The following guest post comes from Michelle, a long-time Bloggernacle participant. Michelle was kind enough to accept our invitation to submit a guest post on this topic, one which she has reflected on for quite some time.
I couldn’t think of much else all day. Relieved when 11:00 p.m. finally arrived, I knocked on Ben’s* door; he was finally home from work. He let me in, and we sat. We chatted about simple things at first — his current work and school activities, mostly. But then I jumped into the reason for my late-night visit.
The prayer in my heart didn’t keep me from fumbling and stumbling, trying to put words to all that I was feeling. I only hoped that the clumsy flow of emotion and fractured thoughts could be understood. I know. I care. I’m sorry it’s so hard.
Ben didn’t say much, and I fear I said too much. I wish I’d asked more questions, sought to understand more of how he feels about everything. We were able to talk a little about some of our different views about God and religion. In the end, all of my weakness aside, though, I think he knew I meant it when I said, “If you want a place at church, I want you to know you have a place by me.” I gave him a hug, and I left.
It wasn’t pretty. It was pretty embarrassing, actually. I was so nervous, afraid I’d said the wrong thing. And I probably did at times throughout the conversation.
But guess what? Something good happened that night. The elephant in the room was addressed, and Ben got to hear me say — and I hope he was able to feel — that I care.
But the reason it ultimately ended up being a good thing is because of how Ben responded. He could have laughed at me. He could have kicked me out of his house. He could have railed against me, my beliefs, the prophets, or all that has gone on with Prop 8 (I imagine he probably knows my position on it). But he did none of these things. Instead, he accepted my meager attempt to reach out. He showed class and character by being receptive to an effort to be kind.
Ben and I don’t agree on a lot of things with relation to the gay marriage issue or the doctrine that is connected with the Church’s position on it. But without putting words to it, we agreed on something significant that night — something I think is essential if we are going to make it through these hard times. We agreed that simple kindness can go a long way to help knit our hearts together in spite of the differences that may exist. Ben didn’t close his heart to me, in spite of the very real pain and difficulty he is experiencing, and for that I am grateful. In my mind, that night Ben was an example of Christlike behavior.
We all have plenty of examples of people on both sides of this issue who have done some pretty awful things. But I believe that in the midst of the awfulness, there are examples of those who rise above such behavior. They demonstrate that it is possible to be Christlike even when disagreeing on some pretty fundamental things.
Maybe rather than trying to convince each other that our position is the more correct one (is anyone really going to change their minds at this point?), we could simply try to hold to the dictates of our own conscience in a more Christlike way. I’m not saying this to suggest that we water down or back down from whatever we feel is right, just that we are careful and thoughtful about how we present our viewpoints. And sometimes we may not need to talk about our positions at all, but simply try to be kind, to build relationships outside of and separate from this issue.
I’m struck by the fact that basically every time the topic of gay marriage is brought up by the Church, and in other more general contexts as well, we are repeatedly reminded of the need to be civil, respectful, Christlike. For example, consider these words from Elder Quentin L. Cook from the last General Conference:
[T]here are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught. I invite each one of us individually to recognize that how we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable….If we show love and respect even in adverse circumstances, we become more like Christ.
The most recent Church statement said something similar:
“[W]e urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion.”
I am not so naive as to think that somehow a few nice conversations are going to change the chargedness of this issue, for Ben or for anyone else in his shoes (or for anyone with an opinion on it all, for that matter). But in the end, my thought is that however things end up being resolved in the courts, there will likely continue to be a divide. And so I can’t help but think that how we deal with that divide — how we treat each other in the midst of such differences — will be something that the Lord will ask us about someday when we stand before Him. May we have the Christian courage to seek to be more like Him, regardless of what our opinions may be.
*Name has been changed.