Is LDS theology responsible for LGBT Suicides? No.

It probably is time to re-introduce this article from May 2020 that points out the following:

“The claim sometimes made that there is an established massive suicide phenomenon among LGBT+ Latter-day Saints directly attributable to Latter-day Saint theology—or policies—is not supported by current data and scholarly research.”

As this article points out, it is a widespread myth that LDS theology is responsible for LGBT suicides. I keep on seeing people make the claim without any real evidence. But as the article points out:

Again, as mental health experts in partnership with GLAAD observe: “The underlying causes of most suicide deaths are complex and not always immediately obvious. Making hasty assumptions about those causes, even when based on comments from family or friends or media reports, can result in statements that are later proven to be inaccurate.” 

It’s difficult to rigorously test claims regarding suicide causality to peer-reviewed standards. But people may be surprised how little evidence there is for related side-claims such as, in the words of one celebrity, Utah has experienced a surge in suicide “because of the shame (LGBT+ teenagers) feel from the Mormon Church.” 

Lamentably, these beliefs have sometimes taken on a life of their own, regardless. 

I have spoken to sophisticated, intelligent colleagues in the social sciences who take the theology-suicide correlation as a fact, even when confronted with conflicting information—including objective, official numbers that do not provide any evidence for the claim. 

Such a narrative is extremely dangerous because it begins to normalize the idea that people with same-sex attraction should be inclined toward suicide:

This would normally be benign—people can believe what they want to believe—but the fact is that those pushing a narrative of mass suicidality among LGBT+ youth are themselves risking suicide contagion in order to win rhetorical points (this point, meant for the population in general, has actually been made by Rick Savin-Williams, the father of gay youth health research). Belief in LGBT+ Mormon suicide pandemic in the absence of good social science evidence may actually contribute to the troubling phenomenon of heightened suicidality among the LGBT+ population by normalizing suicide rather than resiliency, hope, and life. 

Is the Church and its practices and theology responsible, or is it the belief in the narrative itself? If you keep pushing the idea that all gay Latter-day Saints are depressed and suicidal, then those who are most vulnerable to that narrative may start to believe you. If you are contributing to the narrative that the only orthodox Latter-day Saint LGBT+ is a dead one, then you may in fact be hurting Latter-day Saint LGBT+ youth. 

So, please stop with the unscientific and false claims of proven links between LDS orthodoxy and LGBT suicide. It is not true.

Note: I have written about this before, once in 2016 and once in 2019. It seems like some clearly false claims simply won’t die.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

1 thought on “Is LDS theology responsible for LGBT Suicides? No.

  1. Your comment regarding how pushing the Church-LGBT suicide relationship narrative actually normalizes suicide as an option for LGBT youth in the Church reminded me of a popular movie scene:

    In the cult classic “The Princess Bride”, there is a scene in which the dashing hero Westley (known at this juncture only as The Man In Black) comes upon the hired Sicilian outlaw Vizzini seated with a knife held to the throat of the kidnapped and blind-folded maiden Princess Buttercup. You’ll recall Vizzini’s warning to “come no closer” else he slit the throat of the belle lass. As Westley takes a step forward, Vizzini proclaims “you’re killing her” as he presses the knife blade more firmly against Buttercup’s throat, implying that it is Westley’s actions that would cause harm to the princess and not the actual holder and controller of the weapon.

    It seems to me that some people wield the Church-LGBT youth suicide narrative like a knife in their efforts to either shame or force change in the Church, but do the most damage to those whom the seek to help.

    There have been multiple studies and reports showing that increased suicide publicity and popular ideation increase actual suicide rates. This is expressed on the home page of https://reportingonsuicide.org/:

    “…Media and online coverage of suicide should be informed by using best practices. …the way media cover suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion, or positively by encouraging help-seeking.”

    As long as we have people wishing to peg suicide causation on just one or a small number of factors, we’ll never get to the actual root causes or consistently direct those contemplating suicide to the best resources for help.

    Sadly, my brother-in-law committed suicide a few years ago and we are currently dealing with another family member with these thoughts (neither is/was LGBT or particularly religious), so the topic of suicide is very sensitive for my family.

    Cheers.

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