On Sunday during the third hour of Sacrament meeting, the bishop of our ward held a joint meeting to discuss the Church’s letter on same-sex marriage. As you may know, that letter responds to the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, reaffirming the Church’s stance opposed to gay marriage but also emphasizing the importance of reaching out to neighbors and friends in love and fellowship.
At my ward, Priesthood and Relief Society, as well as the young men and young women, were in the meeting. So we had about 100 people in the cultural hall. The bishop read the letter, and then there was about a half-hour discussion.
It was truly amazing. There was not a single comment — not one, bloggernaclites! — criticizing gay people in any way. There were no comments saying this was a sign of the end of the world. There were no comments even criticizing the Supreme Court.
The overwhelming theme coming from more than 30 comments from adult and youth members was: love your neighbor. Be Christ-like. Avoid contention. Show charity to all people.
Our bishop made a comment that kind of summed up the event. He told of one relative who had a son who decided to get married to another man. There were relatives who shunned that son, but the bishop praised the man’s mother for continuing to love her son. With tears in his eyes, he said the mother realized the son was a “lost sheep” who needed special love and affection.
As I have written before, my ward in small town Colorado is extremely conservative. I have been the Gospel Doctrine teacher for almost four years, so I get to hear the political views of most active members over time. (Note: I do not bring up politics in my classes, but members will make comments on current events no matter what you teach). There are no openly gay members in my ward, and in fact there are no openly Democrat members in my ward (although there are several libertarians like myself).
It is very common for members of the Mormon blog world to make assumptions about “conservative Mormons.” Conservative Mormons, in this rendition, only read Cleon Skousen. They don’t believe in evolution. They are judgmental, intolerant, homophobic, sexist, etc, etc.
This view of conservative Mormons is so at odds with my experience that I truly am flabbergasted every time I see it expressed. If there is a common theme for our ward, it is Christ-like service. There are service projects almost every week, and we get a huge turnout. Just to give you one example, when I moved into the ward more than 60 people showed up to help us move. When a massive flood came through Colorado almost two years ago, nearly everybody in the ward went door to door to help neighbors. When a small tornado hit a few farms six weeks ago, the young men canceled a well-planned fundraiser for Scout Camp to go help the (non-member) victims of the tornado.
It is nice to see that this culture of service has helped create a culture of charity as well. Even when faced with a situation that most of the members of the ward find very uncomfortable (a very poorly decided Supreme Court decision), Church members look on the positive side. Several people said this decision was a great missionary opportunity because it provided a contrast between how the rest of the world sees sexuality and how the Church sees sexuality. In this view, people with a more traditional view will find the Church attractive.
One young woman said that her fellow teenagers don’t agree with the Church’s position, but they admire Church members for standing up for their beliefs when everybody else is against them. When the discussion with her friends got more contentious, this young woman said she changed the subject to avoid arguing.
Several commenters said they have heard from friends and relatives in Utah that similar discussions about the Church’s letter have nearly turned violent at their wards. They said ward members argued with each other, shouting either in favor or against gay marriage. This did not happen in our ward.
If we all agree that the solution is Christ-like love, what is there to argue about?