Michelle Quist: The courage to bring light into the darkness

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Matt Easton hugs Amy Jacobs, during a rally on the campus of Brigham Young University, with hundreds of BYU students at a rally to oppose how the school’s Honor Code Office investigates and disciplines students, Friday, April 12, 2019.

Courage has been in high supply this past month.

In a San Diego enclave last week on the Jewish Sabbath, a devout friend put herself in front of her rabbi in order to shield him from an active shooter. She literally gave her life for his.

The rabbi was leading congregants in a celebration of the last day of Passover at Chabad of Poway, a branch within Orthodox Judaism’s Hasidic movement, when gunman charged in and began shooting. Lori Kaye noticed that the rabbi’s hands had been shot, and she threw herself in front of him. When her husband, a physician who came to the scene quickly after to help triage victims, realized he was performing CPR on his wife, he fainted.

Of Kaye, her daughter said, “Everyone was her sister, everyone was her trusted confidante. Everyone was her friend.”

At Brigham Young University in Provo a few days ago, valedictorian Matt Easton stood before an arena full of family, friends, strangers and, mostly, devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and came out as gay. He told the audience he is “proud to be a gay son of God.”

Easton shared with his BYU family, “It was in these quiet moments of pain and confusion that I felt another triumph, that of coming to terms, not with who I thought I should be, but who the Lord has made me,” the political science graduate said. “As such, I stand before my family, friends and graduating class today to say that I am proud to be a gay son of God.”

Just as heart-warming, if not more, the audience cheered and applauded Easton for his courage and strength. We’ve come far in the past 20 years.

What you may not know about that story is that Easton’s announcement wasn’t a surprise to BYU administration. They had approved his talk beforehand, and they had left it unedited.

Easton asked his audience, “What are you here to celebrate? What are your victories that the world needs to know?”

May Day historically celebrated spring and its renewal of life and fertility. The Celts of the British Isles celebrated the festival to mark the part of the year where dark turned to light.

I can see dark turning to light in my life, and it brings me hope.

One area I see light is in the prospects of Utah’s political community. This weekend is the Utah Republican Party’s Organizing Convention, and the frontrunner for chair – Derek Brown – offers hope for a party that has lost its way, mired in internal fighting instead of recruiting good women and men for public office, and instead of developing quality policies that reflect our values.

Brown is the best of both worlds. His conservative bona fides are untouchable. He worked for Sen. Mike Lee and is a trusted friend and confidante. He is on the board of the Sutherland Institute and supports a strong caucus and convention system (but without denying the unmistakable legality of SB54).

But Brown is also attractive to more moderate Republicans. He represented a swing Salt Lake County district in the Legislature and did so successfully. His ability to win that election illustrates his readiness for the position of chair. Even more, he’s a partner with his wife in raising their family while accommodating both spouses’ individual pursuits, and he recognizes the value of attracting more women and minorities to leadership within the party.

Brown recently posted on social media about a conversation he had with Arthur Brooks about Brooks’s new book “Love Your Enemies.” Brooks’s premise is not just to be civil, but actually to engage in a more human dialogue with each other without the faux outrage and offense.

Brown recognizes that such an approach will likely be more successful when we start from a position of love and respect for others.

I can’t think of a better turn from dark to light.

Kaye and Easton both had victories last month that the world needed to know. I hope Brown has one this weekend.

And I hope we all find the courage not only to create our own victories but to broadcast them to the world to spread our own turns from darkness toward light.

Michelle Quist is a columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune.