Archive for July, 2008

Jul 30 2008

Belinda, Salt Lake City, Utah – Preach Love, Not Hate

The Church has historically held that the rights of the minority must be respected. Now, however, the Church is joining with others to take rights away from a minority.

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Jul 28 2008

Shawn Kessler, San Francisco – Same-sex Marriage

I fear I make a bad spokes person for what I’m about to say. There are people here on this very blog, who are perceived as and who truly are, spiritual giants in comparison to me. But please rest assured that I don’t speak alone here, there are voices you respect and love who are silently agreeing with me, people who understand the gospel, people who love this church, people who have a relationship with Heavenly Father, people, like myself, who know in their heart of hearts–discovered by the same means you’ve applied: prayer, fasting, listening to the Spirit, pondering in the heart–that this proposition is wrong.

We are a church that was persecuted and wronged because of our early marriage practices that fell outside of the mainstream of American culture. Today we are a church that persecutes and wrongs a set of people because they would like to practice marriage in a manner that falls outside of the mainstream of American culture. While we do no physical harm to our gay brothers and sisters with these actions, there is no doubt that we bruise many of their hearts and stunt the full potential of their happiness.

We are a church that “claims the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” What we ponder today is whether or not to extend the rights of the majority to a minority. The Constitution was built with the intent (one of its many intents) to protect the rights of the minority, and on every occasion in our past when we have extended such rights–the right for women to vote, the abolition of slavery, the right for interracial couples to marry, the right of people of all color to vote–we have never regretted such an extension. I pray we will all consider this move with the utmost seriousness, with as much care and concern as we would employ when considering these other past accomplishments of this great nation. I ask that you pray, fast, and seek the Spirit before placing your vote on this issue. I’ve pondered this issue for the past four or five years, I will continue to ponder it, but as of now I’m not ready to throw a blanket of oppression over the sweet bell of liberty; I still relish its righteous ring of freedom.

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Jul 28 2008

Benjamin Clark, Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Same Sex Marriage

When are the Latter-day Saints going to finally learn that their Gay and Lesbian family members were sent to them by God for a remarkable and powerful purpose? God is sending an ever increasing number of His gay and lesbian children into Latter-day Saint families to teach them many great things most of all is how to love unconditionally.

Love is what changes lives. It is the highest law, the law of the Celestial World. President Thomas Monson himself has a family member who is gay. We need a prophet like unto Joseph who could care less about how people might over-react to more truth (revelation) that they may not be able to handle. Is President Monson up for this greatest of challenges? I surely hope and pray so.

There is so much that has been written before (i.e. things in the Miracle of Forgiveness, Elder Packer’s To The one, etc.) but I know that the Church has the strength and the power to transcend this and to begin the steps (even baby steps) toward fully embracing its Gay and Lesbian membership. It is my challenge to every Latter-day Saint to follow the Savior’s example and provide a safe and peaceful place for their Gay and Lesbian family members and friends within Wards and Stakes of the Church. I know you can do it. I know that you can use your own conscience and faith to support equality in California and elsewhere for all Gay and Lesbian children of God.

I have been heart broken over the Church yet again coming out in the open against equality for Gay and Lesbian people should they choose to make a strong and healthy commitment to get married. The Church as an institution has failed miserably in supporting and understanding its Gay and Lesbian membership; however, I have seen individual wards and several stakes make tremendous strides in bringing forth the works of Christ in supporting Gay and Lesbian members. That is a triumphant miracle that shows forth the great love that is found within the Church of Jesus Christ if only leaders and members choose to stand up and strong in support of their Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters. This is a very courageous thing that these wonderful Latter-day Saints do. They are Latter-day Saints in every sense of the word. I know from personal experience that God has sanctified and blessed those leaders and members who have created a safe and loving space (without judgement) for gay and lesbian Latter-day Saints. These people are remarkable and represent some of the finest people that the Church has produced.

I challenge every Latter-day Saint who lives in California who are planning on going to the polls and voting in support of the marriage amendment, to seriously consider placing yourselves in a gay or lesbian persons shoes. Think how you would feel if you finally were able to marry the person you have wanted to marry for many years but could not because the law would not allow it. Now think about how overjoyed you would be were you allowed to finally marry but your own Church you love very much was using an initiative to overthrow that right. Can you imagine how you would feel? Think seriously about how many hearts you will break and how many families will be shattered as a result of your decision should you vote in favor of the California amendment. Gay marriage never harmed anyone’s heterosexual marriage.

Think seriously about these issues and please vote your conscience as opposed to just doing what your told and not really using your own mind in the process. I challenge you to talk to someone who is Gay. Learn about our challenges, immense struggles and our triumphs. This knowledge will change your life.

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Jul 27 2008

Lori Warren, Idaho Falls, Idaho – Government Involvement

To The Presidency of our Church:

I am saddened to see that what I believed at first to be a local problem with our church priesthood holders using their involvement in the church to threaten and bully those in business and government to do their bidding has now reared its ugly head as a blanket over our whole church.

I know that the presidency has over stepped its boundaries’ because you are now directly in opposition with what has been taught to us from a young age. You tell us to CHOOSE for ourselves for that is WHY we are here. We are to make all of our choices in life and at judgment we are to STAND ALONE and be able to look GOD in the eye for what we have done. Yet, you have chosen the path of Lucifer by demanding our allegiance to only your plans.

President Monson, I am personally calling you on the carpet as a General in Christ’s army and tell you that not only do I NOT support what is going on but I will personally walk away from this church if this attitude does not stop. I know from my patriarchal blessing what I am and where I must stand and I also know my place with the Lord and with God and if I must step away from the church. My family (husband, children and I) are ready to make this step if your threats do not stop. If you say you are not threatening members then you are out of touch with what your membership thinks is being said.

I am disappointed that the church seems to have lost its way since President Spencer Kimball died and the leadership has slowly changed its heading and now we are here. Please repent of your beliefs and go back to what this church was to be and not what it is.

Yours truly,
Lori Warren
Idaho Falls, Idaho

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Jul 27 2008

Peter Danzig II, Salt Lake City – Join me in an experiment.

Dear Brethren,

I urge you to join me in an experiment. Close your eyes and imagine for a moment… imagine you are a pure and innocent child. Wonder and delight are mixed into every daily experience. The warmth of a loving family surrounds you. The reassuring rhythms of family prayers and weekly worship are a soothing and meaningful part of life as far back as you can remember.

Fast forward a few years. Now imagine yourself again, with the same soothing rhythm of life… except we must insert a new experience. You are just awaking to the first feelings of romantic attraction. Imagine yourself working through the awkwardness as your friends play flirting games in the playground but you are interested in the boys rather than the girls. Imagine you are an adolescent feeling intensely guilty because the talk that was just given condemns you to certain failure in God’s plan for something you cannot control. Imagine having a secret, so deep and dark that you cannot tell anyone. You spend your life on your knees in desperate pleas for God to help you but no help ever comes. Your burden is never lightened or lifted. You sink into despair. You finally ask your leaders for help. They are skillful and generous and listen to your experience fully before attempting to counsel you. They give you advice; fast, read your scriptures, pray daily, attend your meetings, live righteously, serve others, replace “unworthy” thoughts immediately, imagine trying to feel attracted to a beautiful girl, etc… almost all of which you have tried before, but you go along, hoping that somehow this time things will be different.

Still, the feelings do not leave. You view your sexual appetite with horror. It is a monster that can never be satisfied but will not go away. You look with longing at a heterosexual couple on their first date. They laugh and hold hands… nothing more. You will never know what that feels like, because for you to hold hands with someone you love is a sin.

You find yourself increasingly lonely. You cannot see any reason to continue living. You plead with God to take you from this earthly existence, to take you back to his bosom. In desperation, you even attempt to kill yourself rather than succumb to your “inclinations.” You try, several times, but the faint desire to live always keeps you from full success.

One day, someone enters this haze of misery that surrounds you. They pull you into their life with laughter and with love. They minister to your loneliness and embrace you with kindness. They love you, and you love them but every time you see this person you break out in an agonizing sweat. You feel attracted to this person, desperately. Their love for you and yours in return is the very source of your willingness to continue living and yet you know that you are flirting with disaster to even be in their presence because this person is the same gender as you are.

You break off contact, several times. You plead with them to understand. You return to the desperate nightmare you faced before. From time to time, a helping hand or act of kindness comes from a brother or sister at church to sustain you and keep you from utter despair. During those moments you endure with quiet desperation the good natured needling of family and friends who want to see you happily married. There is nothing you want more and yet nothing more impossible.

You spend your free time in church and community service and with your family and friends. Even this is difficult. You must be very careful around your male friends to avoid any unholy or impure thoughts. Normal male contact makes you tense and uncomfortable because of the feelings it sometimes arouses in you. You have deep friendships with many single women, but the difficulty of repeatedly turning down unwanted romantic attentions is tiring.

In a moment of despair, calamity, and fiery passion you experience your first kiss… a lifetime of repressed emotion, despair, and desire ignite into passion and you experience sexual intimacy for the first time. Afterwards you feel terrible, you berate yourself ceaselessly. This is the very thing you had sworn to kill yourself to prevent. And yet, for the first time in a long time you feel the sustaining warmth of love and the validation of another human being. You confess to a bishop who lovingly counsels you to break off the relationship and go back to the course of action you were pursuing. Back to your despair, back to your unanswered prayers, back to your loneliness.

The experiences written here come from my experiences counseling with and listening to the stories of Gay members of the LDS church. When someone in this predicament finally finds someone who loves them and finds it in their heart to love that person in return, even despite the teachings of the church, is this not a blessing to our society? How has devotion and love for another human being been allowed to become a threat to those who love God? I ask you brethren to examine your conscience and see if it is possible that a wrong is being committed here, if perhaps your zealous desire to defend God has interfered with your charge as Apostles to minister to God’s children as Jesus himself would have done.

I fear you have come to see yourselves as generals in the army of God rather than representatives of God’s divine mercy and shepherds who both lead and care for the flock. If there is to be a war against evil it must be waged in the way that Jesus and other great teachers of peace have taught. It is a war that will be fought by showing love in the face of intolerance, by showing kindness in the face of anger, by “resist[ing] not evil” and by sitting to break bread with those perceived as sinners, just as Christ did.

Jesus never spoke out against those who followed their own path as shown them by their creator. He spent little time preaching about sexual conduct. He challenged the status quo rather than enforce ideology or defend doctrine. His most scathing criticisms where of those who profess to be servants of God but who bring about strife instead of peace, who create wounds instead of healing, and who count “tithes of mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God.”

I urge you to prove to the world your profession that you are Christians by challenging yourselves to look beyond the moment, to look beyond the war, and to look instead into the beautiful quivering hearts of those who believe in your calling as representatives of Christ. Look into your own heart as well and see if perhaps your faith is at odds with the heart God has given you. Policies have been modified before, but the core, the root of it all, is the love of God. I pray you may find it in your hearts to turn toward love and away from war.

Sincerely,

Peter A. Danzig II LCSW

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Jul 25 2008

Seth M. Densen, Rego Park, New York – Privilege of Citizenship

Privilege of Citizenship

Recently the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement to be read from the pulpit of all Latter-day Saint church’s in California. In part, the First Presidency asked its members to

“…do all you can to support the proposed amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman.”

The 12th Article of Faith reads, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” At the April 5, 1907 Annual General Conference the First Presidency read a statement entitled “An Address: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the world” in which the Presidency stated: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds to the doctrine of the separation of church and state; the non-interference of church authority in political matters; and the absolute freedom and independence of the individual in the performance of his political duties. If at any time there has been conduct at variance with this doctrine, it has been in violation of the well-settled principles and policy of the Church.”

The California Supreme Court spoke declaring that gay and lesbian couples can marry; does not the Church’s request to its members violate this principle? As a Latter-day Saint myself I believe as the 11th Article of Faith states, that “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” Who are we as a church to impose our values on others? I have no qualms regarding same-sex marriage, it causes me no harm. Some may say that by allowing a same-sex couple to marry is tearing the fabric of society and paints a distorted picture of the institution of marriage, whatever happened to following the “Golden Rule” of loving thy neighbor and being Christ-like?

We often hear the phrase “Choose The Right”, I am an advocate for the right and believe that we are persecuting those whose sexual orientation is different from the “norm” (whatever the norm is to be defined as). The mistreatment that is taking place, the disrespect and un-Christ-like attitude’s that resonate throughout the LDS faith and many others are simply wrong. What is being done is no different from when this country did not allow blacks to sit in the front of a bus because of their skin color or when the United States forbid interracial marriage. It is wrong to judge a person and tell them they cannot marry because of their sexual preference.

On October 6, 1963 Elder Hugh B. Brown of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated in the Church’s 133rd Semiannual General Conference the following: “We say again, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the rights to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience. We have consistently and persistently upheld the Constitution of the United States, and as far as we are concerned this means upholding the constitutional rights of every citizen of the United States. We call upon all men everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God’s children. Anything less than this defeats our high ideal of the brotherhood of man.” What a statement—’every privilege of citizenship’ are homosexuals exempt from this as blacks once were?

Former Brigham Young University President Ernest L. Wilkinson uttered these remarks about those who are attracted to the same sex; expressing BYU’s intent not “to admit to our campus any homosexuals. If any of you have this tendency and have not completely abandoned it, may I suggest that you leave the university immediately after this assembly; and if you will be honest enough to let us know the reason, we will voluntarily refund your tuition. We do not want others on this campus to be contaminated by your presence.” (“Make Honor Your Standard.” BYU Speeches of the Year, 1965-66. Provo, UT : Brigham Young University Press, 1966, p. 9.) ‘Contaminated by your presence’ what an unbelievable thing to say. It leaves me appalled.

Before we are so quick to judge, let us remember that Latter-day Saints at one point in history were persecuted because of their beliefs. If we allow these injustices to continue under the guise of religion then we are no better then the people who persecuted the early Saints.

Thank you for your time.

Seth M. Densen, MSW (Formally Quackenbush)
95-22 63rd Road
Suite 213
Rego Park, NY 11374

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Jul 25 2008

Thomas Peeples, Aliso Viejo, CA – Forgetting the most important gospel principle

I could write volumes but I’m going to make my point short and to the point. The church very clearly teaches that there were two proposed plans for the world: Satan’s plan and Jesus’ plan. In Satan’s plan, everyone is forced, coerced, and otherwise has no choice but to live exactly according to the rules, and are not allowed to make bad choices. Jesus’ plan is to give everyone the freedom to come back home or not.

The Church’s hamfisted attempts to coerce others to live by their moral code show a clear lack of divine guidance. Homosexuality may be sinful, but it is neither the Church nor the state’s place to make that judgment, it is up to individuals. Getting into politics like this, and worse yet, following Satan’s plan while doing so, shows a clear lack of divine guidance in this edict. It’s shocking that with such powerful claims to the purest truths that the leaders of the church would go forward with something not just contradictory but downright evil.

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Jul 25 2008

Carlyle Potter, St George, Utah – Same-sex Marriage

Can someone at church HQ explain to me why this scripture reference should be believed considering the actions of the church in recent days?

D&C 134:9 We do not believe it just to amingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.

I think at the time it was written the LDS church believed its privileges and rights were being denied. How can we justify doing the same thing to gay couples, especially when some of them are also members our church?

What happened to serving the needs of ALL of God’s children? Can you honestly believe that it is OK to discriminate against a minority when it happened to us so many times before? Have we learned nothing???

If we are a dynamic church (living gospel) then it is high time that we evolve again – like we did when we treated the issue of interracial marriage as being a flawed doctrine.

Just ask Heavenly Father why there are gays on earth – He’ll tell you! It might surprise you to realize that some of His choicest spirit children agreed to sacrifice their current probation on earth so that others (leaders and members) could learn what true charity means!

It is time we let go of the traditions of our fathers and obey the “great commandment”!

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Jul 25 2008

Kent Turner, Colorado – Where will it stop?

Recently, LDS general authorities issued a letter to be read at church meetings instructing members to support an amendment prohibiting same-gender marriage.

In my mind this issue has absolutely nothing to do with how God views homosexual relationships, and I’ll tell you why.

Several years ago I felt truly disturbed by an official church edict for the first time in my life as a faithful member of the LDS church. This occurred when my Elders Quorum president read a letter from our area authorities during a priesthood meeting. This letter instructed us to campaign against a local act to legalize marijuana for medicinal use as prescribed by a physician.

As a faithful member I’ve never used marijuana in my entire life. I had, however, always been instructed by church leaders to pray and listen to the spirit when deciding how to vote. I had done so faithfully, and I believed that Christ’s message of tolerance and mutual respect forbade me from telling other people how to live their lives, and most especially from forcing them to do so through legislation. The constitution grants us the right to pursue happiness and to worship as we please. The articles of faith profess this as well. Jesus taught us to do likewise. I truly believed that it was wrong for me to vote against this bill, especially since I’m not a medical doctor and thus have absolutely no business telling educated physicians what they can or can not prescribe to their patients if they believe it will help them.

So when we were given pamphlets to hand out and signs to put up in our yards, I had a major moment of spiritual conflict. The church was doing exactly what I’d been told that it would never do; I was being instructed (not asked, but instructed) to go against my own conscience and the “promptings of the spirit”. To obey and put up the signs would cause me to disobey the promptings of the spirit. To obey the promptings of the spirit would cause me to disobey the area authorities. What was I to do? After consulting with the bishopric, I decided at that time that I simply could not comply with this instruction, and I prayed that God would understand my reasons and send me wisdom to help me come to terms with this apparent contradiction. It caused me no small amount of anguish and concern because of my strong desire to do the right thing.

Eventually I almost managed to forget this incident. I had hoped that it would be a one-time situation. But eventually another letter was read regarding same-sex marriage, informing us as to the church’s stand on the issue and suggesting that we should become involved in the issue politically. At the time, they did not come right out and instruct us campaign a certain way, although the implication was very clear.

Just as I’ve never smoked marijuana, I’ve also never had any homosexual impulses. But again, I felt that I had no business legislating against other people’s rights to pursue happiness according to their own consciences. This was slightly easier for me to dismiss because there was no illicit instruction as to how we should campaign or vote, but it still rekindled that spiritual conflict which the earlier event had created in me.

Fast forward to the letter read over the pulpit recently instructing members that they should campaign and vote against same-sex marriage. This is more than some area authorities’ whims, and it is more than a not-so-subtle insinuation. They are doing exactly what the church’s leaders previously promised us would not happen; they are telling us how to vote.

If you had been hearkening to the prophets’ previous counsel to pray about political issues and then vote according to the promptings of the spirit, and if the promptings of the spirit had been telling you to be tolerant and loving as Christ and the constitution of the United States have set as precedence, then you are now being told that the promptings you received were wrong. In fact, they were the opposite of what you should have felt. No matter how certain you were that the spirit told you certain truths, you were simply mistaken.

If my promptings from the spirit can be so horribly wrong, then how can I trust any of the promptings I’ve ever felt in my life- including any promptings which may have led to my faith in the gospel in the first place?

At issue is NOT whether it is moral for same-sex couples to marry. That is a religious issue, not a legal issue.

At issue are;

– whether the government has a right to restrict any law abiding person from the pursuit of happiness,

– whether the government has a right to demand that any lawful person not be allowed to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience,

– whether the church has a right to instruct its members on how to vote, and,

– whether the church’s members are able to see the egregious hypocrisy in this edict.

Also of great importance is whether the church’s members can be trusted to discern for themselves the gentle promptings of the spirit. According to the current leadership, they can not. Take note, Zion! Despite your faithful obedience and your unyielding loyalty, the authorities have shown that they do not have any faith in your ability to comprehend the promptings of the Holy Spirit. This is a critical line that they are crossing. Where will it stop? At what point will you say “enough”?

I have now ceased to pay tithing to the church and refuse to contribute monetarily to an organization which uses coercion on others. I will also vote according to my own conscience and not according to the edicts of others, as is my God-given right! I have no doubt that my life could be made very uncomfortable for me as a result of writing this letter, but I simply can’t maintain personal integrity while remaining silent on this issue.

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Jul 24 2008

Rebecca, NJ – “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.”

No one has the right to deny rights or privileges to a group of people based on religious views. Denying gays the right to marry is exactly the same as denying people the right to marry based on race or religion. What if voters got together to ban Mormons from legally marrying, or from performing baptisms for the dead, because they felt those things were immoral?

When you deny rights to a group of people, you put your own rights in jeopardy; you make it acceptable for people to take your rights away.

If you believe that the Constitution was inspired by God then how can you think that the separation of church and state was NOT inspired by God?

Of the justifications the church uses for legally barring gay marriage, not one has a firm foundation in logic. I’m sure many, many people have gone through the specifics, so I won’t here. However, if you care to take a real look at what you’re talking about, here are some links to very well-researched articles on the subject (the studies the articles draw from are listed, are many, and are from credible sources):

Effects of Same-Sex Unions:

http://isocrat.org/politics/marriage/statistics.php

The Effects on the Children of Same-Sex Parents:

http://isocrat.org/politics/marriage/statistics.php

I will simply reiterate what I wrote before: Believing that we are entitled to certain rights, while others are not entitled to those same rights, is not of God. If you genuinely believe the founders of this country were inspired by God, then you cannot believe that you also have the right to legislate your religious views. The US is not a theocracy.

-Rebecca Ellsworth

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