I joined the Church in 1975. Back then, much of what was going on in the world and believed by the world matched my new LDS views. There were issues regarding the new sexuality that pushed against the Church’s stance on chastity, however. Still, most things were kosher between the world and church.
40 years later, we see huge divisions between the world and Church. The chasm between the two have grown large enough that many believers are being forced off the fence. They struggle with having to choose between their loved ones and friends who live in non-traditional relationships, and the Church’s stance on marriage, family, and chastity. It is not easy to have one’s heart torn apart, because of love for both friends, families, and faith.
But this should not be a surprise to anyone. Scripture, and especially the Book of Mormon, is filled with the dynamic tension between Zion and Babylon. For Laman and Lemuel, Jerusalem was filled with people who believed in Jehovah, sacrificed in the temple, and believed in God. They could not believe the cold-hearted views of their father, Lehi, who condemned the Jews and predicted their destruction. Clearly, their father suffered from some form of dementia or lunacy.
Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8-15) shows us the other side of thise issue. For those who struggled to reach the Tree of Life, the struggle was not over. While many partook of the fruit, suddenly they cast their vision away from the tree and towards a great and spacious building, where many enter in and mock those partaking of the fruit of the Tree. What isn’t mentioned is just who those people are, or why their mocking is so powerful that it can shame some people into leaving the Tree and lead them to wander into mists of darkness, until they also arrive to the building.
These are friends, family, and powerful voices that embrace the sweet sounds of Babylon. They have their philosophy, which includes accepting many lifestyles (as long as they meet Babylon’s criteria). But it is a philosophy that continues to move ever further to Babylon, sweeping the land. If you do not fall in line, you will find yourself endlessly mocked and ridiculed
I feel for those who struggle with SSA. I feel for those who struggle with other sexual attractions. I feel for those who struggle with heroin or alcohol addiction. I feel for those born with other challenges. That said, we all make tough choices in life. And in the world, the choice between faith and friends is getting harder. The chasm between Zion and Babylon has grown to the point where we can no longer straddle it. We stood comfortably in both camps over the years, but can not do so much longer. We have to decide which philosophy we will abide by: that of the world, or that of the Church. We will see arguments about the Church being uncharitable, behind the times, and simply wrong. Philosophies of men have strong arguments, when viewed from the world’s perspective.
It is a sad time, when we see so many grieve over the Church’s stance. It will take courage to stand for right against our loved ones and friends that do not even realize they are standing within the great and spacious building. But many are already within the walls of Babylon, while others are precariously still trying to stand in both Zion and Babylon.
It is okay for us to weep for our loved ones in Babylon, even as we stand fully in Zion. But we should love them into following the Lord fully. God loves all of His children, and we are commanded to do so, also. That said, God has also commanded us to keep commandments, follow His prophets, and be a light to the world. We must love those who choose to live in Babylon, yet stand firm in following God’s will. Now is the time for us to review our testimonies and ensure they are where they should be. We may have to make tough choices along the way: which things we must repent of, which friendships we may have to change or end. It is time to decide where our faith lies, in Zion or Babylon. I pray we can make the tough choice of standing with the living prophets and the Lord in these things.
As Elder Holland said in his talk, The Cost and Blessings of Discipleship: “With admiration and encouragement for everyone who will need to remain steadfast in these latter days, I say to all and especially the youth of the Church that if you haven’t already, you will one day find yourself called upon to defend your faith or perhaps even endure some personal abuse simply because you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such moments will require both courage and courtesy on your part….Be strong. Live the gospel faithfully even if others around you don’t live it at all. Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them.”