Imag­ine Drag­ons’ Reynolds sin­cere ‘Be­liever’ in change

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - THIS WEEKEND'S EVENTS - BY RICK BENT­LEY TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE

Dan Reynolds, lead singer of the Grammy-win­ning Imag­ine Drag­ons, is on a mis­sion. That’s noth­ing new for him. Just af­ter fin­ish­ing high school, Reynolds spent two years in Omaha, Neb., where he knocked on thou­sands of doors as part of his com­mit­ment to the Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter­day Saints. On av­er­age, only one in 100 homes he ap­proached would let him in to share his mes­sage. His new mis­sion is try­ing to get the Mor­mon faith to be more in­clu­sive for the LGBTQ com­mu­nity. The fo­cal point of his ef­forts, the LoveLoud mu­sic fes­ti­val, is the sub­ject of “Be­liever,” a doc­u­men­tary that de­buted Mon­day on HBO. It was re­leased to co­in­cide with June’s Pride Month festivities. The de­ter­mi­na­tion Reynolds learned dur­ing his two years in Omaha be­came the foun­da­tion for his com­mit­ment to spark a change in church think­ing. “One of the things I talk about in the doc­u­men­tary is that a de­ter­mined Mor­mon is a very scary thing,” Reynolds says. “Mor­mons are taught to per­se­vere for what you be­lieve in. So re­ally, the Mor­mon Church is re­ally to blame for me ral­ly­ing so hard for LGBTQ rights within the Mor­mon Church.” How de­ter­mined is Reynolds? He stresses he is “ready to go to war” and looks at the doc­u­men­tary as the open­ing salvo of a long and dif­fi­cult bat­tle to bring about change. Directed by Don Ar­gott, “Be­liever” looks at how af­ter be­com­ing aware of sky­rock­et­ing teen sui­cide rates in Utah, Reynolds de­cides he’s been silent too long about the Church’s in­tol­er­ance to­wards the LGBTQ com­mu­nity. He starts with an apol­ogy to Neon Trees lead singer Tyler Glenn, who, af­ter pub­licly com­ing out, left the church af­ter he learned of its op­po­si­tion to same-sex mar­riage and poli­cies ban­ning chil­dren of same-sex cou­ples from be­ing bap­tized be­fore age 18. Reynolds works with Glenn to help co­or­di­nate the first LoveLoud Fes­ti­val, in­tended to pro­mote greater LGBTQ in­clu­siv­ity in the Mor­mon com­mu­nity. Reynolds has fo­cused his at­ten­tion on the Mor­mon Church but wants to show through the doc­u­men­tary the need for more in­clu­sive­ness is some­thing that needs to be em­braced by all re­li­gions. “Mor­mons are only about 1 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion. The doc­u­men­tary is pointed at peo­ple of (all) Ortho­dox faiths. That’s a lot of the pop­u­la­tion,” Reynolds says. “It is re­ally far­reach­ing to teach that to be gay is a sin. “I think that the 20,000 peo­ple we reached with the first con­cert is a grain of sand. I hope this doc­u­men­tary gets into the homes of fam­i­lies, they sit down and watch it to­gether and there are dis­cus­sions around the din­ner ta­ble. That’s the most im­por­tant thing.” “Be­liever” in­cludes be­hind-the-scenes footage of Reynolds as he deals with a long string of set­backs lead­ing up to the con­cert. It also looks at those who are per­son­ally deal­ing with the church. Sa­van­nah is a young girl who comes out dur­ing a church ser­vice by say­ing “I was made the way I am, all parts of me, by my heav­enly par­ents. They did not mess up when they gave me freck­les or when they made me to be gay. God loves me just this way, be­cause I be­lieve that he loves all his cre­ations.” There are also heart­break­ing sto­ries, such as the one shared by Alyson and Ge­orge, whose teenage son, Stock­ton, com­mit­ted sui­cide af­ter feel­ing alien­ated from his com­mu­nity. “Be­liever” also shows how Reynolds’ mar­riage to Aja Volk­man was a ma­jor piece in his de­ci­sion to find sup­port for the LGBTQ com­mu­nity. There’s no ques­tion in Reynolds’ mind that he’s on the road he is to­day be­cause of her. “She is such a spirit of love and ac­cep­tance and ac­tivist since she was a little kid, which for me as a Mor­mon was an alien thing,” Reynolds says. “As a Mor­mon you want to live an in­of­fen­sive life. It’s a vanilla

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