The LDS Church’s endorsement this week of a fundraising concert for LGBTQ support groups sends a mixed message, says former Mormon Tyler Glenn, the outspoken lead singer for Neon Trees.
Glenn, who is gay, is referring to a statement posted Wednesday on the church’s website that praises the Aug. 26 LoveLoud Festival in Orem as an effort to unite participants in addressing LGBTQ “teen safety and to express respect and love for all God’s children.”
“We join our voice with all who come together to foster a community of inclusion,” the church goes on to say, “in which no one is mistreated because of who they are or what they believe.”
But Glenn, who will be performing with his band at the concert, sees the LDS endorsement as little more than a “PR move,” he writes in an email. “Is it enough? No. Is it a step? Absolutely. Is it confusing? Absolutely.”
The Utah County-born musician and former Mormon missionary resigned his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been harsh in his criticism of the Utah-based faith’s platitudes and policies toward its LGBT members (married gay Mormon couples are deemed “apostates,” for example, and their children are excluded from religious rites until they are 18).
Last year, Glenn released a solo album called “Excommunication,” whose main number, “Trash,” excoriates Mormonism and church founder Joseph Smith.
LDS Church “rhetoric and treatment of its gay members historically, not to mention its LGBTQ members as a whole,” Glenn writes in the email, “lead me to see that the church itself is a fraud.”
He now views his former faith “as a business or a corporation or any other church.”
Still, Glenn applauds LoveLoud organizers — including Imagine Dragons’ frontman Dan Reynolds, himself a Mormon — for trying to create an inclusive event, one that will benefit four LGBTQ groups in their efforts to help at-risk youths.
“Am I wanting every walk of life possible at Loveloud? Yes. A million times yes,” Glenn writes. “Because everyone needs to be there. It’s beyond the big music acts playing. It’s beyond some of the star power coming to Orem. It’s because we need peace and we need LGBTQ men women and children and all the in-between to keep living.”
In this case, his politics and beliefs are irrelevant, Glenn says. “This is all bigger than any of that. This is about my community. I am proud to be gay, and I do love my Mormon friends and family. I’ll pick my battles with Joseph Smith and the big 12 [LDS apostles] another day.”
The musician’s aim for the Aug. 26 festival at Utah Valley University’s Brent Brown Ballpark is simple, he says: “Humans loving as loud as possible through word and music.”
For his part, Reynolds hopes the show reaches a wide audience.
“LoveLoud has always been about conversations that ignite better understanding of one another. We want everyone involved to remain respectful, inclusive and operate from a place of love,” he says. “We are thrilled to have Tyler and Neon Trees in this show, and we’re thrilled with the support of the LDS Church and the participation of its members.”
The event’s ability “to bring a whole community together around this cause,” Reynolds writes in an email, “speaks volumes about where everyone’s heart is.”