“The thing that sucks is that every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.” – Nadia Bolz-Weber, quoting her husband in Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint
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What is our priority on this earth, as a Church? Growing up, I would have responded by saying that the Church is here to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of” God’s children. Further breaking this down, I would have recited the three-fold mission of the Church:
- To Perfect the Saints
- To Preach the Gospel
- To Redeem the Dead
It seemed so clear and organized. But now I’m less sure that’s what we’re about. Instead, we seem more focused on boundary-making than inviting others to come unto Christ.
Elder Bednar’s recent remarks on their being “no homosexual members” provides an illustration of this phenomenon. When asked for advice about how those struggling with same-sex attraction could remain within the Church, his response was to reframe the question. Instead of offering words of comfort and invitation, he proffered a correction and critique. The problem, as he framed it, wasn’t (couldn’t be) with the Church but instead with individual members misunderstanding their own experience.
Is that because Elder Bednar wants people to feel excluded? I sincerely hope not. But it troubles me that he either wasn’t willing to answer the original question or didn’t have an answer. Have the Brethren been so focused on defining the boundaries that they have not taken time to consider how to invite all to come unto Christ?
I see this boundary-defining behavior in our wards as well. Many of our sacrament talks devolve into exercises in boundary-making. We declare our chosenness by holding up any of our various Mormon peculiarities and declaring what a ‘blessing’ they are, without identifying specific ways in which they lead us to develop greater character or better behavior. When we stand and declare our blessedness in such hollow terms, we turn our pulpits into latter-day Rameumptoms.
Imagine for a moment your typical Sunday meetings through the eyes of a visitor. How many times might you hear comments about the Church versus the World, without any acknowledgement that our fellow Christians (let alone Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc) might be walking beside us in seeking more of God and more of good in the world? How many times might you hear about the specialness, uniqueness, and exclusivity of our Church, compared to messages of invitation, inclusivity, and welcoming? And, when someone says something potentially offensive or hurtful, how often is it justified in terms of “being clear where we stand” or “what we stand for”?
That last one particularly frustrates me. Do we really believe that there are members of the Church experiencing “same-sex attraction” who DON’T know where we stand? Do you think anyone in the United States who knows anything about the Mormon Church doesn’t know that we reject homosexuality? How many times, in how many ways, must we signal this before we trust that the message has been received loud and clear? How many times must an apostle reformulate a question to make it clear that he believes that homosexual members are wrong for thinking of themselves as homosexuals?
In contrast, how clear is it that we truly “invite ALL to come unto Christ”? How long must a visitor (or member) listen before she or he hears a message of Christ’s infinite love and grace? How long before they get the message that ALL – the shallow and the homosexual – are alike unto Christ, and alike welcome to worship with us? How long before we stop directing our speech at laying down markers in a Church of Clear Lines and instead follow Nephi’s example? I look forward to rejoicing in a day when our speech could be accurately summed up in these familiar words:
“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
“Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ” (2 Nephi 25:26-27).
When we can do that, we will truly be worthy of the appellation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
DRAWING LINES RANT
I'm a homosexual Mormon.These comments are of value but also a perfect example of how projections are also reflections. In other words, you are the one who draws a line, who sets a boundary between you and others you consider to be boundary makers.
Certain things about your existence in the Church rankles. You try to frame your description of these annoyances in reason and dress them in Christ-like draping. But you're really just judging your brother and kicking against the pricks.
Now I think that I just might be in a good position to assess Elder Bednar's remarks so long as I'm not one of those unevolved whiners that project offense into anything that I might not like, but most definitely have misunderstood. Elder Bednar wasn't drawing a line. He was erasing it. He identified those with same-gender attraction as being burdened with their particular cross to bear. But it's a cross to bear. It's not THEM. It's not who they are. Because they – we all – are beloved children of our Heavenly Father. That's what he meant when he said there are no homosexuals in the church. Because we have an eternal identity far and away above that which to the Lord is nothing but a minuscule aspect of our mortal experience. And that is true for every other member of the church bearing their own crosses.
Now I'll tell you something about the way the brethren do draw lines. Once gay marriage was established by the chief judges in the land, the brethren advised the members that our doctrine had not changed, but please to be respectful and loving to all people in a Christ-like way. Then they left off with it and helped craft landmark legislation in Utah to protect the rights of homosexuals. They even chastised that lady that the Pope brought to the Vatican because she refused to obey the law to perform gay marriage. Everything seemed cozier and cozier to those hopeful seducers until the brethren in the course of establishing guidelines for church leadership about how baptisms of children from homes in same-sex marriages are judged by God, and that is that it is still not ordained of Him. Because of this established doctrine which everyone threw a hissy fit over, having had their misperceptions rudely corrected back to square one by this policy clarification because they'd deceived themselves that God isn't the same yesterday, today and forever and that they weren't as they thought gently coaxing the church into joining the hip crowd here in the 21st century.
And oh by the way, while in the process of describing a policy with the best interests of particular children in mind, they also made clear that any Latter-day Saint homosexual participating in this new law of marriage between any one other than a man and a woman is acting in direct rebellion to God, which establishes these as apostate.
That's how the church draws a line. Rather like Moses drew a line at one time. Just like the parable of separating the sheep from the goats. On the order of Joshua exhorting with the question who's on the Lord's side, who? And I can only imagine how much that irks Barack Obama who is determined to coerce and force everyone into his Satanic little conscribed social mold, with the emphasis on 'conscribed' and 'little'. And that thought gives me great satisfaction that the current American president receives alert of one other place in the land of people who dare to retain their distinct identities rather than homogenize into his great melting pot of mediocre muck, I just get a kick outta the thought of him rubbing his evil hands together at the prospect of torturing the faithful (yeah, chill out cuz you have nothing to worry about) as does any report please me of anyone standing up to you people who think you know better than the Lord's anointed. About anything.
I’m also a gay, active Mormon, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard other gay Mormons so embracingly accept the dismissal that was Elder Bednar’s response to that thoughtful, seeking question. I can respect that you do, but I don’t want the impression to be that just because one gay Mormon may so firmly accept that others are in agreement. I strongly disavow that approach as unchrist-like.
I spend so much time in teaching my gospel doctrine class trying to emphasize the point of the OP (especially the recent BOM lesson 10) because so much of what’s coming from General Authorities focuses on boundaries rather than the commanded invitation of Christ. I hope His invitation towards love is what prevails.
I recently had some missionaries visit me and I told them how I disagreed with the church regarding LBGT people. They told me it's "God's law" and that the media is full of lies. I politely told them that I have no desire to hear their lessons or attend my local ward.