631-633: Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees

TylerGlennTyler Glenn is best known as the lead singer of the multi-platinum alternative pop band Neon Trees.

Tyler was raised LDS/Mormon in Temecula, California.  After discovering a love for music in high school and serving an LDS mission, Tyler moved to Provo, UT with his buddy Chris to form Neon Trees (named after the trees on the In and Out signs).  Neon Trees signed with Mercury Records in 2009 and went on to release three successful alternative pop albums: Habits (2010), Picture Show (2012), and Pop Psychology (2014).

Tyler knew he was gay as a child, but struggled as a teen and adult to reconcile his sexuality with his LDS faith.  These struggles took Tyler to some sad/dark places, which were only exacerbated by his fame as a pop star. At age 27 (around the release of Picture Show), Tyler seriously contemplated ending his life.

In spite of these struggles, Tyler remained a full and literal believer in the LDS Church.  In 2014 Tyler decided that being a closeted gay man was contributing to his suicidality.  Consequently, he came out as gay to his family, band, friends — and to the world in Rolling Stone magazine — prior to the release of Pop Psychology in 2014.  From this point forward it was Tyler’s full intent to find and marry a gay man, and to raise children in the LDS church as a gay married Mormon.

Then, in November of 2015, the LDS church released its new policy branding same-sex married Mormons as automatic apostates, and prohibiting children of same-sex married couples from being baptized into the church.  This policy change sent Tyler into a faith tailspin, ultimately shattering his life plans as a believing, gay Mormon.

In this three part interview, we explore:

  • Part 1: Tyler’s early years as a young Mormon struggling with his sexuality.
  • Part 2: Tyler’s ascent (along with Neon Trees) into stardom…and the sadness/despair that followed.
  • Part 3: Tyler’s faith crisis instigated by the LDS policy change, along with his current beliefs/views regarding the LDS Church.

Part 1 Video: Tyler’s Early Years

Part 2 Video: Struggling with Fame and Authenticity

Part 3 Video: Tyler’s Faith Crisis


Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

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  1. Thank you, Tyler, for sharing so much of yourself in this podcast. It’s good to get to know you better, and understand you as a genuine human being, rather than just an icon in the pop industry (although that is cool of its own right). I have loved reading your Facebook posts and magazine articles about you, and even listening to you talk with your mom at the Affirmation conference. But just to hear you really dig into your life story with such vulnerability and authenticity really is a treat to hear. Thank you so much!

  2. How I would happily pay to hear the second and third part right now! Thank you for doing this. I was soooo excited when I saw that this interview was going to happen!

  3. I am grateful to you Tyler for this heartfelt and honest interview. John, as always, thanks for your candid interview style and for always focusing an interview at the level of relevance for most of us average people.

    I too am a gay man. Formerly LDS and a dad of 5 great kids, with whom I have a wonderful relationship. They continue to bless my life.

    I was really touched by Tyler’s constant reference, respect and ongoing devotion to his family and parents who were consistently accepting, loving and supportive, in spite of their son’s alternate path. Theirs is truly an example of never giving up on your kid, in spite of current policy or misguided public sentiment. True examples of christlike ministry.

    I’ve always tried hard to be a good dad, and roll with the ups and downs of youth development. I remember when one of my sons, who was a real independent spirit, decided to dye his hair purple at age 14. It was secretly amusing to me — thinking back on some of the crazy hair stuff that went on in the 70’s, when I was a kid. I knew it was a passing fad and that he’d outgrow it. Staying mellow, and not letting a personal preference destroy our relationship, was important to me. He meant more to me than purple hair.

    Oddly, the local ward and stake felt differently. It seemed that LDS neighbors didn’t want their kids playing with him. The stake had reservations about him not being worthy to go on a pioneer trek — to the point where he bawled one night and felt pretty alienated. I was stunned that their narrow mindedness would prevent a human soul from experiencing things he needed most: to learn sacrifice and experience inclusion with peers and loving leaders.

    He was always a good kid. Never did destructive things or cause our family any public shame. I never worried about his morals or issues of substance abuse. At a young age, he became interested rock climbing, falconeering and photography. These were literally his saving interests; as well as a loving man in our ward who became his mentor at a young age. He was always a kid who walked alone and kept himself busy with reading and outdoor interests. Our state department of tourism would often buy my son’s back country photography for use in publications. I listened to Tyler and saw traits of individualism in him that reminded me of my son, including the fact that he was a good kid growing up.

    How odd it was, that 13 years later, I would be standing at his funeral, speaking about the young man that he had become and how proud I was to have had him as my son. The room was packed with 2200 people. It was crazy to see young people with dreadlocks seated in the room next to return missionaries in white shirts. There were people of influence and means, sitting next to humble working class neighbors. He was known and loved by so many. As the years have gone by since his death, I have continued to hear stories from people who were affected by his kind spirit and large heart. Stories from people he came to know and influence in foreign countries and locally.

    The back country that he so loved, took his life in an unfortunate avalanche accident. It was hard and shocking at the time. His dear young wife of 8 months gave an amazing sermon about their devotion to the gospel of Christ and the peace that comes from serving. She and my son were devoted to service and inclusion of all people. I feel blessed to have had their influence in my life.

    Listening to Tyler tonight, I saw in my mind and felt in my heart, that he is still the ‘good kid’ and now a kind hearted, thoughtful young man. I look forward to the other two parts of this interview. With the recent turn of events within the LDS church, towards marginalizing the LGBT community and creating a second class of citizens in ‘the community of Christ’, there have been certain private times of discouragement, sadness and anger. It opened old wounds that some of us felt had been mended years ago. Some of us, in spite of not fully understanding reasons for certain things in life, still held a reverence for the Faith of our heritage. We held that men of God would not be lead astray or would not lash out in an unloving, unaccepting way. Especially after earlier years of dialogue over the podium about inclusion and invitations to ‘come back, we love you, we need you.’

    I have since listened to numerous good hearted, straight, average LDS parents and grandparents of gay kids express their rage, anguish and lack of trust towards church leaders over this policy that has caused divisions in families, wards and neighborhoods. There has been an outpouring of loving acts of many people who are saying “enough, this is not what we’re about!” I applaud so many, including people like Tyler who are not afraid to speak out, both straight and gay.

    I have personally experienced so many acts of genuine kindness and inclusion of good hearted people who have thrown off the acceptance of policies that wound and divide people. I’ve seen so many people this year, reclaim a personal sense of their own spirituality and awareness of what it means to be a true personal minister of Christ to their neighbors, family and friends — regardless of the edicts thrown at them by aging, control hungry homophobes at the helm of the LDS empire.

    We are all children of God and deserve a place at His table. In each of us, there still resides down deep that ‘good kid’. We all are wounded, from the highest high priest to the lowliest soul. We all are in need of that embracing arm of inclusion and that open mind that only sees goodness in others, in spite of outward antics and appearances. God sees us for who we really are: in need of love, kindness, acceptance, forgiveness and full inclusion in His kingdom. Anything short of that, is not of God.

    This was a great podcast. I hope everyone can see the goodness and sincerity manifest by Tyler, in it. The wounds of some are more public and open than those of others. I appreciate people who are open and vulnerable as they express feelings about their life journey and their hopes. I appreciate that you John, are continuing to bring honesty and relevant topics forward for the benefit of all of us; in spite of the wounds and lashings you have taken over the past few years because of your desire for truth and honesty. Thanks for this great podcast.

    1. This is such a beautiful & thoughtful response. Your Beautiful prose about your son made me feel very sorry that I never got the chance to know him. This last year a dear friend of mine who also was a beautiful musician with a great love for the outdoors incredibly brilliant and intelligent and insightful with the sharpest which I have ever seen Killed himself. I feel And anguish for all the souls Who Are not able to continue to fight against the alienation that hurt or the lack of hope they feel. Thank you so much for sharing your support of all our glbtq brothers and sisters in the gospel and for all kids, not just Mormon, who needs love and support and inclusion from their community.

  4. Ever since I heard Tyler’s cover of Where Can I turn for Peace on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/90380576), I have been hoping this interview would happen. I’m so glad that it did! Tyler, your authenticity and candor is refreshing, and I believe it will help save lives.

  5. I’m one of those oblivious non-radio-listening people who had to check iTunes to see if I recognized any Neon Trees songs. And yet I still found this to be one of the best Mormon Stories interviews ever. Tyler–as a lead singer of a band that grew to international fame, as gay, as someone deeply and directly affected by last November’s policy fiasco, as someone whose faith transition is still fresh–has a Mormon story that is as remarkable as it is fascinating. Not that Tyler needs it from me, but I’m rooting for him and hope that even better things are in store for him in the future. Thanks, John, for another Mormon Stories classic!

  6. Oh my…I just finished listening to all three parts of this amazing interview. Thank you, John – and Tyler, you are an AMAZING man. I could sincerely relate to your parents because I am from the same generation – in my mid-sixties. I am grateful you are feeling the joy of complete authenticity. You were so vulnerable and thoughtful during this interview -this mom and grandma had to wipe tears away several times. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! Can’t wait to order the album you are currently creating. Never too old to be a Tyler Glenn and Neon Trees fan:)

  7. Thank you for sharing another part of yourself. You helped me understand where my 2 sons are coming from and their religious or lack of religious beliefs. Your generation has had the courage to question the teachings of what ever believe system you’ve been taught. Where most of mine has gone with the flow, knowing that something was terribly wrong for the sake of institutional survival. Keeping our questions to ourselves. I think we are very close to finding out what and where we all belong, if not in your generation at least the next. When big money takes over then the true meaning of goodness falls to the curbside. This happens in organized institutions all over the globe. Money and power take over. Being raised Roman Catholic and now in my 60’s I can relate to what your parents are going through as far as their faith. They might just surprise you & know & understand the truth. It’s 60 years of undoing. Give them time… Thanks again for your courage & truth… A friend always:))

  8. I just finished the podcast series with the incomparable Tyler Glenn. It wasn’t what I thought it would be. So tender, raw, and sincere. I watched the video he posted on Facebook the Sunday following the policy announcement. It broke my heart. If I’d known then just how much of a believer he still was, I would have been even more devastated. I’m so grateful to live in a time and place with such talented and beautiful people as both of you.

  9. Thank you! I loved every moment of this interview. You have such wonderful parents. I think the best part of your story is the respect and love you have for your parents. It was very inspiring for me.

  10. Thank you! I loved listening to your story. I feel like you are my friend. Im a mom raising four kids and I hope I can do as good of a job as your mother. The love and respect you have for your parents is inspiring. Thank you for sharing!

  11. The policy of gay children instantly felt wrong in my heart. Its incredible to know I wasn’t the only one who felt like a square peg being shoved into a circle slot. Its a slow reconciliation process, who is God, what lies before me, etc. I appreciate Tyler’s courage to tell us his life progression. Thank you!

    1. Doubting Thomas

      Tristan just to be clear, the president of the quorum of the 12 made it known to the world that the “policy” was a revelation from the Mormon God and Mormon Jesus Christ to the Mormon prophet. This is what Mormon deity wanted.

      I want anyone who reads the comments on the interview to know that this type of discriminatory position is what modern-day Mormon revelation constitutes. If they were not so disingenuous the would have announced this from the pulpit at the April General Conference. Mormon leaders had the same type of revelation and position towards black men and women for the majority of the organization’s history.

      As for Tyler, I’d like to hang out with people like this… Real.

      As for God, I now have the position that I don’t know everything about God, but I know what does not come from God. The Mormons discriminating aginst LGBT people is one of those things that I know is not of my God.

      1. Remember they said the same thing about Blacks and the Priesthood, and how that policy would never change… and it has. This too can change.

  12. Lord of Darkness

    Tyler, thank you. You are a stud. I have always been a fan and was in front of the stage of The Depot back in 2012 during an amazing Neon Trees concert. I admire your courage and wish you continued success!

  13. Thanks for your candor, Tyler! It seems to me that doing this interview took guts on many different levels. Your point about living authentically is well taken. It is difficult to be authentic when there is so much peer and family pressure to shut up and conform.
    Looking forward to more great things from both you and Neon Trees!

  14. Tyler, thank you so much for sharing who you are with all of us. I need to let you know how much your honesty has touched my heart. People like you who live honestly and authentically open up doors and pave the way for people like my 12 year old daughter who is also gay. She is going to live in such a different world than you or I grew up in and that is because of people who have courage like you to share their stories . You help me as a parent understand so much more, and I will have such the better tools to love and support my daughter thanks to you and people like you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    John and Tyler, you guys are such sweethearts. I feel like you are my brothers. If you do these podcasts in hopes of making a difference in one persons life, I want you to know that life was mine.

  15. Chrissta Hinze

    What a beautiful soul! Thank you for your honesty, vulnerability and bravery. You are truly inspiring, Tyler!

  16. Tyler,

    As a former musician pop-punk kid, your story really resonated with me. Except I found the provo music scene really hard to get any support for. Everybody is really cheap. No one really likes music. Except for acoustic rocks.

    Muse was opening and closing. No one would come to Jonny B’s. Maybe stuff has changed, with the killers and you and everything.
    I passed out 1000s of flyers, but the yield was always bear zero.

    Thanks for being you and being authentic.

    RIP Mulletsandbullets (my last band in Provo)

  17. I always considered my path out of the church to be a rather tortured affair, however, I had the blind luck of being born hetro and never having the good/bad fortune of being somewhat famous as a Mormon rock and roller which made my experience infinitely less stressful I’m sure. Good on you Tyler for the courage it takes to be so publicly honest. In my opinion that’s the surest way to help anyone that looks up to you who may be going through similar experiences of their own. Personal honesty is also the first requisite in making a full recovery from Mormonism. It’s one of the things the church discourages most. As Jeremy Runnells put it, “explore your doubts”.

  18. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with such depth and compassion for all of those those affected. It helps all of us that are on the same journey: to know that we are not alone, that these struggles are more universal than some wold have us believe. It is truly difficult to discover that we have loved things (or people) which are not as we perceived them to be.

  19. It is so clear in your tone and voice and attitude how you have become authentic and at peace despite the troubles you’ve gone through
    It is excruciatingly painful To find the truth about the church
    But it is also wonderfully freeing to let go of all the guilt and fear

    Tyler the last time you were on Mormon stories I commented that you didn’t seem to be aware of how cruel the church can be to the gays– now you see the truth–but you also realize it is not of God–i’m so glad you now know you are not a bad person–you are a wonderful person
    And I believe God loves you no matter what…… Just the way you are

    I can also understand the pain your mother is going through as she realizes she so lovingly taught you false doctrine that has brought you so much guilt and pain–we mothers had such good intentions… It breaks our heart when we see what we have taught our children–but I can see how loving she has been —and I see how forgiving you are–you will make it together
    Sending you love…….

  20. Tyler and John
    Wow! Wonderful interview. Loved that John gave you the time to tell so much of your story. I am one of those who love listening to the longer interviews. I feel I have a chance to get to know the guest as they have the time to tell their story in an unhurried and not practiced way. Your honesty and courage to express your experiences is a tremendous gift. Thank you for sharing. Realizing the repeated level of false teaching by the Church along with conscious deception and betrayal is sobering to a trusting heart. Especially when those things have been taught to a person since childhood by their parents with trust. Once the light flicks on one does feel blindsided. Everyone explores and maneuvers it in their own way and time frame. But it is shocking especially when one has experienced internal agony trying to feel self love and integrity against such an odd standard. And in the name of God, truth and revelation no less. Know that many, many past and current members whether gay or straight are sharing your experience on some level. Betrayal is betrayal and abuse is abuse. Our desire to justify the good coming from such deception I think gives power to the wrong source. It is not from the “Church” and certainly not Joseph Smith. It is the goodness within the human heart and soul. Whatever source reminds you of that has value and allows one to “feel the spirit” and feel integrity with who you are. That the “Church” claims exclusivity for goodness is highly suspect of their true intention. Life will be different but it is so very much better.
    My best to you and your wonderful family.

  21. Amazing interview! I found it very interesting how Tyler and his boyfriend wanted to live their life as active mormons until the most recent “policy change”. Imagine how much good he could have offered the overall image of the church for people with similar lifestyles. I was blown away by all the celebrity giants he’s crossed paths with. I had no idea.

  22. Amazing podcast episode. I have something that is very painful to me and haven’t been able to talk about it until after listening to this podcast… My father was hospitalized about 15 years ago. The doctors had to break it to me in the hospital that it was because of infections due to auto-immune issues… AIDS they said. I was devastated on so many levels.

    He had been in a bishopric earlier in his life but had stopped going to church. I was clueless to his homosexuality but in retrospect there were signs that did not register (confirmation bias in action). I was very Mormon and unfortunately I think I was more upset that he was homosexual than that he was dying. I was ashamed of him… I am now ashamed of myself. I have such great remorse for not showing more love and understanding toward him through his sickness and death.

    I can’t imagine what he had bottled up inside for so many years… not being able to be authentic, unhappiness, shame, guilt, and the fear of disappointing us. It breaks my heart when I hear about parents or family shunning their LGBT family members. All people are amazing and not just active Mormons. I love my Dad for all that he was. I wish I could tell him how much.

    I’m glad that your family is understanding and that you are able to be truly happy and authentic at a young age. I can’t imagine holding everything inside like so many Mormon LGBT people do, it must cause extreme pain. You are an inspiration to so many, and I think people will become more understanding because of you.

  23. Great interview …all 5.25 hours. Tyler, you did good. I look forward to a follow-on interview to hear how you and your family are progressing. When I left the church, I rebuild the community aspects of the church with social groups and individual friendships. It can be done; it takes a while, its worth it.

  24. Tyler, it was so great to hear your story! Thank you for being so open. You inspire me to live more authentically and “come out” as an exmormon to my community.

  25. I was so moved listening to Tyler describe his mission experience, there was so much emotion there with which I connected even now as a post-Mormon. Holding space for things that were important to me, while recognizing that they are now no longer important to me has been quite the challenge. But I loved thinking out Elder Glenn out there, striving to be as authentic as possible, even within the confines of a church that does not support full authenticity. I value so much listening to people get real about their stuff. Thanks for sharing!

  26. I want echo what everyone has said on this comment board and I would only add this: “When an honest man discovers he is mistaken, he will either cease being mistaken or cease being honest.”

    I’m glad Tyler has chosen to continue to be honest. I cannot say the same for myself; I’m still too afraid to leave the church because I know it means I may lose my wife and kids. I’m kind of in the same spot as Tyler because I have no idea what life will look like in a month or two, but I’m very grateful that there are platforms like this for us to explore truths that are never shared within the walls of an LDS chapel. Thanks to you both!

  27. Tyler: Thank you so much for sharing your song and for your courage. I think “Trash” speaks to so many of us who have been forced out of the LDS Church recently, literally and by our own concience. excellent job on the video!!! It’s getting added to my exmo playlist. Looking forward to your future works.

    John: Thanks for your work and giving the exmormon population a voice! I appreciate your easy to listen to, patient interview stlye. Listening to your podcasts has made our transition out of the Lds church easier. Thanks again!

  28. A very moving interview. My thanks to both of you. My starting point for this whole thing was the recent release of the “Trash” video, which I found somewhat jolting compared to the tone of the interview. Not that one expression is any more authentic than the other or that the two are mutually exclusive, but the positivity and gravity I felt in the interview definitely went missing for me in the video/song. But, of course, neither the song nor the video were made for me… This is Tyler’s journey, which he has been kind enough to open up to the rest of us. To Tyler’s point late in the interview, I truly believe that the arts can help us all understand ourselves and each other much better. Part of that is the art of storytelling, which you have championed, John, for many years. Peace

  29. I just want to say thank you to Tyler Glenn. It took me about 5 days to get through the “6 Hours” of podcast, but I was amazed from the moment it started! When you first came out, I was worried about the message that you were sending to young gay Mormons. Now that I see what you went through to get to where you are now, I really appreciate the process and feelings that you went through. Thank you for the honesty!
    I would sit in sacrament on the stand because I was the music director, and see kids speak. I remember one kid in particular. I would think, that poor child is stuck because his parents are part of the church. He will never truly be able to explore who he really is. I’ve said to my husband, “He’s Gay.” My husband would say, “How do you even know?!?!?” I would say, “I just do.” I decided to stop attending church shortly after that.
    Now the kid’s dad is the bishop.
    I’ve had TBM’s unfriend me on Facebook due to my statements on the Mormon church and the LBGTQ community. It can’t be like this anymore.
    Showing love to a whole community doesn’t involve not accepting a whole portion of it’s members!

  30. Daniel Singer


    Years ago, I was an antagonistic homophobe. After making an ass of myself at a party where I spewed homophobic slurs to my embarrassment, my wife chastised me on the way home. At her request, I prayed to understand the concern of gay people. I boldly questioned my heavenly parents and petitioned to know how people could be wired anyway but hetero. I was obstinate in my prayer, because I felt I already knew the answer (the one I had been taught in church—man and woman…). After delivering up my half-hearted prayer and expecting to receive multiple answers to my barrage of questions, I received instead what has been one of the most “spiritual” experiences of my life: “LOVE THEM.”

    That was it. LOVE THEM.

    So, without even knowing you, brother, I am here to tell you, I LOVE YOU.

    Take care on your journey.

    A newfound ally,


  31. Tyler, thank you so much for sharing your story. You have no idea how closely our stories are the same but completely different the same time. You give me hope and I am really grateful.

  32. Excellent, excellent interview. Closely identify with a lot of Tyler’s story (except for the going platinum like 18 times part).

    Also Dr. Dehlin, loved your laughter when Tyler was telling about taking Rolling Stone staff around for an exciting Friday night in bustling Provo. :) Kills me to think about the Twilight Zone feel they must have experienced.

  33. I’m loving your open energy, Tyler. Sorry I never heard of your band before. I’m old. Thanks for admitting a love for those seminary soundtracks. Listening to this interview, I was feeling embarrassed by my own passionate identification for them a couple decades ago, then you said you identified with them, too, and I felt better. Lol.

    As for the trauma of the haircut; it isn’t strange at all! I mean, consider this; whenever a church member wants to make clear that a person in an anecdote they’re telling is NOT ONE OF US, isn’t unconservative hair one of the three signs they give? Together with WoW, and cussing. In LDS culture, hair is “spiritual”. Your hair helped get you a public shaming within your community. It’s a powerful symbol of both individual identity, and group identity. Powerful enough that an adult leader felt the need to take action against yours. Also, hair isn’t like or clothes that we take on and off, and get rid of at Goodwill, it’s literally part of our bodies. There’s solid reasons for you, or anyone, to feel deeply connected to how they wear their hair, in my opinion. For what it’s worth.

  34. I feel silly. I just finished listening to the interview and went to you tube to look up Neon Trees, and realized that they’ve kept me company on many a trip or commute, but I never knew the band name.

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