The other day I was having a discussion with a long time friend. It was her opinion that she could still be a faithful/good Latter-day Saint while supporting things such as gay marriage/marriage equality and abortion. I told her that I disagreed because those two things are contrary to the Lord’s plan. Can you offer any thoughts and or insights?
Political controversy among members is nothing new in the Church. President Wilford Woodruff noted in 1890 that the Saints “have, in many instances, joined the two great national parties. Campaigns have been entered upon, elections have been held, and much party feeling has been engendered. Many things have been said and done which have wounded the feelings of the humble and the meek, and which have been a cause of offense.” And I should probably mention that this wasn’t a conference address. The prophet included his observation as part of the Salt Lake Temple dedicatory prayer. He pled with the Lord “to forgive Thy people wherein they have sinned in this direction. Show them, O Father, their faults and their errors, that they may … cultivate that spirit of affection and love … one for another, and which Thy Saints, above all others, should cherish. Enable Thy people hereafter to avoid bitterness and strife, and to refrain from words and acts in political discussions that shall create feeling and grieve Thy Holy Spirit.”
Church leaders in our own day have released a similar statement – specifically in the context of same-sex marriage. “Just as those who promote same-sex marriage are entitled to civility, the same is true for those who oppose it.” Our leaders further “affirm that those who avail themselves of laws or court rulings authorizing same-sex marriage should not be treated disrespectfully. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love and treat all people with kindness and civility—even when we disagree.”
If you can’t tell by now, I’m not going to answer your question directly. I think it would be far more profitable for you to continue this discussion with your long time friend. Before calling in a friend to argue your position for you (the very act calls into question how well-formed your own opinion is) try to understand her position. Religious people in many states (including religious Latter-day Saints) vote in line with your friend. Do you know why that is? Converse with her civilly to understand. You don’t have to agree, but you should be able to articulate her thoughts well.
I think this is a worthwhile exercise for all Latter-day Saints. I think as we engage in these discussions amongst ourselves we’ll learn a number of things:
- We’ll learn better how to engage in civil discourse and will be able to model it in our communities.
- We’ll learn that there are a variety of seemingly conflicting gospel principles that we may have been neglecting in our consideration (Is agency more important than righteousness? Where do we draw the line when we legislate those who have not made the same covenants we have?).
- We’ll find that there are some areas where we can bend, and some where we will not. For instance the Church has essentially maintained that abortion is a strictly medical procedure to be performed on members in that context and not as a form of birth control (contrast that with some stricter positions where abortion is always wrong).
- We’ll learn more about ourselves and what we really believe as we articulate it.
You’re treading new ground here! I wish you all the best in your foray into convicted civility.