Sunday, April 12, 2015

When I Walk Imperfectly

Sorry, no.  This isn't some flowery post about how we all need to love each other and not judge.  That's still true, but it's too general for me.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sing "Lord, I would Follow Thee."  It's a beautiful, meaningful song, but with the words, "Who am I to judge another, when I walk imperfectly?," I now feel anger and confusion.  Sometimes I think, "what does this even mean anymore?"  I thought about those who would hear those words and think of us as a bunch of hypocrites, a bunch of judgmental Mormon bigots.  That may be true for some, but to be frank, the most common judgment I see thrown around is...wait for it...accusing others of being judgmental!!!

I understand the principle, that we shouldn't point out other peoples' flaws as if we don't have our own, but in today's world, in seems like some people twist the ideas of "don't judge" and "unconditional love" to mean whatever they want.  To be honest, I'm not sure what unconditional love is supposed to feel like.  In the gay Mormon world, does that mean I have to support marriage redefinition?  Does it mean that I should feel the same spirit in a liberal gay group as I would in a moderate or conservative gay group?  Does it mean I should feel the same spirit at a same-sex wedding as I would at a wedding for a man and a woman or a sealing in the temple?

I'm sure there would be many who'd love to tell me how they want Christlike love to be.  Some may tell me that I should be charitable and support legal actions to make every loving relationship the same because it doesn't affect me and my future marriage.  Others may tell me that I should shove the gospel down peoples' throats because I should be concerned about their eternal salvation.  I think it's somewhere in the middle.  I like what Elder Holland had to say in the April 2014 General Conference:

"“What would Jesus do?” will not always bring a popular response.
 
At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” To make certain they understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” and “whosoever … shall break one of [the] least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be … the least in the kingdom of heaven.” Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others. Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once)."

I don't think anyone knows how to love as perfectly as Christ did.  It must be a perfect balance between loving and spending time with his disciples and at the same time, not condoning sin.   I don't think it's fair to call out others for being un-Christlike and judgmental.  Do we really know what their intentions are?  It may be appropriate sometimes, but not as often as we do it.  I've come to the conclusion that no matter what I say or do, someone will be offended and think I'm judging them.  I'm not perfect.  I'm judgmental because I'm a Mormon.  I'm judgmental because I'm a human being.  Sometimes I think in the context of the song above: "Who am I to open my mouth at all when I walk imperfectly?"  I don't think that's what the Savior had in mind.

I can't help but wonder if teachings like "don't judge" and "love the sinner, hate the sin" were meant for our own improvement, and not to be shot at others.  Instead of making sure other people aren't judging, I wonder if we are supposed to make sure that we are doing our best to not make unrighteous judgments, even though others may think we are.  Instead of meeting others' requirements for unconditional love and being nonjudgmental, I think it's more important to seek God's counsel in understanding these commandments. 

I hope this relates, but President Uchtdorf, at the recent April 2015 General Conference, talked about grace and obedience.  We are all saved by grace. "Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the blood of the Son of God." Yet why should we keep the commandments? "Brothers and sisters, we obey the commandments of God—out of love for Him!"  That really spoke to me.  I shouldn't be obeying solely to be an example to others.  I shouldn't be obeying because I want all my friends to obey with me (although it is wonderful to have friends who are on a similar path as I am).  I should be obeying primarily because I love the Lord.

I have found that as I grow closer to the Lord and strive to be more firm in my testimony of what is right...I am naturally more inclined to love others.  I feel more love and less judgment.  Nevertheless, because I do walk imperfectly, I might make judgments from time to time.  I probably made a lot of judgments in this blog post!  But I'm trying.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Let Your Light Shine Forth!

In the Saturday morning session of General Conference (April 2015), Elder L. Tom Perry gave a talk on the family.  He referred to The Family: A Proclamation to the World as well as a worldwide conference on the family, which was held in the Vatican, and it included religious leaders from all over the world.  He discussed the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and how the family, within that context, is a fundamental building block of society.  I believe in this doctrine.  It makes sense to me, and combined with other General Conference talks about eternal perspective, it gives me so much hope.  It might seem like a paradox, a gay man saying something like that, but it certainly is not a paradox for me.

While listening, however, I was painfully aware of others who are gay (or same-sex attracted) who may not share my perspective or have a similar amount of hope.  I thought about how there might be some discouragement, loneliness, or anger.  There may be others who have gay family members, or who simply struggle with the doctrine on marriage.  I assure you that God's plan for families, as outlined in the Proclamation, does not exclude any of His children who seek to follow Him.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson, later on the same day, also talked about marriage.  He mentioned same-sex attraction, and other situations that may prevent someone from getting married and/or having children in this life.  He reassured us that God seeks to bless us with all He has.  The lack of ability or desire to be married in this mortal life does not in any way decrease your worth to Heavenly Father.  He has blessed you with unique talents and abilities that you can use to bless others and to help build the Kingdom of God.

I invite you to the 2015 North Star Conference, where you can learn how to "let your light shine forth" as a "gay" member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  You can become a part of a community of amazing brothers and sisters who know what you are going through and who want to help you.  You can learn how to open up, live more authentically and develop a network of support within your own family and within your own ward.  You do not have to give up forming wholesome and loving relationships with those of your own gender.  You can live a covenant life, not in spite of your attractions, but through embracing them in ways that are in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Just like everyone who strives to follow Christ, there are some sacrifices involved, but that does not mean you need to suppress who you are.

Equally important are the resources available to spouses, families, therapists and church leaders.  For more information, and to register, please see http://conference.northstarlds.org/ (Prices increase on April 11, as the conference is being held in the Utah Valley Convention Center).

I am grateful to have found a community of support.  I am thankful to have friends who understand me, and who also want to live the gospel.  I am always inspired when we go to the temple together.  I mean...a bunch of "gays and lesbians" serving in the temple together?  I look forward to those numbers growing.  More importantly, I am grateful for the Savior and for the opportunity I have had to grow closer to Him through my experience with same-sex attraction.