Monday, November 23, 2015

The Right to Believe What We Believe

The past two+ weeks have been interesting—to say the least—for my church and its members. (In case this is your first visit to Enthusiastic Fantastic, you might like to know that I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—I'm a very happy Mormon!) I was surprised that some of my church's policy information was sneakily released to the media on November 6th, 2015. That said, I wasn't surprised about the content of the news, just the way in which the news was released—for it wasn't released by the Church's typical channels.

Because I'm not on Fakebook anymore, I don't know for sure where the news story first broke. All I know is that one of the blogs I follow, Fair Mormon, released the first blog post I saw about it: "A Look at the Church’s New Policy on Children of Gay Couples." It's a great read, I highly recommend it. Here is the information verbatim from Fair Mormon that first introduced me to what was going on in my church:
  • Those who enter into a same-sex marriage are considered apostate, and will need to undergo Church discipline possibly resulting in disfellowshipment or excommunication;
  • Local leaders should seriously consider Church discipline against members cohabitating in same-sex relationships but not married;
  • Minor children in same-sex households are not to be baptized into the Church until they reach adulthood. At that point they must understand and accept the Church’s doctrine regarding the sinfulness of same-sex acts and marriages in order to be baptized
Later that night, I watched Elder Christofferson's explanation of the Church's policy move (that previously linked update came a few days later): Elder Christofferson Provides Context on Handbook Changes Affecting Same-Sex Marriages (click the link to watch the video).

I thought those two sources were very clear and self-explanatory. I was not confused as to where the Church stood on the issue of same-sex marriage within its membership. Thus, I was surprised at the uproar seemingly everywhere on the internet, local/national media, and social media—and even within my own extended family. I mean, it's not a huge surprise where the Church stands in regard to SSM, so I couldn't understand why everyone was so shocked with the policy change—especially after the Church further explained and kindly clarified their position.

My church has been talking about the importance of families forever—and especially in the past 20 years! For reference, please read "THE FAMILYA PROCLAMATION TO THE WORLD," that was released in 1995. Not to mention, please notice how many videos The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has produced about families and religious freedom—and I didn't even include them all. (You don't need to watch all of them, I just included the links in case anyone is interested.)


Home and Family – Through Small Things

Happy Families—a playlist of videos about families

Building Families

Protect Our Nestlings – Keeping our Families Safe


Motherhood: an Eternal Partnership with God

Our Fun Family Vacation – The Importance of Spending Time With Family

Families Can Be Together Forever

The Mormon Practice of Family Home Evening















Also, the major motion picture, Meet The Mormons, does a great job of introducing what the Church is all about. I wish everyone on the planet would watch it! :)


Yes, with all of those previously listed sources, there should be zero surprises about where the Church stands in regard to same-sex marriage.

As the past 17 days have unfolded, I've read and listened to many sources about the topic shared above. Here some of the links to what I've been researching (There are other sources I've read/watched/listened to that I won't be linking.):

"A North and South Heart," a blog post on Rational Faiths, by Tom Christofferson—the gay brother of Elder D. Todd Christofferson, an LDS apostle

Articles by Jean Lloyd from The Witherspoon Institute, Public Discourse:
Podcasts by Radio West:
"Taught By Her Mothers," a podcast on the blog, Mormon Women Project

"Why We Fear Mormons," an opinion post by J. Spencer Fluhman on The New York Times

"Petition asks Mormon Tabernacle Choir guests to cancel appearances over policy change," a Salt Lake Tribune article

Two important articles released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—these are the most recent updates:
"Pride and Faith," the recently-released video by Scott Raia. His video's tagline reads, "A BYU film student documents his growing awareness of the LGBT community, especially within the Mormon church. He sees his nervousness for graduation from college as a something of a parallel for the uncertainty faced by some of his friends as they transition to adulthood as gay Mormons."

"WITH GAY MORMONS," a blog post by Jeff Benedict

"Religion is changing, fellowship too," an article in the Harvard Gazette. This one isn't about the Church, but it's an interesting read in terms of religion as a whole.

Hopefully, anyone reading my blog can see that I check a wide variety of sources for information. I most definitely do not live inside a vacuum! ;) I truly try my best to see all sides of every life issue before coming to a conclusion or making a decision. Thus, please believe me when I say that after all of my researching, I don't have a problem with my church's same-sex marriage policy. The information my church has presented makes sense to me. No, my support of the Church and its leaders does not make me heartless nor a bigot. Oh no, it most certainly does not! (By the way, I strongly dislike that previously mentioned b-word.)

While I hope this blog post doesn't attract haters, there's no guarantee of that not happening (Did I say that right? Or, is it a double negative? I'm overcome with wordiness! Ha ha.), which makes me a little nervous. That said, I still want to share my opinion on the subject.

First off, despite what others may think or say, I truly believe the Church has no ill will directed at the LGBT community—none whatsoever—and for the record, I don't, either. (For more on my views of my country's actions toward legalizing SSM, please read my post "The Supreme Court's Decision"—I wrote it before the historic and final announcement.) The Church's leaders have simply stated what they believe is right and true. I support my church leaders 100% because I believe they receive direct inspiration and revelation from the Lord, which means this policy change has been given to them directly from the Lord.

Speaking of the inspiration/revelation of the Church's leaders, I love this marvelous quote by Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He said in his October, 2015, General Conference talk, "Chosen to Bear Testimony of My Name,"
"Serving with these representatives of the Lord [in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles], I have come to know their greatest desire is to discern and do the will of our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son. As we counsel together, inspiration has been received and decisions have been made that reflect a degree of light and truth far beyond human intelligence, reasoning, and experience. As we work together in unity on perplexing problems, our collective understanding of an issue has been enlarged in marvelous ways by the power of the Holy Ghost."
Second, I get frustrated when people who aren't members—or are less-active members—of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints get so opinionated about something they don't even want to be a part of themselves! Seriously, what?! I wish I could say to them: Why are you being mean toward the Church and its members when you're not following its teachings, and you want nothing to do with it anyway?!

It's ridiculous to me that the only time haters care about the Church or its policies is when the Church has made a stand that the haters don't agree with. That's like me having an opinion about any number of other churches' policies. Am I an active/participating member of said church that I'm having issues with? No? Well, then I don't get to have a say about how they run their church. If, however, I was an actively participating member of said church whose policies I disagreed with, then I'd have something to talk about.

*Side note: I saw a news clip about the "mass" membership resignation of Church members that happened Saturday, November 14th. What I think needs to be pointed out is this quote from KUTV 2News:
"When asked if those in the LGBT community are actively wanting their children to be raised in the LDS faith, Matson replied, 'Honestly, no. They don't...'

"A recent poll conducted by event organizers and posted on the LDS Mass Resignation Facebook page shows only 5 percent of those who resigned this weekend attend an LDS church on a weekly or monthly basis."
So not only do most of those in the LGBT community not even want to be a part of the Church, only 125 of the approximately 2,500 people giving up their membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are actively participating members! Yeah, I'm pretty sure 2,500 members out of the Church's total population of 15+ million doesn't constitute the definition of a "mass resignation." (At least that's the number I've researched in the media up to this point.)

Third, I've been puzzled by some active Latter-Day Saints' negative reactions to the Church's new policy. To them I say: Pray for guidance and peace. Please read or watch all of the statements put forth by the Church. (I linked them above.) Realize that either you do or you don't support the Church and its leaders. (I support the Church and its leaders.) Either the brethren are spiritually in tune, or they're not. (I believe they are in tune.) Either they've made the correct policy update, or they haven't. (I believe they are acting according to the revelation/inspiration they've received from the Lord. Refer to the comment I previously shared by Elder Bednar.) If you believe the brethren/leaders are in tune to inspiration and revelation from the Lord, through the Holy Ghost, then accept what they've done. (I've accepted their actions, and apparently so have the vast majority of the Church's members.)

*Side note: I've been writing this blog post for a little over one week. Late last night, as I was shutting down my computer, I read a beautiful blog post, "Sustaining, Suffering and Enduring Each Other," by Bruce E. Dale, Interpreter, A Journal of Mormon Scripture. Brother Dale does a wonderful job of defining and describing what it means to sustain the Church's leaders and members. It is so worth five minutes of your time! :)

Fourth, for years, the Church has stood up for what it genuinely believes is right and true: that same-sex marriage should not be legalized. I think it's fair to say that the Church did literally everything within its power to prevent that legal social change. But once the Supreme Court legalized SSM, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints supported the law, while simultaneously requesting that rights for religious freedom be protected. For reference, please see Elder Dallin H. Oaks' General Conference talk, "Loving Others and Living with Differences," given in October, 2014. His marvelous words were presented just two days before SSM was legalized in Utah—which catapulted the Supreme Court's country-wide decision. I know I've already shared portions of this talk previously, but I feel it's good enough to share again:


We all have the right to live according to our religious/spiritual beliefs and consciences, as is presented in an awesome PBS video I watched a few days ago (linked below). Religious liberty/freedom should not be squashed by anyone—including those who request tolerance and acceptance of their personal views and choices, but aren't willing to extend the same generosity to those with deeply held religious beliefs!

Russell Moore said,
"No one wants to see our gay and lesbian neighbors mistreated, bullied, harmed. At the same time, we need to protect the pluralism of the public square that allows people to dissent from whatever the dogma of "the church of the sexual revolution" is. And that's the dangerous place that we're in right now, is there are many people who are suggesting that this wave of sexual revolution ought to trump religious liberty and conscience rights in a way that simply paves over the consciences of people. That's not the sort of society we ought to live in."
To see more of Mr. Moore's fabulous interview, please watch the video "Russell Moore on LGBT Acceptance," produced by PBS' Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

Of course, I could have easily shared many of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' leader's speeches on religious freedom, but I chose to share the perspective of Russell Moore—President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission—simply to illustrate that the Church is not the only church that feels this way.

So where are we now? Obviously, same-sex marriage is legal in the United States of America and in other countries across the world. While there are many places that same-sex couples can get married, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints isn't one of them. The Church has the right to unequivocally state that they won't support or allow SSM within their membership, church buildings or temples. They aren't holding anyone back from being allowed the standard/legal definition of marriage in the worldly sense, but when it comes to the Lord's way of eternal marriage, yes, the Church has put their foot down—and they have every right to do so. The Lord has drawn the line in the sand so there is zero confusion about same-sex marriage—it's not up for debate in the Church.

What some people are forgetting (or conveniently ignoring?) is that not only does the Church not allow SSM, but it also has the following list of dos and don'ts that apply to all current and potential church members (I included as many as I could find/remember):
  • no gambling
  • faithfully and consistently wear temple garments—for adults who have made covenants in the temple 
  • no pornography
  • no polygamy/plural marriage
  • worship God, our Heavenly Father
  • pray and read our scriptures daily—these aren't commandments, so-to-speak, but they're highly encouraged habits
  • attend our church meetings on a regular basis
  • attend the temple as often as time permits—we are encouraged to make it a priority
  • honorably hold and exercise the priesthood—for men only
  • no profanity/swearing
  • dress modestly
  • repent as often as needed
  • have reverence for sacred things including: God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the Church, temples, etc.
  • make sacrifices to follow Jesus Christ and His gospel
  • no same-sex marriage
  • serve in the Church and our communities—to the extent possible by each individual
  • no tattoos—that said, having tattoos won't cause a person to be disciplined by the Church
  • pay a full/honest tithe
  • avoid unwed pregnancy—this sounds harsh, but the Church does everything within its power to help unwed mothers (click on the link above)
  • be virtuous, i.e., have high moral standards
  • do our best to "build up" Zion, i.e., the pure in heart
To further illustrate my point, Doctrine and Covenants 38:16 tells us (emphasis added), "And for your salvation I give unto you a commandment, for I have heard your prayers, and the poor have complained before me, and the rich have I made, and all flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons."—meaning the Lord's commandments apply to everyone.

To go along with that scripture, I found this awesome quote by President Joseph Fielding Smith, the 10th president of the Church,
"It should be conceded by all people that since the Almighty governs the entire universe by immutable law, man, who is the greatest of all his creations, must himself be subject to such law." – "Chapter 18: Living by Every Word that Proceeds from the Mouth of God," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith.
It's no secret that the Lord expects the same devoted discipleship from every member of the Church! And when we make mistakes, the Atonement of Jesus Christ is there to help us out—pending we utilize it through our full repentance! :)

I hope I've illustrated that the same-sex-marriage-is-not-allowed-in-the-Church issue is a much smaller fraction of what it means to be an active and faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints than what the media is portraying. There will always be fluidity in the membership of the Church due to people becoming (and hopefully staying) converted, while simultaneously others neglect their personal testimonies (and all that encompasses) and become inactive members, or resign from the Church altogether. If people want to leave the Church, surely SSM won't be the only reason they choose to focus on.

What it all comes down to is this: we each have the right to believe what we believe! Those negatively affected by the Church's SSM policy change always have the option to make different choices in order to access those beautiful and sacred ordinances, and receive the promised blessings.

Just like any actively participating Latter-Day Saint, everyone who has heard of the Church can choose to obey its teachings...we can all be blessed for our faithfulness. If people decide to follow our Savior, and do what is required to become and stay an active member of the Church, there are no restrictions holding anyone back—the "Blessings of the Gospel [are] Available to All"! That previous link is a talk by Elder Joseph W. Sitati.

As I've been happily thinking about what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints means to me, I get emotional if I try to envision my life without it. Because of the Church's teachings, I have been brought closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ than I ever could have imagined! My relationship with Them is, of course, made possible due to the Holy Ghost daily speaking to my spirit—and I wouldn't have received the gift of the Holy Ghost without my baptism in the Church! And don't even get me started about the amazing people I've met through my membership in the Church, for my life would be completely different without their positive influence!

Also, I can't help but reflect back on these lovely scriptures and their meanings—as I understand them (emphasis added):

Luke 12:6–7, "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows." *We are all important to our Heavenly Father and Savior.

Isaiah 25:8, "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces..." *We are all saved; the Lord will always be there to comfort us.

Colossians 3:2, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." *Don't get sidetracked by worldly issues, we need to keep our focus on eternity.

Colossians 1:23, "...continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel..." *We must stay strong and true to Jesus Christ and His gospel!

Romans 8:35; 37–39, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ...Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." *Heavenly Father will always love us and wants us to come back to Him; our Savior's Atonement makes up for every trial/problem we're given in this life (but that doesn't mean we should give up following the Savior's example—none of us get a free ride!); Jesus Christ is our connection to God, our Heavenly Father.

John 6:68–69, "Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." *Those verses say it all: who or what else can give us all that Jesus Christ and His gospel offers? I'd also like to point out that with this scripture (there are many others to reference), God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are established: the trinity is incorrect.

John 14:15, 21, "If ye love me, keep my commandments... ...He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." *We can show our love and devotion to our Savior by keeping His commandments. Our Heavenly Father will love us even more for following Jesus Christ.

Alma 34:32, "For behold, this life is the time for men [and women] to prepare to meet God..." *This scripture is one of my favorites! I always shorten the verse simply because I feel there is nothing else to say! :) We must do everything within our power to be prepared to meet our Heavenly Father!

Finally, I love this statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith, for his words say it all (emphasis added)!
"If we are living the religion which the Lord has revealed and which we have received, we do not belong to the world. We should have no part in all its foolishness. We should not partake of its sins and its errors—errors of philosophy and errors of doctrine, errors in regard to government, or whatever those errors may be—we have no part in it. 
"The only part we have is the keeping of the commandments of God. That is all, being true to every covenant and every obligation that we have entered into and taken upon ourselves. 
"Do not get the impression from what I have said that I feel that we should keep aloof from everybody outside of the Church and not associate with them. I have not said that, but I do want us to be consistent Latter-day Saints, and if the people of the world walk in darkness and sin and contrary to the will of the Lord, there is the place for us to draw the line." – "Chapter 19: In the World but Not of the World," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith.
What I find interesting about the quotes I shared from President Joseph Fielding Smith, is the fact that, yesterday morning, I mistakenly thought the Church's 2015 curriculum has us studying President Smith—even though I subconsciously knew full well that we are studying President Benson! (Because I'm the first counselor in my ward's Young Women organization, I don't get to study the Teachings of Presidents of the Church lessons in Relief Society. Thus, every so often, I listen to the lessons on my phone while I'm getting ready for the day.) I strongly believe the Spirit (Holy Ghost) wanted me to think we were studying President Smith so I would find his steadfast words for precisely this post! :)

When all is said and done, I simply don't want to have squandered my days here on Earth. As imperfect as I am, I'm trying my best to be prepared to one day meet God and Jesus Christ—and I want to bring as many prepared people with me as I can (so to speak). I truly believe the Church is the vehicle of choice to safely deliver each and every one of us back to Them! :)

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful post, great insight and I appreciate all your research - You've convinced me - I believe!!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so very much, my darling Greg! Your words—and you—mean the world to me! xoxo :)

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