Thursday, August 21, 2008

Respect For All People Everywhere

In the April 2008 General Conference, our new prophet Thomas S. Monson urged members of the church to "show kindness and respect for all people everywhere."

He said, "The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours."

I completely agree with this statement. Having never lived in a place with a large population of Latter-day Saints, most of my friends have not been church members. I am very comfortable with this, and I enjoy being around people whose opinions are different from mine.

Over the years, my friends and I have discussed many topics. In my experience there has never been a topic more controversial and divisive than gay marriage. If you have chosen a side of the argument you probably feel very strongly about it, which makes having a sensible, respectful discussion about gay marriage very difficult.

But that is just what some of my church friends have been doing (over email) recently. Some say they would vote to support the legalization of gay marriage, and some would not. The issue of how to vote on gay marriage is one that my immediate family members do not even agree on!

As part of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God...so why the disagreement over how to vote on gay marriage? Well, another major basic tenant of our religion is called Agency: the right of each person to make choices for themselves. We believe that every person fought for that right of "free agency" before this life. I have found that many people are torn by these two seemingly competing concepts. Should my vote represent my convictions about marriage? Or should my vote be used to "protect the agency of others?"

As someone who has had many friends over the years who live a gay/lesbian/bi-sexual lifestyle (even some who have had children in such unions), I have taken a long hard look at my own position on this topic. I have even changed my mind a few times as I have taken various factors into consideration.

"With respect for all people everywhere" who might understandably disagree with my views, here is a brief explanation of just a few of my reasons for not supporting any act to expand the definition of marriage as anything but between a man and a woman:

1. My Vote Is My Vote...Your Vote Is Yours: In my opinion, my vote represents MY personal choice...not the choices, lifestyles, or desires of anyone else. And I choose to support marriage as I believe God intended it to be. If anyone else wants marriage to be between anything but a man and a woman, then they are free to vote that way. That's the great thing about Democracy. Most importantly, though, I see my vote as my personal way of showing the Lord where I stand on the issue.

2. Children Have "Rights" Too!: I often hear that not allowing gay marriage is trampling on the rights of those who choose to live this lifestyle. If I were basing my vote on civil rights alone, then I would have to agree. But my views are based instead upon spiritual laws, which take into consideration not only the rights of those already in mortality, but the rights of people waiting for their turn to come to earth.

In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" (which we view as revelation) the Lord indicates that, "Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."

According to this statement, the Lord considers birth to this type of family situation a basic "right" of all people. This is not to say that a family made up of two moms or two dads wouldn't be loving or kind or teach children good things. It just isn't the way that the Lord intends for his children to come into and be raised in the world. So, my vote also represents support for the "rights" of these children to come to families the way that God intended.

3. Agency is a gift from God, not one granted or taken away by government.: Because I believe that agency, the right to choose, is a God-given gift that is bigger than any one issue, situation, or legal act, I do not believe that not allowing gay marriage could ever destroy true agency. In every situation throughout history, people have been able to choose their actions, independent of the limitations of this mortal life--and there are always limitations. So, I do not believe that I am taking away anyone's agency by not supporting gay marriage.

As I mentioned earlier, this is an extremely sensitive issue. The reasons stated above are just a few of the personal reasons upon which I have based my decision.

As a general policy, the church does not tell members how to vote. Instead in a statement released this month church leadership has said, "As Church members decide their own appropriate level of involvement in protecting marriage between a man and a woman, they should approach this issue with respect for others, understanding, honesty, and civility," and that protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not release us from our Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people.

I always hope to show kindness and respect for people who see the world differently than I do, and I hope that I have done so here, especially for the sake of my friends whom I love and respect dearly! If you have questions about anything that I mentioned here, please let me know!

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For a further explanation of the church's stand on marriage I strongly encourage you to read "The Divine Institution of Marriage" which the church released just this month.

Below I have posted the introduction to this document:

The focus of the Church’s involvement is specifically same-sex marriage and its consequences. The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.

The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony.

The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not affect Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people.

As Church members decide their own appropriate level of involvement in protecting marriage between a man and a woman, they should approach this issue with respect for others, understanding, honesty, and civility.

Intending to reduce misunderstanding and ill will, the Church has produced the following document, “The Divine Institution of Marriage,” and provided the accompanying links to other materials, to explain its reasons for defending marriage between a man and a woman as an issue of moral imperative.

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Other links that I have found:

The Family by Henry B. Eyring

Strengthening the Family: What is a Family by Gordon B. Hinckley


Search the Prophets by Aldin Porter

The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood by Elder Ballard

1 comment:

  1. well written though a tad long...I have mixed feelings about this issue also. Agency is most important but....

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