Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Church takes a stand to protect marriage

Just got this off the Associated Press news wire this morning.

Mormon Church Enters Calif. Gay Marriage Fight

Tuesday, June 24, 2008 4:30 AM

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is asking California members to join the effort to amend that state's constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

A letter sent to Mormon bishops and signed by church president Thomas S. Monson and his two top counselors calls on Mormons to donate "means and time" to the ballot measure. A note on the letter dated June 20 says it should be read during church services on June 29, but the letter was published Saturday on several Web sites.

Church spokesman Scott Trotter said Monday that the letter was authentic. He declined further comment, saying the letter explains the church's reasons for getting involved.

The LDS church will work with a coalition of churches and other conservative groups that put the California Marriage Protection Act on the Nov. 4 ballot to assure its passage, the letter states.

In May, California's Supreme Court overturned a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, saying gays could not be denied marriage licenses.

"The church's teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and the formation of families is central to the Creator's plan for His children," the four-paragraph letter states.

"We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to ensure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman," church leaders say in the letter. "Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage."

California Mormons _ there are more than 750,000, according to a church almanac _ have heard and heeded similar calls from their leaders before.

In 2000, a letter from the pulpit asked members to give time and money in support of Proposition 22, a ballot measure prohibiting California from legally recognizing gay marriages performed outside the state. It passed but was later struck down by the courts.

The LDS church also fought same-sex marriage legislation in other states during the 1990s. As recently as 2006, it signed a letter to Congress seeking an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The latest letter is a disappointment to members of Affirmation, an international support group for gay, lesbian and transgender Mormons. Last month, Affirmation called on the church not to meddle in California politics.

"This initiative will hurt so many people," executive director W. Olin Thomas said in a statement Monday. "The California law affects civil marriage; it has no effect on any religious institution or official."

Affirmation leaders are scheduled to meet with the head of LDS Family Services, a church social services agency, in August to begin a conversation meant to bridge the divide between Mormonism and gay members hurt by church teachings that homosexuality is a sin.

It will be the first meeting between any arm of the church and Affirmation, which was formed in secret in the 1970s by students at the church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo.

"We're not going to let this stand in the way," Affirmation spokesman David Melson said. "The church has said they are open to finding new avenues and new solutions to minister to gay members, and we are taking them at their word."

Monday, June 16, 2008

I'm Not Ashamed

There are a few things I will apologize for and a few things that I refuse to. I'm not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm not ashamed of its teachings. I'm not ashamed to stand for something even if it makes me politically incorrect or in the minds of pro-gay Mormons - ignorant. If counciled to by the First Presidency I will support any measure that they ask me to. I am not a blind sheep and I don't consider this blind faith. There is no such thing as loyal oppistion in the Kingdom of God. I know that God knows more then I do and if I follow him and his inspired Prophet even if I don't completely understand the reasons I will be safe and blessed. If something attacks things that are sacred to me or that mock God I will stand up against them, I have taken covenants to do so.

I WILL apologize if my approach comes off as unloving, uncaring, unkind or intolerant. I am sorry about that. I struggle with feelings and urges that I used to think made me unworthy. I am attracted to men. I would love to love someone the way that "feels natural." But I know this is wrong. This is why I joined this group. To have support to stay strong. But because this is a support group for people wishing to stay faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, I am confused as to how anything I've said may be taken as anything but encouragement to do so.

No I'm not a Prophet, I've never claimed to be. I do know what the Prophet has said about choosing the influences we allow into our lives. I know what the church teaches God says about acting on our urges and I know what I've been taught about things like morality and agency.

I've never said that people who choose to exercise their agency in a way that goes against God's will are bad people. What I have said is that those that do that try to influence others to choose the same path are bad influences. I have said that media that is pro-gay that promotes a gay lifestyle is a bad influence. I have said that anything that helps us justify or normalize what is evil in our minds and that offends the spirit in such away that we lose the influence of the Holy Ghost making us easy targets for the adversary to snare are things that need to be avoided. I honestly don't see how saying this is hateful, contentions or unloving.

I would never purposely stand as a stumbling block to someone trying to be strong. I will always be here for anyone who needs a friend or who needs someone to hold to if they feel weak.

The worst thing in the world is watching a brother make bad choices which you know will lead to his spiritual death when you know that that person knows better. Its hard to stand back because in all honestly there is a point where even the most loving person if they say anything that would question their choice will be taken as closed minded to their happiness. I know this from personal expirence having watched two brothers fall into this path and seeing how those who do love them who are trying to keep them close get accused of this kind of hatred.

What hurts is that I am not a hateful person. I honestly don't want to see the pain that I know is the end result of these choices. I have seen that, experienced that first hand. Maybe I'm not good at tough love but I also know that support can only truly be support if it is used to hold up. Support isn't really support if its just used to stand by. When you are rebuilding, support keeps a structure from falling. But at some point the support system needs to be walled around and needs to be made internal. The outside support system has to be taken down and the structure needs to be able to stand on its own. The structure also needs a strong foundation, but if too much filler is added to the mix when pouring the foundation it can easily become weak and even the best support structure won't hold when the foundation crumbles.

We have our agency and we choose what influences we let into the mix. We also show what we feel is worthy by the things we promote and talk about in a positive way. I know from experiences that when I was feeling weak, I wanted to feel I was a good person so I would search out "support" from people and things that "uplifted" me and told me what I was doing was okay. Because I may have lost the prompting of the Holy Ghost these things seemed to comfort me. But because we never lose the influences of the Spirit even when we do everything we can to not accept it because we don't want to feel guilty something always made me feel as if there was something wrong, something missing. I know its was the Holy Ghost.

Again the purpose of my past few posts wasn't to bring anyone down but to warn about the dangers of allowing these kinds of influences into the mix that we are using to build our spiritual foundations.

Okay now in defense of those who do speak the truth. Some posters have said that if they had read what I wrote while they were at a period in their life when they would have left the group. Now to be honest I wonder if this has more to do with pride and less to do with what I said. When we are lost we don't need road maps that say, this is the way to go if you feel good about it, if not go the other way. Would we want a compass that gave us directions that matched our opinions and feelings? We would like to blame the the feelings we have with what is being said as the result of the spirit of contention. But lets be honest here, if we are trying to justify wrong, that spirit is already present in motivating us, its now just manifesting itself in pride and ego.

...1 Ne. 16: 1-32: And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center...

Remember brothers, wicked means choosing to sin after you know the truth. It's not sinning in ignorance. Please remember I'm not saying I'm perfect, I need to hear what I'm saying probably more so. I'm only warning because I believe that when we have been warned its our duty if we love each other to warn. And no I'm not accusing anyone here of being wicked, just as I know no one was judging me of needing reproving with sharpness for standing for what I believe to be right.

I love this scripture but I think we also need to be very careful in how we apply it.

D&C 43: Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

We as Latter-day Saints have a tendency to speak in scripts and follow patterns that if we aren't careful can come off as insincere attempts to come off as insincere attempts at being perfect.

Just as we need to have been moved upon by the Holy Ghost to reprove. We also need to really love the person if we are going to try to show an increase in love afterwards. And yes we need to lose the pride, the ego and not let what is truth seem sharp or hard to us if its true. When it comes to the next part of showing love, if you don't really love someone no matter how you say it, if you don't and it will come off as insincere. Perhaps this is also part of why what I write offends people because they can't see into my heart and see that I am speaking with love.

If a person just feels the way they do after being told they are loved in fast in testimony meeting by a total stranger and then later ignored by that person after the meeting when you say hi to them in the meeting house hall way, they aren't really going to feel much of an increase in love. In fact what they may feel is a tinge of resentment and insincerity.

I think we have all been apologized by people in a way that we both knew was more for the sake of the person apologizing to feel better and more "Chirstlike" then for any real feelings of remorse.

If I didn't struggle with this I could see how some could say I don't understand. I do. I know its hard and I know its rough. But I also know what is true. I do understand. Again I offer my most humble apology if the messenger has overshadowed the message but I will stand by the message and I won't apologize for standing for that.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My three days with an apostle

This has been an amazing three days. Since Friday we have had Elder Richard G. Scott of the Twelve in our stake and for the past three nights I've been able to "sit at his feet" and listen to him in various meetings. He spoke on a wide range of topics from learning to same gender marriage to how we can tell if we are receiving an answer to prayers.

On Friday he spoke to the young adults. We were all gathered in the chapel of the stake center. The high councilman got up to introduce him and Elder Stevenson of the Seventy. He begin to read the bios of the two from these three pages he held up. Elder Scott stood up and went over to the speaker and said, "Brother please, this sounds like a funeral, none of these people care about this stuff, lets just move on, you don't need to read this stuff." There was a lot of laughter and the guy just then said, "well I'm sure you know who he is so umm be nice to him."

After the meeting he met with each and everyone of us to learn our names and shake hands and then eat ice cream with us. This was really a unique opportunity to talk to face-to-face and get to know someone that I've always looked up to.

This was an unusual meeting because he walked around with a mike and encouraged us to ask questions. These are from my notes, they are pretty close to what he said. Again these are my notes and not official transcripts, I don't think I'm sharing anything new but perhaps new ways of thinking about them which is also something he talked about when learning.

This being California of course the topic of Same Gender Marriage came up.
What he said was blunt to the point.

"There are times when we are called on to stand for what is right. There are also times we are called to stand for what is wrong. What I mean by this brothers and sisters is that we must never allow Satan in all his subtle sohpostries to convince us that what is wrong is right."

He talked about how Satan will use things like political correctness to make those who stand for what is right look like hateful people or religious bigots. Or make sin seem like a civil right. Or say that those who stand firm on moral issues are robbing others of their agency.

"When you know the real purpose that you and I are here on the Earth, you will realize this. When you know the plan of our Father you will know why same gender marriages is one of his greatest evils and how it traps those Satan has snared into this lifestyle of the chance of ever having a family that can be eternal. Satan wants to confuse, blur and destroy. This is not a matter of agency once you know the truth, it becomes a matter of obedience."

A friend of mine asked Elder Scott how he could tell the difference between a good feeling and the spirit when he prays for guidance about what to do.

Elder Scott looked at him and asked outright, "are you worthy?" He then added that in most cases when you are living worthily Heavenly Father will not allow bad ideas to pass as spiritual prompting. He said that almost all good ideas will be spiritual. That some times when you have two choices and both are good and it is more of "what you will do with them" and less about "which is the right one."

Another friend of mine asked him "what his favorite dream was." I felt this was an unusual question, but Elder Scott seemed to felt it was a good time to share a spiritual expirence with us. He told of waking up from a dream covered in sweat and sore. He said that he at first felt like he must have had a nightmare. Then he realized that he need to ponder and perhaps see if it was something the Lord was trying to teach him.

In the dream he said he dreamed that he was looking for his late wife but that people kept telling him that she wasn't there. Finally when they realized that he wasn't going to give up they said that she didn't want anything to do with him and further that he would soon lose all memory of her. He said he stopped and said that he had been married in the temple for time and all eternity.

"Suddenly I felt as if I had been raised up out of the scene and I could see that it was evil spirits trying to convince me that that wasn't true."

This is the key point.

He said that we need to be careful not to let Satan or the world or our fears convince us. Not to be taught by our fears or to believe what we have told ourselves in desperation when we are close to losing faith. That a person with a body will always have more power over evil spirits that will try to convince us otherwise. To have faith in God and not our fears or what we convince ourselves is true if it goes against what God has told us.

Elder Scott said was that we should keep a separate journal of things that the Lord teaches us that are sacred to us. He said in the day and age of blogs that some things still need to be kept sacred in a journal. He said he keeps his on a computer with a password.

He told us that there are times we may not get anything out of a meeting but that we should still take notes. He said that sometimes in the future when we are pondering things that these items may be of some importance in the future. We may not be in the proper mind frame or maybe the Lord knows we will one day need the message.

He also said that sometimes things are too sacred at the time to share with others but that sometimes we will be inspired to share them at the right time. He talked about his recent conference talk when he was supposed to right about justice and mercy and while he tried and prayed and wrote nothing came to mind, but he was inspired to write about abuse. He said that after he had completed the talk he said "Well I guess perhaps the Lord wants me to talk about abuse."

A final thought he left with us was the difference between leaning by hearing and learning by understanding. He said in teaching if we "communicate" with those we teach instead of just trying to impart our message, which isn't bad but not the best way to teach, we open up the channels for the spirit to teach and edify. The best teachers are those who help the invite the Spirit to teach with them as their companions.

He challenged us to always set goals by saying for instance instead of "I will grow more spiritual." To say "I will grow more spiritual BY:" Then add bullet points.

I hope that I've been able to impart some of what I've learned and more importantly the spirit I've felt the past three days. If anyone wants to comment or write me with their thoughts I'd love to discuss them. Thank you for the opportunity to share them with you.