Thursday, January 30, 2014

When Church Leaders Are Wrong

With the recently released study topic on race and the priesthood in the LDS Church, there is predictably a flurry of praise for the Church's efforts and criticism that it wasn't enough. And, naturally, questions are being raised about the significance of the Church disavowing past explanations for the Priesthood ban and discussion of the racism that caused it, and what that means for following current leaders now. The racial ban could not have been any part of God's will, an argument often runs, because God would never cause so many people so much pain. Therefore, policies which currently cause pain cannot be of God's will, either, so there is no obligation to follow the prophets in matters which cause people pain.

While I am not black, I have been a victim of others' bad choices before. I know what it is to feel pain from the perspective and opinions of Church leadership, as well. It is from that experience and the things I have learned about the nature of God that I now address some of my feelings on this topic. It isn't meant to tell other people how to think or feel, but only to share my personal reaction to fallacy in my priesthood leaders which affects me. I, obviously, have no right to demand the Church leaders repent on the issue of blacks and the priesthood. I am not the injured party. But what I can do is liken the situation to myself, and what I have experienced, so that I can learn from it. With that in mind, although blacks and the priesthood is a parallel, it is not the whole point.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Noblesse Oblige

I hadn't thought about it for years...decades, even. I was pondering something completely unrelated, and this image flashed before my eyes of an old, wrinkled Portuguese man sitting in front of a basket of wicker reeds smiling at me. I know who he was. He was the man my mother purchased wicker from. This was back in the mid-eighties and we were living on a tiny island called Terceira in the A├žores, Portugal.

I was only a child, somewhere between eight and ten. My memories are not crystal clear, and of course I'm interpreting them now through an adult lens. I don't even know how accurate my memories are. But I remember his brown, wrinkled skin contorted into a smile. I remember his hands, callused from hours of working the tough reeds, softened by hours of soaking in water. All you had to do was take a picture of something made from wicker, give him dimensions, and he would make it for you. He was smiling because I had tried to speak to him in Portuguese, a language of which I remember practically nothing, now.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Some People Oppose Gay Marriage

There is a point at which argument is futile. When two sides of a disagreement are so firmly rooted in their own perceptions, and those perceptions are coming from intrinsically different structures, there is not enough common ground for discussion.

This is, perhaps, why I haven’t really addressed the gay marriage battles going on in the United States of America since they started. I have listened to both sides, found fault and good with both, and made my conclusions. And most of the time, when I try to share why I believe the way I do, I only invite attack.

I do wish to state, perhaps for my own benefit alone, that I do not support gay marriage. I used to, before I started blogging. Getting involved in blogs certainly catalyzed some of my change of mind. I’m sure there are many out there who discount my opinions because they assume they are solely religiously based, or because they come from a place of ignorance and fear. I can protest as much as I like, but I’m not likely to change the minds of people so unapologetically closed-minded. I’m not even going to bother.

There is much I could say about gaining respect for differing moral stances. The arguments for gay marriage are generally based on the moral structure of secularism, the arguments against gay marriage are generally based on a moral structure espoused by many religions of the world. I believe that “separation of Church and State” in our country was never meant to restrict moral opinions from the public sphere. In fact, I believe that creating a space where individuals can act according to their morality in a public sphere without fear of losing employment, housing, physical safety, the ability to reasonably conduct business according to their conscience, and relative peace in their private lives was a core point of our government.

And, like it or not, the bulk of efforts to remove that freedom from fear is coming from those who think secularly. Many believe that individuals should have no right to exercise religiously-based morality in a public sphere, but ought to be forced to behave according to secular morality.

I would fight—have fought—equally hard to defend a gay person’s right to behave according to their beliefs in a public sphere as I now defend my own. I would shop at a store owned by a gay person. I'm as likely to design a gay friend's wedding invitations as those for a straight friend, were one to ask me. But I believe that the right to behave a certain way is not the same as a right to be publicly supported for it.

Determination of the lines of law—deciding what the public should pay for, support, and condone by law—should only be legally determined by a slow and cautious approach to lawmaking, including ALL the branches of government. Rushing headlong, deliberately bypassing checks and balances in the legal system, will inevitably reap consequences in unexpected directions.

I am afraid, watching the way law is happening now. And even if you support gay marriage, you should be afraid, too. The rate at which individual freedom to act according to personal moral conscience is being denied is frightening. When legal paths have been opened, they are very difficult to close. Almost overnight, changes are being made that alter the way people are allowed to live their lives. Though that may work in your favor today, there are no guarantees for tomorrow.

I do not know if my feelings on gay marriage will soon rob me of my ability to act according to my conscience in my employment. My line of work makes me one of those who could easily be forced to participate in things I find reprehensible. I wish, even if gay marriage wins wholesale, that those of religious moral conscience will be able to win a space for themselves. Not only to protect religious institutions, but to protect religious people.

Make no mistake. This war is not just about gay marriage. It is much more fundamental than that. It is a war between religion and secularism, a clash of whether or not people will be allowed to act according to a religious source of morality. Whether or not their votes will be taken away. Whether or not they can choose to conduct their business as they believe they should. Whether or not they are allowed to raise their children in the faith they hold dear. Whether or not they are allowed to speak their hearts, or must remain silent for fear of dire consequence.

There are many voices of empty reassurance, claiming that such things could never happen. But they are already happening. People claimed that welfare for single moms wouldn't result in more single moms, that loosening divorce laws wouldn't result in more divorces. They are blind to the lessons of history, and ignorant to human nature.

Some rights cannot be granted without robbing the rights of another. You can't give the right to drink and drive without potentially robbing a drunk driver's victim of the right to life. You can't give gay people the right to demand the services they want from whom they want them without robbing the service provider of the right to sell their services to whomever they wish to sell them. There is always a price. Some ideals cannot be legislated without sacrificing other ideals.

I mourn for our country. Not because gay marriage is becoming legal, but because of the way that victory is being won and the intentions in the hearts of those who are winning it. Such desire to silence opposition exists everywhere, male and female, gay and straight, religious and secular, but when it is popular and celebrated—when it is in power—there is no one who will escape the price.

Yet, despite my sorrow for the sins of this world, I know in whom I trust. The Book of Mormon is now more than ever before an obvious warning to the righteous, a chance to prepare. We may be called to lay down our lives as so many before us have. But if we keep the love of God in our hearts even as the mobs mock and ridicule, we will have a rock of faith through the trials to come.

“O, ye nations of the earth, how often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not!

“How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!”
D&C 43:24-25

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Facebook Page

Though it feels rather uncomfortable and egotistical, I've created a Facebook Page for myself. There, I will post thoughts that don't make it into a post, links, and comments I make in other blogs. Hopefully, it will be used wisely.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Choosing Happiness

This post on pain and choosing happiness is beautiful. Choosing to be happy rather than bitter often takes work. But it's worth it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

No Rules, No Promises, No Happy Ending

"A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead."
Luke 10:30

Have you ever noticed that not many of Jesus' parables have an ending? We don't know what ultimately happened to the good Samaritan. Was he rewarded for his deed? Did the wounded man heal? What about the five virgins who were turned away? And the man with the one talent? Did he learn from his mistake?

Contrasted with the stories we tend to tell each other today, where sacrifice is rewarded and sorrow is always temporary, we are left wanting to know what's next. There is some primal part of us, deep in our psyches, that yearns to know that the good guys "lived happily ever after." Walt Disney built an empire on it.

My life isn't an "okay in the end" kind of life right now. I'm being held in a liminal state, where I know where I want to be, I think I know where God wants me to be, but I have no idea how to get there. It is sheer agony for someone who has always worked for a goal, tried to become something.

That happy ending seems impossible from this end of the very long, dark tunnel. So I've been digging deeply into my heart, learning to let go of tomorrow's ending so that I can dive into today's opportunities to minister. I'm not very good at it yet, but the seeds of true charity are starting to sprout.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Year In A Glimpse—2013

It's kind of a tradition of mine to create Wordles of what I have written about over the year. I find it interesting, maybe you will too....

This year, I also created one made from the titles of the posts I did not publish. Not all of them were fully written, but it does give a glimpse into things that were on my mind, but didn't make it to a full post.

May this year be one of growth and joy, just as last year was.

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