Event aims to raise awareness of suicide, homelessness among LGBT Mormons

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Some members within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world worked to raise awareness on a sensitive topic Sunday.

The first Sunday of December from now on will be known as LDS LGBT Suicide & Homelessness Awareness Day.

The LDS Church holds fast and testimony meetings on the first Sunday of each month, and during those meetings any member is allowed to speak during the service and share their testimony. Sunday, members all over the world wore black and spoke of the risk for suicide and homelessness among LDS LGBT youth.

“Most people are very kind when they understand, and I think this is a problem of not understanding,” said Sherri Park with the group Mormons Building Bridges.

Sherri and Bill Park are members of the Mormon LGBT friendly group Mormons Building Bridges, and they spoke with FOX 13 News’ Carly Figueroa Sunday. The pair dressed in black and were the only two at their West Jordan ward to observe the inaugural LDS LGBT Suicide & Homelessness Awareness Day.

“If you just type in gay or lesbian, and they will say what our attitudes should be towards people who are gay or lesbian or transgender, and that should be an attitude of love and kindness and acceptance,” Sherri Park said.

According to a press release from event organizers, studies indicate suicide is the second leading cause of death for Utah youth. More than 5,000 youth are estimated to experience homelessness in Utah per year. Of these, at least 40 percent identify as LGBT and the majority are from religious and socially conservative families, with 60 percent coming from Mormon homes.

“For a long time I was told it’s better to be dead than gay,” said Devin Rehal, a gay man and former member of LDS Church.

Rehal left the LDS Church in 2008 immediately following the passage of Proposition 8 in California.

“There wasn't much blowback, I think really only my Mom knows but she just cried a lot,” Rehal said.

Rehal said the LDS Church coming out and accepting LGBT members was a step in the right direction but said more needs to be done to keep LDS LGBT kids alive and off the streets.

“They have to actually support the youth that are in these terrible situations and coach their family members how to react when they come out and really kind of love them through it,” he said.

The Parks have no connection to anyone who has committed suicide or is homeless, but they participated in the event because having two autistic children has taught them what it is to feel different and the importance of standing up for those who might be afraid to do it on their own.

"If we can touch one person's heart here, that person can pass the message on to someone else,” Bill Park said.

Some participants also wore a rainbow ribbon and the name of a LGBT LDS youth who has taken their life or who is the survivor of a suicide attempt. Vigils were held all around the world to commence what many hope will become a growing annual trend.

34 comments

  • Mark

    Well, good luck with that. This hasn’t changed in 30 years and it won’t now. The church has consistently turned a blind eye to their culpability and complacence by blaming the sin instead of the social isolation they inflict on these individuals. I see no reason to expect anything different now.

    • ANOTHERBOB

      Neighbor girl messed around with her boyfriend, had a baby, and then decided she’d experiment as a lesbian. The moral teachings of the LDS Church didn’t work for her and so she, and not the church, walked away.
      It is always easier to blame someone or something else for the problems we ourselves make,

      • jen

        are you a follower of the LDS church? perhaps you should get the memo to have an attitude of love and kindness and acceptance. Good luck with judging others.

      • BOB

        JEN – Jesus never condoned sin, and He used a whip to drive the money changers out of the temple. It is one thing to be kind to the sinner and quite another to condone their behavior.

      • Will Robbins

        Bob – I think part of not condoning or agreeing with behavior is agreeing to disagree. Jesus had to cleanse the temple immediately because the people made it a house of merchandise. I think of Mormons being taught to keep their house like a temple, but I still don’t think it means that they are morally obligated or commanded to disown or kick out their LGBT teen because of attractions or behavior or choices. They should not want to do that as God wouldn’t require or expect them to do that. I don’t think that the teen’s LGBT influence would change the spirituality of the home and why wouldn’t every parent want to have excuses to keep their teen in their home? I don’t think it tries a parent’s faith to kick out a child because they wanted and chose to do it by themselves regardless whether it would please God, so I think it’s a lack of faith on the parents part who do it. God would just want the parent to agree to disagree. The parent should at least provide the option for the teen to stay at home if they are committed to celibacy while at home until they decide to leave home, but not to make the teen commit to something like secrecy and reparative therapy. I would like to point out the difference of celibacy while depending on parents versus parents enforcing a promise of lifelong celibacy after leaving home, or enforced reparative therapy, or enforced closet and secrecy.

      • Bob

        WILL ROBBINS – If you’re 18 and don’t want to comply with the house rules the rest of your siblings live by then good parents will help you leave the nest and govern yourself. Why allow a child to escape the consequences of their actions?

  • ANOTHERBOB

    Mormons Building Bridges is dedicated to conveying love and acceptance to those who identify as LGBTQI. I notice that they are starting to add more letters of the alphabet. How about adding an “N” for those who don’t suffer a $exual identity hangup. We classify the N group and normal.

      • Bob

        People who wear CTR rings don’t do so to “bear testimony of trials others go through”. They wear those rings to remind themselves to make right choices.

  • jen

    so many ugly comments. perhaps all of the followers of the LDS church needs to receive the memo. You are suppose to have an attitude of love and kindness and acceptance. Good luck with judging others.

    • BOB

      I think you missed the memo JEN – Jesus never condoned sin, and He used a whip to drive the money changers out of the temple. It is one thing to be kind to the sinner and quite another to condone their behavior.

    • BOB

      God isn’t responsible for the homelessness and suicide for the LGBT crowd Barry. We are each responsible for our own actions and decisions, and God isn’t going to prevent the consequences we’ve earned.

  • CC

    What next? The salesman can get up in church and demand he be allowed to demo his vacuum? If it was a party at your house would you let such a salesman crash it? No way. This is terrible behavior from a group that claims it is “building bridges”. Build them in your own house, not God’s.

  • Miklos Bekefi

    Honestly, what’s the intended outcome of the campaign? The LDS Church already advises to approach such struggling individuals with love. Besides, there is a lot of theoretical discussion going on here, but not a single person saying “this is how I handled it when my son/daughter ‘came out'”. Nor did anyone mention that they had known such a homeless kid and took him/her in. So, I guess we are all spectators here. I doubt that you can establish a one-size-fits-all rule for all circumstances, and the LDS Church has already provided some very sensible advice to parents facing such a situation. It’s certainly not a matter of “you came out, now get out”. I believe it’s more often the case of “I’m leaving”. But again, it’s just a theoretical opinion, not firsthand experience. Thank goodness.

  • Charles Metcalfe

    it is good to see that their are some seeds of positive change and lgbt equality within the Mormon church

    • BOB

      Read the LDS “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and then explain how your theory on lgbt equality fits into the picture.

      • Sker

        The, one man – one wife, Proclamation to the Family flies in the face of the teachings of the prophets Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, John Taylor and, until the US government was going to seize the Utah lands, Wilford Woodruff (who had a don’t ask, don’t tell policy), Lorenzo Snow and Joseph F Smith. The LDS church giving marital advice is like the Octomom running a planned parenthood clinic.

        The LDS church has always been behind the times on the social issues.
        “The church thought polygamy was right until it was wrong.
        The church thought resisting the US federal government’s authority was right until it was wrong.
        The church thought resisting the civil rights movement was right until it was wrong.
        The church thought fighting feminism was right until it was wrong. It’s working on it…
        The church thinks fighting marriage equality is right and it’s going to turn out to be wrong.
        And how do I trust my relationship to an in-group that has failed that consistently on the big moral questions of the day
        …in fact they legalized slavery in the Utah territory because, you know, why not?”
        -Jason Nelson-Seawright

        Perhaps a little less self-righteousness and a little more compassion might help.

      • BOB

        The vast majority of the world’s Homo sapiens were born as Mother Nature intended, don’t feel the need to hide in the closet, and aren’t confused about which letter of the alphabet best identifies their deviation from the norm. Just makes life a whole lot simpler.

      • Sker

        “The vast majority of the world’s Homo sapiens were born as Mother Nature intended”

        Yes, and some are born judgmental and without compassion. Some claim to be a persecuted people in their past yet heap them on others.

        You referenced Jesus in one of your other posts. I have one for you.

        Matthew 23:13
        But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

      • Sker

        “The vast majority of the world’s Homo sapiens were born as Mother Nature intended”

        Do you mean black, white?
        Do you mean claiming to follow the laws of the land or swearing vengeance against their government?
        Do you mean slaves or free? Pretty sure there were fewer born slaves than free people. Should we re-institute slavery?

        You didn’t address any one of the points of human rights the church has been on the wrong side of. Furthermore, there was no action to make changes until the government got involved. The church’s record for human rights issues is abysmal and the best you can do is say “The vast majority of the world’s Homo sapiens were born as Mother Nature intended”. Sounds like rhetoric used to deny people their human rights in times past.

      • BOB

        SKER – A rudimentary knowledge of anatomy explains the differences between men and women, what goes where, and why. An no, relationships with dogs, sheep, and any other deviation isn’t accepted as being normal.

  • BOB

    People who are unhappy only have two options:
    #1 Blame themselves for the choices and decisions they make.
    #2 Blame something or someone else for their problems.

    Option #2 is always easier and less painful.

    • Sker

      You’re right. It is easier to blame others for their problems. You’re doing a very good job of it.

      Never mind the ostracization they get from their church and frequently their family for a situation which they are born into.

      • BOB

        Some are born into it and others, like my neighbor, make a conscience choice to volunteer for it. When a ship steers off course it is said to deviate from the norm. Probably why they don’t want ship captains like that leading the Boy Scouts.

  • davidmpark

    I am Bill and Sherri’s biological child. I am not Autistic! I have been tested numerous times and never came close to a diagnosis. And I have attempted suicide before; they only got angry at me. Please be accurate in reporting, Fox 13.

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