Normally, I refuse to share my political opinions for everyone to see and judge me by. I don’t enjoy arguing or debating about serious topics in which nobody on either side is willing to budge, only to push and slight others into sharing that same opinion. It often ends up with nasty insults and disrespectful words being shot in both directions, which really only ends in both sides being extremely defensive of their opinions, whether they’re right or wrong. However, when it ends up being a debate between truth and untruth or morally right versus immorality – a topic where God DOES, in fact, have an opinion, I have to take a stand. The topic I’m going to address today is a touchy one, but I can’t stand idly by and let the world take over if there’s even a slight possibility I might make a difference for even just one person.
Before I start, though, I’d like to say that these are my thoughts and opinions, my beliefs and my standards. I’m trying to say this with love and respect because it’s not my intent to degrade, demoralize, or insult anybody, ever, neither is it my intent to start a debate or argument. I may say some things a little forcefully or loudly, but I am simply exercising my right to believe and say what I feel is right and true, and I’m not about to apologize for it because it’s truth. Truth is truth and it isn’t going to change simply because people resent it. If you’re offended by anything in this post, feel free to exit out of it and never think of it again. I truly am not trying to hurt anyone. To me, this is about standing for what I believe, standing for truth and fulfilling the covenants that I have made with God throughout my life. If I were to keep my opinion to myself on such a serious issue simply because I don’t want people to hate me for it or just because I didn’t want to get arguments and debates started – to keep my opinion to myself for fear of the people, I would be failing in my responsibilities as a disciple of Jesus Christ. And because I am a faithful and devoted follower of Jesus Christ, believe me when I say I truly do love everyone, or at least I’m doing my best to – I’m not perfect. I simply choose to follow the Lord, so whatever He says, I wholeheartedly agree with. I’m hoping and praying that I’ll be able to share what I know and believe in a kind and loving way so that others who are willing to read and approach this subject with an open heart and mind might begin to understand my viewpoint and see it in a way that only helps us all learn to love God and love one another.
I do apologize for the length of this post, but I believe everything in it is needed by someone, and I’m not about to keep the Spirit from working through me. I’ve thought long and hard, read and re-read what I’ve written in order to be sure it’s accurate and something that the Spirit is telling me to say. I’m not an official representative of of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints anymore, but I am a disciple of Him and I do have the ability to share my testimony. So that is what I’ll do.
For the past couple of days, my family and I were on vacation and when we came back, I saw a whole array of things on Facebook concerning the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling concerning same-sex marriage. Some articles I agreed with, others not so much. Most are very biased and opinionated, as are any topics of this sort, but many of those biased and opinionated articles are quite rude, derogative, and very judgmental to the opposing view. So while my opinion is, I’m sure, also biased, I’m going to do everything I can to keep it positive, loving and nonjudgmental.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to be friends with a guy who was gay. I didn’t know it at first, but eventually, I put things together and realized how he felt. I’d always grown up with the opinion that we should love everyone, no matter our differences. I was taught that homosexual people are still people like everyone else and that there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with them. I completely believed that and always thought that I wouldn’t treat them any differently. Well, when the time came for me to have a gay friend, I really struggled with that. I knew that I was supposed to love him, just like any of my other friends, but that wasn’t exactly the reason for my struggle. It was more the fact that I didn’t know how NOT to act differently towards him. I’d never encountered this before, at least not this closely. I loved him enough to not want to make him feel different or weird or like a freak because he wasn’t really any of those things. But the other part of my beliefs was that homosexuality isn’t right. It’s not how it’s supposed to be, according to God. But aren’t we supposed to love everyone? Doesn’t everyone have agency? Why can’t they be happy, too? And that was the real reason I struggled with not treating my friend any differently than other people. Because I didn’t understand exactly what God’s stance on this sort of thing is, and I wanted to be in line with Him, but I also wanted to be friends with my friend. Now I understand better that it’s more the action rather than the person. We can still be friends and interact with gay people because they really are still people with feelings and everything. And quite honestly, there are some pretty flipping cool gay people (like Ellen DeGeneres!). It comes back to that quote I’m sure we all know: “Hate the sin, not the sinner”.
I recently read an article called “Why Homosexuality Is Not Like Other Sins”. It’s very well written and one I actually enjoyed and agreed with pretty much everything there. Here’s a piece of it, though I encourage you to read all of it:
“As Christians, we believe with deepest sincerity that the embrace of homosexual practice, along with other sins, keeps people out of the kingdom of God. And if our society celebrates it, we can’t both be caring and not say anything. Too much is at stake. This means it is an oversimplification to say that Christians — or conservative evangelicals — are simply against homosexuality. We are against any sin that restrains people from everlasting joy in God, and homosexual practice just gets all the press because, at this cultural moment, it’s the main sin that is so freshly endorsed in our context by the powers that be. Let’s hope that if there’s some new cultural agenda promoting thievery — one that says it’s now our right to take whatever we want from others by whatever means — that Christians will speak out against it. The issue is sin. That’s what we’re against. And that’s what should make our voice so unique when we speak into this debate.”
Before I continue on with more from that article, let me clarify something. I believe that homosexuality is real. It truly is a thing for people, not something they choose just for fun or because they want to be different from most people. Something about their brain is different than those who are heterosexual. So it is not the FEELINGS of homosexuality that are sinful. It’s the act itself that’s wrong. It is sexual sin to act on those feelings because Heavenly Father has commanded that there are to be no sexual relations outside the legal bond of marriage between a man and a woman (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). Continuing from the same previous article:
“The current debate is plagued by this binary lens. Those on the left try to lump everyone who disagrees with them into that right side. If you don’t support, you hate. Meanwhile, those on the right see compromise and spinelessness in anyone who doesn’t get red-faced and militant. If you don’t hate, you support. But true followers of Christ will walk neither path. We have something to say that no one else is saying, or can say. Distancing ourselves from both the left and the right, we don’t celebrate homosexual practice, we acknowledge God’s clear revealed word that it is sin; and we don’t hate those who embrace homosexuality, we love them enough to not just collapse under the societal pressure. We speak the truth in love into this confusion, saying, simultaneously, “That’s wrong” and “I love you.” We’re not the left; we say, this is wrong. And we’re not the right; we say, you’re loved. We speak good news, with those sweetest, deepest, most glorious words of the cross — the same words that God spoke to us — “You’re wrong, and you’re loved.””
I love this because it’s true. Jesus Christ was the same – He loved the sinner, not the sin. Consider the woman taken in adultery (John 8:3-11). She was accused of sexual sin – one of the more grievous of sins – yet He did not condemn, shun or hate her. He simply loved and forgave her. And though He told her to “go and sin no more”, do you think he stopped loving or forgiving her after that, even if she made the mistake again? No. He always loved her and gave her as many chances to repent and be forgiven as is possible. It may not be written specifically, but that was Christ’s nature. He loves and so He forgives. He does not condone sin. He does not approve, support, love or agree with sin. Nor will He ever. But He loves everyone.
In another article I’ve recently come across titled “Quit Acting Like Christ Was Accepting of Everyone and Everything”, the author talks about Christ’s example when it comes to sin – anything against the commandments of God. He discusses the fact that in today’s world, people are searching for a God (or a church) that tells them what they want to hear rather than telling them what’s truth and what’s not, what’s right and what’s wrong. He says:
“I don’t care whether you’re Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, or any other type of Christian…one thing is for certain. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a ‘buffet’ that you can compile your perfect plate from. There is no salvation in building your own religion or customizing Christ to suit your needs and wants. The popular trend is to determine how you’d like to live your life and then to conform Christ to that lifestyle. At the base of this movement is the feeling that Christ was so loving and accepting of everyone, that He would never stand for any kind of exclusion or discrimination. This could not be farther from the truth. Yes… it is true that Christ loves everyone and yes it is true that we should practice the doctrine of inclusion, but Christ was far from accepting behaviors that were not in accordance with the commandments… Mormons aren’t trying to be exclusive or discriminatory toward anyone. If they are…then they are not living their religion. Elder Quentin L. Cook stated, “As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.” We should be “loving and compassionate” but we should never allow ourselves to believe that Christ just accepts us how we are. That was never in the program. He’s always asked us to change, to repent, to get better, and to overcome the things that we struggle with. When we quit trying to align our wills with God, and start trying to get God to align His will with ours…that is when we start to lose our way.”
I can’t testify enough of how true that last statement is – as long as we fight against God’s will, our lives will be even more challenging, terrifying, frustrating and sad than they are if we choose to follow God’s will. That isn’t to say our lives will be easy if we follow the Lord. It just means that we will have greater joy, more clarity of mind and more peace if we choose to do right. I know this because I’ve done both. And boy… My life is SO much better the more I choose to follow my Heavenly Father! Not only me, but prophets have also stated, specifically concerning the deterioration of families as God has decreed it (i.e. one man and one woman legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife): “We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
One of everyone’s favorite apostles, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk in the April 2014 General Conference entitled “The Cost and Blessings of Discipleship”. It’s similar to the article I just talked about, but says it in a little different way. And it’s powerful:
“So here we have the burden of those called to bear the messianic message. In addition to teaching, encouraging, and cheering people on (that is the pleasant part of discipleship), from time to time these same messengers are called upon to worry, to warn, and sometimes just to weep (that is the painful part of discipleship). They know full well that the road leading to the promised land “flowing with milk and honey” of necessity runs by way of Mount Sinai, flowing with “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” Unfortunately, messengers of divinely mandated commandments are often no more popular today than they were anciently, as at least two spit-upon, potato-spattered sister missionaries can now attest. Hate is an ugly word, yet there are those today who would say with the corrupt Ahab, “I hate [the prophet Micaiah]; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always [prophesied] evil.” That kind of hate for a prophet’s honesty cost Abinadi his life. As he said to King Noah: “Because I have told you the truth ye are angry with me. … Because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad” or, we might add, provincial, patriarchal, bigoted, unkind, narrow, outmoded, and elderly. It is as the Lord Himself lamented to the prophet Isaiah:
“[These] children … will not hear the law of the Lord: [They] say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.”
“Sadly enough, my young friends, it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds. Talk about man creating God in his own image! Sometimes—and this seems the greatest irony of all—these folks invoke the name of Jesus as one who was this kind of “comfortable” God. Really? He who said not only should we not break commandments, but we should not even think about breaking them. And if we do think about breaking them, we have already broken them in our heart. Does that sound like “comfortable” doctrine, easy on the ear and popular down at the village love-in? And what of those who just want to look at sin or touch it from a distance? Jesus said with a flash, if your eye offends you, pluck it out. If your hand offends you, cut it off. “I came not to [bring] peace, but a sword,” He warned those who thought He spoke only soothing platitudes. No wonder that, sermon after sermon, the local communities “pray[ed] him to depart out of their coasts.” No wonder, miracle after miracle, His power was attributed not to God but to the devil. It is obvious that the bumper sticker question “What would Jesus do?” will not always bring a popular response. At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” To make certain they understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” and “whosoever … shall break one of [the] least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be … the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others. Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. God is love, but love is not setting down rules and then ignoring them. Love is setting rules and upholding them to help everyone to get stronger, better and (eventually, if not immediately) happier.
I need to share with you one more thing. Sharing my opinion on a topic where I’m obviously a minority isn’t exactly always the easiest thing to do. I don’t like to be hated – nobody does. Righteousness has never been easy because the devil is doing everything he can to tear it down. But as I said at the beginning of this post, it’s the truth. And I know what truth can do for me and for everyone – it can lift, inspire, uphold, and include everyone who allows it to do such things. Truth is meant for everyone. We cannot change it or mold it to fit our likes and dislikes. Instead, we must mold ourselves to fit the truth through much prayer and study. I have promised my Father in Heaven that I will always stand for truth and righteousness, even if it might cost me my friends, family or even my life. And I love Him enough to actually do it. I’m not afraid to stand by my Savior and support whatever doctrines and truths He teaches. I’m not afraid to give my life for Him. I’ve thought about this a lot in the past year or so and honestly, I think it would be easy for me to die if someone told me “Deny Christ or die”. I would not hesitate to declare that I proudly follow Jesus Christ and nothing anyone could say or do would ever change that. Or at least, because I am human and I do fear sometimes, I wouldn’t hesitate to pray for strength and courage in that moment to be able to proudly stand and declare that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Because I know that faith is more powerful than fear. There was a man on my mission who asked what we would do if that situation happened. I said “Well, I’d hope that I’d just tell the person to shoot me.” His reply? “That’s what you think, but you wouldn’t. I would, though.” And I’ve had others tell me “You don’t know what you’d do in a situation like that.” Well, let me tell you. I may not have a perfect knowledge of the exact reaction I’d have, but I do know this: I have faith. I have faith in God and in Jesus Christ that they will give me the strength to do whatever is necessary whenever the need arises to stand for truth and righteousness. I could lose all my friends and all my family and have only enemies in my life who hated me for my opinion, but if I have Christ and if I know His truths, then I would still find reasons to be happy and rejoice. And to die for the cause of truth? It’s not the end. There’s a life to come and my choices here will determine what happens there. I make mistakes, as anyone else does. But I have felt the love of God despite my shortcomings, my weaknesses and my sins. I have felt the Spirit testify to me time and time again of the truthfulness of who Christ is and of the doctrines He has taught. In the words of Joseph Smith “I know it, and I know that God knows it, and I cannot deny it, neither dare I do it; at least I know that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (Joseph Smith-History 1:25).
So what’s my point of this post that might seem kind of spastic? First, it’s to share my testimony of what I know to be true doctrine of Jesus Christ. And second, it’s to promote love and respect among everyone. We can have a difference of opinions, no matter the topic, but we can still love and respect one another. There’s a difference between you and your actions, love and acceptance – I can still love you but not accept your actions as right. You can still love me and not accept my beliefs as right. There doesn’t need to be a shouting match or the start of World War III over a difference in opinions. I will love YOU and respect you no matter your opinion, beliefs or lifestyle, but don’t ask me to condone, support or love it if I don’t believe it’s right. All I ask is for the same in return – love and respect. Whatever the case, I proclaim that I am trying every day to do better than yesterday. I proclaim that I am not perfect, but am trying to become more Christ-like. I proclaim that everyone has a right to choose what to do with their lives and a right to stand up for their beliefs. But as for me? I proclaim that I am choosing to stand with my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I am never backing down.
“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Ammorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15