Photo credit: Scott Jarvie
By now we have all heard pretty much every opinion out there when it comes to the church’s new policy on same sex couples and children raised in those families. I wrote this much later compared to many of the other posts out there specifically because I wanted some time to reflect and think about the topic myself and hopefully gain a better perspective rather than writing a reactionary piece right in middle of the announcement. But the question remains, where do we go from here?
First – Understanding
One of the hardest things to do when it comes to topics such as this is truly get an understanding of those who are not in the same line of thinking as we are. We generalize and put people into stereotypes mainly because it’s the easy thing to do. I’ve seen countless comments made by individuals starting from one end of the spectrum of “Just deal with it, that’s the policy. Either you’re with us or against us” to the other of “the brethren and members are just cogs in this homophobic organization who clearly can’t think for themselves.”
The problem with these types of comments is that they are inflammatory in nature and prevent communication between groups as people go from a back and forth discussion to an argumentative discussion. The biggest problem with argumentative discussion is that people stop listening to how the other side really feels about the issue and how it’s affecting them. They read the comments made by other people but they do so with the intent of responding as opposed to listening with the intent of hearing the other side.
The goal in understanding is NOT to convince the other group/s that they are wrong. It is simply to understand their frame of reference and how they see the world. Once you better see how they are, we are ultimately better able to see each other as who we truly are, brothers and sisters in this worldwide family.
Also by gaining an understanding and perspective from them, we start to view groups as individuals and not as a collective group of stereotypes that fit under one neat, perfect umbrella.
Looking at the individuals, not the groups
While it would be much easier if there were only two groups on this issue i.e. those who are for the church and those who are against the church the fact of the matter is there are people across the board on this issue. From individuals who 100% support and understand the purpose of the policy and don’t have a problem with it, to members who love the church with everything they have but where this specific policy just doesn’t seems like it fits into their understanding of the gospel, to other groups who absolutely hate the church and want to see it disappear altogether. There are people who are seemingly indifferent to these policy changes as it doesn’t affect them personally to those who are truly grieving because they do in fact feel lost, abandoned and alone.
We cannot move forward by simply dismissing whatever attitude or feelings others might have on the issue. It would be equally as wrong to dismiss those who are supportive of the measure because they have full faith and confidence in the leadership in the church as it pertains to the policies that they create as it would be to dismiss those who are genuinely hurting because they cannot understand what is going on in the church around them. Is it too much to ask of those who do support the policy to be empathetic and supportive to those who are not so supportive of the changes? Is it too much to ask for those who are rallying against the policy change to see the motivations and perspective of those who support the change?
People are individuals and we need to treat each other as such. We need to reach out with understanding and not with an attitude that you are going to try to “fix” their perspective. There are individuals who are active members of the church who will still be faithful regardless of what policy changes comes out but who in this situation, will need someone to talk to and discuss because they are having a hard time with this specific policy change. There are those who are not members of the church who are gay/lesbian who genuinely feel pain and isolation at policies such as these because they feel that it undermines them as individuals.
We need to be able to ask better, more thought provoking questions as to how people really feel and their perspective on the issue. While in the end we will most likely end up with differing conclusions, it allows us to not shun those who think differently than us. It allows us to find those common bonds, common ground that ultimately builds a community and strengthens countries around the world.
Third- Allowing People to “Wrestle with God”
Throughout history we have seen not only members but even prophets and apostles “wrestle with God” when it comes to His commandments. From Jonah who ran away when commanded to preach to the city of Nineveh, to Joseph Smith’s unbelief when he first received the Plural marriage commandment (a practice that members of the church no longer practice). It’s absolutely ok from time to time to have to “wrestle” with the things that God asks of us. Many of us have to wrestle when it comes to our callings within the church.
Many times it takes time, a lot prayer and faith to understand His will as it pertains to His children here on Earth. Sometimes it may take an entire lifetime and all of these experiences come on an individual basis. We all will have times in our lives, whether it’s dealing with a lost of a loved one, a person faith crisis or a situation like this where a policy has been enacted that seemingly doesn’t make sense, where we will need to “wrestle” with God to better understand His will and His plan for His children.
Don’t condescend to someone else in moral/spiritual superiority because you don’t have any difficulty in accepting these new policy changes but they do. Just because this particular policy change happens to hit closer to home for them or for whatever reason they may be struggling with it, doesn’t make them (or us) any more or less spiritual. Don’t patronize and try to tell people, regardless of their position on the matter as to how they should feel. They feel the way they do for a reason.
You don’t have to support gay marriage or disagree with the brethren to say “I’m sorry you are feeling so much pain right now. I’m here for you for whatever you need to me to help you with, even if that’s simply a listening ear.”
You also don’t have to be a member of the church to ask “Help me to better understand your understanding of the policy, perspective and motivations behind supporting such a policy” without jumping to the conclusion that the policy was based in anything but love and concern for the welfare of those individuals involved.
This is a process that we all go through and often times it’s experiences such as these that ultimately strengthens our faith and our resolve in following Christ, deepens our discipleship and redoubles our efforts in His Kingdom. It also allows us to get to know each other better as individuals and understand where everyone is coming from which is something I absolutely believe is something that Jesus would do.