Friday, July 10, 2015

Punishment without Volition

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn from my marriage was about agency. We often talk about agency like it's "free will" or the power to choose. But it is inarguable that the vast majority of us are very much "punished...for Adam's transgression." Here on earth, mortality is one long experience of being punished for the mistakes and sins of others.

Most of my tear-streaked nights were spent wrestling over the effect my divorce was going to have on my children and my eternity. I stayed in a marriage which had nothing to offer me almost from day one because I believed in the covenants I had made in the temple. I believed that if I was patient, things would work out for good. I thought that my ex would eventually see how much a covenant life had to offer, that he would be able to forgive me my failure, and we could work together towards God.

But that wasn't to be.

And because I failed at changing that reality, my children would be torn between two households, and would be left alone in unsafe circumstances. Because of me and my sins, my children would suffer. That thought was unbearable.

There's chatter right now about homosexuality. People are born with a certain orientation, they say. Sexuality is an essential aspect of our existence. Therefore, we teach homosexuals are eternally cut off from God's presence because of something they didn't choose. Our teaching that is cruel and heart-rending. We need to change.

This line of reasoning betrays a clear lack of understanding of the Plan of Salvation. I don't blame people for misunderstanding, because had it not been for my sure knowledge of innocents suffering because of my actions and the revelation I have received for myself on that matter, I'd probably think the same.

There are several points of truth that must be understood to grapple with the notion of being "forever punished" because of something we can't help. In no particular order:

First, everyone is fallen. No one is perfect. We didn't choose to eat of the fruit of the tree, yet we are eternally damned because of Adam and Eve's actions. Were it not for the Atonement, which covers all sins, shortcomings, failures, and suffering due to no action of our own, we would be guaranteed eternal suffering. Homosexuality is only one possible point on the continuum of failure to live up to God's commandments.

Only Christ can pay for others' suffering. We can do our best to not hurt people, but ultimately we will fail. Any efforts we make to be "kind" to people against the doctrines and judgments of God only means that we are holding their hand and walking with them down to hell: eternal separation from the only source that can truly bring them joy. God isn't uncaring. He IS compassion. He proved that by dying on the cross. Yet, He still has laws. He still teaches us standards. Think about that for a moment.

Second, homosexuality (like many other things) has absolutely no place in the eternal Plan of Happiness. It is inarguably incompatible with eternal increase and becoming like God the Father. Without binary sexuality, there are no fathers, no mothers. Anything that approaches same-sex parenthood was achieved by working around the core principle of man/woman, male/female. As Mormons, we believe that something about binary sexuality is essential to eternal life and exaltation. If you don't believe that, you are choosing to reject part of your religion. (Which you are free to do, but don't lie to yourself and pretend it's in alignment with doctrine. It's not.)

Third, Agency doesn't guarantee choice. That's right. Agency =/= choice. None of us have all choices open to us. None of us have the chance to be anything we want to be. We are far better served by submitting to mortality, whether that means gender ambiguity or any other mortal failing, and learning what we can from it while we are here. Mortality is temporary. Christ has already beaten it. Take the chance to learn while you have it, because it's not coming back.

Fourth, compassion is not necessarily tolerance. I have a great deal of compassion for my ex-husband. He has chosen a miserable life for himself, one where he uses people and is immersed in a win/lose dynamic. Either you are the victor or the victim. I pity that greatly. He has let the experiences in his life color his perceptions to the point where his assumptions that I was in competition with him destroyed our marriage and has robbed him of the chance to really know his daughters. I don't know if he will always choose that life. I truly hope not. But all my compassion in the world will not open the doors of my life to him again. The man he is will never be welcome in my life. I have zero tolerance for abusive behavior, no matter how much I have compassion for the choices he has made which create that behavior.

We can have compassion for someone who is engaging in behavior which forever separates them from God, without offering a "fellowship" which mimics that divine unity. Given that God Himself has declared the laws by which we should live, it is far more charitable to NOT compromise, NOT to pretend to something that can never be, than it is to offer a false balm to wounded hearts. We don't have to sacrifice the laws of God on the altar of compassion. The zero-sum choice between kindness and truth is a lie. The only real kindness IS truth, even if it seems to bring nothing but pain at first.

Fifth, the entire point of Christ is to help us overcome our essential natures. Even if homosexuality is not a choice, and is part of our existence, Christ changes us. As we learn to rely on Him, to welcome the changes He makes in our hearts, we gain peace, joy, and power to salvation. I have been continually surprised by the changes my heart and mind have made over the years. Sexuality only is a defining characteristic if we choose to let it be. We are so much more than our sex drive.

Last, if you do not believe that this doctrine of mothers AND fathers comes from God, you do not believe in the divine governance of this Church. Face that reality for what it is. Be honest with yourself. You are doing yourself and "the gays" no favors by pretending to be a member in full standing when you disagree with a core tenet. I plead with you to do as I have done, and wrestle before God. Take the points of doctrine that you do not agree with and bring them to Him. If you are humble, His Spirit will teach you truth. Be brave, and act on what you feel to be true, on what He teaches you. How long will you waver between two opinions?

There is no salvation, but through Christ. And I believe there is no other Church authorized by Him. I say that as someone who has felt marginalized in the Church my entire life because of core aspects of my existence. Gays don't have the monopoly on that.

When the rubber hits the road, you have to decide which seat you're sitting in: are you letting Christ drive, or are you grabbing the wheel? Are we followers of Christ, or not? Do we believe that the Atonement covers all sin and weakness or not? Do we believe that the Apostles have been called by Him to lead His Church or not?

It's not enough to go to church, fulfill our callings, hold a temple recommend, and pay lip service to our church membership. We need to do better.

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