Jay Bell (1948-2003)
Jay Bell receives award for his research, Salt Lake City, October 2003
Jay Bell at the Millennium March on Washington, DC, 30 April 2000
Jay Bell's GLBTI Studies CD-Rom Available
Affirmation announces the Jay Bell Fund
A Gift to Last:
The Affirmation Collection at the University of Utah
Surfing Information and Making Waves: Edward Jay Bell
Picture taken at the burial place
You may add your own tribute to this page by sending an email to
A Tribute to a Great Friend, Author and Scholar: Jay Bell
by Scott MacKay
On behalf of Affirmation, I deeply regret and mourn the accidental passing of Affirmation stalwart, Jay Bell, on December 18th, 2003.
It is very difficult for me to write this as one of my last communiques as Executive Director because throughout the six years I served, Jay has been a beacon of support and friendship. He has given countless hours of selfless service not just for Affirmation, but on behalf of gay Mormons everywhere. Among his many acts of service, Jay served as a bridge between our gay Mormon community and the academic world. He was associated with Sunstone and Dialogue and has many friends who are scholars and writers.
Recently, Affirmation recognized Jay's stellar work documenting LDS Church
statements and actions regarding homosexuality from the very beginnings
of Mormonism till today. The work represented countless, grueling hours,
gleaning information from primary sources, and then assembling what he
found in a very useful and articulate format numbering hundreds and hundreds
of pages. Jay planned to use the $1,000 award to further refine the work
which he started and shared with us all. Jay received this award this
past October, in Salt Lake City, at Affirmation's International Conference.
This effort of Jay's was only a small part of his contribution to Affirmation and Gay Mormondom and though his life has been tragically cut short; his contributions represent many lifetimes of effort. We will miss him but his work and his spirit will move us forward.
On a personal level, I love and will miss you, Jay. Thanks so much for the years of support and help I so enjoyed. Your work will long stand as a wonderful legacy and tribute to your life--a life richly lived and greatly appreciated.
2003 Affirmation Executive Director
Tribute Read by David Clark Knowlton at the Funeral, December 22, 2003
There is a game that has no name; at least we had not a name for it, although we played it all the time. To outsiders it can be quite annoying, I am sure. But to those of us initiated in its joys it is simply fun. Jay was a master at this game.
I learned it as a boy living on a narrow valley between the Rio Grande and purple mountains. On the other side of the river, it has a name, albur. The folklorists call it verbal art and compare it with an African American word play called the "dozens". But for us Anglo kids, on our side of the international line it remained nameless. But we played it all the time. It was one of a myriad of little nameless things that defined a culture and made life meaningful.
I met Jay at Sunstone, in 1993 or 1994, when his friend Tim Rathbone invited me to lunch. Later, at a time in my life with many of the people I had thought of as friends had disappeared following my conflict with my employer, the Church, Jay would ride his bicycle regularly up to visit me. I always wondered why he would come, but he did, with a smile, some good stories, and always a reference to some book or another he thought I should read.
Who knows when it started. One day, I am sure, with a twinkle of humor in his eyes, Jay lobbed a pun in my direction. Others might just groan in a culturally appropriate recognition of a pun well done. But to the cognoscenti of border verbal play, that is a dare, like a gauntlet thrown. I grabbed the pun, on both levels of meaning, and, threw it back at him, while subtly shifting its balance. Aha take that! Damn! He flung it back, and so on, in a slinging of words back and forth so fast, it left onlookers breathless and searching for meaning, until one or the other of us would collapse in laughter, unable to match the others' skill.
Generally I was the one who quit. Jay was too good at language. He could negotiate the perils of multiple meaning like a race car driver a highway of speeding cars and obstacles.
Perhaps it was that shared culture of the Southwest that made us friends, or perhaps it was just that Jay was always there, visiting, calling, always with a joke, a story, recommended reading. Before long he started joining me and whatever my family consisted of at that time, for formal dinners, especially at Christmas Eve, and later Thanksgiving. He could draw anyone, no matter their status, no matter their background, into conversation.
In my shyness I envied him that ability as time after time I saw it in action. No matter who, Jay would find a way to converse. He always had a giggle and would make the others smile.
There are far too few friends in life. Each is rare and precious. There will never be another Jay Bell. I am blessed to have been his friend and will miss his laugh.
Well Jay, of the secret first name Edward, Bell, I do not know if you can find double meanings in death. But I am waiting. I have no doubt, that if you can, one day I will feel the frisson of the universe as it almost breaks into giggles, before a burst of wind, a flower in the light, a bird in flight, or the stench of a passing bus lobs that double meaning at me. I just hope I can toss it back.
Eulogy Read by Brent Pace at the Funeral, December 22, 2003
Just two weeks ago, Jay was discussing with us his desire to be an organ donor. After I explained how to do it on the Internet, Jay said, "Oh, I'm just so happy someone will be able to use these eyes!"
I'd like to share what I wrote about Jay as an obituary:
Jay had enormous impact on many individuals throughout his life. He was active in a variety of civic and religious organizations. He will be remembered for his intense, personal commitment to research on a variety of subjects but particularly on the issue of civil rights. His pursuit of knowledge was driven by a desire to better understand and appreciate diverse human experiences and to raise awareness about the need for social reform. He was a strong advocate for anyone who has struggled to find a place in mainstream society and he frequently opened his heart and home to people in crisis. Jay will always be remembered for his brilliant mind, his love of knowledge and, especially, his delightful sense of humor.
Jay entered my life 7 years ago when he offered me a place to live. Things were very bad for me at the time and Jay very quickly became a confidant, friend, counselor and, of course, my matchmaker. Since his death this week, I've discovered that Jay's influence has been felt across many groups of people: from BYU religion professors (I know because my dad was one and is in the audience today) to young people struggling with severe depression. He helped those in transition and in need of a safe haven. He never judged anyone as being unworthy of his time and attention.
Most importantly, however, Jay loved conversation. My life partner and I have a joke about Jay never being able to say "goodbye." Often, after dropping Jay off at his condo following an evening we had spent with him, we would wait about ninety seconds and the cell phone would ring. It was always Jay following up on something we had been talking about. With Jay, the discussion never ended.
One friend said Jay was the perfect example of Socratic teaching--always asking the questions that forced us to explore our own biases, prejudices or limited view of others. Jay's questions always forced us to face our limited view of the world.
And Jay was driven to connect with others. He would often strike up conversations with clerks in stores, passengers on mass transit or that faceless voice calling for a hotel reservation at Marriott. And what allowed Jay to have conversations with others was his complete disregard for status, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender, creed or background.
As Jay's eyesight deteriorated--especially over the past several months, it became increasingly apparent that it took great courage for him to wake up each morning, get ready, navigate by bus from home to work to downtown and back home again. He never complained, never indulged in self-pity and was committed to remaining as independent as possible.
Jay's diminished ability to see with his eyes allowed him to become more intuitive. One could say that Jay saw with his heart and mind--often seeing things in others that the rest of us are blind to.
The one thing I can't say, however, is that Jay was rigorously honest. He wasn't. Just yesterday afternoon it dawned on me that Jay had lied for years about one thing--his age. Even after pinning him down and forcing him to tell us his exact birthday, he still told us he was born in 1950 instead of 1948!
Much love to you Jay on the next part of your journey.
Tribute by Tim Rathbone
Dear Friends of Jay Bell,
I apologize for not being able to attend the Celebration for the life
of my Best Friend, Jay Bell. Circumstances just would not allow my schedule to fit with the time and dates in question. It is difficult for me to put down in a few words my thoughts and feeling about the passing of my friend Jay. Jay Bell is the best friend I have and was like a brother to me like--the brother I never had.
Jay and I first met in 1981/82 at BYU when our lives where in transition. Jay was moving from his conservative views to broadening his horizons regarding Mormonism and its history, theology and otherwise. I was moving towards the center of Mormonism. I knew the conservative side was not working for me in my life. I remember Jay in class with me, in Dr. Phil Flammer's World War II class, studying all about the war and getting to know Dr. Flammer and each other as friends.
Jay shared with me his interest in Lorenzo Snow and Church History. When I first met Jay he talked about compiling a book on the papers and talks of Lorenzo Snow. This research led him to his groundbreaking research on the Mormon myths of the film The Windows of Heaven that Jay published as an article in the Journal of Mormon History.
Somehow during the early '80s we were sucked into the vortex of the Mormon historiography debate and would visit occasionally at Grandpa's Books and the offices of the Seventh East Press and hear about the history controversy between Mike Quinn and Boyd K. Packer. Jay and myself would meet and talk about Mormon history, MHA, Sunstone, etc. We wondered what was going on, and each in our way tried to find and explanation as to what was really going on. Jay would take the side of the Brethren on occasion, and tried to view things from their point of view. I myself was teetering in the middle of the road doing my best to explain the unexplainable and understand the action of LDS leaders.
Then a number of events transpired that changed our views of the Church Hierarchy forever. First the William Clayton diaries were leaked. Jay Andy Ehat confronted Bell and Scott Faulring about the
leaking of the Clayton diaries.
Around this time one day a certain letter from Bruce McConkie to Eugene England was leaked to the 7th East Press and the Tanners. Jay was visited by members of Church Security to explain how his copy of the letter got out.
Then there was the Ronald L. Poleman talk. Jay compared the original with the redubbed rerecorded version of the talk. These are just a few examples of some of the involvement's Jay had in the "Mormon Underground," when Xerox copies of documents made the rounds among those in the know. Willard Smith (one of Jay's roommates) had coined the expression "Xerox Priests" one day during a discussion about the Mormon Underground. The Mormon underground is a group of people who pass along sensitive Xeroxed documents like the McConkie-England letters, temple documents, diaries, etc. This was before the days of the Internet (now most things are scanned in and just emailed as attachments or is on a web site somewhere.).
I guess Jay was one of the Xerox priests, and so was I. The late Earnest Strack ran Grandpa's Books. Earnest had a collection of documents that anyone could borrow and go next door to Kinko's and make copies of the documents. The Xerox priests who would spend hours at a copy machine copying letters, diaries, and journals of church leaders and then share them with their friends. Jay had a collection of files that never ended; he was perpetually collecting copies of document and sharing these documents with those who asked.
I would mention to Jay that I was researching a subject and in a couple of days Jay would show up with a copy of some obscure talk or document to assist me in my research. If I found something I thought might interest Jay, I would return the favor and pass along documents to him.
Jay and I would ride the bus from Provo to SLC to do research in the LDS Church archives. Jay was a fountain of trivial knowledge; he loved life and turn of the 19th and 20th century people, places, and things. Riding the bus to SLC was a gas with Jay the crowd who road the bus was a fun crowd. We would play trivia or just talk and have fun traveling around.
Jay would talk to me of his struggle with his then girlfriend Carley, asking me for advice and what to do. Jay had fun and enjoyed life. He loved to go dancing and having a good time just visiting and chatting. Jay love good books, and in spite of his handicap, he was very well read. We both enjoyed the same type or kind of music and movies.
Jay, myself, and Jani Fleet had great times together as friends; we would go see movies at the BYU film society or the movies. Some of the films we watched together were The Killing Fields and The Color Purple. Both of these films deeply touched our lives. This was a great time; a good time was had by all.
We would go to MHA meetings Sunstone and other Mormon intellectual gatherings together and continued to debate and discuss our religious and spiritual feelings.
Around the middle 80s in 1985/86, the Mark Hoffman events got all of us spooked. We wondered where things would go and what would happen to Mormon studies. Mark's forgeries shocked everyone and the ripple effect is still being felt today.
In the summer of 1986 I graduated from BYU and moved to start a job in with Lockheed Aircraft in California. Jay went to work for WordPerfect. We would keep in touch by phone or mail on a monthly basis.
When I would visit Utah for family vacations, I would always make it a point to visit with Jay. We were on a journey that would end up with both of us going down roads and following directions and leads we never would have dreamed of.
We would talk about life the church and share our deepest intimate thoughts and feelings with each other. Jay was always there for me if I ever needed to talk; all I had to do was call him and likewise he would call me. We continued to struggle with life he with his personal challenge and me with my wife and family.
Jay would pass along something he had heard and we would talk about it, just shaking our heads at the absurdity of certain things in the church. During the 1990s, when I lived in Victorville, Jay would come down to visit his mother in Ridgecrest a couple of times a year. I would pick up Jay at the train depot and drive him to his mother's in Ridgecrest. Jay showed me his old stomping grounds around Trona and Ridgecrest, taking me to the pinnacles, and talking about how it was the only place on earth where the silence screamed at you. The pinnacles are deafly silent and the silence is so deafening it literally screams at one there. Our friendship developed into one of either exchanging e-mails or talking weekly on the telephone about a number of subjects; politics, religion, life and computers--you name it, we talked about it all.
Jay was interested and curious about a number of things and studied and read about as much as his item would allow.
In the mid 1990s Jay was searching for his place in the world--where he fit in. He shared his thoughts and feelings with me on a number of subjects. He would probe to see how I would react to his thoughts and feelings about him. Then one day in 1994 or '95 we were talking; at the time he was a priest or teachers quorum advisor and the subject of Gays came up, Jay told the class, "Some of you may have
friends who are gay; what are you going to do when they tell you they are gay?" He asked the boys about
their reactions, and thus lead the general discussion of the class.
Then he said to me, "Tim, I think I'm gay." I said, "o.k., well, if you are, I hope you find out soon for yourself which way you want to go." I told him, "regardless of this you are still my friend and always will be." A few weeks or months passed; Jay continued to ponder about this idea of gayness. He called and we chatted and he said, "Tim, I'm gay;" I said, "o.k., I'm glad you've come to this place and are at peace with yourself." He was so happy and sounded so peaceful with his decision, which lead him to many new friends and down roads and paths that he never dreamed existed.
From many of his acquaintances, he found the answers to many of his struggles and was at peace with beginning to separate himself from the institutional LDS Church and Mormonism to another path
of self expression and life's fulfillment. He was so proud of his research on the Church and Gays. I hope his book gets published soon.
Like I said previously, Jay was always there when I needed him. In 2001 I went through the darkest time of my life thus far. Jay wrote me and wanted me to know that he was still my friend and insisted that I call him. I was going through the hell of a divorce and abandonment of my LDS friends.
Jay, like an angel, was there for me. Up until the time of his passing from 2001 until Friday December 12th we talked on the phone every week or weekend. Jay was like my own personal angel encouraging me to get on and push on with life. He wanted to make sure his buddy Tim was doing o.k. I cannot tell you what these phone calls of encouragement meant to me.
When I met a wonderful woman we talked about this relationship that ended in a new marriage. Jay liked my wife Marie and wanted to meet here. On occasion Marie and Jay would have some interesting discussions about me, and life, and our friendship.
The first weekend of December, I read Angels in America. I called Jay and told him how excited I was to finally read it. Now Jay is one of the angels in America. Now my friend has chosen to move on. My angel and friend Jay, my spiritual brother, has left me a gift and friendship that I will always cherish. Now my friends have increased; to get to know you, folks, and thus I'm enlarging my circle of friend.
I had a dream Tuesday night, December the 16 (the night of the accident).
I saw Jay standing there looking at me. He was dressed in white, like
he did the few times we went to the temple together; and there he was
standing there, looking at me, waving goodbye, walking into that great
big temple in the sky. I'll miss his calls about something on NPR on
Prairie Home Companion, or C-Span, or PBS shows, etc. That's
To be honest with you all, I missed Jay terribly this week; it has been
hard. Talking to Jani, and Rick [Bickmore], and Brent [Pace] has helped
out a lot. Jay thanks for introducing me to your new friends. I will
miss you. I love you, Brother. Jay, you are my best friend. Good bye,
God bless and keep you.
Tribute by Ricky Gilbert
I was sad to hear about Jay being in the accident. Then I was even sadder to hear of his passing.
My best memory of Jay was when we were in NYC for the leadership meeting there. Jay and I shared a room. He joined Alan, Blue, DJ and I on a wonderful journey up to the top of the Empire State Building and then a subway journey away from and then into Harlem to have Soul food. We walked through Central Park and had drawings of each other done by a local artist.
Then that Sunday we all had "Breakfast at Tiffany's" with Imelda and Edith Head. You all were such stumps, only standing on the side, while Edith was waving to the crowds and having her picture taken with passers by. And the policemen who were guarding the store were cuties.
Tribute by Ben Williams
I am deeply sadden by the passing of Jay Bell. I have his voice on my cell phone answering machine from just a couple of days before his accident. I never got back with him because of the hectic holiday schedule. I will never know now what he wanted to share with me to my deep regret.
Jay and I shared a love of being Gay and of history. It was he who approached me with the concept of saving the old Utah Stonewall Archives by having the Marriott Library be a repository for them. He made all the contacts between the GLCCU's board and the Marriott Library's special collection department.
One very hot summer day Jay and I spent the after noon lugging out over 30 card board boxes from a dusty and dirty garage. Jay was a doer. More so he was a visionary. He understood that our time here is so fleeting and it is the records that we leave behind which will make us immortal. Jay has left us a legacy insuring his immortality.
He was dedicated in preserving the history of Affirmation in Utah and of the LDS church's recessive attitude towards homosexuality.
Jay Bell was a member of the Board of Directors of the Utah Stonewall Historical Society and we shall miss him not only for the giant he was in historical research but also for his wicked humor and tidbits of gossip that also makes history exciting as well as entertaining.
I know Jay's life had been full of personal hardships in recent years and I pray he is at rest now and I hope, perhaps, he will whisper in my ear some more mischievous gossip from the other side.
Ben Williams, Director
Utah Stonewall Historical Society
Tribute by Chris & Kraig
Jay will be missed by us. He always went out of his way to be so kind. Jay, we love you. This year's Christmas card takes on a new and VALUED meaning!
Chris and Kraig
Tribute by Lynn Andersen
I was very saddened with the news of Jay's passing. I lived with Jay in
his house in Orem, Utah from 1993-1995. He was a good friend and roommate.
He told me a lot about the things he was researching, mostly about the legendary
BYU shock therapy treatments. He also introduced me to Sunstone
and some of the people involved in that literary endeavor. It was shortly
after moving into Jay's house in 1993 that we came out to each other. I
was glad to have a friend to talk to about such personal issues. I eventually
introduced him to Rick Bickmore, which lead him to Family Fellowship and
Affirmation. He went much further with all that than I ever realized. Jay
was part of my life, we made some big steps together, and he was a good
friend. His influence will remain with me always.
Lynn Rowley Andersen
New Berlin, New York
Tribute by Dave Combe
Jay called me Sunday night, but I was watching Angels in America
and let the machine pick up his call. I'll always be grateful that George
and I called him back Monday night and chatted for 30 minutes or so.
We talked nearly every weekend. Tuesday evening, the next day, he was
hit by a car in a crosswalk by a car turning left on his own corner,
just yards from his door.
Jay was a gentleman and a scholar whose collections of papers and research
on the Mormon gay community in Utah reside at the University of Utah Marriott
Library. He was an important link between the Mormon gay community and the
Sunstone and Dialogue groups. He collected the history of Affirmation and
its chapters across the nation and around the world. He has documented an
awful chapter in Mormon history. One day the Mormon world will look at what
Jay has done and recognize the waste of generations of gay, lesbian, bisexual,
and transgendered Mormons that the LDS Church has left in its wake.
When that day comes, this work will stand as a lasting tribute to this kind and gentle man, who was my friend.
Tribute by Alan Blodgett
For many years I have counted Jay Bell as one of my dearest friends. I can't remember when I first met Jay, but do remember well the weekend in March, 1997 when he and Duane Jennings stayed at my home while attending the Affirmation Portland Leadership meeting the year that Rick Fernandez was Executive Director. After that our paths have crossed often. I have always felt welcome in Jay's home and he has been welcome in mine.
What a fascinating person Jay was. His interest in anything gay and Mormon paralleled my own, and we could talk for hours about things we had learned and experiences we had had. Jay was a fountain of information. When visiting Salt Lake I tried to find time to visit Jay. I always felt I learned so much about the gay Mormon and academic world through him.
Jay had many friends an all fronts. Through him I have met many of them. Jay was valued and appreciated by ever so many people in the gay Mormon, academic, and Sunstone communities.
Most remarkable is Jay's accomplishment in collecting a vast, and by far the most complete body of information regarding the Mormon Church's attitudes and actions regarding homosexuality. He has drafted an 800 page book to organize and present this information in a readable way. This is particularly remarkable considering the difficulties Jay had in seeing and reading.
I am thrilled that Jay received a special $1,000 award in recognition of his great efforts in collecting, organizing and writing about gay Mormon issues. No one could be more deserving. Hopefully, others will be able to utilize the vast data collection that Jay left in ways that will be valuable to the gay Mormons.
I will miss Jay, more than words can say. I shall always be grateful for the legacy he has left. God bless our beloved friend.
Tribute by Michael Miner
To Jay's family and friends:
I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Jay Bell. I have know Jay for many years. Jay and I had the opportunity to work together for a year as co leaders of Affirmation when James Kent selected us to help him run the national organization during his tenure as its leader.
Jay was wonderful to work with and a truly great and wonderful human being. I enjoyed my time spent with him going to Affirmation events and trying to further the cause and outreach of the organization. I have also had the privilege of spending time with him in his home and by telephone and getting to know of his interest in things historical and Mormon and GLBTI related. He had an absolutely brilliant mind when it came to research although he was not very tidy about where he kept the things he researched he assured me that he could find anything in just a few minutes time. I believed him. His knowledge of things Mormon, Gay and Historic was nothing short of encyclopedic. He has GLBTI books on every subject imaginable and the fact is he had read most of them and had he lived he probably would have read them all.
I feel as if I have lost a kindred spirit brother. I will miss him but I will revel in the memories I will always have of he and I together. He died to young and while we will all miss him it is comforting for me to know that he will be in heaven and have a greater knowledge of the masters plan which is something he tried to find here on earth.
Michael D. Miner
Affirmation Los Angeles
Tribute by Duane Jennings
I met Jay at one of the Mission reunions & Conference Sunday Firesides that I organized for Affirmation in 1995. He came fearful, still believing many of the negative homosexual teachings he had been taught. But over the coarse of the next year, things really changed and by 1997 many of our monthly Utah County Affirmation meetings were being held at his home in Orem.
Jay and I had many wonderful discussions on religion, spirituality, politics
and history. It was by way of our studying the writings of Mel White, Martin
Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Soulforce, and the example Mel White
set in documenting the vitriolic comments towards sexual minorities that
were being printed and aired by the fundamentalist Christian 700 club, Jerry
Fallwell and Pat Buchanan and others, that Jay and I started our work on
documenting what had and was being said in the LDS tradition. My focus was
to show how church teaching should and could include sexual minorities,
to address the challenges and the anger. Jay was to show the good and the
bad. Never did either of us realize how much information there would be,
nor that our projects would take so long. Periodically, usually connected
to a holiday weekend, I would rent a car and we would go driving -- to Bear
Lake, Moab, etc. Jay would read out loud either what I was writing, or what
he was writing, and then we would discuss, criticize, suggest. It was in
this process that I expressed my burning desire to move all of the Affirmation
files to the Marriott Library at the University of Utah. And that I believe
that was also where the Stonewall Archives should be housed that were currently
in the Gay & Lesbian Community Center's basement. Next thing I knew, he
was asking for contact information for Rocky (Connell) O'Donovan and Ben
Williams. And the rest is history.
Jay was truly a doer, and in my mind achieved Herculean goals under very trying circumstances with his disability. He is a very real personal lesson to me of motivation and perseverance and overcoming personal challenges. I will greatly miss his friendship and our discussions.
Tribute by Angelika Bertrand
I do not know what to say or how to express my thoughts about Jay Bell leaving us. He was a great friend to me. We frequently would meet at Affirmation meetings, socials, and other events. I still remember the one and only march for Gay, Lesbian, Rights that I went with him here in Salt Lake City. We had a good time together with our friends, as we assembled around the Utah State Capitol. I never forget our endless talks about his research projects, his interest in literature, and the papers he wrote. He was a kind, generous man. Quiet but still full of energy concerning GLBT community. I do not know how we will fill this void in our lives and in our Affirmation meeting. He was certainly an inspiration to all of us.
I know about his eye sight problems, and it was he who gave me the final hint to contact the Moran Eye Center. Now because of him, I am going to have surgery in January. Jay Bell, I will miss you and so will my partner Kaye. I hope you found peace with the Lord above and may your spirit remain among those that you left behind. We will keep you in our hearts forever.
To his family: I grief with you, I can't understand it quiet yet. I hope that you will find sustaining embrace in our community and those that you live with. May God the Father in heaven be your soul comforter. Blessings. Sincerely,
Tribute by Dave Smith
I was shocked to hear of Jay's accident, even more his passing. I mourn his passing with the rest of his friends and acquaintances.
I can't clearly recall the first time I met Jay. I do remember going over to his home after the first SLC conference, and watching the news programs and their comments about the uproar over Trevor [Southey]'s show at the U. I remember what a gracious host he was, always concerned for the comfort and well being of others. He was truly a gentleman.
I know he will be sorely missed in the SLC community, as well as amongst his friends both in Affirmation and Family Fellowship.
Peace and blessings to all who mourn this time of transition. His trials are over, and he now can rest for a time. My thoughts and prayers are with all who are troubled and grieve at this time.
Tribute by Hugo Salinas
Jay's life touched the lives of many people. Despite his bad sight, despite
his terrible spelling, despite his love-hate relationship with his hard
drive and its tendency to crash, and despite his uncontrollable urge to
spread juicy stories (often based on unconfirmed, or totally false, rumors),
Jay's passion for life and for research are an inspiration for us all. Jay
knew that the dead are not really dead--that they continue to talk to us
through the documents and the papers they leave behind.
Jay inspired me to start doing my own research on gay Mormon topics. He
also inspired me to start expanding the Affirmation website in celebrating
the history of our tribe and giving tribute to those who have helped us
make that history. He started to do gay Mormon research in 1995--the same
year he came out. His first research project was looking for gay Mormon-related
articles in the local papers--especially the Deseret News and the
Salt Lake Tribune. He later expanded his research over the internet,
"capturing" hundreds of pages with gay Mormon-related articles from the
web. He also conducted research outside Utah--at the One
Institute and Archives in Los Angeles and at the Library of Congress
in Washington D.C.
Research was Jay's passion. He was a fixture at the Church Historical
Library and Archives, and at the Special Collections reading room in the
University of Utah. He was also a fixture at Benchmark Books on Main Street,
the place where he would go to buy and sell books--and to gossip with Dan
Wotherspoon and Anne Wilde. He was also a fixture at the Sunstone
Symposiums, which he would attend every year, either to present papers or to
Jay is gone precisely when his vision was beginning to take flight; a number
of articles that he was writing for the Affirmation website are left
unfinished. I am committed to either finish the articles
myself, or hopefully recruit someone's help in celebrating these and other
aspects of gay Mormon history.
In Affirmation, Jay Bell blossomed. His interest in Affirmation, and his
desire to start his coming out process, began, like many of his passions,
in a very intellectual way: One day, a BYU professor gave Jay a copy of Prologue, the article that had caused a stir at BYU. Some time after that, Jay started to attend Family Fellowship forums, still very closeted and shy. He attended his first Affirmation meeting in Salt Lake City in 1995--a meeting conducted by Duane Jennings. Jay recently told me that he went to that
meeting "chaperoned" by Gary and Millie Watts, afraid that "people would be
interested in my body"--"and I left," he quipped, "disappointed that they
Here's two quotes from an article that Jay wrote for Affinity in
March 2000, shortly after visiting Washington D.C. for the Millennium March:
As I sat on the grass of the National Mall [during the Millennium March in
Washington D.C.], I found myself reflecting on what had brought me here from
a very closeted and homophobic condition. I remember gingerly going to a
Family Fellowship quarterly forum, and then under the "protection" of Gary
and Millie Watts, attending my first Affirmation meeting in Salt Lake City.
I soon found out that there was no need for my homophobia or stereotyping of
gays. I was brainwashed and I needed reeducation...
So long, my dear friend. I am so sad that you left us, and yet so glad that
you made it to the Gaylestial Kingdom before me; when I get there, I'll
learn all the local gossip from you.
I sat there on the National Mall grass realizing that each Affirmation
conference has empowered and refreshed me, making me a better human being.
It's helped me feel secure in my identity. I'd come a long way from those
days when I thought the conferences were evil.
Some of Jay Bell's Contribution to Mormon Scholarship
GLBTI Studies CD Rom. Compilation. First version released on September 11, 2002.
"The Windows of Heaven Revisited: The 1899 Tithing Reformation." Journal of
Mormon History, Spring 1994, pp. 45-83.
"Myth Making and Myth Breaking: A Discussion of The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power by D. Michael Quinn." Compiled and edited by Jay Bell. B.H. Roberts Society Meeting, 23 February 1995. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.
"Living The Principle"--Then And Now. Sunstone, August 1990, p. 62
"Letter to the Editor." Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 6:1, p. 12.
Articles & Compilations by Jay Bell on the National Affirmation Website
Bibliography on Homosexuality in LDS Journals
Available Homophobic Books and Pamphlets by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its General Authorities or Lay Members
Robert I. McQueen: Missionary, Editor, and Activist
Sgt. Leonard P. Matlovich: Patriot, Mormon, and Activist
Vincent Chalk: Teacher & Reluctant AIDS Activist
Fred "Toby" Bluth, Illustrator
Some Recent Articles by Jay Bell in Affinity
"Why Is It So Very Difficult?" Affinity, March 2000, pp. 1-2.
"Reflecting at the Mall," Affinity, June 2000, pp. 1-2.