On November 5, 2015 the policy change to LDS Handbook 1 regarding homosexual members became known to the public. Since then, in the US, 34 LDS LGBT young people between the ages of 14 and 20 have committed suicide. The numbers are being tallied by Wendy and Thomas Montgomery, leaders in the Mama Dragons and Dragon Dads support groups for LDS LGBT families. That’s 1 suicide every 60 hours, or every 2 ½ days. That number does not include a count of suicide attempts, nor of suicides by any closeted LGBT young people. Twenty-eight of these suicides occured in Utah, a state that averages 37 youth suicides in a 12 month period. Thirty-four in 84 days is a stunning statistic. It’s horrifying. And gut-wrenching. It is also telling. It tells us we adults are not sucessfully supporting our LGBT youth.
I don’t care what you think of the policy or the way it was leaked. I don’t care what you think about whether or not the policy is inspired. I don’t care if you blame the Brethren or celebrate them for sticking to their doctrinal guns. I don’t care because your opinion—my opinion, all our opinions—don’t help the parents standing over their children’s graves. All that matters is that we prevent any more kids from choosing death as the solution.
So stop it. Stop arguing. Stop trying to demonstrate your faithfulness through either stance. Look at these parents. Watch the grief tear them apart. You think your greatest desire is to have your child sitting next to you Sunday after Sunday in the true church of Jesus Christ? Imagine how much these parents long to have even one more minute of life beside their child. Gone. Can’t happen. Death is mortality’s final answer and that answer is always the wrong one for our kids. So enough!
Here’s the newsflash: every one of us has culpability for these deaths if we are not actively, openly doing all we can to reduce them. Step one in that quest is to make sure your adult voice is heard by all our youth so that every one of them knows exactly who among us will listen, love, and let them lean on our shoulders. The more voices they hear in their congregations–voices that rise not to preach, but to love and support–the lower the odds become that they will choose death. These kids are a gift from God. Let them hear you say that, clearly and often, without qualification. Save a life, starting today.
I don’t have an LGBT child, but I have had a suicidal one. I understand full well that depression is a medical condition, but I’ve lost patience with people who dismiss the deaths of LDS LGBT kids as anything more significant than to-be-expected adolescent angst gone too far. Sure, young people, in general, are at risk for serious depression, LGBT or not. But LGBT kids have a set of triggers straight kids don’t, and the messages they hear from too many adults in their religious circles is conditional. Too much of our language suggests God’s love for them is conditional. It is not. So stop it. Stop preaching. Start giving a loud, strong voice to unconditional love. We can’t lose any more kids.
We, the members of Christ’s church, are the hands our Heavenly Father reaches with, the voices He uses to calm and reassure, the hearts that beat in time with the suffering child. None of us in the proverbial trenches of Mormonism have the right, power, or influence to change a policy, establish doctrine, or institute any kind of official church-wide outreach of healing toward our LGBT brothers and sisters. But we have the right, power, and influence to cause change within our sphere, to show our desire to include, to love, and to understand. We must be the embodiment of God’s love for these young people.
Some of you probably are shouting in your heads, “But the Bible says acting on homosexuality is a sin!” or “Homosexuality is contrary to the plan of salvation!”
In my head I hear: Out, damned spot! Out, I say!
Let me clue you in. The kid that is dead? His parents? Her parents? Each of these kids is the one Christ told us to leave the 99 to find and save. THAT is the doctrine of Christ. To expend your efforts denouncing homosexuality when that one kid is staring in the mirror, thinking he’d be better off dead, places you squarely in the temple with the Pharisees. Stop arguing doctrine and go live the gospel. Stop trumpeting “righteousness” and start ministering to the wounded.
Trust me. These LGBT kids are in your ward and your stake, many gasping for air in the shadows. Love them into your arms in precisely the way you know Christ would. No people are better prepared to do exactly that than are the Mormon people. Pray for guidance. And then go do it. Go love the children. Love them with your full heart and full voice.
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matt 25:40
Read more about Suicide Awareness and Prevention in our LDS community here.
If you are an LGBT person who is suffering today, please reach out to one of the many people who stand ready to mourn with you. You know who they are. If you don’t feel you have someone in your life who can be there for you, right now, in the ways you need, please use these phone numbers. You are precious in God’s eyes.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386, or Text the word “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200
Crisis Text Line: Text “Go” to 741-741
Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
Find Mama Dragons or Dragon Dads by visiting here. Young people who would like connection with LDS LGBT support groups may also follow that link and message an administrator for direction. Confidentiality will be provided
Please visit and “like” Life Outside the Book of Mormon Belt on Facebook by clicking here.