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Mormon Church And LGBTQ Youth Focus Of New Film By Imagine Dragons' Singer

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(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs "Believer" at the Billboard Music Awards at the T-Mobile Arena on Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Las Vegas.

Dan Reynolds, lead singer of Imagine Dragons, said there’s no compromise in him when it comes to his views on gays in the Mormon Church.

But he still believes the church might, one day, bend on their strict views against same-sex couples, citing the church’s policy change in 1978 that allowed men of African descent to hold the Priesthood.

“That’s one of the policies that I like to allude to especially when I’m speaking with Mormons who say, ‘This will never change. God will never change.’ With that I would say first of all the church has changed policies,” he said, “I think that it starts by members saying, ‘You know what even if this is what the prophet is saying I need to voice my opinion that it doesn’t feel right in my heart’”

In a wide-ranging interview on “State of Nevada,” Reynolds talked about a documentary film he’s putting together that is focusing on suicides among LGBTQ youth in Utah who are in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 2015, the church came out with new guidelines that said:

  • Same-sex couples are apostates to the church.
  • The children of same-sex couples may not be baptized until they are 18; then these 18-year-olds must renounce same-sex life to join the church.

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Suicide rates in Utah are reportedly on the rise. The rate has tripled from 2007 to 2014.

Reynolds took calls from around the country, many from people who said they were struggling with their sexual identity.

“Hi, Dan! I love your music!” Amber from Las Vegas said, “I’m lesbian and I used to be very religious and when I came out my parents were just not accepting at all. My grandparents did not talk to me. It was a very hard period in my life.”

While Reynolds didn’t experience that feeling of isolation from his faith because of his sexuality, he receives emails from people who have.

Later, another caller asked a similar question. The front man suggested an online resource for people who need help.

“First and foremost, never be afraid to reach out if you need help,” he said, “If you need someone just to talk to the Trevor Project, for instance, is a really great organization that takes phone calls from LGBTQ youth that are feeling like they need someone to talk to.”

Because Nevada Public Radio is headquartered in Las Vegas and Reynolds grew up here. It wasn’t just fans that called. He was stunned later when he received a call from his elementary music teacher, Peggy Thompson.

“Hi Dan, this is Peggy Thompson your music teacher from elementary school”

Dan: “No way! Are you kidding me? I’ve wanted to talk to you for so long!”

Peggy: “I’ve wanted to talk to you too. I’m so proud of you. I’m so very, very proud of you! And all that you’ve accomplished...”

Dan: “Peggy, I’ve been wanting to tell you for so many years. I swear to you. I would not be singing if it wasn’t for you. You had me sing a solo – was it the national anthem? I can’t remember. I gotta tell you ever since that day… it was the first time I felt like I had a voice. My whole family had always told me that I sound like Cookie Monster and I didn’t have a great voice. I loved your music class! I loved all the instruments. I loved everything about it. I truly found my love for music with you. I would not be here if it wasn’t for you.”

It was that love of music and creative expression that helped Reynolds when he struggled with his faith at an early age and the feeling that he was the only person in his large Mormon family that had questions.

“One of the first songs I wrote when I was 13 years old was about feeling alone,” he said, “I think part of the reason for that was I felt alone in my coming up short in faith. Faith was never something I could wrap my head around.”

It wasn’t a sense of being alone that inspired Reynolds to write the band’s latest hit song “Believer” it was his wife Aja Volkman.

Volkman is the former lead singer of the band, Nico Vega. The couple recently had twin girls. They now have three children. He told KNPR that his wife was the one who helped him see the “beauty and uniqueness” in the things about himself that he had always considered to be his biggest flaws.

“It’s a song about becoming a believer in yourself,” he said, “For me, a part of that story has been finding this incredible woman who has helped me to really love myself and find the things that were unique that I hated and to actually embrace them.”

Reynolds has involved himself in several causes. He played a festival in Los Angeles in April with proceeds going to the American Civil Liberties Union. In addition, a dollar from every ticket sold to Imagine Dragons concerts goes to the Tyler Robinson Foundation for pediatric cancer.

And on August 26, he is playing the LoveLoud Festival in Orem, Utah, where proceeds will support LGBTQ members of the Mormon Church.

With that, Reynolds admitted, some fans have said they wished he would just play his music.

“I know a lot of people say, ‘stick to what you know,’ but at the end of the day, I’m just a human being,” he said, “I’m going to express myself just like the person next to me. It doesn’t matter that this was the career I’ve gone into. I would hope that everybody expresses themselves.”

He also doesn’t want to stay silent on issues he believes in and have people assume he agrees with policies in the Mormon Church.

“It is something that has weighed on me for quite a while and it’s surrounding me because it’s my community,” he said ”If I don’t do something. If I’m a pacifist, then I feel like I’m an activist in  a way.”

But the singer and songwriter stopped short of labeling it a “calling.”

“I think I’m just pursuing wherever my heart is taking me… The Universe has led me to this moment and I’m just following my heart.”

Imagine Dragons - Believer

 

Resources:

If you or someone you know is in crisis call the national hotline: 

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention

Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention

Mobile Crisis Response Team - Hotline: South: 702-486-7865 or North: 775-688-1670

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

De Prevencion del Suicido - 1-888-628-9454

Crisis Call Center - Text Line - Text - "Listen" to 839863

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Guests

Dan Reynolds, lead singer, Imagine Dragons