The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church recently released a series of videos from Dale Renlund of its Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressing the issue of suicide.
One video includes the following admonishment from Renlund: “So what we need to do as a church is to reach out in love and caring for those who have suicidal thoughts, who have attempted suicide, who feel marginalized in any way. We need to reach out with love and understanding.”
It is certainly a positive step that the LDS Church has attempted to reach out to its members to provide a resource for those with loved ones battling with suicidal ideation. However, it is difficult to accept this as anything more than hollow words.
A critical part of “reaching out” is actually listening to what people have to say when you reach out — listening to them when they tell you why they feel marginalized. The LDS Church does a lot of talking, but it doesn’t seem to do much listening.
Eight years ago this month The Salt Lake Tribune published a commentary I wrote about my own struggle with suicidal ideation on my LDS mission. To be perfectly clear: I did not want to end my own life because of social media, smartphones, popular culture, sin, some unknown connection to Utah’s elevation, or even mental illness. My contemplation of suicide was entirely, one hundred percent, the result of the internalized homophobia and self loathing taught to me by the LDS church.
LGBTQ+ children are raised in the LDS Church in a toxic and dangerous environment. Your prophets — whom you have not disavowed — have taught that we are sinners next to murderers. We have been taught that perhaps we would be better off in a coffin with our virtue intact rather than in a loving same-sex relationship. The current leadership has declared that we are apostates and that our children are unworthy of cultural rites of passage and saving ordinances you deem critical for salvation.
The church, having declared us a dangerous threat to families, has spent decades and dollars fighting against the legal rights of LGBTQ+ people across the globe. We have been given patriarchal blessings, professed to be veritable personal revelation direct from God, that have promised unrealistic, undeliverable blessings of heterosexual marriage and family.
Accompanying these patriarchal blessings is the intense gaslighting that these blessings are predicated upon our own worthiness and faithfulness — so that when these heterosexual blessings from heaven are not poured out upon us we have nobody to blame but our own unworthy selves.
All the while we have watched our family, friends and loved ones continue to endorse and support these messages with 10 percent of their income, hours of their precious time each week and raising their hands to sustain the purveyors of this hurt.
So, Mr. Renlund, it’s all well and good that you’re telling people to reach out, but you need to be receptive to the message you hear once you do, and take responsibility for your part in their marginalization.
Not all of our suicide epidemic is LGBTQ+ related. And certainly not all of it has anything to do with LDS teachings. But that part of this problem that does is directly within your control to address if you only have the eyes to see and ears to hear.
Christ warned in the sermon on the mount “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Presently the LDS Church continues to produce plenty of rotten fruit that is still poisoning a lot of innocent youth.
Isaac Higham, South Salt Lake, is an ex-Mormon and proud member of Utah’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community.