Recently my church revised a long-standing policy which has gotten a lot of members and non-members alike in an uproar. I admit as I'm typing I have a lump in my throat. I'm anxious to express my feelings but hope I can do so in a sensitive, loving way.
You may have heard, but to get up to speed visit HERE to watch a 10 minute video all about it.
I have been mulling this over in my head quite a bit and wanted to talk about my feelings. Today in church a member of the bishopric asked the young women what they thought about this "issue" (I'm a leader in that organization and was blessed to be there to hear the girl's thoughts). These sweet girls were so brave. Some were really upset. Some were really confused. Others seemed to feel that it made sense. One comment has been coming back to me over and over and it's this: "I think it's stupid. Children shouldn't be punished for the sins of their parents." I've heard this a lot lately and have felt to share my thoughts.
Punishment. In our mortal minds and hearts, yes, that's what it would be. That's what it feels like. I can't imagine coming from a home where I have two moms or two dads and my church, the church I love so much, telling me I can't be baptized at 8 like everyone else. I have to wait until I'm at least 18. It would hurt, I'm sure. The church is about love and acceptance of all people, so why?
Hopefully my insight will help those struggling with this rather than cause deeper hurt or anger. Let's open our hearts to what God wants us to know and put off what we think is best for ourselves.
Let me explain two things I know before I dive into the previous statements and questions I've posed.
1. I know God lives and that He loves us. I know his son, Jesus Christ, atoned for ALL MEN and that we can ALL be forgiven of our sins. It's only once we are made clean that we are ready to dwell in their presence. No unclean thing can enter in the kingdom of God. We must repent when we've sinned.
2. Sin is sin. Religions around the globe, mine included, love and accept all people as they are. We do! We want all to come to church! We welcome all because we believe in the Atonement's ability to heal and change hearts. We want all to know and experience this. But what needs to happen to feel that redemption is that people need to forsake sin. They need to acknowledge sin for what it is, do their best to forsake it, and not accept it because the world has.
In a way I've already answered my above question. If the gospel is about love and acceptance, why would this be happening? The answer is a simple one, really. We love all. We accept all. But we do not accept sin. We recognize that all of us, in our own way, accept certain sins temporarily in that we are daily committing them... but when we've sinned, we look toward God to forgive us. We take the sacrament weekly to renew our promise to be that much more like our Savior Jesus Christ. It's a process. We are mortal, and weak, so it's kind of a slow process at that. That's okay. But, God has set the standard for us on what is right and what is wrong. HE makes the call, not us. Our mortal minds are so narrow- we have a very limited view of what eternity is. It's our responsibility, and privilege to follow God's will. It's the only safe way back to Him.
Article of Faith #2 (there are 13 Articles of Faith in the church) states: "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression."
Many have brought this up as a contradiction to the revised policy. Let me share what I have felt as I've prayed for clarity. The "punishment" mentioned here in this Article of Faith is referring to our final judgement. When I go to meet my maker I will not be punished for the sins of my parents. I will be judged on MY works in this life, and my works alone. To view this policy as a punishment is looking at it as a mortal would. We think our lives are long, we have fears of missing out, and we have very limited eternal perspective. God, on the other hand, comprehends all. He knows there's a MUCH, much bigger picture. He knows that no matter what, ALL WILL have the chance to be baptized, if they want to. There's nothing any of His children will ultimately miss out on, NOTHING. It may require faith and patience in many people's lives, yes, but all will work out. Think about the times you have been called to endure a trial or be patient. Perhaps that thing was the very thing that led you to God in the first place. Trials are our greatest blessings when we view them correctly. At least in my life, every trial I've been called to endure has brought me closer to God. This is all a GOOD thing. People who are questioning and praying about this, good for you! How else will you know for yourself what is right unless you ask God.
There are reasons the church has revised this and it's referenced in the video. By listening to it, you just might have insight on the policy that you didn't before. Maybe it will make sense to you finally, maybe not. Not everyone is going to agree with this policy and perhaps that's because first and foremost, they don't believe that homosexuality is sin. It's not new that the church believes that- that has ALWAYS been the stance of Christ's church- that marriage is to be between one man and one woman. I honestly believe that this policy hasn't been hard for me to accept because I do know that. I also believe in my church- and have a strong testimony that it is led by a prophet of God, who is inspired by God, to help us through this life. Much like the prophets of old like Adam, Noah, Abraham, or Moses... we have a prophet today that speaks for God. Because I know this, it's easy for me to want to follow what he says. It's not the popular thing always. It's not the easy thing. To others it might make me look unaccepting of people who are different than me. I know it looks like that but it shouldn't, because that's not what it is. I truly do value and love people of other religions and beliefs. But I know what I know and even if I do value others I have to stand firm in what is right and what is wrong. I owe it to God to put His laws before anything else.
I know that God loves all people. I do not think for one second that because I haven't had homosexual tendencies that I'm better than those that have. Quite the contrary. I view us as equally flawed beings that need to work things out. Trust me, I have things to work out. I don't know that I will ever understand what it feels like to be called apostate for something I really do feel within me. But I understand the plan of Salvation. I understand how important it is that as a woman, I'm married to a man. The definition of apostate is: "a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle." If you are homosexual and have accepted this lifestyle then you are not in complete harmony with the teachings of the church. This isn't new doctrine and shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who understands the gospel. What I hope is that this title, "apostate", stirs something within people who have accepted this lifestyle as the way it should be. God says it's not- even if it feels right. The natural man is an enemy to God (Mosiah 3:19) therefore we shouldn't allow our mortal frames to take charge of what our spirits know to be right. We can deceive ourselves if we are not careful- we need the Spirit to teach us what is right and not be fooled by the evil influences in the world around us.
I know that ultimately everyone will see and understand as perfectly as God does. In the meantime, love is the answer. Love as best we can and as far reaching as possible so that our fellow humans on this earth can have a taste of what God feels for them. Debating is not the answer, bible bashing is not the answer... what we each need is to individually seek our Heavenly Father and the rest will unfold as it should. But just love one another in the meantime. I know people who have chosen to be homosexual and I don't think they are nasty, horrible, human beings. I just know that their weaknesses are different than mine. No one wants to hear that they have weaknesses. No one wants to accept when they are less than perfect - but the reality is that no one, other than our Savior Jesus Christ, has ever been perfect. You can have weakness and fault and huge sins and still be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's not a church where we condemn those who are imperfect or who have different tendencies- it's a hospital for the broken! That said, God's laws are what they are. It's a home where we are all striving to be on the same page as God, to bend our will to His. This isn't an issue about hate or intolerance- it's about following our Savior. If I were to openly accept things I knew to be wrong there would be consequences for me, too. I couldn't go into the temple if I wasn't actively trying to do things the way God wanted me to. No one expects perfection- but God wants our best efforts.
Today I helped my toddler walk down an unfamiliar set of stairs. I thought about this recent news and that set of stairs and my young child and everything came together. We are like the child, the set of stairs is this life. The one holding our hand is our Savior, Jesus Christ. He doesn't yank us down those stairs... He's not impatient. He doesn't expect perfect performance and He's not surprised when we have some hesitation. He doesn't expect us to go at any certain pace or to be able to handle it alone. When we can handle it alone, I'm sure He's happy- but if we need a helping hand, He's there and certainly willing to give it. We are still learning, still trusting, hoping we don't fall, but we are going at our own pace in this life to make sense of it all. There's no need to think that just because one person steps down a little faster that they are better. It's okay for this and all issues to take some time in our hearts. God loves us. He won't give up on us. We can understand and know what God's purpose is for us on this earth, that much I know.
*If you have questions for me feel free to email but know that I'm not a spokesperson for the church, I'm just a member of it who has been blessed with understanding of this policy for myself. I sustain and follow the leaders of the church because I know they were called of God in their leadership positions. I'm not blindly following my leaders because I go by what the Holy Ghost teaches me as I listen to them. I pray about things and study to know what is right. It's my individual testimony that propels me to follow God and His counsel. Without my effort, I would just be blindly following or leading on the testimony of others- but that's not the case. The church encourages ALL to find their own answers and testimonies. Moroni 10:4 "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."