Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The 11th hour

I sat down at the computer to e-mail my congressmen about the proposed Marriage Protection Amendment just one day prior to the vote. I knew it was the 11th hour and that my decision about what to write would reflect far more on myself than it would have any impact on what my legislators thought or voted. But church leaders had asked me to "express myself," and I've always been a sucker for the importance of participating in representative government.

I had come to the conclusion that gay marriage was a good thing based not only on what I know and believe about the social impact of gay marriage--that it would be an effective way to encourage gay folks to be committed and monogamous, to provide them the legal tools to properly participate in the domestic affairs of those with whom they had become domestic partners, to choose committed love as an ideal over adultery--but also because it just seemed right and fair in this diverse country to allow people to pursue the brand of happiness they find acceptable for themselves.

I had thought about it a fair amount. And all my reasoning (and the social data) seemed to indicate gay marriage would be a good thing, despite my acknowledgement others may easily come to a different conclusion.

I found loopholes and legalistic reasons why I thought my opposition to the amendment and support of gay marriage were not strictly inconsistent with the counsel of the church. But, some part of me knew that pharisaic approach wasn't going to work in the end.

I sat, thinking and uncomfortable. Fingers perched, ready to type some sense out of the confusion.

I remembered one of the many defining moments on my mission when I received a letter from my parents--both terrified that I was standing at the edge of apostasy's cliff, ready to jump. I had written them some snide comments about a few of our mission rules, and they had been horrified enough to immediately produce a long rebuke. It's one of the few times on my mission that both parents contributed substantially to a single letter.

I think the particular issue may have been my president requiring us to take daily herbal supplements--a position he crowed was backed by scientific evidence (and a position about which science has long since vindicated my skepticism). It didn't matter whether he was right or wrong, my parents said, it mattered that I trusted and obeyed. They weren't stupid. They knew how counter-intuitive that was, how cultish. But they also knew that there would be times in my life later when I would think I understood something better than my priesthood leaders and I would be wrong. Then, it might be on something that mattered. And ultimately, they knew the church was true and that while small injustices would come of trusting leaders (like choking back daily garlic pills), God wouldn't allow the prophet to lead the church astray. They believed, as I do now, that there is singular power in obeying every word of command with exactness. Curious power. And yes, when applied to false prophets, such trust is dangerous. You've got to be certain who you can trust, because ultimately you are responsible for your own decisions.

The final position I took with my congressmen was one of support for the amendment. I was true to myself in a strangely contradictory way. I know the church is true. I know prophets are real. So, when Elder Maxwell says,
"So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the sacrifice unto the Lord of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, (D&C 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving away all [our] sins in order to know God (Alma 22:18) for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him."

I interpret that in one sense to apply to times like these. It's perhaps an application of a skill I've learned through my homosexuality--to believe that what feels right is not necessarily so. And that the balance due in confidence and affirmation for truly right decisions may come in unexpected ways.

At the same time I feel confused and sad. I feel a great desire to contact Scot and Chris and David and apologize. Sometimes having faith is hard, and not being ashamed of it is also hard.


Anonymous said...

-L-, I really appreciate how you have put on the whole internal struggle and journey you've had to arrive at the decision you made. No one can accuse you of not having thought it out. I admire you for taking the stand you have so bravely. This was, undoubtedly, a difficult post to decide to actually publish.


Samantha said...

After this post, I think your inches away from posting the entries you and I have discussed. They will be less controversial in the long run.

You're amazing, -L-, for being honest about a horribly difficult decision.

Anonymous said...

when i divide the past 50 years of recoverable memory into periods of following blindly or self-government based on discernment of correct principles [as taught by ancient and modern prophets], i am most happy, productive, and loving during the latter. it is not an easy path, a road not taken or meant to be taken by many, but it works for me.


-L- said...

santorio, put in those words I absolutely agree with you. Do you think what I've described here fits one or the other of those? I wouldn't call my decision blind, and I wouldn't call a response to the prophet one way or the other "self-government".

Scot said...

My comment would’ve been too big to post as a comment. You get a blog entry :-).

One huge curiosity, though, can you post the text of what you wrote to your representative?

Anonymous said...

Your entry motivated a blog entry out of me as well... Though I understand your conclusion, and I don't seem far from it, I just can't take the step to feel good about just following for following sake... Some things that my Mission President said to do were just plain stupid and the mission president that followed him IMMEDIATELY undid those stupidities and gave us freedom to choose wisely and be our own stewards...

Sometimes we need to be free to choose wisely.


-L- said...

We are always free to choose wisely, Beck. The question is when it is wise to rebel against the advice of leaders (loaded language intended). Hindsight is 20/20. Sometimes current sight is 20/20 too, but we always think it is. We don't know when we're wrong. What's your plan for knowing when to follow and when not to follow? If it's just a matter of doing what you're told only when it's what you agree with, then why have prophets at all? Seems we'd make ourselves much too independent to take advice from God.

-L- said...

I can't find the e-mail now, but I found a draft. It contains some credentials that would jeapardize my anonymity anyway. The specifics aren't really the point of this post anyway (at least, in my mind).

Anonymous said...

you ask, why have prophets? they teach us correct principles, then we govern ourselves. here the principle is the eternal nature of the family, the governance is the translation of this principle into day to day politics. i don't shun the advice of leaders. i have made professional and personal decisions based on the advice of church leaders which i would not have made without that specific advice. i just don't say in advance, i will do whatever you say. i listen, i use all of my experience and facilities, i pray, then i decide. when church leaders make decision, it is not a one-way communication, never has been. church leaders also listen--not just to god and each other,but to us! too many members vote with their feet and just don't come back. i think that's cowardly, if i disagree, i am going to speak up, respectfully, in the right time and place, but as i have said before, i was silent on other issues and have promised not to be silent again.

-L- said...

Santorio, I agree with every single word you just said. But I think I'm not sold on your application to the current topic. It's more appropriately called self-governance when we extrapolate true principles to specific situations in our lives; it's more appropriately called obedience or disobedience when a prophet offers a particular church position and we have only to agree or disagree, obey or disobey.

I tried quite earnestly to believe the direction on the specific amendment in question fell toward the more autonomous end of the spectrum, but at the end of it all I didn't feel that way. Perhaps I was a fool. And if that's the case, I have only to learn from it for next time. I'm an expert at forgiving myself by now.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I agree that obedience is the key to avoiding mistakes based on lack of understanding, but only insofar as we're talking about obedience to God. Yes, God often speaks through prophets, but I think it's a fallacy to say that any one person always speaks for God, which is what you're saying if you're saying that the prophet "will never lead the church astray." To say he will never not speak for God is to say he always speaks for God, which is to say he never speaks for himself.

I will always be obedient to counsel I believe to come from God. I reserve the right to determine for myself what counsel comes from God and what comes from man--it's a flawed process, as that determination can only be based on feelings and inclinations, but it's all I've got and I'm okay with that.

--Master Fob

-L- said...

I don't think I agree with some of your logic about what implies what, but I appreciate your points, Master Fob.

Several latter-day prophets have asserted that the prophet won't lead the church astray, but that's a moot point if you accept the reverse and believe they all could be together mistaken about that too!

I'd be interested to know what you think about this article. Some of the quotes include:

Pres Woodruff: "I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God."

Pres Benson: "The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything."

Pres Young: "I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture."

Pres Lee: "You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may conflict with your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life … Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow … Let’s keep our eye on the President of the Church."

Joseph Smith: "Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until long after the events transpire."

Anonymous said...

NOTE: I'm now officially annoyed with Blogger 2.0. It just erased the comment I'm about to remake in abbreviated form. Perhaps the problem is that my Blogger identity and my Google identity have the same username and password, but are two separate accounts, so Blogger is confused about which one to use? Who knows?

--Master Fob, about to comment again

Anonymous said...

Long story short:

You hit it on the head with that second paragraph. I don't buy the "never lead the Church astray" thing. That whole philosophy fails to account for human agency, which last I checked you don't relinquish when you sign up to be the prophet.

Despite all this, I respect you, L, for doing what you believe is right. At the end of the day, that's all any of us can do, but only the best of us actually do do.

--Master Fob / MF / MFob / Fobby

Stephanie said...

This is such a tough issue, and I really have had a lot of these same thoughts. I really like how you put both sides together.