Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Gays, Mormons and Love

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Mormon",  I am pondering why some people are expressing anger toward my faith. It seems to me that they think we are full of hate toward people who are gay. This perspective appears to be founded on the fact that "Mormons" do not accept gay marriages. That is true. We believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained by God. We also believe in complete chastity before marriage and total fidelity in marriage. We believe that the greatest happiness in this life, and in the life after this, will come as we live in families. We firmly believe that the family is the basis of a stable society.

Does this mean that we hate people who do not accept and live our beliefs? Of course not. True, "Mormons" are imperfect people and some have their own prejudices, but we are admonished to overcome these weaknesses and truly live with love as the Savior did.  He associated with people not accepted in his society - the publicans, the Samaritans, the lepers, the sinners, or those who had broken the Jewish law.  He showed deep love to all, and this is what we must also try to do.

In the 66 years that I have now lived, I've seen black people relegated to ghettos in California and shanty towns in the South. I've seen Jewish people and "foreigners" shunned. I've seen women treated as second class citizens who had to fight for the right of equal pay for equal work. I have seen minority groups around the world deprived of basic freedoms such as free government, the right to work, to have good housing, to have an education, and the right to live their faith. I have even heard of people who are murdered because they are of a different faith or nationality, or just because they are unwanted, such as babies in China.

Several years ago we saw this up close when we sponsored a Cambodian refugee family of seven. As they lived with us and told us of what they had endured, my heart ached for them. I was glad that we had this opportunity to save their lives. It is heart breaking how cruel people can be. 

Those who are in power in any society do not have the right to abuse the weak for their selfish political or financial gain. I believe that someday these people will be held accountable before God for their actions. It is never justified to mistreat others, EVER, even if it is your culture or tradition.  I think many of these traditions are based on selfishness and fear and need to be replaced with the Gospel of love.

On the other hand, I have seen laws enacted to help to ensure the right to vote, equal pay, education, opportunity, and use of public facilities. I have seen the Berlin wall fall and witnessed great men and women such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa showing that the true way to make the world a better place is through love, not force.

I have lived long enough to know that you need to listen patiently to understand others. I've learned, the hard way, not to act on assumptions. For instance, I think many people assume that "Mormons" do not accept gay marriage because we are filled with hate. I think gays have been mistreated in the past by society as a whole. These actions have come from misunderstandings and fear. This is not how the Savior would want us to act and treat each other.  People who do not fit our preconceived notions of right behavior do not "deserve" to be punished. Force should never be used to try and change beliefs.  Yes, there are people of many faiths around the world who use religion as an excuse to gain power over others. That is not right. True believers of any faith do not act out of hate, greed, or fear, but out of love.

Though "Mormons" define marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, it does not mean that we condone mistreatment of any group of people.  "Mormons" are a group with a history of being a persecuted minority, and as such, are particularly sensitive to and defensive of the rights of individuals and groups. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has always been a leader in standing for human rights.  Here is the Church's official statement made in January of 2015:
 “We call on local, state, and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches, and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such  areas as housing, employment, and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants, and transportation—protections which are not available in many parts of the country.”

As always, good people must stand for the right. A person should never be discriminated against due to their color, faith, nationality, or gender. No one has the right to try and use financial, physical, or social force to attempt to make others change their beliefs. Mormons believe that the definition of marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman is given by God. It is not something that we have the power to change. We believe that this view of marriage is central to the purpose of life and to our faith. Does this mean people who believe in gay marriage should be forced to change?  Definitely not.  Does this mean that people who believe in marriage between a man and a woman should be forced to change? Definitely not.  As we respect each others' beliefs, we can hope for a better world, one filled with love. 

For those of you who would like to better understand "Mormon" beliefs on gays here are some links.  (also see the links at the bottom of the page)

LGBT or GLBT is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

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