts, 1974 Doubleday, 1985 Bookcraft
1985 The Search, was combined with Beginnings
1973 Daughters of Light, Trilogy Arts, 1974 Bookcraft
1974 Sound and Shhhhh, Trilogy Arts
1975 The Flight and the Nest, Bookcraft
1976 The Growing Season, Bookcraft
1976 The Busy Bishop's Notebook, Bookcraft
1977 Model Mormon Mother's Notebook, Bookcraft
1977 Lullaby Song, Embryo
1978 Model Mormon Missionary's Notebook, Bookcraft
1978 Model Mormon Male's Notebook, Bookcraft
1979 Call It Mother, Bookcraft
1979 Faithful Mormon Father's Notebook, Bookcraft
1980 Will I Ever Forget This Day?, Bookcraft
1980 Letters to Missionaries, Bookcraft
1980 Letters from Missionaries, Bookcraft
1980 Ready Relief Society Sister's Notebook, Bookcraft
1981 Overheard at the Dance, Bookcraft
1983 Stepping Stones and Stumbling Blocks, game, Bookcraft
1883 A Lasting Peace, Randall Press, 1989 Deseret Book
1983 Today, Tomorrow and Four Weeks From Tuesday, Bookcraft
1983 A Widening View, Bookcraft
1984 I Can't Stop Smiling, Bookcraft
1984, A Stranger For Christmas, Bookcraft, 1996 St. Martin's
1985 Not At All Trivial, game, Bookcraft
1985 Blow Out the Wishbone, Bookcraft
1986 Thoughts of the Heart, Bookcraft
1986 Goodbye, I Love You, Random House, 1988 Berkeley paperback, 1995 Gold Leaf
1987 Couples, game, Bookcraft
1988 Heroes and Villains, game, Bookcraft
1988 One On the Seesaw, Random House
1989 Mormon Mother's Candid Calendar, Bookcraft
1991 Women I Have Known and Been, Gold Leaf/Aspen
1991 Mother Wove the Morning, CL Pearson
1994 The Modern Magi, Gold Leaf/Aspen, 1998 St. Martin's
1995 A Christmas Thief, Gold Leaf/Aspen
1996 Picture Window, compilation, Gold Leaf/Aspen
1997 Morning Glory Mother, St. Martin's
1998 The Lesson, Gibbs Smith/Peregrine
1998 The Stocking Stuffer's Story, Stellar Publishing
1999 What Love Is, Gibbs Smith Publisher
2000 Will You Still Be My Daughter? Gibbs Smith Publisher
2000 Girlfriend, You Are the Best! Gibbs Smith Publisher
2000 Fuzzy Red Bathrobe: Questions from the Heart for Mothers and Daughters, Gibbs Smith Publisher
2001 A Strong Man, Gibbs Smith Publisher
2001 Day Old Child and Other Celebrations of Motherhood, Gibbs Smith Publisher
2001 The Gift, Gibbs Smith Publisher
2002 A Sister, Gibbs Smith Publisher
2003 Consider The Butterfly, Gibbs Smith Publisher
2004 The Christmas Play, Loyola Press
2005 The Christmas Moment, Cedar Fort Press
2005 Beginnings and Beyond, Cedar Fort Press
2007 No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons around Our Gay Loved Ones, Pivot Point Books
Plays and Musical Products by Carol Lynn Pearson

The Dance
Think Your Way to a Million
The Order Is Love
Pegora The Witch
Don't Count Your Chickens Until They Cry Wolf
I Believe In Make Believe
My Turn On Earth
Move On!
A Time To Love
Mother Wove The Morning
It's My Life!
The Apple Kingdom
A Stranger for Christmas
Martyr in Waiting



No More Goodbyes


Mormon author Carol Lynn Pearson tries to separate church and hate
By Steven Winn
S. F. Chronicle Arts and Culture Critic
Saturday, August 18, 2007


It's the question Carol Lynn Pearson hears just about every time she appears in public. She heard it again last weekend, during an audience discussion that followed a packed-house performance of her play "Facing East" at Theatre Rhinoceros.

How, one woman asked, could Pearson justify her own membership and involvement in the Mormon church?

The question was prompted by several things. One was the action of "Facing East," which takes place at the funeral of a young gay Mormon man who committed suicide under the shadow of church and family stigma. The other was the story of Pearson's own life, detailed in her 1986 book, "Goodbye, I Love You," and retold in brief, as it was to the Theatre Rhinoceros crowd, many times since. The mother of four young children at the time, Pearson divorced her gay Mormon husband in 1978. He died of AIDS in 1984.

Pearson, a slim, forthright woman of 67 who wears her silvery white hair jauntily short, nodded along as the question was posed. "I love the Mormon community," she responded, "and I have a unique opportunity to build bridges." A number of her church ward leaders, Pearson noted, had attended the opening of "Facing East" the night before. "They've been nothing but supportive," she said. "I believe the Mormon heart is a good heart. I feel comfortable with my role in the Mormon church."

Whether the church and wider Mormon population feel entirely comfortable with her, as an advocate for gay rights and recognition, is another matter. Doctrinally opposed to a "homosexual lifestyle" that is "not normal," as the high-ranking Mormon elder Dallin H. Oaks has put it, the church addresses a reality it would probably just as soon avoid altogether in a carefully constructed way.

A new Mormon church pamphlet on the subject that was issued last month puts the official Mormon position on homosexuality like this: "If you avoid immoral thoughts and actions, you have not transgressed even if you feel such an attraction." The document goes on to advise, "The desire for physical gratification does not authorize immorality for anyone." True happiness, according to the pamphlet, "depends on more than physical urges. These urges diminish as more fundamental emotional needs are met - such as the need to interact with and serve others."

Pearson, as the Theatre Rhinoceros audience affirmed in a post-play session that soon became more like a tear-filled, pan-denominational testimony meeting, has undeniably served others. One man, a fundamentalist preacher who left his wife and three children 15 years ago when he embraced his own homosexuality, told Pearson she had spoken to him on the phone for an hour at the time and dissuaded him from suicide. "You saved my life," he said. Pearson stepped offstage to hug him.

A gay Mormon whose parents refuse to speak his partner's name said "Facing East," which focuses on the grief-torn mother and father, had helped him see his own parents' perspective. "I've been semi-selfish in my own journey," he said. A woman in the second row stood up to express, between heavy sobs, her gratitude for the play and its author.

Pearson took it all in graciously, with neither self-importance nor false modesty. As a prominent Mormon author of some 40 books and plays, she's been in plenty of crowds like this one over the years. Her sense of purpose is apparent when she ticks off facts about suicide rates in Mormon-dominated Utah - the highest in the country for males ages 15-24. She assesses her own work with straightforward clarity. "I'm not an artist's artist," she says. "Issues are more important to me than art itself."

Pearson's equipoise didn't come easily. In a recent conversation at her ranch house on a sunny cul-de-sac in Walnut Creek, the Utah native and longtime California transplant spun out the improbable narrative of her own life. Born a fourth-generation Mormon in Salt Lake City in 1939, Pearson was a happy and optimistic child, she began. Her family spent some time on a Ute Indian reservation, without electricity or running water, before moving to Provo.

By the time she graduated from Brigham Young High School and went on to Brigham Young University, she was immersed in theater and writing. She met Gerald, her husband to be, when they were both cast in a BYU production of Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth." It was during their engagement that Gerald first told her of his attraction to men.

"This was 1966," Pearson said with a measured sigh. "We were so naive and so Utah. We accepted the promise that you just repent when you get off track and everything will work out."

After an engagement that was broken and resumed, the couple married in Salt Lake's Mormon Temple on Sept. 9, 1966. Their first child was born two years later. By then, Pearson was something of a local celebrity. Her first book of inspirational poems, self-published with Gerald's prodding and a $2,000 loan, sold an impressive 25,000 copies. "Nobody but some outrageously gay man would decide to publish his wife's poems," Pearson said with a laugh. She has supported herself and for many years her entire family as a writer ever since.

Pearson recalled her marriage as one of mutual devotion and fun - "in many ways a cut above the marriages of my friends." But, she added, "what Gerald had hoped would happen didn't." He still wanted to have sex with men. Apprehensive about her marriage ending at the heart of the Mormon world, Pearson proposed that the couple relocate from Utah to California. After they did, Gerald moved to San Francisco while Carol Lynn and the children remained in Walnut Creek.

Pearson maintains a complicated double-view about this fissure in her life. "It was hell," she said, "the resentment, the anger, the confusion, the divorce. But we also remained close. He was a wonderful father." A small smile came and went, ghost-like, across Pearson's face. " 'If I could just find a man like you,' " he often said, " 'I'd be in seventh heaven.' With my interest in women's issues and Gerald's being gay," she said, "it's occurred to me that gender is what brought us together in the first place - possibly, maybe."

After Gerald's AIDS diagnosis, and just a month before his death, Carol Lynn was facing a house payment she couldn't make. An 11th-hour sale of a Christmas story to a Mormon publisher saved the day and proved to be a major financial gusher in the years to come.

Her ex-husband came back to Walnut Creek to die, Pearson said. It happened in the very room where she and her visitor were sitting. Composed in her recounting until this point, Pearson teared up as she began to describe how the members of her Mormon community rose to the occasion. Every night one of her church "visiting teachers" told her to make a list of what she needed the next day.

"It was always done, whatever it was - food, transportation, yard work," said Pearson. "There was no shunning of me or Gerald, not ever, not once. Mormonism can not be easily dismissed in any direction." In Pearson's own cosmology, "we're all in the correct classroom, working out the story problems that we should be doing. And the answer to all of them is: 'How much do you love?' "

With the publication of her marriage memoir, "Goodbye, I Love You," Pearson became a spokeswoman and inspirational leader on homosexuality in the Mormon world. A subsequent book, "No More Goodbyes," tells a range of stories about gay Mormondom. One deals with Bruce Bastian, a married gay Mormon who was also the wealthy co-founder of WordPerfect. Bastian became a confidant and close friend and later a financial angel for "Facing East." The show opened at Salt Lake City's Plan-B Theatre before traveling to New York and San Francisco. Singapore in the next scheduled port of call.

Pearson has never remarried. "That has been a disappointment in my life," she said. There's also been grief along with joy, bafflement and a strange sense of wonder in the lives of her children. One son is an unmarried animator; the other is a rock musician and the divorced father of two. Her youngest child, Katy, died of a brain tumor seven years ago.

As for her oldest, Pearson drew a deep breath before relating this chapter. Like her mother, Emily married a gay man and subsequently divorced him. That man is Steven Fales, creator of the widely traveled solo show "Confessions of a Mormon Boy." Fales performed it locally, at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, in 2002. Emily, hewing to her mother's past, is now writing a book about her life with a gay Mormon husband.

Pearson offered a wry half-smile. "There are days," she said, "when I think that either everything is a very bad joke or everything has a hidden sense to it. I do melt down and rail at the heavens. But I don't stay there long. I always have to come into a place where there is sunlight."


Facing East:

Plays through August 26, 2007 at Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St., San Francisco. Tickets $20. Call (415) 861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org


Brief BYH Biography

Carol Lynn Wright was born in 1939 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her parents are Lelland Rider Wright (died 1975) and Emeline Sirrine Wright (died 1955). Her twin brothers, Donald and David Wright, graduated from BY High in 1955. Her third brother, Warren Wright, graduated from BY High in 1956. Her sister, Marie Wright Cheever, graduated from Provo High in 1959.

At BYH, Carol Lynn was Editor of the Y'ld Cat student newspaper, president of the Thespian Society, participated on the Debate Team and advanced to Region, participated in Oratory and Dramatic Reading and advanced to State in both. She participated in the "I Speak for Democracy" oratory contest.

Carol Lynn participated in a Contest Play that advanced to State. She was a member of the Childrens Theatre troup, participated in the Seminary Play, and was a member of Quill & Scroll.
She was a member of the Pep Club, Notre Maison, Chorus, and participated in both Girls' State and the Model United Nations. She served on the Senior Hop Committee and the Graduation Committee. She received a Scholarship Award and won 1st Place in the BYH Poetry Contest. She graduated from BYH in the spring of 1957.

Carol Lynn went on to Brigham Young University, where she received a BA in Theatre and Cinematic Arts in 1961. She continued on to earn a Master of Arts degree in Theatre and Cinematic Arts in 1962.

She married Gerald Neils Pearson, and they had four children: Emily Pearson, John W. Pearson, Aaron Pearson, and Katherine (Katy) Sirrine Pearson (Jonathan A.) Adams (dec).

And that which has followed has been a most remarkable of examining and sharing of her personal and public life, influencing the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of her readers for the better.


Carol Lynn Wright Pearson, BYH Class of 1957
C. L. Wright
Pearson


Brigham Young - Biographies
BYH Biographies