A few nights ago an old friend of mine called me. We knew each other in college and it was good to hear her voice and speak with her. She told me that she had read my blog and she really enjoyed it. But as we continued to talk, the conversation gravitated towards gay rights. And she had one burning question: why does it matter? Why do people get so upset? Why do they care so much what other people do? They constantly fight an bicker. She told me that one time she was with a group of people who were discussing gay rights, and specifically Prop 8. She asked why the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints supported it so much. Mind you, she did not say “Mormon’s shouldn’t be ok with this.” or any thing that disagreed with the beliefs of the people around her (who were all Mormon, as is she). But this question instantly sparked anger and resentment. She said that for the rest of the hour she was attacked and told why her thoughts were destructive and wrong.
I consider this to be a minor battle in what I have started calling the Gay Marriage War. I call it a war because that is sadly what it has become. Gay people across the world have literally raised a banner and march behind it. And just as resolutely, other people fight that banner and absolutely everything it stands for. The world is divided. And on both sides of this great schism is anger and hatred and a lack of respect and love. I want to address this general lack of love and humanity, but first I want to answer my friend’s question, which sadly was not answered for her. So the question is, why do Mormons care about gay marriage in the first place? The following is an excerpt from an interview of Elder Dallin H. Oaks by the LDS office of Public Affairs:
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: At the outset, can you explain why this whole issue of homosexuality and same-gender marriage is important to the Church?
ELDER OAKS: “This is much bigger than just a question of whether or not society should be more tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle. Over past years we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of that lifestyle to accept as normal what is not normal, and to characterize those who disagree as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable. Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like “homophobic.” In at least one country where homosexual activists have won major concessions, we have even seen a church pastor threatened with prison for preaching from the pulpit that homosexual behavior is sinful. Given these trends, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must take a stand on doctrine and principle. This is more than a social issue — ultimately it may be a test of our most basic religious freedoms to teach what we know our Father in Heaven wants us to teach.”
I want to affirm some of the things that Elder Oaks says with my own personal experiences. A little over a year ago I “came out” to a heterosexual friend of mine who is not a member of my church and has different beliefs than me. He first started to say that he supported me and would help me in any way that he could. He said that too many people are close minded and do not accept others as they are, and that they far too often do not allow people to form their own beliefs. I thanked him and we proceeded to talk about my own beliefs and how I planned to live according to my faith. Everything was fine until I said that I planned to NOT have a relationship with a man and that I hoped to someday be able to have a wife. “Are you kidding me?” were his words. According to him I needed to accept myself. I wasn’t being fair. He then took the next two hours to tell me why that was an insane notion and that I was wrong and would only hurt myself and others. After I left I went home and simply cried. One of my close friends who said he loved me and would accept me had just attacked me! There was no support, no love , no acceptance of what I believed. As Elder Oaks said, my friend was “quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for [himself], but equally quick to criticize those with a different view”.
I have also had conversations about homosexuality with people who did not know that I struggle with those feelings myself. They have called me homophobic, hateful, unloving, old-fashioned, and many other unsavory names. They say that my views are selfish and only hold back the world because there would be no adverse effects of gay marriage. As Elder Oaks stated above, there are indeed adverse effects, even if they seem faint and distant now. More from the interview:
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: On the issue of a Constitutional amendment prohibiting same-gender marriage, there are some Latter-day Saints who are opposed to same-gender marriage, but who are not in favor of addressing this through a Constitutional amendment. Why did the Church feel that it had to step in that direction?
ELDER OAKS: “Law has at least two roles: one is to define and regulate the limits of acceptable behavior. The other is to teach principles for individuals to make individual choices. The law declares unacceptable some things that are simply not enforceable, and there’s no prosecutor who tries to enforce them. We refer to that as the teaching function of the law. The time has come in our society when I see great wisdom and purpose in a United States Constitutional amendment declaring that marriage is between a man and a woman. There is nothing in that proposed amendment that requires a criminal prosecution or that directs the attorneys general to go out and round people up, but it declares a principle and it also creates a defensive barrier against those who would alter that traditional definition of marriage.
There are people who oppose a federal Constitutional amendment because they think that the law of family should be made by the states. I can see a legitimate argument there. I think it’s mistaken, however, because the federal government, through the decisions of life-tenured federal judges, has already taken over that area. This Constitutional amendment is a defensive measure against those who would ignore the will of the states appropriately expressed and require, as a matter of federal law, the recognition of same-gender marriages — or the invalidation of state laws that require that marriage be between a man and a woman. In summary, the First Presidency has come out for an amendment (which may or may not be adopted) in support of the teaching function of the law. Such an amendment would be a very important expression of public policy, which would feed into or should feed into the decisions of judges across the length and breadth of the land.”
To keep things short, these are the reasons for my belief in defending marriage. And I stand by them. But I want to address one more matter as I close. While I want to defend marriage and the right to do so, I want to do so peacefully. I want no anger. I want no fighting. No harsh words. I do not hate or dislike people who want gay marriage. On the contrary! I hope they are able to find happiness! I simply choose another way to find that happiness. This does not mean I need to attack someone or make them feel that their thoughts or opinions are worthless or repressive. Again, I look to Jesus Christ as an example. How would he say the things that need to be said? Only with love and compassion. If in any conversation about gay rights or homosexuality or whatever the subject we begin to be angry or to attack, we will lose the Spirit of the Lord and we will not be able to communicate effectively. That conversation will be worthless and will only serve to destroy relationships.
Whatever your beliefs may be, lets stop this war. Stop attacking. Stop feeling so defensive. Speak. And do so with love and patience. In short, what would Jesus do?