Recently I was super fortunate to sit down with reality tv stars Heather Gay and Dre Nord – who are both currently appearing on BravoTV’s “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.” In this three-part series, we focus on Heather and Dre’s life experiences within the context of Mormonism (and Utah Mormonism).
Part 1 covers…
- Heather and Dre’s early years as devout Mormons.
- Dre’s marriage, divorce, and faith crisis as a Mormon in her early 20s. This includes how Dre navigated her life as a divorced single ex-Mormon Utah Mom without a college degree.
- Heather’s experiences at BYU and serving an LDS mission in France.
- Heather’s somewhat challenging efforts to find a faithful Mormon husband (Billy Gay).
- Dre shares how she almost lost her mother to death by suicide, in part due to pressures of “perfectionism” that many Mormon women experience.
- Heather shares some of the reactions she has received from members of the Mormon and ex-Mormon communities, as well as from the Utah LGBTQ community, regarding her participation in the show.
Part 2 covers…
- Heather’s marriage to Billy Gay III, which culminated in Heather becoming Relief Society President ended in divorce.
- How Heather and Dre met, and how they were able to build a successful, multi-million dollar business together (Beauty Lab Laser) as divorced Mormon single women in Utah.
- Dre shares the tragic story of losing her brother to suicide last year, and how she and Heather created a 501c3 non-profit called “Don’t Leave” to help “break the stigma around mental health.”
Part 3 covers…
- Heather’s struggle to accept the end of her “Eternal Marriage,” which included years of denial.
- Heather’s life as a divorced single Mom, which included experimentation with things she never considered trying as a devout Mormon (e.g. alcohol).
- How Heather’s perspective on Mormonism changed once she became dear friends with two wonderful gay Mormon men.
- Heather and Dre discuss their opinions about how harmful the LDS Church’s doctrine around LGBTQ members is.
- Heather and Dre also discuss the ways in which the LDS Church’s “Proclamation on the Famly” harms not only LGBTQ members, but also Mormon women/girls and men/boys as well.
- Heather discusses her current struggle to reconcile her longstanding orthodox Mormon beliefs as they conflict with her developing beliefs about life.
This is a heartwarming, epic, and inspiring story of resilience. I was deeply moved by this vulnerability, wisdom, courage, and resilience of these inspiring women.
Please share any questions or comments you have for Heather and Dre below.
Heather, Dre, and John, it has been great to participate in you discussion as a listener. There are a couple of thoughts that you guys reminded me of that I’d like to share with you. Heather I came home from my mission so damaged, that I didn’t feel worthy enough to get married, yet I have always loved women, in fact I would have loved to have met you at BYU 40 years earlier. When I look at and listen to you I see a lovely Intellectual whom I think would have been fun to date, and now that I am 79, still married, and a retired college professor, I would love to have someone like you in my circle of friends. However, I was 33 before I got married, yet I was still active in the church. In a job interview to work at the Language Training Mission, I had a general authority ask me if I was gay because I was 29 and not yet married. I understood his need to ask me, plus I needed the job to stay a BYU. A couple of years latter, unbeknownst to me, the stake presidency showed up at my ward to interview me to be the bishop”s first counselor, a position that I had earlier told the bishop that I did not want any thing to do with. In my interview with the stake presidency, the president asked why I wasn’t married, and if I was gay, a rather demeaning experience for me. It is hard to be a bit older and not married when you are a Mormon, a fact, I’m sure you were aware of after graduating from BYU and not being married.
Dre, I have thought many times how much my wife has had to put up with my opportunities for sex, even when she was working on her doctorate and was worn out. I have no excuse now, but that was how I was, stupid and selfish. I also am proud of you for how you got your degree. Many times I had women who were returning to college after a hiatus, who have asked me if they belonged in college. My answer was that I loved to have people like her because they knew who they were, what they wanted, and that they would work hard to achieve their goals. In fact, I felt like I had to stay out of there way to their goals or they would run me over.
John, I left the church at 75 because I had never investigated my religion on the internet and because I did not know such material was there, As a kid I was a skeptic, and have remained so since, but I staid in the church much longer than was healthy for me, cognitive dissonance and all. One day a tbm cousin referred me to a faith-promoting site on the web, and behold, on the same site there, was an interview with an archaeologist concerning the BoM. I’ve been to nearly every major archaeological site in Mexico and seldom saw any thing that convinced me they had any any thing to do with civilizations mentioned in the BoM. But when the archaeologist asked his guests if there had ever been any evidence on the ground that supported the BoM, I knew that he was right, and within a short while I resigned my membership in the church rather than wait to be excommunicated because I was already sharing some of my doubts about the church in general and had been doing so for years, but I kept holding on just in case I might be wrong. So, my friend, I give thanks for people like you who have helped people like me. Besides, we need people like you to stand up to the corporation and some of its horrible minions and tell them to go _ _ _ _ themselves. I’m sorry for the schiez your family is having to put up with presently.
I support you with a donation each month, small as it is, because, know it or not, the Mormon world needs you.
Great Part 1 — thanks to John and Heather and Dre.
Unable to use my name on a public forum, but wanted Dre to know that my husband and I lived for years in your ward in Virginia. You’re younger than our kids by a few years, but I was friends with your mother, and remember well the women’s’ vocal trio. She and I even confidentially discussed struggling with depression back when this topic was taboo.
I recognize your mother’s wonderful smile on your beautiful face, and wish I could talk to her now. She might be surprised to know that most of our family (including me), left the church years after we left Virginia, after serving in both Ward and Stake leadership.
I was surprised to learn of your parents’ divorce when some other friends from Virginia ended up purchasing your home in Alpine. I can see how hard the whole situation must have been for you, and your Mom especially, with so many VIP LDS families in that area — not unlike the VIP environment in Virginia. Our own experience is that the very wealthy, very powerful Mormons in our midst played a part in our ultimate disaffection from the Church. Who needs an elite inner club within an already troubled congregation?
I look forward to learning more about your brave and fascinating life in Part 2 of this series!
Congratulations and thanks to both you and Heather for your successful TV show and for sharing your stories!
I have been interested to listen to your interview with John. I am no longer affiliated with the Church but I do believe in Christ, Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I’m fascinated by the conundrum created in the lives of those who feel they’ve failed at living the “plan of happiness” Heather refers to. Perhaps the internal conflict your both experiencing and struggling to reconcile lies in a misunderstanding of what the plan or happiness really is, rather than what the Church teaches it is. What if the truth’s taught by Joseph Smith have undergone two hundred years of doctrinal “telephone” where his teachings have been grossly altered from their original intent? What if the cognitive dissonance you feel comes from struggling to reconcile your conscience with false traditions evolved over the past 200 years. The intuitive voice of God is more pronounced in women than men. Could it be the cause of so much anxiety in women in and out of the Church? Could it be their inability to euthanize the feelings of their heart with the traditional patriarchal bias of traditions in the Church are at the center of the conflict? Revelation and policy in the Church is now directed by focus group, nuance and politically correct parsing. Leadership is like a reed shifting with the wind. The main difference is the reed at least has roots. The advice I offer to you good sisters is to realize the reason you never found happiness in the Church is because their policies never were “the plan of happiness.” The true plan of happiness is to let your heart lead you to reconciliation with Christ. You don’t need institutional acceptance before Christ accepts you. If you truly examine what Joseph Smith and every dispensation head taught, you will realize what your temple endowment clearly taught you. Come and converse with the Lord through the veil and let Him lead you through it. I expend very little time or energy thinking about the Church. I have been immersed in the scriptures my entire adult life. God’s hand is moving now if you have eyes to see it. The fact the most prominent institution surviving Joseph Smith is no closer to Zion than when Joseph drew breath in mortality should speak volumes to you. Like the X-files often states, “The Truth is Out There.” The scriptures are the rod of iron that guides through the dark mists. Feel your prayers, study the scriptures and live according to your conscience. Therein is the peace you seek. Merry Christmas to all!
Love Heather, but was very disappointed to see her walk out the door w/ a man she just met during a party for presumably sex. As a mother of 3 daughters, it’s reckless. Sets a very poor example. Not a good look. As a Mormon or non- Mormon- Don’t cheapen yourself trying to prove yourself a victim rebel. You’re better than that.
What if the show isn’t really all that real?
You know what sets a “very poor example” to three girls and is not a good look? Slut shaming. It’s gross.
This could be one of the most amazing three episodes of Mormon Stories I’ve ever listened to. The depth, warmth, wisdom and experience these two wonderful women have shared is nothing short of inspiring. So honest and raw and beautiful. Thank you! I am seriously contemplating signing onto Instagram for the first time in like 5 years just to send a thank you DM to each of them. Instead I’m just going to make an appt at their spa and use my money to give thanks and support them and the amazing things they are doing! Keep it up ladies!
Heather – I grew up in the Huntington Beach 7th Ward (4th ward too), during the mid -80’s to the mid-’90s. Small world!
Heather and Dre,
Thank-you so much for taking the time out of your lives to share often sensitive material with us. You are both powerful yet humble women who brought out the best in Dr. Dehlin. (LOL). You were very insightful in the various points of your journey as being out of the church or in the transition of getting there.
I think the ‘duh’ moment of the conversation regarding the LGBTQ community (for me) was about 1-1/2 hours into the 3rd part of the interview when you said (I’m paraphrasing) ‘if I’m gay, I am not allowed to experience true love in this life…the only way I can experience this joy is to die’….wow!
While not publicly confirmed (there are many other examples), a young man in our ward intentionally took his own life . The family naturally kept the ultimate reason of the tragedy confidential.
As we are all taught in the faith, if you perform such an act, you are destined for hell. As parents, can we fathom how difficult it must be to stand in-front of the congregation; during their child’s eulogy to somehow twist this in a positive way?…knowing your child was unfavorable in God’s eyes during their mortal life, but now is destined for hell just because they wanted to feel true love?
Never related to an interview as much as I have these 3 podcasts. Raised orthodox from pioneer stock, my time spent in France, married young in the temple, got my education, went to law school, had my babies, established my career, facilitate hundreds of divorces, love my family, love my mormoness, but loving my friends and the contradictions that has with doctrine. Navigating doing it my own way. I want to sing the classic You’re Not Alone to Heather. These two feel like a reflection. I want to talk with them all day.
I absolutely loved all 3 interviews and I found myself laughing, crying, nodding my head, shaking my head and with these ladies every step of the way. They put into words how I had felt also growing up as an orthodox Mormon and I can so relate to both of their stories. It was healing and cathartic to listen to these interviews and I’m so grateful that they were so open and willing to share their stories with us.
I’m also a big Housewives fan and have been watching HOSLC. Knowing more about Heather and her background makes it even more fun to watch her Housewives story unfold. I adore her even more now and she’s my favorite Housewife!
By far the best interview I’ve listened to on Mormon stories. Everything Heather talked about resonated with me. I was laughing and crying and nodding my head in agreement with all of the things. I have been in my faith journey for a few years. The rabbit hole has been hard to navigate. So many feelings and emotions I feel as though I will not ever come out on the other side. It’s so hard to explain. I truly loved the words and vulnerability that they both shared. Heather is so lucky to have a friend to hold her hand through it all. To have someone who lived the Mormon orthodox life like you and have her be on the other side to help you through the ugly mess is such a blessing. Thank you so much for sharing on Mormon stories. All of the things are on the ground for me and I’m trying to pick up what will work for me as I start a new path that is scary. I have always been a people pleaser and never wanted to disappoint anyone. Like you stated several times. You just do all the things and forge though even if it’s not bringing you joy. It’s what we are expected to do. To me it has felt like a death finding out that the things I have believed all my life and put blood sweat and tears into are mostly a lie. How can it be???!!! How could I dedicate my whole life to a church that isn’t truthful and treats LBGTQ this way. I’m hurt and mad and sad and depressed and angry, embarrassed and much more. I just really want to say Thank you! Thank you! You put it all out there and you have helped me realize I am not alone. So much resonated with me. I will probably be watching your episodes again and again to help me get through this journey. You are AMAZING women! Keep blazing that trail for those of us who want to follow on that trail! Much love and respect to you both!
Have been catching up on the wealth of beautiful Mormon stories interviews. They are always so great. But there was something really special about this one. Laughed & cried as so many vulnerable things were shared by such two amazing women. And then what John said about divorce not being a failure. So resonated with me. Loved how John participated more in the conversation. Was delightful. Shine on!