Discussing the Church’s letter on same-sex marriage in a conservative ward

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?

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

46 thoughts on “Discussing the Church’s letter on same-sex marriage in a conservative ward

  1. 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.

    That’s because there’s a narrative they have to uphold in order to justify their beliefs and attitude toward the other side. Makes it easy to go against the prophets or what they believe if you think they’re just a bunch of uneducated bigots.

    That being said, I’m glad that your ward had a good, Christ-like discussion. Our bishop just read the letter and that was the end of it.

  2. My ward the Bishop gathered all but the youngest after Sacrament meeting and read the letter. He finished reading the letter’s answers to some questions and opened up for the ward to ask any they might have. A minute went by without any raising hands or saying a word. The Bishop then said he could talk with anyone in private if they wanted to do that instead. The short meeting ended and we all went back to our business as if nothing happened.

  3. I think this is a valuable contribution to the overall conversation. Your experience is is a bit different from mine, but I think that it is likely way more characteristic of what happened than you would expect from those reports from folks agitating on the left. My bishop decided to just dismiss the primary from the chapel after sacrament meeting and then read the statement from the pulpit; following which he dismissed us all to our classes. There are two rabble rouser types in our ward, and I understand that the bishop was leery of giving them the opportunity to start something. The concern wasn’t about giving them a platform, per se, but in what kind of damage they would do to their already tenuous relationships with people in the ward if they were allowed an opportunity to forcefully oppose the Church’s position with the rest of the ward watching.

  4. Our bishop is on vacation, but this week the Relief Society leadership was released and replaced. One member of the former presidency has made her ideas about female ordination and SSM very apparent, both as a blogger and over the pulpit. The letter will likely be read when the Bishop is available. I expect there will be some who choose to be absent.

  5. Our letter was read last week in my (Utah) ward. The bishop read the letter, made a few uplifting comments and asked if there were any questions (there weren’t). It was quiet and back to business as normal.

    However, the Sunday following the proceedings of the Supreme Court ruling my husband was teaching Gospel Doctrine. Though it wasn’t his intention, the ruling inevitably came up. I was very nervous for how this was going to play out. But to my grateful surprise, our discussion turned out much like the discussion you had in your ward. There were so many comments of loving as Christ would love, of standing firm in your beliefs respectably and kindly, and of seeing the best in all people and opportunities. The spirit was very strong during that lesson, and as my husband was able to turn the discussion back to the lesson, I felt we were all able to apply it better to our daily lives. It was a memorable experience.

  6. Through a series of events, I missed our ward’s reading of the letter, but my wife said there weren’t any comments. I think the one sister who might have said something was off on vacation. I suspect if there were arguments between members in some wards it was caused when a progressive member stood up and said “The FP/Q12 are wrong about SSA/SSM.” I would think that would initiate a chain reaction of accusations. I agree that even the most conservative members are anything but sexist, homophobic white people of privilege. They are doing their best to show Christlike love to their friends and neighbors.

  7. James Stone wrote: “That’s because there’s a narrative they have to uphold in order to justify their beliefs and attitude toward the other side. Makes it easy to go against the prophets or what they believe if you think they’re just a bunch of uneducated bigots.”

    As I have written before, it is a dangerous thing when people start seeing other people as “on the other side.” Christ is on everybody’s side — some people are not on His side, which is the problem. I think the lesson from my ward meeting is that we should take the default position that we are on everybody’s side but realize that some people will inevitably make choices that will separate themselves from God. We should see that happening and mourn it and continue on our way, offering love and charity as best we can.

  8. In our ward we sang “Love One Another” at the opening of the special meeting. Our ward has a lot of married university graduate students from a nearby secular university and a smaller, older contingent as well. There are clearly members who are more conservative and members who are more liberal. One member asked if he could go to a “great” gay wedding. The Bishop answered that he could, but the wedding couldn’t occur in our church. The Bishop is a lawyer and has a good sense of both Church policy and the civil law. Civil law could increasingly become a minefield, and I trust the Church is and will be doing a good job of getting us through this minefield.

    The same day, if I recall correctly, my wife and I went to an Episcopal Evensong service as part of an organ convention. The service was non-political except when one of the officiants expressed thanks for the Supreme Court decision in a prayer. The Episcopal Church (TEC) has lost about a quarter of its average Sunday attendance in the decade since it ordained its first openly gay, partnered bishop. The United Church of Christ across the street from our chapel is sporting a rainbow symbol. It is dying demographically, if not in other ways. Every church is going to have to navigate this minefield.

    See 1 Tim 4:16.

  9. Sounds like you live in a great ward where service and love are not only taught but practiced.

    Regarding why liberal church members have stereotypes (and implicitly why the flip side of that as well, e.g., why *some* – not all – conservative members assume very interesting things about folks like me). Is that pretty much every liberal member has been on the very harsh receiving end of abuse from members who fit the stereotype. The list you cite exists only because the people who produced the material were very active and prominent LDS members. What liberals need to realize is that wards like you describe exist.

    If members are motivated by Christ like love, and they also put that love into service oriented action (as you describe in your ward), then a particular member’s politics won’t matter. Given what you describe I suspect that if I moved into your ward I would be completely comfortable and welcomed, both in your gospel doctrine class and the high priest quorum.

  10. This question appears to have been overlooked on the first post on this topic. I’ll re-state it here.

    I know that the scriptures teach that patience, longsuffering, forbearance, love and charity are virtues. No where do the scriptures say that tolerance is a virtue. Is it wise to use ambiguous, non scriptural language whilst the liberals are using the same word to encourage all manner of abomination?

  11. In our ward, the bishop had the adults and youth meet in the chapel during the time we would normally have Relief Society, Young Women, and Priesthood opening exercises. He simply read the letter and then we went on to our classes. No discussion.

    But there was something in the way he read the letter that positively exuded calm and good sense. I think you would have to have been there to understand. Or to have had the same experience in your own ward.

  12. In response to laserguy, we do have hymn 172, “In Humility Our Savior” in which the following lyric appears: “Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving; Teach us tolerance and love.” I doubt we’d have that lyric if tolerance wasn’t seen as a virtue.

  13. @ Geoff B. Completely agree with your comments about the dangers of seeing people “on the other side.” It’s something that (sadly) exists on both the right and the left when it comes to contentious issues like SSM. I think what contention was expressed in these meetings would melt away if people could realize that Christ is on everyone’s side.

  14. Geoff, as to “openly Democrat members”, sometimes us liberal folks are not so open about our political leanings. I have been a member of my ward for a decade, and have never denied being a registered Democrat or voting for the same. Nevertheless I still have long term members of the ward who assume I am of their political brand.

  15. I am in a fairly conservative ward (though our last bishop was a liberal, and is now living in boston). Yesterday during third hour, our new bishop was with the youth. His counselors were with the adults. The letter and back up information was read. We spent the hour with various questions. The questions were all thoughtful and supportive of those with SSA. One person was concerned about individuals who may be unkind to SSA, and what would the Church do about such. I noted that we had a similar situation in the South when we started preaching the gospel actively to African Americans. We had racist members who complained about blacks receiving callings in Primary, or having to visit/home teach in poor neighborhoods, etc. It took us a decade to get most members to change their racist views and accept the new black members.
    I am certain we will have some members who grew up hating LGBT issues to the point that they hate the people (just as some conservatives hate liberals, and vice versa). But we will grow as a Church, with Christ-like love as our standard.
    I was impressed with how well it went in our ward. The young counselor who handled the adult meeting was nervous about the topic, but did fine in letting members answer members’ questions.
    I think the Church’s letter was excellent, focusing more on loving everyone, while standing firm on doctrine.

  16. Mark N, If we’re opening up the word “scriptures” to include the hymnal, I guess we should start referring to native americans as “fearsome indian bands” and we should all praise Joseph Smith. Hymn 172 is problematic for several reasons, 1 of which is it teaches Mormons to earn the atonement rather than accept it (“proven worthy of thy sacrifice”, right Rameumpton?

    I reiterate my question. Is there anywhere is the LDS standard works, a statement that tolerance is a virtue? Do people here get the fact that when a liberal uses that word, they mean openly embrace as a good action, and when a conservative uses the word, they mean don’t kill someone for being different than you. This utter lack of recognition between the difference in definition makes using a non-canonical, ambiguous term as severely short-sighted.

    “Vice is a monster of such awful mean, to be hated needs but to be seen, but seen too oft, familiar with its face we first endure (tolerate), then pity, then embrace.” Where are the M* readers on this spectrum?

  17. @Laserguy – I guess it depends on your definition of tolerance, but a synonym is acceptance. There are many instances in the scriptures where the Lord accepts his people, and certainly he tolerates many of our shortcomings.

    Further, the command from the Lord, that is often misunderstood, is to turn the other cheek: Matthew 5:39 reads, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

    This doesn’t just mean let it go, it tells us to offer our other cheek for the offender to hit. That is the very definition of tolerance. That commandment and His other examples give us a pattern to follow in how we combat the evil in the world. That means that we continue to do what is right despite opposite, rather than ‘fighting’ against evil. He further commands us to give our cloak to those who would sue us, and if compelled to walk a mile, to walk two.

    So I’m not sure exactly what you are driving at when you talk about tolerance not being a ‘virtue’– maybe it isn’t — but it certainly is a commandment.

  18. Laserguy,

    I think that tolerance has somehow become a euphemism for acceptance (active), rather than just to tolerate (passive).

    And it just sounds so friendly, nice, and good.

    Messaging the philosophies of man with some scriptural attachments has been going on for a long, long time.

  19. Laserguy, not quite sure what you are so excited about.

    M* readers recognize sin and do not condone it. At the same time, we need to recognize that all people have weakness. Ether 12 tells us that God gave us weakness that we may humble ourselves before him. When we humble ourselves, he turns that weakness into a strength.

    That said, while I do not condone adultery, drug use, alcohol use, gambling, pornography, bad tempers, etc., I recognize that people have weaknesses and struggles with innate issues. I do not detest alcoholics, smokers, sex/porn/drug/gambling addicts, or those needing anger management classes. They need love and support to manage their struggles. So it is with LGBT.

    They are trapped by innate feelings, struggling with feelings they may spend a lifetime dealing with. They feel lonely and alone, as family and members of the Church shun them. The strong/brave ones keep chaste, knowing they may never marry or have children, and knowing that many members will be afraid to be their friends, or let them near their children. They hope that someday the Lord will make things right for them, where they won’t have to suffer or be alone.

    We, as “normal” LDS members can make their experience better or worse. Do we focus on them being children of God, and our brothers and sisters? Or do we focus on their struggle, and condemn them for it?

    I have been on my stake high council for over 5 years. I’m the senior high councilor. Over the years, the vast majority of disciplinary councils have been for sexual sin. While many, if not all, have been worthy of excommunication, I marvel at the mercy the Lord has shown forth through the stake president. He focuses not on justice, but on mercy and the things that help the person to repent, change, and receive forgiveness of the Lord. We’ve seen some serious transgression occur, but loving the individual is of greater import than any condemnation of sin.

    The councils are kept secret to protect the individual. But sometimes I wish all members could attend a council to see just how lovingly the individual is treated in it. I wish the unity I feel working with the high council and stake presidency could be experienced by the average member. Most have no idea of how Zion could really be, because we spend so much time dividing ourselves and separating ourselves thru judging others that we do not focus on the things that can unite us.

  20. Laserguy, I would reiterate the comment that it all depends on what definition of “tolerate” you are using. If “tolerate” means understanding that some people are different then you are, and you are tolerant by letting their lives their own lives, then I would think that almost all latter-day Saints fall into this category, including M* readers. If “tolerate” means the endorsement of sin, then hopefully nobody falls into that category, although many of us would point out that we are all sinners one way or another.

    Mark N, it is a dangerous road you head down claiming hymns are scriptures. I think you are a musical guy, so you must know many hymns have problematic lyrics. Just sayin’

  21. Rame, great comment on stake high councils. I was on a high council for a few years, and I gained an incredibly deep understanding of the repentance process and how God sees sin, an understanding I don’t think I would ever have gained any other way. I wish it were possible to convey that to people in a way they would understand, but it is something you have to experience yourself.

  22. Geoff, it sounds like you are right next to where I live, but in a different stake. I can tell you that my experience in a ward in the Longmont stake is pretty much the same as yours.

  23. Ram, as somebody with ocd I like words to have meanings. And church statements to be consistent with scripture. For all the amount of respect I had for elder packet, I still feel it was stupid of him to call tolerance a virtue. If one thinks of apostles of those who are warned by the lord how liberals would abuse the word tolerate one could imagine a world in which he asks apostles not to use a scriptural, ambiguous phrase like tolerant. That wordly word is found in that statement, rebid ncing to me severe naievety in how liberal Mormons will use this as a cudgel. Again, what part of the spectrum are you on, enduring, pitying or embracing? I feel like im at enduring, Geoff is pitying, and bcc embraces. Am I wrong here?

  24. Geoff, the main reason (besides being a music guy) that I brought up the hymn is it’s the only place I could find the word “tolerance” at all. The word doesn’t appear in the scriptures anywhere, or so says my Kindle when I do a search for the word. And while some hymns’ lyrics may be problematic, I thought a choice from the “Sacrament Hymns” section of the book would be fairly safe.

    Just did a search on the LDS.org website for Mabel J. Gabbott to see how big a footprint she has in the hymnbook. She contributed to “Rejoice, Ye Saints of Latter Days”, “In Humility, Our Savior” and “Lord, Accept into Thy Kingdom”. But she’s got 16 entries in the Children’s Songbook, so we may have a problem if she’s infecting all our Primary kids with non-scriptural notions of tolerance. 🙂

  25. Geoff-
    We had a very civil discussion that centered around love and harmony. Welcoming all who wish to worship with us no matter their choices. Reaffirming the Church’s position that marriage between a man and woman is the Lord’s plan but recognizing it does no one any good to attack others.

    Geoff, I served my mission in Colorado years ago when it included five states. I loved my time there. Can you tell which small town you live in, I may have served there.

  26. President Monson, among others, has recently spoken about tolerance in General Conference. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865577689/Prophet-calls-for-tolerance-kindness-toward-those-who-dont-share-LDS-beliefs.html?pg=all

    We had a joint priesthood/relief society meeting to discuss the letter, led by the bishop. The youth heard it the week after. The bishop spent most of the hour reading the letter and talking, but he did take a handful of comments and questions from the class. The bishop–and the ward as a whole–are very conservative. The bishop-dominated discussion was well-done. If I were a missionary I would’ve been fine having a gay investigator there. The bishop started the conversation by talking about his best friend from childhood, who is now gay, and about how he still loves and respects this friend. That set a good tone for the hour. The focus of the discussion was more a chastity lesson for adults than anything else.

    There were some raised hands that the bishop seemed to intentionally ignore, and some questionable “doctrine” taught about families, but the ignoring of the raised hands was a positive thing, and the questionable “doctrine” was pretty minor. Overall a big success.

  27. Here’s the direct quote from President Monson in regards to tolerance, from his closing remarks in the April 2013 General Conference:

    “May we be tolerant of, as well as kind and loving to, those who do not share our beliefs and our standards. The Savior brought to this earth a message of love and goodwill to all men and women. May we ever follow His example.

    “I pray that we may be aware of the needs of those around us. There are some, particularly among the young, who are tragically involved in drugs, immorality, pornography, and so on. There are those who are lonely, including widows and widowers, who long for the company and concern of others. May we ever be ready to extend to them a helping hand and a loving heart.”


  28. Please read D&C 4. If that doesn’t describe tolerance I don’t know what does. Also I’ve heard several times in General Conference that we should consider our hymns to be scripture. We are straining at a knat’s eyebrow in discussing a single word. We should be tolerant, but part of tolerance is respectful disagreement. Just accepting everything another person says so as not to offend is not tolerance. It’s cowardice. I know it. I’ve been there.

  29. Our ward experience was pretty much the same as this post. The letter was read, there was a little discussion of the church’s position, some comments and questions. The people in my ward are kind, loving saints, who strive to be Christlike and constantly rendering service to anyone that needs it. I love the people in our ward, humble, kind, faithful members doing their best to love their neighbor and serve their Heavenly Father.

  30. In my ward the Bishop read the letter in the third hour. He had the youth meet separately after he read the letter to the Adults, because he thought the youth would be more likely to ask questions or make comments if they were in there own group.
    I don’t know what happened among the youth, but with the older folk there was one comment about remembering that homosexuals people being children of God.

  31. We had one person who had a rather lengthy comment about how charitable and loving they were because they worked with a lot of gay people and accepted them, and then accused quite a lot of Mormons of being hateful and intolerant (which I agree, does happen, but not to the level this person was stating).

    The bishop let the person make the statement, reiterated we should be respectful of others and moved on, which is the best way to deal with someone building themselves up while tearing others down like that – let them have their say, don’t get defensive, and just move on.

  32. Ivan, isn’t it interesting that the “tolerant, loving, charitable” people spend so much time intolerantly and uncharitably disparaging other people?

  33. As a bishop, I was a bit apprehensive about how to approach the assignment. The only “mandatories” were to read the letter in full, do it on one of 2 specific dates, and read it to the Youth and adults in a meeting other than sacrament meeting. Should there be a discussion? If so, how long? Should we include the FAQs and other material? I emailed my stake president and his response was wonderful: “do what you feel is right, though be careful not to be too much on defense, or offense for that matter…its more important that your ward comes away feeling the love of God than anything else.” Following that counsel, it went well. After the fact, I spoke with other bishops in the stake, and it was remarkable how each of us got strong impressions to handle it quite unique ways because of the differences in our congregations. Seven bishops and we all handled it differently. And each of us felt the love of God in following those impressions. So in the end, I’m grateful the to the First Presidency and the Twelve for not being prescriptive about how to handle this (even though I wanted the opposite at the outset!)- pushing local leaders to seek the Spirit for direction.

  34. There seem to be quite a lot of people who think it makes sense to shun shunners simply for shunning. I don’t think shunning is particularly bad. It seems to me to be an important option when it comes to freedom of association. But people use the word as if it were necessarily an unrighteous choice. I disagree with that. Simply removing association from someone is repeatedly shown to be the correct action in the scriptures, like Nephi departing from Laman and Lemuel, the first King Mosiah’s flight, the Mormon exodus, the Israelite exodus, departure from Sodom and Gomorrah. That said, Elder Holland gave a nice description of the need to stand our ground, rather than flee or escape here: https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/article/ces-devotionals/2012/01/israel-israel-god-is-calling?lang=eng.

    Still I think in personal relationships, people should have the option of refusing association. I think it’s fine to shun people you feel are shunning inappropriately, but I think participating in shunning people just because you think all shunning is bad is hypocritical.

  35. Lucinda, again, it depends on the definition of “shunning.” Shunning is a loaded word because some religions have it as an official policy, i.e., if somebody has committed a sin you officially expel them from the church/ignore them/publicly embarrass them, etc. The problem with this is that it does not offer an opportunity for sincere repentance. I can tell you from being on the High Council that the church does not endorse this kind of shunning and in fact has adopted the opposite position, which is to try to welcome back people who have committed sin into the Church.

    Joseph Smith never shunned anybody, even though there were literally dozens of his best friends who betrayed him in the most cruel ways possible. He always welcomed them back with open arms and forgave them. This should be the Church’s official policy today, imho.

    Now, having said that, if shunning means “avoiding people you don’t like because they are contentious and/or unpleasant and/or mean-spirited” then I have no problem with this policy on a personal basis. As you say, people have the right of free association. You should not be forced to associate with people you don’t like. There are people who always want to pick a fight, and my policy is to avoid these people to avoid fights. There is nothing wrong with that, imho.

    However, I think it is important to analyze *why* you are avoiding them. Are you avoiding them because they sin differently than you do or are you avoiding them to avoid contention? People can make their own choices, but I think the Savior calls on us to try to love everybody, especially the people we think are sinners.

  36. “Stupid of [Pres. Packer] to call tolerance a virtue.”

    Laserguy, Packer has spoken on tolerance a number of times. Elder Oaks quoted Packer as saying, “The word tolerance does not stand alone. It requires an object and a response to qualify it as a virtue… Tolerance is often demanded but seldom returned. Beware of the word tolerance. It is an unstable virtue.”

    In other words, tolerance is a virtue only when it is a two-way street that is applied equally in return, especially when applied on the side of mercy. The one-sided application of tolerance is destructive and hypocritical, which Jesus condemned. It is worth reading Elder Oaks’ 2013 talk, “Balancing Truth & Tolerance”:


    (Though I can hyperlink on Word and Power Point, I don’t know how to hyperlink in this comment box…).

  37. Geoff,

    I think there are people in vulnerable positions that do not hear enough that it is okay to not associate with people who are abusive, etc (this is probably mostly women who need to feel its okay to ‘judge’ a sexual partner that is abusive). I do have a problem with powerful men being too ‘compassionate’ for badly behaved men. The situation in Pride and Prejudice comes to mind, where Darcy merely broke off association with Wickham, and did not expose him, leaving him to do more harm. Potential future victims should always be counted when weighing a potentially repentant abuser in the balance. I’m convinced that most people don’t see SSM as abusive to women and children, but for those who know what marriage really is about, I don’t understand how this could be missed.

    Thinking about shunning, I agree that there is often an organizational aspect to it. But I would say that currently, the organizational shunning is going against those who are making personal decisions about association. Like with the various vendors who don’t want to participate in SSM for personal reasons, who then have the full organizational force of the government, media, facebook etc etc. against them. There is more shaming and coercion going on than just mere shunning, but the shunning is there too.

    Anyway, people use shunning like it’s a bad word, and I think that is wrong. I’ll admit, I have been called a shunner. No one is going to be praising me for embracing people I find threatening, and that’s fine. Frankly, freedom from associating with people I find threatening is personally worth the price of being seen as a sinner and socially stigmatized. But I’m not sure the same could be said of society as a whole. There is a price to be paid when the wicked are suffered to oppress throughout society.

    As far as church discipline goes, I think there is too much leniency that often short-circuits sincere repentance. Those who have suffered through serious church discipline, and found their way back, often have more appreciation for their membership in the church than do those who merely have a band-aid that allows the infection to continue. Excommunication is not actually a final judgment, and should be seen more as a serious warning about what is truly at stake when one continues to fight against God. For instance, the failure to excommunicate my father for unrepentant adultery did not produce appreciation in my father. I feel he would have been better served by excommunication.

    Having said all that, it is dishonest to use shunning as a tool of coercion. I don’t think it’s bad to avoid people who “sin differently”, or even those who sin similarly. I don’t think it contradicts love. In fact the plan of salvation incorporates the idea of separation as love very well. The consequences of the Fall, including being cast out of God’s presence, are (with the accomplishment of the Atonement) ultimately the most loving way to deal with the situation. Separation from God as a consequence of the Fall gives us a clear understanding of what is at stake, and therefore allows us to meaningfully exercise our agency.

  38. Sometimes we ‘lean over backwards’ to avoid seeming cruel to the oppressor and lose our balance, creating even more damage to the victim of oppression.

  39. For the record, I haven’t intentionally been shunning M* – I’ve just been crazy busy doing other things.

    To the discussion on tolerance, I like reviewing the etymology of words such as this. Etymonline treatment of toleration reminds us it comes from bearing a burden, therefore being similar (circa 1580) to forebear and the imperative “suffer.”

    I really liked how the reading of this letter was done in our ward. On 7/5, the letter was read to the adults at the beginning of the second hour, with the Bishop standing below the pulpit, where the Gospel Doctrine teacher usually stands. The discussion after he read the letter was calm and respectful, both of the Church position and those suffering from same sex attraction and are not sufficiently aware of the plan of salvation. There was at least one question about the legal implications of the Supreme Court ruling. We are lawyer-heavy, living as we do in the DC area. The question arose why this letter was not read from the pulpit, and an opinion was proffered that this allowed parents of small children to not have to answer awkward questions.

    On June 12 the letter was read to all the youth at the beginning of the third hour. Again after the reading there were a few questions. I presume that several parents had taken advantage of the week to discuss the letter with their children. The only “disrespectful” comment (IMO) was the suggestion that someone wishing to enter into a same gender marriage might not have been observing the law of chastity leading up to their planned marriage. Given the data on open relationships, etc., for those involved in same sex relationships, it wouldn’t be unusual to imagine that inappropriate extra-marital sexual behavior may have already occurred for a couple planning to become married to a partner of the same gender. And yet I can imagine a couple mutually attracted who fail to understand the plan of salvation and think they can merely behave like any other mutually attracted couple (remaining “chaste” and planning for marriage).

    My current challenge is a set of children who have not reproduced, despite desire for children. One is apparently physically unable, another is not competent, and a third is too young to marry (and too sane to allow a child to be engendered upon her outside of marriage). So we tend to be rather careful about our language with respect to marriage and children, as it is not given to all to enjoy spouse and children.

  40. As a liberal Mormon, I do not see conservative Mormons as bigots and homophobes etc etc etc. What I do see is the church trying very hard to be accepting of people in the LBGT community and many of the more conservative members not quite up to where the church is in this “new” era.

    I’ve been for SSM for years. Churches are protected from the civil issues by the constitution as well as by laws written into some states’ SSM laws, like in my state of Washington.

    I’m proud of how the church had stepped to the plate re this issue.

Comments are closed.