By Julia Madeline Taylor (originally published at her www.poetrysansonions.com)
It is incredibly painful for me to sit at a computer, even my laptop. It is why my posts have been so sporadic lately, and why they will continue to be, until I have the spinal surgery I am still waiting for. (Prayers are always welcome!)This issue is important enough, and so I choose to go through the pain, to share with you why I believe that Marriage Equality is not only the right thing to do, I believe that it is what my religious beliefs, as a Mormon, tell my is expected of me as a disciple of Christ. I will start by encouraging you to check out these blog posts. Each one has a slightly different view, and as I read them, I realized that I would be remiss if I did not add my voice.
I believe in the freedom on people to choose who they love, and to be able to live their lives together, regardless of whether it conforms to the religious or political views of other people, and as does not break the law. I believe that laws which restrict marriage to only opposite gender couples are unconstitutional. As a Mormon, I find great irony that our Prophets once spoke out boldly and emphatically that consenting adults should be allowed to marry how and who they loved. They rejected laws that only allow marriage between one man and one woman. The LDS church has in the past consented to women being married to each other, as sister wives to a shared husband. They held my belief, that restrictions on what kind of marriages are recognized as legal, were unconstitutional.
It seems to me that Prop 8, and the LDS church choosing to continue to politically oppose the rights of others, (whose religious beliefs do not agree with their relatively new stance, that marriage is only between one man and one woman) as a rejection of the stated Mormon belief in the 11th Article of our faith, which proclaims:
“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.” 11th Article of Faith
If we allow all men (and women) to worship “how, where or what they may,” then we should step out of the way, and allow those whose belief in God includes the right for all God’s children to marry their chosen partner, (without regard for the gender of that partner) to do so without interference from those who believe differently. Even if, or especially if, we believe someone else’s belief is completely contradictory to our own beliefs, our core doctrine tells us that we have no right to interfere with the rights of those we live among, who should not be bound by our beliefs.
Personally, I don’t believe marriage between two women, or two men, who deeply love each other, is a sin. There are others of my faith that do. I believe that it is Satan’s plan to force everyone to conform to one set of beliefs and practices. Even if something is wrong, or a “sin,” we are taught that we will be punished for our own sins, not for those of others. To not allow all men and women to live their lives in a way that conforms to their fundamental beliefs about themselves and their relationship to God, is to refuse people their agency.
About 12-13 years ago, I was assigned to visit and befriend a women whose young family had recently moved to Oregon, because her husband’s got a promotion. She had lived all of her life, up to that time, in Utah and had been home schooled by her parents. Her family had been very active in conservative Republican groups that sought to abolish abortion, with no exceptions. She had actively participated in demonstrations demanding that homosexuals not be allowed to teach school, adopt children, and she believed that children of gay parents should be put in the foster care system for the safety of those children. She had a very different upbringing than mine, and yet as we visited regularly, we became close enough friends for her to share some of the bewilderment she felt living in a part of Oregon that had more registered Democrats than Republicans.
She found it confusing that both of Oregon’s senators, one a Republican and one a Democrat often co-sponsored legislation, and often did town hall style meetings, throughout the state, together.
One Monday morning, she called me because she was very upset, and she asked me if I could visit her that day. When I got there, she was pretty agitated. As we talked, she expressed her confusion and concern, when in Sunday School one of the Bishopric members talked about being at a political rally for a Democratic candidate. She was concerned because it didn’t seem, from his comment, that he was there to protest the rally, but to be part of it. She wasn’t sure if she should report his Democratic sympathies to the bishop or the stake president.
It took me a little while to coax out of her why she felt she needed to report the comment. She believed that you couldn’t be a Democrat, and hold a temple recommend. When I told her that of course Democrats could hold temple recommends, her response was that in a temple interview we are asked:
“Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” http://lds4u.com/lesson5/
All her life, my friend had been taught that all Democrats were wrong, and if the things she had been told about Democrats was true, then they would have to lie when they answered this question, or they would be denied a temple recommend, and not be able to hold leadership callings in the church. It was a teaching moment for both of us.
Part of me wanted to simply laugh at her “ignorance” and dismiss her as hopelessly out of touch. Luckily the Holy Ghost intervened and helped me understand that she was seriously conflicted about this. As we talked, I explained that my parents did not belong to the same political party, and while they often agreed on local issues, their votes almost always “cancelled each other out” in statewide or national votes. I then shared with her a number of people in our ward and stake, including our Stake President who were Democrats. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on her face as she pulled out her temple recommend and said, “but he just signed my temple recommend last month.” This was true spiritual stretching and growing for her, to even imagine that there were so many Democrats all around her, and they were not sons of perdition, automatically headed for hell. We read the 11th Article of Faith, that is quoted above, and spent several hours discussion reasons that some Mormons don’t feel they can join the Republican Party with a good conscience.
When I told her that the church allows for abortions in some circumstances, she needed to lay down for a while. She asked if I had proof, and I shared the experience of a friend who had been raped and had decided to terminate her pregnancy, with the blessing of church leaders. I then shared my personal story, and my gratitude for the miscarriage that had saved me from having to make the choice about whether to carry the child of the boy who raped me.
Over the next few months, in discussions with the bishop, who confirmed the things I had shared with her, and with her husband who was very conservative but had served a mission in Europe where members often belong to socialist political parties, she became deeply disaffected all with politics. Several times I came to her home in the middle of the day to let her cry, stroking her hair as she laid with her head in my lap, after she had yet another fight with her parents about the things she was learning.
It took her several months to ask me which political party I belonged to. I think she needed not to know, until she was ready to accept the possibility that *I* might not be a Republican. When I told her that I wasn’t registered with a political party, that I chose to be non-affiliated, she was confused. I explained that I looked at each of the candidates in each race, and studied each ballot measure, and then prayed about my vote choices. Most times my ballot had votes for both Democrats and Republicans, because I feel I need to pick the best woman or man in each race. I knew I wouldn’t ever agree with everything a candidate believed, and so I generally looked for the candidates that tended to be in favor of making sure everyone had the same opportunities in life, and believed in letting people make their own choices when it came to decisions about their bodies, families and religion. I also looked for candidates who acted Christlike, whatever their actual belief in God was. I once helped campaign for a woman who was an atheist, but whose record as a state representative was such that I felt she was doing the work of Christ, even if she did not believe in Him.
For me, there are many areas where I think religion and politics simply should not be brought together. I feel blessed to live in a state that allows me to vote, AND be unaffiliated with any political party. I feel both a religious and a political conviction that I need to be loving to all people, to be Christlike and follow the beatitudes He taught. I don’t feel like either party can say that all of their policies align with that standard. I also believe that no one needs to agree with me, and I don’t condemn those who are members of a party that they mostly agree with, especially if their state makes it difficult to vote if a person is not registered with a party. Just because I can’t do the mental and moral gymnastics to become a Republican or Democrat, does not mean that I lose respect for those who feel that working within a party gives them the most influence to impact their party’s agenda.
What I do have a hard time respecting are people who profess to be Mormon, and believe in the Articles of faith, and still fundamentally want to restrict the ability of others to practice their beliefs, and to limit every one’s choices because they believe that *their* life choices should be required of others. I see the freedom of others to disagree with my thoughts and feelings as a fundamental teaching of my chosen religion. Even if I think their disagreements are bigoted or hateful, as long as they don’t commit a crime because of their beliefs, then they have the right to believe it. When they try to force their choices on others, is where I believe they have crossed the line, and are no longer allowing to “worship how, where, or what they may.”
And, for the most eloquent speach I have heard on this subject, from three years ago, New York Senator Diane Savino explains her vote for Marriage Equality, and why it is no threat to religious institutions. The bill in NY did not pass, but her speech is worth watching because everything she said then, is still true today! (admin note: New York did get marriage equality in 2011)
Julia has been writing poetry since grade school, and it is one of the constants in her life, along with her faith. She currently blogs at poetrysansonions.com, where she is the main author of the My Mormon Perspective, My Feminist Mormon Perspective, and the Mormon Moment Series which focused on the events surrounding the 2012 Election, Pants, Prayers, Priesthood and of course Mitt Romney. Julia’s poetry, and random bits of insight, as well as guest posts from Mormon and non-Mormon authors and poets, round out the blog posts which are not related to the Finding Heavenly Mother Project.