Wednesday, April 10, 2013

General Conference and the Great Divide

I don't think I'm alone when I say that the topic of gay marriage was occupying my mind when I approached General Conference this past weekend. When social issues overlap with important gospel principles and create a divide in our own global community, we look to modern prophets to guide us through the dark mists of that overlapping of spiritual truths and secularism. I feel like I got a good sense of clarity on the topic. So did everyone else that I know, regardless of which side of the fence they are on.

A gay friend of mine, also LDS, shared an article from the perspective of a pro-gay marriage Mormon and how they interpreted the Conference messages. The article noted, as I just suggested, that people are still no less divided on the issue -- they heard what they wanted to hear. The article laments the fact that pro-traditional marriage advocates were using quotes from the conference, mainly Elder Packer, to warn others against abandoning moral tenets of the church in favor of trendy social issues, and for reiterating the superiority of traditional families when raising children, and confirming that chastity is the most consequential law to break. And while they shoved those messages in everybody's face vindictively, as the article so piously points out, those on the pro-gay marriage side simply heard nothing but messages about being more Christlike, forgiving, tolerant, and treating others the way we want to be treated.

I don't know about you, but I heard both messages.

Outlining my rationale for opposing gay marriage, as logical as I think it is, won't change (and frankly, shouldn't change) your opinion. Instead, I've been thinking about 2 1/2 other important principles I've discovered buried in this issue.
The first two are lies that the father of lies wants you to believe.

1. People too easily accept the lie that it is impossible to stick to your morals and be compassionate. This is a lie people believe, unfortunately, for just about any stance that a Conservative takes on any social issue.

A friend of mine once said, and I paraphrase: "Being Conservative is to preach to others what Christ said, and being Liberal is to actually do it."

I take serious offense to that. The notion that I can't be simultaneously opposed to what you believe and Christlike is insulting. In the eyes of most advocates for gay marriage, you either are with them and, by association love them. Or, you are against them and, by association are filled with hate. When good Christians who, let's face it, are just as lost and looking for meaning in a secular world as everyone else is, are labeled as bigots, hate mongers, intolerant, homophobic, and xenophobic before they are even given an opportunity to present a logical explanation, they are involuntarily reduced down to an irrational, non-contributing, mouth-breathing fool, and everything they say is rendered completely trifling before they even say it. When you label a person as a bigot before hearing them speak, you have facilitated the exact irrational division that destroys society. This is completely contradictory to the message that pro-gay marriage advocates preach: tolerance, love, and to not judge others.

2. Another lie that many invest in is that you are perfect and have no need to change your natural feelings - Don't confuse that with being happy with yourself despite imperfection. I believe a gay person when they say that they are naturally attracted to the same gender. I don't believe it is a choice for them. I also don't believe that God thinks that anyone on Earth is perfect -- everyone needs improvement, and everyone needs to overcome the natural man. This is the sole purpose of our entire life. Even a straight man has to resist the alluring temptation of pornography which the world claims is a perfectly normal attraction to indulge in, but that we know is an unhealthy appetite that clouds judgement and sometimes requires help to overcome. Pedophiles don't nurture an attraction to children because it's cool, it's because the attraction is already there and they indulge it instead of enlisting the help of the Savior to correct it. It is exactly the plan of the adversary to make you believe that you are perfect the way you are and have no need to change.
2 1/2 (because it ties in so well with #2). The most serious moral decay in today's world is the idea that we should actively find ways to avoid negative consequences for our actions. If you are attracted to something, that's just as God made you and not even He wants you to change. If you accidentally get pregnant, you can abort it, just like it never happened. There is even a surgery to "restore" your virginity. The foundational principle of the gospel is free agency, stipulating that every decision has a positive or a negative consequence. If you choose good, you find more freedom. If you choose bad, sometimes your freedom is lost along with your ability to choose (i.e. anyone who is currently sitting in prison). And if you choose to call negative consequences good, the lines of good and evil become arbitrary and blurred and spill over into every societal disagreement.
Another important facet of agency is that we will be judged by how we exercise it. Are you going to facilitate the right of others to exercise their agency for wrong things, or are you going to use your agency to be a beacon for the standards of the church as outlined by modern prophets?

I want to clarify the following, because I do have several gay friends, and I love them -- I realize that I have no ounce of comprehension of what you're going through, good or bad, which makes me the least qualified person to talk about this. I admire you for staying strong and working so diligently to help others who are inexcusably bullied and tormented. You, that I know personally, focus more on underlining love for others. A person being gay or straight makes no difference to me. Your sexual preference makes no bearing in my choice of whether I want to be your friend, do business with you, or anything else. It simply does not matter. Even within the church -- I baptized a gay man, and yes, I knew he was gay at the time and I still keep in touch with him and love him very much. You may wonder how any gay person could be my friend after hearing about my feelings. It's because I practice Christlike love, and a lifestyle that I disagree with is no exception to that rule. I'm surely far from perfect, but I would hate to find out that a gay friend of mine was so offended by my views that they didn't want to speak to me anymore. I do love them for who they are: a child of God on earth who is just trying to make it back, just like everyone else.

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