Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What's Wrong with Following The Prophet?

I only lived in California for a year; if we hadn't moved, this issue would be bigger for me. Bigger as in I would have to think about it more. Bigger as in I'd have to do something about it. Bigger as in I would be facing neighbors, family, friends, and even strangers in an election that seems to be ripping people apart (not quite unlike the original Prop 22).

My friend, Janelle, wrote a very good post about this issue. I really loved her words. Mostly because sometimes, I think people try too hard to cloak themselves with random shades of grey, when in reality, it's very obvious which stance to take. I've always loved Janelle's logic. She was the one (brilliant girl that she is) who told me: "If every member of the Church actually prayed about which political leaders to vote for, don't you think we'd have amazing leaders? Wouldn't we know who to vote for?" (more or less, it's obviously not word for word). And now, she is simply saying, "Didn't we all sustain the same Prophet?"

This issue is a personal one and a toughie for a lot of people; we all struggle with different things, and this one takes the cake! Whether it's ourselves who struggle with it, family members, or friends, etc. (and believe you me, I have my fair share of friends/family who struggle with this, so please don't assume I don't understand), I think we are all affected (effected?) by this situation. But in the words of Sheri Dew (who I know, is not a Prophet, but she's pretty smart, this one):
We each have our own customized opportunities to deal with disappointment, yet our disappointments don’t change the doctrine.

I have my own set of disappointments; we all do. In fact, I'm betting that a lot of us share the same burdens. But these burdens, these problems and struggles --they don't change the doctrine. The Doctrine of Christ is eternal and never changes with the whims of the world; no matter how easily people claim otherwise.

My walking friend and I were talking about this earlier today; how easy it is for people to ignore Prophets when something seems too hard, or not applicable. Others see those who follow Prophets as ignorant, flawed, unreasonable; some see them as blind followers who can't make their own judgements. The worst part is seeing a body of people who should be united in Christ, but choose to divide themselves, claiming that the Prophets need to change their words, forgetting --forgetting --that the Prophets speak for Christ. It hurts my heart to see such division; but what can I do?

So, dear reader, what do you do? How does this make you feel? Do you believe I am wrong in wanting to follow the Prophet? Do you sustain the Prophet in all things? What's it like for you?

15 comments:

Amber said...

I think part of following the prophet is not just in major issues such as this but also in earnestly seeking out what he teaches.

A friend was on an airplane and started talking to her neighbor about the church. He was particularly fascinated about the idea of a living prophet. She boasted we hear regularly from him at General Conference and in the Ensign.

When he queried about what the prophet had taught, she was shamed to admit she either couldn't remember or hadn't recently read any of his words.

It was a sobering reminder of what it means to follow a prophet!

Julie said...

As I have just disobeyed by totally yelling at my children, I'll now add my two cents.....

We've been discussing this on Scripture Sisters the past couple of days. Obedience is born of belief. If I believe God has called a prophet and that prophet gives counsel (especially especially especially over the pulpit, right?), I should obey. I should obey because I believe. There is just no grey on this one for me. As I've read Alma 32 & 33, I've had the realization, though, that I don't spend enough time finding out WHAT the prophet is counseling me to do right now. I remember the things that I like, or that I'm already doing, or that I agree with, etc., but I'm not actively trying to find out more and where I can make changes. That's a new goal for me.
I'm sure he's said something recently about not screaming at your kids...

Desi said...

This is going to be a book, so I’ll apologize now. I am going to be the voice of dissent here. I have not shared these struggles with anyone except my husband so please bear with me. I have either lived my life following the teachings of the Prophet, or if not I knew that I was not making all the right choices i.e. when I was inactive in the church for a few years. So, this issue is a huge struggle and challenge for me because I do believe in following the Prophet. My heart literally sank and there was a huge pit in my stomach when that letter was read across the pulpit. In my heart I don’t feel right about supporting what my church leaders have asked me to support. I wish beyond measure that I didn’t live here in California at this time so it would be a non-issue for me. I have not spoken out against the church because of that letter nor will I, but I have an internal struggle raging inside me. Am I a fence-sitter if I just ignore the issue and don’t vote either way? Probably, but I can’t look myself in the mirror everyday and feel comfortable with who is looking back at me if I vote for something that I don’t personally believe in. I also don’t want to go against what my church leaders, who I have sustained, have asked me to do. I believe that President Monson is a prophet of God, but this is also a subject that I have felt strongly about for many years. I have a couple of really good friends, one a lesbian who just recently got married in Canada and one a gay man who lives here in California, both happier then I have ever seen them with their current partners. They have both been my friends for well over a decade, neither of which were “out of the closet” when I met them. I love them both dearly and they deserve to be happy, just like me. I have never been anti-gay, but I began to feel very strongly about this subject when my gay friend confided many things to me. He was a very strong member of the church, served a valiant mission for the church and prayed/begged Heavenly Father to take those feelings away from him for years. He was miserable! It was most definitely something he was born with, not a lifestyle that he chose. I know that it is something that we are told is wrong, but I have to believe that Heavenly Father knows of his struggles and will judge him accordingly, therefore I don’t need to.

Cheryl said...

Desi-
You'd be surprised at how much I understand what you are talking about. I have many loved ones (married to their partners and unmarried and celibate) with SSA.

Of course you have to do what you feel is right; my only suggestion is to pray about it. Fervently. Whatever answer you personally recieve? Go with it. You won't get any judgements from me.
I think you nailed it on the head when you said that Heavenly Father knows of your friend's struggles. Of course he does! Heavenly Father is very aware of those who struggle with SSA --He is very aware of all of us and all of our burdens. But still, He hasn't changed His doctrine about marriage. Nor is He like to. I can't speak for the Prophets --I can only do what they have asked. It may not always be easy, but the blessings that come when we follow the Prophets are profound.

Many will disagree with me, but it's what I know.

Julie-
I agree. I find myself at odds with some of the simple things (food storage, staying out of debt, gardening, visiting teaching, etc.) and not because I don't *want* to do it, but because I slack off and forget. Thank you for a good reminder of how we need to check ourselves and see if we are doing our best to follow what the Prophet has asked us to do. Oh, and don't feel bad. I need to work on the yelling/screaming at the kids, too.
Sigh...

Becky, I have a cat said...

I'd like to comment on the legal issues involved, as an aside the questions Cheryl's asked about following a prophet's words.

I'm going to speak up as a voice of an outsider. Cheryl, when I started reading your blog I told myself that I would share in your joys and struggles but would refrain from commenting on anything related to the church.

This is an issue that I cannot let slide by. The California Supreme Court overturned the vote because the CA Constitution provides for equal protection of all CA residents. Period. The vote to define marriage as between one man and one woman created systematic discrimination against a set of CA residents.

I have no problem at all with the LDS church only recognizing and performing marriages between one man and one woman. As an institution of religion they have that right within their own congregation. However, they do not have the right to dictate that the rest of society follow those standards. The church overstepped its legal right by taking a stance and basically mandating that all members vote a particular way, thereby trying to make LDS belief into law. It is at this point that the church has become a lobbying group and should have its tax-exempt status revoked.

I sincerely hope that you understand my frustration is not against you, but at the church. I find it highly hypocritical that an organization that not to long ago suffered "legalized" discrimination (Gov. Bogg's extermination order) is unwilling to show more compassion to other persecuted groups that share our society.

Janelle said...

Hi everyone. It is always terrifying when Cheryl links to me as I assume I'm only writing to the people in my sidebar and my grandma. But - Welcome!

Desi - your non combatitive and searching spirit is wonderful. You are not alone. I learned earlier this year how much work faith is. I compared it to a sumo match in my brain where I was trying to push doubt and fear out of the ring. In my mind's eye my faith was the smaller of the two sumo wrestlers. I understand your compassion, and from what you've written I imagine you to be a very good friend. And what's wrong with being a good and supportive friend? I don't have all the answers but like I said, I understand your compassion.

tamrobot said...

Cheryl, I do not believe you are wrong in wanting to follow the prophet. Wanting to follow the prophet is a good thing.

For me, personally, my dilemma comes when personal revelation and the prophet's direction does not fully coincide. This is an issue that is really important to me. Like Desi, I have had very personal experiences with this, from an inconsolable mormon friend confiding in me that he was gay to devastating funerals of people who could not feel they could live in this world. I have prayed and fasted about this. I don't have all the answers yet, but I really want to do what my Heavenly Fathers wants me to do. I am not forgetting that the Prophet speaks for Christ, but I also believe that Heavenly Father can speak directly to me. If you are given a very clear answer from Heavenly Father, do you disregard that and follow the prophet? Is there a way to do both somehow? What if I agree or am not sure on the moral stance, but have a strong spiritual disconnect on the actual application of the proposition? It's all very confusing to me, and it's really hard when people within the Church seem to automatically assume that you are disregarding Heavenly Father, Christ and his teachings if you are conflicted on this issue. Especially from the very church that taught you to be in tune and to recognize the Spirit. I mean what if Joseph Smith hadn't trusted his own revelation and just relied on his current religions leaders?

Like I said, I don't think you're wrong in wanting to follow the prophet. It is a very honorable thing. I know a majority of people within the Church who aren't conflicted on this aren't bigots or anything and just want to do the right thing. For myself and many others the decision is more complex and so confusing.

Love you!

Cheryl said...

Becky and Tam-

Thank you for leaving your comments! I love that you both felt comfortable enough (like Desi) to leave your opinions...

Although I don't agree with the legal issues, Becky, I totally see your point. This issue of marriage, to me (and to the Church from what I've seen) isn't about the United States. The LDS church has fought against this in Canada and other countries. Marriage is eternal and has been and will be forever...The USA is only 200+ years old. And to be honest, they are not the only church fighting against SSM. Marriage between a man and a woman isn't just LDS belief; many, many other religions view marriage the same way. And I think it's awful that over 65% of CA residents already voted to keep marriage between one man and one woman, but a bunch of judges decided otherwise. Doesn't leave much room for Democracy, eh? But that's a whole other issue.

Still, thank you for bringing in a perspective different from the mainstream LDS (although, I actually think some LDS people feel the same way; thus Janelle's post).

Tam-
I really, really appreciate this phrase you used:
"I know a majority of people within the Church who aren't conflicted on this aren't bigots or anything"
That made me feel so good, because I hate being branded a bigot because I do not agree with SSM. I love my gay friends/family, and I hurt for their pain/struggles.
And I really appreciate you voicing your concerns and your own frustrations with this issue. I think I understand it better --what you, Desi, and other church members are experiencing.
I love you, too. :)

Becky, I have a cat said...

Cheryl,

I completely agree and acknowledge that there are many other groups that view marriage the same way and are trying to accomplish the same thing. Also, the democratic process is still churning away and the next vote in CA will be to ammend the state constitution. Weeeee, Utah did that a few years ago. But I maintain that until the ammendment is passed, the CA constitution is state law.

I vaguely remember some bit about believing in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

So not only do I see a problem with personal revelation conflicting with prophetic revelation, but also when prophetic revelation contradicts the very basic, foundational beliefs of the church.

Why not leave it as is? Let churches continue to only marry one man to one woman in the eyes of god but give all consenting adults civil rights to their relationships. It doesn't change a thing in how the LDS or other churches currently handle marriage.

Like I said by e-mail, I really don't want to create an uncomfortable feeling on your blog, but I believe pretty passionately about this issue.

B

Cheryl said...

Becky-
Seth over at Nine Moons actually talked about the idea of leaving marriage up to religious institutions. But then that creates a whole other set of problems. Imagine something with me:

Two LDS men marry.
Their marriage is legal in the sight of the government.
They approach the LDS Church and ask them why they are not allowed to participate, go to the Temple, or have their marriage Sealed, since they are legally wed.
Petitions begin, people leave the Church, everything is divided (even more than it is now).

It just wouldn't stop with the government; it would snowball. For many people (like yourself, I'm sure), they would see this as a good thing. But for many others, it will be a Pandora's Box.

However, the church has never said anything against civil unions --only marriage. And I think that's worth pointing out, too.

As to the 11th Article of Faith --you are right! But see, the judges aren't even following the law --the people already voted. Sure, it's not in the constitution, but there wasn't a need; now there is --and that's why there is this election. The Church has stated that they will stay out of government --but they never said they would stand by and let issues of morality be ignored and passed over. The people of the LDS church do obey the laws of the land, but they have every right to help shape those laws. And that's what they are trying to do in CA.

I love that you are passionate about this issue. It shows you care, and I really respect that a lot. I'm just glad that we can discuss it all civilly. :)

Becky, I have a cat said...

I'm e-mailing you. ;)

I agree that it's nice to be able to give voice to the other side without fur flying.

Desi said...

I have just a couple more comments on the subject, based on some of the other comments that you’ve gotten here. First of all, sorry to correct you Cheryl, but the church has spoken out against civil unions also. In an interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, and Elder Lance B. Wickman, a member of the Seventy regarding same sex attraction, Elder Wickman said the following:

PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Would you extend the same argument against same-gender marriage to civil unions or some kind of benefits short of marriage?
ELDER WICKMAN: One way to think of marriage is as a bundle of rights associated with what it means for two people to be married. What the First Presidency has done is express its support of marriage and for that bundle of rights belonging to a man and a woman. The First Presidency hasn’t expressed itself concerning any specific right. It really doesn’t matter what you call it. If you have some legally sanctioned relationship with the bundle of legal rights traditionally belonging to marriage and governing authority has slapped a label on it, whether it is civil union or domestic partnership or whatever label it’s given, it is nonetheless tantamount to marriage. That is something to which our doctrine simply requires us to speak out and say, “That is not right. That’s not appropriate.”

So there really are no options for relationships for people with same sex attraction as far as the church is concerned.

Now, in response to what Becky, said. As you can see I do have sympathy for this cause, but you are talking about the legality of it all, and it was technically illegal for the Court to legalize these marriages in the first place. It was voted on by the people and based on that vote it was not put into law. Because of the way that our government is set up, with checks and balances, the judicial system cannot make the laws, they can only enforce them. In this case they have in effect made this a law (the voters voted against it) rather than just saying yes or no on something that was presented to them. It wasn’t presented to them, so they took action into their own hands and made it so.

Enough of my grandstanding though, I just wanted to clarify a few things.

Becky, I have a cat said...

"the judicial system cannot make the laws, they can only enforce them"

They can also overturn laws that are unconstitutional, as was the case here. Until the ammendment vote passes, the law that was made was in direct opposition to the California constitution. From courtinfo.ca.gov: The Supreme Court's role is to ensure a stable and predictable system of justice by serving as the final arbiter of disputes involving the state's constitution and laws.

You may not agree with it, but that is why the process has built in the chance for voters to change it. By the way, I completely agree with Wickman that it doesn't matter if you call it a marriage, civil union, partnership or anything else, it all is the same thing. I just think that we should offer the option to all consenting adults.

Cheryl said...

Desi-
Thank you! I hadn't realized the Church's stance on civil unions (which now embarrasses me completely), so I'm glad you cleared that up. I really appreciate that quote...

Amanda D said...

Interesting comments. I agree with your post, Cheryl. I don't know much about what is going on in California, but I don't see anything wrong with the church asking it's members to stand up for what is right.

I have known people that struggle with SSA, and I feel for them, and their struggle. I think that California did wrong here though.