Well, first I guess I really don't get the whole big deal about the US legalising gay marriage. The whole of social media seems to be alight with the news, with peoples Facebook pages being rainbowed up like a major world shift has occurred when in fact they're hardly the first country to do so. In fact they're the 21st country to do so, so not even making it in to the top 20. I get why it wasn't such a big deal in the UK when we legalised gay marriage a couple of years ago, we had had Civil Partnerships since 2004 which gave gay couples full legal recognition under the law, so when gay marriage was legalised over here it was just really a matter of semantics; and allowing the ceremony to be performed in churches. I'm guessing that in the US the polar divides on this issue have been on such extreme ends of the spectrum and the swing to & fro of various States has fuelled a Big Brother style reality circus.
I think a couple of misconceptions need to be addressed. A lot of people have expressed concerns over values of the conservative religious right. [In this blog entry whenever I refer to 'religion' I am being non-denominational, if I am specifically referring to the LDS church I will do so.] I fully support any religious leaders right AND obligation to speak out on what they perceive to be moral issues according to the light and knowledge as they have received it, but I think some people have confused the system of government that we operate in the West. Most western countries operate under a democracy not a theocracy, and dictionary.com defines democracy as this:
government by the people; a form of government in which the
supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their agents under a free electoral system.
So we can see here that a democracy is about the will of the people and unfortunately there is no obligation for the people under such a system to choose that which is moral. It is assumed that the collective conscious of the population will keep the laws moral, but that isn't necessarily the case. Also let us also remember that the concept of morality is a subjective state according to the light & knowledge that you have received and will change depending upon the philosophy/background/upbringing of the individual. Now as members of the LDS church we accept that we are led by a Prophet, and his counsellors, and a quorum of 12 apostles, and as such are a great moral compass for us today, especially when the sands are shifting so much. But we do have to accept that sometimes in a democracy that we're not going to get what we want, nor what we consider to be right.
Now I know some of you are diving to your scriptures right now to D&C 134:1 which says:
We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.
And absolutely I agree that this is any form of governments primary responsibility, but before we start slinging fire & brimstone at those governments that pass laws that we disagree with let's turn to D&C 137:9
For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.
and also 3 Nephi 14:1-2
And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Now from this I do not believe that a just and fair God will condemn any government body for enacting laws that they believe extend love, justice & mercy according to the light & knowledge that they have received. As Brigham Young teaches us in Discourses of Brigham Young
So far as mortality is concerned, millions of the inhabitants of the earth live according to the best light they have—according to the best knowledge they possess. I have told you frequently that they will receive according to their works; and all, who live according to the
best principles in their possession, or that they can understand, will receive peace, glory, comfort, joy and a crown that will be far beyond what they are anticipating. They will not be lost ( 384).
So let us judge not those who pass our laws, especially those who are not members of the church, but let us celebrate that there are people out there today who are celebrating the right to be united in their love under civil authority. Which is another interesting point, God's church has every obligation to follow God's revealed word regarding the sanctity of marriage and should only perform those marriages which Heavenly Father has approved of, but our civil authorities have every right to unite those that they see fit; a secular government has the right the right to recognise whatsoever it wishes under its secular authority. Now remember that I live in a country that does not have separation between church & state. We have a state religion and it's only a Church of England minister that may marry a couple, every other denomination in the UK must have a government registrar present to legalise the proceedings. Our Head of State HM Queen Elizabeth II is also head of the Church of England, but even under this authority I do not recognise the Church of England's authority to overrule the will of the people on defining who may get married. Even more so under a system that separates completely church & state, each government has the right to circumscribe what it recognises or does not recognise.
And this is the one thing that concerns me is all the judging and condemnation being thrown about on both sides, let us remember that all the people involved are acting according to the light & knowledge they have received. Now I have no doubt that there are hate-mongers stirring the pot on both sides but there are many many more acting and talking within the bounds of their conscience. The phrase "according to their light and knowledge" is a phrase
that I have used again and again during this posting and quite deliberately too, because I am a firm believer that there is still much more to be revealed upon this subject by our Heavenly Father and I urge caution to those who stand in the extremes on either side. Be careful that what you say won't leave you regretting your words, because I believe that when that revelation comes many people on both sides are going to be shocked. It reminds me of a previous issue that when the revelation did come Elder Bruce R McConkie made this statement.
...and people write me letters and say, 'You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?' All I can say is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or George Q. Cannon or whoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. [Horne, Dennis B. Bruce R. McConkie: Highlights From His Life & Teachings Eborn Books]
So let us go forward with this caution sounding in our ears from Matthew 25:31-46
¶When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed or thirsty, and gave drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took in? or naked, and clothed Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did not to one of the least of these, ye did not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
An interesting point here is that Christ includes visiting the prisoner in jail with the hungry, naked & sick. The message is clear it is not just our mercy toward the innocent but to the guilty too. And let us learn from this that it is not our condemnation of the sinner that shall save us but our love and charity to those in need, and let us remember that along with the rainbow should be the dove of peace.