Friday, November 7, 2008

Caveat to my rage

While I was an undergrad at BYU, a student organization ran a soapbox. Once a week, students could stand on the quad with a microphone and bellyache about whatever they wanted to; needless to say, I was an active participant. One of the rules was that no student could "speak evil of the Lord's anointed." I was never kicked off of the soapbox, so I'm pretty sure that I never broke this rule, but I must admit that I am not sure that I even knew what the prohibition meant. Now, after my own (failed) personal campaign against California's Proposition 8, and after a lot of anger and doubt, I think I finally understand what that rule meant.

Throughout my life as a Mormon, I have been taught to defer to the prophet and the apostles with reverential awe. Watching General Conference every 6 months only added to their aura of other-worldliness; these men spoke from a massive wooden pulpit, their image projected on a movie-screen-sized wall in the darkened chapel, and they said things, not only that I had been taught, but things that I knew and felt were true. It's not so much that the theatrics of it all were meant to confuse me--I was regularly taught about their personal histories, their families, and the fact that they were people just like me--but for whatever reason, I still believed that they were somehow different--better even--from mere mortals like myself.

I still believe that these people are apostles and prophets. I honestly think that God has chosen these people to lead His Church, to try and help people to live better lives, and to do the administrative chores that come with any organization as large and complex as the Church.

I'm also coming to realize, however, that these leaders are also people.

Maybe BYU's rule of not "speaking ill of the Lord's anointed" is not so much an attempt at unrealistic optimism--holding to the belief that the glass is half-full, even when it clearly isn't--but rather an acknowledgement that nobody ever does anything that is totally good, no matter how well-intentioned they may be. Focusing on mistakes and personal flaws of Church leaders unduly detracts from the good things they undeniably do. Furthermore, the belief that sins or mistakes necessarily invalidate good deeds is the quickest way to nihilism and total gridlock. If only perfect people were allowed to be apostles then there wouldn't be any. Or if, for example, serving in a community organization with someone who had sinned (maybe even committed acts of domestic terrorism) in the past made the whole endeavour an act of "tolerating" their evil, then nobody could join any organizations at all. Isn't the whole foundation of Christianity that everybody, to some degree or another, is a horrible sinner?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't consider myself an apostate, just because I feel that the Church is totally dropping the ball on this whole gay marriage thing. I don't plan on leaving just because they have made, are making, and will most definitely make mistakes in the future. I just think that it's important to acknowledge when mistakes are being made and try to correct them. I am still going to rail against policies and actions that I feel are unbecoming of God's church.

There is a natural tendency in the Church to try and hide our mistakes from others. Perhaps it's because we don't want our "enemies" to know that we are human and prone to the foibles of our historical time and culture. We don't want anti-Mormons to gloat over our mistakes as proof that we are not what we claim to be, God's church restored to the Earth through a prophet.

I guess I can only hope that my ranting about the mistakes of my Church does not distract you from the fact that it is, on balance, a great organization. I want to speak out against the mistakes we Mormons make for the same reasons that the Church speaks out against sins during General Conference--to correct them and to improve our standing with God.

I realize that for many of you, this caveat is meaningless. Either you won't accept that the Church is making a mistake with its stance in California, regardless of what I say, or you have been complaining with me for months and already need no convincing. Before I started my next post, however, which will be another indelicate assault on the faulty logic and PR nightmare that is Proposition 8, I wanted to make sure that all of you (myself included) knew exactly where I stand. Isn't that what blogs are about?


Petra said...

Aww, thanks. I needed that reminder.

ke said...

I think I'm one of the first group. And am excited to read on. (I love you for keeping me on my toes friend. :) And for your cream puffs.)

direfloyd said...

Blogs are for posting complete lies so college students use them as facts in midterm papers =)

Garth Aamodt D.C. said...

Nicely put. (Though I personally don't think it was a mistake in the first place, for reasons we've already discussed.) How far can one compromise before the slippery slope is reached? For me, I think redefining one of the most basic words--marriage--was a compromise that would lead to societal problems. I acknowledge gay unions, gay couples, gay contracts, or whatever. But I don't think the legal redefinition of "marriage", with all the inherent ramifactions would enhance the ultimate good of our society. I rather suspect that our LDS leaders have that same perspective and more. But if one is convinced that it was a mistake, so be it. Your attitude is correct if that's your conclusion. Our leaders set a guiding principle, but there is no "sin" attached if one chose the other side.

Have you however also considered the post election spectacle? Does this provide any "reveal" about the true forces at play? I discern nefarious motivations shown by how many on the left are revealing their true motivation in their response. Last I knew voter intimidation, reprisals, graffiti, vandalism, violence were pretty evil ways to object to a vote you lost. Would Christians on the other side have acted that way? Would good people who believe in democracy act that way? Would pro-traditional marriage Mormons have used the same tactics in reverse if they'd lost? Of course not. I believe everyone has the right to express their beliefs--even a church--without being physically threatened. The old addage is still true: "by their fruits you shall know them." What fruits are revealed in this event?