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Mormon Church Offers Surprising Endorsement of LGBT-Supportive Music Festival

Dan Reynolds
Festival organizer and Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds

Organizer Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons said he welcomed the church's support but made clear he disagrees with its antigay doctrine.

The Mormon Church has issued a statement of support for the LoveLoud festival, a music event celebrating LGBT people and benefiting LGBT charities -- support that squares rather oddly with Mormon doctrine.

"We applaud the LoveLoud Festival for LGBT youth's aim to bring people together to address teen safety and to express respect and love for all of God's children," reads the statement, posted online today by the church, known formally as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. "We join our voice with all who come together to foster a community of inclusion in which no one is mistreated because of who they are or what they believe.

"We share common beliefs, among them the pricelessness of our youth and the value of families. We earnestly hope this festival and other related efforts can build respectful communication, better understanding and civility as we all learn from each other."

The website notes that the church issued the statement "after receiving media inquiries." Also, festival organizer and Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds told The Salt Lake Tribune that church officials had asked him what they could do to help.

The church's endorsement is "wonderful," and is "powerful and progressive in a lot of ways," Reynolds, who is Mormon, told the paper.

LoveLoud, billed as "a music festival celebrating love for our LGBTQ+ community," will be held August 26 at Utah Valley University's Brent Brown Ballpark in Orem, Utah. The performer lineup includes Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees (which also has a gay front man, former Mormon Tyler Glenn), Krewella, Nicholas Petricca, Joshua James, and Aja Volkman.

There will also be brief appearances by former pro football player Steve Young and his wife, Barbara; Tom Christofferson, a gay Mormon and brother of church apostle D. Todd Christofferson; and actress Julianne Hough.

Via the LoveLoud Foundation, the fest will benefit GLAAD, the Trevor Project, antibullying program Stand4Kind, and Encircle: LGBTQ Family & Youth Resource Center in Provo, Utah.

"I want the LoveLoud concert to engage a passionate and supportive audience in the fight against teen suicide and to bring communities together to start the conversation and celebrate individuality," Reynolds said in a GLAAD press release. "We want to offer hope to young people, let them know they're not alone, and encourage acceptance in the home and community." Suicide is the leading cause of teen death in Utah, and LGBT youth who come from a home or community where they are not accepted are eight times more likely to commit suicide, GLAAD notes.

Zeke Stokes, vice president of programs at GLAAD, praised the Mormon Church for backing the festival. "This powerful statement of support from the LDS Church today sends a life-changing -- and in many cases, lifesaving -- message to Mormon youth and other people of faith that we can love and accept LGBTQ people because of our faith -- not in spite of it," he said in the press release. "Dan and Imagine Dragons have created an unforgettable event that will send a message of hope to LGBTQ youth, and one of acceptance to the world."

However, there are limits to the LDS Church's acceptance. It does not approve of same-sex relationships and expects members with same-sex attractions not to act on them. In 2015 it strengthened these policies by listing same-sex marriage under the definition of apostasy -- the rejection of church teachings -- and denying baptism and church membership to children whose "primary residence" is with a same-sex couple. These children can be baptized and become members once they reach age 18, if they repudiate their parents' relationship and have the approval of church authorities.

The Advocate emailed the church's communications office to ask how the statement supporting "respect and love for all of God's children" could be reconciled with church doctrine. A church spokeswoman replied that there would be no further comment.

Reynolds, speaking to the Tribune, made clear that while he welcomes the LDS Church's endorsement, he does not agree with its antigay policy. "If you are gay, your life and your love is correct," he said, "and just as valid as my life and my love."

But some Mormons are accepting, he noted. "I have family who are Mormons, friends who are Mormon, and I am Mormon, and so many of them are bighearted and full of love for LGBTQ members and the community," he said. LGBT youth, he added, have a "hard road to tread" and "need our help and our love."

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