California's Proposition 8 and The LDS Church
I've been putting off writing anything about California's Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman. Not only have many other people on both sides, within and without the church, been sharing their feelings (many of them strong), but I had a hard time thinking of what substance I could add that wouldn't be inciteful rather than insightful.
I feel very strongly about getting behind this measure and did before the Church decided to take a stand on it. I pounded the streets in Las Vegas for weeks to pass Nevada's constitutional amendment on marriage. The Church expressed support for it, though maybe not in as strong a way as it has in California today. At that time, it didn't matter so much to me. I knew that moving the definition of marriage from state statute to state constitution was a sure-fire way to make sure that the residents of the state, not a legislature or a court, would be the final word on the matter. (Nevada, FYI, requires two consecutive majority votes to pass any state constitutional amendment. This makes it very difficult to change and it's very easy to derail attempts to do so from one election to the next.)
There are plenty of church members who are upset over the Church's involvement, some to the point of issuing harsh public criticisms of the Church's leaders. It is important to note, however, that this is a unified stance by the First Presidency which undoubtedly has the full support of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. See the strongly-worded "The Family: A Proclamation to the World " which defines marriage as one man and one woman, calls upon governments to pass laws in accordance with this definition and is signed by the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, many of whom still serve. In short, there is no disagreement at the highest echelons of church leadership that this is the appropriate action for the Church as a whole. So why, then, are so many members up in arms?
A friend of ours remarked that the debate over gay marriage may very well be this generation's test of faith. God has always tested the faith of His people through trials, tribulations and other very hard things. The Hebrews suffered in bondage many times, wandered through the wilderness for 40 years and saw the destruction of many of their temples. The early Christians were put to death as enemies of the Roman state and reviled by many of their fellow Hebrews. All of Christendom suffered through dark periods such as the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades and the violent reaction to Protestant uprisings.
The Latter-day Saints have had many trials in their days as well. This includes being driven from state to state, the migration across the plains to Utah, the practice of polygamy, the cessation of the practice of polygamy and the prohibition on receiving the priesthood for blacks. At the time, remaining a faithful member in the face of physical adversity and the scorn of the world was a very hard thing and many left the Church over it. In hindsight, we can see how all of these things strengthened the remaining members and helped perfect them. God himself has told us that there is no trial he will give us that we cannot endure.
Enduring is a hard thing to do. We are asked to pray for confirmation (James 1:5) of these things to know if they are true, though we will sometimes not get a confirmation of the truth until we do them. This is not always an instant action-reaction relationship either. The confirmation can come days, weeks, years or even decades after the decision is made. God asks us to put our faith in Him and His servants that they will not lead us astray and, even if we do not yet understand why, to follow through with what is being asked. A good example of this is tithing. It would be difficult to know of the truthfulness of this principle without having put it into action.
What matters more than anything else in this debate is to do God's will even if we do not fully understand why a particular action is important at the time. Recall Adam who, when asked why he was offering a sacrifice, said "I know not, save the Lord commanded me." (Moses 5:6) It requires faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, diligent study of the Scriptures (including continuously-revealed scripture through Church publications), prayer and fasting. It also requires a solid testimony that Joseph Smith truly did see God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son and restored the true Church of Jesus Christ to this earth under their direction.
That one one is key. If Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and did restore Christ's church, then we know his teachings in the Doctrine and Covenants are true. This includes the admonition that this was the final dispensation and the fullness of the Gospel was to never again be removed from the earth. (D&C 112:30-32) If those things are true, then we truly do have a living prophet, Thomas Spencer Monson, who communes with God the Father and seeks to do His will even if he or the membership of the church would take it to be a hard thing.
We may not fully understand the purpose of supporting the passage of Proposition 8. Even President Monson may not fully understand it. But through obedience comes understanding. We may not receive it today. We may not receive it in our lifetime. But our willingness to do God's will without a full understanding demonstrates our faith and steadfastness.
I feel I must close this with a testimony. I know that Joseph Smith, a prophet of God, saw God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored church and operates with the blessings of God the Father and Jesus Christ at its head. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God and is properly sustained by Him as head of the Lord's church and that his counselors, Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Henry B. Eyering, are similarly called of God. I know that God loves us all and wants the best for us as our Heavenly Father and will do nothing save it be for our benefit as His children. I know that God sent his first-born son and only begotten in the flesh, Jesus Christ, to live as an example of divine love and die for us that we may all return to Him someday. These things I say most solemnly in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.