Friday, May 24, 2013

On the BSA Kerfuffle: Faith Brings Peace

Although it's been almost four months since my last post here, this subject actually dovetails very nicely with the subject of my previous post.

Several weeks ago, when the BSA was debating the policy changes, I discussed the situation with my closest friends and with my wife. I took a very hard-line attitude toward the issue, believing that any move to be inclusive of boys who struggle with same-sex attraction would be a terrible mistake, strategically and tactically.

Since my own personal opinion on the matter appeared to be in conflict with the way Church policy was shaping up, I took a step back.

I got down on my knees.

I humbly asked for peace on the issue.
My heart was softened.

It was my desire to sustain, trust, and follow the Brethren - because I believe that doing so is a sure road to peace and safety, and because I believe that doing so is a logical and requisite component of true discipleship. That is to say, either the Church is true, or it is not. If it is, then Jesus Christ stands at its head and directs His chosen servants to lead it as He wants it led. (And if a leader goes astray, per Brigham Young, he is removed from his place by God.)

I believe that to be true. I know it to be true.

Thus, I decided, in that prayer, to let go of my own attitudes and opinions on the matter, and instead trust that the Brethren know what they are doing. That took humility, and a sincere desire to be obedient, and to understand.

While I am not to be blindly obedient, I am commanded to be obedient. Unless I believe the current prophet, Thomas S. Monson, is no longer legitimate in the administration of Church affairs, and is no longer operating under the direction of Jesus Christ, then it devolves upon me to fall in line and support him and the Brethren regarding Church policy decisions and Church doctrine.

"Whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38)

So, when the Brethren released their statement yesterday, I received it with perfect equanimity, and peace in my heart. Though it was contrary to what I had previously believed was in the best interest of the Church, the BSA, the boys, and the ongoing conflict between righteousness and "the world," I truly had no problem with it. That felt good!

And when I thought about it, I realized that what the Church did was not at all cowardly or "caving" to the world (as some have suggested - as if this is politics, rather than the administration of Christ's kingdom), but, quite to the contrary, it was a great courageous decision because the Church chose to be Christlike in the face of potential criticism. The Church chose kindness and love and forgiveness and understanding over worrying what it might "look like" in the eyes of either the hard-hearted members like myself, other churches, or those driving the homosexual agenda. Like Christ healing on the Sabbath to the "shock" of the Pharisees, or choosing not to condemn the woman caught in adultery, to the chagrin of the bloodthirsty crowd, the Church has said, in effect, "Let us care for all of God's children, regardless of what they struggle with, or what the world may say." And I say, "kudos."

Last month in General Conference, Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught,
"Alma taught that 'the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.' In order to understand this, we must separate the sin from the sinner." 
Too often, it is easy to conflate the sin with the sinner - to be judgmental. I know that because this is one of my biggest weaknesses.

In considering this, my wife suggested a thought experiment: how would I feel if my precious son, or a brother or other person near and dear to me, were struggling with same-sex attraction, and was shunned and excluded from the Boy Scouts based on that? How would that exclusion hurt that boy? And how would the virtues of kindness and understanding be developed in the scouts who were part of excluding others? Might not the scout program itself, and the good influences found there, be of help to a young boy with those struggles? Might involvement in scouts not help that boy to better understand his identity and divine destiny and to overcome the temptations that beset him? Do we exclude people from Church participation because they are imperfect, struggling with temptations to sin in various ways?

Christ's ministry focused on serving and helping the individual, not on creating collateral damage in a war of agendas.

In the last General Conference, Craig A. Cardon of the Seventy said:
"Preach My Gospel speaks of the difficulty in overcoming addictive behavior and encourages priesthood leaders and members to 'not be shocked or discouraged' if investigators or new members continue to struggle with such problems. Rather, we are counseled to 'show confidence in the individual and not be judgmental … [treating] it as a temporary and understandable setback.' Could we do less with our own children or family members who struggle with similar problems, having temporarily strayed from the path of righteousness? Surely they merit our steadiness, patience, and love—and yes, our forgiveness. In general conference just last October, President Monson counseled: 'We need to bear in mind that people can change. They can put behind them bad habits. They can repent from transgressions. ... We can help them to overcome their shortcomings. We must develop the capacity to see men not as they are at present but as they may become.'"

While same-sex attraction may not be a "temporary" problem (it is in the eternal perspective), surely it is not a reason to be judgmental and exclusionary. Personally, I will strive to avoid such sins and be kind to others, regardless of what they struggle with. How awful it would be, for example, if I were to be excluded from a Church activity because of my own tendency to judge others!

And it should be noted that the Church's position on this issue has not actually changed: as it says in the statement, boys in the scouting program are required to adhere to the moral standards found in the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet - the guidelines are the same. Moral behavior is still required for participation. Nowhere in the Church are people penalized for uncommitted sins - condemned for a mere propensity or temptation - and that should be no different in Scouts.

Might this be a slippery-slope? Sure. No worries, the Brethren have it in hand. Will I be accompanying my son on any and all campouts? Certainly - but that was a decision I made for safety reasons long ago, before any of this debate ever came up. Today's world is dangerous, and this policy, one way or the other, doesn't change that fact.

Bottom line: Whatever the pros and cons of this policy decision may be, my faith is strongly - immovably - placed in the wisdom and divinely-inspired leadership of the Prophet and his counselors and the apostles. I am not too proud to say that they know better than me. I know that they are doing the Lord's will, whether I fully understand it or not. I am sure they have contingency plans in place for whatever troubles may lie ahead (and if not, they will receive appropriate revelation at the appropriate time). I am certain that, since this decision came from Jesus Christ Himself, that it can only, in the long run, come to good.

Any other conclusion, for me, requires me to disavow my own testimony - which I cannot do, and shall never do.

"Choose you this day whom ye will for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (and, by extension, His kingdom on the earth, His church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the leadership He put in place)." (Joshua 24:15)

I very much hope this helps folks who are struggling with the Church's decision. Though it has happened many times in the past, a disagreement on a point of policy would be a tragic reason to forfeit one's eternal blessings.

Don't worry. It will all be okay. Have FAITH.

My Family

My Family
THIS is what it's all about. (July 2013)

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