I’m pro-choice, NOT pro-abortion. You heard me

I’m actually very much against abortion.

It’s interesting that I learned my progressive idealism from my father who considers himself a conservative.  Dad is pro-choice. When I learned his stance on it, I still hadn’t made up my own mind. In fact, as I do now, I felt that abortion was completely wrong and immoral. So I had to ask Dad why he felt that way.The first thing, Dad explained to me, is that morality should always be a choice, otherwise it is nothing more than forced obedience. To be able to choose is true freedom.

Not long before that, I complained to my mother, (who, to me, is ultra-conservative), that my ex-husband was always trying to constrain my choices despite the fact that we were no longer married (of course, the fact that he always tried, was one of the biggest reasons for leaving in the first place). She pointed out that part of the LDS belief system is that we were given our own agency with the intent that we, and no one else, would have control over our own salvation. In fact, she pointed out, it was Lucifer’s idea to take away the agency of humankind, resulting in what we know to be The Plan of Salvation:  “And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Ne. 2:26–27)

Suddenly, as distasteful as the choice to abort a pregnancy was to me, I knew that it would be wrong to legislate against that choice. Continue reading

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Love your neighbor. It’s the Christian thing to do.

Here’s something you don’t know about me:  I once had a boyfriend who was a preacher for the Christian Reformed Church.  I thought I was in love with him. I thought I wanted to marry him. But what I didn’t understand, was that he didn’t love me. At least not in the Christian way, that is.  And to me, love without the light of Christ is not love at all. It’s just lust. What an oxymoron it is to be in love with a man who considers himself a servant of God, but is unable to do so in a Christ-like way.

Let me explain. When it came down to it, he told me that he couldn’t marry me (even though he said he loved me) because I was a Mormon (LDS), and Mormons are not Christian. As a “messenger of God,” that would just be wrong. I was devastated. It was tough for me, because I even though I never used the word liberal, I did tell him how I struggled with members of my own faith because of our different ways of thinking. And he told me that he loved me because I was so different in the way that I understood God: not like the hypocrites who talked the talk and couldn’t walk the walk. But I was so nervous about losing him because I was a Mormon, I never could come right out and tell him that I was a liberal.  Honestly, I hadn’t come out of that political closet yet.

We had a hard time letting go of each other. He said that he couldn’t let go of me, but he also couldn’t marry me. I knew that his love for me was conditional when he finally admitted to me that the reason he was stringing me along was because he was hoping that he would be able to convert me to his version of “true Christianity”. I had an even harder time explaining to him why it was finally so easy to walk away from him. I tried to use the parable of the Good Samaritan to show how he was like the priest and the Levite who professed to be godly men, but passed right on by the injured man. Although they professed to love God, they couldn’t love their neighbor (Matthew 37-39). I was trying to tell him that as soon as he admitted that he wanted me to leave my church, I KNEW that he didn’t love me.  Not in the way God asked us to love one another. He just didn’t get it.

So when I found this statement from The Christian Left, a group that I follow on Facebook, I was finally able to put my finger on what I was actually trying to say, and why it hurt me so much:

We believe one of the most important things we do here is let as many people as possible know we’re here. When we say “we’re here” we mean all 191,000+ of us. Do you know why? Because liberal Christians are tormented by conservative “Christians.” They are told they “can’t be a liberal and a Christian,” which is saying “You aren’t a Christian,” which is saying “God has rejected you.” Do you know what it’s like to have doubts on whether God has rejected you? We can’t think of anything worse, period. That’s why this community is so important and it’s why we keep coming back. Liberal Christians often suffer the rejection and alienation of friends and family. We want them to know they’re not alone and that God has NOT rejected them, period.

I added my own thoughts in the comment section:

This is what it is like being me. Except add the Mormon part to it, because many Christians will say you can’t be Mormon and Christian, while many Mormons say you can’t be Mormon and liberal. It’s a tough row to hoe.

When I was finally able to put both ideas together I finally knew why it was so tough to admit my liberal leanings to my boyfriend.  If he was struggling to accept me because I was Mormon, how would he handle it when he found out I was liberal too?  If I was afraid of the reactions of my Mormon friends and family when they found out I was liberal, how would my conservative Christian boyfriend handle it?  He didn’t. He couldn’t. It was a doomed relationship.

To be honest, even though I have some very good Christian friends, I DO NOT at all feel accepted by the general Christian public. Not because I am a Liberal, but because I am a Mormon. And once those who understand that I am a Christian because I am a Mormon find out that I am a liberal because I am a Christian, will they reject me too? So let me try to further explain:

Being a liberal Christian means understanding what Jesus meant when he told us to love God with all our hearts and then to “love thy neighbor as thyself”. He told us that there are no greater commandments than these two (Mark 12: 30-31). So why can’t we keep them? If you can accept yourself, knowing all of your flaws and inadequacies, and you can love God because you know that he loves you despite all of your inadequacies (THAT is God’s amazing grace), then why can’t you accept others whose flaws and inadequacies are different from yours?   Being a liberal Christian means knowing that placing judgement on others means asking for judgment upon your own head. Did not Jesus say “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2)?

I just wanted to be loved as God loves me. Unconditionally.  I guess that was asking for too much. I guess that is asking too much. I was hurt. I was rejected. By a human being. I’m not perfect. He’s not perfect. I guess I’ve been guilty of judging too. In the end, I am so glad that it didn’t work out between us.  It isn’t right for me to expect perfection from any human being.  I just wanted someone who was trying. And I have that now.

My second husband was Catholic when I met him. It didn’t bother him at all that I was Mormon. In fact, he was very interested in understanding what it meant for me to be LDS. I was worried that he might join the church for the wrong reason (me). I told him that it was okay with me if he wanted to stay Catholic. I told him that if he was really sure that he did want to be a Mormon, that I didn’t want him to do it until after we were married, and I even went so far as to tell him that I would be angry if I found out he was joining the church to make me happy. And I meant it. It was a year and a half after we were married that Tony “took the plunge”. And today, four years later, he is preparing to be sealed with me in the temple. We don’t always agree, and we definitely have our differences, but I do know that LDS or not, I have a truly Christian husband.

I admit that I still wish for an apology from my ex-boyfriend. It would be nice to know that he understood how he hurt me. In fact, it would be nice if we could all catch a glimpse into our neighbors’ hearts when we hurt them. Even though God can do it, we can’t. So why would we expect an an apology when we are hurt by our neighbors? You can forgive your neighbor when they hurt you and don’t apologize. Perhaps they have no clue that what they have done was hurtful. I was single after a divorce from my first husband for eleven years. He had been a member of the bishopric. It was during that eleven year period that I met that Reformed Christian boyfriend. I took a long time, but I was able to forgive my ex-husband. In fact, I was already into my second marriage before I could truly purify my heart and let go of that hurt. I’ll be able to forgive that old boyfriend too. And it will be a good thing because that is what we have been asked to do (Colossians 3:13).

All Christians don’t think alike.  All Mormons don’t think alike. You will even find differences of opinion from church leaders. It’s okay. You can love your neighbor despite their differences.  It’s what God asked us to do because he loves ALL of his children, Christian, Jew, Muslim, and Atheist. We are all loved equally because that is what God does. It is ungodly to be hateful and judgmental. If you can’t do it on your own, remember, “with God, all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). I am trying, and I have a husband who is trying. You can try too.

I was afraid I’d be excommunicated

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.