I’ve skimmed the last few years of general conference talks, and a clear pattern emerges. We are repeatedly admonished by church leaders to “love and honor”, “reach out the hand of fellowship”, “seek out and befriend”, and “welcome into church” a particular group of people. Our leaders are speaking about gays and lesbians.
In every instance I can find, whenever we have been instructed on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, we have also been taught about our obligations that I quoted in the previous paragraph. President Hinckley sometimes said that he wanted to emphasize those obligations. Why does this matter? Answer: Because in recent weeks, every most of our discussions that have taken place in the bloggernacle e-ward have taken the easy way out. We make it pretty clear that we not only hate reject the sin, we hate reject the sinner, too.
When the topic is Heavenly Mother or the origins of the priesthood ban, folks who fancy themselves to be orthodox admonish the rest of us about going beyond what the church has explicitly taught. Why, then, are those same good and smart people so quick to go beyond what the church has said about the recent California supreme court ruling? The church’s official statement reiterated its position that male/female marriage has traditionally been the foundation of society, and that the California decision is unfortunate. That’s all. Our online community immediately went into overdrive, churning out all kinds of dubious slippery slope arguments that the church has the good sense to avoid.
I invite you to read through the hundreds of comments of the past two weeks, if you have the stomach for it. Then ask yourself these questions: Does it sound like these people are loving and honoring homosexual people? Is there even a remote possibility that any of these comments can be seen as welcoming, and as an extension of the hand of fellowship?
The church has taken an official position against same-sex marriage. It has simultaneously emphasized that its members are to befriend, love, and honor gay people. That is a tightrope than many of us find difficult to walk. Let’s be careful about taking the easy way out. Until we are prepared to keep both parts of that counsel, we probably ought to be careful about saying anything at all. In particular, we ought to be careful about styling ourselves as humble followers of the prophet when we choose to ignore half of what he says.