The Two Great Commandments for Modern Samaritans

Adapted from a RS lesson taught in the Sacramento, CA metro area on 11/13/22

Luke 10:25-28

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up…saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
And he answering said, what is written in the law? What readest thou?
And he answering said, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself
And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

Good morning, sisters. Today’s lesson might be a little tough, so if you need to leave and get a drink of water, check on something that just came up outside the room, etc., it’s okay. No judgment.

Today we’re talking about President Oaks’ talk from the April 2022 General Conference, Divine Love in the Father’s Plan. In it, he talks a lot about laws and practices around marriage, gender and family in the church that set us apart from those outside the LDS faith and covenant path. 

He introduces his talk through the lens of the two great commandments — to love God and love your neighbor — in this beautiful quote:

When Jesus was asked, “Which is the great commandment in the law?” He taught that to love God and to love our neighbors are the first of God’s great commandments. Those commands are first because they invite us to grow spiritually by seeking to imitate God’s love for us.

*****

Luke 10:29

…And who is my neighbor?

The story President Oaks’ quote draws from is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Now, for context, Samaritans were pariahs to the Jews because they lived outside the covenant. Jews at the time considered them categorically apostate, and their religion a hollow imitation of the true Jewish faith. As a result, many Jewish people felt that the very existence of Samaritans, living and breathing as Samaritans (rather than Jews), mocked, diminished and undermined their Jewish identity and religion.

In his talk, President Oaks identifies certain religious beliefs, personal identities, and actions as categorically outside the LDS covenant path — beliefs or identities held by people we might consider to be the “Samaritans” of our day. So what does this parable mean for us today?

*****

Luke 10:30-35

And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and left him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, take care of him; and whatsoever thou soundest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

In your groups, you’ll find an envelope taped to the back of a chair. Please open it to find a scenario based on one of the modern “Samaritan” distinctions in the talk, then answer these questions:

1. Who is the modern “Samaritan”?

2. Remembering that it was the Samaritan who first showed love to the Jewish man, how does the “Samaritan” in this story first show love to you?

3. What actions might you take next in the story to honor the first and second great commandments (show love) to the person in this story?

Group 1:

Scenario: Yesterday, you found your 16-year old daughter Zoe and her best friend, Connie, crying. You find out Connie is getting ready for Protestant baptism and is deeply afraid Zoe will go to hell because she had an LDS baptism. Both friends are clearly devastated – Zoe, because her best friend thinks she’s going to hell, and Connie, because she thinks she’ll lose her best friend. Connie asks if Zoe would like to come to her baptism prep classes and see what it’s like.

Group 2:

Scenario: One of the sisters you minister to just got engaged to someone who is not LDS, and who has repeatedly asked the missionaries not to visit. One day you ask her if she needs anything. She tells you she is overwhelmed with wedding planning and pressure from her parents to marry in the temple; she tells you she would love a friend to help her deal with it all.

Group 3:

Scenario: You meet with a friend from college who says she has something exciting to tell you. She tells you that she has decided she doesn’t need a partner to create a loving family, so she has decided to conceive via a sperm donor and raise the baby on her own. She says she was nervous about telling you because she knows you’re a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She says she is incredibly happy and hopes you will celebrate with her.

Group 4:

Scenario: Your sister comes out to you as gay; she tells you the roommate she has been living with for five years is her partner, and that they are deeply in love. She says she is telling you now because they are registering to become foster parents and she wants to fully include you in their extended family.

*****

Luke 10:36-37

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then Jesus said, go and do thou likewise.

This is hard, isn’t it? As I walked around the groups, this was a common theme I heard. Putting yourself in these stories makes you feel like something inside you is just twisting, and it hurts. This is someone you want on the covenant path with you, and they’re not, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But yet your relationship with them is still there. And it’s on the line. And you just wish it wasn’t on the line; you might wish the whole situation would go away! – but then you remember Jesus is using you as a metaphor in a story about Christlike love. What do you do?

Let’s go back to the original Good Samaritan for a minute. From what I understand (I’m not a historian!), the Jews’ hatred of the Samaritans at that time was such that some Jewish people might also have said “nah, go away; you’re a Samaritan. I’d rather die than accept help from someone like you.” 

The injured man in the Jewish covenant also had to let this relationship happen. He had to show up and let the Samaritan help him as well. 

As I was walking around, I heard one woman say something that I asked her permission to share with all of you. She discussed how she has a gay child, and how that child’s identity has been excruciatingly difficult for her to accept. And then, again, how very hard it was for her to accept when that child found their lifelong partner. And now again that the child is getting ready to have children of their own. She didn’t underplay or discount how hard it was for her to accept her child’s “Samaritan” identity, describing how the stress of this tension, this twisting of something inside of her, at one point left her so physically ill she needed to go to the hospital.

And what was so inspiring to me is that she then talked with just as much blunt conviction about her love and commitment to her child, and her dedication to accepting her relationship with her beloved “Samaritan.” She said she feels living in the last days is to learn God’s lesson on judgment – and she needs to focus on passing her own test. Will she judge, or will she leave judgment in God’s hands? Will she reject her child, or will she try to love them as God loves them? 

And that brings us back to the President Oaks quote that frames this whole lesson. What are the two great commandments? What do they mean in context of the modern “Samaritans?”

When Jesus was asked, “Which is the great commandment in the law?” He taught that to love God and to love our neighbors are the first of God’s great commandments. Those commands are first because they invite us to grow spiritually by seeking to imitate God’s love for us.

May we do so – and may we find, in doing so, God’s love for us. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of the man injured by the side of the road – he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. When we encounter modern Samaritans throughout lives, let us see them as worthy of a relationship with us just as Jesus Christ sees us as worthy of a relationship with Him.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Edited lightly for clarity 11/15.22 at 12:40pm

Comments

  1. What a great way to understand these scriptures. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. This may get moderated, but wasn’t Elder Gong the Levite who passed by on the other side when he asked his gay son not to take pictures of himself, his gay partner, and Elder Gong together for supper and put them on social media? And wasn’t Elder Oaks the high priest who passed by on the other side when he taught that we shouldn’t have pictures of our gay children and partners proudly displayed in our home?

  3. Anna, I knew about the Elder Gong thing, but somehow missed the Elder Oaks one. I’m aghast, but not surprised. Actually, I’m more than aghast. I’m devastated. Do you know where I can find a source for that? I’d love to have it handy to point to others. And yes, I would agree with your assessment. I’ve been refraining from bringing up other references to Oaks and his supposed ‘conflict’ between the two commandments. Perhaps later when I have more than a phone to type on.

    And thank you, Laura, for sharing the lesson and responses. For me, a Samaritan, Elder Oaks is the one I would be asked to help. I don’t know if I would help. No, even in writing that, I know that I would.

  4. Brian, Oak’s comments came from a talk or some kind of answers to questions that was quite a while ago. I wouldn’t have used something that old as an example, except it was used in a way that really hurt and caused a ten year rift in my family of origin. I don’t even remember if it was a conference talk or where it came from. It was published, so you might be able to find it. I must admit that I have avoided actually reading it as I had enough grief over it from my sister in law at a really bad time in our lives. I have heard other people quote it online, so maybe someone here knows more than I do. It was probably about 15 years ago, because it was the photos thing that was quoted to me by a sister in law who saw our family pictures with my daughter and her wife along with my other children and spouses. She lectured us starting with the picture. We ended up cutting her and my brother out of our lives for over ten years over the bunch of Oak’s quotes about how parents of openly gay children should treat those children. Basically his advice was things like no prolonged visits, no over night stays, the partner should not even be welcome in your home. Don’t let your friends assume you might approve of your child’s life style. No pictures of the happy couple displayed in your home. Be careful of being seen in public. But keep loving them, while constantly demonstrating how much you disapprove and acting like you are ashamed of them. It was really horribly unloving advice, given as how to continue to love gay children.

  5. Paul Brown says:

    Anna, perhaps this is the interview you were referencing

  6. Paul Brown says:

    A 2006 interview:

    That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, ‘Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position.’ Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer. I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.”

  7. Paul Brown says:

    That’s a decision that needs to be made individually by the person responsible, calling upon the Lord for inspiration. I can imagine that in most circumstances the parents would say, ‘Please don’t do that. Don’t put us into that position.’ Surely if there are children in the home who would be influenced by this example, the answer would likely be that. There would also be other factors that would make that the likely answer. I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say, ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.”

  8. How should we respond to this scenario:

    Your sister comes out to you as a polygamist; she tells you the roommates she has been living with for the last few years are actually her sister wives, and that they are married to the same man. She says she is telling you now because she is pregnant and she wants to fully include you in their extended family when the baby comes.

  9. To anyone wondering how to pronounce the name “bagofsand” . . . I have it on good authority that the correct pronunciation is “troll.”

  10. Yes! I’ve been trolling these parts since 2004. ;>)

  11. Actually, Hunter, the reason I posted that scenario was to present a situation that might be an equal challenge to both sides of the spectrum–progressive and orthodox. Would we have as much difficulty with the idea of an apostle not wanting to be portrayed on social media as being sympathetic with polygamists–even if they were extended family?

  12. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    That’s an easy one, bagofsand. The response would be, “Congratulations on the pregnancy! That’s exciting. I would be honored to be part of your life as you raise your child. What can I do to help?”

  13. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    By thr way… that would also be the response if my sister was gay and she and her partner were having a child through IVF, or if she was a drug addict, or if she had left the Church, or if she had voted for Trump (she did), or if she didn’t know who the father was, or if she…

  14. Needs screen name says:

    It is not appropriate to equivocate addiction with being gay, Turtle.

  15. Interesting scenarios but wasn’t the point of the Good Samaritan that he found himself in that situation because of the actions of others (“… fell among thieves”) and not his own and the Lord was saying he needed to be helped with the difficulties caused by others despite the fact he may be viewed as the “enemy”.

    There was nothing in that parable about the need to condone actions that were chosen by individuals that were inconsistent with behaviors that the Lord had said were acceptable. The point was you needed to love these individuals and help them out of the difficulties caused by others but said nothing about condoning unacceptable behaviors they had chosen themselves to undertake. The Lord made that point when dealing with the woman caught in adultery. He loved her and forgave her but told her to sin no more so he didn’t condoning her unacceptable behavior, rather he was telling her it was wrong.

    You can love someone and help them without condoning the decisions they make.

    This comment is not to be taken as saying I don’t think you should help any of the individuals in the four scenarios because that would not be true. Rather my point is that I don’t think this is a good application of the Good Samaritan parable.

  16. Laura, a wonderful discussion. Thanks.

    Ojisan, I don’t know about you, but for me it’s not mine to judge how someone got where they are (even if by a 15-year old quotation that they’ve clearly moved beyond). Loving is not necessarily condoning. And if it is, who cares? Who cares? My job is to love, not judge. We do a great deal of damage by “not condoning.”

  17. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Needs screen name- I was not equating any of the things in that list with each other. Learn to be more generous in your reading.

  18. bagofsand,
    If it helps to add context, President Oaks is himself an (eternal) polygamist.

  19. How about your sister is in a heavily abusive marriage and suffering from untreated bipolar. Only a few people know. There are kids and too many pregnancies involved. She calls for help all the time but won’t leave him.

    What should one do?

    The national abuse help line (who I spent hours and hours discussing this with on multiple occasions), says love her, support her, make sure she knows that regardless of everything else I’m there, don’t try to push her to leave her husband unless she brings it up and decides to do so. If in a situation that extreme (again with kids involved) the answer is love without judgements against her choices, something like polygamy is a no brainer. And I say that as someone with a deep horror of polygamy.

  20. Needs screen name says:

    More generous, Turtle, within a culture that treats LGBTQ+ as unclean sinners? Seriously?

  21. Thank you Laura, both for taking the time to lead a substantial and thoughtful discussion in Relief Society and for sharing it here.

    > This is someone you want on the covenant path with you, and they’re not, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But yet your relationship with them is still there.

    I’m reminded of conversation Father Greg Boyle related years ago about his ministry in helping LA gang members re-integrate into non-gang society. Some people — even prospective donors, if I recall correctly — asked why he wasn’t doing more to “bring people to christ” (ie an explicit christian conversion). His response was something like “they bring *me* to christ, every day.”

    From my point of view, there is a man who understands the covenant path — where the people we meet along the way are not a ball to get into a goal, but each a revelation and call of their own.

    Our relationship with our neighbor *is* the covenant path. There may be more, but there is certainly not less.

  22. John C., yes, that (eternal) context does help. ;>)

    But really–my main point was to push back against the little flurry of comments at the beginning of the thread. Would we be as quick to criticize the apostles if they were as guarded with relatives who practiced polygamy?

  23. it's a series of tubes says:

    The NT repeatedly presents Christ going to, engaging with, and ministering to people who were considered by the religious society at the time as socially unacceptable. Hard to see how one could read those stories as somehow implying Christ’s acceptance of sinful behavior; rather, the clear message is that the value of a person is not diminished by contagious uncurable illness, or detested profession, or unrighteous choices.

    When we’ve reached a point where a religious leader doesn’t want to be seen having dinner with their own child, I just don’t think you can square that with Christ’s example as recorded in the NT.

  24. “Our relationship with our neighbor *is* the covenant path. There may be more, but there is certainly not less.”

    I think our love of God marks the path. But if we’re not loving our neighbor it means we’re going nowhere fast.

  25. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Not going to go the rounds on this with you, Needs screen name. If you want to read that into my comment and impute meaning that wasn’t there, you’re beyond reach. Not interested in moving this discussion off the main point of the OP, so I’m stepping out. Loved the lesson, Laura. Hope it was received well.

  26. “Our relationship with our neighbor *is* the covenant path. There may be more, but there is certainly not less.”

    I think our love of God marks the path. But if we’re not loving our neighbor it means we’re going nowhere fast.

  27. Well, I just outed myself.

  28. Pontius Python says:

    ‘bagofsand’ == ‘Jack’ ?

  29. Yeah–that’s me.

  30. A Turtle Named Mack and bagofsand/Jack—I didn’t pick the examples. President Oaks did. And I stand by them because they are extremely relevant — not just to our actions, but to the mindset of our discipleship. It’s a question as old as Eve: what do you do when two of your guiding principles conflict?

  31. Ojiisan— your comment suggests we are the Samaritan in these parables. We’re not — we’re the man, in the covenant, by the side of the road. The Samaritan is fine — they’re just walking along, minding their own business, and then they see us and reach out the hand of a relationship. Questions like: How did we get to the side of the road? What makes the Samaritan a Samaritan? Totally moot in this scenario. Whatever the reason, they’re outside the covenant, we’re inside the covenant, and they are offering us a relationship within that framework.

    The relevant question is: What do we do? Does accepting a relationship with a “Samaritan” mean condoning whatever sets them apart from the covenant? Or does it exemplify Christlike love?

    It’s a tough question to answer when you’re talking about the people you *truly* feel are Samaritans, and are *truly* trying to be Christlike (I used Pres. Oaks’ examples, but there are obviously more). But it’s an important concept to engage with: thus the parable, thus the lesson (and even thus the comments).

  32. Laura, just to be clear–you’re saying that the four scenarios were developed from examples Elder Oaks gave in his talk?

    Re: what do you do when two of your guiding principles conflict?

    Left to our own devices — like Eve — we should err on the side of compassion.
    However, if we get inspiration (on how to handle the conflict) that tells us differently then we should follow Abraham’s example and place our loyalty to the first commandment ahead of the second.

  33. Jack, just to be clear, I may be wrong, but I don’t anyone here (except you) thinks that loving your neighbor ever requires anyone to not love God. And appealing to Abraham’s story for moral guidance is crazy. Apparently, however, if you felt God (or another man who claims to speak for God) told you to murder someone you would do it. If you felt God (again, or someone sho claims to speak for God) told you to abuse someone, you would do it. Fine. But I’m just fine standing before said God and not doing it. Can you please point to an example in your lived life where they conflict. No hypotheticals here. Real stuff. Enlighten us, if you will.

  34. Anna–the interview in question is here: https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/interview-oaks-wickman-same-gender-attraction

    It says most of the things you have described, but does not mention photographs, fwiw. (This is not intended as a defense of his other words!)

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  36. If someone is having a baby, I knit or crochet. If someone is getting married, I hem napkins or table cloths. I would have to ask how to help with a protestant baptism. Maybe bake cookies?

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  38. And Jack, just to be clear and to remain relevant to the OP, the parable of the Good Samaritan is an explicit condemnation of what you arguing. The Priest and the Levite put ‘the first law’ over the ‘second law’; they didn’t help because it was against God’s Law for them to do so. And Jesus . . . well, he had something else to say about that–rightly putting them in their place. We are supposed to love and help others, only then do we show that we love God.

  39. @bagofsand/Jack: Yes, that’s right. President Oaks drew (more than) four distinctions about what people inside vs outside the church believe regarding marriage, family and faith. I created each scenario based on a specific distinction he drew. In the original lesson, I included a relevant quote from the talk (adapted to use “Samaritan” language) with each scenario, but that was too clunky to include here. You’re welcome to go back and compare, though.

  40. And thanks for your generosity, freckles, Turtle Named Mack, and others :-)

    Laura N (great name, btw!), thanks for your example. This lesson was a really good opportunity for me to reflect on that that is who I want to be, and how I can act increasingly that way :-)

  41. Brava, Laura. I’m very grateful for any time one of these difficult talks can be set in a better light. Thank you.

  42. It is possible that Oaks didn’t actually say anything about photos, just about appearing to condone the relationship, and SIL went off on us because to her, the photo was us condoning the relationship. SIL is probably right that Oaks would not approve of how we treat our daughter. Like I said, I never actually read what Oaks said, just had SIL go ballistic on us for “disobeying what Oaks said.” But SIL is correct that we do disregard his advice. We treat that married couple just like the other married couples. They have slept over at our house and other things that Oaks did mention. There may be things we don’t approve of or would do differently, but it isn’t our life. So, we keep our mouths shut about any disapproval. It isn’t our place to judge them, just love them.

    To me, loving someone is not constantly bombarding them with disapproval. You can’t change who your children love by disapproving. That just tells the children that controlling them is more important than supporting them. There are thing in some of the straight marriages we might disapprove of too, but we don’t refuse to allow the husband who is emotionally abusive into our home because we disapprove of how he treats our child. We don’t say, we don’t want you over on Thanksgiving because it sets a bad example to younger children, even though it DOES when he says abusive things to her. That would just make things harder for our child because we are so nasty about who she loves. You support your child or loved one in their life choices because it is judgmental and cruel if you don’t. It doesn’t help them repent if you are cruel to them, so I really do not understand Oaks and his unloving attitude. I can disapprove of someone’s behavior and still treat them with kindness and welcome them into my home and love them. I disapprove of some of Oaks’ behavior, but I would still welcome him into my home and treat him with kindness and not feel I have any right to rub his face is my disapproval. Nor would I expect him to feel loved if I showed him my disapproval.

  43. Laura, great lesson, thanks for sharing. It brings up so many relevant questions for current saints. Speaking of relevancy, Jack, I get your comparison, but the average saint would have a decent chance of encountering one of Laura’s scenarios sometime in their lifetime, while the chance of encountering a polygamist in these scenarios is vanishingly small. And the comparison falls short in my view in that while polygamy is clearly apostate activity, same sex marriage is no longer considered mandatory excommunication in the new handbook. Beyond all that, why does relationship equal condoning? It does not. I think that is Laura’s central question, and applies well to the parable.

  44. Brian: “Can you please point to an example in your lived life where they conflict.”

    I’ve had an experience or two where I had to make that kind of choice–though I’d rather not talk about them explicitly on an open blog. (Don’t worry–nothing hinky.) What I can say is that as I get older the thing I regret the most is not being as loving as I might’ve been to others. Erring on the side of compassion should be our default position, IMO–except in those rare occasions when the Lord tells us — as he did to Alma — not to deliver someone from their distress. Fortunately those occasions seem to be rare–because they can be the hardest trial of all.

    “The Priest and the Levite put ‘the first law’ over the ‘second law’; they didn’t help because it was against God’s Law for them to do so.”

    Abraham forsakes the Law in order to prove his love to God. I’d say that the vast majority of the time we prove our love for God by loving others. But even so, there will be those rare occasions when our loyalty to God will actually be challenged by the second commandment.

  45. Jack: I don’t think there are any times when we should not love someone. You do. Clearly, we are at an impasse.

  46. Laura,

    Thanks for the response, Laura. Thinking about your previous comment I see that I had it backwards. So the take away ought to look more like: Should a Nazi be willing to accept the help of a Jew? And vice versa? And if that’s the case–then yes! Because that’s when people are at their best–regardless of how deplorable they may seem to each other.

  47. Brian,

    I should clarify: We don’t cease to love out neighbor. But we may be required to act in a way that *to us* may not seem to be in their best interest–as in the case with Alma and Amulek when the were restrained from saving those who were cast into the fire.

  48. Laura:
    ‘your comment suggests we are the Samaritan in these parables. We’re not — we’re the man, in the covenant, by the side of the road. The Samaritan is fine — they’re just walking along, minding their own business, and then they see us and reach out the hand of a relationship.”

    Clearly, I needed to be there for the lesson because that did not come across to me at all in the examples.

    And even as I look at the examples again it does not make sense to me.

    If I understand what you are saying correctly,

    1. My daughter is conflicted about going to her friend’s baptismal prep classes and I become aware of that and that puts me on the side of the road as being the victim.

    2. The sister I minister to asks me to help her deal with wedding planning etc and that puts me on the side of the road as being the victim.

    3. An old friend tells me she is having a baby by a sperm donor and wants me to celebrate with her and that puts me on the side of the road as being the victim.

    4. My sister tells me she is gay and wants me to accept her family and that puts me on the side of the road as being the victim.

    If that is what you are saying it makes even less sense than what I previously thought.

    How can I possibly be an individual who has been victimized and tossed to the side of the road and need a Samaritan to help me just because someone asks me to help them or accept them? If they are asking for my help etc then it would seem to me that they are the ones by the side of the road who need assistance dealing with their friend, parents or whatever.

    Sorry. I’ve been in situations similar to three of the scenarios at one point or another in my life and never once felt like I was the victim who needed a Samaritan. In each case the people were coming to me because they wanted/needed something.

  49. Bro. B.: “Beyond all that, why does relationship equal condoning? It does not.”

    I agree–that’s the way it should be. But we live in a culture that has a way of shaping us into ideologues. Human relations these days — especially of the online variety — amounts to little more than sizing each other up by our associations or our disassociations. “Deplorables” on the one side and “deviants” on the other.

    And so that’s why I brought up polygamy. Would those who criticize the apostles for not wanting to appear to condone same sex marriage feel that they were less deplorable if their actions had to do with dissociating themselves from polygamy rather than SSM?

    Of course we could argue over which of the two is more out of favor with the church–but I think what’s really at bottom is a cultural phenomenon more than anything else. How would we respond if the church were to allow same sex marriage? How would we respond if it reinstated polygamy? How about both? How about neither? Would a shared belief in continuing revelation be powerful enough to bring us into agreement with any of these scenarios? Sadly, I don’t believe so.

    At any rate, we can at least look to Laura’s lesson and hope for the possibility the “deplorables” and “deviants” might at least allow the other to be their Samaritans–if nothing else.

  50. Thank you Laura, for sharing your lesson plan here. It makes me happy to hear that such things are taught in our meetings.

    From my experience, I’ve learned that condoning or not-condoning someone else’s choices is not the way we exercise our values and beliefs — the only way that can be done is through our own choices. Other peoples’ choices, unless they are our minor children, are none of our business. And even our minor children’s choices cannot truly be controlled by us, and when they grow up, condoning/not-condoning is so not a big deal, and can easily be back-burnered into oblivion while other more critical issues absorb our attention.

    The only places I’ve ever felt the pressure to hold this distinction as important is in church culture and conservative political culture. And when I had the actual, lived experience of wondering if my kindness to a dear friend was disrespectful to the Lord and his first great commandment, I engaged my perception of conflict and worked through the variances that divided my loyalties, and in the end came to the hypothesis that in real life, there is no conflict between the two great commandments. Such a conflict only exists in the hypothetical situations that are baked up for consumption to illustrate a point at church or in a political circumstance. Whenever there is a real person enduring real pain, it all becomes very clear what is the right way to love God and our fellow mortals, and it’s no longer a hypothesis for me. There is never a conflict between those two.

    I apologize if I sidestepped participating in the analysis of the parable of the Good Samaritan, but after a lifetime of seeing scripture bent to and fro to make a point that may not really be what God intended, my brain just refuses to engage anymore. And the lack of esteem I have for folks who do set up this conflict to fulfill an agenda, whether a GA or blog commenter, is none of y’all’s business.

  51. Jack, are you saying that Laura’s post was more about the culture wars as you allude to than real life personal relationships? Do you think the apostles’ reluctance to be seen as condoning is about signaling to the “déplorables” or the “deviants”? I for one am so tired of the culture wars and the opposing camps that you mention. I would hope we could take Laura’s post as real questions about real life situations and relationships in the 21st century and how we might consider how to apply Christ’s parables and Elder Oaks’ talk to them.

  52. Laura
    Wonderful Lesson! Church is uplifting when we engage in lessons like the one you taught. I was talking to a mom about her adult children and she described one as “my son who was my daughter.” She explained how her adult child’s transition had shocked her, causing her and her husband to react with anger and disappointment toward the child. She was grieving over her loss — the loss of her dream about all she would do with her adult daughter.
    Over time, she had her own transition, from rejection to acceptance and love. But her husband is still in rejection mode. She was understanding of her husband’s reaction, saying “he is where I was months ago so I know how he is feeling, because I was there.” Such remarkable empathy from this mom/wife. We struggle. We lurch through life, often weaving down strange paths, but always seeking the light of love. Thanks Laura for giving us an example of how to teach lessons in our Church!

  53. Perhaps the two most damaging teachings/theories currently in the Church are 1) God doesn’t love everyone all the time (from Nelson), and 2) be careful who you show love to because it might mean . . . (from Oaks).

    Both are very real, very direct attacks on charity. And they propagate into every other interaction (gender inequality and discrimination for instance). It’s not difficult to see why the Church is losing members. The smugness with which they share these new insights only compounds the effect. At least people are fighting back at local levels. Thanks to all who are.

  54. I hit post before my brain finished with my thoughts.

    I believe that the reality of a real human being in real pain is the point of the Savior’s parable, that any needs and considerations arising from such a scenario— an actual person enduring actual pain — take priority over all other considerations, at least until the wounds are bound up. After that, we may carry on with our academic hypotheticals with all due abandon. But if we go down the rabbit holes while we let someone suffer pain that we could attend to, we’re missing the point of the parable, and as well, both the first and second great commandments.

  55. One way to think about the parable from the POV of the wounded man is that you would not expect anything good from the Samaritan who is approaching you. At best he’s coming to take whatever of value you have left and at worst he’ll just kill you outright. And then, to your shock, he instead starts to help you. And everything you thought you knew about Samaritans turns out to be wrong, or at least not applicable to this Samaritan.

  56. Aussie Mormon says:

    Brian, there was a post on the first of those on BCC earlier this year. Trying to shrink down things to one sentence statements like you just did just leads to more problems.

    https://bycommonconsent.com/2022/03/14/is-divine-love-unconditional-grappling-with-a-20-year-old-lds-doctrinal-conundrum/

  57. Aussie, thank you for linking to a post that supports my claim that Nelson got it wrong.

  58. Bro. B., I agree–I hate the culture wars too. My response to you had to do
    with how I tried to use polygamy as a way to show that cultural bias is often the catalyst for our negative (or even positive) responses to the apostles. It was more of a response to some of the early comments than the OP itself. Sorry for the confusion.

  59. MDearest, in light of the OP all I can say is: I’m your Huckleberry. ;>)

  60. it's a series of tubes says:

    How would we respond if the church were to allow same sex marriage?

    Excellent question.

    https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2022/11/15/lds-church-comes-out-federal/

  61. Brian, I think there are two aspects of God’s love that we need to separate from one another. The first is the love which he possesses within himself for all of his children. It is infinite and universal–as President Nelson says. The second is what I would call the indwelling aspect of that love for which one must be divine in order to receive in its fulness.

    In other words there’s no question that God loves us unconditionally as parents do to their children. We are capable of that kind of unconditional love in this world. But the divine aspect of God’s love — the kind that is actually transferable from one heart to another — requires that we become divine in order to receive it. And thankfully we begin to receive it (by degrees) from the moment we repent and turn to God.

    And so, if we think of divine love as a living thing that can be transferred — kinda like what Nephi sees in his vision where the love of God “sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of men” — then what we have is a God who has an infinite amount of love for all of his children and is eager to position them so they can receive the indwelling aspect of his love as only divine beings can do.

  62. I’ve been thinking more about situation #1. Is the concern for the emotional state of a daughter worrying about friendship issues, or the invitation the the baptismal class? In most cases, I would encourage my daughter to at least consider attending the class.

    Beforehand, I would probably do some role-playing to prepare her for the possibility of being put on the spot. (“I’m here to support Connie. I’m not going to get into any religious arguments. It wouldn’t be Christlike.”)

    As Latter-day Saints, we frequently invite our friends to attend our church. We can make this a lot less awkward by visiting other churches as the occasion permits. I’m in a small Utah town now with a limited number of churches, (and only the Baptists have invited me to things.) In my previous town, I knew that the Lutherans had the most convenient blood drives, the Baptist church housed the food pantry, and depending on which side of town you were on, the Synagogue or the Presbyterian church had the best pre-school. I was also in other churches for neighbor’s funerals and the high school baccalaureate services. That made it much less awkward to invite people to my church.

  63. BagsofSand –

    Your divisions seem like parental love vs grace. Would you agree? It’s an interesting way to think about it.

  64. lehcarjt, that is a good way to think about it–maybe even better than the way I tried to formulate it–at least with respect to the “mechanics” involved. Receiving grace for grace and growing from grace to grace is a good way to explain how we grow in the love of God. Thanks for your insights.

  65. Ojiisan – in this retelling, the “victimhood” of the person in the covenant is the least important part of the story, in my opinion. However, since you asked, President Oaks gives one framing (about religious liberty and the ability to keep covenants being under attack). There is another framing, the one I think is most salient, that says it doesn’t matter *how* someone was hurt, it matters *that* they were hurt. There was a guy hurt by the side of the road and the Samaritan came to minister to him.

    With that in mind, let me spell out the examples.

    1-4. My spirit feels broken, sad and wounded by the distance of someone I love from the covenant path I am on, and hoped they would be on. They invite me to continue in a close, meaningful relationship with them. What do I do?

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