Friday, April 11, 2014

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail"

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

The following comes in part from what I wrote to a family in which both mothers were married in California before Proposition 8 and to whom I wanted to extended my congratulations and best wishes to them after Prop 8 was recently struck down in court:

Sometimes I can't believe how much time has passed since California's Prop 8. There's truth to Thomas Paine's quote: "Time makes converts more than reason".

In the years that have passed since that time I have undergone a mighty change of heart. I still recognize that people who oppose marriage equality should not automatically be labeled "haters" and that many of them are good and sincere people.

However, I now personally identify as an "ally" and feel strongly in favor of marriage equality (and this isn't even speaking as a religious issue, but as a public policy issue.) While I know many fellow members of my faith have become discouraged by the recent federal rulings in various states in favor of marriage equality, I have been heartened by them.  I feel in my heart it is the right thing, and I love that love wins out.

I believe that religious beliefs of a majority should not dictate public policy for the minority. There is wisdom in separation of church and state.  Our own scripture states this, but some don't seem to recognize it:  "We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied." (D&C 134:9)

The interior walls of the Jefferson Memorial are engraved with passages from Jefferson's writings. Probably most famous is this line: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Government must not get in the way of that noble pursuit.

However, most prominent are the words inscribed in a frieze below the dome:

"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

This sentence is taken from a September 23, 1800, letter by Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Rush wherein he defends the constitutional refusal to recognize a state religion.

My personal opposition to "tyranny" in any form, or any other imposition of human will over my personal liberty/rights, makes me sympathetic to our gay brothers and sisters. And my understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ makes me more compassionate. I love my gay brothers and sisters and desire the best for them. I'm sorry that my church has been an impediment to this. I see hope that this has and is changing, although the pace of change is painfully slow.


Sal Gal said...

Well said!

Clean Cut said...

"Ensuring another’s freedom is the best way to protect ours."

A libertarian perspective on Marriage Equality in which ALL "sides" should be able to find something to appreciate:

Why it’s Okay for Mormons to Support Marriage Equality

Tanner G. said...

After hearing Elder Christofferson’s recent remarks that members of the church may support gay marriage without fear of ecclesiastical recourse, I wanted to explain why I, a card-carrying member in good standing, support marriage equality.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the principles outlined by The Family: A Proclamation to the World. It’s not that I want to see homosexual unions sanctioned in the temple. It’s not because I am a moral relativist.

I support marriage equality because I believe in the golden rule. Jesus said, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

In my ideal libertarian world, government wouldn’t be involved in marriage at all. But since we are far from my ideal, we have to work with what we have. What we have now is an opportunity to do unto others what we would have them do unto us.

Imagine a role-reversal where your marriage situation was abnormal. What if the government told you that your version of marriage was not recognized by the state? How would that make you feel?

This hypothetical isn’t too farfetched. Less than 150 years ago, the LDS church still practiced polygamy. Though central to Mormon theology at the time, Congress deemed the practice immoral and illegalized it. The church corporation dissolved, its assets were seized and its leaders went into hiding.

If you lived at that time, you might make the argument that consenting adults should be free to live in any arrangement that they wished, and that the government should not discriminate based off its perception of morality.

If we didn’t like the government telling us what kind of marriage was lawfully acceptable, why are we so eager to turn the tables on a different type of union?

Tanner G. said...

You don’t have to pretend to like homosexuality or gay marriage. But you can, with your Christian integrity in tact, do to others what you want them to do to you.

The US government is not a Mormon government or even a Christian government. It represents many races, creeds and orientations. All of them should be equal before the law. If consenting adults of a certain orientation can receive tax benefits simply for being together, why not other adults of another orientation?

“Because God does not like it,” is typically the response.

Honestly folks, God doesn’t like a lot of things. If God’s favor should affect this issue, why shouldn’t it affect another? What’s stopping us from forcing all business to close on Sunday? What’s stopping us from illegalizing fornication? What’s stopping us from reinstating prohibition? While we are at it, why don’t we ban short skirts, tattoos, swearing and multiple pairs of earrings? Why don’t we just get rid of everyone’s right to choose morality so that this country will be forced to be a Christian nation worthy of God’s approval? (Wait a second, this is starting to sound like someone else’s plan).

Do we want a theocracy? Do we want to force everyone to be obedient to our idea of righteousness? What happens when another group decides that they want to pattern the theocracy after their religion?

No wonder we are given the inspired words in latter-day scripture:

We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied” (D&C 134:9).

Ensuring another’s freedom is the best way to protect ours.

A government that does not respect the liberty embodied in the golden rule will find each of its factions constantly battling to compel the others (as the Democrats and Republicans currently do). Such a course has always resulted in tyranny.

Still, there are concerns about the slippery slope of governmental approval of gay marriage. I concede that the imperfect world can’t be expected to live the golden rule just because we do. But we cannot allow the fear of a give-a-mouse-a-cookie hypothetical to prevent us from applying a correct principle right now.

Our fear should never dictate our principles.

I doubt that people are going to be marrying their dogs (remember that bit about consenting adults?) And even if they did, that would not affect my life in the slightest.

If the time comes that they try passing legislation that will infringe on religious rights (for example, requiring gay unions to be performed in the temple), we can take a stand against it. We can justly demand that others to do for us what we have done for them. If liberty loses, then we will at least know that we stood on correct principle. Our discipleship does not require consensus.

Finally, you do not have to condone homosexuality to support marriage equality.

If you believe that homosexuality is dangerous, then by all means speak up. Exercise your right to freedom of speech. But use persuasion, not compulsion, to further your views. Remember that the same power you grant to the government to limit the rights of others can be used to limit your rights.

As Joseph Smith said, “If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way” (History of the Church, 5:498–99).