None of us with perfect knowledge, or all of us with love

calvin-susieFrom the Church’s new Doctrinal Mastery materials on “Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge“:

Invite a student to read aloud the following account shared by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for how a young woman acted in faith when faced with a challenging situation:

“Recently, I spoke with a Laurel from the United States. I quote from her email:

“‘This past year some of my friends on Facebook began posting their position on marriage. Many favored same-sex marriage, and several LDS youth indicated they “liked” the postings. I made no comment.

“‘I decided to declare my belief in traditional marriage in a thoughtful way.

“‘With my profile picture, I added the caption “I believe in marriage between a man and a woman.” Almost instantly I started receiving messages. “You are selfish.” “You are judgmental.” One compared me to a slave owner. And I received this post from a great friend who is a strong member of the Church: “You need to catch up with the times. Things are changing and so should you.”

“‘I did not fight back,’ she said, ‘but I did not take my statement down.’

“She concludes: ‘Sometimes, as President Monson said, “You have to stand alone.”

*   *   *

A different version of her experience might read something like this:

“‘This past year some of my friends on Facebook began posting their position on marriage. Many opposed same-sex marriage, and several LDS youth indicated they “liked” the postings. I made no comment.

“‘I decided to declare my belief in marriage equality in a thoughtful way.

“‘With my profile picture, I added the caption “I believe in marriage equality.” Almost instantly I started receiving messages. “You are an apostate.” “You are being judgmental of the faithful.” One compared me to Korihor from the Book of Mormon. And I received this post from a great friend who is a strong member of the Church: “You are being sifted as chaff from the wheat. You are a tare. How could you be a Mormon and think that?”

“‘I did not fight back,’ she said, ‘but I did not take my statement down. Instead, I reminded them what Elder Christofferson said: “We have individual members in the church with a variety of different opinions, beliefs and positions on these issues and other issues…In our view, it doesn’t really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders — if that’s a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines.” Any Mormon can have a belief “on either side of this issue,” Elder Christofferson said. “That’s not uncommon.”

“‘Then I told them I’m not attacking the church or its leaders and that I do not want people to leave the church. I grieve every time it happens. I want the church to be a place where everyone can find God’s love and mercy.'”

*   *   *

In the first example, as in the second, a person took a risk by expressing a personal belief that, depending on the context, could seem wildly unpopular. As Elder Andersen observed, they risked having to stand, in some sense, alone. Perhaps these two people, the real one in the first example and the hypothetical one in the second, could begin to appreciate each other more if they recognized the same sort of vulnerability in the other as they felt in themselves. Perhaps that would help them deal more charitably with each other.

I believe that how we treat each other—especially when it comes to the things we disagree most about—is a generally reliable indicator of the level of our Christian discipleship. As John 13.35 has it, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Beneath our disagreements we share so much more in common. Our household of faith will become more Christlike as we learn how to love each other in spite of our differences. If we can be united on this one single idea, we will be united in the one thing that ultimately matters today. We’re all still learning. If you know a member of the church who has different perspectives on various issues like gay marriage, gun rights, abortion, or whether mothers should work outside of the home—whatever it is, I swear to you they need your friendship and love so much more than your correction, especially if their opinion places them in a minority position within the church.

It’s so difficult and scary to stand alone, whether you feel more alone within the church community or beyond it where standards sometimes differ from the church’s. Conservative, liberal, all the labels we use for ourselves and each other—these “ite” labels we really do love too dearly to ever quite relinquish (much like our predecessors in the Book of Mormon)—love could transcend them.

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t talk about our disagreements, either. I’m suggesting that our love for each other should be manifest in so many other ways that such conversations will be saturated with it already. I’m suggesting that our love shouldn’t be made conditional upon their agreement with us on any particular point.

If you’re right and they’re wrong, you can rest assured they will find out the truth someday. And if you’re wrong and they are right, you will, too. But either way you’ll be bonded together through your love for each other in spite of your differences. And you don’t have to wait to find out about that. You can try to make that happen today. I constantly screw it up, myself, I know how unrealistic it is in practice. But it remains my ideal because that’s what the gospel really looks like to me. It seems like my only hope because I can’t possibly be right about everything and if that’s what it takes to be saved I’ll never make it. Who could?

Our options are none of us with perfect knowledge or all of us with love. It’s like Paul said:

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13.8-13 NRSV, see also the KJV passage.)

I can think of no more important sermon than this for American members of the church facing the next presidential election.

(Please let your comments reflect the spirit of my post.)

Comments

  1. I’m not seeing this instruction in the link. Is it associated with a particular context — seminary? Sunday school?

    Somewhat related — see new church video that shows two young women ( one Mormon, one not). It seems to be written as if prop 8 never happened…..

  2. BHodges says:

    Lch: try the link again. I think the URL might have been incorrect.

  3. Jason K. says:

    Thanks, BHodges, especially for the part about making sure there’s a good foundation of love underneath the things we disagree about.

  4. Amen, Brother Blair. You have shown me love on an earlier thread and I thank you for it. “Love is the only rational act.” I hope I do as well unto others as you did unto me.

  5. Is it possible to sustain the Brethren and post on Facebook your support for gay marriage (even if you sincerely post that you love the church and don’t want people to leave it)? While this article nicely articulates the importance of loving those we disagree with, is this an attempt to justify or advocate same-sex marriage within the LDS church?

  6. New video on respecting differences and defending religious freedom. A similar approach…..

  7. BHodges says:

    Thank you, cat. I’m glad you lent your voice there and here.

    Mike Harris: Thanks for the question and kind words. No, this post isn’t an “attempt to justify or advocate same-sex marriage within the LDS church.” It’s a post about how we might deal, according to the gospel, with the fact that church members have different views on various difficult issues.

  8. Blair, this is wonderful.

    Mike, Blair can speak for himself, but the answer to your first question is yes, and the answer to your second question is no, I believe.

  9. mikerharris says:

    BHodges and jaredkcook, I was afraid that I might get vilified for my post. Thanks for your kind responses.

    bhodges, How would answer my first question? And jaredkcook, Why do you say “yes” to that question?

    I’m curious because I’ve known priesthood leaders whose stance was to withhold the temple recommend from those persistently advocating gay marriage in social media or even with conversations with family, friends and associates. Moreover, recently in a leadership mtg with a member of the 12, unless I misunderstood (which is possible), bishops were instructed to lovingly meet with the individual, hear them out and with love unfeigned, pure knowledge, etc. invite them to discontinue going public with such statements. If they persisted, then withholding the temple recommend might need to occur.

    Your perspective and insights will be gratefully received.

  10. orangganjil says:

    Also, under the “Prophets and Revelation” section, Elder Nelson’s pronouncement of the November policy being a revelation is provided as an example of modern revelation from today’s prophets, as well as a description of how they obtain that revelation.

  11. Mike Harris, given the repeated statements from the 12 that faithful members can disagree on matters of gay marriage, it seems quite wrong that a priesthood leader would withhold recommends on that basis. It would be an unauthorized addition to the established policy surrounding the recommend.

  12. @Mike –

    I can only speak for myself but I have no internal conflict or church conflict with supporting SSM or the LGBT community. I spent six to seven years praying, receiving answers, pondering, etc., before reaching a place of complete peace on the matter. I recently spoke with a member of our stake presidency about my situation and his goal the entire time was to get me to get a temple recommend. Barring that, he didn’t seem to care that I saw things differently. (I don’t have a temple recommend by choice, not worthiness – another area of my relationship to the church that I am at peace about.) I will add that I am not an overt, flag-swinging, ally (in err this… and every other area of life. Not my personality.) and I think the fact that I just quietly go about wearing my rainbow necklace on gay pride weekend and teach/comment for kindness and understanding (for all outsider groups, not just LGBT) without pushing other people’s boundaries makes it easier.

  13. FarSide says:

    Mike Harris,

    I’m reasonably confident that, 40 years ago, someone raised the same question (albeit, not on social media) regarding whether a Latter-day Saint can sustain church leaders while publicly disagreeing with the Priesthood ban.

    I am not saying that the church is wrong about its current stance on gay marriage (and I’m not saying it is right, either). What I am saying is that the church does not always get it right, which is one of several reasons why it is unwise to sacrifice one’s agency on the altar of reflexive obedience. Further, in certain instances it is quite possible that the answer to the doctrinal dilemma du jour is not an “either/or” proposition. Perhaps both sides of the gay marriage question are wrong to some extent.

    “Sustain” does not mean “agree with.” Indeed, one of the most valuable sustaining services a loyal follower of any organization can provide is challenging the status quo, in a civil and non-confrontational manner. Leaders who are receptive to new ideas and are not insecure, generally are not threatened by questions or criticism.

  14. As John 13.35 has it, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Amazing how quickly I forget this line, but equally wonderful is the hope that such a simple line brings flooding back.

  15. John Mansfield says:

    So, let’s hear some examples of loving Trump supporters.

  16. Stir Fry says:

    Question for those in support of “marriage equality,” including you, Blair. Do you believe that, in the eyes of God, same-sex marriage is legitimate, or illegitimate?

    If legitimate, what interpretative framework do you apply to the teachings of the scriptures and the Church to arrive at that conclusion?

    If illegitimate, why would you support a practice that you believe is actually illegitimate in the eyes of God, and likely harmful to the eternal well being of those who practice it? Do you vocalize your beliefs that same-sex marriage, while politically acceptable, is contrary to the laws of God (on facebook, etc.)- or do you leave others to inaccurately think that you believe that same-sex marriage is as legitimate in every sense as opposite-sex marriage?

    I have yet to see a “marriage equality” proponent say something to the effect of, “I support your political right to married and to damn yourself before God.” Why such silence?

  17. Jason K. says:

    John Mansfield: that’s an excellent point, and there’s a good argument to be made that much of Trump’s success has to do with our collective failure to love those who are now his supporters.

    Stir Fry: I suspect the silence has to do with the fact that many supporters of marriage equality simply don’t believe that gay marriage damns its participants. It’s easy to forget that there are churches and people (including people in our church) who have conscientiously and prayerfully arrived at their decision to support it, just as there are people and churches who conscientiously and prayerfully oppose it. Rehashing the arguments about the scriptural support (or lack thereof) for either position is a little beside the point, which is, rather, that people can differ. One person might read Romans 1 and conclude that God has spoken unequivocally against homosexuality. Another person can read the same chapter and conclude that the relevant verses reflect Roman sexual mores that have little in common with those now in place (the discussion of gender in the Family Proclamation would be alien to the Romans, for instance)–that the condemnation has more to do with the culture than with God. Because both readings import assumptions about what the text is and how it works, the bare text can support both of them, and the post is asking whether people who read one way can live in charitable community with those who read the other way, and vice versa. I hope that the answer can be yes.

  18. Mike, Steve answered your question the way I would. I think the OP also had the answer, though it was perhaps not obvious, in the quote from Elder Christofferson. Perhaps the question you are asking is whether mentioning on facebook that you support gay marriage constitutes “attacking the church and its leaders — if that’s a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines.” I don’t think it does, but I guess that could depend on the nature and content of the facebook posts.

  19. “Question for those in support of “marriage equality,” including you, Blair. Do you believe that, in the eyes of God, same-sex marriage is legitimate, or illegitimate?”

    I have no idea. I have prayed and prayed and prayed about this very specific question starting in 2008 (I live in CA). This used to get me rather mad. How could I pray so much, be so diligent, and not receive a straight-forward answer to a straight-forward question?

    The things is though, I was receiving an answer everytime I prayed, it just wasn’t the one I was expecting or wanting. The first time it happened was the most most spiritual experience of my life. God specifically told me to ‘be kind to those who see the world differently than you do.’ That’s all. And then message was repeated until I finally ‘got’ it. That is my interpretive framework.

    It took me years to puzzle this out. But peace came when I realized that for me (and I only speak for me, that is another piece of the lesson), He doesn’t actually care about man made laws on who gets to marry who or who puts what up on FB or who chastises whom for damning themselves (or loving themselves). He doesn’t care how I vote or whether I wear a rainbow necklace or whether I agree with the Proc. All of that is my choice. Realizing such (again through prayer) brought me to a place of absolute peace on the matter. Because in His eyes legitimate vs. illegitimate is the wrong question. Kindness (charity) is the question. He’ll figure out the rest with each individual by Himself.

    Or in (my own) more scriptural words (1 Cor 13:8): Prophecies fail, tongues fail, knowledge fails, charity never faileth. It seems to me that interpreting God’s ‘legitimacy’ falls under the category of knowledge.

  20. In addition to Jason’s answer, I would add that it is probably the same reason that you don’t see a lot of people saying things like “I support your political right to oppress the hireling in his wages and damn yourself before God,” or “I support your political right to indulge yourself in pride and wear costly apparel and damn yourself before God,” or “I support your political right to use the resources of God’s creation with extortion and excess and damn yourself before God,” or “I support your political right to not confess God’s hand in all things and give thanks and damn yourself before God,” or “I support your political right to indulge in gluttony and in the use of harmful substances and damn yourself before God,” or ” I support your political right to withhold your substance from the poor and believe that they have brought their misery upon themselves and damn yourself before God,” or, most fundamentally, “I support your political right to refuse to believe in Christ and damn yourself before God”–because expressing support for the idea that something can or should be legally permitted does not mean that you support people actually doing it.

    So even if you do share the belief that gay marriage is illegitimate from a perspective of divine law, the fact that you might also believe that the state can or should permit it does not undermine or contradict that belief.

    And also, if your goal is conversion, rather than self-satisfaction, experience has shown that in most cases, with only a few exceptions, people in general respond much more quickly to love unfeigned and service, combined with simple, honest, personal teaching of gospel truth, than they do to declarations of damnation or public, impersonal declaration of gospel truths, which often seem to do little more than satisfy the person making them, and can actually harm the cause of conversion.

  21. I would also add, this kind of taps into something I occasionally hear, that expressing support for a legal right to do something you don’t agree with can “send the wrong message,” or that expressing love or forgiveness to sinners might “send the wrong message” that you support sin. But I respectfully suggest that is not always the right question to ask. “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” goes the adage, but too often people pay a lot more attention to hating the sin than to loving the sinner. Hating the sin is too often the emphasis, and loving the sinner is too often an afterthought, which is exactly backwards.

    Jesus’s example is instructive to me. With the woman caught in adultery, Jesus simply told her that he did not condemn her. He didn’t say “Neither do I condemn you. But don’t get me wrong, I definitely condemn adultery, and by not condemning you I’m not saying that adultery is okay or forgiveable” and make a big show of how much he really doesn’t like adultery. Or with the man he healed on the sabbath, he didn’t say “Take up thy bed and walk. But don’t get me wrong, I totally condemn sabbath-breaking, and by telling you to carry your bed, I’m not saying it’s okay to break the sabbath, I’m actually telling you to do something that it lawful to do on the sabbath, it’s just that the rule against carrying your bed is not divinely sanctioned, so my telling you to carry it should not be taken as permission to go break the sabbath.” He simply healed him, and people were free to draw whatever incorrect conclusions they wanted to from that–and many did. It’s my belief that Jesus didn’t bother with backpedaling or clarifying because he knew that the conclusions people draw from his words and actions say more about them than they do about him, and that is between them and God.

  22. John Mansfield says:

    “So even if you do share the belief that gay marriage is illegitimate from a perspective of divine law, the fact that you might also believe that the state can or should permit it does not undermine or contradict that belief.”—jaredkcook

    There are many feel that way about availability of alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana—that no one should use those things, that it’s even sinful to use them, but that there should not be laws abolishing their use by those who wish to do things they shouldn’t. When it comes to any-sex marriage though, that logically possible stance seems only hypothetical: I don’t think there is anyone who supports the legal marriage of homosexual pairs who also thinks such unions are a state of sin.

  23. John Mansfield, I disagree. I personally know at least 2 or 3.

  24. Also, John, “supports the legal marriage of homosexual pairs” might be a bit murky.

    Here’s where I am, personally: I accept the truth of church’s teaching on the law of chastity. But under Obergefell, gay marriage is now the law of the land, and I think it is wrong for a civil servant invested with the power to solemnize marriages to refuse to provide that service to gay couples. Does that make me one who “supports the legal marriage of homosexual pairs”? I think it arguably does. If so, then I am personally a non-hypothetical example.

  25. John Mansfield, may I introduce myself to you? I’ve come — admittedly reluctantly — to accept that same-sex marriage is something I can accept as a matter of public policy. But while there may be many adjustments in how the Church deals with members involved in such marriages, and their children, I don’t foresee any accommodation whatsoever in doctrine or temple practices or in the frank identification of such unions as contrary to God’s law.

  26. Stir Fry says:

    As a follow up to my earlier comment, it seems there’s 3 types of groups on the same sex marriage issue:

    Group 1: SSM is sinful, and shouldn’t be legal.
    Group 2: SSM is sinful, but SHOULD be legal.
    Group 3: SSM is not sinful, and should be legal.

    In LDS blogs and facebook, it’s easy to conflate groups 2 and 3, because people supporting marriage equality rarely make their views known about whether SSM is sinful or not. To publicize their views risks either alienating non-LDS SSM supporters, or alienating church members. They use the ambiguity to their advantage, priding themselves on their courage of supporting SSM, even while avoiding the issue of sin (not wanting to alienate themselves from LDS or from society).

    The church’s teachings are crystal clear on the issue of whether homosexuality is sinful. I suspect, however, that a decent # of bloggers and church members fall in Group 3, and are trying to change the church from within, yet don’t have the guts to be public about their intentions.

  27. “The church’s teachings are crystal clear on the issue of whether homosexuality is sinful.”

    No they aren’t. You’re wrong. And if you don’t understand why you’re wrong, you need to do more time listening and less time talking.

  28. it's a series of tubes says:

    The church’s teachings are crystal clear on the issue of whether homosexuality is sinful.

    Easy, tiger. Have a gander:
    https://www.lds.org/topics/same-gender-attraction?lang=eng
    http://mormonsandgays.org/
    “Where the Church stands:
    The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

  29. it's a series of tubes says:

    The church’s teachings are crystal clear on the issue of whether homosexuality is sinful.

    Easy, tiger, Some nuance is helpful. From the Mormons and Gays website:\
    “Where the Church stands:
    The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

  30. Jason K. says:

    Thanks, tubes.

  31. Stir Fry says:

    Thanks for clarifying my remarks. I considered it beyond obvious that mere same sex attraction, without sexual consummation, is not sinful. Thus, when I refer to SSM, I am using it as shorthand for SSM that includes sex. (In case that isn’t clear enough, it’s the SS sexual acts, not the marriage ceremony itself, that I think the church has clearly marked out as sinful).

  32. That you consider it “beyond obvious” is telling. Forty years ago, I think you would find pretty universal condemnation of homosexual orientation alone among Church leaders, whether or not people acted on it. The teachings are not only not crystal clear, they are further muddied by the fact that they are in flux.

  33. lehcarjt says:

    I’ve rarely found that the complexity of the human soul, what motivates it, how it sets its goals, and even the goals themselves can be standardized down to sitting in a category.

    I wonder how many people would themselves agree that they fit into one of your slots. I certainly don’t.

  34. Stir Fry says:

    Ziff –

    What about current teachings are unclear?

    Second, how can you presume to know what I would have believed decades ago? You don’t even know what I currently believe!

  35. Stir Fry says:

    Hey Ziff,

    I apologize, I misread your comment. I agree that certain aspects of church teaching have changed (whether orientation alone is sinful). I think current teaching is very clear about orientation alone not being sinful, but that same sexual sex is sinful. What about current teaching is unclear? And I think there are plenty of church members and bloggers who disagree that homosexual activity is sinful, but who are reluctant to publicize their views (since such views are currently heretical).

  36. Stir Fry: I would argue that the Nov 5 policy conflicts with your understanding that “it’s the SS sexual acts, not the marriage ceremony itself, that I think the church has clearly marked out as sinful.” I think the church leadership is making it vary clear that marrying someone of the same sex is a sin (makes you an apostate) apart from just having sex (gets you in trouble, but not labeled an apostate).

  37. “In case that isn’t clear enough, it’s the SS sexual acts, not the marriage ceremony itself, that I think the church has clearly marked out as sinful”

    I would have to disagree. According to the policy it is the act of marriage that puts couples in a SSM in a state of apostasy. In practice it appears that individuals who have left the Church (some of them years ago) and lived as openly gay have not necessarily been subject to (aggressive) Church discipline, while those who have entered into committed SS marriages/marriage like relationships are being tracked down.

  38. orangganjil says:

    I fall into the political camp that homosexual marriage should be legal. Theologically, I lean towards it not being a sin (I have found no compelling argument that God has declared it to be sinful), but readily admit I am not confident I know the mind of God on the matter.

    In the meantime, I follow Peter’s advice in Acts 15:7-11 (really, read the entire chapter and replace Gentile circumcision with today’s homosexual issue) and seek not to place a burden upon my brothers and sisters that I would be unwilling to bear. I’ll err on the side of loving and including too much and, if wrong, will throw myself at Jesus’ feet and beg forgiveness for erring on the side of charity.

  39. Stir Fry says:

    Ok, mea culpa. Those are excellent points about the Nov. 5 policy confusing the picture, giving me one more reason not to like it. Thanks for the clarifications. I concede.

  40. StirFry: “I suspect, however, that a decent # of bloggers and church members fall in Group 3, and are trying to change the church from within, yet don’t have the guts to be public about their intentions.”

    I’m suggesting in this blog post that your concern about any given church member’s personal beliefs on gay marriage—particularly in your case with regard to whether a person believes it is not sinful in the eyes of God—may be preventing you from better fulfilling the gospel law of love—whether you think such supporters of SSM are bad Mormons because of heterodoxy or because they don’t just leave the church because you see it as a hateful organization. My post works regardless of where people stand on the particulars.

    To put it in academic gobbledygook, you’re assessing fellow church members (I presume you’re a member) with a hermeneutic of suspicion rather than a hermeneutic of charity, by your own words, and it isn’t difficult for people to detect this in you. This may make them wonder if you’re more concerned about them as a person, a child of God, a fellow Saint on the one hand, or as a collection of specific beliefs that must align with yours in order to be acceptable on the other. Or on another hand, whether you think they are a deluded liberal tied to a backwards church who needs to liberate themselves from delusion. Again, my post works regardless of where you stand on this.

    I’m suggesting that underneath all of our disagreements—and even our agreements—we should work to cultivate charity. We could be wrong about any particular subject, but if we’ve worked to fulfill the gospel law of love our differences will ultimately be resolved, and we will have already built the networks of love that will last beyond all controversies.

  41. thelawsmith says:

    Since we are on the subject, maybe some here can help me with my own theological malaise regarding homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage specifically.

    Here is the relevant part of my interpretive framework:

    1. Regardless of my moral beliefs about SSM, I maintain the political belief that SSM should be legal.

    2. Sexuality is fluid and a continuum. Some people are exclusively heterosexual, some exclusively homosexual, and some at various points in between. Those in the middle are sensitive to external stimuli and choices which might push them more or less towards a heterosexual/homosexual relationship

    3. Heavenly Parents love all their children, regardless of sexual orientation.

    4. Homosexuals have a place in the plan of salvation that is not yet understand fully by man. God has not seen fit to reveal all things; the LDS Church – for whatever reason – has not yet figured out how to fully integrate homosexuals into the plan of salvation (telling homosexuals that they should simply be celibate might be the best option given current theological understandings, but cannot be a permanent solution. At least non-married heterosexuals hold out hope for intimacy later in life or a marriage in the next life – gays have no such hope.) I am not predicting the LDS Church will turn 180 degrees and completely normalize homosexuality, but I do think we will institutionally receive further light and knowledge on this issue.

    5. Church leaders are doing the best they can with the information they have. Church leaders have been wrong, and will continue to be wrong from time to time. I can sustain my leaders without rubber stamping everything they do. I have a personal responsibility to determine the truth; I will face the consequences for my choices.

    This, and more, leads me to my malaise. For example:

    A. How do gays fit into God’s plans? Are we just supposed to think that homosexuality is a problem of the mortal condition? That it will all go away in heaven? The LDS church seems to have backed off any notion that homosexuality is simply going to go away in the next life (remember when some members used to say that blacks would simply be white in Heaven?). Can we find a way to value gays in the LDS Church without brushing their gayness under the rug, so to speak? I just can’t help but thinking that institutionally we are doing many things wrong even if society is simultaneously flawed in its views.

    B. Can the LDS Church integrate homosexuals without having to backtrack on significant, unique doctrines? For example, what about 1) Heavenly Mother and 2) eternal unions of couples. One of the best arguments I have heard against SSM is that it deprives some children the opportunity to grow up with gender differentiated parents and all the benefits that brings. One of the comforting thoughts of a Heavenly Mother (even if she is largely unknown) is that God’s daughters can connect to a divine being of their gender. Does a Heavenly Mother become irrelevant or disappear if we could just as easily have two Heavenly Dads? Does our notion of what it means to be an eternal couple change if that couple could be homosexual as well as heterosexual?

    The problem, I suppose is that no matter which way I try to think through homosexuality (sin vs not, integrate it vs reject it), it all seems to end with more dissatisfaction than before. I know the official LDS line is incomplete, but the ascendant societal view isn’t wholly right either. To top it off, all proposed answers I know of attempting to bridge that gap are theologically dissatisfying. Thoughts?

    P.S. Sorry to hijack with such a long comment.

  42. BHodges says:

    thelawsmith: I’d prefer to keep the discussion in this thread connected as closely as possible to the original post, which only peripherally discussed SSM in a wider discussion about how to be members of a church where different perspectives exist, and the importance of prioritizing love. I’d appreciate it if you saved your comment and found a different place to discuss it.

  43. @ BHodges : my apologies. I’d delete the comment if I could.

  44. Stir Fry says:

    Hi Blair,

    Thanks for your comment. To clarify, which group would you say you fall in? Group 2? Group 3? I think it’s fair for readers to know where you fit in on this, given your penchant for providing us with moral instruction on this topic. Please be transparent with us. Thx.

  45. BHodges at 12:51pm (along with your OP) seems to me an appropriate summing up. Thanks and I (for one opinion) would stop there.

  46. “Our household of faith will become more Christlike as we learn how to love each other in spite of our differences.”
    “It’s a post about how we might deal, according to the gospel, with the fact that church members have different views on various difficult issues.”

    We love them and help them change their incorrect views. The Lord stated clearly that if we aren’t one we aren’t HIS, so we lovingly teach and correct erroneous ideas and hope we can end up in a state of being of one heart and one mind (ZION).

    The notion that it is okay to go to the ‘left’ on one issue while others to go the ‘right’ would mean you think we are on a wide road and it doesn’t matter which direction you go in you’ll end up just fine. But since we believe in a narrow path where only one direction is possible then we need to find that correct direction and lovingly help bring others to it as well. There aren’t multiple rods following multiple paths to the tree of life… just one. I relate doctrinal topics as points along the path, if at one point/topic the truth is to the left and you go to the right, then you are no longer on the straight and narrow path. We hope, pray, and help teach people how to find the path and stay on it.

  47. BHodges says:

    Jax, I directly addressed your main point in the original post. Here is the relevant section:

    “I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t talk about our disagreements, either. I’m suggesting that our love for each other should be manifest in so many other ways that such conversations will be saturated with it already. I’m suggesting that our love shouldn’t be made conditional upon their agreement with us on any particular point.

    If you’re right and they’re wrong, you can rest assured they will find out the truth someday. And if you’re wrong and they are right, you will, too. But either way you’ll be bonded together through your love for each other in spite of your differences. And you don’t have to wait to find out about that. You can try to make that happen today.”

    Stir Fry, do you understand how your question could come across as a threatening litmus test, whether it be for “conservative” or “liberal” purposes? In that way it seems like you’re missing the entire point of the post.The spirit of the post will be best actualized in real interaction between family members and ward members and friends who know each other beyond screen names. It seems extremely important to you to know what I personally believe when I haven’t asked anyone here to change their views on the issue of same sex marriage, or anything else. The post is about how to abide with charity in spite of whatever differences of perspective arise. You do see how your interrogation runs counter to the post’s intention and the moral argument it makes, yes? (The same goes for Jax’s contribution.)

  48. John Mansfield says:

    During dinner a couple weeks ago, some of my children were making some jokes about Trump. My wife reminded them that some people we know may be Trump supporters. Though ridiculing politicians and/or Trump is an acceptable, even praiseworthy activity, they were told to be careful not to shift to ridiculing his supporters. Good, sane people can have legitimate reasons for supporting Trump, given the options.

  49. Angela C says:

    Blair: I really appreciated your post. I am often bothered by the preaching to the base (or what I see as preaching to the base). It’s easy to “stand alone” in the way the majority approve of; that is not really standing alone. It’s hard to actually stand alone in a minority opinion as many of us feel we must do in the wake of the Nov. 5 policy. Leaving the church would make things easier on that score, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

    Stir Fry: ” (In case that isn’t clear enough, it’s the SS sexual acts, not the marriage ceremony itself, that I think the church has clearly marked out as sinful).” I don’t think that’s an accurate depiction of the church’s position, particularly in light of the exclusion policy. The sex acts are considered sinful, but entering a non-heterosexual union that includes child-rearing is what tipped the scales to create the exclusion policy. In light of the new policy, it’s less egregious to be homosexually promiscuous than it is to be in a committed relationship (particularly with children) with a same sex partner.

  50. BHodges says:

    Thanks Angela.

    Thinking more about this discussion overall. It’s interesting to me how several commenters straight away displayed the very sort of uncharitable discourse the post was intended to identify and discourage. More disappointing than interesting, really.

  51. BHodges says:

    The responses that understood the post vastly outnumbered those that didn’t, and I’m grateful for that.

  52. Angela C says:

    BHodges: I think one of the problems of our modern age is that we skim. There’s too much information out there to read and master it all, so whether it’s FB status updates or blog posts, we look for what we think it’s saying and then respond to that. Obviously that level of attention doesn’t product great dialogue or understanding.

  53. BHodges: I think it’s also possible to interpret what actions charity requires in different ways. I tend to hold fairly strong opinions on a number of things, but then conclude that discretion is the better part of valor. I think I might simply be taking the easy way out. There are those whose sense of charity may mean taking a clear stance, “speaking with sharpness” as it were. Wherein that stance does not speak in derogatory terms of another, then proclaiming a “truth” may be their form of charity. I know as a parent, my love for a child at times reveals itself through challenging conversations – and I can think of no greater love. (Outside of parenting, I’m speaking in hypotheticals, I can’t think of a time when I have publicly condemned an individual’s lifestyle choice, though not necessarily out of charity, I just don’t like confrontation.)

  54. BHodges says:

    An interesting point. Do we get to decide when we’ve been charitable or not, especially when the people we claim to have been charitable with felt no love?

  55. If the recipient of our charity gets to decide if we have been charitable, then the recipient can always tell the giver you haven’t been sufficiently charitable to me. I don’t feel you love me because you haven’t agreed with me or given me what I want. If you really loved me you would let me do such and such. To take this out of the current context, consider a monetary context. Or consider a child bargaining with a parent, as Stanley suggests. It is possible in this situation for the recipient to be uncharitable or imperfect in their love. I am sure you can see how this might work out badly.

    The giver may have indeed been uncharitable, but God judges that, not the giver or the recipient. Of course, if everyone or almost everyone you meet says you are uncharitable, then that is important feedback.

    As far at the Church goes, I believe God speaks to his anointed leaders when guiding the Church. We may be called to be nonjudgmental, but the Church and specific officers in the Church have been given keys pertaining to judgement. See in this context John 14:15.

  56. Stir Fry says:

    Hi Blair,

    How is asking about your viewpoint uncharitable? Viewpoints obviously exist, and when they differ, dialogue can ensue. Surely you aren’t against dialogue!

    Your reluctance to even acknowledge same-sex intercourse as sinful is really telling about your viewpoint. Of course, when you work for the Church, you have to be really careful what you say and how you say it. I don’t blame you in the least for being tight lipped. But someone’s underlying viewpoints obviously color their discourse on topics like these, and I think people should be transparent about them. I am sorry for you that you cannot be transparent about your views, I really am, since it says a lot about our LDS culture.

  57. BHodges says:

    Tell me more about yourself, Stir Fry. What’s your name? What are your specific thoughts on the questions you’re asking me?

  58. “An interesting point. Do we get to decide when we’ve been charitable or not, especially when the people we claim to have been charitable with felt no love?”

    Excellent question. Take the example above of going through life seeing charity as “We love them and help them change their incorrect views.” This is exactly how many, many people approach LGBT adults and youth. But when you listen to the stories of LGBT adults and youth it is very clear that this message is hugely damaging. To the point of suicide for some. Why in this situation is the giver feeling they are giving out charity more important than a suicidal kid?

    Is pushing someone toward suicide still okay if your efforts are charitable because you think (believe, are backed by church doctrine) you are right and the other person is wrong? At what point does the mental/emotional health of the individual in ‘sin’ become more important than the charity of telling them how incorrect they are?

    To move away from LGBT, what about my homeless brother? Should we push him to live gospel standards, return to church, live the Wow, etc. because that is the only correct path even though ward social dynamics were hugely damaging to him and coffee is a cheap, easy way to solve some of his brain chemistry issues?

    Or another example, my sister was in a really awful marriage. From Bishop on up (including LDS social services) everyone encouraged her to stay in the marriage even though her husband was abusive and stealing from her. From a church point of view, her leaders were all being charitable in trying to stick to known teachings and save the marriage (the correct path). At what point does the fact that he was abusive and their charity was helping him to abuse her (by reiterating that she shouldn’t leave) become more important? What about her needs vs. theirs?

    What I’m getting at here is that there must be a line somewhere (or at least a grey area) where charity has to be about the person on the receiving end or it isn’t really charity at all. I wish we talked about this more in church settings.

  59. Jared vdH says:

    If a man asks for bread and we instead give him a stone because we think what he really needs is a stone, not bread, it isn’t charity as taught by Christ in the New Testament.

    Unfortunately this can’t really be translated into a bright line rule that works universally. If a man asks for heroin and instead we give him methadone, that would probably be the actual most charitable thing. Similarly unfortunate is that we humans and the organizations we humans form really like bright line rules because they’re simple to understand. As with most things, we see through a glass darkly.

  60. lehcarjt says:

    Looking at it as bread vs stone seems very apt. Perhaps it is sometimes difficult to tell what it is we hold in our hands when we offer our charity (or words).

  61. Francine says:

    Just in case you believe the situation could not be even more difficult to understand and navigate, may I bring an additional fact to your attention.
    About a month or so ago on the feedback page of familysearch.org a female user asked if familysearch would be allowing same sex relationships to be entered into the database. She wanted to enter her wife as her wife. At that time when you entered a person and their sex, the system defaulted to the opposite sex when you then added a spouse. There was no option to change it. Ron Tanner, a senior familysearch employee, said that Family Tree was designed to allow the entering of same sex relationships from the beginning. It would require some minor changes and would be operational after newfamilysearch was finally taken down. Newfamilysearch was the LDS Church’s software that preceded the current Family Tree. For the last four years the two systems had to be kept in sync until Newfamilysearch was finally taken down this last week. Familysearch.org is the website where LDS members go to enter their family data to generate temple work. But a version that includes everything but the temple data is open to anyone in the world to add their data, use the records for research and contribute to existing trees. Is the Church a partner in supporting same sex marriage by designing their website to allow them to be recorded or just providing a service that reflects the reality of different family situations? I believe the reality of the Church’s views is more nuanced than it can sometimes appear from one statement.

  62. BHodges says:

    Interesting info even though it’s a bit off topic, Francine. Thanks.

  63. While I applaud the call to charity I believe what constitutes it can be debated. I have seen forgiveness given freely and openly by the Church to new members who were in serious sin, leaving those whose lives or marriages or families they have destroyed left reeling. And I do not believe the Church actually practiced charity toward the new member by not thoroughly teaching them the requirements of repentance prior to approving their baptism. I believe that charity can be mistaken for license.
    We had a couple who attended my ward for a time. It was his second marriage and his children, visiting him on weekends, attended Primary. It turns out the second wife was waiting for her husband to be rebaptized so that he could baptize her. Their affair had destroyed his first marriage and resulted in his excommunication. How do we show charity to all in a case like this? What does it look like? Is repentance like robbing a bank, doing your time and then enjoying your ill-gotten gains? Where we draw the lines are debatable. I do not think drawing them is debatable.

  64. Is Francine’s post actually off topic? Perhaps the Church is modeling for us how to be welcoming to all (charity) while still teaching us to reach for the best eternity has to offer, eternal families. Eternal truth but compassion for the realities of mortality where we do not have all the answers.
    One of the worst problems I am seeing is that people no longer know how to have a civil discussion about differences. Is labeling someone a racist or xenophobe really any different than labelling them with the ethnic slurs that were once common? How do either explore experiences or beliefs or in any way show respect for the humanity of others? Immediate assumptions are made about the true thoughts or feelings of others. You must be X or you would not say or write that. Are our positions so weak that we have no argument to defend them but must dismiss another point of view by labelling them as not worthy of our listening.
    Racist
    Xenophobe
    Sexist
    Apostate
    Feminist
    Liberal
    Conservative
    Democrat
    Republican
    Socialist
    Homophobe
    Anti-Semite
    Islamaphobe
    Atheist
    What have I missed?
    I have lived in what is arguably the most liberal ward in the Church. I am now in an extremely conservative ward. In both there are good people seeking to follow Christ. In both I have seen the attack dog mentality. Neither has a monopoly on fear and pride.

  65. Lydia, I’m curious what you think the ward’s options were toward the couple. Seems like the only course of action is to love and support the children, love and support the former wife, and try to love and forgive the husband and new wife who are working to (re)join their community. I’m not sure the gospel allows us an alternate course…

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  67. I do not believe that support of the children and new marriage should extend to offering baptism or rebaptism to someone whose adultery destroyed another’s marriage so long as they are in that marriage. And I definitely do not believe that this couple should ever be able to be sealed to each other in the temple. Ever. No matter how long they are married and no matter how many children they have. This should be taught the way John the Baptist taught that a certain ruler had married someone not lawful for him to marry.

  68. I have watched the results of adultery destroying marriages both in my own family and in those of friends. I do not believe the Church helps anyone by minimizing in any way its consequences or the requirements to repent of it.
    To give an example I have watched play out over decades, an LDS couple I know well were divorced because of the husband’s adultery and getting another woman pregnant. The husband married the other woman immediately after the divorce was final and this woman was baptized within weeks into the Church. She made no apology to the first wife. About six years later the couple are sealed in the temple over the protests of the first wife when the first wife was required to write a letter stating her feelings. In it she requested to be notified about the decision. No notification was given to her. She found out about the sealing when her ex-husband called to brag that he was now sealed while she was still alone. His rebaptism and sealing required permission from the First Presidency and a meeting with a General Authority but his obvious lack of humility and sorrow was overlooked. His second wife’s even basic lack of understanding about the requirements of repentance was overlooked. Wife number two was called as Primary president and the man was called to bishopric. Four years later they were divorcing and she called the first wife to get advice on how to get him back because he was now involved with a divorced woman in their ward and wanted a divorce from her! No real apology given to first wife even at this time.
    I have always wondered exactly what she was teaching the children of the ward while she served as Primary president. Maybe that it is okay to destroy someone else’s marriage in order to get a man to marry you. Maybe that you too can have a temple marriage even if it costs someone else theirs. Certainly not that the Atonement only covered those who sincerely repented of their sins. How could she teach it; it had never been taught to her.
    Another seven years passed and finally the first wife gets a real apology. It comes because the second wife has lost her children, who are living with her ex-husband and his new wife in their mansion, while she struggles financially, emotionally and spiritually. Her children firmly believe they are still an eternal family but that they do not need to live the commandments to receive this blessing. So they don’t.
    How does the ward support members in any serious sin, or any sin? By teaching clearly the truth about its consequences and requiring real repentance before allowing someone to be baptized or to attend the temple or to serve in leadership positions. By serious questioning before allowing a divorced person to be resealed. By actually taking seriously the feelings of the divorced spouse expressed in the required letters sent to Salt Lake. The consequences of sin are supposed to hurt. The earlier they hurt, the easier it is for everyone involved. Because then the wound might heal. Glossing over it the way it was done here helped no one.

  69. BHodges says:

    Wanda, thanks for your comment. Sounds like some extremely difficult things. While my post focused primarily on how to be united with people who have differences of belief, your example gets into the more difficult waters of disciplinary policies and procedures. We can’t always tell the state of someone’s soul or the unique circumstances of an individual’s repentance, but I think it’s clear that throughout the history of the church various judges in Israel have made mistakes. We can be sure mistakes will happen again. Section 121 ensures it. Overall I think we all want to keep fellow church members safe from predatory behavior, but we’re not always going to get it right, and that can cause a lot of pain, as you describe.

  70. BHodges says:

    Lch- sorry your video link got caught in the spam filter. It has been released!