Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds has something to say about shame

February 13, 2018

There is a lot more going on with this rock star than meets the eye. Imagine getting kicked out of college because you confessed you having sex with your significant other of four years. That's what happened to Dan. After getting into Brigham Young University (by the skin of his teeth) he told a bishop in his church that he had had sex with his girlfriend and just like that, his college career was over before it even began. Dan is a Mormon, just like his parents and 7 brothers & sisters. He had to stay home while watching his friends go off to college. In the eyes of his Mormom community he was "sinful" or "dirty" and had to go through a year long repentance process. As you might expect, he felt shamed and spiralled into depression.

The experience was a powerful one. Dan says, "I found a place in my heart for people who are shamed for reasons that are incorrect and that are really dangerous and damaging. I had a lot of mormon friends growing up who are gay and that is exponentially harder than what I went through because they are basically told that theire innate sense of being which is unchangeable is always going to be sinful for the rest of their life."

Tired of seeing the teenage suicide rate in Utah climb, Dan believes there's a real problem in the Mormon culture and he wants to inspire change. So he made a documentary which premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival.

The same week the film came out the Church of Latter Day Saints announced a new initiative regarding suicide prevention which includes setting up hotlines. Dan thinks that's no accident, but it's just a first step in his eyes. He's also created LoveLoud Fest, the second of which will take place in Salt Lake City this year in a huge stadium. The goal is to demonstrate what it means to really love LGBT youth, and to get the attention of church leadership so they can change the doctrine. Dan says, "If there's any church that can do it, it's the Mormon Church. They believe in modern-day revelation. They believe there's a prophet that lives today who talks to God and God says, for the times today, I have a new revelation for you. So I really hope they act. And we're going to do it every year until something changes, until there's no longer a need for it."

Before I got a job talking on the radio, I spent a year working as a consultant in Salt Lake City. I met a number of people who were closeted and others who hated the Mormon faith, but who were going to raise their children in it anyway. I learned that it's not just a religion, it's also a culture and making a switch is not as easy as it sounds. Especially when everyone in your family is a firm believer. Dan Reynolds family is devout and conservative and he's close to them so this project hasn't been easy for him. But he knows how powerful a message he's bringing to LGBTQ youth as well as the Mormon Church. And there's no stopping him now.