Choose the Right

Christina Taber-Kewene is a permablogger from the early days of BCC. Christina is an attorney living in New Jersey. We’re glad she sent this to us.

I was released last week from two years of serving in a calling I never thought I would come to cherish: First Counselor in the Primary presidency. I have plenty of my own kids, so for years I have said, “Give me any calling, but not one in the Primary!” Hahahaha. God laughs.

The theme last year was “Choose the Right.” And what always seemed like an Iron Rod topic became a Liahona idea [1] for me as I taught the principles in Sharing Time over the months. If you review the ten commandments in Exodus 20, there are four that relate to God, and they center on proper worship. The remaining govern our relationships with others. The book of Matthew records Jesus’ interpretation of the hierarchy of importance of the commandments. In response to the lawyer’s question, “Master, which is the greatest commandment of the law?” Jesus replied:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

There is a strain in the LDS practice of Christianity that is so committed to obedience to the ten commandments (not to mention all the other “Mormon” commandments) that it has lost sight of Jesus’ simple guidance: love God and love each other. Yes, if we love each other, we will not disobey the six relational commandments (honor father and mother, don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t covet what is not yours). But doesn’t the higher law call us to love others always? There is no disclaimer: love others as long as they obey the commandments in the way you believe they should. It was Jesus who told the gathering mob ready to stone an adulterous woman, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I don’t believe that gay marriage is a sin. But even for those who do, can any of us cast a stone? No.

There is a challenge I’ve seen many members of the church feel in reconciling their personal obedience to the law – their commitment to orthopraxis – with the requirement to love all of God’s children. It’s a false contradiction, though. I call to mind two wonderful families from the ward in which I was raised. Each has a child who grew up to marry a same-sex partner. Each set of parents refused to attend the wedding ceremony of their child in order to show their commitment to the commandments of God. I am not calling them out in judgment. I am pointing out this example as one where we are failing to live the commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” There is no obeying the commandments when failing to live this one.

I read in surprise and delight this morning about a Utah ward that devoted two hours of combined meeting discussion to listening to, learning from and, ostensibly, welcoming LGBTQ members from within their community. My surprise is dismaying. When did our church become the poster child for shunning, hating, judging and keeping out? Not my church. Not God’s church.

[1] Richard D. Poll first expounded this dichotomy in a talk in a Palo Alto sacrament meeting in 1967. It has since been absorbed into the liberal Mormon canon, discussed, debated and published about. Both metaphors arise from stories in the Book of Mormon. You may recall that the iron rod was a metaphor for the word of God, and adherence to it (holding to the iron rod) was representative of strict obedience to the commandments. The liahona comes from a story in which Lehi and Sariah’s family find an instrument outside their tent while living in the wilderness; the liahona worked like a spiritual compass, showing the next steps in the journey when the family was obedient. Iron Rod Mormons, generally, are those focused on obedient living (orthodox, perhaps). Liahona Mormons may focus their practice more on staying alive to the promptings of spiritual revelation than on the minutae of righteousness (heterodox, perhaps).


  1. Thank you so much for this and amen.

  2. Christina says:

    Thanks, Leona. One thing I didn’t write in this very brief piece but is also on my mind as I have been studying the concept of living the commandments this past year, is that the commandments are really just a simple way of helping us preserve our freedom so that we can grow. This is what I try to teach my children. In that framework, judging others for (real or perceived) differences in adherence really has no place. The law is simply a tool to preserve my and your freedom to live unfettered from the pain potentially caused and freedom limited by hurting myself and others. Sin is distance from freedom.

  3. I support this post. In my calling I am working with community service. Interfaith experiences are huge part of our direction. Time and again, good hearted LDS members tell me how great it is that we are doing these interfaith projects so that “they (the other churches) can see how (good, noble, righteous, Christian) we are.” Every single time my response is “this is a great time for us to see how (good, noble, righteous, Christian) they are.” Our judgmental-ness knows no bounds.It extends beyond LGBT issues. Touting the “One True Church” has pinned us into a most snobby corner around. Many of the other churches I serve with, have been extending non-judgmental service in the community for years. We are last to that party. But we are just as full of ourselves as if we were first. I love my LDS members. They serve so enthusiastically. They really do want to help. It’s just the problem is we as a community see everyone who isn’t traditional and like us as second best.

  4. Christina,
    That framework for understanding the commandments is very helpful, and one I’ll certainly use with my own children who are still small. Thank you. I love my LDS community; we have to do better by our LGBT brothers and sisters. We are hurting them, and in excluding them, hurting ourselves.

  5. I’m sorry. My last comment implies an us/them dichotomy I didn’t intend. We are one–or we ought to be, which is why this issue within my faith, more than any other, is so painful for me.

  6. Leona, I did not take your comments as encouraging judgment at all! I’m just clarifying my own writing.

  7. Leona
    I have a different opinion. Attending a same sex wedding is the same as loving the sin. And i have struggled all my life with SSA. My advice to members is not to attend these events.

  8. “There is a strain in the LDS practice of Christianity that is so committed to obedience to the ten commandments (not to mention all the other “Mormon” commandments) that it has lost sight of Jesus’ simple guidance: love God and love each other.”

    Thanks, Christina. This idea has been percolating in my heart and mind of late. I appreciate you taking the time to put this into writing.

  9. Thanks, Hunter! I am not a fan of obeying obedience to obey obedient leaders … But the commandments, I am now coming to see, are simply a means to putting into writing the WAYS in which we show that we love each other (perhaps just the bare minimum requirement needed).

  10. Bruised, broken, yet at peace says:

    Jon, it feels like you’re straining at gnats. I support your right to hold a different opinion, but you’ve filtered my actions through your perspective in an inaccurate judgment.

  11. tomwheeler says:

    There is a danger with inverting the relationship of these 2 great commandments. Loving God must always come before loving others. Otherwise we may become tolerant and accepting (“loving”) towards any and all regardless of their behavior. I can have love in my heart for someone who robs a bank too, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to drive the getaway car.

  12. Geoff - Aus says:

    Totally agree with the post.
    Tom, it is my understanding that we love God by loving our fellow men. I believe if we no longer discriminate against anyone individualy we become Christlike. If we can collectively not only not discriminate but actively love all, we have Zion and are Celestial.