Monday, August 24, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I read this book called, "This I Believe" a while ago. This has been sitting in my drafts box since then. (At that time, I wrote this: 'As soon as I'm done, I wouldn't be surprised to find myself buying and reading "This I Believe II."' I haven't done that.) It's caused me to think, and I love reading what other people believe. It's fascinating for the philosopher, psychologist, social worker, and -- in an odd way -- anthropologist in me, among other things.
Some of my beliefs make my life very complicated. And thinking about what I believe means this post is soon going to turn wildly unpopular.
It's no secret that gay marriage has been a hot issue over the last year or so. And it looks to continue to be for some time. I heard a while ago that the gay marriage debate will be up for contest again in California in November 2010.
For anyone interested, here's what I believe: I believe in love. I believe in equality. I believe in commitment. I believe in rights. I believe those are all good things, and that every person should have equal access to those things.
I also believe in the definition of marriage that means "a man and a woman." (Enter unpopularity. If it wasn't here before.) I believe that marriages are the foundation to start families and that families are the central piece of God's creation. That family is his eternal goal.
Most sincerely, I believe that my two positions don't just make my life complicated -- they should make life complicated for any LDS person out there.
I find it frightening how easily members of the Church fall on one side or the other on this issue -- or -- perhaps better stated -- how staunchly and unforgivingly. I find it equally disturbing how quickly people assume things about you because of your decision. These are the times when I am deeply disappointed. Let me explain.
I know I don't need to tell you that Christ taught a gospel of love. The first two great commandments are about love. Loving your God with all your might, mind and strength, and then to love your neighbor as yourself. In recent years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has taken great strides in teaching their membership these principles over more stringent, organizationally based rules of the past. President Gordon B. Hinckley emphasized this principle again and again in his teachings, but moreso in his actions and his interactions with world thought leaders. He inspired a generation of members and changed others.
It is easy to take that compassionate heart and apply it to the gay marriage situation; were this the only consideration, the CLEAR path would be to allow gay marriage. That was my gut reaction.
President Hinckley's presidency was also hallmarked by his clarion call: "Stand for Something." He consistently urged members of the Church to increase discipleship, to reach for their potential, and to be something more than an idle member of society, tossed about by the waves of popular opinion. Under his Presidency -- one of his first actions as President, in fact -- the Church released the "Proclamation on the Family."
So, what does that matter? The Proclamation makes no bones about what the Church's stance on the purpose of marriage is. And, ultimately, it wouldn't even matter if President Hinckley had released that or not. (For the reasons in the next paragraph.) I do think it's interesting, however, that he said he'd be the prophet no one listened to. I wonder if it's this very reason -- his desperate plea for members of the Church to be more dedicated was outweighed by the laxness that seems to come with being more loving. In some ways it's code for letting things slide so you don't offend anyone or so things are easier for you.
Anyway. This was a difficult decision for me. I had to really dig down to ask myself what this all means to me. But in the end: I decided I either believe in a prophet or I don't. I either hold to the standards of the organization I claim, or I don't. But if I don't, I'm probably not a Mormon. And should stop claiming such. And if I DO believe those things, sincerely, with all my heart, then I think I've gotta trust the prophet more than myself. If I really, truly believe that he's God's spokesperson, what do I know compared to that? Does that mean I'm some strange religious fanatic? An unthinking mass? Of course I don't think so. But people will call it what they will.
I feel like I'm making a choice. It's a conscious decision to follow the leaders of my church, aware of the potential pitfalls. But to what other end can I demonstrate faith?It scares me that I might be labeled naive or closed-minded, and -- more -- that I may actually BE those things. I get that I'm expressing an opinion that "limits" (not really, since I can't vote) someone else's options and that's difficult for me. It's obvious that permitting someone to choose this is a whole lot different than permitting someone to choose murder, or school vouchers, or whatever drastic or benign thing. This is a whole different ball game, and it makes my decision more significant to me.
And I think my position has caused me to lose respect from many of my friends. Similar decisions have caused -- possibly irreparable -- rifts for some of my family members. So, why am I even putting this out there? I don't know. I guess... just for myself... I needed to say something. Try to explain. Stand for something and try to help people understand what I'm standing for. It's probably fruitless.
I want the homosexual population to not only be accepted, but to feel accepted. I'm just not convinced we've found the way to do it yet. I was an English major. I believe in the power of words. I believe that they mean things. And, although language is always changing, I believe some things just are. Some changes need to happen in society before using the word marriage would do anything for them. Perceptions often remain, even when words change.
But, mostly, I believe in integrity; I'm not the most admirable person I know, by any means. But I need to stand by what I claim to believe. That's the start to becoming the type of person I want to be. This I believe.