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.