To get right to the point, and to save everyone any additional reading for the day, I left KSL.com because my editor told me I couldn’t report on a movie at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
That is the short and direct answer.
If you’d like to keep reading you can. Obviously, there is more content below where I yammer on about why one movie that wasn’t even on my radar caused me to walk away from pretty much the most fun I was having here in the Beehive state, but just know that every word I type from this point on will circle back to that first line.
So, if you don’t want to read about suicide rates, Utah politics, or the propaganda we digest as legitimate news, stop right here. Read that first line again, and then have a happy rest of the day.
If you’re still reading, well, damn. I don’t want to write this any more than you want to read it.
Me leaving KSL.com is one of those death-by-a-thousand-cuts things, and I really, really don’t want to cover each cut. Especially because, each cut should really be its own article, but I’m entirely too lazy to make this some four-part series on the state of the state I live in.
Instead, let’s do it this way. Let me just break this down into bite size, easy-to-read, and especially for my sake, easy-to-write chunks. You read what’s interesting to you and I finally get to put this ridiculous conversation behind me.
The last straw
Like I said above, me leaving all came down to a single movie – “Believer.”
Before finding out I couldn’t include “Believer” in my 2018 Sundance coverage, I barely knew anything about the film. I had some vague idea it involved the band Imagine Dragons, but beyond that, it was just one of the many Sundance documentaries I wouldn’t be writing about this year.
But when a fellow KSL movie contributor mentioned he’d like to add “Believer” to his coverage, we received the following text from our editor:
“I actually meant to bring that up— I don’t think we can do anything on the imagine dragons one. (Since it’s basically him speaking out against the church and we are owned by the church…) we did some stuff on their loveloud concert earlier this year and it ended up causing some issues and kinda being a mess.”
There might be a few ways to read that, right? I mean, looking back on it now, sure it seems straightforward but in the context of brainstorming event coverage, I originally read the message as, “Let’s not cover that one.”
And, let me just stop here for a minute. I need to be very clear that my editor is and has always been supportive of my personal convictions. No matter how you read this “Last straw” section, know that my editor is an amazing person who was only passing on the information she was given. I’ll let her speak to her personal beliefs whenever and wherever she chooses, but I hope no one takes anything said here as commentary on her personal convictions. She was simply the messenger.
That’s all. Back to the story.
I don’t really want to post our entire conversation for several reasons, but I also want to be transparent with how little this bothered me at first. My original reply was, “Well haha, I won’t even touch that. It was nowhere on my radar.”
And that, well, that was almost the end of it.
But as the conversation progressed, my mind kept getting pulled back to my editor’s comment. See, I had been battling the idea that KSL actively censored material for a long time. I had been especially concerned that KSL was spinning any information that looked bad for the church or cutting important details from stories at the expense of victims, if said details in any way contradicted the LDS narrative. I’ll get more into the why of that below, but for this section, just know this was already weighing on me when I said:
“I would just say I’ll take the Utah films but it would be pretty dishonest to not include the imagine dragons one…”
My editor agreed and gave some ideas on how we could cover the Utah angle without touching “Believer” or another film titled “Quiet Angels” – which she also identified as anti-Mormon and pro-LGBT. Again, I get where she was coming from and I appreciate her trying to balance her marching orders with the coverage we felt best served Sundance. But by the end of the conversation, there was one line she texted that I just couldn’t let go of. She said:
“Lots of touchy politics when it comes to covering anything negative about the church… it’s like the ultimate nuke button of stories.”
To kind of wrap up this section and move onto why all of this was such a big deal to me, I’ll just say I didn’t end up covering anything for Sundance 2018. I wrote my editor about a week later, apologizing and explaining why I wouldn’t be able to write for her any longer, and as always, she was super understanding and supportive.
You might be wondering at this point, why is “Believer” so controversial?
I have no idea. I still haven’t seen it.
I grew up in a house where I was told Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” was the most blasphemous work every created and I should never, ever watch it. When I eventually did see it as an adult, I tried to understand the controversy. The only thing I could come up with was that God had been offended by the number of resources wasted on such a terrible movie.
Since wasting that 164 minutes of my life, I’ve decided never to comment on any controversy surrounding a movie I have yet to see.
The personal aspects
If you know me at all beyond a hello and neighborly wave, you’re probably aware I’ve battled serious depression most of my life. At my worst, suicide was a regularly considered option, and at my best I was still something of an unpleasant lunch date.
While I’ve tried meds, diet, exercise, self-help solutions, and about any other anecdotal offering out there, the only real progress I made in my fight with the illness was admitting to myself that the LDS church is not true.
Without spending too much time on this, I’ll just say I was raised Mormon. I served an LDS mission, graduated from BYU, married in a Mormon temple… all that. But the whole time I was in the faith, I would hear LDS solutions for cosmic quandaries and think, “That’s a pretty unlikely explanation, isn’t it?” Everyone else in my family or in some Mormon classroom would hear the same solution and nod as if the nonsensical answer made perfect sense, so I always assumed there was something wrong with me. I mean, if you’re in a room full of people you love and respect, and you’re the only one not buying that Native Americans are actually Jewish, you’re the problem, right?
You can answer that however you’d like, but my point is, I spent every day of my Mormon life feeling stupid for not totally buying that Earth’s earliest man was a Missouri resident. To anyone in my predicament who has felt like less of a person for doubting, well, the church offers this stunningly helpful advice. “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.”—President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.
I’ve also known people who believe the LDS faith when it teaches your internet search histories can be next to murder. I’ve known women who feel guilty for wanting more of an identity than just being their husband’s wife, and worst of all, the church’s aggressive campaigns against the LGBTQ community leaves children wondering if becoming a suicide statistic would be easier on their families than admitting they’re gay.
In my opinion, the church needs to own this and admit they’re a big part of the suicide problem here in the state. I get there are people who will disagree with that. However, I hope even if you are someone who feels the church is not responsible for Utah having the highest suicide rate in the country, you would at least agree the church shouldn’t be in a position to censor any information that supports the correlation.
Who owns KSL?
To be honest, I have no idea how many people are aware of the fact the LDS church owns KSL.com, KSL radio, KSL Television and a myriad of other news and media outlets. I am also just as uncertain about how many people actually care. Seeing as most of the state of Utah belongs to the LDS church, I would guess residents here place their faith in, well, their faith over that of any mainstream media outlet. As a result, it’s very possible regular KSL readers are this far along in the article still wondering why I left KSL.
To those readers, I’ll just say, I find it concerning that the main source of information feeding through the state of Utah is actually coming from a special interest group pretending to be a legitimate news organization.
Utah’s suicide rate
Here is the crux of the issue. To quote Luke Ramseth of The Salt Lake Tribune,“suicide is the leading cause of death for Utah youths ages 10 to 17. The state’s suicide rate for all ages is more than 60 percent above the national average.”
The LDS church does not actively hide this statistic, and in fact, it’s even starting to put material out to help people better understand the issue. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, they’re also active doing everything they can to distance themselves from any correlation to the statistic. This is why my editor was not allowed to run anything on “Believer,” and this is also why the church’s material on suicide never mentions anything about the threat to the LGBTQ community.
To me, this is especially upsetting. Not only does the church aggressively criticize gay individuals, they pretend the community doesn’t exist when speaking out about the suicide problem here in Utah.
The history of the LDS church and the LGBTQ community
There’s just too much, isn’t there? If you’re unaware of how actively terrible the Mormon church has been to the LGBTQ community, I can’t even scratch the surface here.
Just in very recent history we have everything from church officials asking believers why God would ever create a gay person, to creating policy forbidding the blessing of babies of gay couples, to supporting discrimination laws. If you’re a gay person who believes in Mormon theology, there is no ambiguity concerning your standing in the church.
If you’re really interested in how bad it’s been, I suggest taking a look at this page:
To be fair, everyone has a pretty terrible history with the LGBTQ community pre-1950. To save you time, just begin your reading at 1970 when “The church produced Hope for Transgressors,in which apostles Kimball and Mark Petersen offer ideas to leaders about how to effect a ‘total cure’ and ‘bring the lives of [men with homosexual tendencies] into total normalcy’ and ‘help these people recover.’”
I’m pretty tired of writing this post and I imagine you’ve either skipped straight to this section or you’re pretty tired of reading my ramblings as well. So, let me just say, I really love the people I worked with at KSL. I loved our podcast, our endless movie debates, covering live events and also meeting people I would have never met had I not started writing 10 years ago. There is no version of an article like this where I wouldn’t say thank you for every memory and experience I got to enjoy because I was part of the KSL team.
I hope on some level, that helps you realize how painful a decision like this has been for me, but at the same time, how impossible it would have been to stand by an information network that is more propaganda than news – especially one that works hard to present itself as a news only organization.
I don’t know, maybe if I was onboard with the propaganda it would be different. I suspect not. But, maybe if the narrative I was actively writing for had to do with preventing people from feeding sad puppies to snakes, I’d still be there. As it stands now, people are dying, and I personally couldn’t find a way to separate KSL from the problem. In short, go read the very first line of this post for my conclusion.