Sunday, January 6, 2013

And This Is Life Eternal

"And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent"
-John 17:3 KJV

As Jesus was closing His earthly ministry He spent the last few hours of His marvelous life teaching the twelve (except Judas) the most important things that He could.  He knew that hours after that final Passover dinner in the crowded upper room, his devoted followers were going to face the most significant trial that any of them could imagine.  This Jesus, of whom Peter testified "Thou Art the Christ," was about to be put through a mock trial and then executed by Gentiles like a common criminal.  He knew that His death would be a small moment and a precursor to His glorious Resurrection, but they had not figured it out yet.  Their Master's life had been threatened for three years and He had never even been close to death.  How could they imagine the end of His extraordinary life when He had been delivered so many times before?

We all know the rest of the story.  The Savior suffered the atonement and death on the cross.  He was resurrected three days later.  He rose with the good news of the Gospel.  Through Him, all mankind could be freed from the bonds of death and Hell and live eternally with our Father.  In hindsight, this was the most significant, glorious, wonderful few days in history.  But can you imagine what it must have been like for Peter or John or Mary or any of the rest of them?  Jesus knew exactly what they would go through and with that sobering image in His mind, He gave them the only comfort He could.  He taught them eternal truths that would sustain them through this period.

He opened their minds to His eternal mission which was to "give eternal life to as many as thou [God] hast given him" (John 17:2)  And what is "eternal life?"  To know God the Father and His glorified Son Jesus Christ.  There is no talk here of heaven or mansions or pearls or any of the other descriptions that He used so freely during His ministry.  To know God and His Son is what constitutes eternal life.  As I read this scripture I was first taken aback.  It doesn't say "and this leads to life eternal..." or "this is one of the blessings of life eternal."  He said that to know God IS life eternal.  So, I "know" lots of people.  In fact I would say that I "know" people I haven't talked to in years.  Is that really all there is to eternal life?  I just have to have a couple conversations with God and I'm good?

After I reflected on the importance of this statement and the setting in which Jesus said it, I came to the conclusion that my definition of "know" was a little bit off.  John helped me out a little bit in 1 John 4:8 when he said "He that loveth not knoweth not God for God is love." So I can't "know" God in John's sense without having some of God's attributes.  Now, please don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that we have to have fully developed Godlike attributes to come unto Christ, but it does seem that being like Him helps us to know Him better.  In the Book of Mormon, when missionaries teach, they "begin with the fall of adam" and then explain the Plan of Salvation.  The plan of salvation then provides the motivation for these new converts to receive their "mighty change of heart."  So how does knowing this plan help us to be better?  The answer is in the restored idea that we are the "children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him (Romans 8:16-17)."  An heir is the successor of a king.  He/she is the person who takes over the crown when the current ruler dies.  Since God is immortal, then heir must mean something different eternally.  Becoming "joint-heirs" with Christ helps us to better understand what this scripture means.  Christ, as His Father's heir, has become like His Father in every meaningful attribute.  He has the same knowledge, the same love, the same omnipotence as His Father.  They are "one" in this sense.  When our Father invites us to partake of Eternal Life, He is inviting us to be one with Him like Christ is.

That being said, our Father will not force any of us to live the life He lives.  I think that many of us hear or read about Eternal Life or the Celestial Kingdom, and think that this gift is something that He will hand us at some future time.  In some of our minds, God's glory is like a cookie or a toy that can be just given if we have earned enough "eternal points."  From looking at the scriptures and words of prophets I have come to believe that the judgement will not be a time when God gives us our punishments or rewards so much as a time when He will reveal to us what we have chosen to become.

With that in mind, do we really think we came to Earth to struggle through this life, only to have whatever we have become wiped away in the judgement? God already knows what we will do long before we do it. Why could he not have just placed us in heaven or hell and skipped all the drama? If what we DO is the most important thing and He already knows that, then why is He wasting His and our time?

What we do is only relevant in that it shapes who we ARE. He sent us here not because it was A way but because it was the ONLY way. We have to decide to become like Him. He can't assign us our punishments or rewards prematurely because we are our own punishments and rewards. That is why we all have our choice or agency. We can only become like Him if we choose to do so. And we know what we are choosing by what we do.

With that in mind might I suggest that we evaluate all of our actions, beliefs, biases, opinions, judgements, etc... in light of this eternal destiny? We will not be handed perfection, but through the grace of the Savior we will have the opportunity to pursue it as long as we choose to. He has already saved us from our sins and from death. But what He has not, and can not do for us is choose for us what kind of people we will be in the "mansions of" His Father. That is for us to decide. If we want to be like our Father, we will have to choose to be like HIm. We will have to choose to love each other. We will have to choose to be open minded and embrace all truth. We will have to choose to give up those vices that we cling to. He will help us, inspire us, guide us and do anything that we will let Him do for us. But in the end, it all boils down to our individual choices. What do your actions say about what kind of person you are choosing to be? What do
your thoughts about others reveal about who you are trying to be like? What does your reluctance to get rid of that pet sin tell you about where you want to go and who you want to be with in eternity? These are hard questions and I struggle to answer them myself. The glorious thing about these questions is: even though they reveal what we currently are (which is often uglier than we would like), they also give us a chance to choose differently. If what we are is the result of our choice then we have the choice to change it.

As we change, the Savior will be our constant companion. He will lead and teach us what our next decision should be. I've often noticed that the more that I change, the more I find out how far I have to go. But no matter where we are in this journey, the direction we are headed reveals this choice more than where we currently are. A prostitute who is trying to repent and sincerely wants to do so is closer to Celestial glory than a pious church member who pridefully thinks that he/she has done enough. That was Christ's message while He was alive and it is one we should keep in mind. If we think we have done enough, we are in trouble. If we are overwhelmed and think we have too far to go so we don't even try, we are damned. Both of these extremes are dangerous. They only safe path, the straight and narrow way, is to have hope in the redeeming power of the Savior and in the promise that we CAN do it. Our loving Father didn't send us here to fail. We all have the ability to become like Him if we want it. So if we are not going the right way, let's choose to do so. It's worth it. If we think we might be on the right path, let's stay on. Let's fix what we need to fix and let Him reveal the improvements that He would make in us. And then "when He shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1John 3:2)." If we are like Him we will truly "know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom [He] hath sent."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Prayer of the Innocent

I recently came in contact with an angel.  She was a baby born with a severe physical disorder.  This disorder not only will make it difficult, but also extremely painful for her to live.  This malady would have been difficult to deal with under any familial circumstances, but hers are particularly troublesome.  She has been born into a family that is about the furthest from the ideal two parent financially stable home.  That is not to say that her family doesn't love her or welcome her, it is just that the infrastructure of an ideal family is just not there.  I was affected by this baby more than I have ever been affected by anyone before.  At the hospital and on the way home I alternated between angry and depressed just thinking about the plight of this poor innocent child.  I thought to myself "wouldn't it be more merciful for this angel to return to her Father rather than suffer the pain that she will inevitably face here?"  I was angry at modern medicine and a little at God Himself.  I then put myself in her shoes and my whole perspective changed.

Prayer of the Innocent

I see you over there weeping and I know the reason why
Just seeing me in this agony is causing you to cry
Before you reach for your pity
let me explain to you
I've only just arrived and there's something I need to do

You see I was with my Father
 not too long ago
He said, my child you have done so well, you really needn't go
There's plenty of room in my Kingdom
 for spirits such as you
A body is all that you need to fulfill what all must do

However, He said, I must tell you, there are those not doing so well
On Earth those you love are struggling and dealing with personal Hell
"Father" I started to plead, "There must be something that I can do."
"How can I help my family on their journey back to You?"

Your elder Brother once asked Me the same thing
And He has shown the way
For everyone who will, can return to Me some day.
His sacrifice was so costly, he suffered more than you know
But it was His choice to offer it, He said that He would go

My child you know that I love you
And your brothers and sisters too
I'll let you follow His example and go to their rescue
Even though seeing you suffer will hurt me more than it will hurt you

So that is why I am here today
That's why I was born this way
Don't wish for me to depart from you
Until my work is through

My only prayer is that my sacrifice will not be in vain
Don't make a mockery of my pain
I'll teach you as much as I can while I'm here
But the rest is up to you

When I was wishing for a quick end of this little angel's suffering, I was experiencing one half of eternal perspective.  I was missing the other one.  What I did not realize is that this little angel was not a victim, but a powerful, valiant spirit who was accomplishing her mission in life.  To do what she needs to do will require suffering that I could not fathom, but she knew it was worth it before she came.  She chose to be here, so the least we all can do is respect the mission that she came here with and help her accomplish it in any way we can.  Even this child's suffering will be "but a small moment" and if her pain can serve as a catalyst to heal her family, then "how great shall be [her] joy with them in the kingdom of [our] Father."  God has a plan for all of us.  How grateful I am for angels who daily teach us what it means to be selfless and Christlike.  I only hope that we can all learn the lessons from these precious angels among us.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Family Leadership

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness..."
The Family: A Proclamation To The World

I want to try and tackle a somewhat controversial subject but perhaps look at it in a new light.  Elder Christofferson in the Oct 2012 priesthood session talked about how so many books seem to have been written about the failing of this generation of men.  It is an accepted fact that women outperform men in every level of education and are pulling ahead in the professional world as well.  It's not necessarily a competition, but if it was it seems that my generation of men has forfeited.  Men in today's society shirk responsibility, maximize personal gratification and generally engage in excessive self indulgence.  Recently, one of my professors talked about video games in class.  He said something to the effect of: the men are just playing video games all day.  There were a few chuckles and then he said "women, if you want to marry a man who plays video games all day, raise your hand."  Of course, none of the women raised their hands, but I found myself thinking "if you want to get married at all, you had better be willing to raise your hand because you won't find many guys who don't play video games all day."  What a sad commentary about where our society is.  Now it is not my intention to comment on whether video games are good, bad or in between, but avoiding marriage, kids and responsibility for anything including video games is not ok.  I go to BYU.  The vast majority of the potential marriage partners for these women were returned missionaries.  They should know better and be better.  These women should be able to find strong, stalwart, motivated men who have the desire and the drive to match them.   In fact, the only thing that makes some of these men even close to worthy of these women is their mission experiences, but given the numbers of female applicants for missions vs the number of male applicants, there will soon be far more returned sister missionaries than elders.  What will these poor women do then?  Men... what are we doing?

As I have contemplated my own life and observed those around me, I feel that men are suffering from a general loss of direction.  Before the rise of women in the latter part of the 20th century, men were traditionally the head of their families and of society in general.  Now, I really want to make it perfectly clear that I believe that the feminist movement has done wonderful things for both women and men, but while women have jumped into this new social and political environment, men seem to be a little behind in adapting.  It just doesn't seem like most of the men my age know exactly where they fit and are needed in families and society as a whole.  And so, without proper motivation, many are simply coasting.  I feel, and I think that the proclamation, scriptures and general authorities agree, that the answer to this problem is to reinstate the man as the head or the leader of the family.

Now, I feel that traditionally this idea of "leader" has been more about who gets to tell who what to do than it has been about real leadership.  Leadership in my book simply means responsibility.  The leader is responsible for everything his/her organization does or fails to do.  By saying that the man should be the leader of the home, I am certainly not suggesting that men should be able to dictate to their wives their whims and expect because of their "leadership" that the women will just do what they say.  Indeed, a true leader does more and sacrifices more than anyone else in an organization.  In Ephesians 5, Paul says "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands... for the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church."  He later goes on to command that husbands love their wives even as Christ loved the church and should love their wives as their own bodies because indeed we are supposed to be "one flesh."  Now many would suggest that Paul was a chauvinist or that his views are outdated, but I doubt many women would object to the kind of leadership that Paul is actually suggesting here.  If I am the head of my wife, the same way that Christ is the head of the church, I will, like Him, give everything including my life if necessary in the service of my family.  I would seek to heal and bless and teach and serve.  I would be expected to go without so that my family could have.  Indeed, if I were a leader like Christ I would be the exact opposite of the chauvinistic male who sits on a couch watching football while yelling for his wife to bring him a sandwich or a beer.  

So why is there even a need for a leader?  Isn't there equal authority and responsibility between man and wife?  The proclamation says that men should preside but then it says that men and women should be equal partners.  Where does that leave us?  Why must there be a "president" if both are equal partners?  C.S. Lewis gave an insightful answer to this question when he presented the following case.  What if the husband and wife disagree, and after talking it over and hashing it out they cannot agree and compromise is not possible?  He says that they have two options, to separate or to allow one opinion to have a casting vote.  He says "if marriage is permanent, one or other party  must, in the last resort, have the power of deciding family policy.  You cannot have a permanent association without a constitution."  So, a man cannot be a dictator and any good marriage will have agreement as the rule with the exceptions being few and far between.  But at the same time, when there is a disagreement about "family policy" there has to be a leader to decide a course of action and then take responsibility for that decision.  That leader should be the man.  Why?  C.S. Lewis again asks "is there any very serious wish that it should be the woman?"  I don't think that there is.  The marriages I see without a head are marriages that don't even attempt the "one flesh" directive and instead the parties live completely independent lives so that the "family policy" problem isn't there.  Indeed, in these kind of relationships there is no such thing as family policy as each party has his or her own agenda and policy.  Marriage in this sense is a pooling of economic resources of work and money and is more of a business partnership than anything else.  The goal is not unity or oneness but selfishness and the maximization of personal utility.  We need look no farther than society to see what happens when men fail as leaders in their homes.  Study after study has shown that fathers are crucial to their children's well being and development.  We need stronger families and in order to have those we need the men to rise up and be the leaders that they are supposed to be.

I can imagine far too many women who would read this and say "I want my husband to be the leader, but he just isn't doing it."  I would argue that in most relationships, there is no desire for the woman to be the leader.  She becomes the leader by default of her husband's lack of leadership.  On the contrary, many women, at least in the church, want their husbands to "step up."  What prevents these men from fulfilling their divinely given responsibility?  I think that it is a culture of complacency.  Not enough men understand the plan of salvation.  If one truly contemplates that the end goal for all of us is to be like our Heavenly Father, then we must consider that we will at some point in eternity have to give up all ungodly attributes.  In LDS doctrine, salvation is not a piece of candy or a toy that Heavenly Father hands those who have balanced the eternal checkbook, or who have done more good things than they have done wrong.  In fact, the Gospel is much more about becoming than it is about doing.  I do not believe that God will wave a magic wand and change those who enter Celestial glory into Celestial beings, rather I think that only those who have become Celestial beings will want to enter into Celestial glory.  So how do we become Celestial beings?  We become Celestial beings by consistently choosing to do what Heavenly Father would do.  I have so often heard this statement "Sure I do __, but God won't keep me out of heaven for doing that."  It's true.  Any action alone probably will not keep us from God's presence, but the attitude that we can pridefully keep faults that we know we could change will.  At some point in eternity we will have to give up everything that we do that is not Godlike.  We will have to give up that hour of TV, our Facebook or Pinterest addiction, video games and anything else that we could not see God doing.  My fear is that we are "procrastinating the day of our repentance until the end," when we think that "one hour of video games a day doesn't hurt" or "it's not that bad of a show" (I use these examples because they are things that I have justified myself).  But complacency is not just evident in things we choose to do but also in things we choose not to.  For some reason, many in the church look up to the general authorities but do not seek to emulate or listen to them.  Why can't we all be as righteous as Peter, Paul, Joseph or Pres. Monson?  The answer is that we just don't want to.  And unfortunately guys, it's mostly us who are choosing to live beneath our potential.  In the words of Lehi, let us "arise from the dust and be men."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

To Love as He Loves

Disclaimer: This is an LDS post meant for an LDS audience.  While I welcome all to read and consider the thoughts contained in this post, without the framework of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, it may not be as clear as it otherwise would be.  Also, this is my own opinion and not necessarily the doctrine of the church.

Lately Gabby and I have been trying to cut down on how much we judge other people.  As we started to work on this bad habit, we realized how much we did it.  We judged people for their looks, we judged them for their lifestyles, we judged them for their dress or house or car and a host of other superficial and ridiculous things.  Unfortunately, I don't think that we are alone in this habit and so if any of you struggle with this horrible habit, I will offer one suggestion: think about how God feels about the person you are judging.  It is important to note that judgement doesn't have to be out loud.  Most judging occurs in the mind and never turns into gossip or contention.  It is my firm belief that the judging that is done in the mind and heart is just as destructive as that which is spoken.  This judging causes us to see people as objects to be exploited, manipulated, ignored or discarded rather than as people and fellow children of God to be loved, helped, served, listened to and again loved.*  This destructive world view is ravaging homes, wards, communities and nations as people see others as objects rather than as people.

So, back to my suggestion... think about how God feels about the person you are judging.  Jesus Christ, the one Man who has ever perfectly emulated God, asked for forgiveness for the men who nailed Him to a cross.  He bless and ministered to anyone who had a need, and more importantly He didn't have a need to be praised and recognized for it.  He didn't pick only the most public incidents.  He served everyone who needed Him and served them in the way they needed Him to, not in the way that He wanted to, or was willing to.  His life, culminating in the great Atonement, was one great big service project.  Indeed, His one and only motivation in His incredible, glorified, sinless life was His perfect love.

And yet, he scorned and rebuked the Pharisees and Scribes.  He drove money changers from the temple with a whip.  He refused to speak to Herod, and called Peter "satan."  So lest anyone think that to love means that one has to be a spineless weakling misunderstands what love is.  Imagine if you see someone, a friend or a family member, sleep walking towards the edge of a high cliff.  Now you might say to yourself (in fact I have said similar things to this in my mind), "Now, that person looks peaceful.  They might be having a good dream.  I would hate to wake them and ruin everything," or "He/she might be mad if I wake him up.  I should let him keep sleeping to avoid a confrontation.  After all didn't Jesus say 'blessed are the peacemakers?'   I better just let him alone."  Now, those things might be true in different circumstances, but consider what is more loving, to let the person walk off the cliff or to yell at, shake or even slap him/her awake?  Now, just to be clear, loving like the Savior does not necessarily mean calling people satan or whipping people who are violating sacred ground, He and He alone had the ability to know what was best for every individual He came in contact with.  He always knew what was best for their eternal souls.  We lack that foresight.  However, there are many circumstances where, guided by the spirit, we can and must yell at, shake or even slap (please don't actually physically assault anyone) someone we love awake out of love.  There may be times when being a "peacemaker" is not done out of love but out of a selfish desire to avoid conflict.  To love like He loves simply means to do what we know to be the eternally best thing for others no matter the cost to ourselves or even the short term cost for them.  Love is much more than an emotion.  Like faith, it is a principle of action and it is rarely convenient or gratifying to our pride.

So... why is it so incredibly hard to love?  Why do we judge?  Why do we fight when we should withdraw and why do we withdraw when we should stand and fight?  Why do we intentionally hurt those we care most about and why do we fail to respond to their needs?  More importantly, why doesn't He do these things?  What does He do or know that we don't?

Now, this is my opinion, but it rings true to me.  I feel like the reason that He can love perfectly is because he knows us all perfectly.  It comes down to the idea of expectations.  Have you ever noticed that when you get angry at someone, it is all about how "he/she should be acting ___ way."  I never get angry when my 6 month old whines, but it takes self control to not yell at my 2 year old.  Why?  Because I know that she is incapable of behaving better, but I've seen him when he is not whining.  When someone tells a tall tale who I know is mentally handicapped, I laugh and enjoy his/her creativity.  When someone I know has all their mental faculties and lies to me I get annoyed and angry.  Why?  I get angry when someone doesn't meet the expectations that I have for them.

I believe that God can love Peter and Hitler the same because He knows their potential.  His expectations for them are rooted in the reality of who they are.  He knows them perfectly and so knows where they are going and what they are capable of being.  Now don't take this the wrong way, each of us has the "potential" to be perfected and be like our Heavenly Father.  However, some of us are more willing to listen to our pride and some of us are more willing to listen to the enticings of the Spirit.  Some of us make poor choices and become addicted and lose future choices.  Some of us willfully rebel against our Maker and some of us ignorantly make mistakes.  And most of us do all these things to some extent and some time in our lives.  But like I said, we all are born with the ability to become like God, but throughout our lives we choose different paths.  God knows us all so well that He knows what we will choose in every given circumstance we face.  Just as a parent can watch a willful and rebellious son and predict how that son will end up without actually causing the son to get there, so God can watch us without "making" us do or be anything.  But because He knows us, He knows what we will do.  That is why He can love without restraint and without hesitation.  We may hold each other to certain outside standards, but He holds us to only two standards, our own, and Christ's.  He can love us because he "expects" us to do exactly what we do because his expectations for us are perfect.

So... what?  I think that we can look at others and see them as He sees them.  We can look at our expectations for people and how they are rooted in incomplete information or our own pride and not in their capabilities.  If we can eliminate these false expectations, I think we can begin to love as He loves.  We can reach out to serve or rebuke those we are supposed to love.  And we can serve or rebuke them for them and not for us.  We can forgive ourselves and try again after we fall.  God knew we would sin before we did.  Why do we beat ourselves up?  Because our expectations even for ourselves are rooted in incomplete information about ourselves.  So the next time you see that person walking down the street and start to judge, or see that facebook status that just irks you, maybe we can take a hard long look at our expectations for them.  Maybe we can pray to have Him show us how He sees others.  Maybe we can do those things that are uncomfortable or hard when the occasion arises.  To be like Him, we must do these things.  Nothing else we do or develop will matter in the long run if when the Savior asks us "did you love your brothers and sisters?" or "did you feed My sheep?" we have to answer to no.  If He asks "did you follow Me?" we will only be able to answer yes, if everything we do is motivated out of love like everything He did was.  The world desperately needs this love.  Our families desperately need it first.  Gabby and I will keep working on it and I hope everyone who reads this will too.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Was Blind and Now I See Part II

The story of the man blind from birth is one of the most poignant and beautiful stories in the New Testament.  It is so incredible because we are all blind.  Jesus said "I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind."  When we think that we see and understand everything, the Lord makes us blind by giving us trials.  He causes things to come up that shake our confidence in our mortal sight and senses.  Death and pain and trials that wrench our hearts take our trust off the arm of the flesh.  We come to the point where the world that we see just won't solve our problems and in our agony we turn to Christ.  It is only then that He can help us see.

Maybe I am an anomaly but I have been on my knees pleading with the Lord about some infirmity that I have been dealing with.  I ask God to take away my weakness or solve my problem.  Sometimes I feel abandoned and forgotten and want to scream "where are you!" to the heavens.  I search the scriptures and things start to look better.  I can feel heaven a little nearer.  And then Jesus spits in the dirt and puts mud on my face.  Just when I feel like relief is in sight another dimension is added to my pain.  I cry out again for relief, but what I don't understand is that He has been trying to humble me the whole time.  But He has to do it His way and not mine.  That uncomfortable mud in my face might be an awkward apology or a new direction in life.  Usually it is something I don't want to do or want done to me.  I plead with Him, "I wanted my pain and weakness gone, but did you really have to spit in my face?"  But then He asks me how much I want the blessing I am asking for.  What price am I willing to pay to be free from sin or affliction?  Is it worth walking to the pool of Siloam?  

I have been horribly spiritually blind.  I have stumbled around clumsily trying to find my way in the dark.  I have felt the stirrings of the Spirit sending me on my journey to Siloam.  I have dipped my hands in the redeeming water and had my eyes opened.  I was blind but now I see.  

This process of struggle and revelation is God's plan.  But it starts with us realizing how blind we are.  We must walk this path to obtain any blessing from Him.  There is no royal road to repentence or to knowledge.  We all must trudge blindly to the pool of Siloam.  The voices of the world will seek to silence what we learn.  The knowledge of God is threat to the power of their worldly institutions and learning.  We cannot hope to compete with them at their own game.  We face them and with them our own doubts with something they cannot give or take away.  That something is our own experience.  We know those areas in our lives where we were blind and now we see.  A testimony is not complicated.  It can be given in one sentence as it was almost 2000 years ago by a beggar from Jerusalem who simply said "I was blind but now I see."  I pray that God will help us all to see and testify of what we have seen.

I Was Blind and Now I See

And as Jesus passed by he saw a man which was blind from his birth

Jude sat in his usual place by the temple gate.  He had woken up just before the sun started to come up in order to navigate the crowded city streets.  As he felt the familiar stones which signified his spot he breathed a sigh of relief.  He recalled the time when he was 14 when he had taken the wrong side street.  By the time he realized his mistake the street was beginning to fill up with street vendors.  Nobody had time for a little blind boy.  His rabbi had finally found him in a little doorway 2 days later bruised and hungry and very lucky to be alive.  His Rabbi growing up had been a good man, but most in his profession were hypocrites and liars.  When he had been asked to join the Sanhedrin, Jude had stopped attending the synagogue.  His parents lived in the poor section of Jerusalem or the lower city as it was called.  While they loved him and did their best, they had not been able to afford to feed him since his father had injured his back.  So Jude did what any other blind man had to do... he begged in front of the temple.  

He instinctively knew the kinds of people passing by.  The food vendors with the varied aromas would pass him.  Sometimes if he was lucky they would give him some bread or during Passover, a little lamb.  The money changers came with their heavy tables and jingling coins.  They never spoke to him except to gruffly tell him to get out of their way so that they could get on with their important work of robbing the pious temple worshipers.  The Sadducees would walk past and from their opulent robes take a few coins and ceremoniously give them to the beggar.  The Pharisees would hurry past him in groups, their large phylacteries swinging from their chests.  Most often they would mutter something about his sins or his parent's sins.  The Roman soldiers ignored him knowing that he was too handicapped to carry their burdens.  The temple guards would ignore him unless he got too close to the gate and then would scold him and tell him that invalids were not allowed on temple grounds.  He knew all the types of people in Jerusalem.  He knew which ones would give him coins and which ones would give him a swift kick.  He was an expert at discerning people's intentions.

He stirred as he heard an unusual group approaching him.  It was highly unusual for there to be a crowd at all since today was the Sabbath.  It sounded almost like Gamaliel and his disciples the way the leader stopped every so often to turn around and speak.  But no, that wasn't Gamaliel's voice.  He started to get apprehensive.  Rabbis often used him as an object lesson in order to exhort their followers to avoid sin.  This sounded like a Rabbi.  Just as he started to push himself back into the doorway he felt something.  Something deep inside told him that this man, whoever he was, was his friend.  More than that, he felt that this man cared deeply about him.  He shook his head.  That was impossible.  He had never heard this man before and was sure he did not know him.  He quelled his irrational thoughts and started to retreat again, but he hesitated.  He didn't know why but he wanted this man to see him, to notice him.  He stepped from the shadows.

He felt the other's eyes rest on him.  He pulled nervously at his rags, suddenly aware that he was very much exposed.  He heard another man's voice ask "Master, who did sin this man or his parents that he was born blind."  Inwardly he groaned.  He had asked himself this question every day since he was old enough to realize he was different.  Why had God done this to him?  What did he do so horribly wrong in another life to warrant such cruel treatment?  Did God even still love him?  Why did he have to be so alone?  Nobody ever understood.  People, trying to be nice, would explain to him what things looked like.  They always tired of it when he would seek knowledge that they couldn't give him.  What did green look like?  What is grey?  Because of his infirmity he had never learned to read.  He was shunned from the synagogue.  He would never marry or have children. He would never...

His thoughts were interrupted by a deep voice coming from the one they called Master.  The voice was not overly loud although it was loud enough to reach the sizable crowd gathered around him.  What struck Jude was the power in the voice.  There was no hesitation, no stuttering or mumbling of words.  The voice carried authority.  The Man, whoever he was, knew exactly who he was and what he wanted to say.  And what's more, he knew that what he was saying was truth.  Jude had heard men lie and most men were hesitant when they spoke, but this Man spoke unlike any other man.  What's more is that while Jude listened, the voice pierced his soul.  He was listening with his ears but was hearing with his soul.  Jude was so startled by the voice that it took him a second to realize what the Man was saying.  "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

As Jude understood what the Man was saying a faint glimmer of hope stirred in his chest.  When he was young he had prayed every day that God would heal him of his malady.  He went to synagogue and heard stories of Moses parting the Red Sea and Elijah calling fire from heaven.  Surely a God that could do that could heal a little blind boy.  When the answer to his prayer didn't come he turned to the story of Job.  Perhaps all he needed was a little patience like Job and everything would work out for the best.  After years of praying every day he started praying every other day, then every week and now he couldn't remember the last time he had prayed.  He recalled all of his frustration and his disappointment as he sought to squash the hope that was beginning to grow within him.  But despite his pessimism, the voice filled him with such warmth that he couldn't restrain the hope that was now filling him.  

Just as he was starting to trust in this hope the Man did something unexpected.  He spat on the ground.  Jude reeled back at this ultimate insult.  Once he had tried to beg from a passing dignitary and the soldiers spit at him as they pushed him away.  This Man was just like the other Rabbis.  To judge and condemn and then to mock was the "works of God" that were to be made manifest.  Then the man bent over his spit.  Jude could hear the sound of the dust being moved on the ground.  Then the man stepped toward Jude.  The blind man shrunk away from the perceived threat.  Then a sickly cold feeling of moisture and soil came over his eyes.  He grimaced as the Man rubbed the mud firmly into his eye sockets.  Revulsion spread over Jude as he realized that this mud was a combination of the Man's spit and the filthy Jerusalem street dust.  

And then the voice returned saying "Go wash in the pool of Siloam."  Jude stepped back into the darkness humiliated as the Man and His followers walked past Him.  He intended to wash alright, but not in the pool of Siloam.  He wasn't even sure where that was.  He knew that it was somewhere in the crowded lower city.  It would take him the rest of the day to even find the place and he would have to travel with this Man's saliva on his face the whole time.  The pool of Israel was very close to where he now was and he was positive he could find a cistern somewhere nearby as well.  As he moved to leave and go find a place to wash his humiliation away he heard an astonished passerby say "That's him, that's Jesus of Nazareth."

The sound of the Man's name shot through Jude's body as he realized who had touched him. He had heard of Jesus just like everyone in the city these days.  The prophet from Galilee had made enemies of the Sanhedrin and they had threatened excommunication for declaring him to be the Messiah.  This was all Jude knew about Him, but there were other rumors of incredible miracles.  Some said that He had healed lepers and raised a girl from the dead.  But Jude didn't believe in God.  God had abandoned him.  He felt his way down the street to the cistern and started to dip his hands in to wash his face.  He hesitated as the words of the Man came to his mind again.  That Voice had said "that the works of God might be made manifest in him."  Without realizing it Jude had turned toward the lower city and was starting to feel his way.

Jude felt the warmth of the sun starting to fade as he finally reached the edge of the pool.  He had walked all day and been run over by a cart.  He had become lost several times and wandered several places of the lower city that were so crowded and the streets so narrow that he felt like it was twilight because the buildings blocked out the sun.  He had been stopped by a group of Romans who had only let him go after they determined that he was blind and therefore useless to them.  He had the same experience with a group of thugs.  After shaking him down and taking his few coins they let him go.  Jude felt very lucky that this was all that had happened to him on his way.  He had wanted to turn back the whole time.  He had passed 4 more cisterns and had been sorely tempted to wash there and go home, but he had held onto the hope that wouldn't die within him.  Jesus of Nazareth had told him to wash in the pool of Siloam with the voice that had penetrated his soul.  As he walked, he debated until he had finally made a decision.  He was determined to wash at Siloam no matter what happened.  His hope for healing outweighed any difficulty that would come from obedience.

He bent down and touched the cool water.  Cupping his hands he put the water to his dusty face.  The mud had dried and crusted over his eyelids.  He repeatedly washed his face until he could open his eyes.  As the last of the mud was removed from his face he started to open his eyes.  The hope was like a fire within his chest and he stopped breathing as his eyelids cracked open.  He could feel the cool evening air touching his exposed eyes but the darkness that had been his constant companion his whole life was unchanged.  He closed his eyes and tears of disappointment started to run down his face.  The tears burned, but something else started to burn as well.  His eyelids went from black to a color that he had never seen before.  He opened his eyes again and then immediately closed them as light flooded into them and he winced with the pain.  The tears were flowing freely from his eyes as he opened them again.  For the first time in his life Jude could see.

He spent the rest of the night wandering the city taking in every sight.  He drank in his world like a man dying of thirst.  He went to his normal place by the temple gate and watched the people who walked passed trying to pair the sounds and smells with the new sights.  Several people came up to him and asked if he was the blind man who had been there before.  Every time someone asked him he told them the miraculous story.  He was surprised when a group of men he identified as temple guards approached him.  The leader asked him if he was the man born blind who used to beg here.  When Jude answered affirmatively, the soldiers demanded that he come with them.  

He was led to a large building.  He was then led into a large room where a large number of men were talking furiously among themselves.  When he entered the room went quiet.  A man in the center of the room approached him and said "Are you the man who used to bet at the temple gate?"  Jude answered "I am he."  
"Why did you act blind until today?" the man demanded.
"I didn't act blind.  I was blind until yesterday evening."
"Tell us then, how is it that you see today?" the man remarked with a sneer
"A man named Jesus put clay in my eyes and told me to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  I went and washed and now I can see."

At the mention of the name Jesus, the room started to buzz ominously with the men in the room whispering frantically to each other.  By the time Jude had finished his story the room had exploded in shouts.  Some were yelling that Jesus had broken the Sabbath and was a sinner.  Others were yelling that a man who was a sinner could not do such miracles.  Each side attempted to drown out the others until the man in the center raised his arms for silence.  The noise in the room died down and the man turned once again to Jude.
"What do you think of this man Jesus?" he asked.

As Jude pondered the question he realized that there was so much he could say.  The man had saved his life.  He had rekindled faith in a hopeless heart.  He had done what no ordinary man could do.
"He is a prophet." was the only acceptable answer.

The man in the center cried out "It is a trick.  This man is an imposter!  Perhaps the mob is easily convinced of this Jesus and his 'miracles' but we who are learned know much better.  We know that He cannot be the Messiah and He cannot serve God and break the rules of the Sabbath.  This man lied about being blind and made a pact with Jesus to show this false miracle and convince ignorant people to follow this Galilean."

The men in the room started nodding in agreement.  Suddenly a man stepped up near the back "Perhaps we should call his parents for witnesses." He said.  Jude stared.  That was the voice of his old pastor Nicodemus.  The man in the center who Jude was sure was the High Priest Caiaphas said "Very well, bring his parents."  With a wave the temple guards were gone.

As the temple guards left, Jude looked around the room.  These men were the Sanhedrin, the most powerful group of Jews in Judea.  Each of them had proven to be an expert in his field.  There were the rich and powerful Sadducees sitting in one corner.  The rest of the room was composed of Pharisees and Scribes.  These men had the education that Jude could have never dreamed of because of his blindness.  They were experts in the law of Moses.  With a word they could banish him from his parents and all he had ever known.  Despite seeing Nicodemus, he still felt very alone and very inferior to these men.

They returned almost an hour later with Mordechai and Elizabeth, Jude's parents.
Caiaphas wasted no time questioning them.  "Is this man your son?" he asked while pointing at Jude.
Mordechai and Elizabeth both looked apprehensively at Jude and then Mordechai said, "yes, we know that is our son."

"And was your son born blind?"
Again the answer was yes.
"Well then how can he see now?"  the high priest demanded; his voice lowering menacingly.

Mordechai said "We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he came to be able to see.  He is old enough to speak for himself.  Ask him."

Ciaphas waved and Jude's parents were escorted out of the chamber leaving Jude once again alone.  He then turned to Jude saying "Give God the praise.  For surely this is God's miracle. Don't say anymore that it had anything to do with this Jesus.  God would have blessed you with the miracle without Him.  We know that it must have been God and not Him because He is a sinner.  Say this and we all," he said gesturing to the body of men, "will be most grateful."

Jude thought about that for a minute.  He was being given the opportunity to do a favor for the High Priest himself.  He knew that such a favor could give him benefits and position in the city that he could never have had otherwise.  He imagined himself going from a poor beggar to a member of the Sanhedrin itself.  All he would have to do is say that it was God who healed him rather than this man Jesus.  Of course God is the one who healed him so that wouldn't even be a lie.  His run in with Jesus may have been simply a coincidence.  As he was considering Caiaphas' proposal, he remembered Jesus' voice and the touch of his hands.  He remembered the long journey to the pool of Siloam.  He could no more deny Jesus than he could deny the fact that he could see.

"Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not." The laws and commandments of these Pharisees were too confusing.  He had probably "sinned" a half dozen times on his way over here and another half dozen since.  He didn't feel qualified to debate with them about the law and whether or not Jesus had sinned. "One thing I know, that, wheras I was blind now I see."

Caiaphas just stared at him for a moment in unbelief.  Then he sneered "If it wasn't God, then what did Jesus do?"

Jude suddenly realized that these men didn't want the truth.  They wanted to disparage Jesus, the Man that had saved his life.  No matter what he said they would try to twist it to their own advantage.  He had a strange feeling inside as his fear of these men started to melt away.  
"I told you once already and you didn't listen.  Do you want to hear it again so that you also can be His disciples?"

With that the room again erupted.  A man called from the back of the room "You may be Jesus' disciple, but we are Moses' disciples." He did this seeking to contrast the unpopular Galilean prophet with the deliverer of Israel and writer of the law.

Jude began again "It's strange that you all know nothing about Him and yet He has opened my eyes.  We know that God works through righteous men and not sinners." and then Jude remembered that in all of the stories of the prophets of old there was not one who healed a blind man from birth.  Even Elisha and Elijah with all their miracles had never done this.  "Never since the world began has anyone healed a man born blind."  And then he looked Ciaphas in the eye as he felt conviction flood his body "If this man were not of God, he could do nothing."

Ciaphas' black eyes narrowed dangerously.  "You were born in sins and yet you try to teach us about sins and sinners?" he asked incredulously.  Then turning to the guards he said "Throw him out of here.  This man is no longer allowed in any synagogue in Judea.  He is anathema."

As Jude was thrown from the building he marveled again at what had happened in the council chambers.  Yesterday he had been just a blind beggar  but he knew his place in the world.  Suddenly he wasn't sure anymore.  Just as he was believing in God again, he had nowhere to go to worship.  He didn't even know how to find Jesus and be His disciple.  He was lost and he wondered why God had had given him this amazing blessing only to curse him like this.  

He collapsed against a wall dejectedly.  He closed his eyes that were again filling with tears suddenly wishing that he was the same blind man he was yesterday.  The blackness of his shut eyes comforted him.  He heard soft footsteps approaching but didn't bother to look up.  He felt a hand touch his shoulder and looked up to see a face staring into his.  He couldn't look into the eyes because of their intensity.  The man opened his mouth and the voice from yesterday, the voice he would never forget spoke his name.  Then Jesus asked "Dost thou believe on the son of God?" 

Jude was not expecting this question.  He didn't know anything about the son of God, but he had a powerful desire to know who he was.  "Who is he lord that I might believe on him?"  But as he asked, he already knew the answer.  This Jesus was more than a man.  He was more than a prophet.  As the Savior confirmed it saying "Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee," Jude felt an overwhelming comforting feeling.  He suddenly realized that because of Jesus he could see.  He could look on the face of the son of God.  He could see what only the prophets had been able to see.  He, a beggar from Jerusalem could look on the face of God.  His doubts and self pity washed away with his tears as he cried "Lord, I believe!" 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Threats to Our Families

I want to begin by saying that this post represents my own opinions and is not the official position or doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Because I have no ecclesiastical authority, what I say should be understood as advice from a friend rather than preaching from a pulpit.  I also want to add the disclaimer that my assumptions are based off of my observation of people and cultural trends and is not based on any empirical research.

In Revelation 3:15-16, the Savior speaking to the Laodicean members of the church said, "I would thou wert cold or hot; so then because thou art lukewarm I will spue thee out of my mouth."  I have heard this fence sitting described as trying to live in Zion but keep a summer home in Babylon.  When the Savior was on the Earth, He discouraged half hearted followers.  At a certain point He taught doctrine that was "a hard saying," and His followers murmured and said "who can hear it [the hard saying]?"  When this murmuring became apparent, the Savior could have chosen to back off, He could have relaxed a little and softened His words.  Instead He asked "doth this offend you?"  Then He told them that if they were murmuring they were not listening to the spirit because "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life."  The Savior could not relax, He could not back down because His words were the way to eternal life.  If there were an easier way He would have offered it, but there isn't.  This confrontation caused many of his disciples to "walk no more with him."  However, those who stayed understood more fully who He was, and who they were because of it.  Jesus asked these devoted followers if they would also leave and Peter answered for them and said "to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life."  There will always be those who are offended at the truth, but that doesn't mean that we should relax it or soften it in order to accommodate them.  The strength that the apostles gained from hearing and following truth was worth the sacrifice of the lukewarm followers.  Therefore, we should never be afraid to speak the truth even when there are those who may be offended.  The strength that we and others who are willing to hearken to the spirit will get from the truth outweighs the offense that may be received.  My purpose in writing this post is to help us to choose sides.  I feel that the time is fast approaching when choosing sides will be irrelevant because the damage will have already been done.

In the first battle of the Civil War, The First Battle of Bull Run, many civilians came out with picnic baskets and blankets to watch as the Union soldiers beat up the rebels and end the little insurrection that would become the Civil War.  The Union soldiers would have won had it not been for a large group of confederate reinforcements that pushed back the Union lines back and turned it into a rout.  Many civilians who came to watch the battle also fled in panic with the Union soldiers and were killed along side them.  Had the North won that battle, the Civil War could have been over before it began and would not have been the tragedy that it was.  My point in bringing up this particular battle is that there could have been massive Union reinforcements to match the Confederates.  Imagine if all of the civilians who showed up with picnic baskets had shown up with rifles.  In the battle for the souls of men, we cannot afford to be civilians.  If we choose to sit on the sidelines and watch the battle, we will suffer the same consequences as those who we fail to support.  We cannot avoid these consequences just by avoiding involvement or confrontation.  As the popular hymn says "who's on the Lord's side who?  Now is the time to show.  We ask it fearlessly, who's on the Lord's side who?"  The parable of the wheat and the tares is also instructive.  While we are not entirely sure what a "tare" is, most biblical scholars believe that it is a weed that is common in the middle east that looks almost identical to wheat but does not bear fruit.  So we may ask ourselves "am I a tare? Do I look like a Christian and sound like a Christian but inwardly wish that Christ would agree with the world so that I wouldn't have to choose?  Do I wish that Christ would agree with ME so that I wouldn't have to change?"  The battle lines have been drawn.  Who's on the Lord's side?

This battle rages in our Universities and in the media, but the front lines are in our own homes.  There are two areas in particular where I see members of Christ's church choosing the world's side.  These two areas are the gay marriage debate and extreme feminism.  First, I want to speak in defense of some of the sentiments that lead to these choices.  The support of gay marriage comes from one of two places.  The first is a libertarian (not the political party, but the mindset aka libertarianism vs. authoritarianism) that places consequences on individuals and in essence says "do what you will as long as I am not affected," or "live and let live." Christ teaches independence and personal responsibility and so this sentiment comes from the right place.  The other place where this support comes from the misunderstanding of the commandment to love our neighbors.  Those who follow this line of thinking feel that if they were to deny the "right" of marriage to homosexual couples, those people might feel bad.  They then feel that if they are causing another person to feel bad that they are not loving him/her.  Companion to this train of thought is the idea of respect.  If we love somebody then we should respect him/her.  Their definition of respect is to set every belief system equal to each other.  No beliefs are better or worse, and to say that one lifestyle or belief system is better is to be disrespectful of everyone else.  This sentiment also comes from the right place.  I will return to the gay marriage debate, but first I want to focus on what I call extreme feminism.

The major source of extreme feminism comes from the desire for equality.  This is also a very good sentiment.  However, to be equal does not mean to be cloned or to be the same.  When Jefferson penned the words "all men are created equal" he did not mean equality in the way that Marx meant it.  Equality means an equal chance to improve oneself and one's station.  It does not mean that everyone should have the same jobs and responsibilities.  Before The Family: A Proclamation To the World states "fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners," it clearly defines roles and responsibilities.  It says that men are to preside over their homes with the huge qualifier "in love and righteousness," and are to provide and for and protect their families and that women are primarily responsible for the nurture of children.  Now let me talk about the amazing changes that the feminist movement has helped bring about.  Nowhere does the proclamation say that women are primarily responsible for cooking and cleaning and that men are responsible for sitting on the couch watching TV while their wives cook and clean.  Nowhere does it say that fathers are primarily responsible for ignoring their children when they are home leaving women to feel overwhelmed by the enormous task of raising children essentially alone.  Feminism has shown that men can do dishes, much to our disappointment and the rejoicing of our wives.  I personally believe that the emancipation of women has been for the most part an amazing thing.

Since I have such a high regard for the changes and the re definition of some gender roles as a result of the feminist movement, I have labeled the destructive and dangerous feminism as extreme feminism.  Extreme feminism is that movement that seeks to displace motherhood as an honorable career choice.  Extreme feminism would destroy the distinctions between masculine and feminine traits.  It would not stop at equality but seek to enthrone women in the oppressive chairs that men once sat in.  It would reduce manhood to nothing more than pathetic imbeciles that are little more than pets to the women they serve (see any sitcom since the Brady Bunch).  Extreme feminism would eventually do away with marriage as an annoying inconvenience.  Birth control and abortion are the hallmarks of extreme feminism.  A world where a woman has complete control of her body and can transgress the laws of God with no consequence.

Extreme feminism is making headway.  Unwed mothers are no longer encouraged to form family units by being married.  Indeed single mothers are praised for their strength and independence.  This is not altogether bad because many women become single mothers through no fault of their own because of abusive or destructive husbands or because of the death of spouses.  However, the growing trend of single mothers does not come from those circumstances so much as women (and men) getting divorces for trivial reasons and women becoming pregnant out of wedlock.  Sometimes social pressure is a good thing when it discourages practices that are destructive for children.  Ostracizing women for becoming pregnant out of wedlock is now rightly considered wrong.  Unfortunately accepting and encouraging women who become pregnant out of wedlock has done far more damage than the shunning that they used to receive.  Extreme feminism is also making headway among those who are married.  It is becoming so much more common for women to seek employment outside the home.  When they do so they are putting their primary responsibility of nurturing their children lower on the priority list.  I have heard many women say, "I can't go to this event or that game or be there for my kids after school because I have to work."  I have seldom heard, "I can't go to this meeting or complete this project because I have to spend time nurturing my kids."  In the overwhelming majority of cases when a woman starts to work, her boss takes precedence over her kids.  Family obligations are seen as flexible, work hours and deadlines are not.  Men face the same predicament, but then their primary responsibility is to provide for their families.  When both women and men work, their bank accounts win, but their children lose.  We need to choose between bigger homes and nicer cars and our children's future.  Women need to return to their homes to be with their children, not their dishes and laundry but their children.  Men need to facilitate that.  The most amazing blessing that my family has ever received is when my wife failed to get a job when we were newly married.  I wanted her to work to help support me through school.  When she didn't get a job we were forced to live on what I made alone.  Because of that, when we had our son, we didn't have to worry about paying our bills when we lost her income.  Husbands and wives need to establish their lives so that mothers don't "have" to work.  That is how we choose sides.  We ignore what the world says and return mothers to their children.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if day cares went out of business?  That is my idea of a perfect world.

Now I want to return to gay marriage.  Heavenly Father's plan is about helping us to become perfect.  It is about helping us be like Him.  This desire to improve us and change us trumps the lesser values of respect and tolerance.  God is love.  If God, who is love, flooded the Earth to accomplish His purposes, maybe our definition of "love" as making nobody feel bad needs to be revised.  Jesus Christ, our perfect example of love called one of His closest friends satan, called a woman a dog, called pharisees hypocrites, blind and children of Hell, and then suffered and died so that we could all be very different than we are now.  While the desire to love that leads us to support gay marriage is good, the love that we should be seeking is very different from the watered down version the world would give us.  Pure love is unselfish.  Pure love cannot be content with allowing someone to feel good about sinning when they are throwing away eternal happiness.  Gender is an essential element to "pre-mortal, mortal and post-mortal existence" and cannot be changed just because it is inconvenient.  I have never experienced same gender attraction and so cannot even hope to judge or even understand what those people are going through as they search for acceptance and love.  We can love and accept them as children of God, but that does not mean that we stop calling sins sins (it is important to note that the sin comes from acting on homosexual impulses.  Having those impulses is not a sin, but a trial that may or may not be overcome. Many people have temptations and predispositions to various sins, but do not sin unless they act on them.  My heart goes out to those who do not sin and have to deal with this issue.).

In an effort to call evil good, some people are calling for the recognition of gay marriage by governments.  There are many reasons to oppose gay marriage (see, but really the main reason to oppose it is because the Lord through His prophet has declared that He opposes it.  It is contrary to His plan.  Despite any justification that can be given by those who want to straddle the fence on this issue, the Lord has made His position quite clear.  He has also made His position clear on the role of mothers and fathers and the sanctity of the family.  We have to pick sides.  We cannot be spectators.  We stay silent so often because we are afraid of what others might say to us or about us if we stand up.  The consequences or not standing up are far worse.  Who's on the Lord's side who?  Now is the time to show.