This is for you, brother Gallagher
A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with an LDS friend about this blog. I told him I wanted to publish a blog about my political point of view and how it affects me as a member in the church. He thought it was a great idea, and totally encouraged me to blog away. I was surprised, because so many of the responses I have gotten about my political affiliation have been negative–especially from members of the church in Utah. When I told him I was afraid to make it public, he wanted to know why. I explained “I was afraid I might be excommunicated.”
Brother Gallagher was surprised. He said, as condescendingly as a good friend can, “Oh, you wouldn’t be excommunicated!” I had to agree, I never felt I could be excommunicated for being liberal, I just felt that the attempt, could and even might be made. I still do. But I pointed out to Brother Gallagher that the feelings were VERY real, and that I honestly felt that my faithfulness could be called into question.
I wasn’t wrong. One week ago, Mark Paredes, a Mormon Bishop, blogged “Good riddance to Harry Reid, the Mormon Senate Leader” in Jewish Journal, an online forum for Jewish news, and related articles. The first few lines are VERY Clear. Paredes says that as a Democrat, Harry Reid supports, affiliates with, and agrees with a group “whose teachings or practices are contrary to, or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” In short, according to Paredes, Harry Reid is not worthy of his temple recommend. What?
As both a Jew (my Jewish grandmother converted while my mom was still in her teens), and a Mormon, I am extremely offended. In fact, I am speechless to explain the depth of betrayal I feel from those of my own kind. But maybe Brother Gallagher was right. Maybe I wouldn’t be excommunicated, but could I be disfellowshipped? Could I have my temple recommend revoked? Depending on the bishop, it’s a possibility. This is a problem.
With God as my guide, how can I be wrong?
My conversation with Brother Gallagher came just a couple of weeks after I summoned up the courage to revive this blog and actively recruit followers. I had finally decided I’d had enough of pretending that I am something I am not. I have come to the complete and honest understanding, that to be true to myself, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have to be a liberal, and I must be honest, and upfront about it. We claim to be an evangelical church, one who shares our love of the Gospel with others, part of my love of the Gospel is understanding that Jesus asks us to go and do as he did. And what He did, was feed the poor, serve the needy, and love others unconditionally. I don’t see much of that in the Republican rhetoric, and I consider it my responsibility to share my love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not the Gospel of Mitt Romney.
As a single mother of four children, my choices were judged by my Mormon neighbors, and a well-meaning bishop. It hurt. I saw my children hurt by members of the church who prefered to sit in judgment instead of pitching in to help when I needed it so desperately. I had been so hurt, that I avoided making contact with those people at all costs–and trust me, those costs were dear. Three of my children left the church over it. After we moved out of the area, two came back. The problem was that I had both a solid testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and a solid testimony of the hypocrisy of members of my church. At a time when my only consolation was temple attendance, I could not afford to quit going to church and lose my temple recommend. I would not have dared to make my thoughts public. The difference between then and now, is that I put my trust in God, and not in the arm of flesh. The difference between now and then, is self-confidence. I know that God loves me. He is proud of my accomplishments, and He wants me reach out and help others who are navigating the paths where I once crawled. How can I do that, if I am afraid to share my testimony openly, or I am pushed out ?
And this is for you, Bishop Paredes
Like our living prophets and apostles, bishops are people too. They can have strong opinions and be narrow-minded. They can be open and loving too. Sometimes, they are both. Like me, apostles, prophets and bishops are fallible human beings. We can, and do, make mistakes. Please, Bishop Paredes, don’t push those liberal members of your ward out of the church. Talk to them. LISTEN to them. LEARN from them. I think you will find that they share many of the same feelings about the Gospel as you do. I think you will find that their differences in understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be pivotal in your spiritual growth. To put a twist on President Uchtdorf, don’t judge them because they understand Jesus differently than you.
In fact, If I may, let me share the words of Richard Davis, another church leader who sees things differently:
Church meetings should not be occasions for political exclusiveness, and activity of the Church (including temple recommend status) should not be connected to party affiliation. Unfortunately, Bishop Paredes’ blog post has reminded us that this is not so. Democrats still face prejudice and attempted disenfranchisement. There are members who look with suspicion upon other members who are Democrats or more liberal in their political views. I don’t view this group as in any way a majority, but it does exist and, as indicated by the incident with Bishop Paredes, members of that minority can become leaders with the ability to attempt to exclude if they wished to do so. From The Problem and Opportunity with Bishop Paredes’ Blog Post.
As Davis points out, this is an opportunity to openly discuss the elephant in the room. Sometimes that elephant is invisible, we really can’t believe that our way of seeing the Gospel might be different from the church member sitting in the pew next to us. For me, it is an opportunity to stand up and be counted. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and I love being open-minded and charitable (In my mind, that translates to liberal). Let’s start by being open to differences.