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LGBT Youth Suicides and the LDS Church: What Needs to Change

“What is changing—and what needs to change—is to help Church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully where they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere." —Elder Dallin H. Oaks

The unprecedented rise in Utah’s youth suicide rate over the past decade has developed into an uncertain political issue as its underlying causes have been debated. Some have questioned what possible influence the Church has had, particularly in regards to suicides among individuals who are LGBT. While a no conclusive or singular cause has yet been identified, the Church has long and repeatedly urged Latter-day Saints to be more mindful, considerate, and inclusive as part of needed change.

Citing misunderstanding—including among Church members—of the Church’s positions on various issues related to same-sex attraction, Elder Oaks authored an Ensign article on the topic in 1995. In it, he quoted a letter he had received expressing serious concern that too often we talk about gay and lesbian members with “a real lack of the pure love of Christ” which “creates more depression and a tremendous amount of guilt, shame, and lack of self-worth.” The author asks for more sensitivity saying this “would surely help avoid suicides and schisms that are caused within families.”

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Elder Oaks then admonished Latter-day Saints regarding these concerns:

“These communications surely show the need for improvement in our communication… Each member of Christ’s church has a clear-cut doctrinal responsibility to show forth love and to extend help and understanding… All should understand that persons (and their family members) struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction are in special need of the love and encouragement that is a clear responsibility of Church members, who have signified by covenant their willingness “to bear one another’s burdens” (Mosiah 18:8) ‘and so fulfil the law of Christ’ (Gal. 6:2).”
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