“Believer”

LOUISA: 2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“Believer” is a documentary that spotlights Imagine Dragons front man Dan Reynolds and his efforts to enlighten the Mormon Church to reconsider their doctrine of intolerance towards the LGBTQ community. Reynolds, who is a practicing LDS, began speaking out against his own church after learning more about the rising teen suicide rate in Utah (a state with a high population of Mormons) and connecting the dots. His efforts are exhaustive, but his church has refused to soften their harsh official positions on same-sex relationships.

Reynolds created the LoveLoud music festival, an event he hopes to hold annually in Utah, to express support and love for gay youth in Utah. The film mostly follows the ups and downs of trying to put together an event of this magnitude in a state where it isn’t exactly welcome.

The film attempts to turn Reynolds into a modern day hero, a rock star whose commitment to changing the Mormon church’s views on LGBTQ members is admirable — but it’s still a bit too difficult to overlook that he’s a straight white male who refuses to leave the religion in which he was raised. I understand it’s not such an easy thing to do, but something about his mission feels hypocritical. He wants to be open-minded yet remain faithful, which I feel undermines his message.

Perhaps if director Don Argott would’ve instead chosen to focus more on the people who are actually affected by the LDS statements it would’ve made for a stronger and more personal documentary. There are a few talking head clips from parents who lost a homosexual child to suicide (yet they still are members of the LDS church), and another of a young Mormon girl who came out as a lesbian (no mention if she or her parents are still members of the Church). Why remain an active member of a religion that goes against the cause you’re fighting for?

Adding to the ick factor are several moments when the camera gets a little too up close and personal, making parts of the film feel exploitative and tawdry. The worst bit is footage of a man grieving his brother’s suicide and shots of him looking over his brother’s casket at the funeral. It’s unnecessary and in very poor taste.

This isn’t a great documentary but Reynolds deserves applause and respect for getting his message out there, and this film is a decent enough way to do it. It’s good but not memorable, and the end result isn’t as uplifting as it should be. There’s still a lot of work to be done before the Mormon Church will reverse its policy on homosexuals and while an annual music festival is a great start, it may not ultimately provide the platform that will make change happen.

9 comments

  1. I havent seen this film but I think any faith is complicated and I’m glad people like Reynolds are sticking with the Mormon church. We need voices like that. The church gives me so much and I believe in things like the Book of Mormon so I can encourage correct treatment and change from within rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I dont know if that makes sense but we need these voices both within Mormonism and outside it

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    1. Awesome take on this, and thank you for trying to change your religion from the inside. We are friends with many LDS folks (some who have left the church and gave up everything because of issues exactly like this) and others who are staying but remaining silent. Thank you for speaking out! (Louisa)

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  2. In the process of making this film, Dan Reynolds did something incredibly despicable and hurtful to a friend of mine by using footage of him without permission and then placed my friend in a false light in his documentary. In a recent interview with Ellen, Mr. Reynolds proved to me that he is incapable of owning up to mistakes he’s made. I appreciate the efforts he is making but some the things he doing in the process really has caused to me lose all respect for him.

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    1. Interesting take and thanks for commenting! I always like to hear comments from an LDS perspective because sometimes it’s difficult for me to understand. Especially how some of these parents could choose their church over their child.

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      1. I’m trying to understand why you think they are choosing their church over their child? If they believe the church is a religion, and therefore a way of life and a believe system and moral compass, perhaps you can see why the parents find that important in their lives. And will choose not to leave it no matter what their children decide to do. After all, the Mormon church teaches strongly about agency — the ability to choose.

        So they aren’t choosing their church over their children, what is happening is the parents and the children are having a difference of opinion/lifestyle, and children and parents disagree over such things all the time. Politics, sports teams, etc. Who to marry, career choices, how to raise children, etc.

        I am sure there are misguided individuals in any family (Mormon or otherwise) who can’t stop talking about politics or religion or other things that will only lead to fights and hurt feelings, but certainly not everyone (Mormon or otherwise), and certainly anyone trying to live their religion (Mormon or otherwise) will try to avoid the conflict and enjoy what they can together.

        I am trying to see how love and acceptance of an individual as a human being (and according to the Mormon religion, a Child of God) means EVERYTHING about the individual must be accepted and approved of including every behavior and life choice. Besides that, anything that disagrees with the individual’s choices (the child’s) the other individuals (the parents) have to reject so they can “accept” that individual (the child). What of the parents’ agency? People will have differences of opinion and belief regarding behavior choices, and that is ok and normal. The point is to keep respect and love in the equation and the rule of law.

        Does that make sense?

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  3. I really don’t understand parents who reject their children who come out as gay. Believe it or not, the Church has spoken openly against that on many occassion. I think some Mormons are so orthodox having a gay son or daughter is something that they simply cannot cope with. There is a lot of hope that such attitudes are dwindling.

    While I do not see the day, the Church will ever fully accept homosexuality there are very strong efforts within the Church to establish support groups for members dealing with LGBT issues. Some leaders in certain cities will not disfellowship or excommunicate members who enter into same sex relationships or marriages, despite the church guidelines, which gives a lot of discretion to the local leaders.

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  4. I feel the same in some ways… Reynold’s needs to renounce and condemn. Alas, so many feel like they can do more from inside. I still applaud what I consider a good start.
    (I count myself as one of your friends who couldn’t stay for this and other reasons. 🙂).

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  5. That suicide rate is appalling! But I wonder, is anyone focusing on the fact that the Mormon religion is against suicide?

    I also would like to discuss some definitions of words. Harsh. It means mean and cruel, not a firm disagreement. The required standards for attending BYU, for going on a mission for the church, for entering the temple, etc are firm. The requirements for getting a Driver’s License are firm, not harsh.

    Open minded. It means the ability to look at and consider different things and then make your own decision. It doesn’t mean accept everything you are exposed to. Being religious doesn’t mean close minded, being open minded doesn’t mean you accept everything.

    I took his “mission” to be one of love and help for a need, a need for these teenagers to not think suicide is the answer. I find it disingenuous that no one mentions the Mormon position on suicide — that they are against it. And the Mormon religion is not against that cause, spreading love and help for teenagers who think suicide is the answer. The religion is about love for and acceptance of all of God’s Children, but love and acceptance do not mean agreement.

    There was something in the film that bothered me to no end. I want to ask why it is “ok” and an acceptable protest for members of the LGBTQ community to refuse to attend a wedding of their friend to a Mormon in a backyard (not even on Mormon property) simply because he Mormon, but it is not ok nor an acceptable protest for members of the Mormon community to advertise their political opinion and belief regarding same sex marriage. The double standard is truly remarkable.

    If anyone actually looks into the doctrine of most religions, including the Mormon one, they will see one of love and caring and compassion for all. Are the people who practice those religions perfect? No. That’s why it’s called “practicing,” just like a doctor’s “practice,” but the doctrine is not one of hatred, but one of love. But love does not mean that all behavior and practices are ok and approved.

    But the fact of the matter is, while people can talk to each other and accept each other as human beings and Children of God (and should), we will never all think and act and believe the same. That’s the opposite of open minded, that is close minded. And in this country and in many countries worldwide, we have freedom of religion. That Mormons do not agree with same sex marriage will not change. That Mormons do not agree with sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman will not change. To “force” or “make” someone believe as you do is not freedom nor acceptance. That’s totalitarianism. And to label others who do not share the same opinion as being full of hatred is not truthful.

    I feel for Tyler Glenn, I really do. But I wish he’d ask himself some very personal questions. If he knows the Book of Mormon is true and he says he does, then there are only two religions I know of that have it, the Mormon religion and the Community of Christ. Then he needs to ask himself, what else does he believe is true, and if there are more and more things he finds true, then he needs to seriously confront whether chastity outside of marriage and complete faithfulness in a marriage between a man and a woman is true as well or just something he personally struggles with. Either the church is true or it isn’t. If it isn’t, then it doesn’t really matter what the religion believes or doesn’t believe, does it? If it’s true, then it is of God, and changing it will no longer make it the church of God, and therefore it will no longer be true then, right? Important questions for Tyler Glenn to ask himself.

    I would like to point out the fact that being excommunicated was a mercy to him, not a punishment. He went through the temple and made sacred promises to God about his behavior, which he is now choosing to no longer keep. Being excommunicated makes it as though he never made those promises, so he won’t have the burden of being an oath breaker to God. He, as all those who have been excommunicated, if they so choose, can always repent and come back and make those promises again.

    Again, that suicide rate needs to be addressed, and everyone needs to love and respect each other, but expecting love and respect to be agreement is wrong.

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