Review: Believer Documentary & LoveLoud

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 12.19.37 PMAfter spending a fair amount of time pondering the sense of unease I felt after watching the HBO documentary “Believer,” I keep circling around to something Imagine Dragons front-man and newly-minted activist Dan Reynolds said in the film, “I don’t know much, but I’m all heart.”

Reynolds grew up in a devoutly Mormon family, the seventh of nine kids. He served his mission in Nebraska, where he talks of his willingness to knock on hundreds of doors to reach one person. Tireless knocking will resonate not only as a gospel principle, and with any Mormon who served a proselyting mission, but also will resurface thematically in the film.

In 2011, Reynolds—not yet a big rock star—married his longtime friend Aja Volkman in his parent’s backyard. Volkman’s close lesbian friends refused to attend their wedding due to the Mormon church’s very public and open opposition to same-sex marriage. This rejection is presented at the catalyst for Reynolds’ moving from a position of the familiar “It doesn’t really effect me…” to the less-comfortable “Hey, wait a minute…”

That “Hey, wait a minute…” awakening is the beginning of Reynolds’ drive to hold a charity concert to bring awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ issues and skyrocketing teen suicide rates in deeply conservative and deeply Mormon Utah. The LoveLoud Festival came to fruition in July 2017, and the film documents that process.

The struggle with the tension between faith, maintaining boundaries, and standing up for personal beliefs will be something Mormons can relate to, regardless of where one lands on the political spectrum. Reynolds is clearly trying to reach the more conservative Mormons—the religious families of closeted kids in deeply red areas of the country—with this documentary, and the film is edited accordingly.

Reynolds’ approach to the entire process is sincere, and deeply Mormon. He applies what he learned growing up in the church, what all Mormon kids learn in Primary: God loves His children. Give, said the Little Stream. Love at home.  Keep knocking until you get an answer. Families are forever.

But…while the goal of the documentary is presented as LGBTQ+ inclusion and support, the story really is about the journey of one straight, married, returned-missionary, father of three, musically talented, white man looking to reconcile his newly-found beliefs with the foundations of his faith and his people. And not being quite sure how to do that.

And maybe that is what’s needed to reach deeply conservative Mormons who are suspicious of activism and agendas. It was important enough that Reynolds asked repeatedly for the Church to issue a statement about the LoveLoud festival so more conservative members would feel comfortable attending. Maybe hearing this message of inclusion and love—along with statistics about the horrible suicide rates of our gay children—from a returned missionary, a father of three, the seventh son, white man with a non-threatening smile, is what will reach some people who might otherwise not be willing to listen. I don’t know.

But it’s what we get.

I’m willing to assume good intentions. Is that enough? Do good intentions make up for the entire perspective presented being that of white males, most of whom are straight? Do good intentions make up for the lack of women’s voices or the lack of anyone of color? Do good intentions matter when Reynolds’ anguish and guilt are centered over the actual lives of the LGBTQ+ artists, friends and youth he interviews, including a long-delayed call to Tyler Glenn, the openly gay singer for the Neon Trees? Does my asking these questions matter in a state like Utah where the population is heavily white and Mormon and the voices of authority are always male? I don’t know.

But I believe it bears pointing out.

What also bears pointing out, gentle criticism aside, is that the LoveLoud festival raised a lot of money and awareness for LGBTQ+ charities, perhaps for people who might not otherwise  know about LGBTQ+ issues.. Last Saturday, the LoveLoud 2018 festival was held in Salt Lake City, at a venue several times the size of the 2017 event. More than a million dollars was raised for LGBTQ+ charities. The concert was streamed live, and my teenagers eagerly watched, singing along to their favorite Imagine Dragons songs. They have also reached people who have otherwise had a sour taste in their mouths from the Mormon involvement in anti-gay politics in states like California. I have received texts from gay friends who were pleased to see a Mormon celebrity take such an openly supportive stance on LGBTQ+ rights. These things do matter.

It also matters that this last Saturday at LoveLoud 2018 two LGBTQ+ charities (Provo Pride and Queer Meals) left because of unfair treatment of transgender people. Bathrooms were promised to be gender inclusive, and instead transgender people were confronted and misgendered.  LoveLoud issued a statement apologizing for the incidents and reiterated their zero-tolerance policy for discrimination. The statement closed with a commitment to learn from mistakes and “continuously work to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people in our community and beyond.”

I suppose this is a solid lesson in learning as you go, taking action even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Too often, we want to wait until there is little risk and we are comfortable before we act. Affecting change in the world doesn’t have to be perfect to be good, but we absolutely must listen to the people we are trying to help. Learning  and adapting where new information is gathered is necessary, and for all of his centeredness, it appears to be something Dan Reynolds and the LoveLoud movement is trying to do. It’s imperfect, but it’s not nothing. As he said, he doesn’t know much, but he’s all heart, and he’s putting himself out there. I hope he’s listening as hard it looks like he is.

Did you see the documentary? Did you go to the concert? What did you think?

Believer can be streamed on HBO under documentaries.

If you have any thoughts or experiences you’d like to share from the LoveLoud festival you can send your feedback to info@loveloudfest.com.

Edit: I can’t believe I have to add this, but based on the comments, I do. Setting aside all criticism, if Dan Reynolds’ work with LoveLoud saves even one kid from suicide or self-harm, it will have been worth it.

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Comments

  1. bingingonabudget says:

    Thanks for sharing this review, to be honest I hadn’t even heard of this documentary before. I’ll definitely have to check it out on HBO now though.

  2. I find it interesting that Dan presents himself as a devout Mormon but apparently thinks the law of chasity (for heterosexual Mormons like himself) is outdated.

    In several interviews about the documentary he has pointed out that he was “shamed” by the Church for engaging in premarital sex with a girlfriend while attending BYU. He expressed his beautiful and natural this activity is and how there is nothing wrong with it.

    I don’t know many “devout” LDS folks who espouse these views, do you?

  3. I’m not weighing in on measuring Dan’s faith. That’s between him and God. I don’t recall anywhere in the film where he talks specifically about himself and shame/premarital sex. He does talk about the suicide of his assistant’s brother which was brought on from admitting to premarital sex at BYU and his expulsion.

    Your question is uncharitable.

  4. The “gentle criticism” seems to be pretty harsh for someone who is trying to do some good.

  5. Pretty sure Dan can take it. And, given that LoveLOUD will continue in the future, and there are rumblings of additions to “Believer” as a documentary, I suspect he might welcome additional perspective.

  6. I’ve been following this story for quite a while because I like Dan’s music and this is an interesting topic. I’ve read and heard multiple interviews with Dan on this topic.

    Pointing out inconsistencies between Dan’s representations of his LDS street cred in the many many media interviews he has given for the documentary and examples he has given in many of the same promotional interviews for the documentary is entirely reasonable.

    Just because his comments are not in the documentary itself doesn’t mean that don’t count somehow.

    Name calling is not reasonable in this instance.

  7. Marc, I’m going to have to dispute two assumptions to your comment. The first is that there’s something harsh about Tracy’s criticisms. There’s clearly not. She lays out clear positives, and potential negatives, of they way it’s done. She doesn’t end up coming to the conclusion either that the whole Loveloud thing is perfect or is terrible. It’s a well-intentioned, slightly flawed (but perhaps the flaws are necessary, given the audience) piece of moral activism.

    I also reject the idea that if someone is trying to do some good, that that person is somehow exempted from criticism. There is a spectrum of ways to do good, ranging from effective to ineffective, ranging from helpful to harmful. And if a well-intentioned attempt to do good is too far on the ineffective side, or too far on the harmful side, it’s absolutely necessary that it course-correct. So good intentions should never be shield against constructive criticism.

  8. I had a lot of the same thoughts Tracy. I am glad there are people out there, trying to change the minds of the ultra-conservative people who did so much damage to me, as someone queer, as I was growing up in the LDS church. It is also frustrating that, yet again, the only voice people are interested in hearing is that of a straight cis white dude.

  9. Sam Brunson–

    I wasn’t really making either of those two assumptions. I believe there is certainly a negative to not having diverse voices on a particular issue. But I don’t agree with the idea that someone with the perspective of “a returned missionary, a father of three, the seventh son, white man with a non-threatening smile” is rightfully criticized on that basis alone.

    And of course good intentions don’t immunize people from criticism. But neither does writing a documentary review.

    I just thought this was a positive step for our LDS community as whole. I hope Tracy M is right and there will be a sequel and that Dan will include more diversity next time around.

  10. Marc, your statement actually does require both of those assumptions.

    I didn’t criticize Reynolds for those things- they are facts. And he uses them, I believe, to get his message to people who are more comfortable listening to people like him.

    As Kerry said a comment or two above, the voices people are interested in hearing are yet again that of a straight, cis white dude. It’s unfortunate for those who are not that demographic that have a hard time getting their voices and stories heard.

  11. “It’s unfortunate for those who are not that demographic that have a hard time getting their voices and stories heard.”

    Agreed. And I am certainly not contesting that point.

  12. D Christian Harrison says:

    Marc: this is pretty gentle when compared to the loud backlash I saw in my social media circles. Now, granted, my circles probably look (and sound) a LOT different than your circles… but the contrast couldn’t be starker. I have no doubt—both knowing and loving and admiring Tracy for the thoughtful, loving, and deliberative person she is, and also having read her work for years now—that she anguished over the tone and content of this review.

  13. “I have no doubt—both knowing and loving and admiring Tracy for the thoughtful, loving, and deliberative person she is, and also having read her work for years now—that she anguished over the tone and content of this review.”

    I have no reason to doubt this.

    Tracy M—I apologize.

  14. Not necessary. I am fine.

    What am interested in is further discussion about the documentary. DCH is correct, that the response from the LGBTQ+ communities was nowhere near as measured as mine. I actually would like to hear more from them– and would welcome a guest post.

  15. “Now, granted, my circles probably look (and sound) a LOT different than your circles”

    I do really wish we could get past these assumptions.

  16. Great article Tracy! Leaves me a lot to think about. Activism is important and powerful, so I think it’s helpful to hear reminders—like in your post here—that in our activism, our good intentions are often problematized or at least complicated by our limited perspectives.

  17. wreddyornot says:

    The Threads of the Mormon Tapestry Sunstone Symposium this past week, session 214, featured the documentary, with additional comments by symposium presenters Emily Branvold and Keilani Applegate, LOVELOUD community outreach managers, and Tyler Glenn of the Neon Trees. The program description says it was “…designed to spark dialogue between the LDS Church and members of the LGBTQ community.” This 70-year-old granddad was very happy to attend the session and then the next day to see his grandkids streaming the 2018 LOVELOUD concert live. I say this especially since it has an immediate impact upon us as a family living among the Utah LDS culture and impacted by the very issues emphasized. I might bring up related subjects in GD discussions or in the EQ. Such is aided by such exposure. Actions like LOVELOUD make it more possible not to simply be dismissed, don’t they?

  18. D Christian Harrison says:

    Marc: I think it’s fair to say that my circles—filled as they are with those who’ve left the Church, filled with queer folk of all stripes, and filled with those who’re even further to the Left than me—don’t look like yours. Now, I’m making an assumption about you and your circles, based loosely on your comments above and on the mere fact that you’re commenting here on BCC. I imagine, based on those things, that you’re probably more religiously orthodox than my circles and more politically conservative. I don’t see assumptions as being a necessarily negative; they’re a part of human discourse. We don’t have the time or energy or tools to not make any assumptions at all… Hopefully the assumptions I make are grounded in sound reasoning and a healthy dose of charity—not to mention sprinkled liberally with fairy dust.

  19. Rexicorn says:

    I wonder if putting the documentary on HBO makes it harder to reach the intended audience, if it’s aimed at conservative Mormons. Or was it just me who grew up with the impression that HBO was a Den of Iniquity in the form of a TV channel?

  20. D Christian Harrison–

    Respectfully, you are way off. But I will go along with Tracy’s wishes and not sidetrack this thread with a separate discussion on the benefits and detriments of stereotyping.

    Marc

  21. “horrible suicide rates of our gay children”

    I have a question that I have struggled to get a definitive answer for. Do we actually know what the suicide rates are among gay Mormon children? Or gay Utah children? We know that suicide rates are high among gay children [1] (interestingly, this is apparently true even in communities that are more accepting of homosexuality[2]). We also know that suicide rates are high among Utah children [3]. But are LGBT children over-represented in Utah’s tragic suicide rate? This is a sincere question, by the way, not a challenge of any kind. It’s an important question to answer because religious identity is negatively associated with suicide risk among the population generally [4], and I fear that blaming churches for suicides may risk losing those benefits without mitigating risks.

    [1] Kann L, Olsen EO, McManus T, et al. Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12 – United States and Selected Sites, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ 2016; 65(9): 1-202.

    [2] Hatzenbuehler, ML; et al. “Corrigendum to “Structural stigma and all-cause mortality in sexual minority populations””. Soc Sci Med. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.11.043

    [3] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/suicide-mortality/suicide.htm

    [4 ]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4482518/ https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/appi.ajp.161.12.2303

  22. “Even for queer Mormons with supportive parents, suicidality is a major problem. In most states, suicide rates fell after the legalization of gay marriage [1]. But in Utah the numbers have steadily risen [2] and are now nearly triple what they used to be. The rise—which correlates with the LDS church’s tightening of rhetoric against gay marriage, particularly in the 2008 push for Proposition 8 and the 2015 policy change which bans the children of gay spouses from baptism—prompted the CDC to issue a special report [3] investigating the issue.”

    1. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/same-sex-marriage-fewer-youth-suicide
    2. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/benjamin-knoll/is-the-recent-rise-in-uta_b_10798286.html
    3. https://health.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/Final-Report-UtahEpiAid.pdf

  23. Rexicorn says:

    dsc, religious identity is *positively* associated with suicide risk in LGBTQ college students, at least according to the most recent study: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-lgbq-religion-suicide/religious-faith-linked-to-suicidal-behavior-in-lgbq-adults-idUSKBN1HK2MA

    The CDC also has stats on how lack of acceptance and bullying increase suicide risk in LGBTQ youth: https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm

    My understanding is it’s difficult to get accurate numbers on LGBTQ youth suicide because children are less likely to be “out” or have otherwise self-identified as LGBTQ. Especially in places like Utah where there’s so much social conditioning against coming out (most church members still eschew the idea that “same-sex attraction” can be an identity at all). So we’re largely left with anecdotal evidence, as well as piecing together the studies that have been done in order to fill in the gaps.

  24. Rexicorn, you commented before I did, but you are 100% right. I follow BCC on Twitter. I seek out different viewpoints, and want to understand and be a better person. But I may eventually get blocked.

    Very few, if any, conservative LDS members have HBO. I’m a bit of a heathen, and I have HBO. I watched the documentary and I’m afraid that it will do far more to harm the church than help. HBO’s demographics are far more likely to have a negative view of the LDS church. This documentary will only make them more angry and bigoted towards LDS people.

    If Dan’s sincere desire was to speak to conservative LDS people, he would have worked with the church to produce something for BYUTV. Unfortunately I don’t think that he truly wants to help. It makes me happy to hear that the church is making an effort to keep in contact with him. I think that the most likely outcome will be similar to what we have seen from Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, or Tyler Glenn.

    We are commanded to love our neighbor. The world can’t reconcile that it is possible to love someone and still not condone all of their actions. We can be friends even if I don’t believe that Heavenly Father will ever reveal that same sex temple sealings can be performed.

  25. I am willing to overlook the seemingly minor flaws. The general message of the documentary and LoveLoud are very positive. Mormons need to be more accepting of LGBTQs. I am not happy with a few on this comment thread who are fishing for flaws in Dan Reynolds and finding excuses to dismiss him as not a real Mormon as a justification to dismiss his message. This is nothing more than subtle homophobia.

  26. I’m OK with Dan Reynolds being a straight cis white dude. He’s got the platform, he’s using it. Good for him. His message is important and needed, and he could be relaxing in the warm light of stardom but instead he’s doing something with his privilege.

    I did not think he presented himself as devout in the documentary. I thought he was pretty clearly formerly devout. Also, apropos of nothing, I was surprised how normal looking his home is. I wasn’t expecting a Michael Jackson-type mansion, but it looked surprisingly modest, for a rock star.

  27. “I think that the most likely outcome will be similar to what we have seen from Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, or Tyler Glenn.”

    That is a horrible thing to say. What on earth has Dan Reynolds done to deserve excommunication? Or any of the other three, for that matter.

  28. Rexicorn says:

    Rob, I seriously doubt that BYUTV would air a documentary that was in any way critical of established LDS policies or doctrine, even if it’s a gentle critique from the inside. They’re moving toward more actual artistic content instead of full-time televised Sunday School, but they’ve got a long way to go.

    It’s hard, because there are Mormons who will circle the wagons against any perceived critique. And it’s also hard because the church genuinely earns the anti-gay criticism it gets. So someone like Dan Reynolds is trying to thread a pretty tricky needle here. It’s also good that he’s using his privilege for good, but frustrating that he has to do that. (I also hope that in the future he uses his cultural advantage to boost more diverse voices — smuggling them in under his cover, that kind of thing.)

  29. Tracy,

    The study on the effects of legalizing same-sex marriage is interesting and something I will look more into. The cited Huffington Post article is one I have seen before, but unfortunately, it does not get us much closer to answering the questions I posed. Trying to draw conclusions about LDS membership by comparing statewide numbers is a fool’s errand. LDS populations are just too small in the vast majority of states to find any reliable patterns. It would be more useful to look at regions within Utah or other states where LDS population is a more significant factor. I have done some back of the envelope comparisons using data from Utah that compares rates of local health districts within Utah, and based on my admittedly unscientific analysis, it doesn’t look like, within Utah, there is a correlation between LDS population and suicide rates. I also have to question whether “the LDS church’s tightening of rhetoric against gay marriage” is the most obvious correlation with the rise in suicide. Just glancing at the charts included in the Parkinson and Barker paper, it would appear that jumps in suicide rates in Utah occurred prior to the supposedly explanatory events (one uptick occurred in 2004, prior to the Proposition 8, while another occurred in 2011, prior to the same-sex marriage policies.

    The cited study from the state of Utah held the following conclusions: “- Religious youth were less likely to consider and attempt suicide compared to less religious youth. – LDS youth were less likely to consider and attempt suicide compared to youth of other religious preferences.”

  30. Do-gooding shouldn’t be free from criticism, but it should be for encouraging improvements and not just sniping. Finding fault shouldn’t be a excuse for our own inaction.

    Mother Teresa was frequently criticized for her efforts helping the poor of India. No one should be immune from constructive criticism. But fortunately, she continued her work.

    We should give people a lot of credit for trying.

  31. dsc, to me if there is any correlation, it’s cause for concern. These lives matter. You seem to like taking a very clinical look at things, and that’s fine for you, and probably fine for some discussions–I dont find it particularly useful or relevant to the topic at hand here.

    The commenters at large, I wrote a review of a documentary, in which I pointed out some problems I saw, and noted some areas I believe it was doing good work. I believe my LGBTQ+ family when they tell me their experiences, and don’t insist on quantifying or qualifying those experiences with footnotes. Real kids are killing themselves, Utah’s suicide rates are too high. I believe people like Tyler Glenn when he says the November 5th policy drove him out, and I believe him when he says it hurt like hell and he was struggling with suicidal ideation. I know others more personally than I know Tyler, and I believe them, and it matters. So does Dan Reynolds, which is why he decided to take this on and use his platform to speak out.

    In case it wasn’t clear enough from the original piece, I am critical of some of the aspects of the piece of art, Believer, a documentary. I am not critical of people who want to help, or who want to reach out, or who use their platform or privilege to amplify the voices of those who need to be heard.

  32. James Stone says:

    Believer is a propaganda film disguised as a documentary designed to urge Mormons to put pressure on the Prophet and Apostles to rewrite the Law of Chastity to fit with the world’s vision of love instead of the Lord’s vision. Reynolds intentions may be good, but good intentions pave the road to hell.

  33. “Do good intentions make up for the entire perspective presented being that of white males, most of whom are straight? Do good intentions make up for the lack of women’s voices or the lack of anyone of color?”

    I think this isn’t the right question. When it comes to looking at a canon or aggregate of work around one issue, it can be important to ask what perspectives are being included and excluded. But when the question is applied to a single work, it implies that every single work surrounding [insert issue] needs to contain [x, y, and z’s] perspective or else…what, it shouldn’t exist? It must justify its existence, apologize for being a narrow perspective? How wide does a perspective need to be before it doesn’t have to apologize?

    And maybe this question seems justifiable when the perspective of a work comes through the narrow focus of a group whose perspectives oversaturate the canon–so we’re more likely to ask these questions when it’s a straight white guy making something. But again, that seems a fairer question to ask of the canon as a whole than to pick at for a single work.

  34. Did you watch it, James Stone? Because it’s not. Its designed to reach out to the kids who might love ID music, and who just might need to hear that they are loved and valued after hearing some of the things the church has said about gay relationships or marriage, and who might not know that there are organizations out there working for them. Dan Reynolds says very early in the film, after a conversation with his mother, that he knows he’s not going to change the church. He also says, “I don’t feel a need to denounce Mormonism. I do feel a need as a Mormon to speak out against things that are hurting people.”

    Honestly, all criticism aside, if his work saves even one kid, it will be worth it.

  35. Rexicorn says:

    DSC, did you look at the study I posted showing that religious affiliation is correlated with *increased* suicide risk in LGBTQ young adults?

    I do agree that it’s an area that needs more study, but when studies are able to effectively focus on different populations they find different results for them.

    Anecdotally, I can tell you that basically every LGBTQ Mormon I’ve ever known or heard of has dealt with, at the least, suicidal ideation at some point in their pasts. Most have a story of the first time they attempted or nearly attempted. It’s a very, very common aspect of LGBTQ Mormons’ stories.

  36. James Stone says:

    Hi Tracy M.

    Yes, I did see it. In fact, here’s a quote directly from Believer by Dan Reynolds:

    People say, “You can’t go and pound on the Brethren’s door and say, “Thomas S. Monson, change this, man! C’mon, change it! He’s not going to change it for you, he’s doing what God tells him.” But, if all the members of the church are talking about something then the prophet is going to pray about it, right? I think this is one more part of the puzzle that’s coming together and hopefully the apostles and the prophet go pray about it more and God comes down and tells them what’s up.”

    But of course Dan doesn’t advocate changing the LDS doctrine, even though he flat out says that.

    As far as “Saving” kids, not sure what you mean but I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with eternal salvation.

  37. I’m not about any notion that something is sufficient merely because it is not nothing. From the further backlash post-event it is clear once again that as long as LG and B are catered to, T can pound sand.

    I can’t and won’t do it anymore. I owe my younger self much more than to ever consider this acceptable or a net good. A million dollars means nothing when it comes at the expense of the safety and dignity of the trans/non binary/genderqueer/gender non-confirming community. No thank you.

    As far as the documentary goes I have a firm policy of never ever crossing paths with anything that John Dehlin has been a part of. Definite no thank you.

  38. EOR, totally legitimate points, on all fronts.

    I was so dismayed in Reynolds’ allowing JD to interject himself. He had no business being there. It would have been preferable to give more screen time to literally anyone else in the LGBTQ+ community, and I debated reviewing it for this reason alone.

  39. @Tracy M Thank you for your thoughtful and measured piece.

    @James Stone
    To be honest, I’ve always been a little perplexed at the quick response to any individual that encourages the leadership to fervently pray about the fact that our church has zero LGBT theology and the devastating practical implications of such a vacuum, as “advocating for changing the LDS doctrine.”

    Should Joseph have responded similarly to Emma’s entreaties after routinely scrubbing the floor of the School of the Prophets?

    (FYI to everyone- This JD =/= John Dehlin :P )

  40. James Stone’s comments are propaganda disguised as righteous doctrine designed to urge people to believe that the current Church’s stances on LGBT+ are complete, have never changed, and will never change. He does this in order to appease his own feelings, rather than present the Lord’s vision on revelation or historical accuracy. His intentions may be good. But good intentions can pave the way to hell.

  41. James Stone, asking the prophet to pray about something is LITERALLY working within and respecting the system we have. He is not saying HE can change the church, he is saying that praying for further light and knowledge (!!) is something we can and should do.

  42. Tracy,

    Yes, I tend to take a “clinical” approach to these kinds of things. That’s because I have seen many other instances where people get lost in the stories. The stories are important, but looking at it epidemiologically is more likely to lead to finding solutions that work. You see this in many policy debates: gun control opponents pointing to stories of how their weapon saved lives, minimum wage opponents pointing to stories of higher minimum wages causing closed shops. Stories are real, they are important, and they should be listened to and followed when dealing with people on an individual basis. But when the question is broad cultural patterns, social policies, and decisions of large religious organizations, the data are crucial; otherwise you spend resources, alienate people, and implement policies with unintended consequences to follow a policy that does not change the end result. I’m not saying that’s what’s going on here, but I think the tendency to assume a cause and effect relationship without examining the evidence is dangerous.

  43. Sigh. I know. But we’re talking about a movie review here. This wasn’t a post about overriding church policy, or looking at the demographics of teen suicide across socioeconomic strata in the intermountain west. This was a movie review, with a side comment about a concert, because I saw the film within days of the second concert.

  44. Rexicorn,

    Yes, I saw the study. It is important and interesting, but it also follows other studies that have not found a correlation (e.g. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10943-012-9645-2 ) These studies all have their weaknesses, but they are important to finding specific risk factors.

    Having grown up in an area that is not predominantly LDS (having very few LDS friends growing up), my experience is that depression, suicidal ideation, and other negative mental health symptoms are far too common among LGBT youth generally, even in homes that are affirming. Personal stories from non-religious friends have actually caused me to question the assumptions in progressive circles about Utah suicide rates.

  45. Tracy,

    I understand. The assumptions about Utah suicide rates are central to the theme of the movie, the movie, and Reynold’s promotion of both.

  46. Truckers Atlas says:

    “Do good intentions make up for the entire perspective presented being that of white males, most of whom are straight? Do good intentions make up for the lack of women’s voices or the lack of anyone of color?”

    Yes.

  47. @dsc
    I know this is just another anecdotal experience here, but in my own (n=1) personal evaluation, i recognized my own potential suicide ideation with the combination of
    the dearth of doctrine + the existence of destructive statements from prophets attributed to God.
    With that one-two punch, I recognize the desire to leave one way or another.
    The Family Acceptance Project has been developing an evidence-based approach to help support LGBT individuals and to reduce health risks, including suicide. (Ryan, C. Rees, R.A. (2012) Supportive families, healthy children: Helping Latter-day Saint families with lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender children.)
    The message (hopefully) inherent within Believer- “You are loved” is a foundational tenet of this approach.

  48. All of these types of discussions regarding LGBGTQ suicides are starting to drive me crazy. We simply HAVE TO FIND OUT if Utah’s increasing numbers are higher due to the policies of the Mormon church. If Utah’s suicide numbers are similar to other non-mormon areas, then why are we even talking about the LDS faith? We should only be talking about WAYS TO LOWER LGBGTQ teen suicides. Period. And that’s such a worthy topic. I have seen surveys in these comments that directly contradict each other. Until you show me that our numbers are higher than anybody elses in the entire nation and that it is directly related to the LDS policies, I want the church left totally out of the discussion. Ya just gotta have the facts, ma’am. Perhaps there’s a heavily Catholic state that has high numbers—so….that might throw a wrench in all this, right? I’m just kinda offended by the blame game. Like dsc, the assumptions are bothersome.Show me the link please!!! If I was being really feisty I might say “you accuse my religion of killing teens, you bettah back it up.” But I would never be that feisty.

  49. Loving loud says:

    I hesitate to add a comment to the kind-of side discussion of teen suicide rates. Because I fear being attacked! However, teen suicides are not really a side discussion, because they are at the heart of the documentary and LoveLoud, so the physical safety and emotional health of young people (and older people) are the goal. The reason I want better information on if the LDS church stance on LGBTQ issues impacts teen suicide rates is because I live in the boundaries of a Utah high school with very troubling suicide rates. It is gut wrenching on a very personal level. I absolutely want to save every life through whatever means. And to spare the surviving teens the grief of losing their friends and classmates. So, statistics and efforts to understand the real underlying causes are truly important. Because, when we assume that the higher rates in Utah are because of the LDS Church and the pain this causes LGBTQ youth in Utah, without really knowing this, then are we missing other important issues and causes of suicide—or even bigger causes of suicide—in Utah teens as a whole? I mean, it seems like common sense that the LDS stance does drive this in some teens. But boots on the ground here: Loke many of you, I have teens, I work with teens, I love teens. I personally know families and teens affected by suicide in Utah high schools, I want all of them to be safe and happy. We must learn what is happening and this means it should be OK to discuss the statistics, studies, and stories. So we help ALL.

  50. I attended the LoveLoud festivals last year and this year. I loved both events and am so grateful to the organizers and participants. Any message of love, appreciation, solidarity, and acceptance the LGBTQ youth can get is so, so needed.

  51. Tracy M, thank you for the review. I’d wondered about it, and find myself still on the bubble about the whole thing for the same reasons you seem to find troubling. Dehlin and the treatment of Transgender people who are also trying to help push me more against. Still love the music of the band he’s part of (though he should distance himself from Dehlin imo), but it hurts when it’s made plain that TQ is portrayed as “just too much” for LG to believe in.

    @JD – to add another anecdotal experience, I don’t believe I would have survived my depression and suicidal thoughts without the Church. Even with as much unknown about how I fit into the Church and the afterlife (being a transgender woman), I still have it as a good house built upon the Rock, which is my solid anchor. I know I’m not representative of anything, but I can at least be a single point.

  52. imo I can’t imagine how someone who is a part of Mormonism cannot see that *policies* of The Church (and a hefty dose of folk doctrine) play an integral role in youth suicide. But ok, keep telling yourself that you just don’t see it.

    So let’s follow that line of thought then…if one has absolutely no idea what is a major driving force (wink wink) how about just pushing for better access to mental health care then? Do you know how LDS Hospital “deals” with suicidal ideation and attempts? They threaten to send you by ambulance to St. George. Oh, silly me, that’s just an anecdote.

  53. There are some credible and very uncomfortable reports surfacing about some failures to honor agreements and provide safe spaces and environments at the LoveLoud2018 Festival now that the weekend is over. Transgender people in particular, but not exclusively, were denied access to restrooms, and the venue does not appear to have honored its contract with vendors regarding access–not only to restrooms for everyone, but for disabled attendees as well. It’s easy to say we should just focus on the possible good that comes from events like this, but if we continue to only do that, we are part of a mechanism that actually hurts real people. That is particularly egregious for an event that heavily promotes itself and profits on the message of inclusion. Inclusion must mean EVERYone. Leaving out transgender people, those with disabilities, people of color, or continually centering the comfort of straight people defies the sprit an event like LoveLoud claims to promote. Actions must follow ideology.

    Two of the Charity Partners at LoveLoud2018, Provo Pride and Queer Meals, actually packed up their booths and left the festival due to the treatment of members of their organizations.

    I sincerely hope Dan Reynolds and the LoveLoud Foundation will listen carefully and adjust not only their practices, but their employee and volunteer training and board representation for any event moving forward.

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