Meditations for Nov. 2nd

Otherwise known as All Souls’ Day.  And, in America, the Sunday before the election.  And in Mormon America, the Last Chance to Bear You Testimony before Election Day.  Since testimony meetings are supposed to focus on the Savior, and since you won’t be able to speak broadly about politics on Sunday, here’s your chance to share some of those thoughts.

Consider answering these questions:

1 – What are you thankful for this election season?
2 – What will you be doing to reach out in a Christ-like way to folks “on the other side”?
3 – How will you make others feel welcome at Christ’s table (after all, he’s invited everyone to join him)?  How can others make you feel welcome?

Since I’m “conducting the meeting,” I’ll start:

My heart is touched and lifted today by the hymn, sung around the world at this time of the year, “For All the Saints,” particularly verses 1, 3 and 4, which I’ll share here:

For all the Saints who from their labors rest,
Who thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.  Alleluia.

Thou art our rock, our fortress, and our might;
Thou, Lord, our captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, our one true light. Alleluia.

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong. Alleluia.

Normally, I really don’t appreciate hymns with battle images in them, but the image of Light in darkness drear strengthening arms and hearts is an image I can relate to in this tumultuous time.  I have truly appreciated so many readers’ thoughtful, insightful comments and am grateful that we have been able to create a relatively settled spot on the ‘net where respect generally outweighs criticism, fear and even hate.

I am deeply saddened by so many comments I’ve seen that haven’t made it through the moderation process, and my heart aches for so many of you who have faced and continue to face the strident, bitter, caustic, pharisaical, even bigoted people on both sides of this issue.  I hope and pray that nobody has to put up with that kind of mudslinging face-to-face in real life.

Still, I am thankful for many things:

  • I am thankful I live in a country where political power passes relatively peacefully over the years
  • I am thankful I have enough food, shelter and security to be able to spend my time worrying about things like other people’s marital status
  • I am thankful I’ve heard from and seen examples of people trying to follow The Golden Rule, regardless of political persuasion, religion or lack thereof
  • I am thankful for people who stand up for what they believe in and put their money, time and actions where their mouths are and do it with integrity
  • I am thankful for everyone who has sacrificed so much to make the world a better place for my children, especially my eldest son who will be turning three on Sunday (he invites you all to share his cake with him after church)
  • I am thankful that these tough issues don’t come up more often
  • I am thankful that I learned at a very young age that the Good News is that there is a place for everyone and that unconditional love is only a breath away.
  • I am thankful that there are people in my life who are Embodiments of Love, always ready to lend a listening ear, a helpful hand, a shoulder to cry on and a heart to rejoice with.
  • I am thankful my mother got me hooked on Peter, Paul & Mary at a young age, so now there’s always a song appropriate to the political cause at hand:
  • “Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names / Don’t get your pleasure from my pain/ In God’s eyes, we’re all the same / Some day we’ll all have perfect wings / Don’t laugh at me”
  • “Have you been to jail for justice? I want to shake your hand / ‘Cause sitting in and lying down are ways to take a stand / Have you sung the song of freedom / or walked that picket line? If you’ve been to jail for justice, then you’re a friend of mine….The laws are made by people, but people can be wrong / We must be ever-vigilant for justice to prevail”
  • “If there’s any hope for love at all, some walls must fall”

What will I do to heal the rifts among my friends and acquaintances?  I don’t know, I’m still figuring that out.  At the very least, I will refrain from gloating or mourning in front of them and I will continue to sit together with them in church, sing with them in the choir, invite their children over for playdates, and find ways to make it easier for them to feel welcome in my life.  I will draw a circle that includes them.

15 Comments on “Meditations for Nov. 2nd

  1. Over the last several months I’ve watched with abject horror while the church I love has zealously supported Proposition 8. Until now, I’ve never been embarrassed about my church membership, but today my feelings go beyond embarrassment—I feel shame. Can I explain why?

    In 1958 when my in-laws, Esther and Evan, decided to get married, they couldn’t—not where they lived in Utah. Though they had both served as missionaries for the church and were therefore deemed worthy to act as God’s ambassadors, they were prohibited from marrying each other in the temple they loved. Neither could they get married civilly by state authorities. Utah, at the time, enforced anti-miscegenation laws that prohibited Evan, a white man, from marrying Esther, an Asian-American woman. So contrary to the admonition of church leaders, they crossed into Colorado to exchange vows. Despite that inauspicious start, their marriage has been an example of tireless devotion to God and church. As husband and wife, they completed two more missions together and Evan, for his part, has been a branch president, district president, stake president, regional representative and mission president.

    What was so wrong about them getting married anyway?

    Once, I asked a general authority that question and he replied, “Nothing.” Then he spoke of the historical context behind Utah’s ban on race-mixing—a stance that was part of church policy even as the first pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley and began to establish a secular government. They were a people, he said, who were influenced by the bitterness of the civil war and we shouldn’t judge them too harshly for what may seem like bigoted notions today. Though he didn’t say as much, the implication was clear: Church members, at the time, were incapable of rising above personal prejudices to live as Jesus would have them.

    As a devout Christian, I have to believe with every fiber of my being, that it isn’t God’s will, but the intolerance of individuals that keeps the church from understanding and living a higher, more inclusive, truth about love and marriage. I have to believe this, because to accept the alternative would be intolerable for me.

  2. Alan, you couldn’t have put it more perfectly. This has been a deeply troubling time for my wife and I. We are students at BYU Hawaii and are part of a VAST minority who has stood against Prop 8. While we have been generally passive about our thoughts and feelings, we have been the recipients of many emails and phone calls from ward and bishopric members trying to convince us that our stance on this issue was misguided and, as many of them put it ‘immoral’. One brother, who will remain nameless, actually told me I was being influenced my satan himself………….thats all i can say…

    Our bishop asked us to fast this Sunday for Prop. 8 to pass (during the sacrament meeting announcements, after which my wife and I stood up and left). We’ll be fasting for the spirit to touch the hearts of our fellow church members, that they might remember the tender mercies of Christ and have a greater desire to follow his example of perfect love. that is all we can hope and pray for at this point.

  3. Alan –

    Thank you for sharing that. My daughter-in-law is Asian. She is a wonderful wife to my son and mother to my grandchildren. My partner and I love her dearly and their two little boys are the greatest (and the cutest).
    Fortunately for them they were married (in the temple) at a time after miscegenation laws had been declared unconstitutional. My son confided in me that he still feels bias from within the Church and without. That is unfair and flies against everything we as Americans and especially Church members stand for. The Church’s hard stance on Prop 8 mistifies me. And the way the members have grabbed on to this like a pit bull – even breaking other commandments in the process – is shameful.
    Sadly, my son feels like they have no other choice but to follow the Prophet. And that has caused a great deal of emotional pain for our family. I don’t think this is what Christ had in mind for his Church.

  4. Dear Friends:

    I have been quietly reading here for a while now, and I am so grateful to what I see each time I visit. Laura, thank you for this lovely meditation.

    My parents are LDS (I am not … they converted when I was in my 20s), and they are very upset about the church’s involvement in politics. While neither of them personally agrees with gay marriage, they both vehemently disagree with meddling in other peoples’ civil rights. My dad proudly gave away the bride at a wedding between a black man and a white woman whose parents refused to even attend (I was 8 years old at the time).

    I’m 44 years old now, and I see Prop 8 as a civil rights issue in exactly the same way as anti-miscegenation laws were. None of my gay friends have chosen to be gay; they simply *are,* just as my husband and I are straight.

    Here’s what the pro-8 folks seem to miss in their zeal. Stripping away rights from one group opens the door to strip away rights for another group … and another … and another. We live in a democratic republic so that the tyrannic majority *cannot* do this to a minority.

    The real irony? A strict reading of CA’s equal protection clause and Prop 8 (should it pass) could result in judicial annulment of every marriage in CA, straight or gay. And for every person who is reading this and thinking “Well, I’m straight so this doesn’t affect me”? Consider exchanging the words “black” for “gay” and “white” for “straight” and see if it seems right to you.

    I am always saddened to see people dispense hatred in the name of their god. 🙁

  5. John 11:35 comes to mind.

    So does Zions Camp. Remember how all those guys set off across the wilderness to fight the battle but then ran into all kinds of problems and illness and never made it to their goal? One could easily make the argument that they’d failed and had gone off on a wild goose chase. But then what happened to those who made it through? They became the leaders with the skills to take the Saints to Zion. They learned about leadership in the wilderness and they learned about spirituality.

    Maybe Heavenly Father doesn’t care so much which side of the proposition we’re on, but rather what kind of leaders we will be because we have gone through this fire. Will we be more compassionate? Will we learn empathy for the underdogs? Will our hearts be softened or hardened?

    Maybe the test isn’t about who gets to use the word marriage. Maybe the test is about who learns to love, not just one another, but The Other.

  6. I have been reading for a while, but this is my first post. I am no longer active in the Mormon church, and what really started my exit was the way the church handled Prop 22 back in 2000. As the RS President at that time, i was asked to use my influence to get sisters to both donate time and money. I didn’t agree with it then, and I certainly don’t agree with it now. Although I left the church without bitterness or resentment, it has been harder this time around to maintain that stance. I am trying because so many of my dear friends are still active, but I am just outraged by all of this.

    I decided to start my own blog since so many of my friends are LDS. I thought I could respectfully share my views and the views of others in a way that might turn people around. I think it’s unlikely, but I have found that writing has been cathartic for me throughout this debate.

    Thanks again for putting it all on the line and doing what you feel is right. I truly believe if Christ were living here today, he’d be on the side of justice, mercy and tolerance.

  7. Gordon Ray Church
    A Litany of Horror,
    A Prayer for Peace
    On the Day of the Dead, 2008

    Twenty years ago, on November 21, 1988, Gordon Ray Church, a 28-year-old Southern Utah University theater student – and Gay Mormon man – was at a convenience store in Cedar City, Utah, where he met Michael Anthony Archuleta and Lance Conway Wood. The two young men asked him for a ride north to Salt Lake City. Gordon agreed and they got as far as a remote location in Millard County where they turned off the freeway for “a pit stop.” Safely out of public view, Archuleta, a Catholic, and Wood, a Mormon Eagle Scout (although both with police records), attacked Gordon because of his effeminate behavior and perceived homosexuality. After beating him senseless, they stripped Gordon of his clothes and shocked him repeatedly. They brutally raped him with a tire iron, beat him and finally killed him after more than an hour of torture. The young men then buried his mangled body in a shallow grave. Two years later in court, in describing the horrendous injuries inflicted upon Gordon’s body, it took the reporting coroner two and a half hours of medical testimony. Gordon’s full story is found on this website. Be forewarned, the details are much more graphic and disturbing than the description in this post.

    I was in Salt Lake City at the time this happened, getting ready for Thanksgiving, when underground news of Gordon’s murder hit the Gay community. Although I did not know Gordon, two of my closest friends did and they were in utter shock. His murder was briefly reported in the papers, but not as a hate crime, and certainly not as a brutal anti-Gay torture spree. The papers hinted that it was sex-related but the LDS judge over the case placed a gag order on it and sealed all the court documents from the media and the public, mainly because of the prominence of the two local LDS families involved. Still we managed to circulate details of Gordon’s torture and murder among the Gay community, where we privately mourned the loss of one of our own.

    The heinous nature of a hate crime is that the crime is committed against one member of a particular group, who represents everyone in that group – be it Asians, Gays, Blacks, Mormons, women, Jewish people, etc. For several weeks, I remember walking around Salt Lake City in a daze: Christmas carols in the malls, Temple Square alit, the Messiah sing-along, the gingerbread Victorians of the Avenues and Marmalade district all lit up; and it was all but ashes in my mouth, compared to the horror of realizing, “There but by the Grace of God go I.” The heart-wrenching vulnerability and visual flashes of the violence committed upon Gordon’s body would crash into my head and overwhelm me at any moment and I would break down crying at the thought that it could have just as easily been me.

    Out of that fear, despair, disbelief, and anger generated by Gordon’s murder came at last resolve. I had been through enough pain, fear, and spiritual torture in my life and I needed them to stop. I vowed to live my life out loud, publicly, courageously, to help prevent any such further horrors. Since then, I have dedicated my life to creating a world where every LGBT person is at peace and safe from psychological, spiritual, and physical violence. It took another ten years, when a young Gay student named Matthew Shepard, was strung up on a fence and left to die outside of Laramie, Wyoming in 1998, before the world finally started to see just how evil homophobia truly is.

    Gordon, I want you to know that after twenty years, my mantra remains:

    Never forget. Never again.

  8. I haven’t been to Sacrament in at least three weeks. I filtered all of the “Yes on 8” rallying emails from various church members to be moved directly to my archives, but I went back and read them anyway so I could know exactly what was going on.

    Through discourse during a casual dinner with other female members, I learned the sister next to me was also against Prop. 8. I was honestly relieved to know I was not the only member hurt by the church’s stance on the Proposition.

    I don’t know if I can go back; I don’t know if I can stand to hear the whisperings and murmurs of what’s going to happen on Monday and Tuesday in support of Prop. 8 amongst other church members.

    Do I courageously attend Fast Sunday tomorrow as a silent observer? Do I stay home and pray/fast/meditate/ponder? I am in a total quandary.

    Thank you for YOUR courageous efforts and for the creation and updating of this blog. The blog owner, and many of those who comment, have made a difference in my coming to a decision on how I feel in my core regarding my membership in this church and as a California citizen and Christian in support of my gay brothers and sisters.

  9. Lisa,

    I know exactly how you feel. I am also dreading going to my ward tomorrow, but I will considering that this is almost over. Maybe you can just go to sacrament meeting and go home after that. Another thing you might try is visiting another ward. Hang in there!!

  10. Lisa, instead of being a silent observer, could you bear your testimony? In 2000, when I got up during fast and testimony meeting the Sunday before the election and talked about Stuart Matis, it was probably one of the scariest things that I have ever done. But it was also one of the most empowering events of my life.

    My thoughts will be with all of the LDS No on 8’ers and I will light a candle at my UCC church in your honor tomorrow.

    “Prejudice tolerated is prejudice encouraged.”

  11. Of course, each of us must decide for ourselves how and when to speak up in church. There are lots of ideas on this site about how to do this at church. I, personally, would urge everyone to spend precious testimony minutes talking about how your faith in and love for Jesus Christ has helped you through the past few months and how you’ve tried to find peace by following Him. Or talk about how blessed we are to live in a free country where nobody else but God will know how we mark our ballots. Or find a story to share that shows how someone spread love and not hate and encourage others to “go and do thou likewise.”

    If we all take up testimony time with stories of love and faith in action, there won’t be time for politicking by “the other side” and everyone who was nervous about coming to church due to the current political climate will have the opportunity to fill their hearts, minds and souls with the Peace of Jesus Christ.

    This is an opportunity to show how our religion teaches us to love; let’s make the most of it. There are people on both sides of this issue who need to know they are loved and who need to drink from the Living Water. Let’s not withhold the cup unnecessarily.

    Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” We could expand that: There is neither Republican nor Democrat, there is neither “pro” or “con;” there is neither us nor them: for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

    He has invited all of us to join Him; let’s let all who want to accept that invitation do so the best way they know how.

  12. Great idea. Unfortunately, we have our stake conference. Best I can do is have my No on 8 bumper-stickered car parked in the interstate parking lot.


  13. How fortunate I was today to sit in my church and witness the marriage of an elderly lesbian couple, beloved by all in our congregation. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the building. It was a powerful reminder of why all these efforts to defeat Prop 8 are worthwhile. Thank you everyone for your courage in speaking out for truth and equality.

  14. I’m on my way to the polls to help others see that love is the answer, for EVERYONE! God bless and keep us all today. I love you my brothers and sisters!

  15. Hello,

    To all that are listening. Thank-you for following your heart and God’s spirt in your support of your gay brothers and sisters. My spouse would like nothing better than to continue in the church that she loves. She cannot because her Mormon church prohibits her from making a lifelong monogamous commitment to the person that she loves. How ironic is that? Through her I have come to know many kind and wonderful Mormons who accept us as the committed couple that we are. This is something I as a lesbian never thought very likely. I have been glad to have been proven wrong. The folk on this website add to that strength. I know, from personal experience, it is not easy to be in the minority.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you.

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