Mormon Family Values
The suicide attempt, says Judd, now a sophomore studying theater at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, "wasn't [done] out of despair as much as it was [done] almost out of duty. It felt to me as if I was in this loop that I couldn't end. The church wanted me to change, and I couldn't get past that. And I couldn't change, and I couldn't get past that.... It was a quick resolution before doing the damage of falling into a life of sin. I believed too strongly in the church and the church's values, and I placed those above my own life."
Whatever it represented for Judd, for David and Carlie the attempt signaled that they could no longer rely on guidance from the church. "We were faithful members," Carlie says, "and then we ran into this situation and no one was there for us." They told Judd there was nothing wrong with him, that he was not going to have to choose between affection or damnation, and they yanked him out of church activities.
Although they experienced massive spiritual and emotional turmoil, they still could not fathom formally separating from the LDS--"anathema," David describes it--so they continued to take Judd's three younger brothers to church. One day in early 1999 James Hardy asked his mom to call a family meeting. Carlie remembers that her son said, "I don't understand, you keep saying that Judd doesn't have to go to church because he's gay and that's an extenuating circumstance. But don't you think the fact that I have an older brother I honor, respect and look up to, and this is a church that doesn't have a place for him--isn't that an extenuating circumstance?" He said, "It is for me and I won't be going back." That was the watershed moment, Carlie says. "All of a sudden David and I looked at each other and said, "You know what? We're not going either. If this is an organization that will not support this amazing individual who is our son, Judd Eccles Hardy, then we will not be going either."
It was October 2000, the eve of the church's semiannual General Conference, for which clergy and members from around the world descend upon their religious capital to reaffirm the authority of the church leadership. David Hardy stood nervously in his office, a nineteenth-century carriage house just eight blocks from LDS headquarters. He and Carlie had invited the local print, television and radio media for a press conference unlike any other held in Salt Lake City in recent memory. They were going to speak out publicly to decry church policy. "I was scared witless," says David. "I don't think a former bishop has ever done anything like that before."
The Hardys had also invited more than a handful of their peers, members of Family Fellowship, a support group for current and former Mormon parents of gay children. But except for the four lapsed Mormons who attended, the Hardys stood alone. (Since LDS members believe God literally speaks through the church's prophet and president, dissent, or support of dissenters, is tantamount to heresy.)
"We are here today as members of the LDS church and parents of gay children," David began. He had already dispersed to the various reporters copies of the pamphlets that, he asserted, promote violence against homosexuals. He pointed out that the church had reissued literature condoning violence as a response to homosexuals at the same time that Russell Hendersen, an LDS member, was being tried for the murder of Matthew Shepard (the church has since excommunicated Hendersen). David asked that Packer or a church spokesman avow or reject the language in the pamphlets--the only existing church literature directly addressing homosexuality.
After David finished his remarks, he and Carlie answered a few questions before the swell of reporters walked to the LDS administrative building in pursuit of a church response. (A spokesman issued a statement later that evening: "These are individuals who are children of God. We love them; we respect them. This church is a church of inclusion, not exclusion, and we welcome them and want them to be a part of the church.")