Taking a break from his latest world tour, Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds came to Deadline’s Sundance Studio yesterday with director Don Argott to discuss their powerful and personal documentary project, Believer.
In the film, to be released by HBO, the Mormon Reynolds takes on a new mission to explore how the Church treats its LBQTQ members. Seeing members of the Church spurned for their sexual orientation, what has been most devastating for Reynolds is witnessing skyrocketing rates of teen suicide in Utah as a result of what he believes are the Church’s policies.
A “fourth generation Las Vegan raised in a very conservative Mormon family,” Reynolds served on missions for the Church, and applied to the heavily-Mormon Brigham Young University, which he viewed at the time as “the thing to do,” having watched his brothers go, one by one, out to Provo.
Just before heading off to continue this family tradition, Reynolds “talked to a bishop and told him that I had had sex with my girlfriend of four years, and got kicked out of BYU,” the artist explained. “That kind of started my story in a lot of ways, because I went through this real shaming process, where my whole community kind of found out that I was ‘sinful’ or ‘dirty’ in the Mormon world.”
Spiraling into depression as all his friends went off to college and he stayed home, going through a repentance process, the singer/songwriter “found a place in my heart for people who are shamed for reasons that are incorrect, and that are really dangerous and damaging.”
“There’s a real problem in the Mormon culture. It’s broken,” Reynolds added. “We wanted to shine a light on that and hopefully create some change.”
The Believer project has produced an interesting response from the Mormon Church. Instead of denouncing the film, the Church has acknowledged it, going so far as to endorse LoveLoud, a music and spoken-word festival Reynolds created with Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn. The mission of that festival is to spark dialogue between the church and members of the LGBTQ community—but while the Church’s endorsement is a “step” toward progress, to Reynolds, it doesn’t mean much.
“The policies remain intact,” Reynolds said. “They say being gay is a sin, and until that’s taken away, speaking in platitudes and even endorsing this festival, it’s a step, but there’s a long way to go as far as moving forward.”
Perhaps the most fascinating detail about Reynolds is that despite denouncing the Mormon Church’s stance on sexuality, he remains within the Church. Instead of rejecting and departing the Church, fostering headlines that would evaporate in days, the musical artist intends to work within the system—within his community—to produce change.
To hear more from Deadline’s conversation with Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds and Believer director Don Argott, click above.
The Deadline Studio is presented by Hyundai. Special thanks to Calii Love.