Whew, what a day.
News sources all over are reporting on the LDS Church’s new standards for membership for the children of same sex couples, and there are a LOT of hurt feelings going around.
I’m going to try and summarize some of the discussions that I’ve seen and participated in here, along with the policy itself.
First same sex marriage is grounds for a disciplinary hearing.
Second children of same sex couples must be legally adults and disavow the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage before being baptized.
What people are saying.
The word that is getting used in almost every discussion is this:
As in: Why is the church punishing the children?
We believe all man will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgressions.
and so on.
I want to place an asterisk by that. I want to have us pause for a minute and examine that word, and the assumption that goes along with it.
First: I think it’s important to take a step back and first ask, “Who is doing the punishing?”
The man behind the curtain
For the ex-Mormon or the non-Mormon, the answer is obvious: “It’s the church,” they say. But we, as believers don’t hold to that. We don’t consider the church to be an autonomous being, but rather the extension of God’s will on the earth as administered through his ordained servants.
In other words, when we say something like “the church did ___” or “the church says ___” we need to be able to easily transpose the word “God” in and have it be just as valid. “God did ___” or “God says ___.” Obviously we rarely do that, but the principle is sound.
In this instance, it’s especially apt since God himself has maintained tight control over who will be baptized and when. He has not only supplied us with strict guidelines for baptism, but he has maintained control over the authority to administer the ordinances and determined when such ordinances and authority would even exist on the earth.
In other words, if there is a standard on who shall or shall not receive any ordinance, we must be willing to consider it as being from God, and not just imperfect leaders.
How handy inspired but imperfect leaders in the Church are as focal points for our frustrations, especially if circumstances require them to suffer in silence! Having confidence in leaders who keep confidences is part of sustaining them.
Oliver Cowdery fell short of the coveted privilege of translating. He was told, “Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.” (D&C 9:6.) Emma Smith was likewise told to “murmur not” when certain things were withheld from her. (D&C 25:4.)
Neal A Maxwell, Murmur Not
Is it punishment?
If the bar for punishment is being denied the Holy Ghost for any period of time, then we’re all punished before age 8, and all people born between year 90 and year 1830 or so are also being punished, and all black people were punished until 1978, and anybody living in China is being punished, and so on and so on.
Remember that God operates on an eternal timeline. Nobody, nowhere, no time, is ever denied baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the vast majority of the world it will come only after death. None of those people are being punished. God could have given a new dispensation with the ordinances of salvation at any time he wanted. We do not accuse him of having punished those who did not receive them because the miracle of the restored gospel helps us know better.
We know that salvation is given freely to all. That some of us don’t have every single opporutnity is just one natural consequence of a fallen world. Every day we are denied blessings, opportunities, and gifts. That’s part of life. That we’re suddenly aware of something we’re missing out on does not suddenly make it a punishment to not have it. Instead it becomes a sacred opportunity for us to recognize how we might achieve more than we have.
God is at the helm. No one has been punished or denied exaltation to any degree. God has a plan not only for the human race but for each individual.
A full understanding is impossible; we simply have to trust in what the Lord has told us, knowing enough, however, to realize that we are not dealing with guarantees from God but extra opportunities—and heavier responsibilities….
One of the most helpful—indeed very necessary—parallel truths to be pondered when studying this powerful doctrine of foreordination is given in the revelation of the Lord to Moses in which the Lord says, “And all things are present with me, for I know them all” (Moses1:6). God does not live in the dimension of time as do we. Moreover, since “all things are present with” God, his is not simply a predicting based solely upon the past. In ways which are not clear to us, he actually sees, rather than foresees, the future—because all things are, at once, present before him.
In a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord described himself as “The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes” (D&C 38:2). From the prophet Nephi we receive the same basic insight in which we, likewise, must trust: “But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men” (1 Nephi 9:6). It was by divine design that Mary became the mother of Jesus. Further, Lucy Mack Smith, who played such a crucial role in the rearing of Joseph Smith, did not come to that assignment by chance.
One of the dimensions of worshipping a living God is to know that he is alive and living in the sense of seeing and acting. He is not a retired God whose best years are past, to whom we should pay a retroactive obeisance, worshipping him for what he has already done. He is the living God who is, at once, in all the dimensions of time—the past and present and future—while we labor constrained by the limitations of time itself.
Neal A Maxwell, Meeting the Challenges of Today
While some things feel like punishments to us today, may we never lose trust in our Father and his ability to steer with precision our lives, our church, and our families.
The “why” behind the now will become clear with time. It may very well be that a mistake was made somewhere, but it may very well be that no mistake was made and this policy is indeed the will of the Lord. However things shake out, let us sustain our leaders and trust our God.