Shallow Bones is a creative thesis examining the culture of persecution within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints alongside my own story of persecution as a gay man. The religion rose through persecution as Joseph Smith, the prophet of the church, faced harassment and personal attacks from outsiders. His assassination spurred devote followers to move west, away from their persecutors. Setting up in the Utah territory, early Mormons feared invasions to the point that they murdered pioneers passing through Mountain Meadows. Murderers hid their wrongdoing, and the religion has institutionalized a pattern of persecution—blaming others for attacks while denying responsibility for choices that harm others. The recent suicide of Jack Reese, a gay teenager in Northern Utah, has shown how some in the religion continue to persecute others while burying the guilt for these acts.
My own story follows my own experience of persecution within the church. Self-hatred came from lessons I learned as a child, both within the church and from my families. I almost attempted suicide, but I decided to reach out for help. Unlike Jack Reese’s family, my family worked towards acceptance. Although the culture around pushed me towards despair, I learned how to accept myself.
These historical and personal threads within the creative thesis come together to show that Utah's violent history continues to push persecution onto people every day; however, I was able to find a way to love myself while surrounded by ongoing hatred. Even when the predominant culture actively discriminates against a group, people have hope to escape the cycle of persecution.