Monday, October 20, 2014

A Timely Message

Two weeks ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held their semi-annual General Conference. The day after this conference concluded, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it would not be hearing an appeal to the case that ruled in favor of legalizing marriage between same-sex couples in Utah. Normally these two events would not be closely related to one another. But one of the talks given during the LDS General Conference proved to be very timely.

LDS Conference Center where General Conference is held
On the afternoon of Sat. Oct. 4th, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk titled, "Loving Others and Living With Differences." The theme of the talk was following Christ's counsel to avoid contention and showing love to others despite differences in values and beliefs. As part of his talk, he stated that this counsel applies in a variety of settings, including respecting laws that may differ from our spiritual beliefs. One in particular that he mentioned was the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Elder Oaks stated, "Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious."

He went on to say, "When our positions do not prevail, we should accept unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries. In any event, we should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation."

Elder Dallin H. Oaks giving a talk at General Conference
This is the first time that I'm aware of that the term sexual orientation has been spoken in General Conference, let alone by an apostle. Though Church leaders have condemned persecution of gays and lesbians in the past, I was pleased to see the term sexual orientation used, as it is more inclusive than merely speaking of "those who experience same-gender attraction," as is generally been how it has been spoken of before. And in addition to stating that we should reject persecution, Elder Oaks also said that we should "be persons of goodwill toward all" specifically including those with different sexual orientations.

As I mentioned earlier, this talk was very timely. After the district court ruling last December, my initial impulse was to find a hole to hide in for a few weeks, as I knew the hateful rhetoric and contention among those both in favor and opposed to the ruling was sure to follow.

But here, just two days before same-sex marriages were once again legally recognized in Utah, Elder Oaks was telling Church members to disagree without being disagreeable, to avoid contention and to show good will toward those of differing sexual orientations.

And the difference I've seen between the response two weeks ago compared to ten months ago has been like night and day. I have heard very few people say anything negative against those with opposing views. In fact, by comparison, the change in the legal recognition of same-sex marriage has been discussed very little this time around as far as I have noticed. It was very heartening for me to see this change.

Elder Oaks closed his talk by saying that "as followers of Christ we should live peacefully with others who do not share our values or accept the teachings upon which they are based," that we should "lov[e] our neighbors of different cultures and beliefs as He has loved us...[and] we must press forward, having 'a love of God and of all men.'" (Elder Oaks's full talk can be found here.)

The interior of the Conference Center during General Conference
Hearing this message was very encouraging for me. It is how I strive to live my life, and it is my hope that we all may show love and acceptance of all, even when others may have beliefs and values that are very different than our own.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate this post so much and even though I don't know you appreciate you, the tone of this post, and your perspective. I am teaching this lesson next week in my Relief Society. Except by me, I am not sure how often sexual orientation has been brought up in my well established mostly older Relief Society either but these women trust me and I feel it is important to talk about these significant things. And this week is going to press some boundaries in a respectful way and start some meaningful discussion. This week I talked in sacrament about preparing the heart for hastening the work and eliminating judgement. I do feel a tremendous duty when given the chance to share my perspective on judgement and understanding. Thank you.