Written by: Torry Barnes, @TorryBarnes
BYU-Idaho students who are attracted to the same gender responded last week to reports of rising suicide rates among the Latter-day Saint LGBT community.
“I’m saddened that there had to be anyone who committed suicide because they were LGBT,” said Phil Davis (name has been changed), a sophomore who is attracted to the same gender.
Last month, Wendy Montgomery, co-founder of the Mama Dragons, a support group for LDS mothers with gay children, reported that 32 LGBT Mormons died by suicide between November and December 2015.
Suicide of any kind brings sorrow to the Church, according to a press release issued by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Every soul is precious to God and to the Church, and the loss of life to suicide is heartbreaking,” according to the press release. “Those who are attracted to others of the same sex face particular challenges and pressures in this regard, both inside and outside the Church. We mourn with their families and friends when they feel life no longer offers hope.”
Montgomery said at a conference for Affirmation, a Mormon LGBT group, that she received almost daily emails and Facebook messages from the family members of those who died by suicide.
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Of those deaths, 27 were males, three were female, and two were transgender. Montgomery reported 26 suicides in Utah, four in Idaho and one each in Arizona and New England.
The suicide statistics gathered by Montgomery for Utah far exceed official figures presented by the state of Utah, according to the Utah State Department of Health.
Utah figures for November and December show 10 overall suicides for people ages 14 to 20, with two more cases “undetermined,” according to the Utah State Department of Health.
The suicide figures for the other states involved in Montgomery’s report still have yet to be verified.
Zachary Barnes, a leader of an LGBT support group at BYU-I, said three students have come to him contemplating suicide.
Reed Stoddard, director of the BYU-I Counseling Center, said the counseling office has not received any reports of suicidal thoughts or intentions from LGBT students since the Church’s policy change.
Barnes said many students in his group are afraid to speak to anyone outside of the LGBT community for fear of ridicule.
“It’s just us keeping each other going,” Barnes said. “I’ve walked into people cutting themselves, and I’ve had to be the one to call the police.”
Barnes said many of the LGBT students have strong testimonies of the gospel, but the struggle comes when their sexual urges are in direct conflict with the doctrines of the Church.
“They say just be celibate, but imagine yourself being celibate,” Barnes said.
He said it is a loneliness that members of the LGBT must live with their entire lives.
Davis, said he has found it possible to be both a BYU-I student and LGBT.
“Some people think you have to be LGBT or LDS, and there is no in between,” Davis said. “I am still active LDS. I hold a temple recommend, but yet I struggle with same-gender attraction. What does that mean for me? Well, it just means that I have an extra challenge to overcome.”
Davis said he recognizes it is hard for people to understand his sexual feelings.
“When I was growing up in the Church, my Young Men’s leaders would say, ‘You are coming to an age now where you will find women attractive, and you’ll have thoughts towards them,’” Davis said. “Yet I never experienced any of that.”
Davis said his conviction for spiritual truth gives him direction as a student and hope for the future.
“Before the fact that I am gay, I am still a son of God,” Davis said. “I know that God has a plan for me. Even though I don’t understand why I have what I have, I still know there is a plan.”
Davis said he invites all church members to reach out more to the Mormon LGBT community.
“Go up to them and show them that you love them no matter what they do,” Davis said. “They are still children of God, and they still deserve the same treatment regardless of who it is.”
The BYU-I Counseling Center is available without charge to any students assigned to a track and registered for a minimum of six credits, according to the BYU-I Counseling Center Web page.