Apostles and prophets don’t need me to defend them. But I want to explore how I feel when I read others describe them as racist bigots. Those are two very hateful terms, yet they seem to be used freely these days in the ongoing dialog about the First Presidency letter of 29 June 2008.
In my simple mind, I define a racist to be someone who feels, believes or acts as if being born into a particular race provides an individual with inherent superiority over others not of that race. Racial discrimination is the act of denying basic rights to individuals based solely on their race.
A bigot, of course, is defined as a person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own. A bigot is also defined as one who regards or treats the members of a group – racial, ethnic or any other kind of group or class – with hatred and intolerance.
Proposition 8 is a moral issue
Some in the dialog about the letter of June 29th have defined the current opposition to same-sex marriage as bigotry. They have further argued that Prop 8 support is very similar to the policy of the church that excluded blacks from participating in the priesthood prior to the 1978 revelation.
While I have not yet written my own essay about the blacks and the priesthood, I have tried to make it clear that these two issues are not related. The exclusion of blacks from the priesthood was based on a policy. Our stand against same-sex marriage is based on morality, not policy.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a religious obligation to raise its voice on issues that affect the moral fabric of society such as same sex marriage. To quote Lee Benson of the Deseret News, “Every third-grader knows that. It’s what churches do.” It’s a moral issue.
It is not bigotry – we do not hate
I don’t know why some have backed away from facing this issue head-on. Sure, Proposition 8 is about restoring or making clear the definition of marriage as originally intended, but let’s face it – we are involved as a church because we believe that homosexual behavior is wrong and a sin.
I believe that it’s way too late to attempt to persuade anyone reading this essay why we should support the First Presidency in what they have asked us to do here in California. Most members made up their mind long ago and have been participating to ensure the passage of the initiative.
I just want to be clear that this is not bigotry. There is no hatred involved. We are simply trying to defend what the Lord put into place long ago. I have written previously about the definition of tolerance. The Lord does not condone homosexual behavior. Tolerance does not mean condone.
Same-sex marriage is not a right
Some have commented on previous essays I have written on this subject by claiming that by supporting proposition 8, we are trying to take away the right to marry. I don’t see marriage as a right. To me, it is a privilege granted first by God and then recognized by society through laws.
True, the Supreme Court of the State of California in effect granted this right by overturning the law that the people voted into place in 2000 with Proposition 22. The vote on proposition 8 will ensure that it is the voice of the people that grant this right, not through a judicial review process.
As I have commented to others on this blog while dialoging about the subject, this vote will give us a clear indication how the people of the State of California really feel about homosexuality. If proposition 8 fails then it will be clear that the majority of society embraces same-sex marriage.
Honor and sustain the First Presidency
I hope that no matter what the outcome of the vote that we will be very careful about the way we write about the Lord’s anointed. Calling apostles and prophets bigots is just not something that a faithful member of the church would want to do, especially if we have covenanted not to do so.
These are men who epitomize the pure and unselfish love of the Savior to me. I was so very impressed with the recent conference address of Elder Robert D. Hales on Christian courage. We do not retaliate. We do not give in to hatred. We see opportunity in the midst of opposition.
The Lord knows the hearts of our accusers and how we can most effectively respond to them. As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord.
Summary and conclusion
I know some who read this will disagree with what I have written. You may feel strongly that I am denying what you see as black and white. As one visitor wrote on a previous essay, “I don’t care what you call it. To me it is hate when you try to take away my rights. That’s bigotry.”
Try to see the bigger picture. We are a society of millions of people who see homosexuality and same-sex marriage in varying degrees of acceptance. Isn’t it wonderful that we live in a society in which we agree to be governed by laws and by a constitution that we have all voted on?
I honor and sustain the First Presidency as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. I appreciate their courage in speaking out on this issue. I am so amazed at the results from one single letter. Their example in restraint is amazing when they are called evil for encouraging that which is good.
Note: For the story on the picture, visit Messenger and Advocate