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For so many, June 26, 2015 is one of the darkest days of our nation’s history. In a narrow 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, ignoring the voices of more than 50 million citizens who, through the democratic process, had voted otherwise. Now what do we do? Here are 10 suggestions.
ONE: Always show respect, civility, and kindness toward others who have different points of view.
My mother always counseled me, when dealing with others who disagreed with me or were my adversaries, “Kill them with kindness.” It really does break down barriers, soften hearts and change ill feelings.
I think often of the mob violence in Missouri which led to that horrible day in July 1833 when Edward Partridge and Charles Allen were tarred and feathered in Missouri: “The mob took Bishop Edward Partridge from his home and dragged him to the public square. Charles Allen, a twenty-seven-year-old convert from Pennsylvania, was also taken to the public square. The mob demanded that they renounce the Book of Mormon or leave the county. The two men refused to do either, so the mob prepared tar and feathers. Bishop Partridge calmly declared that he was willing to suffer for the sake of Christ as the Saints in former ages had done. The two bore the cruel indignity of tarring and feathering with so much resignation and meekness, that the crowd, which had been shouting vile oaths, dispersed in silence.”[i] I marvel at them bearing this heinous act with “so much resignation and meekness.” Can we bear up under the pressure of today’s societal crumbling?
I remember during the Prop 8 fight in California, the “mobs” of protestors gathered at the Los Angeles Temple with shouts of hatred for Mormons and signs depicting things that were so contrary to what we believed. On one of those tense days when it was very hot (both temperature and temperament), many temple workers came outside and brought water and refreshment to all the protestors. That was stunning to me.
When the apostles were going to be facing tremendous trials and persecution, the Savior counseled them: Let not your heart by troubled, neither let it be afraid.”[ii] I think that is more than just good counsel.
TWO: Continue to affirm that the Church has clear standards of morality that will never change.
We are literal children of a Heavenly Father who loves us and before whom we are accountable for our behavior. The reasoning, emotions, personal interests, or opinions of mortal beings—including five unelected judges of the Supreme Court, cannot change moral standards. There is a SUPREME COURT that always trumps this earthly supreme court and we must never forget that.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave us good counsel on this issue less than two years ago:
“There are many political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and contrary to the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and childbearing. These pressures have already authorized same-gender marriages in various states and nations. Other pressures would confuse gender or homogenize those differences between men and women that are essential to accomplish God’s great plan of happiness.
“Our understanding of God’s plan and His doctrine gives us an eternal perspective that does not allow us to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them. And, unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has identified as unchangeable.
“Our twelfth article of faith states our belief in being subject to civil authority and ‘in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.’ But man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority–to love and serve God–requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior. For example, we remain under divine command not to commit adultery or fornication even when those acts are no longer crimes under the laws of the states or countries where we reside. Similarly, laws legalizing so-called ‘same-sex marriage’ do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities–even those becoming popular in our particular time and place.
“In this determination we may be misunderstood, and we may incur accusations of bigotry, suffer discrimination, or have to withstand invasions of our free exercise of religion. If so, I think we should remember our first priority–to serve God–and, like our pioneer predecessors, push our personal handcarts forward with the same fortitude they exhibited.”[iii]
THREE: Don’t be afraid to continue to affirm and proclaim that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”[iv]
Be assured that it is okay to continue to stand for the truth. The doctrine of marriage did not change today, only the opinions of five earthly (worldly) judges legislating from the bench and declaring something different than what God has ordained. Have no fear in affirming the eternal truth about marriage between a man and a woman.
In the majority opinion today, Judge Kennedy held out this small consolation (after 26 pages of justification for the opinion): “Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”[v] In other words, you continue to have freedom of speech protection to affirm the doctrine you know and hold to be true. And it’s important that you do so.
FOUR: Starting today become even more involved in the political process. Don’t give up!
Being a witness to the fabric of our society unraveling so fast, it’s easy to become discouraged. One of the opposition’s greatest tools is to wear down the opponent until they are exhausted. Do not be weary in well doing, and, for heaven’s sake, get involved!
The First Presidency has said: “As citizens we have the privilege and duty of electing office holders and influencing public policy. Participation in the political process affects our communities and nation today and in the future.
“Latter-day Saints as citizens are to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are wise, good, and honest. Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties.
“Therefore…we urge you to register to vote, to study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully, and then to vote for and actively support those you believe will most nearly carry out your ideas of good government.”[vi]
Be well read. Learn to articulate the issues of our time. Get involved in local issues, state issues and/or national issues. Don’t be afraid to speak out, in fact, you need to!
FIVE: Learn everything you can about religious liberty. Now.
Religious liberty is under attack from every side. It is next on the list. The decision that was made in the Supreme Court today is on the same agenda as the destruction of freedom of religion. Become really smart in the issues of religious liberty. Don’t be kowtowed by people who use a quick phrase like “separation of Church and state” as the reason for some major or minor political action. Come to understand every aspect of religious liberty. We should be the smartest people on the planet on this topic. How do you defend something you know very little about?
In a speech given 4 ½ years ago, Elder Dallin H. Oaks warned: “A few generations ago the idea that religious organizations and religious persons would be unwelcome in the public square would have been unthinkable. Now, such arguments are prominent enough to cause serious concern. It is not difficult to see a conscious strategy to neutralize the influence of religion and churches and religious motivations on any issues that could be characterized as public policy.”
He also warned: “We must never see the day when the public square is not open to religious ideas and religious persons. The religious community must unite to be sure we are not coerced or deterred into silence by the kinds of intimidation or threatening rhetoric that are being experienced. Whether or not such actions are anti-religious, they are surely anti-democratic and should be condemned by all who are interested in democratic government.”[vii]
One of the best talks you can use as a primer on religious freedom is Elder Dallin H. Oaks speaking to Chapman University School of Law on February 4, 2011. The transcript of that talk can be found HERE.
Elder Oaks also taught: “The guarantee of religious freedom is one of the supremely important founding principles in the United States Constitution, and it is reflected in the constitutions of all 50 of our states. As noted by many, the guarantee’s “pre-eminent place” as the first expression in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution identifies freedom of religion as “a cornerstone of American democracy.” The American colonies were originally settled by people who, for the most part, came to this continent for the freedom to practice their religious faith without persecution, and their successors deliberately placed religious freedom first in the nation’s Bill of Rights.
“So it is that our federal law formally declares: ‘The right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of the United States.’ So it is, I maintain, that in our nation’s founding and in our constitutional order religious freedom and its associated First Amendment freedoms of speech and press are the motivating and dominating civil liberties and civil rights.”[viii]
SIX: Be aware and beware of moral relativism. Don’t be fooled by it. Don’t give in to it. Don’t let others make you think it has any validity. There are indeed absolute truths!
This is a Judeo-Christian nation founded on truths; including the acknowledgement that the Hand of Providence guided the Founders and that His hand was in the Revolutionary War and other major events of our history. We are being bombarded by the theory that morality is whatever you think it is and truth is truth based on the opinion or thought of each person. Today’s decision was not based on law but on moral relativism. Five liberal judges decided for themselves that the legalization of same-sex marriage was best for the nation. That’s all. It is pure moral relativism.
Rush Limbaugh commented this afternoon: “Now, I think in the case of this gay marriage decision today, the answer to this sadly is not going to be found in politics or policy, because the problems and the truth go way beyond that. I think we’re dealing with a culture that is under assault and is deteriorating rapidly. The truth is that all this transcends the Constitution. I think there is a spiritual war going on where truth is no longer truth. There is no objective truth. Everything is relative now, particularly morally. Words have no meaning. Words can be whatever the most forceful group of people wants them to mean. Whatever the most intimidating group of people wants a word to mean is what it will mean.”[ix]
Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught us: “A world without God, the living God who establishes moral laws to govern and perfect His children, is also a world without ultimate truth or justice. It is a world where moral relativism reigns supreme.
“Relativism means each person is his or her own highest authority. Of course, it is not just those who deny God that subscribe to this philosophy. Some who believe in God still believe that they themselves, individually, decide what is right and wrong. One young adult expressed it this way: ‘I don’t think I could say that Hinduism is wrong or Catholicism is wrong or being Episcopalian is wrong—I think it just depends on what you believe. … I don’t think that there’s a right and wrong.’ Another, asked about the basis for his religious beliefs, replied, “Myself—it really comes down to that. I mean, how could there be authority to what you believe?
“To those who believe anything or everything could be true, the declaration of objective, fixed, and universal truth feels like coercion—‘I shouldn’t be forced to believe something is true that I don’t like.’ But that does not change reality. Resenting the law of gravity won’t keep a person from falling if he steps off a cliff. The same is true for eternal law and justice. Freedom comes not from resisting it but from applying it. That is fundamental to God’s own power. If it were not for the reality of fixed and immutable truths, the gift of agency would be meaningless since we would never be able to foresee and intend the consequences of our actions.”[x]
Again, beware of moral relativism.
SEVEN: Redefining marriage to make it a genderless institution fundamentally changes marriage, but don’t fall for the lie that mothers and fathers are interchangeable—they are not!
Chief Justice John Roberts said today in his dissenting opinion: “As the majority acknowledges, marriage ‘has existed for millennia and across civilizations.’ For all those millennia, across all those civilizations, ‘marriage’ referred to only one relationship: the union of a man and a woman (petitioners conceding that they are not aware of any society that permitted same-sex marriage before 2001). As the Court explained two Terms ago, ‘until recent years…marriage between a man and a woman no doubt had been thought of by most people as essential to the very definition of that term and to its role and function throughout the history of civilization.’
“This universal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is no historical coincidence. Marriage did not come about as a result of a political movement, discovery, disease, war, religious doctrine, or any other moving force of world history—and certainly not as a result of a prehistoric decision to exclude gays and lesbians. It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship.”[xi]
In the Proclamation on the Family the need for a father and a mother is very clear: “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”
Again, don’t ever fall for the lie that mothers and fathers are interchangeable!
EIGHT: Immerse yourself in family history research and do everything you can to find your ancestors.
To some this might seem like an odd thing to put in a list of things to do on this day when same-sex marriage was made legal in the United States of America. There is great power that comes to you when you search for your ancestors—it doesn’t matter whether you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or a Catholic, or Methodist, or Baptist, or Jew, or Muslim, or whatever; that same power and spirit is available to all. Reach out to find your ancestors and you will feel something in your heart and your family will be blessed. Here are some of the promises related to family history work and preparing names to take to the temple:
“The Lord will bless us as we attend to the sacred ordinance work of the temples. Blessings there will not be limited to our temple service. We will be blessed in all our affairs.”
–Boyd K. Packer
“There is something very, very powerful in searching out someone who needs temple ordinances. This is how you and I become Saviors on Mount Zion. There is a joy and satisfaction that is only understood through spiritual feelings. We are linked to them forever. As you seek to contribute to this sacred work, both by finding those needing ordinances, and then beginning their work in the temple, your own knowledge and faith in the Savior will increase, and you will receive a more certain witness that life continues beyond the veil.”
–Elder Neil L. Andersen
“As you respond to this invitation [to seek out your ancestors] your heart will turn to the fathers, the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be implanted in your hearts. Your patriarchal blessing with its declaration of lineage will link you to these fathers, and be more meaningful to you. Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and your conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding.”
–Elder David A. Bednar
“Do you young people want a sure way to eliminate the influence of the adversary in your life? Immerse yourself in searching for your ancestors. Prepare their names for the sacred, vicarious ordinances available in the Temple and then go to the Temple and stand as proxy for them to receive the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. I can think of no greater protection from the influence of the adversary in your life.”
–Elder Richard G. Scott
“I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary as you participate and love this holy work. You will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.”
–Elder David A. Bednar
NINE: Exercise active faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who is the God of this land.
Never forget that this is a covenant land and that Jesus Christ is the God of this land. This is a time to redouble our faith in Him. He said, “Do I not hold the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth?”[xii] He knows what He is doing and we must rely on Him. Part of the way we exercise our faith in Him is by listening to the words of His chosen Prophets and Apostles. President Ezra Taft Benson, who loved America with all his heart, said the following:
“Never before has the land of Zion appeared so vulnerable to so powerful an enemy as the Americas do at present. And our vulnerability is directly attributable to our loss of active faith in the God of this land, who has decreed that we must worship Him or be swept off. Too many Americans have lost sight of the truth that God is our source of freedom—the Lawgiver—and that personal righteousness is the most important essential to preserving our freedom. So, I say with all the energy of my soul that unless we as citizens of this nation forsake our sins, political and otherwise, and return to the fundamental principles of Christianity and of constitutional government, we will lose our political liberties, our free institutions, and will stand in jeopardy before God.[xiii]
For those (including the Prop 8 crowd in California) who have worked so long and hard on this issue and other important things we want so much, Elder Richard G. Scott gives us this perspective:
“With even your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires. Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you, when it will yield the greatest advantage. Be thankful that sometimes God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes. That causes your faith to increase and your character to grow.
“The bedrock of character is integrity. Worthy character will strengthen your capacity to recognize the direction of the Spirit and to be obedient to it. Your consistent exercise of faith builds strong character. A secure foundation for your growing character is laid by making Jesus Christ and His teachings the center of your life.”[xiv]
TEN: Read your scriptures every day, no matter what.
Why would this be part of helping you through this troubled time? The Lord wants to speak peace to your heart and often He does so through the scriptures. These are tumultuous and troubled times (as indicated this very day) and we need all the help we can get. In the scriptures there will be real help and real inspiration and real answers to your concerns.
Don’t be casual about your scripture reading, like, “Yeah, well I read them pretty regularly, like four or five times a week for sure.” Don’t miss a day! Not one. Ever! Make that commitment this very day. Sure, the best time to have started reading the scriptures every day would have been twenty years ago, but the second best day to start is today, Friday, June 26, 2015 (or whatever day you’re reading this). Be diligent and true to this commitment. You can do it. It will bless your life through any challenge.
Here are some promises from the Prophets that will strengthen you in your new commitment and resolve (thank you to Elder Richard G. Scott for compiling these[xv]):
President Thomas S. Monson promised: “As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls. We can find answers to our questions. We learn of the blessings which come through keeping God’s commandments. We gain a sure testimony of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of Their love for us. When scripture study is combined with our prayers, we can of a certainty know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. … As we remember prayer and take time to turn to the scriptures, our lives will be infinitely more blessed and our burdens will be made lighter.”[xvi]
President Gordon B. Hinckley promised: “Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.”[xvii]
President Howard W. Hunter assured us: “Families are greatly blessed when wise fathers and mothers bring their children about them, read from the pages of the scriptural library together, and then discuss freely the beautiful stories and thoughts according to the understanding of all. Often youth and little ones have amazing insight into and appreciation for the basic literature of religion.”[xviii]
President Ezra Taft Benson promised: “[W]hen individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently…Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow.”[xix]
President Spencer W. Kimball declared: “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.”[xx]
President Marion G. Romney also promised: “I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness.”[xxi]
President Boyd K. Packer said: “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”[xxii]
And finally, Elder David A. Bednar taught us: “Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results.”[xxiii]
Your diligence in daily scripture study, combined with the promises above, can change the dark night to a beautiful new day.
The Ten Things to Do (in short):
- Always show respect, civility, and kindness toward others who have different points of view.
- Continue to affirm that the Church has clear standards of morality that will never change.
- Don’t be afraid to continue to affirm and proclaim that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
- Starting today: Become even more involved in the political process. Don’t give up!
- Learn everything you can about religious liberty. Now.
- Be aware and beware of moral relativism. Don’t be fooled by it. Don’t give in to it. Don’t let others make you think it has any validity. There are indeed absolute truths!
- Redefining marriage to make it a genderless institution fundamentally changes marriage, but don’t fall for the lie that mothers and fathers are interchangeable—they are not!
- Immerse yourself in family history research and do everything you can to find your ancestors.
- Exercise active faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who is the God of this land.
- Read your scriptures every day, no matter what.
[i] Roberts, B.H., The Missouri Persecutions (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965), pp. 84-86.
[ii] John 14: 27.
[iii] See Ensign, November 2013, pp. 72-75 (emphasis added).
[iv] See “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, November 1995, p. 102.
[v] Supreme Court of the United States, Syllabus, Obergefell et. al. v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et. al., Friday, June 26, 2015, p. 27.
[vi] First Presidency Issue Letter on Political Participation, September 11, 2008, signed by Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf (emphasis added).
[vii] Transcript of Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ Speech Given at Chapman University School of Law, February 4, 2011.
[ix] The Rush Limbaugh Show, The Left’s Moral Relativism Has Eaten Our Culture Alive—and Conservatives Have No Political Strategy to Stop It. EIB Network, Transcript, June 26, 2015.
[x] Christofferson, D. Todd, Free Forever, To Act for Themselves, October 2014 (emphasis added).
[xi] Supreme Court of the United States, Roberts, C.J. Dissenting, James Obergefell, et. al. v. Richard Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, pp. 4-5.
[xii] Doctrine & Covenants 117: 6.
[xiii] Benson, Ezra Taft, A Witness and a Warning, October 1979.
[xiv] Scott, Richard G. The Transforming Power of Faith and Character, October 2010.
[xv] Scott, Richard G., Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority, October 2014, footnote 6.
[xvi] Monson, Thomas S., “We Never Walk Alone,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, p. 122.
[xvii] Hinckley, Gordon B. “A Testimony Vibrant and True,” Ensign or Liahona, Aug. 2005, p. 6.
[xviii] Hunter, Howard W. “Reading the Scriptures,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 64.
[xix] Benson, Ezra Taft. “The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, p. 81.
[xx] Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball , p. 67.
[xxi] Romney, Marion G. “The Book of Mormon,” Ensign, May 1980, p. 67.
[xxii] Packer, Boyd K. “Do Not Fear,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, p. 79.
[xxiii] Bednar, David A. “More Diligent and Concerned at Home,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, pp. 19-20.