Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds was busy putting together this month’s Orem concert to benefit at-risk LGBTQ youths when he got an offer from an unexpected source: the Mormon church.
The Utah-based faith — which is famously at odds with gay-rights activists over same-sex marriage and certain LDS Church policies — wanted to know what it could do to help with the Aug. 26 LoveLoud Festival, perhaps an endorsement.
Reynolds readily accepted and, on Wednesday, the church posted a statement of support on its newsroom website.
“We applaud the LoveLoud Festival for LGBTQ youth’s aim to bring people together to address teen safety and to express respect and love for all of God’s children,” the release stated. “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.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints added that it shares “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.”
Those words were “wonderful,” Reynolds said Wednesday, “powerful and progressive in a lot of ways.”
The LoveLoud Festival will include Reynolds’ band and Neon Trees, both of which have Utah and Mormon ties, as well as EDM duo Krewella and singers Nicholas Petricca, Joshua James and Aja Volkman.
It also will feature short appearances by NFL Hall of Famer and Brigham Young University graduate Steve Young and his wife, Barbara; Tom Christofferson, a gay Mormon and brother of LDS apostle D. Todd Christofferson; and Julianne Hough of “Dancing With the Stars.”
Soloist Alex Boyé, who headlined the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s summer concert this year, will be the emcee.
LoveLoud is a fundraiser, benefiting four LGBT organizations:
• The Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ young people.
• Encircle, an LGBTQ resource center in Provo that was excluded from participation in America’s Freedom Festival parade last month.
• GLAAD, which focuses on discrimination in the media.
• Stand4Kind, whose goal is to change the culture and provide kindness programs to all schools.
For some, it’s an unexpected show of support by the LDS Church, given that Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn, a gay man, has disavowed his former faith, mocked Mormon founder Joseph Smith in performances and offered biting rebukes of the church’s treatment of LGBTQ members.
Reynolds, who launched the event, also has been strong in his criticism of the LDS Church stance on gay members.
The Grammy Award-winning singer told Billboard magazine in June that his church’s stance — that it’s OK to be gay, but acting on same-sex attractions is a sin — was “a very dangerous and hurtful and hateful thing to preach and to teach our children.”
To be gay “is beautiful and right and perfect,” he told the magazine; “to tell someone they need to change their innermost being is setting up someone for an unhealthy life and unhealthy foundation.”
Reynolds said Wednesday he still rejects the church’s position.
“If you are gay, your life and your love is correct,” he said, “and just as valid as my life and my love.”
But the musician wishes he had been clearer in the Billboard interview that he didn’t mean to criticize all Latter-day Saints “with a blanket statement.”
“I have family who are Mormons, friends who are Mormon, and I am Mormon,” said the former LDS missionary, “and so many of them are bighearted and full of love for LGBTQ members and the community.”
It’s a “hard road to tread for LGBTQ youths,” he said. “They need our help and our love.”
The LDS Church caused a stir in November 2015 with a new policy that does not allow the children of gay parents to be blessed or baptized until they are 18, and deems same-sex married couples “apostates.”
Last year, the Salt Lake City-headquartered faith did update its website mormonandgay.org to include more statements of love and acceptance for gay members, while holding to its behavioral standards.
For his part, Tom Christofferson welcomes the church’s support for LoveLoud.
“I’m thrilled the church wants to be part of a community response to supporting LGBTQ young people and youth safety,” he said Wednesday, “and try to make it better for everyone.”
Erika Munson of Mormons Building Bridges, a group that seeks harmony between the LGBT and LDS communities, applauded the statement.
“I see this as an important positive expression of support for LGBT youth,” Munson said. “I am really happy that it was an unequivocal statement, with no comment about condoning anything or anybody going too far.”
It shows that the church, she said, “sees the harmony that exists between LGBT support and the gospel.”
Stephenie Larsen, founder of Encircle, said she heard whisperings a few days ago that LDS Church leaders might issue a statement in support of LoveLoud.
“I am grateful that they would reach out,” Larsen said. “I think this is the goal. The more we can love and support each other and who we are as individuals, the better humanity becomes.”
Encircle, which opened in February, sees about 60 youths and their families come through its doors each day for services aimed at keeping kids safe and families united.
That’s why the church’s statement will be meaningful to so many people, Larsen said.
“It will give families the OK,” she said, “to love and support those kids the way they want to.”
Reynolds was ecstatic as he described his hopes for the concert, scheduled for Aug. 26 at Utah Valley University’s Brent Brown Ballpark.
The festival will provide music as well as a “platform for LGBT youths and their families … to come onstage and talk,” he said. “This is a tricky and tender subject to discuss.”
The first step is “for everybody to come to the table with a listening ear,” he said. “Everyone needs to feel respected — otherwise it’s just people yelling at each other.”
Reporter Jennifer Dobner contributed to this report.