Liberty and Integrity

Earlier today, I tweeted:

A few people asked me where I got the quote.  I am unaware of anybody else who has said it in those exact words, although the idea is very old.  The freedom of our nation and the morality of our choices are bound together.

For me, this sentiment is a matter of faith as well.  An ancient prophet was told by the Lord:

Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.

(2 Nephi 4:4)

The Book of Mormon is filled with stories about groups of people who either lived with integrity and enjoyed freedom and prosperity, or else they turned away from their promises to God and suffered in bondage.  It’s one of the main themes of the book.

For me, those stories are even more poignant because they took place in North and South America.  This is a promised land, a place that has been blessed by the hand of God.

Many of us in America like to argue about the best ways to fix our nation.  We like to blame current and former political leaders, corporations, media executives, and others.  We spend so much time arguing that we don’t accomplish much.  Perhaps we should go back to the basics, beginning with this promise about our land:

And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them.

(Ether 2:9)

I’m not a doomsday type of guy, and I don’t think the United States will be destroyed next week.  After all, the Bible tells that God would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of only ten righteous souls.  (Genesis 18:32)  The backbone of America is a core group of good people who follow their convictions and live according to the light they have.  But if we’re wondering how to really fix the country, this is still the fundamental answer: we have to serve God.

So on this Independence Day, I hope we can all do a little more in this one nation under God to live up to our motto – In God We Trust.  Most often, we can serve him best by serving His children.  He has entrusted to us a land that is choice above all others.  We can entrust our future to Him.

May we maintain our liberty by maintaining our integrity, and may we save our nation with the goodness of our lives.

Tolerance

It has taken me a lot of soul-searching to decide how to react to this week’s Supreme Court rulings regarding the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8.

Let me say to begin that no person should be treated as less than human.  We are all children of God, and if we would treat each other as such, many of the problems in the world would cease to exist.  In practical terms, this means that true Christians must treat our homosexual brothers and sisters as our brothers and sisters.  The Golden Rule applies here.

However, when we get into the issue of tolerance, I am concerned that those who decried DOMA as intolerant will exercise their own intolerance toward religions whose doctrines do not permit homosexual marriage.  In the grand scheme of things, gay marriage as defined by the state is not directly relevant to marriage as defined by the scriptures.  The state’s role in marriage is basically to create a binding legal contract between two individuals.  Looking through that lens, it does not matter who those individuals are.  But in a religious sense, that marriage contract goes beyond a state-issued legal license, and there are specific requirements for the parties in the contract.

Churches should retain the right to make judgments about who can marry within their walls.  That is freedom of religion at its core.  These judgments, of course, are not just about the issue of homosexuality.  Churches may require worthiness in other ways in order to marry their parishoners in a Church-sanctioned ceremony.  For example, in order to marry in a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the bride and groom must live by certain standards, including exercising faith in Christ, maintaining chastity before marriage, paying honest tithing, abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and certain other harmful substances, and being honest in their dealings.

These requirements are not meant to be exclusive; they are set by the Lord as minimum requirements to enter into a higher covenant of marriage – one that goes beyond a simple legal contract, but includes a promise of an eternal family bond.  This is not just a civil agreement; it is a binding contract between a man, a woman, and God –  solemnized on earth and carried into heaven.

So while I am a proponent of peaceful coexistence and cooperation among God’s children, I am also clearly committed to preserving the rights of religious organizations to set their standards based on their understanding of God’s commandments.  This is not a practice of hate; it is a practice of faith in a God who is perfectly merciful and perfectly just.  A religion that is based on revelation from God cannot alter its standards based on public opinion.

Some religious people have acted out in hate.  They do not represent me.  But the fact that some have taken the wrong approach does not invalidate the position of those who desire to preserve their freedom to worship.  A position against gay marriage is not automatically a manifestation of hate toward gay people.  Intelligent people can disagree on difficult social issues without being disagreeable.

I acknowledge and respect and greatly appreciate the many positive contributions of the gay community and their supporters.  I would hope that they can acknowledge and respect the contributions of those whose faith may not be completely compatible with their choices or practices.  May we finally come to a place where we can live and work together without animosity.