Recently, I sat in front of the computer, fiddling with a document I was writing.
The content was OK, but the spacing did not look quite right. As I fiddled, I realized I had accidentally changed the default setting of the margins. Instead of being about an inch all the way around the page, the margins were set to “narrow,” making the text look squashed and crowded.
Some minor adjustments improved the appearance of my page layout, and left me thinking a lot about default settings.
I watched the film “Believer” a couple weeks ago. The movie follows Dan Reynolds, lead singer for the pop/rock group Imagine Dragons, as he wrestles with the conflict between the LDS Church’s stance against same-sex marriage and his desire to love and support the LGBTQ community. Reynolds, 30, who served a two-year mission to Nebraska and still claims Mormonism as his faith, is set to headline the 2018 LoveLoud music festival in Salt Lake on July 28.
My older kids watched “Believer” with me, and loved the concert montages featuring Reynolds singing and strutting through performances of his catchy, powerful music.
But what struck me was Reynold’s humility.
I’ve heard him interviewed before, and this film showcased the graciousness and sincerity with which Reynolds always presents his message. With the diplomacy of an ambassador, he reminds interviewers that, despite some differences in perspective, he sees no reason to reject Mormonism or Mormons. They are, after all, his people and his community.
Reynolds is brave and resolute, but also patient and kind. My mother heart overflows with appreciation when I hear him speak. I want to take that guy a plate of cookies — because I tend to express love with carbohydrates — and because he’s clearly “anxiously engaged in a good cause.”
My mother heart breaks into little pieces as I contemplate the despair of LGBTQ youth in my church.
As I pick up those pieces and attempt to reassemble my heart, I am increasingly determined to prevent needless suffering. I do not want anyone, for any reason, to question their innate worth as a child of God.
I’m all for keeping an eternal perspective. Trusting that Jesus has it all handled has gotten me through lots of trials.
But those of us who live with convenience and acceptance do not often consider the sinister flip side of imposing an eternal perspective on others. I get that it’s supposed to be a faith-promoting message of assurance, but saying “We all have trials to endure, and everything will be fixed on the Other Side,” only sounds completely comforting until you realize it may be unintentionally inviting despondent people to leave This Side.
Research from University of Utah psychiatrist Doug Gray shows suicide is the leading cause of death for Utah youth ages 10 to 17, and Utah’s suicide rate for all ages is more than 60 percent above the national average. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Utah has the fifth-highest suicide rate in the U.S., a rate which has increased 46.5 percent since 1999.
There’s plenty of speculation about why so many people in Utah — especially young people — are ending their lives. Is it the high altitude? The long winters? Cyber-bullying? Easy access to firearms?
We know LGBTQ youth have a far higher risk of dying by suicide than their straight counterparts, but is there a correlation between being LDS and LGBTQ and dying by suicide?
There’s not yet published data that confirms that conclusion, but that’s no reason for us bystanders to take any chances. We know trauma and suicide ideation go hand in hand. If all you ever hear from the people you most respect is that your very essence is inherently wrong, it would become increasingly difficult to keep your chin up. Hurting people is not the Savior’s way.
Mormons often speak of the Holy Ghost as being a quiet assurance, or a “still, small voice.” Sometimes love, too, is soft, like a whisper, and sometimes it’s as loud as a concert. But it’s never unclear. We must love with clarity.
I expect lots of details will be worked out in the eternities, but I sure don’t want to be stuck trying to feebly justify my lack of love for anyone, or explain how I confused withholding love with righteousness.
“Don’t be so open-minded your brains fall out,” my wise father used to warn me. Fair enough, but I never want to be so closed-minded I fail to be kind.
Earlier this month, the LDS Church donated $25,000 to Affirmation, an LGBTQ support group for suicide prevention efforts. While the money will be put to good use, the donation has also wounded the feelings of some people who have been hurt specifically by their associations with the LDS Church and its members.
Far from making practicing LDS members defensive, I see this as an opportunity for us to actively work to be more supportive of the LGBTQ community. We do not have to understand someone else completely to exude genuine love for them. There are likely LGBTQ people in your church congregation who may not be out, so even casual comments count. Interactions with LDS Church members should never leave anyone feeling demeaned or uncertain about their value to God.
The quicker and more completely we can change our own personal default settings to “Love,” the better we will all be. Default to love. People’s very lives depend on it.