Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Truth: ALL Families Deserve To Be Strengthened

The thirteenth Article of Faith states "we believe in doing good to all [mankind]." I've wondered lately how many Mormons really believe that. I can speak only for my own beliefs, but I believe in doing good to all--men, women, children, regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation. I believe Mormons should likewise believe in doing good to families--all families.

As a matter of fact, four years ago on this blog I posted "ALL Families Are Valuable" to spread the hope that the "value of the traditional family" would be replaced with "the value of all families." Yet four years later we continue to idolize the "traditional" family while causing great pain and unnecessary harm to many other families and individuals. The Church that prides itself on families still has not collectively recognized the value of all families. And it makes me sick. Latter-day Saints continue to teach fear-based philosophies of men/women mingled with scripture as "truth", but here's the real truth: ALL families deserve to be strengthened.

The truth is that families come in all shapes and sizes. Some families consist of a mom and a dad, two dads, two moms, single parents, and some families have no children at all. I believe in strengthening them all, especially because I believe it's true that "we are all likely working towards the same goals--namely an environment where those we care for, including ourselves, can grow and learn in love, happiness and safety." I believe the truth is that the Lord is most pleased when we all work to love and uplift each other and help each other to stay dedicated to our familial commitments, whatever those may look like.

As Jana Riess wrote yesterday, "every time my church does something that appears to diminish the humanity of LGBT persons, our reputation as a religion takes a hit. And when we act with greater love and less condemnation, people respond in kind." However, as she went on to say, "when we point to some families as 'counterfeit' and claim there is only one right way to love – and, gee, it happens to be ours! — we’re preaching fear, not truth. And when we ally ourselves with a group that stands accused of denying basic rights to gay people when we have recently helped to pass legislation that gives them those rights, we are sending a very mixed message."

It also sends mixed messages anytime the ridiculous and (mostly negative) phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin" is perpetuated. PLEASE let us stop using this worthless phrase. 

I think Jesus made it pretty clear we're to love, period. To condemn sin in others was a sin "in and of itself." In fact, "the only time we should openly condemn sin is when we find it within ourselves." In other words, we're to focus on loving others, not worrying about their personal life. If we make it our business to judge others business we're simply not able to love them well at all. And then where is the greater sin?

In my open letter to Elder Christofferson, I wrote: "Today, in this new Civil Rights era for the LGBT community, I'm afraid that my conscience and the position of officials currently leading the church might also be at odds. So I'm in a bit of a precarious position. I wait patiently, though not passively, and encourage progress in areas that I can, while trying to be anxiously engaged in good causes and follow my conscience without causing harm to the church." The harder question for me, however, is what should I do when it's my church that's causing harm to others?

It's amazing how much harm we can cause in the name of "defending the family". To "defend" means to "resist an attack, to protect from harm or danger." It doesn't mean to go on offense. Let me be clear, I'll defend my traditional marriage if ever someone tried to strip me of that right, but so far so good--no attacks. I do see marriage equality under attack, so I'm gonna defend that too, cause marriage for all is better than marriage for some, and same-sex marriage doesn't undermine my traditional marriage in the least. My marriage is respected and I respect everyone else's freedom to marry whoever they choose. It's the golden rule. Does our church still believe in that?

The wise Roni Jo Draper once said: "I'm pretty sure the purpose of the gospel is to improve myself and love others. Not to love myself and improve others." Whenever we use religion as a means to control others, we're doing it wrong. "The purpose of religion," said the Dalai Lama, "is to control yourself, not to criticize others." Scripture provides plenty of examples of people using religion to harm others. Scripture also has plenty of examples of using religion to be a blessing to others. We should learn from the past to be more wise than those who used religion as a weapon. We ought to do more to actively be a blessing to others. I agree with Vicky Beeching: "No one should have to choose between their religious faith and their gay, lesbian, or bisexual orientation. We are all God's children, created to love and be loved."

The conversation lately about the Family Proclamation has to do with the fact that its origins had to do with political/legal reasons rather than doctrinal/revelatory reasons. But there is still much of good there that can be expanded and repurposed with an enlarged vision. One example: "We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."

All families deserve to be strengthened. ALL families. Not just the modern Mormon monogamous ideal. Attacking gay marriage/marriage equality does nothing to strengthen families. Only the opposite, ironically. An expansion to the definition of marriage does not hurt/harm/weaken ones existing "traditional" marriage. We do that to ourselves by the way we act in our own marriages.  If we really want to prevent further disintegration of families, if we truly wish to strengthen families, the FMH community have come up with some very practical ways: "Strengthening the Family: a response from the fMh community".

Do you want to know my plan for strengthening families? Teach love and respect and inclusiveness of all, regardless of whether ones family has a mother and a father, two fathers, two mothers, only one parent, and regardless of whether they are able to raise children or not. Teach the Gospel and Faith in Jesus Christ, not the traditional Mormon culture that so many mistake for the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ would not be throwing stones at people's families. He'd be putting his arms around all good and sincere human beings, regardless of culture, gender, or orientation, and telling us to "go and do thou likewise".

In 1947 the First Presidency was completely wrong about racism and ethnocentrism in the 1900's--projecting those views onto God, while brother Lowry Nelson--a liberal--was right. History has vindicated brother Nelson. If they could be that wrong then, they could very well be wrong now in filing amicus briefs against marriage equality. I personally think God is much bigger and more loving and more inclusive than most Latter-day Saints currently give Him credit for.

If I'm wrong, I would far rather err on the side of charity and inclusiveness than to be a stumbling block in the path of my neighbor--including my LGBT neighbor. I want to be a blessing to all of God's children, including my LGBT neighbors. As the hymn says, doing good [to ALL] is a "pleasure", a "joy beyond measure, a blessing of duty and love."

I believe our true duty is to help strengthen ALL families without diminishing any particular family in the least. But even more importantly, I think the only family I need to really worry about is not my neighbor's, but the one living within the walls of my own home. 


Clean Cut said...

In the wake of more excommunications due to the expression of one's sexual orientation, I feel acute "righteous indignation" towards the human organization/institution we call "the Church," that still fails to seek divine inspiration/revelation to change the status quo. There will come a day, mark my words, when the Church "disavows the theories advanced in the past" that being a happily married gay person was a "sin" (just like they once taught interracial marriage was a sin, among other now disavowed teachings once accepted as doctrine.) But will they ever apologize for all the pain and harm they caused in the meantime, or posthumously overturn these excommunications (like they did for Helmuth Hubener)?

I'm sick that so many men, confident in their "authority," truly believe that current policy (which makes no distinction between legal and lawful marriage between committed gay couples and vile promiscuity) is God's will.

Cory said...

As a child raised by lesbian parents, I feel especially sensitive to current Church policy/messages about my family. I was raised to be moral, kind and to respect others and I eventually found my way to be a member of the LDS Church. The pain that I felt growing up with lesbian mothers came, not from having same sex parents, but from judgmental and rude comments by people who were intolerant and bigoted in their views and opinions. After studying the six (ONLY SIX!) verses in the Bible that touch on the subject of same sex relationships and various other readings (including the LDS Church's, I am convinced that there is little support for considering homosexuality a sin and even less support for believing that same sex marriage will harm society in any real way.

Clean Cut said...

Totally agree.

I think the early Mormon practice of polygamy was a far, far greater threat to society and harmful to children, and yet those are the same tired arguments we get from so many church members who treat church policy as immutable doctrine. To me, the church policy of saying "being gay is not a sin but acting on it is" is akin to saying "being left-handed is not a sin but using the left hand is." (Even being left handed was once considered to be an "abomination"!)

I'm optimistic that our understanding of the law of chastity will be expanded one day, but not until the wake of pain, marginalization, and excommunications becomes too much for the Church itself to bear.

Conservative law professor and LDS blogger Nathan Oman:

"Ultimately, I think that gay marriage is a good idea. I think that recognizing gay marriage has the potential to create stronger gay families and a better environment to grow up in for the children of homosexuals. It also carries within itself the possibility for an ethic of gay chastity, which ultimately strikes me as superior to either gay celibacy or gay promiscuity. I understand that in its fullest religious sense, gay chastity for Latter-day Saints (as opposed to gay celibacy) requires revelation to those with greater religious authority than I, and I am comfortable sustaining that authority. Nevertheless, in my all-things-considered independent judgment, gay chastity is a good idea."

I too think an ethic of gay chastity is a good idea. It would be good for the church to draw a distinction between two good and committed Saints who, according to their sexual orientation--which they cannot change--desire to be legally and lawfully married, as compared to others who live promiscuously without any divinely led commitment of being faithful to their companion. The "Doctrine of Chastity" would remain in place and indeed, the law of chastity would never go away, but I could foresee our understanding of it evolving and changing if we're open to receiving greater light and knowledge.

When I read President Dieter Uchtdorf's wise words I personally include our current understanding of human sexuality:

"Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?"

Daniel said...

“For Those Who Don’t Support Marriage Equality But Want to Show Love To LGBT People”

I can’t ask you to change your religious beliefs. However, I can ask you to take some responsibility, and find out how your beliefs are impacting your LGBT brothers and sisters. We all have the responsibility to interact respectfully with people, and it is never respectful to tell someone that their family configuration is immoral (even if that is indeed what you believe).

The Mormon church’s position on same-sex marriage has been broadcast far and wide. Everybody knows where the church stands on this, especially LGBT people who were raised in the church. We are bombarded with it constantly. Believe me, if you are a Mormon, I am going to assume you don’t support marriage-equality unless you tell me otherwise.

If you want to show us love, then show us love. Don’t remind us of our inequality in your church. That doesn’t feel like love. It actually drives a wedge in between us. And sometimes it drives a nail directly into our hearts. It drives some of us to depression, despair and suicide. We have been hearing all our lives that we are ‘loved BUT…’. We never seem to hear that we are loved without the qualifier. You might fail to realize that we have heard it ten thousand times. That it is engraved in our minds and on our hearts.

So my first challenge to those who want to show LGBT love is to stop reminding us that you don’t support our marriages and our families. Some elephants in the room are much better off unexpressed, because respect trumps full disclosure...

I won’t fault you for following your religious beliefs, but exercise empathy as you do it. You should always be aware of the real pain and suffering that come from policies that you support...

You also have a responsibility to recognize that opposition to same-sex marriage is primarily a religious belief (that is not supported by a substantial body of research).

You have a responsibility to be aware that children who are adopted into same-sex homes are way better off than those who are left in group homes or in the foster care system.

You have a responsibility to know that any child raised in a two-parent home is way better off than a child raised in a single parent home, regardless of the gender(s) of the parents

You have a responsibility to know that there has been a lot of research proving that children raised by same-sex parents do very well and have outcomes that are equal to those raised by opposite-sex parents.

You also have a responsibility to know that in America everybody has equal protection under the law, even if you don’t believe that their family configuration is ideal. We all know that children raised in poverty have more problems than those who aren’t, but we can’t restrict the rights of poor people to form families. We can’t restrict the rights of single parents to raise their children, even if many studies show this is not optimal. We can’t restrict divorced and remarried parents from raising their children together, even if one parent is not the biological parent. We can’t restrict people with mental illness or disability from raising their children, even if they face more hurdles than other parents. And we can’t restrict LGBT people from raising their children. In America we respect these individual human rights. You have a responsibility to be aware that this is an issue of equality, protected by the constitution and that the Supreme Court has so far shown that they agree...

You ask us to respect your beliefs, and I am willing to do that. But I ask you to respect me. Respect me by understanding the implications of your beliefs on my life and my family. Respect me by not reminding me of your beliefs when doing so is disrespectful to me or my family.

Anonymous said...

There are many people raised by gay parents who are voicing their experiences and their childhoods were not pretty, or great.

For every positive experience of being raised in a gay household there is a negative experience.
The gay community does not want those negative voices heard. There are gays that oppose same sex marriage and oppose gays raising kids, but the gsy community and Liberals work hard to silence oppossing voices.

Clean Cut said...

There are many people raised by straight parents who are voicing their experiences and their childhoods were not pretty, or great. For every positive experience of being raised in a straight household there is a negative experience.

The Church community does not want those negative voices heard. There are Church members that support same sex marriage and support gays raising kids, but the Church and Conservatives work hard to silence inclusive voices.

Clean Cut said...

"The Church has managed to accommodate a lot of people who are not married for time and all eternity in some level of activity short of Satan’s buffeting. Many of these people are also sinners of one sort or another, which is actually the whole point of the Church. To answer Christ’s call, we must become a hospital for the sick and not a museum of the saints. Not casting people out does not constitute an endorsement of their behavior or their lifestyle. It simply acknowledges that, notwithstanding their weaknesses, the gospel can still make their lives better

"For a century and a half, the Church has tolerated liars, gossipers, and backbiters in our midst. We do not excommunicate people for being uncharitable, proud, judgmental, or unwilling to help others. And we give a free pass to the majority of things forbidden in Leviticus. I believe that there are some very powerful pastoral reasons to add legally married gay people to the list of those we allow to exist in our community. Here are some of them:

(Great post on a more pastoral approach by Michael Austin)

Doug the Ex-Fat Guy said...

An intellectually and spiritually dishonest spectacle and an utter counterfeit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

How typical of homosexuals and their supporters to engage in selfish manipulation. This is all I'm seeing in this manifesto. Part of "love" where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is also OBEDIENCE (John 14:15). How CONVENIENT to ignore this precept.

No believing Latter-Day Saint is fooled by your self-serving sophistry, sir.

Clean Cut said...

Interesting. What you call "self-serving sophistry" I call Christian compassion and common sense.