Blood on the Doorposts

June 29, 2008 | 106 comments
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Let’s call her Sister Jones. We both taught seminary in Northern California a few years ago. I liked her from day one: faithful, funny, and willing to lend out anything from her complete collection of Sunstone back issues. (This was in the days before full Internet access, you see.)

The year began without incident, but then the rumbling started: Proposition 22. The best thing, in my opinion, about California politics is the incessant parade of weird and wonderful ballot inititiatives (medical marijuana, the eating of horsemeat, benefits for immigrants and, yes, gay marriage). I think we (liberals, conservative, and everyone in between) were surprised at how very involved the Church got this time. While some wards had nothing more than one letter read over the pulpit in sacrament meeting encouraging members to oppose what they called same-sex marriage (which, confusingly, meant a ‘yes’ vote on Prop 22), out stake got the whole enchilada: members visited by high council members asking for financial donations, mutual nights devoted to delivering lawn signs, phone calls from the ward Prop 22 specialist asking us to spend time calling or going door-to-door to contact likely voters, and more.

For some in our stake and for some reading this, such an initiative lines up quite nicely with their idea of good government. This post isn’t for them. It is for people like me who, had the Church been silent, would have had a ‘No on 22′ sign in the window.

But the Church, of course, wasn’t silent. And for people like me, who put a priority on being in harmony with the teachings of the Church, this created a very difficult situation. Sister Jones was in that camp as well. But she was (and is) a faithful woman, and so she put a ‘Yes on 22′ sign on her lawn, which was right in the center of a small, liberal college town.

A few days later, she came into my seminary classroom pale and literally shaking and thrust down the local newspaper so I could see it. In full color, above the fold on the front page, was a picture of her ‘Yes on 22′ sign. While the photo was too close in to see the house behind it, the caption below identified the intersection where the house was found. She was worried about the safety of her family, worried about her and her husband’s reputation (and the Church’s reputation) in the small town where they had made their home.

She may or may not have had tears in her eyes. I looked up at her and she said, “I think we’ve found our generation’s equivalent of blood on the doorposts.”

It became the cornerstone of how and why I was (and am) able to support the Church’s opposition to SSM even when I don’t support the Church’s opposition to SSM.

The scriptures are replete with examples of the prophets asking the faithful to do illogical things. Sacrifice my own son? To what end? Blood on the doorposts? Why? Marching around Jericho? You’ve got to be kidding! Wash in the Jordan seven times? I could have bathed at home! Cut off Laban’s head? Surely there must be some other way. The principle behind these events is enshrined in a verse that none of us believe:

Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend. (Mosiah 4:9)

We think, we all do, that we can comprehend everything. So when we come up against the prophets asking us to do something illogical, like oppose gay marriage (again, I’m not talking to or about those whose personal inclination would be to oppose it; I’m talking to everyone else), we recite the reasons why this is illogical.

But the scriptures have promised us that we will not comprehend everything. Perhaps this is what bothers me when well-meaning Sunday School classmates wax on and on about the health benefits of the Word of Wisdom. If it is all about health benefits, you can keep your prophet and I’ll just consult the latest nutrition journals. What’s the point, anyway, of a prophet who can do no more than echo in religious terms what scientists have already demonstrated? No, I want a prophet who can do more than provide counsel that can be justified and rationalized by the learning of men. Of course, when that counsel comes, I’m upset and feel vaguely sick in the pit of my stomach. That’s certainly the case for SSM. But I will take it; I will take it on as my own and I won’t publicize my Really Good Reasons for thinking the SSM is not the hill the Church should be fighting on.

For me, opposition to SSM is all those things we always talk about: a test of obedience, a test of faith, a test of our willingness to follow counsel. If my personal inclination was to oppose SSM, it wouldn’t very well be a test of obedience, now would it? (And I realize that for many members it is not; I imagine they have their own tests, like having to listen to Sunday School lessons given by the likes of me every week.) But for me it is.

And that’s why I oppose same-sex marriage, even though I don’t.

Note: For those who have problems with the obvious, I’ll specify that this post is not the place to hash out whether opposing SSM is a good thing. But don’t fear: there’s plenty of places where you might do that. Try here or here or here or even here and, hey, what about here and don’t forget here and, oh, this would be a good place, but there’s also here and even here and . . .)

Originally posted August 2nd, 2005, and re-posted as a response to the First Presidency letter read to the California Saints today.

106 Responses to Blood on the Doorposts

  1. Matt W. on June 29, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Julie, thanks for being a voice for less articulate people like me.

  2. Matt W. on June 29, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Julie, thanks for being a voice for less articulate people like me.

  3. djinn on June 29, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    What happened to your sweet Sister Jones? What’s the rest of the story? Were there repercussions?

  4. djinn on June 29, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Like, uh, and I quote “Blood on the doorposts?” Dead firstborns? But ’twas God who hardend those hearts.

  5. djinn on June 29, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Like, uh, and I quote “Blood on the doorposts?” Dead firstborns? But ’twas God who hardend those hearts.

  6. djinn on June 29, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Sorry for the double post. The emphais, perhaps implied, not intended.

  7. djinn on June 29, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Sorry for the double post. The emphais, perhaps implied, not intended.

  8. norm on June 29, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    1. So, your saying that when:
    Your heart and mind tell you “not X” and the Prophet tells you “X”–you go ahead and put blood on the doorposts.

    What do you do when you feel strongly that the Spirit is also telling you “not X”?

    2. Fortunately (?) I live in a part of California where I’m unlikely to receive death threats or have my house vandalized over putting ‘blood on the doorposts’–the type of place in California that SLC probably imagines most faithful Saints in California living. Does the blood on the doorposts rationale still apply if my evangelical and Catholic neighbors will mostly praise me for putting it up there?

    Or should my personal ‘blood on the doorposts’ moment be to stand up to them?

  9. norm on June 29, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    oops. “your” –> “you’re”

  10. AHLDuke on June 29, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Julie, I was about to say that though, like you, I don’t feel strongly opposed to SSM, I would probably publicly oppose it if the Church asked me to. But I don’t know if I could bring myself to that. I would need to get my own spiritual confirmation of the rightness of that course, independent of the prophet’s counsel. I know that some would say that working to oppose SSM in spite of the fact that I cannot say of myself that it is bad is the essence of “following the Prophet.” Maybe I have failed the test. But I have to believe that there is some room in this system for the sanctity of conscience. All the same, I am really glad that I don’t live in CA right now. This would be a tough decision.

  11. Ray on June 29, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    I believe our view of this is colored greatly by our inability to conceive of any other structure for marriage than one that includes a sexual component. I do not believe in a polygamy in the hereafter that includes sexual relationships as we know them in the here and now; I have no problem believing in a polygamy in the hereafter that includes creating and raising and nurturing spirit children – since we have absolutely no idea in any of our canonized scriptures or prophetic pronouncements about how that will be accomplished or what that means in practical terms. We have no clue what it means to take “intelligences” and turn them into “spirit children”. Remove our sexual assumptions, and what does it mean to be sealed and be eternal parents? We really have no information whatsoever, so we also have no idea whatsoever what monogamy and polygamy mean in that realm. All I know is that I and my wife will function unitedly “as one”. Since I also can see that in quorum presidencies and other groups, I can envision it happening in some kind of “communal sealing structure”.

    My approach – simplified greatly for this forum? Joseph was a prophet; he felt that polygamy was commanded for his people in his time; he implemented it as he thought it was supposed to be practiced – in the way that he felt best approximated the eternal principle; it was changed under Brigham to be what he felt was appropriate for his people in his time; we no longer practice it in our time; we have no idea how it will turn out in a future time. The summary:

    I have no clue – and I’m fine with that.

  12. Guy Murray on June 29, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    If this year is to be like the Proposition 22 year, my guess is that we will be as involved as you described above. Our stake was like yours. We had people specifically called to organize and follow up on the day to day events involved in such political participation–including asking for donations. Good points on our limited understanding–which it will always be in mortality, and our need to marshal our faith.

  13. bbell on June 29, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    My experience as a 8th generation LDS member with a large multi-generation active family is that there is no “blood on the posts” for most TR holders on this issue. We fully expected the LDS church to publicly oppose SSM in CA and fully understand the doctrinal reasons for doing so. In fact I would go as far as to say that many of my immediate family members would be concerned that we would be trending towards apostasy if this course of action had not been taken.

    I fully believe that the bloggernaccle is out of touch and indeed out of harmony with the Bretheren on this issue as demonstrated by this post and others like it.

  14. bbell on June 29, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    My experience as a 8th generation LDS member with a large multi-generation active family is that there is no “blood on the posts” for most TR holders on this issue. We fully expected the LDS church to publicly oppose SSM in CA and fully understand the doctrinal reasons for doing so. In fact I would go as far as to say that many of my immediate family members would be concerned that we would be trending towards apostasy if this course of action had not been taken.

    I fully believe that the bloggernaccle is out of touch and indeed out of harmony with the Bretheren on this issue as demonstrated by this post and others like it.

  15. Howard on June 29, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Thanks Julie, this helps.

    “What do you do when you feel strongly that the Spirit is also telling you “not X”?”
    But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. (Galatians 5:18)
    I keep quiet and follow the spirit.

  16. Ray on June 29, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Sorry, I was reading two posts and left the above comment on the wrong post. Julie, please delete it and this one.

  17. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 29, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    And that’s why I oppose same-sex marriage, even though I don’t.

    That was interesting, and I appreciated it.

  18. jessawhy on June 29, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    What is with the double postings? Strange.
    Julie, I admire your message, but like norm, I wonder (and it’s none of my business, of course) if you personally learned from the Spirit if the church’s stance on this issue is from God, or of man?
    I noticed that you didn’t include any reference to your personal spiritual discovery, only to your opinion and opposing desire to follow the prophets. It seems like an important component to your post.

  19. tracy m on June 30, 2008 at 12:02 am

    I’m afraid the best I can do on this is to say nothing.

  20. makakona on June 30, 2008 at 12:06 am

    i appreciated this. we are currently in a small town. we have the chapter president of a white supremist gang living across the street. a quote in our paper read: “i think the gays should just stay away and leave me alone… this is redneck country. they’re taking chances.” there was a strong prop. 22 campaign and the stake was very involved. i don’t doubt that participation will be similar this time.

    i generally classify myself as conservative, but i’m very socially liberal. neither group is pleased to have me claiming their title. i really didn’t want to “deal with” the reading of the letter today. like i said, this area was very active in the prop. 22 campaigns and i worried about what commentary the bishop might tack on to the letter. we didn’t walk in till sacrament was beginning. i was thrilled when our second speaker, also assigned the topic of citizenship and honor to country, turned out to be our former bishop, a raging (and the only admitted) liberal. he’s too far over for me, but i appreciated the balance. he talked about the mormon battalion and the sacrifice those men made to serve and protect a country that had forsaken them, all in the name of following the prophet. it made me think.

  21. Ray on June 30, 2008 at 12:09 am

    As someone who has said probably too much on this topic, I really appreciate Tracy M’s #19. It made me stop and think that such an approach might be the best approach in many instances. I probably talk too much for it to stop me, but it made my head snap back, and it made me think.

    Thanks, Tracy.

  22. AHLDuke on June 30, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Your assertion that the bloggernacle is “out of touch” would seem to lead to the question, “with what?” There are plenty of people that I don’t mind being out of touch with, including many members of my own Church, so I’ll need a little more detail on that point.

    Your second claim that we are “out of harmony with the Brethren” makes me want to ask another follow-up question- “is what the Brethren have asked us to do consistent with true principles and the best parts of Mormonism?” I don’t accept a priori that the answer to that question is yes just because the Brethren said it, and I think I am not alone.

  23. AHLDuke on June 30, 2008 at 12:16 am

    And bbell, save your family history for the temple. “[F]or I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.”

  24. dangermom on June 30, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Good one, Julie.

  25. JimD on June 30, 2008 at 12:47 am

    For me, opposition to SSM is all those things we always talk about: a test of obedience, a test of faith, a test of our willingness to follow counsel.

    The trouble is, apparently sometimes we are tested to see whether we will follow righteous counsel from an unpopular source and sometimes we are tested to see whether we will reject unrighteous counsel from a popular source.

    So, what kind of test was Prop 22, exactly?

    Perhaps the primary reason of the Church’s involvement with the CA ballot initiatives isn’t that its members go through the motions of supporting the legislation, but to prepare church members individually to receive their own personal revelations on the nature of the family generally (and perhaps, on God’s plan for His gay children in particular) rather than just trying to extrapolate something based on their personal views of what “the Gospel” is and isn’t.

    Maybe if we’d all humbled ourselves and sought revelation back in 2000, the church would have arrived at something like a consensus by now and there’d be no need to put ourselves through this ordeal again in 2008.

  26. adcama on June 30, 2008 at 1:06 am

    “The scriptures are replete with examples of the prophets asking the faithful to do illogical things. Sacrifice my own son? To what end? Blood on the doorposts? Why? Marching around Jericho? You’ve got to be kidding! Wash in the Jordan seven times? I could have bathed at home! Cut off Laban’s head? Surely there must be some other way.”

    What makes doing illogical things difficult for me is not the fact that scriptures are replete with examples. I struggle more with the fact that CNN, every hometown newspaper, and a variety of history books recount events in towns like Eldorado, Waco and Jonestown.

    I have to draw the line for myself when it is obvious that my actions….and/or the actions of my church (church leaders) are causing harm to myself or to others. For me, counsel and direction aimed squarly at the golden rule must be accompanied by significant direct revelation – on a scale I cannot currently fathom. That’s the lesson I take away from Mountain Meadows, polygamy and the 1978 revelation. Am I in spiritual danger for not doing illogical things? Many would say YES. But hopefully I’ll be following the two great commandments most of the time…..I hope the Savior will understand.

  27. Norbert on June 30, 2008 at 1:11 am

    With prop 22, the bishops received information that if members were uncomfortable with participating in the political action, they should not be pressured or required to do so. It’s unfortunate that so many members ignore that directive from ‘the Bretheren’ and assert their own requirements for faithfulness when not required.

  28. Neal Davis on June 30, 2008 at 1:14 am

    If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe.
    –Soren Kierkegaard

  29. angrymormonliberal on June 30, 2008 at 1:36 am

    I am shaking with anger reading this article.

    I recognize your dilemma, however it’s not an academic, political or a religious issue. It’s a family issue.

    Feel your guilt and do nothing. I have my family to take care of. The least you could do is recognize that. Your guilt is not my problem, the happiness of my family is.

    You have no moral ground in this article Julie M. Smith.

  30. Thoughtskoto on June 30, 2008 at 1:47 am

    We at Thoughtskoto are so ardent in asking our friends and relatives in california area to somehow help in this fight for right.

    Someone should wave the standard of liberty like Moroni of Old did. Californians are asked to do the same till November. We rip our clothes and cast it there, now its your turn, and to consider we are just simple LDS, Asians, not Americans.

    If Pres. Hinckley is alive today, I believe he will be in the Larry King asking the members to Stand for Something. I believe it is not just about agency, it is about the very foundation or eternal plan God set before we came here on earth. That family, and marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God before the foundation of this world.

  31. Mel on June 30, 2008 at 2:01 am

    I find it interesting that you assert that there are things we will not comprehend, when a teaching of the LDS church is to not believe something because you \”cannot comprehend it.\” I will abide by all that learn as a temple-going Mormon, and believe that something I cannot comprehend is not something I can put faith in.

  32. SilverRain on June 30, 2008 at 7:11 am

    Thank you, Julie. In some ways, you put into words some of the things I’ve been feeling but not thinking. I think, perhaps, there are a couple of points which were largely missed because of the environment in which they were presented. Putting same-sex marriage issues aside, I believe there are two very pointed principles to think about in what you have said.

    1) Sometimes the Lord will ask you to put reason aside in favor of faith. It is up to us to make sure that our opinions are formed in a way that leaves that option open, humbly and prayerfully. If we are so sure we are right that we have closed off the Spirit’s ability to tell us differently, we have put ourselves at risk for apostasy. There is a delicate balance to walk when dealing with matters of council from the prophets, seers, and revelators. When we assume we know better than they, we are falling off that line of balance.

    2) If the Spirit does give you confirmation that your behavior should not be aligned with the council of the governing body of the Church, it is not for you to begin preaching that confirmation as applying to the rest of the church. You may say what you have felt, particularly when asked, but you may not preach that confirmation as broadly true without risking apostasy. That is why many of those who take it upon themselves to preach doctrines which have not been preached or revealed through the prophet are excommunicated. They would be excommunicated even if they were correct in their doctrine, because they are pridefully attempting to take upon themselves the mantle of revelation for the Church, rather than waiting upon the Lord’s will, time and ability to teach His servants. If you are unable to take correction from leaders in the Church, you are kicking against the order which God has established. If it were ever possible for the Spirit to inspire action contrary to Priesthood council because the Church had been corrupted, it would require a good deal more thought than we are wont to give it, particularly when such action aligns so nicely with our own personal opinions.

  33. norm on June 30, 2008 at 7:25 am

    #26, well said.

    I am happy to wear silly clothing, not eat or drink what everyone else eats or drinks, but I become wary when asked to harm myself or harm others. Even then, it can be a matter of degrees.

    But, to me there’s a large difference between, on the one hand, 1) Moses (“thus saith the Lord . . . put blood on your doorposts”) or Abraham/Nephi (being told directly by God / the Spirit to take Isaac / Laban’s life) or Joshua (“thus saith the Lord . . . use my crazy battle strategy”) and, on the other hand, 2) the way we received the counsel of the Brethren on SSM.

    bbell,

    the Brethren have, as a group, been wrong before–and I would think that your several generations of forbears might have told you that by now. Just resolving to get in line isn’t morality or spirituality, it’s willful blindness to both morality and spirituality.

    #23, thanks for the chuckle.

    #29, I don’t understand whether you are condemning Julie for a) going along with the Brethren or b) for questioning them out loud. I’m also not sure what moral ground is. My best guess is that you are saying: why be the philosopher king? instead, act in the name of what you know is right. if this is the case, i believe it is unfair to Julie, who does believe she is doing what’s right, but it’s taking, in her mind, a leap of faith to get there. for me, facing the same dilemma, i believe my own leap of faith takes me the other way.

    I cannot fault for believing, perhaps, that her intuition or conscience is more clouded than the prophet’s clear view–after all, that is exaclyt my fear in opposing the church’s stance–that i, the great sinner, do not see things so clearly as the Brethren. i don’t think either my or Julie’s positions lack a moral grounding; we both have apparently wrestled with the issue and concluded to follow the course we believe is right.

    I have a male ancestor (Addison Pratt) who wrestled with entreaties to live the law of plural marriage, and refused, out of conscience, while remaining a faithful Mormon; he recorded in his journals the belief that his leaders (and wife who wished him to take other wives) were mistaken. I have another male ancestor (Jesse N. Smith) who record in his journal similarly wrestling with his church leaders’ call to take another wife–ultimately, praying by the side of the road, where he would turn one way to his wife and another to the Bishop’s whose daughter he was to marry–he recorded a spiritual experience that he believed confirmed the call, and he accepted it. I cannot fault either of them–both are instructive and faith-building examples for me.

  34. Geoff B on June 30, 2008 at 7:49 am

    Julie, this is exactly the type of post the Bloggernacle needs right now, so thanks for posting it. I don’t think you’re going to convince any of the extremists on either side of anything right now, but you might be able to help the many fence-sitters that there is a reason for what the Brethren are doing, and that sometimes you just have to do what the prophets say even though you don’t understand why.

  35. Ian M. Cook on June 30, 2008 at 8:57 am

    I agree with Geoff B. I think I have come to the decision that I will support the First Presidency’s decision, mostly by not opposing it. I’m also glad I don’t live in California so I don’t really have to do anything. Although, I would probably just sit out the vote on this one. Perhaps the Brethren have much clearer picture of the situation, so, I certainly don’t want to try to get in their way.

  36. Tanya Sue on June 30, 2008 at 9:34 am

    I supported prop 22 back then.

    I am completely and totally ashamed that I did. I don’t think this is the equivalent of “blood on the doorposts”. I think this is an example of people wanting to be martyrs. LDS politics and beliefs change on things like this. This is no different than the church not wanting to give blacks the priesthood or it’s fight against the ERA. I don’t think the church would fight the ERA today like it did then. Most people who participated in fighting the ERA now say they don’t think it was that big of a deal. At some point gay marriage will be accepted (similar to the way that most of the things in the ERA got through in other ways), and members will look back at this and not feel that there is “blood on the doorposts”. I think you are making very light of the real blood on the doorposts story and it is pretty offensive.

  37. tracy m on June 30, 2008 at 9:47 am

    The only *support* I can offer on this is be silent.

  38. Gerald Smith on June 30, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Thanks, Julie. It isn’t always easy to follow the prophet when he says, “Let’s leave our comfortable home and go into the wilderness for years of wandering, because Jerusalem is going to be destroyed.”
    It requires a deep testimony of living prophets, and a humility to bend with their guidance that leads us to the eternal blessings we seek.
    This isn’t the first time we’ve been asked by prophets to put blood on our door posts. President Kimball forcefully fought the ERA and nuclear weapons in Utah. Certain levels of intellectualism were strongly fought 15 years ago with Quinn and others who sought to steady the historical ark of the LDS Church.
    Your insight is refreshing, given how so many see themselves as iconic heroes for standing up against modern Prophetic pronouncements. Korah felt his standing up to Moses for civil liberties and rights was a good thing to do (Nbrs 16). Following a modern day Moses isn’t always easy, but it is the right thing to do.

  39. Dave on June 30, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Nice commentary, Julie — as timely now as it was in 2005. I think this go-round will be tougher on California Saints than 2000, when Prop 22 was on the ballot. People are wired up on this issue much more than in 2000. And LDS participation this time around is publicly known from day one.

    It is ironic that statements and policies issuing from senior LDS leaders the last few years have been sympathetic toward gay Mormons, supporting and welcoming those who attempt to abide by LDS moral standards and remain active in the Church, while some overzealous local leaders may very well make active LDS who decline to be footsoldiers in this latest LDS political campaign feel unwelcome in their own ward. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

  40. Dan on June 30, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I’ve been praying for a spiritual confirmation on this issue, and as yet, I have not received it. Thankfully I live in New York and don’t have to make a choice. If I lived in California right now, I’d be staying on the fence until I heard from the Lord.

  41. Chino Blanco on June 30, 2008 at 11:02 am

    As a practical/political matter, I don’t see how working to defeat the Protect Marriage Campaign has to necessarily entail setting one’s self against one’s church. You can certainly publicly support your church’s position whilst privately working to undermine the behind-the-scenes non-LDS operators paid to execute the strategy, can’t you?

    Or so I suppose in my latest dKos diary:

    Meet Rameumptom, Inc: Schubert-Flint

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/6/30/73912/1147/89/544016

    By the way, it’d sure be a treat to see any of y’all over at dKos. With this shameless plug, you certainly now know where to find me.

  42. greenfrog on June 30, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Julie,

    Do I understand your metaphor correctly: our gay brothers and sisters are assigned the role of paschal Lambs?

  43. Kristine on June 30, 2008 at 11:44 am

    greenfrog hints at what I was going to say–the large difference between opposing equal marriage rights and putting blood on your doorpost is that one hurts other people. It seems improbable, or at least extremely disturbing, that God would test my faith by asking me to do harm to someone else. (And let me preempt the Abraham and Nephi counterexamples: 1) ram in thicket, 2) Laban was evil; gay people are not).

  44. rd on June 30, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Isn’t, Kristine, the more threshold issue whether we believe the Brethren that marriage is ordained of God and restricted to be between men and women? Then, the placing of blood on the doorpost may frustrate actions that counter the threshold principle, but are not damaging to God’s purposes. Gay people are certain not evil for being gay, but neither am I for having natural tendencies that I try (oft-times very unsuccessfully) to resist.

    (I know, this argument has been raised and dismissed before. But I happen to like it).

  45. JimD on June 30, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    It seems improbable, or at least extremely disturbing, that God would test my faith by asking me to do harm to someone else.

    If the Church were opposing civil unions, I’d agree with you. But I don’t see the church opposing inheritance rights, powers of attorney, property ownership, tax treatment, and so forth for gay couples. What I see it opposing is the “normalization” of gay unions (and the . . . er . . . physical activities that usually go with it, and which the church still happens to designate as sin) by giving them equal social status with conventional marriage.

    Is it “harmful” to state that a particular behavior is sinful, and to oppose the spread of that sin’s practice?

  46. AHLDuke on June 30, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    At first, I really liked this post because it seemed to be thoughtful and moderate. Unfortunately, in the end, its most lasting legacy may be that it has given certain people an image (“blood on the doorposts”) to go with their condescension towards those of us who are either uncertain about what to do with the Church’s opposition to SSM in CA or have already decided against supporting it.

  47. Kristine on June 30, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    JimD.–the church has, in fact, opposed civil unions in at least one state.

  48. Adam Greenwood on June 30, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    the large difference between opposing equal marriage rights and putting blood on your doorpost is that one hurts other people.

    The point of putting blood on your doorpost was to facilitate the slaughter of the Egyptians’ first-borns. Not so very touchy-feely.

  49. Julie M. Smith on June 30, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    For those who asked: I personally felt constrained by the Spirit that I should not oppose the church on Prop 22. (By the time I got to that point, though, the CA business was pretty much done.) I’m not in CA now. If I were, I’d be praying over the FP letter to find out what I was supposed to do or not do. And then I’d swallow hard and do it.

    I think it entirely possible, however, that the Spirit could inspire a faithful Saint in CA to do something different (either more supportive or less supportive of the FP letter) than in my case. It would be fun to write a short story about bbell being visited by an angel with a drawn sword and being told to put a GAY RIGHTS NOW sign on his lawn in order to test him–and test how his ward and family would treat him.

    No, greenfrog, not even close. I’m with JimD in #45.

    AHLDuke, I’m sorry that other people’s comments (note that this is my first one on this thread) have recast my words.

  50. JimD on June 30, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Kristine–

    I know that it has. But I don’t see that as relevant to this discussion; frankly, it smacks of a poisoning-the-well argument.

  51. Peter LLC on June 30, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    45:by giving them equal social status with conventional marriage.

    I can imagine a world where what is legitimate and what is legal are two perfectly overlapping circles, but we don’t live in one. I am confident that as long as lots of people consider gay marriages in similar terms as Egyptian babies, there will be little risk indeed of a failed Californian proposition bestowing equal social status on gay couples, no matter their legal status.

  52. Peter LLC on June 30, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    I’m sorry that other people’s comments (note that this is my first one on this thread) have recast my words.

    I suppose that’s the price one pays for the very human inability to predict the response to attention-grabbing headlines.

  53. Tatiana on June 30, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    My spiritual searchings have led me to the opposite conclusion as you, Julie. This letter makes me think back, as well, to a church I could never have joined, the church that didn’t extend equal rights to blacks until 1978, and that was instrumental in defeating the ERA. I sometimes think about those things and I feel the bond between me and the church weakening. But then I remember that God led me here and wants me to stay, for whatever reason. Maybe so the church will change me tremendously, as it surely has, or maybe so I can be a small agent of change in the church. Maybe both.

    I respect your decision. I myself will shout with joy when the revelation finally comes giving gay people access to the celestial kingdom, but I respect your decision.

  54. Julie M. Smith on June 30, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Tatiana, and I respect yours.

  55. Lorna B on June 30, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Support for the church\’s moral stance on SSM is not just about obedience and faith. It\’s about logic as well. It\’s about PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN, NOT the rights of adults. All one has to do is see what has happened in Mass and Canada as a result of the government legalizing SSM to understand this. Catholic adoption services had to close their doors as it is now illegal NOT to adopt out to SS couples. LDS family services would face the same problem if there were no national amendment to protect marriage.

    Sex education in Mass and Canada are a whole other thing now, as gay sex how to\’s have been added to the gov\’t mandated curriculum. Teachers are fired if they refuse to teach the new curriculum. This is just the tip of the iceberg of ramifications of not protecting marriage as between a man and a woman. Also…a redefining of marriage would redefine YOUR existing marriage, there would be negative ramifications there also. We can’t possibly see all the problems and predicaments that would arise from SSM….how fortunate that we have SEERS (see-ers) that do!!

  56. Lorna B on June 30, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Support for the church\’s moral stance on SSM is not just about obedience and faith. It\’s about logic as well. It\’s about PROTECTING THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN, NOT the rights of adults. All one has to do is see what has happened in Mass and Canada as a result of the government legalizing SSM to understand this. Catholic adoption services had to close their doors as it is now illegal NOT to adopt out to SS couples. LDS family services would face the same problem if there were no national amendment to protect marriage.

    Sex education in Mass and Canada are a whole other thing now, as gay sex how to’s have been added to the gov’t mandated curriculum. Teachers are fired if they refuse to teach the new curriculum. This is just the tip of the iceberg of ramifications of not protecting marriage as between a man and a woman. Also…a redefining of marriage would redefine YOUR existing marriage, there would be negative ramifications there also. We can’t possibly see all the problems and predicaments that would arise from SSM….how fortunate that we have SEERS (see-ers) that do!!

  57. Not Convinced on June 30, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    I should perhaps take my cue from #19 and keep my mouth shut, but I find the logic (or absence thereof) in this post so ridiculous that I can\’t restrain my fingers from typing these inflammatory words. I mean really? Blood on the doorposts? Geez Louise… you people take yourselves way to seriously…

  58. bbell on June 30, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Julie,

    Based on the overwhelming acceptance amongst the TR holders of the churchs stance on SSM I would wager your post would be more applicable in reverse.

    AKA: The letter read on Sunday stated that the church was opposed to the amendment and going foward was going to allow SSM temple sealings.

    The fur would really fly then.

  59. Clean Cut on June 30, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Wow, that was a great post. Thanks for being a great example of sucking it up and doing it anyways because it’s right, even though it might not be right. :) I feel like this could be expanded to include a whole plethora of things….

  60. Joseph D. Walch on June 30, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    My experience as a 8th generation LDS member with a large multi-generation active family is that there is no “blood on the posts” for most TR holders on this issue. We fully expected the LDS church to publicly oppose SSM in CA and fully understand the doctrinal reasons for doing so. In fact I would go as far as to say that many of my immediate family members would be concerned that we would be trending towards apostasy if this course of action had not been taken.

    I fully believe that the bloggernaccle is out of touch and indeed out of harmony with the Bretheren on this issue as demonstrated by this post and others like it.

    Amen bbell.

    I can come across often as strident or stubborn sometimes in writing, and I apologize in advance. After thinking through this issue a few years back during Prop 22, I came to an understanding. This isn’t something that is illogical in the least.

    The fact is (even though many would disagree) that voting no on Prop 22 or on the Calif. Marriage Amendment is in deed an attack on traditional marriage. Some may say that “we’re not attacking traditional marriage at all, we just want equal rights, you can still have YOUR marriage, just let me have mine.”

    The problem with that logic lies in the fact that traditional marriage is primarilly a civil institution, and traditional marriage has been defined for centuries (even millenia) as a union between one man and one woman. To say otherwise is a facial attack on the institution itself. That is why I have come to understand that those who oppose such measures aren’t Pro-gay marriage as much as they are Anti-traditional marriage. That is what decades of increasing divorce rates and cohabitation has done.

    I hope the anti-traditionalist realize the folly of their actions; especially those in the church who should know better.

  61. Charles on June 30, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Julie,

    Thank you for this very thoughtful article. While I am not one of those for whom you wrote it being naturally opposed to SSM myself, it is more fitting for me than you might think. You see, I HAVE found myself naturally on the other side of political issues from the church in the past. I came to essentially the same conclusions you have without all of the wonderful examples.

    In response to bbell 59, I fully expect that if the church were to take the opposite position the vast majority of those personally opposed to SSM would support the church, just as most of those who had personally supported the ban on priesthood quickly supported the brethren and Lord in 1978.

    It is well and good when a prophet confirms that my natural course of action in some area is pleasing to the Lord. But it is of infinitely more value to me to have a prophet who will correct me when my natural course of action is not pleasing to the Lord.

    Anyone who has never found himself on a different side of political issue than the Church is either very young, or not very politically aware. SSM is the most recent, and largest issue to be sure. But ERA, private self-defense weapons in Utah churches, gambling, alcohol laws back to at least the repeal of prohibition, the MX missile deployment (where the church was initially favorably disposed but later reversed itself and opposed the deployment), and flat tax law in Utah, as well as areas where the church has not taken a definite position but has made public comments leaning to one side or the other of illegal immigration, hate crimes, and others ALL provide opportunities where church members may find themselves torn between religion and politics. I trust at least some here are old enough to remember the concern among left leaning members of the church when ET Benson ascended to the President.

    Again, I very much appreciate the articulate manner in which Julie has framed the issue of church and politics.

  62. Adam S. on June 30, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Your argument is absurd. It is used by fundamentalists everywhere to justify morally reprehensible doctrines and practices. I realize a plea to pure reason and rationality can never be 100% of a “mormon” answer. There should be a spiritual dimension as well. However, to just shrug off your own convictions in order to fit in with the church is dishonest. I expect better from the bloggernacle and I expect better from you.

  63. Julie M. Smith on June 30, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    To all: As I stated in the original post, this post is not the place for people who find opposition to SSM logical to make their case. Any more comments in that direction will be deleted and please be aware that when you make them, you are showing that you completely misunderstood the post and aren’t very good at following directions.

    Adam S., if you expect anything from the bloggernacle, you are in serious trouble.

  64. Martin James on June 30, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Adam S,

    Surely religious fundamentalists are religiously justified in their morally reprehensible doctrines and practices. That’s the whole point of belonging to a true church – your irrationally held beliefs will be not just religiously justified but theologically correct as well.

    To say otherwise is to hold the absurd belief that religion is rational.

  65. Dave on June 30, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Adam S., how convenient of you to label an opinion you disagree with as “morally reprehensible.” As a matter of public policy and of legal reasoning there are good arguments on both sides — various state courts have gone both ways on the issue. Wagging your moral finger at someone who disagrees with you is precisely the sort of conduct you attribute to “fundamentalists everywhere,” no doubt, but here you are doing it yourself.

  66. Adam S. on June 30, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I’ll try to suppress my moral outrage to make the point more clear. Like Martin, I agree that any religion relies to some degree on the irrational. However, I have always been proud of Mormonism’s ability to combine that irrationality with reason and logic (a la D&C 9:8). I am perfectly comfortable with Julie opposing same sex marriage. What I strongly object to is her complete abandonment of logic and rationality. It violates what I see as a core aspect of our faith.

  67. Kari on June 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Dave, Adam S. does not state any specific opinion as to the practice of same-sex marriage, the recent California Supreme Court decision, or the current proposed amendment to the state constitution. In Julie’s words, you are showing that you completely misunderstood his comment.

    Julie appears to be arguing in her original post, that “once the prophet has spoken, the thinking has been done” and that we, as members of the church, need to fall lock-step in behind that thinking. My reading, whether her intent or not, is that she is comfortably abrogating her own decision making process to support the decisions made by leaders of the church. Many members of the church are comfortable with this and Julie may find this to be a reasonable way to live her life. However, as Adam S points out, this need for obedience has been used throughout the history of man to justify many morally reprehensible acts.

  68. Peter LLC on June 30, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    61:those who oppose such measures aren’t Pro-gay marriage as much as they are Anti-traditional marriage. That is what decades of increasing divorce rates and cohabitation has done.

    Thanks for making the point that it could have been worse. Decades of divorce rates and cohabitation could very well have produced a generation of Pro-gay marriage advocates!

  69. Joseph D. Walch on June 30, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    To all: As I stated in the original post, this post is not the place for people who find opposition to SSM logical to make their case. Any more comments in that direction will be deleted and please be aware that when you make them, you are showing that you completely misunderstood the post and aren’t very good at following directions.

    Julie,

    I guess the only thing left to do now is to say “Great post. I agree with everything you say (except for about 70% of the post where you compare SSM advocacy to blindly following Moses into the Red Sea.”

    If you don’t want diverse viewpoints that address the bulk of your narrative that opposition to SSM is illogical and yet must be supported, then why would you make the point?

    In any case, my point isn’t to make a logical argument, but to voice my opinion as one of many LDS members who supports the church not out of blind cultural affinity (akin to southerners approbation of segregation), but out of well thought-out principles of good society and centuries-old doctrine. I suppose if you would like to present to the world the myth that members of the church happily follow their leaders whithersoever they are led regardless of social or moral implications; well, then it’s your post.

  70. Peter LLC on June 30, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Any more comments in that direction will be deleted and please be aware that when you make them, you are showing that you completely misunderstood the post and aren’t very good at following directions.

    And this from someone who expects nothing of the Bloggernacle? I don’t get it.

  71. Eric Russell on June 30, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    The claim that obedience has been used to justify evil is itself often used to justify the rejection of the words of true messengers.

    Lots of folks try to pretend that it’s not about whether or not those messengers really are true ones, but they’re wrong. That’s all it’s about.

  72. Martin James on June 30, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Isn’t it possible that the real obedience test is not just to be obedient by opposing SSM, but instead to discover the flaws in your thinking that incline you to not oppose it?

    I think that is Adam S’s message. You can’t be obedient with blind(non-reasoned) obedience.

  73. Cicero on June 30, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you Julie,

    While I do oppose SSM, I will say that without the strong opposition from the Church I would not make it as big a priority.

    What you are articulating is something that is very hard for non-believers to understand. I just want to say that I understand, and admire you and Sister Jones for your faith.

    I only hope that I will be able to be as obedient in situations were the instruction of the prophets run counter to my own inclinations.

  74. greenfrog on June 30, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Julie (#49),

    In the metaphor of “blood on the doorpost,” someone’s lamb is slain. It occurred to me about an hour after I posted the prior note that the “lamb” in your metaphor was intended to be something akin to “the esteem of my neighbors.” This is the first chance I’ve had to address that later realization. If I’ve got it right this time, I think I understand that use of the symbol.

    Obvious from my prior comment, it wasn’t the first interpretation of that symbol that came to mind for me, but the difference in our consideration of the symbol probably stands as a testament to both the difference in our respective conclusions about the best course to take, as well as our perceptions of the relative burdens being borne by the various groups involved in the matter.

  75. Julie M. Smith on June 30, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    “Julie appears to be arguing in her original post, that “once the prophet has spoken, the thinking has been done””

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    (Sorry.)

    What I am arguing is that once the prophet has spoken, it is time for you to think and pray about what your response should be. Sometimes you will not find a wisp of logic in what the prophet says but you will need to be obedient anyway.

    ‘If you don’t want diverse viewpoints that address the bulk of your narrative that opposition to SSM is illogical and yet must be supported, then why would you make the point?”

    Because there are enough SSM free-for-alls on the blogs and I’m not interested in babysitting another one. This is a very narrow post about how people *who do not find opposition to SSM logical* might nonetheless support the church. Hence, comments that read, “But SSM *is* logical!” are irrelevant and distracting.

  76. makakona on June 30, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    What I am arguing is that once the prophet has spoken, it is time for you to think and pray about what your response should be. Sometimes you will not find a wisp of logic in what the prophet says but you will need to be obedient anyway.

    ah, then i guess i don’t like this as much as i originally thought i did. is there any way to do the first part (think and pray about a response), but not the second (not find a wisp of logic, but be obedient anyway)? being obedient in this case means i may be asked to go out knocking doors and also hand over cash for a cause i do not support. i’m having a tough time finding a middle ground here…

  77. Kade on June 30, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Thanks, Julie. I too will follow the prophet, even if the reasons for so doing maybe aren’t always as clear to me as to others. I will admit to perhaps not being fully informed or capable of grasping all facets of the argument, but I feel tugs from two sides–following the prophet and equality for all people. Ironically, in SS this last week, I taught about Alma and Amulek in Ammonihah and personally pondered whether I shared guilt with the Ammonihahites for accusing the prophets of reviling against our law, lawyers, and judges (see Alma 14).

  78. ed42 on June 30, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    “believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend”

    Who is to know what the president of the church comprehends?

  79. Cicero on June 30, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    To AdamS

    Julie’s argument is basically: “Because God says so”

    Which I think is a pretty reasonable and logical argument:

    God knows better then us, His knowledge and reason are superior to mine

    Therefore: If God and I disagree, then God is correct.

    Therefore: I should do what God says, even if it doesn’t make sense to me.

    Julie has added the belief that God calls prophets and authorizes them to speak for Him, which means we should give those prophets similar deference.

    You simply disagree with one of her assumptions somewhere, and so you’ve decided to call her names in order to try intimidate people into rejecting those assumptions.

  80. Zanthor on June 30, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Very good post.

  81. Zanthor on June 30, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    On the rationality/ morally reprehensible issue:

    Neither rationality, logic nor empiricism will ever tell us what is or is not “morally reprehensible”. Anyone claiming otherwise will ultimately find themselves whipped by the philosopher’s IS/OUGHT dilemma. However, religion is one way of defining what is morally right or wrong. Basically, it invokes God through ancient texts, the feelings of one’s heart or an oracle. After a person or group has then established/found the moral rules (or assumptions) then they can use logic to pursue the divinely invoked goals.

    Mormonism is unique because all are invited to “ask of God” if these things are “not true”. Once one gains a testimony of prophets then they use their logic to follow those they now know to be true prophets.

    Logic will not even tell us that a holocaust is wrong or morally reprehensible. In fact, those who operated the efficient trains and furnaces were arguably much more rationale than the 19 and 20 year old boys that liberated the death camps.

    When it comes to tough issues (like Gay marriage) where opposing sides each believe they have a monopoly on morality and their opponents are the wicked ones, how can one know which side is the “morally reprehensible” one? Some might cite Leviticus, and others might cite the Gay Rights movement. But we Mormons have Prophets. And I personally like it that way (but don’t confuse my “liking” it with why I believe it to be true).

    If I had valued convenience more than testimony, I would have gotten a two year head start on college instead of a mission–and it would have been perfectly logical. But God told me through his prophet that preaching the gospel was of a higher value, so like a rational person, I opted for the mission. Either choice would be logical depending on which is value most and my argument is that values come from God but can never come from logic.

    Excellent post Julie.

  82. norm on June 30, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    #82 Zanthor,

    “Mormonism is unique because all are invited to “ask of God” if these things are “not true”. Once one gains a testimony of prophets then they use their logic to follow those they now know to be true prophets.”

    I always thought of “these things” more narrowly than this: namely, whether the Book of Mormon and its message (again narrowly read) were true. Under that understanding, if I receive an answer in the affirmative it has not bearing on whether “the Church is true” or whether any particular President of the Church is a prophet, seer or revelator, much less whether his latest pronouncement is the word of God.

    Although–it occurs to me–that if you have an understanding of the coming forth of the BOM as having greater significance than the words therein, you could read “these things” to sweep up many other things (the movement as a whole? the current prophet? or at least the then prophets). Or, perhaps you are adapting that scripture as a broader belief that we can pray about anything to know its truth. Either way, interesting thought for me, as I might benefit from a broader reading (and interpretation of my own spiritual experiences).

  83. tesseract on July 1, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Julie. I appreciate and respect your decision. When the prophet told me to remove my second earring. I didn’t understand it, it didn’t seem logical, BUT I took it out. The only thing standing in my way was my own pride, really. Back in 2000, I felt very uncomfortable with the initiative, but I believed that our leaders knew better. Not long after I had voted by absentee, I attended two funerals, both for young gay LDS men who had committed suicide.

    This time around, I am not comfortable doing what I did in 2000. I love the church and really want to follow the prophet. It really would be easier just to keep my mouth shut and not create waves, but I truly believe and have received personal revelation for myself that it would not be what the Saviour would have me do. This truly means life and death to some people and utter tragedy for their families. When it boils down to it, my integrity and status with my HF means more to me than my status within the church.

  84. Kari on July 1, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Thanks for the clarification, Julie. But if we think and pray about what the prophet(s) has said, and find no logic in what is being said, and don’t agree, and then obey anyway, the end result is the same, and your take home message is that the prophet has done the thinking and we need to get in line. Unless you feel that there are reasonable times that a member of the church can disagree and not obey and still be considered a believer and faithful member of the church.

    So as a thought experiment I would ask you if there are any of those situations?

    And for further clarification, I would appreciate your thoughts as to the explicit teaching that prophets are not infallible. If they’re not, is it possible for us to come to a determination that the prophet has made a mistake? If so, how do we identify and act against their counsel and remain in good standing with the church? If not, then do we really believe the prophet is fallible?

    And as a corollary, does your original post apply to statements by the President of the Church? the First Presidency? The Qo12? Presidents of the Seventy? Members of the Seventy? Area Authorities? Stake Presidents? Bishops? EQ/RS Presidents? Where do we draw the line at whose counsel we should obey, even if it’s illogical and disagreeable to our personal standards, or those we can choose not to obey?

  85. djinn on July 1, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Dear Mrs. Smith: you haven’t answered, what happened to your neighbor? Was she harrassed? Was her footwear denigrated? Did people say very very mean thing about her jeans jumper and cute yet modest T-shirt, or did she lose her family? Hmmmm? Methinks your silence makes the opposite point to that which you intend.

  86. Timer on July 1, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Julie,

    Very nice post. I had a similar experience when I was in CA during the Prop 22 event. I disagreed with Prop 22 on its merits, but I supported and voted for in order to support the prophet. I hope I did the right thing. I still have plenty of doubts on the matter. I would not try to advise others in my situation to do the same.

    I always thought that people who were one hundred percent sure that it was the will of God for them support Prop 22 had a pretty easy time deciding what to do.

    People who entertain the possibility that the church is wrong (maybe the church is mistaken, like it was when it made certain statements about blacks what we no longer agree with… or maybe the advice doesn’t really apply to me) or whose testimonies do not rise to the level of “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that doing what the prophet advises is the best strategy in every circumstance” or even “I know with 100 percent certainty that the church is true” have a tougher time of it. We know of so many examples from history when people who ignored their consciences to support their religious leaders ended up doing cruel and terrible things. Surely, the doubters reason, God would want us to be careful about falling into such a trap.

    And this is a serious problem, because we are a church that welcomes people with doubts as long as they are trying to be faithful. If you think there is at most a 30 percent chance that the church is true and a 15 percent chance that the prophet is right about SSM, but you exercise the faith you have and you love the church and it’s good for your family, and you are trying hard to support it, then God still loves you and the church unequivocally welcomes you.

    My advice to somebody in this category: if you love the church and think that it at least might be true and you want to be a member, but you really believe — even after factoring in the advice from the prophet, even after praying about it, even after weighing the advantages of keeping solidarity with the Mormon community — that supporting the amendment will do more harm than good, then, for crying out loud, just sit this one out!!!! Don’t let this issue destroy your relationship with the church. Just take the time you would have spent half-heartedly supporting an amendment you find problematic, and spend it visiting the temple, doing your geneology, giving to the poor and needy, reaching out in kindness and friendship to gays and lesbians you know, using your talents to serve. If you don’t have time or temperament to do absolutely everything that the church “advises” (not “commands”) you to do, then just do the ones you believe in and the ones you feel good about. If your church leaders put pressure on you individually, just tell them honestly how you feel and hope they can respect your decision.

    There are so many ways in which we could serve but don’t. I imagine that 99 percent of them we neglect because we are too lazy or too busy, and maybe 1 percent because we fear there might be something morally wrong with them. So focus on the 99 percent. Improve your relationship with God. And maybe, someday later (though possibly not until the next life), we’ll all understand God’s will regarding the 1 percent a bit better.

  87. Kari on July 1, 2008 at 12:56 am

    “And this is a serious problem, because we are a church that welcomes people with doubts as long as they are trying to be faithful. If you think there is at most a 30 percent chance that the church is true and a 15 percent chance that the prophet is right about SSM, but you exercise the faith you have and you love the church and it’s good for your family, and you are trying hard to support it, then God still loves you and the church unequivocally welcomes you.”

    Timer, I appreciate your perspective and really hope that it is true in your experience, but in my experience there couldn’t be a less true statement of how the church deals with doubters.

  88. Joseph D. Walch on July 1, 2008 at 1:00 am

    ‘Zanthor’

    Neither rationality, logic nor empiricism will ever tell us what is or is not “morally reprehensible”. Anyone claiming otherwise will ultimately find themselves whipped by the philosopher’s IS/OUGHT dilemma.

    Funny you should bring this up since I read C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man yesterday. I think you are mistaken here since the is/ought dilemma only applies to utilitarianism or relativistic naturalism. Certainly saying: A then B it would follow If A is then Ought B follow. Jesus said that “Greater Love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friend.” You seem to be saying that there is no rational foundation for Christ to say this. That there is no absolute ‘is’ upon to hang the conditional ‘then ought.’ Well, your wrong. There are absolutes upon which we hang our faith quite sensibly and rationally well. One cannot have faith unless one has faith in true principles which come to us through our heart; and mind.

    God IS great. He OUGHT then to be obeyed (unless your goal is to be in Hell, then you ought to disobey). People who kill innocents in the holocaust IS sent to hell. Therefore, if I don’t want to go to Hell then I OUGHT not kill innocent people. You see? This is quite different from saying “It IS the fit of a species that survives through natural selection: therefore only the fit OUGHT to survive.” There is no part of Darwinism that is prescriptive and thus no prescriptive imperative can be derived. It is very different with moral philosophy which begins from a point of objectivistic or prescriptive point of view.

    You said e.g. that you knew that going on a mission was (IS) a moral imperative. Therefore, you concluded that you OUGHT to have gone. Very good for you. Have you been whipped by the philosophers as a result? As long as one argues from absolute pure reason then we can claim all the imperative privilage we wish. The problem lies with the Gay-Rights movement that says “We IS the way we IS, therefore we OUGHT to have certain rights.” Since they’ve shredded every last sheet of absolute morality, then they have not a leg to stand.

  89. JKS on July 1, 2008 at 2:08 am

    Julie,
    Thanks for posting this. Its nice to take a trip down memory lane and remember how I reacted to this back in 2005 and I was new to the bloggernacle.

  90. Timer on July 1, 2008 at 3:41 am

    Kari,

    Sorry to hear that you have had some bad experiences with the church. I have no idea what they might have been.

    Based on the (possibly biased) sample of Mormons I know well, it seems that most church members have some serious doubts (this may include the bishop and RS president); and most people in a ward just don’t have either the time or the desire to go around trying to identify and shun everyone with doubts.

    In particular, people at church, in the many wards I have lived in, have always been very nice to me. And unequivocally welcoming.

    Maybe I’ve just been lucky. (I’ve been in some wonderful wards.) But this really is my experience.

    Now, if you try to convince other people to share your disagreements with church leaders, or if you generally come across as hostile to the church, I can see how some people might get pretty prickly and defensive. Many people don’t like to hear “Don’t you think the church might not be true?” any more than they like to hear “Do you ever think about how when you die, that could be the end of your existence?” It’s morbid. People expect their fellow Mormons to build up their faith — there are more than enough people trying to tear it down..

    But try this experiment. See if you can live in CA and not openly support they gay marriage amendment and still be unequivocally welcomed at church.

    Based on my experience, it’s really pretty easy to do.

  91. Paul on July 1, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Hang on. Do we even believe that marriage for time only is ordained of god? Isnt celestial marriage the real and only thing? So why now do we claim and try to protect the “sanctity” of civil marriage?

  92. Martin James on July 1, 2008 at 11:18 am

    JDW,

    There are a lot of metaphorical words packed into your comment.

    Take “great”. Why wouldn’t he same logic apply to The New England Patriots IS great therefore they ought to be obeyed?

    Or take “innocents” or “Hell” or “heart” or “absolute”. I have only the vaguest idea what you are talking about – its like poetry – I must have shredded every last page of the absolute dictionary where I should be looking up these terms.

  93. Gerald Smith on July 1, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Not to get too off Julie’s topic, but Harold Bloom suggested that the reason Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, isn’t because of their homosexuality; but because they sought to harshly impose their sinful lifestyle on others, such as Lot’s visitors. Given what is occurring in Canada, to force teachers and religions into a PC box, begins a slippery slope down to destruction.
    Sin is determined by God, and related to us through prophets. Political correctness can run rampant in a society as we try to be overly sensitive towards peoples’ “rights.” However, I recall Pres Packer warning us not to use the virtue of freedom to beat up on other virtues. And just because we want to be seen as empathetic, does not mean we should begin accepting immoral lifestyles, whether it is homosexual or heterosexual.
    The Church has given us the Proclamation of the Family as a core doctrine. A Celestial and Christ-like love relationship does not seem to fit a homosexual lifestyle to me, at least from what I read in the scriptures and prophetic writings.
    I’ve read many studies on homosexuality, including many done by pro-gay scientists. Almost all of them suggest that such tendencies are tied to a bad relationship with father/man in early years. For me, gay tendencies should be considered a human condition on the same level as other addictions. We shouldn’t legalize and approve drug addictions or alcoholism, but we should seek to treat it with kindness and humanely. But, they need to be treated, and not embraced.
    My personal study has led me to believe that the basic foundations of the family will break down in areas where homosexuality is accepted as normal.
    I understand my views would not be consider popular in certain areas. Well, neither is the idea that I believe in the Book of Mormon and living prophets.

  94. Zanthor on July 1, 2008 at 11:31 am

    #89 Joseph:

    It appears that our understanding of the “is/ought” problem is different. While I make no claims to being a philosopher, my understanding is that Hume and others have shown that is *no* “ought” can be derived from an “is”. I haven’t read the C.S. Lewis book you are talking about, but if Lewis is making the same argument you are, then that puts him at odds with Hume (which is OK, others advocating the existence of morality have attacked Hume as well). As I have thought about this problem over the past few years, I have not been able to logically connect is and ought myself without first supplying my testimony (or what others might call a grand “assumption” that God lives and that he is good and also wants us to be good). A hard core is/ought proponent could still ask why those things mean I should be good, but I draw the line there. A testimony has always been good enough for me.

    The reason I invoked the “is/ought” problem is because I think it prevents a greater dilemma for those who argue for a secular morality (like some in the Gay Rights movement) than it does for adherents of religion. I have also always felt that it is unnecessary (and perhaps unwise?) to try to go through a possibly long-testimony gaining experience of every gospel principle (see #83). Since obedience is the first law in Heaven and since time is limited when one is in a dilemma like Abraham or Nephi (think Isaac, Laban and swords), it seems to me that the supreme act of faith is deciding to follow the prophet once one has a witness that he is a prophet. This course of action is bound to lead us down uncomfortable paths like the one Julie is traveling (but we exercise faith and hope that the ultimate destination is one of happiness).

  95. Jared Orme on July 1, 2008 at 11:43 am

    I’m really sorry your post has been hijacked, Julie. I just want to say that I found your thoughts well-stated, well-placed, and enriching of the larger discussion.

  96. cailu on July 1, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Sorry, I skimmed most of the comments. Has anyone said anything about the separation of church and state? Of course, a church can issue opinion papers about political initiatives, but isn’t it in violation of the Constitution to insist your congregation be involved in political activism as a church sponsored event?

  97. Ray on July 1, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    #97, No.

  98. Mark N. on July 1, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    A San Francisco talk show host mentioned the other day the the LDS Church is one of the major forces behind the drive for a constitutional amendment in CA, and it was his opinion that the Church should lose it’s tax-exempt status for involving itself in politics to this extent. If the Church were to lose its tax-exempt status, I’m assuming that this would mean that donations by the members to the Church would no longer be able to be deducted on tax forms. I can’t help but wonder if the quantity of tithing and fast offering donations would go down in such an environment. Faithful members of the Church would, of course, continue to give, but there would be a slight increase in financial pain (slightly higher taxes) for their having done so.

    Should we even care about the Church’s tax-exempt status and say that if this is the cost of supporting the constitutional amendment, so be it?

  99. bbell on July 1, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    There is no danger of the LDS Church losing its tax exempt status over SSM in CA. This has been hashed over and rehashed again.

  100. TrevorM on July 1, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Julie, thank-you for your post.

    I am sorry people have to turn this into a retarded fight, especially to denounce you. I think many of us feel the pull from both sides, having faith in the church and its leaders, and being unsure about its SSM stance.

  101. JohnB on July 1, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks for the article, Julie. Mosiah 4:9 is one of my favorite scriptures and has helped me through some very difficult times when I thought I knew what was best for me but God had other ideas. My experience has been that God has been the wiser one every time, although I often don\’t see why until after the fact. Sometimes quite a while after the fact.

    I also like the next verse, Mosiah 4:10, which ends with, \”if you believe all these things see that ye do them.\”

    I have felt that if I want the Atonement of Jesus Christ to become a reality in my life, then I must learn to accept God\’s will as Jesus himself did in the Garden before suffering for our sins: \”Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done\” (Luke 22:42). Even the Greatest of us all had to submit his will to the Father.

  102. JohnB on July 1, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks for the article, Julie. Mosiah 4:9 is one of my favorite scriptures and has helped me through some very difficult times when I thought I knew what was best for me but God had other ideas. My experience has been that God has been the wiser one every time, although I often don’t see why until after the fact. Sometimes quite a while after the fact.

    I also like the next verse, Mosiah 4:10, which ends with, “if you believe all these things see that ye do them.”

    I have felt that if I want the Atonement of Jesus Christ to become a reality in my life, then I must learn to accept God’s will as Jesus himself did in the Garden before suffering for our sins: “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). Even the Greatest of us all had to submit his will to the Father.

  103. cailu on July 1, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    I also want to thank Julie for a thought-provoking article. I know that in the small town in Utah that my sister and her husband live in, they would be at risk for tar and feathering for open support of SSMs. This is why I mention the separation of church and state. Tax exempt status is the furthest thing from my mind. (And “No” #98, without support statements, is hardly useful.) As mentioned before, I believe the Church has every right to issue as strong a statement as they like, regarding anything they want. What concerns me is the divisiveness that is created by insisting on political involvement. I certainly understand the right to “opt out.” But are individuals being ostracized for their political beliefs (as is the case with my aforementioned sister and husband), because they choose to opt out? I recognize that this is a discussion about following the prophet, but did the brethren specifically call for public activism?

  104. Julie M. Smith on July 1, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    In #85, Kari writes, “Unless you feel that there are reasonable times that a member of the church can disagree and not obey and still be considered a believer and faithful member of the church.”

    Of course there can be. I think that happens a lot, perhaps mostly to see if the rest of us will be judgmental idiots toward people inspired to do out-of-the-box things.

    djinn, I must have missed your inquiry the first time around. We moved to TX shortly thereafter and I’m sad to say I didn’t keep in touch. But at the time it happened, there were no consequences to her family that I am aware of.

    Timer, I really like your comment. Recently, the RS Pres. asked us to make cookies to give out after sac mtg on Father’s Day and I didn’t sign up because I am morally opposed to that practice. I decided it wasn’t worth leaving the church over, though.

    (Forgive me for being silly. I’m really just trying to agree with Timer that this doesn’t need to be a deal-breaker for CA saints who support SSM. Find another way to serve and let it go.)

  105. Julie M. Smith on July 1, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Well, we usually close things down around 100 comments so I’ll do that now. Thank you all for your comments. Since I was attacked from both the left and the right in this post, I suspect I must have done something correctly. :)

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