LDS Church Leaders Call Trend ‘Heartbreaking,’ Say They ‘Mourn with Families’
Thirty-two young LGBT Mormons reportedly have taken their own lives since early November â€” when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a new devastatingly anti-gay policy labeling people in same-sex marriages “apostates” and barring their children from being baptized.Â
All of the victims were between the ages of 14 and 20, with an average age of 17. Twenty-seven were male, three were female and two were transgender, and all but six of the suicides occurred in Utah.Â
Those figures are based on a report from Mama Dragons, a support group for the Mormon parents of LGBT children that we first told you about last May.Â Wendy Montgomery, co-founder of Mama Dragons, announced recently during a conference of Affirmation, another Mormon LGBT support group, that the families of the 32 victims had contacted her directly about the death of a child or sibling.Â
The Deseret News, a Salt Lake City-based daily newspaper owned by the Mormon church, reported the shocking figure Wednesday after obtaining the following statement from senior LDS leaders.
“Every soul is precious to God and to the church and the loss of life to suicide is heartbreaking,” an LDS church spokesman, Dale Jones, said. “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. Each congregation should welcome everyone. Leaders and members are taught to follow the example of Jesus Christ and to reach out in an active, caring way to all, especially to youth who feel estranged or isolated. The church has repeatedly stated that those who feel same-sex attraction and yet choose to live the commandments of God can live fulfilling lives as worthy members of the church. We want all to enjoy the blessings and safety offered by embracing the teachings of Jesus Christ and living the principles of His gospel.”
The 15 million-member LDS church teaches that acting on feelings of “same-sex attraction” is a sin, and excommunicates gay and lesbian members who decline to remain celibate. The church fought vigorously against the legalization of same-sex marriage, bankrolling the campaign in support of California’s Proposition 8 in 2008.
In the ensuing years, however, the church appeared to soften its anti-gay tone and left decisions about the issue in the hands of local leaders. As a result, some “wards,” or congregations, in progressive areas became welcoming of LGBT people. Last year, the church even supported a bill banning anti-LGBT discrimination in Utah, although the measure contained significant religious exemptions.Â
But in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of nationwide marriage equality, the church took a major step backward. In the policy released Nov. 5, the church relegated same-sex couples to the same status as those in polygamous marriages, labeling them “apostates,” a term for those who’ve renounced their faith. The policy also bars the children of same-sex parents from becoming full members of the church until they turn 18, disavow their parents’ relationship, and leave the household.Â
The new policy prompted thousands to leave the church in protest. Then,Â earlier this month, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Russell M. Nelson, declared that the policy was a revelation from God to LDS President Thomas S. Monson, which elevated it to the status of church doctrine. Nelson is next in line to become church president, and his wife later said that LGBT people could “repent” and have their “sexual feelings be in harmony” with God’s law.Â
Even before the new policy was announced, Utah had the fourth-highest rate of suicide in the nation, and suicide was the No. 1 cause of death for children ages 10-17.Â Sadly, the families of LGBT Mormons who commit suicide typically don’t publicize it because they want to avoid the associated shame from fellow church members.Â
Nationally, LGB youth are four times more likely than theirÂ straight peers to attempt suicide, according to the Trevor Project. LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to attempt suicide as those who report no or low levels of family rejection. And one quarter of young transgender people “report having made a suicide attempt.”
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U.S. government vividly shows the danger of fireworks in literally mind-blowing video
It’s the Fourth of July, American Independence Day, a holiday where Americans buy nearly $1 billion worth of fireworks (literally tens of thousands of tons of explosive material) to light up the night sky in a celebration-slash-commemoration of the firearms our colonizers gleefully discharged in open revolt against the Brits who first sent them there.
While our resentments against the British have (mostly) receded, the danger of explosives hasn’t entirely. That’s why the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently released this literally head-exploding video demonstrating the numerous ways that fireworks can blow your brain, children and limbs to bits.
Luckily, the video uses mannequins, but it gets its message across quite vividly.
They’ve even published this following list of helpful firework safety tips:
– Never allow young children to play with, or ignite, fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt some metals.
– Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy, in case of fire or other mishap.
– Light fireworks one at a time, then move away quickly.
– Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
– Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
– Never point or throw fireworks (including sparklers) at anyone.
– After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.
– Make sure fireworks are legal in your area, and only purchase fireworks that are labeled for consumer (not professional) use.
Happy Fourth, everyone!
Trump is making a move to endanger LGBTQ and civil rights activists around the world
The Open Technology Fund (OTF), “a U.S. government-funded nonprofit that provides encryption technologies to journalists and activists living under repressive regimes,” is under threat from Michael Pack, an appointee of President Donald Trump who now heads the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), the group that oversees the OTF.
Pack is pressuring the OTF to change its funding allocation in a way that could endanger LGBTQ activists and others strategizing for civil rights in countries like China, Russia, Iran and Turkey, leaving them subject harassment, arrest, violence, and death.
According to Vice News, Pack has packed USAGM’s board with Trump loyalists who are working to funnel tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to closed-source technologies. Closed-source technologies are privately developed apps that could contain backdoor and security vulnerabilities allowing repressive regimes to track users and monitor their online communications.
Pack’s shift to closed-source technology is a fundamental change to the OTF’s long-running investment in “open-source technology,” tech whose publicly available source code can be studied and tested to ensure others can’t access user data.
Pack’s USAGM is currently pushing for OTF to invest in Freegate and Ultrasurf, two closed-source apps that purport to get around the Great Firewall of China, a censorious and domestically controlled internet that blocks activists from any sites critical of the Chinese government.
Open-source software experts that spoke to Vice said, “[Ultrasurf’s] code is out of date, dangerously vulnerable to compromise, and lacks the user base to allow it to effectively scale even if they secured government funding.”
Laura Cunningham and Libby Liu, who very recently served as OTF’s president and CEO respectively, told Vice News that in March 2020 (shortly after Trump installed Pack), Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation Human Rights and Justice (one of the groups pushing Ultrasurf) threatened them to fund the app or else risk being ousted by Pack and his board.
On June 13, 2020, Michael Horowitz, former director of the Project for International Religious Liberty (another group pushing Ultrasurf), then went on the radio show of white supremacist-enabler and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and called for Pack to fire Liu — four days later, he did. A day later, Pack fired Cunningham without providing any reason whatsoever.
Current and former OTF staff members told Vice they’re worried about the OTF’s direction under Pack. Longtime open-source technology advocate Cory Doctorow summed up the worry in a Twitter thread that linked to a petition urging Congress to intervene:
The Trump admin wants to nuke the OTF and give all its money to a bunch of grifty, closed-source privacy and firewall-circumvention tools. These tools are NOT auditable, and the companied that make them stand to make BANK from the move… If i was a Uyghur in Xinjiang or a dissident in Tehran, I would NOT trust my life to these tools. No goddamned way.
OTF’s ironclad rule of funding open, free code isn’t just a way to allay suspicions about the tools’ true purpose – it’s also a preventative against corruption, because the projects OTF funds CAN’T insert spy code without being caught right away… Based on this administration’s track record, I’m about 70-30 that this is just a bro deal that lets some cronies suck up millions in corporate welfare while hanging out tools used by vulnerable people around the world to dry.
Remember, Congress allocated this money for the OTF, not as pork for a bunch of connected insiders. This money built the tools that #BlackLivesMatter protesters use, to say nothing of the #HongKongProtests and many other movements around the world.
It will be a genuine, deep, widespread tragedy if this move isn’t stopped.
Conservatives are freaking out over the NFL playing “The Black National Anthem” before games
In a performative gesture that does nothing to discourage police from killing Black people, the National Football League has decided to jump on the feel-good Black-ally bandwagon and play “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” (aka. the Black National Anthem) at the start of every week one game when the season opens on September 10.
The song, which was written in 1900 and set to music in 1905, will reportedly play before the usual national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, and will be presumably be all but forgotten by the NFL after one week.
Predictably, conservatives on social media are using the hashtag #BoycottNFL to express their displeasure:
How many national anthems do we have??
Is there an Hispanic national anthem?
An Asian-American national anthem?
This is asinine. We are ONE America. E Pluribus Unum. https://t.co/nv0djWREnH
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 3, 2020
Everyone should take a knee during the Black National Anthem
We have a National anthem, it’s for the entire nation. Why are they trying to bring back segregation? So RACIST
Martin Luther King Jr
DID NOT MARCH FOR A BLACK NATIONAL ANTHEM.
— Terrence K. Williams (@w_terrence) July 3, 2020
NFL players make millions a year playing a game. Don’t lecture us about how evil America is. #BoycottNFL
— JT Lewis (@thejtlewis) July 3, 2020
The NFL needs fans more than we need the NFL.
If they kneel during the anthem, or play anything other than the actual National Anthem, we should not tune in.
It’s time to teach these overpaid athletes that they can’t bully the American people! #BoycottNFL
— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) July 3, 2020
If you wanna lose fans in Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin, and Texas, and Florida, in the Carolinas, and anywhere people have a brain… if you want to destroy pro football… then go ahead and NFL slit your own throat. Have fun without us! #NFL https://t.co/uxa97cHfOX
— Graham Ledger (@GrahamLedger) July 3, 2020
There are an equal number of other Twitter users mocking such “fans” for turning their backs on the league at a moment’s notice. But as Black writer Panama Jackson at The Root points out, the playing of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” could backfire if cameras capture scores of NFL fans turning their backs as the anthem plays. However, perhaps that would show the NFL just how widespread racism among its fandom really is, despite 70 percent of its players being Black.
Beyond the playing of the Black National Anthem, ESPN explains, the NFL has other plans to make symbolic gestures against anti-Black police violence, though none (except for the final one mentioned below) are sure things:
Having recently displayed increased awareness about the problems of systemic racism, the NFL, in collaboration with the NFL Players Association, is also considering listing the names of victims on uniforms through decals on helmets or patches on jerseys. The NFL also may produce educational programs about victims, among other plans…. [like] plans to increase its social justice footprint by pledging to donate $250 million over a 10-year period.
In other race-related NFL news, this week the NFL said it will finally conduct a “thorough study” on possibly renaming the Washington state football team whose name is an old-timey slur for Native Americans.
In early June, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL was wrong to ban players from protesting anti-black policing in America. However, his apology didn’t name Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL player whose 2017 on-field kneeling protest compelled the NFL on May 23, 2018 to threaten fines against any players who didn’t stand during the national anthem.
The national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as Teen Vogue reminds us, was written by a slave-owning Washington lawyer, Francis Scott Key, who referred to African-Americans as “a distinct and inferior race of people.”
Lastly, on Friday the National Basketball Association (NBA) said it would allow players to wear slogans on their jerseys in the upcoming season including the following messages: Black Lives Matter, Power to the People, I Can’t Breathe, Say Their Names, Vote, Justice, Peace, Equality, Freedom, Enough, Justice Now, Say Her Name, Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can), Liberation, See Us, Hear Us, Respect Us, Love Us, Listen, Listen to Us, Stand Up, Ally, Anti-Racist, I Am A Man, Speak Up, How Many More, Group Economics, Education Reform, and Mentor.
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