Tuesday, January 27, 2015

You Can Believe In Traditional Marriage Without Being A Bigot

I'm standing in front of the firing squad for this one.

Today the LDS Church held a news conference to discuss religious liberties and non discrimination laws. I both cheered and cringed along the way.

I have a long history of interest in gay rights and finding common ground and understanding with the religious right. I believe that every person should be treated with kindness and respect as a human being. Hearing the LDS Church take a definitive stand on housing and employment non discrimination laws made me want to cheer. I am embarrassed and appalled that members of the LDS church would ever consider refusing to house an LGBT individual or couple or refuse to employ someone of the same category. I applaud the conference today that irrefutably told these individuals that they were in the wrong as far as the LDS Church was concerned. The Utah legislature is currently set to debate bills which would give these legal protections to LGBT individuals in the State. While there was much speculation on whether or not the law would pass this session, it can now be assumed that it will indeed pass this legislative session.


Religious liberties are the topic that tends to make me cringe the most. I wonder how members will misinterpret the statements from today as an excuse to continue in bigotry. The LDS Church has a vested interest in protecting the religious liberties that allow for their foundational belief of eternal marriages performed in the temple. It is vitally important to their basic doctrine to protect the right to limit who can be married in their most sacred buildings. There are other religious liberties they wish to protect as well, like abortion as was mentioned specifically.

There is a huge difference between religious liberties that protect you from are morally and religiously opposed to, and religious liberties that allow you to refuse service to people you are morally and religiously opposed to. The first protects your freedoms to choose and believe in what you want, the second just makes you a messed up bigoted jerk face.

If you are a doctor that believes that abortion is murder and that murder is morally wrong then the constitution should protect you from being forced to murder someone.

If you are a business owner of an event center who believes in traditional marriage, the constitution should not protect you from refusing to rent your facilities to a gay couple because you don't like them.

The first situation is the protection of religious liberties. The second situation is just someone who is messed up.

I cringe that LDS folks may take some of what was said today and use it as an excuse to be mean to the LGBT community. Let's be clear one what our real doctrine is.

Jesus Christ commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

I promise you can attend a gay wedding, be friends with a gay person, photograph a gay wedding, and more without going to hell. For reals. I think you are much more likely to go to hell for refusing to attend a gay wedding, bullying a gay person, and refusing serve to a gay person. But let's face it, Mormons don't really believe in hell so just take hell as meaning not going to the Celestial Kingdom (the top tier of heaven). That's right, I think being mean to gay people can keep you out of the CK.

Bigotry totally exists in the LDS Church. I'm not going to pretend otherwise (as some do). I have seen it time and time again and it makes me want to vomit every single time.

I believe in a doctrine in my church that God has ordained marriage between a man and a woman to be a celestial union that will continue after this earth. I also believe in a doctrine in my church that God loves every single of his children equally. In the eyes of my God I am not superior than my LGBT brothers and sisters in any way. Treating these brothers and sisters as anything less than children of God is unacceptable, un-Christ like, and un-Godly.

I don't think that these beliefs are in conflict with each other at all. I believe they can exist in perfect harmony. I can believe in traditional marriage without being a bigot.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Mormon Elitist Problem

Sometimes the Mormon community can have a bit of an elitist problem. As "the only true church" we occasionally get caught up in the idea that we are somehow better than others. You can see this in the rhetoric we use at the pulpit on Sundays. 

Just last week I heard two separate individuals stand at the pulpit expressing a testimony in which they proclaimed their belief in the only true church and expressed their commitment to being an example to others. 

A few weeks before that I visited a ward in which a teacher expressed that the blessing of living in close proximity to a temple was a result of her righteousness in the pre-existence.

Something about these kind of statements rubs me the wrong way. They wreak of elitism. 

What happens when individuals proclaim to be an example to others, and then inevitably fail to live up to the standard they proclaim to exemplify? It is hypocrisy and it drives people away. When I hear individuals encouraging others, including teenagers and children, to be an example to others I have a little panic attack. 

Jesus Christ is the only example to others. If we try to set ourselves up as the example we will always fall short. 

Jesus Christ did not ask us to be an example to others. He asked us to be an example of the believers. These are completely different concepts. 

What does a follower of Christ (or example of a believer) look like? Certainly they can take a number of forms from Mother Teresa, to Joseph Smith, to the lady down the street. The number one thing they all have in common is that they are sinners that recognize they are in need of the grace of Jesus Christ. 

True believers don't set themselves up above anyone. 

True believers recognize that God loves all His children, not just the righteous ones, the rich ones, or the ones belonging to a certain denomination.

True believers seek out ways to show the love of Christ to others. 

True believers point others to Christ. They don't take the credit for themselves, they give it to Christ. 

Being an example of the believers is a beautiful thing. It allows the light and love of Jesus Christ to spread in a darkened world. 

I hesitate to even get started on the pre-existence elitism. We know very little about the pre-existence in general. We know nothing of our own personal choices and actions there.

Suggesting that any sort of benefit or blessing in this life is a result of your righteousness in the pre-existence is completely egotistical and implies that others are innately less deserving of blessings. Any time someone makes these statements I want to scream! Think about what you are saying for a minute!

The elitist problem is a big turn off. It sets us up as being hypocrites. Mormons aren't better than anyone. They are not more innately righteous. They are not more deserving of God's love. They are not more adept at being Christ-like. 

What Mormons claim to have is additional truth. Being "the only true church" doesn't mean that other churches are all completely bad and wrong. Mormons believe that God has given something extra to the entire world, not just the Mormons. We believe we have a duty to share that message because it is intended for everyone, not just those in the LDS Church. God didn't give this extra information to the LDS Church because they are special. He gave it to the entire world because all of His children are special. 

We can join with millions of Christians around the world in being an example of the believers.  The sheer responsibility of being an example of the believers is humbling. Being an example of the believers requires a deep sense of humility.  

Humility. Isn't it about time?

As for being an example to the unbelievers? Well, that's much better left to Jesus Christ. He never fails.