Saturday, November 21, 2015

I'm a Mormon- And I'm Staying That Way

So I haven't written in forever, which is bad. Shame on me. I wish I had a good reason, but I really just have the lame excuse that I've been too "busy" which really means I've been lazy. There are a lot of topics I've wanted to write about recently- the terrorism attacks in Paris, the wide (and ignorant) acceptance of pornography in our culture today, and of course, the Church's stand on children of LGBT couples (and children of those couples) joining the church.

I'm sure by now you've heard that last Sunday thousands of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formally resigned from the church in protest of it's policy on LGBT marriages. According to Handbook 1, a handbook that is given to church leaders that outlines the policies of the church, children of LGBT couples will not be allowed to join the church until they have reached the legal adult age determined by their country.

First of all, this isn't old news. The belief that same-sex marriage is a sin has always been known in the LDS church. I don't want to get on that topic right now though. I have heard every reason why we are terrible people for not agreeing with same-sex marriage. The bottom line is that we believe it is a sin, it has always been a sin, and God does not change His mind about sins. I have heard people say the Bible talks about certain policies that are outdated now- of course I don't want to stone people, for example. But God did not say we had to stone people if they committed a sin. That was simply a custom of the day. You have to separate customs from commandments. I have heard people say "Well, God said adultery was a sin in the Bible, and that's not true now." Are you kidding me? Of course cheating on your spouse is a sin. How could you possibly think that having sex with someone other than your spouse, the person you vowed to love and cherish and respect for the rest of your life, is OK? I have heard that because we believe gay marriage is a sin, it means we hate every LGBT person on the planet and think they will burn in Hell. Absolutely not true. Just because someone doesn't believe the same things as you doesn't mean they hate you. Don't tell me you've never disagreed with someone before. Does it mean you never speak to them again? God told us to love everyone, and that is what we believe. Tolerance vs. Acceptance. We will love you as a person, but we cannot accept your sin. One of my friends in middle school was gay, and he was one of the nicest, most uplifting people I have ever met. I have seen countless gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the media do incredible things. They have been inspirations for others struggling with their sexuality. I am never one to complain for a little more happiness in this world. But this does not mean I will change my beliefs.

I could go on and on, but honestly, if you think Mormons are terrible people for not agreeing with gay marriage, you're not going to change your mind anytime soon. No matter what I say.

What I really wanted to talk about was the church's policy. People are furious that the LDS church will deny children their right to join. But what people are forgetting to mention is that this is honestly for the good of the entire family involved. Joining the LDS church is a HUGE commitment. (If you are or have been a member, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, don't try to argue until you have.) I have visited several other churches before. I have friends who are part of many different religions. We are not like them. Not to say we are better or worse, but simply we are different. Here is an outline of what it is like to be a member of the LDS church: (On a side note, I have absolutely nothing against these policies. I just want to give everyone a very real idea of what being a member of the church is like.)

1. No one is paid. Every single thing done in the church on a local level is on a volunteer basis. We actually pay the church (10% of all our income is donated in tithing). Not the people, the church.

2. The time commitment is very intense. Leaders of the church spend hours and hours of their personal time preparing lessons, conducting interviews, visiting the sick and needy, attending church meetings, attending church functions, doing paperwork, and much, much more. This is all on top of their full-time job, their family life, and their personal extracurricular activities. My dad was the bishop of two of my wards for ten years total. That meant he was the leader of about 250 people in my area, and he did everything I mentioned above and more. It was like he was working two full-time jobs. Young men are strongly encouraged to serve a mission for the church at age 18 (or whatever age is appropriate for them). This mission is two years long, with limited contact with family and friends. Young women can also serve a mission if they wish, which is a year and a half long.

3. Everyone will have a calling at one point in their life. Being bishop is one of the more time-consuming callings, but even smaller ones are hard. I have been in the presidency of my young women's group several times and in charge of activities while I was attending church at college. It is a big deal. You often have weekly meetings, monthly activities (or more frequent), phone calls to make, people to visit, supplies to buy, and more.

4. Even if you don't have a calling, the time commitment is still intense. Church is three hours long every Sunday. If you are a teenager, youth night is held every week for two hours. High school students attend seminary every school day, sometimes as early as 5:30 am. General Conference is held twice a year, and it consists of ten hours of talks to watch. Institutes and other scripture studies are held weekly. Activities are usually held monthly. We are encouraged to attend the temple as often as possible. We are also encouraged to participate in service activities and welfare programs, which can take much more of our time.

5. We are held to a high standard. Members of the church are told to refrain from coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, and smoking. If we are able, we do not participate in activities on Sunday that are not spiritual. This means sporting events, parties, shopping, working, and the like. We do not watch movies or T.V. shows that contain vulgarities, immorality, excessive language, nudity, etc. We do not use swear words or take the Lord's name in vain. We dress modestly, which means covering more of our body than is typical of the world today, unless swimming or competing in sporting events. (On a side note- I know everyone out there has a Mormon friend or friends who break these standards. That does not mean they are not true and should not be followed. No one is perfect. Everyone has areas in their life they can improve. I can definitely improve in following the standards, but I'm trying my best, which is what matters.) We refrain from any sexual activity before marriage, and after that only with our spouse. One of our ultimate goals is to get married in the temple, which means family members that are too young or are not members of the church will not be able to witness the marriage. My mom's parents were not able to see her sealed in the temple to my father.

6. We are made fun of. A lot. This lifestyle is not something people are used to. I have been teased and ridiculed countless times about my membership in the church.The church's beliefs and standards over the years have not changed to fit the world's changing standards. A lot of people don't like that. Currently, it's mostly the LGBT community and their supporters. Guess how many people that is? A lot. I sometimes read comments on social media that people make regarding the church. I also am often on the verge of tears after reading them because they are so hateful. People can be incredibly cruel. I have never liked it when people disagree with me, so hearing things like 'I need to go to Hell' or 'I should kill myself because I'm a member of such a terrible cult' are very painful to me. A big reason we are persecuted so much is people just don't understand everything about our church. Which makes sense, honestly. There is a lot involved and a lot to learn. You can't learn it by reading biased articles on the internet. But that doesn't make the taunts and insults any less hurtful.

Now. Picture all of this as part of a child's future. Do you really think it wouldn't be a big deal for a child of an LGBT parent to join the church? This has happened in the church before, and the result is usually the parents being overwhelmed by the demands and commitments of the church their child has joined. Remember the time commitment points? If the child is under 16, who has to drive him or her to all of these meetings and activities? It is almost impossible for parents to not be involved at least a little bit if their child is a member of the LDS church, and it can be very difficult if the parents themselves are not members. The church is honestly just trying to keep unity within the family, which is a topic we are very adamant about. An important note is that children are still free to participate in any church meetings or activities if they want to and are able to. AND there can be exceptions to the rule- it is a long process and involves First-Presidency approval, but if both the parents and the child are willing, it is possible for the child to be baptized into the church. AND once the child becomes a legal adult, he or she is free to join the church. And seriously, 18 is very young. You still have your entire life ahead of you after that. If it's that important to you, you can wait. I have heard many stories of people not being able to join until 18 because their parents wouldn't allow it. They waited, joined when able, and have never regretted their decision.

I'm sad about so many people leaving the church over this. I really am. I'm sad because I know how happy this church makes me and I am eternally grateful to have it in my life, and those people leaving are going to miss out on a lot of blessings that it offers. But besides that, I'm fine with them leaving. The bottom line of this whole situation is if you had a true testimony of the church, you wouldn't leave. It's not if you agree with gay marriage, it's if you believe Thomas S. Monson is the prophet of the church. It's not if you agree with the policy, it's if you believe the Prophet and Apostles are called of God. Because if you believe they are, you know they are not wrong. God does not make mistakes. God would not have let the church make this stance if He believed it was wrong.

It really frustrates when people say they believe in the church, but this is the last straw. I read an opinion article where a member of the church said "the cost of obedience has become too great". Seriously? Well, you might as well leave because it's not going to get any easier. It gets harder to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints every day. The world is accepting more and more things we do not believe in, and it is not going to go the other direction. But I will never leave. I know this church is true. The peace I feel every Sunday at church is very real and very powerful. I know there is a God, and I know He loves me and He loves everyone. I also know that loving someone doesn't mean you agree with everything they do. I know He loves sinners because we are all sinners. I also know that He does not tolerate sin and expects us to repent of our misdoings. I know He is a forgiving and merciful God, and He wants nothing more than for all of us to choose the right and be happy. He wants us to find true happiness and true joy. I have found that in the LDS church. People will call me brainwashed and crazy, but I know the church is true. I can't deny the spirit I feel. I can't deny the comfort I get from saying my prayers. I can't deny how happy I am about life, even though terrible things are happening in the world. I know Thomas S. Monson is a prophet. I know Heavenly Father still speaks to His children, we just have to be willing to listen. I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I will never deny that.



I you want to read more about the policy, here are some links.

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/handbook-changes-same-sex-marriages-elder-christofferson

https://www.lds.org/church/news/elder-christofferson-says-handbook-changes-regarding-same-sex-marriages-help-protect-children?lang=eng

https://www.lds.org/pages/church-handbook-changes?lang=eng

Almost every article I have read besides these three have skewed the church in some negative light and will not be completely accurate.