Study shows link between teen suicide and Mormon populations

teen suicide depressionEarlier this week, the Rational Faiths blog ran a fascinating -- and disturbing -- post from political science professor Benjamin Knoll, analyzing in considerable detail the alleged link between Mormonism and teen suicide.

You've probably seen in the news over the last few months that in the wake of the LDS Church's policy changes regarding gay Mormons in same-sex marriages (and their children), some in the LGBT community have noted a terrifying increase in the number of suicides and calls to suicide hotlines among LGBT Mormon youth and young adults. (If you haven't seen anything on this, here's coverage in the Salt Lake Tribune, the Huffington Post, and the Deseret News.)

But these claims, however important, have been based in primarily anecdotal evidence, not social science research. Knoll's piece, "Youth Suicide Rates and Mormon Religious Context: An Additional Empirical Analysis," is based in data.

Of particular note is that that his research takes the conversation much wider than the low-hanging fruit of Utah to encompass suicide statistics in the entire United States from 2009 to 2014 -- something I haven't seen anyone do before when investigating these claims. He matches up suicide data state by state with Pew's research into the percentage of Mormons in each state. Here are several key points.

  1. Youth in the 15-19 age group who live in states with heavy Mormon populations are at higher risk for suicide. As Knoll put it, "These are objectively small numbers, but it means that (again, controlling for other factors) youth suicides are twice as high in states with the highest levels of Mormon residents compared to states with the lowest levels of Mormon residents."
  2. This association did not exist in any statistically significant way in 2009. Take a look at the second of the charts in Knoll's post, which shows the greater frequency of teen suicide in 2014 versus 2009 in Mormon-heavy states such as Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Alaska. In those states, teen suicide is increasing at higher rates than it is in many (not all) other states; in Utah the rate has actually doubled since 2009.
  3. It is impossible to tell from this data whether there is a link to LGBT teens. The Center for Disease Control, which tracks suicides and other causes of death, does not include sexual orientation as a factor in its records. We simply don't know whether there is an LGBT connection, though the indirect and anecdotal evidence recounted here certainly suggests it.
  4. We don't know the religion of the teens committing suicide. This study only shows definitively that all youth who live in areas with higher Mormon populations are at a greater risk for suicide, not that it's Mormon teens in those states who are killing themselves. Knoll explains it is "impossible to definitely know from this data" whether a) a higher concentration of Mormons in a community drives more Mormon youth suicides; b) that same higher concentration actually causes more non-Mormon kids to commit suicide; or c) some combination of A and B.
  5. This finding does not have anything to do with the LDS Church's LGBT policy change in November 2015. Remember that this study only tracks suicide rates through 2014, which is the last year for which national stats are available. Knoll says that further research would need to be done to investigate any possible link there.

Knoll concludes his summary by saying that the research "is not intended to condemn. Rather, it is presented to contribute to the conversation on this important topic that literally has life-and-death implications. It is clear that there is a problem. The more information we have available to us the sooner we can craft an effective solution."






  1. I find it significant that the suicide rate doubled in Utah beginning in 2009. Remember, the church-backed Proposition 8 was passed in California (as well as Proposition 102 here in Arizona). I can’t help but wonder if that hasn’t had some sort of impact. But I’m not a social scientist or statistician, so I cannot say.

  2. I wouldn’t read too much into the stats at all. Suicide rates in the mountain west are higher than the rest of America, including states where Mormons make up a lesser proportion of the overall population than Utah. This would all be more meaningful if Mormons just happened to make up a very high percentage of the population in a random non-western state such as Alabama, but we’re not going to get that.


  3. @Shermjazz

    1. “higher suicide rates for all age groups not just teens”

    This study covers 42 states, but does not include age groups other than teens. It makes no sense to say 42 out of 50 states have higher than average suicide rates for all age groups.

    2. “theories including non-religious”

    You refer to the correlation between altitude and suicide rates. There may be a correlation, but it doesn’t apply here. Again, this study covers 42 states, not all of which have populations at high altitude. Also, this study shows a faster increase in the suicide rate, which doesn’t correlate with high altitude, a fixed variable (unless you think the altitude is increasing).

  4. There are many factors that contribute to suicide. Some of them are not obvious. I hope saying this doesn’t minimize the suffering of LGBT youth who live in a culture that treats them very negatively, but here is a factor in suicide that is overlooked:

    When I was in my 20’s and my late teens, I suffered regular periods of depression. I lived in different places during this period (western Washington, Uruguay and Provo). Being depressed was a different experience in all of them. The easiest place to be depressed was Uruguay. In the United States it is common for people to pretend to be happy and act like their lives are wonderful even when they are not. Then there are the people whose lives are genuinely wonderful, but who can’t see how lucky they are and think everyone else’s life must also be easy. All this makes your own life seem even worse in contrast. In Provo, all those tendencies are multiplied. I suspect it is the worst place to be depressed in the entire…

  5. @Castiel
    Nope, see my reply to @Shermjazz

  6. Elder Warner, % populations of Mormons in most states are under 2%. So you’re really talking just a few states: Utah with 55% and then to a far lesser extent Idaho 19% and Wyoming 9%. All the rest of the states have negligible amounts with the numbers at Pew being somewhat misleading due to very small sample size. I’m really, really skeptical you can adjust for this.

    So saying the study covers 42 states is somewhat misleading if the sample size in those states is too small to say much. When you’re doing a regression when only one state has a significant number and two states with small numbers, all of which are in regions with high rates of depression and suicide then I’m really dubious this tells us much.

    That’s not to say that the growing disconnect between societal views of gay issues and LDS views won’t increase these problems. I think it would. But I just am dubious that this study tells us that.

  7. “That’s not to say that the growing disconnect between societal views of gay issues and LDS views won’t increase these problems. I think it would. But I just am dubious that this study tells us that.”

    The study authors specifically say the study does *not* say anything about gender, since this data was not available. The author also that the religious affiliations of the suicide victims isn’t known. The main conclusion is that, after controlling a number of factors, there’s a positive correlation between the Mormon population of the states studied and teen suicide rates in those states. The study also shows a higher than expected increase in suicide rates correlated with Mormon population. As for reliability, the authors mark correlations that are statistically significant with 95% confidence. The sample sizes were all ~40 which is sufficient for a reliable result.

  8. Beware of transposing correlations into causality. (the “Brandeis brief”) This is a very dangerous game.

  9. I’ve learned to keep the maximum char-count (including spaces) to 965 (35 remaining). Ironic that a religious news site “lies” about this.

  10. The first rule of statistics is “correlation ( no matter how strong or statistically significant does not prove causation. . I think before anyone starts jumping to any conclusions, we should wait for more data. I appreciate the appropriate neutrality of the article but maybe we should reserve writing about any possible shred of data because it seems to be interesting. Most do not fully understand statistics as an analytical tool and it is often abused by journalists etc. that want to share interesting information only to fuel inaccurate preconceived notions about Mormons. I do not deny possible issues regarding the Mormon faith and the LGBT community. I know first hand how difficult it can be for those in the LGBT community to remain true to their faith under recent issues and in the past. But let’s wait til we really understand why there are problems before speculating about broad statistical data that author himself has encourged further review and additional study…

  11. @Dave, @Samuel

    If you read Jana’s article and the linked analysis, the “correlation-causation” warning is already emphasized in both places.

    As to the LGBT connection, again, both sources already mention that gender data was not available for this study. Nobody is claiming a statistical link between LGBT suicides and Mormon population. There is discussion of an inferred relationship, and that is all.

    Your mention of “broad statistical data”, I suppose, is meant to cast doubt on the conclusions. The authors show a correlation between teen suicide rates (and rate increases) and Mormon population. The correlation has a confidence of 95%, so it is reliable. There is strong evidence that, over 42 states studied, that a higher Mormon population correlates with a higher teen suicide rate. No getting around it.

    How many more kids have to die while we are sitting around waiting for more data?

  12. 1. As Knoll notes and provides an explanatory link, “correlation does not imply causation.”
    2. Did this study undergo peer-review at the highest standards before being published in the most reliable of sources (a common demand in other areas of evidence about Mormons)?
    3. Logically, although non-scientifically, I note that Utah is number 2 among the states in increase in suicide rates for the period under discussion behind Alaska and just ahead of Oregon, both of which have very small LDS populations. What other factors correlate?
    4. I note an article referenced by Knoll showing LDS religious activity strongly correlating to reduced suicide rates from 1991-1995 (see ).
    5. I find the article very interesting and hope it will lead to more study/analysis. I note that the Church has taken significant steps in dealing with depression and suicide, and expect it will do more.

  13. Despite ranking as America’s happiest state, Utah has disproportionately high rates of suicide and associated mood disorders compared to the rest of the country. In fact, it’s the No. 1 state for antidepressant use. These polarized feelings of despondency and delight underlie a confusing phenomenon that Perry Renshaw, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah investigating the strange juxtaposition, calls the “Utah paradox.”

  14. It means the youth are not “rooted and grounded” in the “truth” innate to their souls. If they were there wouldn’t be this problem.
    The Church teaches the “letter of the law”… obedience to the “form and structure,” “follow the prophet,” etc… there is no internal foundation created from the “form and structure” of the Church. What makes the Church true is not the “form and structure” but the innate righteousness and holiness of the people. The youth are starving for more spiritual fulfillment and have not been taught were to go to find it. So they turn to their hormones, gaming and to satisfy their own personal “form and structure.” The “spirit of the law” is the only innate foundation that can protect and give stability and security to any soul who embraces it.

  15. I think you missed my points. The underlying data is problematic in terms of accounting for the populations. You have effectively 3 states you are dealing with. (Also saying a sample size of 40 is sufficient for reliability makes me think you’ve not taken a stat class)

  16. I assume your comment is related to the study results. This study says there’s a relationship between having a more Mormons in a state and more teenagers killing themselves.

    If what you say is true, then having fewer Mormons around results in kids being *more* spiritually fulfilled, since fewer teenagers kill themselves in those states (not just Mormon teens, but all teens).

    So do you mean to say having more Mormons in the population causes all teens in that population to play more video games, be more sexually active and kill themselves more?

    Why do you suppose that is?

  17. Shermjazz posted this exact same link above, and the altitude results don’t apply here. Higher suicide rates occurred in low altitude states as well, plus the incidence of suicides changed over time, whereas altitude is a constant.

  18. The “studies” show there is a problem. It is really a problem with the whole population of mankind. The youth are a reflection of society as a whole and society as a whole, speaking collectively and not individually is caught up in the “lusts of the flesh”… therefor, to answer your question: “Why do you suppose that is?” Because as a whole (mankind in general) is spiritually deprived! And when spiritual depravity sets in so does suicide and abortion and gay agendas and drugs and every others sin that fits into the “lusts of the flesh” mind set!

    You have to have a “spiritual foundation” “rooted and grounded” in the attributes of godliness to escape the “problem” this study brought up!

  19. No, as usual, religion is part of the problem.

  20. Except the study is about the relationship between more Mormons living in a state and more teenagers killing themselves. My question to you was about the study. What do
    your comments have to do with the results of the study?

  21. I didn’t mention religion. However, “religion” has the “potential” to bring goodness and kindness and love to a world that is heading in the opposite direction…

  22. Everything!

    Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.

    (Old Testament | Ezekiel 12:2)

  23. OK. I’ll just assume you are here to preach and don’t really understand the article. Your posts make no sense.

  24. Common sense is in the eye of the beholder. I am surprised you do not see what the “study” is making reference to: quote from the article:

    “Knoll concludes his summary by saying that the research “is not intended to condemn. Rather, it is presented to contribute to the conversation on this important topic that literally has life-and-death implications. It is clear that there is a problem – ”

    I brought out why the problem exists in the first place and provided a solution to it. I stand by the words I said… the solution I presented will be ingnored because most people have ears and don’t hear the truth and have eyes and don’t see the solution to the problems! PERIOD!

  25. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and ‘I will give you rest’…….Matthew 11:28

    Churches with all of their distracting doctrines and propaganda discourage such an experience.

  26. There are complex variables and there may well be some correlation between Utah Mormon Cultural traditions and youth suicide, including suicide among gays. My view is that the Church emphasis (especially since 2012) on encouraging members to act with greater kindness especially toward gay family members, stopping bullying, disowning, exclusion and rejection is there for specific purposes. It isn’t all just talk. Elder Christofferson and his family are a positive example of a family that continues to love and support Elder Christofferson’s brother, Tom who is gay (ssee ). More changes are needed, but, given human nature, there is lag time between efforts and effects. Personally, I would like to see more more discussion of cooperative efforts and less blame and shame.

  27. Actually, your reply is utterly meaningless and seems to betray an attitude of deciding your outcome in advance and not bothering to actually look at what was shared. If you look at the picture linked below, the Mountain West states as a collective group far outpace the rest of the nation, And among those, Utah is only ranked 5th, with Wyoming, Montana, and New Mexico having even higher rates. Based on the population demographics of these and the neighboring states, it is abundantly clear that religion could be nothing more than a token factor when compared to other regional possibilities which would include the states with even higher totals. It takes an extra special bias to project these statistics onto a specific religious community.

  28. There are often unintended consequences to human actions. Rejection is a major risk factor in depression and suicide, and is far too common in Utah Mormon Culture as it is in most other cultures. However, fear of rejection is also a probably a risk factor. I suggest that fear may be encouraged by the exaggeration and over-reaction to Mormon statements as well as the statements themselves (see ). I note that one of the links in the Knoll’s article ( ) recommends avoiding “Big or sensational headlines, or prominent placement” in articles about suicide, and promotes “Inform[ing] the audience without sensationalizing the suicide and minimize the prominence.” The LDS Church has made, and will continue to make, significant efforts to decrease rejection and fear thereof. Let’s work together!

  29. @ SkyBird

    ” I brought out why the problem exists in the first place and provided a solution to it. I stand by the words I said…”

    Such certitude

    The alpha and omega resurgent

    Time to hang out your own shingle and reap the revenues of the collection plate. Start with a tent. Your fellow charlatans have all the prime time on tv locked-up.

  30. I think we can’t just put the blame on “Utah Mormon Cultural traditions.” I think church policy has to carry some of the blame. After all, we know that church policy is not infallible. Let’s let go of our determination to treat it as such.

    I think Elder Christofferson is a good example. I also think Elder Holland’s conference talk about the young man who was gay AND a seminary teacher was particularly forward-thinking and inspiring. I think there are many members of the church who would balk at their children’s seminary teacher being openly gay. Elder Holland was setting a great example for all of us.

    I think progress is definitely being made. But sadly that progress really didn’t happen until some “blame and shame” spurred it on. I am all for emphasizing the positive, but sometimes “blame and shame” is what it takes to get people to realize they’re doing the wrong thing.

  31. I don’t believe these statistics. I have attempted suicide twice, once in 2009 and once in 2014. At neither time was I a teenager. I was 36 in 2009 and not quite 41 in 2014. I am not involved in any way with Mormons and am not an LGBT. Depression and some devastating circumstances put me in the mind frame that I did not want to be here anymore. I am since in therapy and have a psychiatrist who prescribes me meds. Life isn’t all peaches and cream but for the time being it’s at least stable. Just wanted to point out that their statistics are all they are cracked up to be because well, no one asked me or I would have told them about both of my hospital visits.

  32. The study used government CDC data and other data that already existed. The researchers did not gather any data themselves.

    The study only counted deaths that occurred by suicide, not attempted suicides. Since you are still alive, you would not have been included in the CDC data.

  33. This does beg the question of what kinds of people are attracted to the LDS brand of Mormonism. I doubt the Fellowship would ever grow as well in the same states. Only three families in our membership are from Utah, for example. Most of us are in more liberal areas. It is interesting how Christ creates a church here on earth for his followers. The LDS brand for conservatives and the Fellowship for more moderate to liberals.

  34. The “brethren” need to look at how many rank and file members treat the LGBT community and learn from them. They keep setting these policies that are harmful and will fail in the end.

  35. @Marc

    As I have pointed out–several times now–altitude studies do not apply here. A positive association between teen suicide rates and Mormon population size was found over 41 states. Clearly not all of those states were at high altitudes. Furthermore, the study found an increase in suicide rates over time when, clearly, altitude is a constant. In summary, the study shows that, independent of altitude, for almost all US states, the more Mormons in a state the greater the number of teen suicides.

  36. I concur, let’s keep our heads in the sand. After all, there are no homosexuals in the church.

  37. Suicide is sad no matter the reason and no matter the age. That person has put the period on their life, and that’s sad.

    But the fact is that God doesn’t change His mind (see Numbers 23:19). No matter how much a person or a religion want to change what sin is, it will always be sin, not matter what.

    And this will always be true of who God is, what the Gospel really is, and who Jesus really is. No matter how much some try to change this, they will one day meet the real Jesus, and be judge or acquitted based on what they did with the Gospel.

  38. I have to challenge your statement “The LDS Church has made, and will continue to make, significant efforts to decrease rejection and fear thereof ”
    The only thing I’ve seen beginning with Prop 8, is a continued and successively harsher decrees with respect to LGBT church members. The church rhetoric has escalted to calliing people “counterfeit” and apostate.

  39. Will you be at the homosexual stoning tomorrow at noon? This is directed in the bible and God does not change despite what some try to preach.

  40. Well, Dave, God may not be changing his mind, but humans change their mind about enforcing God’s laws. So are you behind these laws?

    Homosexuals are to be put to death. (Leviticus 20:13)
    Don’t mix different cattle, crops, or fabrics together. (Leviticus 19:19, Leviticus 19:19, (Leviticus 19:19)
    Don’t shave or get a haircut. (Leviticus 19:27)
    If you curse mom or dad you must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:9)
    If a spouse is unfaithful, both spouses must … you guessed it… be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10)
    Having sex during your wife’s period gets you both shunned.
    (Leviticus 20:18)
    Psychics are to be stoned to death (not sure about seers and revelators).  (Leviticus 20:27)
    Ugly people and disabled people cannot go to an altar of God (Leviticus 21:17-18)
    Anyone who curses or blasphemes God is put to death.  (Leviticus 24:14-16)
    Anyone who dreams or prophesizes anything that is against God, or anyone who tries to turn you from God, is to be put to death…

  41. …(Deuteronomy 13:5)
    If anyone, even your own family suggests worshipping another God, kill them. (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)
    If you find out a city worships a different god, destroy the city and kill all of it’s inhabitants… even the animals. (Deuteronomy 13:12-15)
    Kill anyone with a different religion. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)

  42. I can say, as a current BYU student, that being here with serious depression is hell on Earth. If I wasn’t close to graduating I would transfer.

  43. Reasonable challenge. For a partial list with references see my comments through the links at the original article by Knoll that led to this comment. In part they note: “The Church now emphasizes that ‘Church members [should] respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere . . . lets not have families exclude or be disrespectful . . . No family who has anybody who has a same-gender issue should exclude them from the family circle. They need to be part of the family circle.'”

  44. Good job of perpetuating stereotypes and the mischaracterization of what Elder Bednar actually said! Fairly simple searches of the Church website will lead to articles and videos encouraging members to abandon cultural norms thus preventing bullying (especially among youth — with over 3.5 million “views”), respond sensitively and thoughtfully to gays, prevent suicide (especially among youth — with over 96,000 “views”), and encourage positive efforts in overcoming depression. Let’s work together at helping these positive efforts to be successful.

  45. Thanks for your comments. I agree that church members, leaders, and policies are definitely Not infallible. Most of us do pretty much the best we can as humans given current “light and knowledge” and current circumstances. The process of the restoration is ongoing and following the whisperings of the Holy Ghost is often challenging.

    However, I believe that “blame and shame” is less change causing and effective than you seem to believe. I see documentation of positive efforts withing the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to address same-sex attraction going back to at least 1991. The perceived progress we see today is often Not due to what happened just yesterday, but may have more to do with what happened 25+ years ago.

  46. God may or may not change. I’ll leave that to the theologians and the pusillanimous and persnickety parsers of sixth century languages that no one speaks anymore.

    You know who changes? WE DO. that’s why we don’t burn witches any more. That’s why a certain fornicating and adulterous county clerk is still married to her third husband, and both are certain God has forgiven them for his words that have never changed. That’s why a similarly formicating and adulterous former republican congressman can get married in the church, That’s why we don’t kill the unbelievers in our midst, or Condemn habitual drunlards to hell. That’s why the Book of Mormon is a real faith document, and not a fake.

    Sin in sin all right. You can let me know when you plan on giving up the sin of homophobia, also known Reviling and slandering gay people.

    Assuming you suffer from it of course. I don’t assume it, and far be it from me to cast stones at people who are sinless.

  47. “pusillanimous and persnickety parsers of sixth century languages that no one speaks anymore”


    “pusillanimous and persnickety parsers of prediluvean parlance” 🙂

  48. @ Wayne, Bednar clearly said there are “No Homosexuals in the Church.” Search for and listen to the youtube video of his talk titled the same.

  49. @ Wayne, while in the “family circle” let’s remind LGBT family members of Wendy Nelsons January talk. “I pray that this year that you will have some moments of anguishing desperation that will propel you further along the path to becoming the man or woman you were born to be.” — Wendy Nelson January 2016

  50. Not necessarily disagreeing with you Elder Anderson, but for math nerds like me who enjoy statistics, I immediately want to peek under the hood at all the variables being number-crunched. Special challenges for statistically insignificant populations (like Mormons) present themselves when trying to claim 2-tail confidence intervals of 95% with a normal distribution curve.

    If you like this kind of math, here’s a great reader on the subject:


  51. I agree with you that small sample sizes can be problematic. I didn’t look at the data or analysis. I figure the authors know what they are doing and would qualify any shaky results. For example, they made note of which correlations were weak (or non-existent). For now, I take them at their word that there’s a significant enough correlation and upward trend to warrant investigation. Also, I wish people would stop bringing up the irrelevant altitude studies…

  52. Oops. I just saw that you mentioned altitude studies. My last sentence above was not meant as a dig at you personally. I apologize. Thanks for the links. I am a math nerd myself.

  53. BTW, here’s what I found in the original study at

    About 1/4 of the way down the page is a summary table of their number crunching. The technique used was a multivariate regression, with 12 variables put into the regression. N (sample size) = 42. BUT … R-squared for the rate of change in on .25 … meaning that only 25% of the reported rate increase was the result of all 12 variables included in the regression…and 75% of the increase is driven by variables not included in the regression, and remains unaccounted for.

  54. I cannot type today..I was trying to say in my last coment “R-squared for the rate of change is only .25…” (challenges of typing on an iphone…)

  55. Interesting. If you ask me, it’s kind of a weird thing to do a study on anyway. I suppose you could find a correlation between the population of sparrows and suicide rates…

  56. No apology necessary, no offense taken! It’s nice to have a pleasant and civil dialogue on the commentocracy…

  57. Yes, it’s an interesting subject to study…I was pulled in to this article by the click-bait headline over at the news aggregator site…anytime I see some statistics oriented headline, I gotta read it…

  58. Thanks for the laugh. I just couldn’t come up with enough p’s to thoroughly drench this p-poor parlance of cluelessness.

    See? I still can’t!

  59. By our “fruits” we know ourselves…if our eyes are open to the “spiritual” realm it really can and does become a solid foundation in one’s life. It can and does pull the carnal nature in all its shades out of our lives and give stability to ones existence. It is all about coming to a greater realization that the “truth (divine nature) can set us free.” I know, because I have been suicidal, been on addicting drugs and other shades of the carnal nature. What brought me out of these addictions and negative tendencies was the “spiritual” realm of reality. We truly are all “spiritual” beings first and when we deny this part of ourselves we struggle with all kinds of self inflicting and damning thoughts, words and deeds.

  60. I am not sure what to make of this data except to conclude that more research is needed to really nail down correlations like this with science and statistics. The connections are not quite as strong as some, including me, might hypothesize.

    That said, I do believe you can prove beyond any doubt that most of the messaging of the LDS church on gender issues is about condemning and criticizing homosexuality as a sin. Very little time and focus is spent on how we should love the sinner. The bullseye is hating the sin, not loving the sinner.

    I don’t know about others, but I find this whole, judgment first, “watchman on the tower” approach as decidedly unchristian. You can argue until you are blue in the face that Christ condemned sin, and you are right.

    But there is no argument to be made that the gospels are not focused on loving God and our neighbors as the most important thing. We are to love one another as Christ loved us. Let’s leave the judgment to Christ!

  61. “Very little time and focus is spent on how we should love the sinner. The bullseye is hating the sin, not loving the sinner.”

    I personally despise this sentiment, and I wish Mormons would delete it from their platitude library. It’s nasty, smug, judgemental, and passive-aggressively hateful.

  62. Amen, Brudda! It isn’t just a platitude. It is BS. We emphasize condemning the sin, and then say, as an afterthought, “oh yeah, this isn’t personal, we hate the sin and love the sinner”. This is accompanied with a sympathetic look and wise nod. And I want to puke too. Concern for our neighbor, our fellow sinner, should trump our need to condemn and judge. How can anyone who has studied the Savior come to a different conclusion?

    On this particular issue, is there any member on the planet who doesn’t know the LDS stance on it? Probably very few. So why the need to pull out the hammer again and again and ignore the tender feelings of our members who may care for someone affected by this or those directly impacted?

    The other platitude that I can’t stand is “obedience is better than sacrifice”. OK. But is obedience greater than the commandment to love our neighbor? Sorry, but I think not. The Savior made the higher law pretty clear.

  63. Makes me think of Pat Buchanan’s line when a speechwriter for Spiro Agnew, referencing the “nattering nabobs of negativity”.

  64. @Clark

    “…not taken a stat class…”

    I’ve taken several statistics classes, some at the graduate level. Your comments above and poor understanding of sample size determination makes me think you didn’t grasp what you studied in your “stat class”. Perhaps you also missed humility 101.

  65. Wayne. I respectfully can’t agree with what you say.

    When Elder Christofferson or another apostle gets up and publicly acknowledges his brother, says how much he loves him and wants him to be in his eternal family–at conference–then I will believe we are advocating loving our neighbor over our obsession with judgment and condemnation. There is no open talk about how to treat family and friends who struggle. No condemnation of harmful “reparative” therapies. No condemnation of shunning. No telling parents not to deny love and participation in family events. No telling bishops and local leaders to reach out w kindness, love and fellowship.

    So how this goes at the local level is often denial, judgment and condemnation. And as an afterthought, lets “love” the “sinner”–whatever that means–figure it out for yourself.

    And this approach is coming from the top, IMO.

  66. So long as members (or anybody for that matter) continue to see sexual identity as a choice of behavior, rather than as an immutable trait like skin color, they will feel justified in condemning. One of my great regrets that I hope someday to rectify is participating once in the bullying of a boy that I now suspect was gay. There were several youths in my school who were continually harassed. I cannot see now how anybody would “choose” a lifestyle so fraught with pain. For anybody willing to exercise their own minds and not rely on dogma, just watch this:

  67. Proving a point with statistics is fraught with hazards. For example, as my dearly departed friend Zig Zigler said, “You can prove or disapprove just about anything with statistics… For example if I put one foot in a bucket of ice water and the other in a bucket of boiling water… On average I will not be comfortable.

  68. Should it be “on average I’ll be comfortable”?

  69. “If you read Jana’s article and the linked analysis, the “correlation-causation” warning is already emphasized in both places”

    I know, this is the point I am trying to make, and its kind of like writing article saying ‘there may or may not be any relation between this and that based on this data but lets infer things before we really know for sure. The very title of the article is misleading

    “Study shows link between teen suicide and Mormon populations”

    It should read more accurately to the content like:
    ‘preliminary data inconclusively may or may not link teen suicide to Mormon populations’

    Or in my opinion wait until there is better data to even start the conversation at least based on data. If you want to have a discussion about teen suicide in Mormon populations that is fine, just don’t sprinkle limited data that the average person would make inaccurate and unfair assumptions on…

  70. @Elder Anderson
    “Your mention of “broad statistical data”, I suppose, is meant to cast doubt on the conclusions.”

    I only mean cast doubt on conclusions that are not verified by the data. The data IS broad, however accurate it is. It only tells that there is a connection to the two things in a very broad way. But what it is about Mormon communities that creates this connection? That is what is NOT clear. If we acted purely on this data, the only logical step would be to ban Mormonism or something similar. Being a Mormon raised in Utah I have come to find that there are many aspects of Mormon culture that are NOT a part of Mormon doctrine or faith. I find people often use these cultural outgrowths of Mormonism to generally criticize Mormons or to become estranged from the church. I do not completely blame them, I have seen members of the the church say and do cruel things, but in my view are not in accordance with the Doctrine and practices taught by the church in…

  71. Dave:

    I know one who committed suicide over this issue. That is too many for me. I know of a couple of other LDS teen suicides first hand, where I knew the youth for many years and I wondered if sexual orientation was a factor.

    I think one suicide over this issue is too many. We need to be focusing our energy to loving our neighbor and not on judging and condemning them. I am praying for mercy for myself and all the rest of us who sin or stray.

    I have recently heard incredibly insensitive comments about this issue recently in my local ward, where I suspect we may have some youth struggling with this issue. The comments were, more or less, “if you have a testimony, little things like gay issues won’t bother you”. It was all I could do to not stand up and contradict the leader who said this. He was completely trivializing something that is a huge trial and challenge for many LDS families.

    We need to stop this merciless approach!!

  72. @Memba. I couldn’t agree more with you one life is far too many. And what the Bishop said you probably should have said something because he was wrong to say that be cause it goes against doctrine. The point of my comments is not to trivialize this issue at all. I am being critical of people making general inferances based on interesting but no doubt in conclusive data. I am not defending Bishops like this who say offensive things but I also do not blame Mormanism for what single Bishop or even an Apostle might say. ‘A problem well defined is half solved’ If we are to make data driven arguments let’s do it it with data and not the philosophies of men mingled with Data. The lives of these teens are too precious to waste on speculation…

  73. It boils down to your personal foundation! If your personal foundation is founded in “spiritual” principles, your “spiritual common sense” will kick in and you will find real purpose and meaning to life.

    If your personal foundation is founded in the “forms and structures” around you… these will all fail at some point and become disappointing or discouraging… this is when “ego” kicks in and takes you for a ride that has no enduring happiness.

  74. Yep. It boils down to *your* principles and *your* beliefs. There are many happy people in the world who have completely different principles and beliefs. Most LGBT people are perfectly happy for their entire lives and have blessed relationships and marriages. It’s unfortunate for a few of them that religious zealots persecute them when they are too young to defend themselves. It’s child abuse, pure and simple. If the people who dish out this kind of abuse think they are happy, they are on the wrong path. They will not last.

  75. LGBTQ together with all of us, deserve respect and basic human and civil rights. Love and respect must be a two way street. Our creator (and law giver for the faithful) does not condone all human behavior, however, he does love us all equally and unconditionally. It is the responsibility of all true followers to do likewise. No argument there. Perhaps the most unsettling aspect for most people is the reality of a culture of recruitment (especially among young people) that exists in the LGBTQ community. The LGBTQ community would do well to address this. It is interesting to note the various meanings of the Hebrew all translated as “abomination” in the Bible.

  76. “culture of recruitment”

    Oh geez. Not that old “recruitment” chestnut.

    Nobody recruits anybody who isn’t gay. Do you think anybody could turn *you* gay? No, they could not.

    You are born gay or born straight. You can’t switch teams. So, there’s nothing to be addressed by anybody, and nothing to feel unsettled about.

    As far as the word “abomination”, do you have any idea how many crazy rules exist in the Bible that you conveniently ignore? Well, if you can ignore those, you can ignore gay sex.

    Do you think gay people deserve to be put to death?
    Homosexuals are to be put to death. (Leviticus 20:13)

    What about these rules?
    Don’t mix different cattle, crops, or fabrics together. (Leviticus 19:19, Leviticus 19:19, (Leviticus 19:19)
    Don’t shave or get a haircut. (Leviticus 19:27)
    If you curse mom or dad you must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:9)
    If a spouse is unfaithful, both spouses must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:1

  77. See Job 38:2. You are wrong about recruitment Anderson. Your lack of experience is showing. It exists mostly among attractive young men and less than attractive young women manipulated and recruited by mostly older members of the gay community.

  78. Bob:

    When I was in high school, I had an openly lesbian and an openly gay teacher. I also had several friends who identified as gay. Other friends and I did all kinds of things with the gay friends, and it was pretty much a non-issue. I did get invited to a party/get together by a gay friend, and it turned out to be a mostly gay party. I hung out for a couple of hours, and then I bailed. My traditional LDS parents even knew some of these kids were gay, and my dad hired more than one of them. (I didn’t grow up in Utah if you didn’t figure that out already!)

    I could have easily got involved with gay sex or been “recruited”, as you put it. But I never had the least interest in gay sex. I never even thought about it. I had crushes on girls who I could still easily name, although I was too chicken to do anything about it at that age. Point is, “recruitment” only works if someone is attracted to and has crushes on the same sex. I never saw anyone “turn” gay.

  79. Good for you and many others (perhaps most) I am sure. Unfortunately, this is not the case with others who have been brutally injured.

  80. No, Bob. You are wrong. It is not possible for a straight person to become gay. It is not possible for a gay person to become straight. Sexual preference is an inborn trait. Period. That whole “recruitment” nonsense is anti-gay propaganda bigots use to spread fear among uneducated people who don’t know any better. So knock it off.

  81. To say “gay recruitment does not exist”, is naive. One example being the young boys who’s lives have been altared by abuse [unique spelling “altared”]. They are manipulated, intimidated and yes, recruited into homosexual behavior (they then perpetuate) not of their own initial choosing. It is also naïve to think this does not exist in all cultures among all people (rich, poor, old, young) around the world. Example…conservative estimated over 2,000,000 children held in slavery world-wide. The abuse they endure, only the Savior and his teachings can repair. None of us are perfect and we can all do more to bring our behavior in line with those teachings that create a stable society of peace and order. This means our baser instincts and some learned behaviors must be put aside for a greater good. A choice. Side note, when you watch General Conference this weekend, try to listen for what you can gain and not what you can criticize. Let me know how that goes. Peace!

  82. You are confusing homosexual sex with homosexuality. They are not the same. Nor does pedophilia have anything to do with homosexuality. Pedophiles are generally heterosexual or have no sexual identity, not gay. The motives for abuse are most often nonsexual. The connection between pedophilia and gay men is yet another mythical scare spread around by uneducated religious fanatics.

    Yes, child sexual abuse damages the lives of children of both sexes. Yes, the same damage occurs when an adult heterosexual male abuses a young girl. No, it cannot change their sexual orientation. No, gay men are not pedophiles. No, gay adults do not recruit children.

    I will not change your mind. It’s not my job to teach you. Examine the facts and decide for yourself. Personally, I love everybody the same and accept them as they are.

  83. “A choice. Side note, when you watch General Conference this weekend, try to listen for what you can gain and not what you can criticize. Let me know how that goes. Peace!”

    I have a choice for you. Spend some time visiting gay bars in your area. March in the Pride Parade. Make friends with gay people. Go camping and have cookouts with their families. Invite them over for dinner. You’ll find they are no different than any other human beings on this planet. They are worthy of your love and respect, same as anybody. Let me know how unconditional love and acceptance softens your heart, brings you joy, makes you a better Christian. Peace to you, too.

  84. We have gay friends and relatives who we love as any others (actually more). No prejudice, no phobias, no lack of love but with a clear view of reality from decades of experience. You must admit, there is bigotry (even violent bigotry) among some from both directions. But for the most part people just want to live their lives without being messed with, taunted, manipulated and intimidated. It is a reality that I have seen young men manipulated, intimidated and yes, recruited into homosexual behavior, they then perpetuate, not of their own initial choosing. Some have grow up to marry, raise families (and provide well for them) even with an occasional overnight with the boys.

  85. “It is a reality that I have seen young men manipulated, intimidated and yes, recruited into homosexual behavior, they then perpetuate, not of their own initial choosing.”

    You are wrong. What you describe is scientifically impossible. First, unless you were an eye witness to the alleged “recruitment” (actually felony sexual abuse if the victims were minors), then you don’t know the facts. If you did witness abuse of a minor and failed to report it, you are an accessory to a felony. Second, unless you are a mind reader, you have no idea whether the alleged homosexual behavior continued when the abuse stopped; it may have been a continuation of the abuse. Third, people may be psychologically damaged by sexual abuse, and this may lead them to engage in homosexual sex. As I said before, that does *not* mean they were “turned gay”, because they aren’t. Lastly, some of the victims may have been born gay, and would have identified as gay anyway.

  86. I provided you with resources to study showing that “gay recruitment” does not exist.

    You seem to have convinced yourself that it does. As I said before, it’s not my job to educate you or to change your mind.

    Fortunately, any intelligent person reading this exchange can follow the links I gave and see that “gay recruitment” is nonsense, so there’s no need for me to waste anymore time on it.

  87. Our choice to believe what we believe.Yours is based on what you have read, mine is based on what I experienced. I am done with this conversation as well. I wish you a happy life.

  88. “based on what you have read”

    No. It’s based on scientific fact–research by scientists and medical doctors who make a lifelong study of such matters.

    “based on what I experienced”

    So, Bob, you were an eye witness to adults sexually abusing minors on several occasions? Not only that, you somehow tracked those minors as they grew up and watched them have homosexual intercourse to confirm they were “recruited”?

    You claim you personally experienced this? If what you say is true, and you were an eye witness to child abuse, why didn’t you stop it or report it to the police? You know why in many states failure to report child abuse is a serious crime, right?

    Then you watched these kids grow up and you were eye witness to their sex lives? Are you a private detective? Did you follow them around? If not, then your beliefs about “gay recruitment” are based on hearsay, not what you personally experienced.

  89. EA, your assumptions are leading you astray. Young is a relative thing. No I have never been an eye witness to child abuse. Also, you should know that the laws you speak of have not always existed. Time heals some wounds, but not so easily the ones we discuss here. You must be a relatively young person. Good for you. You have many more years to reconsider your position on this. If there is anything in this world that has changed with the passage of time, its “scientific fact”. The scientific research you speak is important and has some merit I will grant you. However, I believe it is also quite promotional in nature. You can believe some of that research while also believing that there are those who are recruited.

  90. Consider a young girl (mid 20’s) who had not had very good luck dating. For various reasons, the boys in her schools had no interest. She needs to leave her parents’ house and must work as a waitress trying to support herself. Enters older woman who shows her a good deal of the attention and offers her a place to live. Once moved in, advances are made and though this is uncomfortable initially, because the young girl needs stability and security in life, she goes along with and become accustomed to the affection of this older woman. She not happy and feels trapped. If you do not think this happens in the real world, you are mistaken. You can have the last word because I’m looking for solutions not arguments.

  91. a. If the young woman was in her mid twenties, she could not have been “recruited,” because she was old enough to make up her own mind. She made her own relationship choices as an adult, and those choices are her own business.

    b. Since it’s a scientific fact that people are born with their sexual orientation, hers never changed, so the older woman did not “turn her gay”. She was gay or bisexual, and the young woman chose to live her life as she saw fit.

    c. Scientific fact and “gay recruitment” are mutually exclusive.

    d. Age and experience have nothing to do with scientific fact.

    e. You, yourself, brought up the example of altar boys, and that is pedophilia, not “gay recruitment”.

    f. You never addressed the hypocrisy of claiming the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, while blatantly ignoring all of the other rules, e.g. the death penalty for both spouses in the case of adultry.

  92. “looking for solutions”

    If you mean a solution to “gay recruitment” then I solved your problem. It doesn’t exist, so you can stop worrying about it.

  93. the rate of suicide is highest nationwide among teens. Mormon families have more kids. Mormon families therefore have more teens. Utah, unsurprisingly has more teens than any other state. Yest Utah falls in about the middle of the suicide rate. If Mormons commit more suicide, wouldn’t Utah be at the top?

  94. (Yes, I know this comment is more than a year late) One of the best comments from the post on Rational Faiths was this one:

    ““The proportion of Mormons in a state” is not a variable well-suited to linear regression. Most states will have values near zero, with the exception of Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. Those few observations (and in particular, Utah) will exert an extraordinary amount of leverage on the coefficients. As it is, your numbers can probably only be safely interpreted as “Utah’s suicide rate spiked between 2009 and 2015”. I’d be interested to see what the relationship between the proportion of Mormons and the suicide rate is when Utah and Idaho are left out.”

    I’m curious if data are available to look at rates within communities, and not just states as a whole. I know that there are some data from Utah that, at least in 2013 (the year of a news article that analyzed some of the data) showing suicide rates for smaller statistical areas within Utah. Interestingly, it shows that rural areas have the highest suicide rates, and among the urban or suburban areas, the highest suicide rates were in the less Mormon parts of the state (specifically Salt Lake County, and more particularly, the northern half of Salt Lake County). That would seem to imply that whatever is happening in Utah might be happening less in Mormon communities. That’s obviously not solid evidence either way, but I think it’s an interesting lead to pursue.

  95. Ehhhhh that’s probably stretching the data a bit beyond what can actually be said. I see your point, but there are way too many other factors along each step of your analysis. Mormons still represent a small enough subpopulation in the country, and even in Utah, that we can’t just assume any statistic affecting people in Utah is more heavily correlated with Mormons than in any other state. Also, are we counting every person with their name on church records as Mormon? Lots of other variables. It is quite possible that mormons could have higher suicide rates than other subpops without Utah also leading in suicide rates. Also possible they have lower rates. A lot more data would be needed. But definitely if I ever become mormon again I’m gonna kill myself.

  96. As a former mormon, I’d say it’s pretty simple. Mormons report the highest happiness because you spend 90% of your time and energy telling yourself you know things and telling yourself you’re happy. Because you’re supposed to be happy, and if you’re not happy, you damn well better repent then you’ll be happy. So you just do a whole lot of convincing yourself that you’re happy. Buuuuut you’re probably not. This is exactly why Utah shows the way it does in the rankings.

  97. I’ll be honest, I’m friends with a lot of Mormons, and I can’t fault them or their religion at all. In fact, I find they’re some of the best people!
    If the problem was their faith’s teaching, that problem would occur worldwide in the Mormon community, not just in areas.
    I honestly wouldn’t blame the church at all.
    Regarding the sensitive subject regarding gay marriage, if the church doesn’t support it for some reason, it shouldn’t affect its members. That’s what their church always believed, it’s nothing new, why simply not leave if not feeling it’s for you? It’s not like they run after you. I’m very familiar with them, they don’t force you if you tell them you want no contacts
    I had friends who were Scientologists for example, and they were harassed really badly. I’m not trying to be mean, but when more than 7 people you know went through it, you start believing.
    I’ve never honestly heard bad things about the mornon church and I must have at least 15 Mormon friends, they’re so loyal, and have a deep kindness about them – that’s all I can say
    I’m very sad to hear this terrible issue in Utah. Could it rather be something coming from the outside picking on them? I hope they’ll get to the bottom of this
    All my thoughts with families who had to endure such tragedies

  98. Just a note on Knoll’s study: Yes he compares the suicide rates in the states that have a higher percentage of Mormon population. But those are the same states in the Intermountain region where general suicide rates are higher for everyone. No one knows why, but that’s a well known fact. And that happens to be where the church has settled from it’s early history.

    Like someone else said here, if it is the church’s teachings or people or attitudes that are causing “disproportionate” suicides among LGBTQ Mormons, then why isn’t it happening world wide?

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