As many of you know, there are currently protests being held at BYU concerning its standing on its Honor Code, specifically for those who identity as LGBTQ. I learned about what had happened a few weeks ago when the changes to the Honor code first came about. Basically, in order to correct a misunderstanding, BYU reaffirmed its stance on Homosexual and other behaviors for its students. Elder Paul V. Johnson stated in his letter, “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles in the honor code.”
Later, the church issued this statement in response to rallies happening on temple square. “The teachings of the church and the policies of our universities are consistent with eternal principles, and seek to encourage and strengthen relationships that lead to eternal covenants made with God . . . The church and its leaders continue to teach that though there may be disagreement on an issue or policy, we should treat one another with love, respect and kindness.”
This has been so hard for me because I know there are many people, leaders and students combined who are suffering right now. There are so many voices pushing and pulling us in so many directions. These policies, in light of social reforms we now face seem very unfair, biased and cruel. So many ask, “Why don’t we have the right to express our feelings?” I have many friends who have petitioned for me to join with them in gaining support for their LGBTQ friends who are protesting.
I have pondered this very deeply and have come to a very concrete conclusion. We must support our leaders in their decisions and continue forward in faith. I feel very strongly the adversary is trying his absolute hardest to discredit our leaders and make us believe they are not inspired in their decisions, decisions which have come with much prayer and faith.
I talked to my father about this very issue several days ago. He told me, “Things are going to get worse before they get better, but God’s laws and commandments will not change even as society does. It is up to us individually to choose whose side we are on. There are not as many fence sitters now as there used to be.”
I would recommend several talks/speeches which have come out recently. First, President Nelson’s BYU Speech “The Love and Laws of God“. Second, President Dallin H. Oaks talk “Two Great Commandments“. Lastly, Elder Cook’s BYU-Hawaii address “The Eternal Importance of Righteous Choices“. I will pull from all three of these as I continue. I wish to emphasize these basic truths.
I. “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38): When our leaders speak on matters of doctrine, God speaks
When we question the decisions our leaders make based on doctrine set by the church we essentially question God’s decisions. President Nelson said in his BYU speech from last year, “Truth is based upon the laws God has established for the dependability, protection, and nurturing of His children. Eternal laws operate in and affect each of our lives, whether we believe them or not.”
Our leaders have established these truths on Celestial Marriage out of love, not hate.
I think it is very easy to feel victimized when our opinions are put in opposition to the words of those in authority. History is ripe with examples of unrighteous dominion. The reality though in our day is this. Those who are our leaders are imperfect people trying to do the best they can. These imperfect people, make critical decisions which affect all of us. Bishops have to daily hold interviews with those who have made wrong decisions. For BYU church leaders, they must make decisions in compliance to educational policies and the Lord’s policies. For President Nelson and the Apostles they must regularly speak on God’s standards and commandments.
They do this because they love us. God himself said, “For this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) In order for God’s plan of happiness to go forth, he appoints leaders to speak for him to establish very plainly what we as a people must do. This at times is very hard to accept and must be taken and followed by faith. President Nelson said,
In doing so, sometimes we are accused of being uncaring as we teach the Father’s requirements for exaltation in the celestial kingdom. But wouldn’t it be far more uncaring for us not to tell the truth—not to teach what God has revealed?President Nelson, The Love and Laws of God
The real answer is they can’t. If they did make decisions contrary to the laws which God has set they would lose their position and God would call others to take their place. For it is as President Nelson said, “Thus our commission as apostles is to teach nothing but truth. That commission does not give us the authority to modify divine law.”
We all have something we struggle with and try to understand. That is why we have leaders to guide us.
2. President Nelson and other church leaders have made it very clear what God’s standard is.
Here is what President Nelson recently said not six months ago.
In recent years, many countries, including the United States, have legalized same-sex marriage. As members of the Church, we respect the laws of the land and abide by them, including civil marriage. The truth is, however, that in the beginning—in the beginning—marriage was ordained by God! And to this day it is defined by Him as being between a man and a woman. God has not changed His definition of marriage.
I don’t know everything. I don”t understand why so many struggle with different sexual attractions or other matters of identity. But I trust our church leaders and believe Christ is at the head.
3. God has set his standard out of love and to protect us from eternal consequences.
I believe there are issues and consequences hidden within these behaviors which are of eternal significance. Just because it is not readily apparent doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Now is the time to really think about WHAT we believe, especially concerning the nature of eternal families and personal salvation. It s as President Nelson said,
My dear brothers and sisters, divine laws are God’s gifts to His children. Just as our family’s rules kept our children safe as they grew to adulthood, just as divine laws governing the heart and the flight of airplanes keep you safe on an operating table or while traveling, abiding by God’s laws will keep you safe as you progress toward eventual exaltation. Let me say it as succinctly as I can: As you abide by God’s laws, you are progressing toward exaltation.-President Russell M. Nelson, The Love and Laws of God
Perhaps we as of yet do not fully understand the true principle of eternal marriage beyond what we see. I think it becomes easier as time moves on, we grow in maturity and see for ourselves the fruits of living a righteous life.
I loved the quote from Harry Emerson Fosdick Elder cook shared in his speech entitled “The Eternal Importance of Righteous Choices.
“The tragic evils of our life are so commonly unintentional. We did not start out for that poor, cheap goal. That aim was not in our minds at all. … That is why the road to hell is always paved with good intentions, and that is why I am not celebrating high ideals, lofty aims, fine purposes, grand resolutions, but am saying instead that one of the most dangerous things in the world is to accept them and think you believe in them and then neglect the day-by-day means that lead to them. Ah, my soul, look to the road you are walking on! He who picks up one end of a stick picks up the other. He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determines the end.”Harry Emerson Fodsick, Living Under Tension (1941)
I hope we can all choose to continue forward in faith and not choose the more dangerous path. Sometimes harmful behavior is composed as a cry for allowing man his innate freedoms. Sometimes great evil is painted as the greater good for all mankind. But evil works lead to immediate gratification and satisfaction. Righteousness builds brick by brick the eternal and consequential.
4. It is hard not to give in to pressures to accept new social reforms, but we must stand firm with what God has told us.
I am grateful we understand LGBTQ matters better and turn more and more towards those involved with love and understanding rather than apathy and shame. But I have learned especially lately how it is hard to support individuals in their trials and not be forced to conform to their beliefs so they can feel more comfortable. Peer pressure lately to give in and let go of old ideas on marriage and love has been so strong.
I love what President Oaks said last General Conference, “This means we are commanded to love everyone, since Jesus’s parable of the good Samaritan teaches that everyone is our neighbor. But our zeal to keep this second commandment must not cause us to forget the first, to love god with all our heart, soul and mind.”
This means if God tells us his standards for Celestial Marriage we must not forget them in light of sometimes louder voices pushing us to accept the opposite. But this doesn’t mean we become hateful, rude or toxic in how we talk about other people. No matter what they choose to do.
5.. We must choose to believe and move forward with faith even if we don’t understand all aspects of God’s laws.
Sometimes people call obedience “following blindly”. In my mind, I can think of no better being to follow blindly then God and the leaders he has chosen. But it is difficult to do so when one is so directly and negatively affected by God’s standards.
I speak from experience. For the longest time I have struggled with the principle of polygamy and why the Lord established it among his people. I have read countless articles, talks and other materials on the matter. But still in my heart it is something which has bothered me since I was old enough to understand. The root of my fear lies in difficult thoughts on what it would mean for me if I were asked to live it.
Through many prayers, tears and councils with my father and leaders I have put my feelings on the matter aside. Does it mean I understand polygamy, especially as a principle of mercy and love? No. But I know God loves his children and I am okay not fully understanding everything yet.
6. Lastly, if we want to know the truth of these things, we must seek out answers for ourselves.
I want to echo what President Nelson said again. He says it so much better then I do.
My dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to seek earnestly a confirmation from the Spirit that what I have told you is true and is from the Lord. He has declared that we may seek knowledge from heaven and expect to receive it: “If thou shalt ask,” the Lord promised, “thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge.”13
Ask your Heavenly Father if we truly are the Lord’s apostles and prophets. Ask if we have received revelation on this and other matters. Ask if these five truths are, in fact, true.President Nelson
I am very sorry I cannot support many of you at this time. But I have made my decision. I really hope all of us can find peace amidst all of this and feel God’s love despite the confusion and sorrow.