Acceptance

I learned through a post at The Cultural Hall about a group of individuals who have organized a response to the June 29th letter from the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to congregations in California urging members of The Church to “do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman.” The website/blog Sign for Something urges individuals to write letters addressed to the First Presidency of the LDS church expressing their opposition to the June 29th letter.

When I first visited the site, I was able to identify with the following excerpt from their “Statement of Purpose:

We are dismayed at the dilemma of choosing between the voice of our conscience and the advice of our church’s leadership on this issue. For each of us this conflict works out in a different manner. Many of us feel there is enough freedom in our church that we may speak our convictions on this matter boldly. Others among us choose a path of anonymity, carrying our convictions about this quietly and expressing them to few. Others of us, feeling that we cannot speak freely on this and maintain our status as church members, have chosen to resign. We welcome all voices, no matter which path they choose.

I thought those words accurately portrayed the difficult nature of the situation facing faithful LDS members who are uncomfortable with the First Presidency’s letter. I briefly considered writing a letter, but decided against it – partly because I don’t live in California and the letter wasn’t addressed to me anyway, but mostly because I could not identify with many of the other letters that had been written. Many of the letters were angry and filled with just as much hate as they were accusing the First Presidency of harboring and I do not wish to be counted among them. Some were angry at the institutional Church, some at the First Presidency, some at all members of the church. And I began to understand that this issue doesn’t make me angry at all – it makes me sad.

I am sad that I am not fully in agreement with my chosen faith organization; sad that there is yet another policy from LDS church leaders that I will quietly disregard; sad that there are members of my chosen faith who struggle with their sexual orientation and I do nothing to assist them; sad that I have said and done things in the past that would have been so hurtful to any homosexuals close enough to hear or see; sad that one of my friends from high school who is now open about his homosexuality doesn’t know that I still value his friendship regardless of the gender of his partner; sad that I haven’t spoken to this friend in years. But mostly, I am sad that this letter will inevitably cause so much pain for the homosexuals among us who are already struggling to find a place in the church. I am sad to realize that as hard as this dilemma between following my conscience and dedication to my chosen faith is for me – it is nowhere near as difficult as the dilemma faced by those who are homosexual and want to remain in the Church.

And I feel so powerless to ease their pain.

7 comments to Acceptance

  • Nice post. I'm not sure that I have any advice to give, but I do have a few thoughts.

    First, I am not sure whether or not I agree with the Sign for Something individuals, but I think its kind of cool that these people are willing to put themselves out there and share their views on this issue. I wonder how many are going to actually send their letters to someone and how many are going to simply post their thoughts on the website. I don't know that they will have any effect on this particular issue, but perhaps the next time a similar situation arrises, church leadership will see other points of view when deciding how to respond.

    I think its cool that you allow yourself to have these conflicting feelings because its a difficult thing to do.

    Its difficult to know the best way to respond when the First Presidency asks you to do something that you think is wrong. At what point are you following your own consience and at what point are you failing to support and sustain the men we claim are prophets? I don't know the answer, but I think there is something good about the struggle to decide. I believe inspiration comes when you allow yourself to ponder and meditate on these difficult issues and that when the church membership and leadership is willing to go through this stuggle more revelation will be given that will teach us more about God's plan.

    It is sad to know that people feel hurt and unaccepted. I like the quote "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." I think its usally attributed to Pluto, but I'm not sure. Anyway, sometimes as hard as it is, I think maybe thats all we can do.

  • Very insightful. As for me, I have a strong opinion on this matter. I think the First Presidency has every right to make a statement regarding the sanctity of marriage. Even with this statement, and advice to church members, every member still has a right to choose what to do. It's not like the First Presidency is saying "Fight against gay marriage or go to hell".

    I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, only. I do not support gay marriage in any way, it's the way I was raised (and I was not raised Mormon). But Utah has come up with something to appease the homosexual community, for now. A few years ago Utah passed a bill that made it legal for domestic partners (gay or straight) to claim each other (and their children) on insurance. They receive those same types of benefits that married couples receive, but without the "married" word. I think this is a stellar solution because nobody should have to be without insurance because they cannot afford it and they cannot be claimed by their partner.

    I agree with Melanie … "I believe inspiration comes when you allow yourself to ponder and meditate on these difficult issues and that when the church membership and leadership is willing to go through this stuggle more revelation will be given that will teach us more about God's plan." There are always going to be things that we don't agree with, so we need to search these things out for ourselves.

  • Well said, and I am sad about the same things. While I don't necessarily agree with homosexual marriage, I don't feel this is something the government should have control over. And I can't imagine being homosexual and LDS and having to find a way to live life happily.

  • i have to agree, what a tough position for those within the church who have these kind of issues. your heart just goes out to those who have to make those kinds of decisions and friends and family.
    from what i have read of the church's position on the political aspect (checkout the newsroom article at lds.org w/ elder oaks and some other ga) it seems to be that government regulation of gay marriage is important b/c a lot of people are confused of the morality/immorality of homosexuality. the church's belief seems to be that gov't regulation of the matter will help influence the general public to make choices that are in line w/ the teachings of the church.
    aside from the legality of the issue. i really hope that gay bashing stops, particularly amongst church members. what good happens from any of it? it doesn't seem very christlike to me, regardless of the immorality of the actions.

  • Thanks for your comments, everyone. Clearly, this is a difficult issue without an easy answer. I should point out that in 2007 the LDS church officially released a pamphlet called "God Loveth His Children" about same-gender attraction. It can be found at http://www.lds.org/topics/pdf/GodLovethHisChildren_04824_000.pdf
    (I wish I knew how to link!)

    While for the most part it simply re-states the church's long-standing policies regarding homosexual members of the church, it also made a few major steps in what I feel is the right direction. Have a read if you're interested.

  • I read this post a few weeks ago without weighing in…

    I have struggled with the First Presidency letter because it dramatizes the inevitable collision in my life between — on the one hand — my faith, my testimony, my love for the Church and my love for Thomas S. Monson as prophet and Church president and my love for the whole First Presidency and all the Church leaders who have sacrificed so much for us as a people, and — on the other hand — my very being as a gay man, my deep, abiding, 16-years-long and still-growing love for my partner, which we renewed this past week in marriage vows in California.

    During the ceremony, my partner and I each had an opportunity to say something from the heart. I used that opportunity to bear my testimony and to express love for my partner.

    Most LDS find the Church strengthening and encouraging them in their love for the life-partner of their choice. They find everything in the Church geared to help them make that love last — for time and all eternity. Those who are gay (or "same-sex attracted") experience the opposite. All I can say is, I don't feel a conflict in my heart. In my life, the principles of the gospel work, whether you apply them in the context of a same-sex partnership or an opposite-sex partnership.

    Later, after our ceremony, my dad came to give me a hug and express his love for me. "Keep the faith," he encouraged me. He told me that during the wedding, he felt a very special spirit, and felt very good about what happened there. I am so lucky. What an amazing father! What an example of everything that is right about being a Latter-day Saint! No wonder I love this Church so much…

  • John, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am glad that you and your father were able to share a special moment. It is so important for each of us to surround ourselves with those on whom we can trust and rely.