Imagine that you are at a park. As you glance around, imagine that you see kid shove another kid. What would be your first, gut reaction? It may be something like this: “What a jerk! That kid is a bully!” If the kid being shoved was a minority, you may think “This is discrimination! That kid is acting from hate!”
What if then you see a bicycle with a distracted rider whiz by right where the ‘shoved kid’ had been standing? With this new perspective, the intent behind the act becomes clear. You are able to see that the kid who did the shoving acted out of love and care, not hate. He or she was trying to help the other kid.
Last October, Sister Carole M, Stephens, a leader in the women’s organization of my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon church) gave a talk that really impacted me and I wanted to share some of her words and some thoughts about it.
She told the story of an experience she had with a granddaughter who would not stay in her seatbelt. Repeatedly, she tried to convince and bribe the young child to stay buckled up, to no avail.
Finally, she showed her granddaughter how she, herself, was wearing seatbelt and explained that it was to protect her, and said to her granddaughter “But you aren’t wearing your seat belt, and you won’t be safe. And I will be so sad if you get hurt.”
She then related: “Finally, her big blue eyes brightened, and she said, “Grandma, you want me to wear my seat belt because you love me!”
Sister Stephens compared her experience with her granddaughter to the experience of each of us in life:
“We have rules to teach, guide, and protect children. Why? Because of the great love we have for them. But until Chloe understood that my desire for her to remain securely fastened in her car seat was because of my love for her, she was unwilling to submit to what she considered a restriction. She felt her seat belt limited her freedom.
Like Chloe, we can choose to see commandments as limitations. We may feel at times that God’s laws restrict our personal freedom, take from us our agency, and limit our growth. But as we seek for greater understanding, as we allow our Father to teach us, we will begin to see that His laws are a manifestation of His love for us and obedience to His laws is an expression of our love for Him.”
Sister Stephens then encouraged us to trust God:
“Trust in His eternal plan for you. Each of us is “a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.” Their love for us is apparent in commandments. Commandments are vital instructions to teach, guide, and protect us as we “gain earthly experience.”
Even with all of the mistakes, opposition, and learning that accompany our mortal experience, God never loses sight of our eternal potential, even when we do. We can trust Him “because God wants His children back.” And He has provided a way through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Atonement “is the core of the plan of salvation.”
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that God has given us commandments to protect us from spiritual destruction. Do we know what exactly spiritual destruction means? No. Do we always immediately see spiritual destruction occur when someone chooses to not obey God’s laws? No. Some consequences we may not see till the next life. Like that imagined moment in the park, we may not have the whole story just yet. But we believe God when He tells us there are consequences. And we trust Him.
Some people hear the doctrine of this church being taught—particularly doctrines concerning sexuality and marriage—and they don’t understand them and so assign unkind, even hateful intent to them.
I’m not saying there are no hateful people in this church. There are hateful people everywhere. There are hateful people who are Mormons, hateful people who are Atheist, hateful people who are Muslims, hateful people who are gay or identify as LGBT, hateful people who are straight, hateful people who are male, hateful people who are female. But there are much more people in all these groups who are not hateful.
Among the people of the church who I interact with, I don’t know a single one who feels or has expressed hate towards those who are LGBT. What I hear are people full of concern and care, people who see beloved family members (in this church, we believe that every human being is a spiritual sibling to one another) as being in danger, as being in the path of a figurative out-of-control bicycle.
They believe people who engage in homosexual behaviors are stepping away from the protection of God’s commandments, from “seat belts” that would prevent spiritual destruction.
I’m not saying they are always perfect in how they express their feelings. I’m not saying every one of them is tactful or perfectly thoughtful or sensitive. And as I said before, I’m not saying that no hateful people exist in this church (and its important to note that those who are hateful are NOT living the teachings of this church). I just want people to understand that most people who belong to the LDS church have loving intent when they express disagreement with homosexual behavior or gay marriage. What, in effect, they are trying to convey is “Aaah! Watch out! You’re in danger! I love you! I don’t want you to get hurt! You may not see the danger but its there!”
I hope this brings some understanding to those who have misunderstood the LDS church and its doctrines and policies about homosexuality and gay marriage. The more we open our hearts and listen to one another and really seek to understand one another’s intents, the more tolerance and peace we will have.
Here is the link to Sister Stephens’s talk: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/10/if-ye-love-me-keep-my-commandments?lang=eng