SALT LAKE CITY — Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds hopes a bigger crowd in a larger stadium at next week’s second annual LoveLoud music festival will create a $1 million windfall for LGBT youth suicide prevention efforts.
But music and money aren’t the real purpose of LoveLoud for Reynolds.
"Obviously the music will be great, but the most pivotal moments and emotional moments that perpetuate change are when we all sit down and listen to our LGBTQ youth and adults who tell us their story," he said. "That’s when empathy is really created, when understanding becomes a theme of the night."
Last year, more than 17,000 people attended the first LoveLoud festival in Brent Brown Ballpark at Utah Valley University in Orem. The event generated about $100,000 for five charities that support LGBT youth and provide them with suicide prevention services, Reynolds said, and a parade of speakers generated a dialogue about supporting them.
This year the July 28 event will be held at Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah. About 30,000 of 42,000 tickets have been sold, Reynolds said. He promised this year's list of speakers will be "jaw-dropping."
"My goal," he said, "is for LoveLoud to be a reminder that we need to do better and we need to love those who are most at risk and already in a tricky position."
Reynolds' own complex relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown more complicated since last summer’s Loveloud festival. He has heard from church members who felt he criticized the church in his documentary film "Believer," which debuted at Sundance in January and is about Reynolds, LGBT youth and suicide, LDS positions and the first LoveLoud Festival. He heard from many again after he appeared on "Ellen" last month before HBO aired the movie.
But Reynolds said he has been in regular contact with people at church headquarters since the first LoveLoud and called their patience with him "eye-opening." He said those talks have reassured him that despite disagreements, they have something in common.
"The main theme we have found that we can have common ground on is that we love our LGBTQ youth," he said.
LDS leaders issued a statement in response to a request for comment about next week's festival.
"We remain committed to support community efforts throughout the world to prevent suicide, bullying and homelessness," the church statement said. "Every young person should feel loved and cared for in their families, their communities and their congregations. We can come together, bringing our perspectives and beliefs, and make each community a safe place for all.
"God’s message is one of hope and we want our LGBT brothers and sisters to know that they are loved, valued and needed in his church."
Experts say each individual suicide typically arises from a combination of factors. Suicides are now the 10th-leading cause of all deaths in the United States.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Utah young people ages 10 to 24. The number of Utah teenagers lost to suicide jumped 141 percent from 2011 to 2015. Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in January said that youth suicide had reached a "crisis point."
"I think anybody with a heart can agree we want to help those at-risk youth," Reynolds said. "That’s where the conversation begins. I’m always thrilled and my heart is so ecstatic to know that the church is willing to come to the table, even knowing that we may not agree completely on doctrines.
"When the church says, we support these efforts to love our LGBTQ youth and to talk about how we all can be better, that's pivotal to me," he added. "The difference it makes cannot be measured."
The church launched a suicide prevention webpage in 2016 and expanded it in January when Elder Rasband participated in the Utah governor's task force on suicide prevention. This month it added eight new videos to suicide.lds.org, including several featuring another apostle.
Reynolds said he hoped that LoveLoud can be a safe zone for LGBT youth and for all people, including those of faith.
"I think a lot of the world looks in at organized religion and thinks all these people are bigots. That’s really a false notion," he said. "The truth is, I think it’s a lot of people who are looking to love, and they just don’t know what that looks like when it comes to our LGBTQ youth."
He said it is possible for people of faith to reconcile their beliefs with loving acceptance of LGBT youth. He cited an example of an uncle who attended LoveLoud last year and put his arm around and accepted his gay nephew for the first time since the young man had revealed his orientation.
"That’s the goal, is for everybody to walk in and feel heard, and walk out feeling more love for our LGBTQ youth," he said.47 comments on this story
Reynolds said the speakers list will be announced by Monday. The festival's host will be Cameron Esposito, a stand-up comedian, actor and writer who hosts the podcast "Queery."
The festival's main benefactors will be Encircle, which fosters mutual understanding with programs designed to strengthen family circles and relationships for LGBT youth; the Trevor Project, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization for LGBT youth that provides a national 24-hour, toll-free confidential suicide hotline; and the Tegan and Sara Foundation, an advocacy group for health, economic justice and representation for LGBT girls and women.