SALT LAKE CITY — A first-time music festival aimed at supporting LGBTQ youth charities will bring several big names to Orem later this month and now has a statement of support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The LoveLoud Festival will be held Aug. 26 at Utah Valley University’s Brent Brown Ballpark and will be a homecoming of sorts for Imagine Dragons and Neon Trees, two bands whose paths to stardom began in Utah.
They will be among those to perform at the event that will also feature words of support from NFL Hall of Famer and former BYU quarterback Steve Young and “Dancing With The Stars” judge Julianne Hough who are lending their voices to what organizers hope all in Utah can champion: support for youth.
“We applaud the LoveLoud Festival for LGBTQ Youth’s aim to bring people together to address teen safety and to express respect and love for all of God’s children,” says a statement released by the LDS Church. “We join our voice with all who come together to foster a community of inclusion in which no one is mistreated because of who they are or what they believe."
The statement continued: “We share common beliefs, among them the pricelessness of our youth and the value of families. We earnestly hope this festival and other related efforts can build respectful communication, better understanding and civility as we all learn from each other.”
The event is the brainchild of Dan Reynolds, lead singer of the Grammy Award-winning band Imagine Dragons, who was seeking a safe place to put differences aside between the LGBTQ and faith communities to promote love and acceptance of LGBTQ youth.
“LoveLoud is about is bringing our community together to talk about how we can love our LGBTQ youth, how we can make them feel accepted and loved within the community so that these suicide rates drop,” Reynolds said, noting the increased risk of suicide among LGBTQ youth and others who feel bullied or marginalized.
All proceeds from the event will go to the LoveLoud Foundation, which supports the Utah charities Encircle and Stand4Kind, as well as two national charities, The Trevor Project and GLAAD.
Event organizers have worked for months to try to provide an event that can focus on the common good of helping youth in a safe environment void of divisive politics. Event organizer Lance Lowry emphasized the "need to make a safer community."
"We can work together to have more love and as cliche as that sounds, love is something we all believe, at least those who are involved in this, and we know that nothing bad can come from us becoming more loving," Lowry said.
Tom Christofferson, brother of Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, will also speak at the event. Alex Boye, a singer and former member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, will emcee the event.
Reynolds, who identifies as a Mormon and served an LDS mission to Nebraska, has been outspoken recently in his support of LGBTQ causes and has a national voice with the popularity of Imagine Dragons.
“Whenever I do interviews with press about the band, when people would bring up whether or not I was Mormon, it often made me uncomfortable," he said. "It was just an uncomfortable question for me because though I am Mormon and I identify as Mormon, just like every Mormon, I’m a unique Mormon. I have my own personal views on things and my own faith struggles and things like that so I typically would shy away from it," he said.
"But one of the reasons that I had a hard time talking about it was I knew where my heart stood as far as, you know, what I thought about God and God’s relationship with the LGBTQ community.”
Recently, Reynolds expressed frustrations over how LGBTQ issues are viewed in his faith tradition, comments that have made some in the faith community question whether there is room to find common purpose with an event such as The LoveLoud festival.
“My only regret thus far that I feel like I have made a mistake is, I don’t, I absolutely don’t believe that Mormons are bigoted people at all," Reynolds said, commenting on previous interviews he's done.
"I did an interview with Billboard where I think, when you’re doing interviews and especially when I’m talking out of passion and I’m someone who speaks just from my heart and without thinking sometimes, things can be skewed and they can be put into a way that can be hurtful to people. So when the Billboard article came out I understood how it could be perceived as hurtful or Mormons feeling like I was judging other Mormons or something and for that, I am regretful. I don’t believe that Mormons are a bigoted people," he said.
Reynolds said that the event will not be about him or his personal beliefs. The goal, he said, will be to create an environment where all people feel safe and comfortable. While it's difficult to remove religion from the equation because Utah is a heavily populated LDS area, Reynolds said that this is an issue that goes “beyond Mormons.”
“Mormons and people of orthodox faith should be able to come out and feel respected and loved and not feel like these are people saying, ‘Hey, you need to change your beliefs.’ But rather to say, ‘How can we all be better and more loving and accepting?’”
Lowry, who also serves as Reynold’s assistant, confirmed that the messages promoted from the stage will be congruent.
“Dan’s strength has always been his honesty and his candor,” Lowry said. “He always speaks from the heart. He wears his heart on his sleeve and if something is on his mind, it’s also on his tongue. So that’s one of the things we’re grateful to have because whatever you hear from him, you don’t hear anything watered down or changed. He will always tell you how he feels.
He added the concert is "not about preaching a particular message. It’s not about who is right or wrong. It’s about everyone becoming better.”
Lowry said that while ticket sales have been successful to this point, church support should help.
“We know that with the church’s announcement and endorsement of the event that that’s going to help people feel safe and give them the confidence to want to come to this,” Lowry said. “I know a lot of people who are interested and want to be involved but they’re just not sure how to go about being involved with this topic and with the church encouraging people to be involved, I think that’s going to push ticket sales over the top. We’re preparing to increase our capacity to be able to handle that.”
The planned capacity for the event is 18,000, but organizers are working with fire marshals to potentially increase the capacity to more than 20,000.