or “Why I now Support Same-sex Marriage”
(from Within a Latter Day Restoration Context)
~A Church Conservative Perspective~
I know that many conservative members of Community of Christ completely reject same-sex marriage, or the ordination of people in same-sex relationships. I encounter people all the time who still really struggle with this issue, and I know they are in turmoil, and that concerns me very much, as I don’t like to see my fellow conservative church members (or anyone) be in a state of spiritual crisis.
Some I know are surprised, and perhaps even feel hurt or betrayed to learn that I now support same-sex marriage and the ordination of people in same-sex relationships (I was, for a very long time, until 2013, strongly and loudly opposed to both, hence the “now”).
For this reason, and because I do keep encountering people who are really opposed to, and struggling, with these changes, I want to explain, in detail (to be as clear as I can), why I now support same-sex marriage and the ordination of people in same-sex relationships (going forward, I’ll group both of these as “full inclusion).
However, before I do that, I want to direct some remarks to all those people who do support full inclusion. Please be understanding with those who do not. I will not say “please be patient” as that presumes that you’re trying to change them. Some may, like me, one day support full inclusion, others may not. But each group are just as much a part of our church family as those who now, or always have, supported full inclusion.
During the 2012 First Presidency Address to the Church, President Veazey made the following statement:
“no matter what the outcomes of the national conferences, some beloved brothers and sisters in Christ will be disappointed, afraid, and angry. Conference recommendations do not instantly change strong views about the nature of God, humankind, human sexuality, and human relationships.
This prospect weighs very heavily on me. No matter what happens, the initial response of some probably will be to want to separate themselves from the faith community. So, here is a more fundamental question to prayerfully consider: Regardless of the outcomes of the conferences, how will we continue to live as loving communities of “oneness” in Christ, called to focus on the whole mission of Christ, while some have such strong differences around certain matters? We all need to feel the weight of this question now.”
While many people do not understand why some people oppose full inclusion, it is important to understand, recognize, and I believe even sympathize with those who do.
I realize that asking people, especially those in same-sex relationships, to sympathize with those people who oppose non-traditional marriage is a tall order. And, I’m certainly not asking anyone to permit themselves to tolerate abusive remarks or respond to blatant acts of bigotry, injustice, etc.
It is sadly true that some people oppose same-sex marriage because, quite simply, they just want it to be wrong. And I don’t have much sympathy for those people myself. They tend to be fundamentalist extremists, who use scripture as a weapon, to justify the views they already have.
But, there are other conservatives, who, I believe, would not care themselves, but believe that same-sex relationships are contrary to the will of God. These people often have their beliefs shaped and informed by scripture. These are the ones who I feel are in a place of spiritual crisis, feeling that the members and leaders of the church have betrayed them, and have corrupted the church, falling from our divine call to be what we were established to be: the Restoration of Christ’s church. Some worry that we have become, or are becoming, apostate.
These concerns, these feelings, will be foreign to many people, who are less focused on traditional concepts, and the foundational aspects of the Restoration. Some might raise eyebrows, or scoff at such notions. But, for those who feel them, these thoughts and concerns, are very real.
If you believe, with all your heart, that there is a one true church, that Christ has personally restored, and that you are part of that church, and that it is being slowly corrupted from within, there is going to be an obvious manifestation of concern, grief, spiritual agony, anger, sense of betrayal, sense of rightness about their own beliefs, perhaps some misguided elitism, and various other feelings. Many of which are appropriate and understandable within the theological context and framework that they have.
This is what I encourage church leaders and all those who support full inclusion strive to understand. Full inclusion is not simply a “mistake” in the eyes of church conservatives, it is the undoing, or an additional factor, in the undoing of Christ’s direct work. It is something that might possibly bring about a new apostasy.
Pointing out that the church no longer claims to be the one true church, or that scripture is not to be understood in absolute black and white terms, or highlighting that some concerns are (as you see it), not logical, rational, or plausible is to miss the point: yes, the corporate church has its beliefs, but sometimes individuals have different beliefs, and pointing out that “the church no longer teaches that”, etc., does not mean that individually held cherished beliefs are now rejected, or have been set aside. This is of course all the more compounded if people think the church is drifting away from God’s revealed truth and will. You’re just making their case for them.
Let me share some of my own beliefs, to help people understand where I’m coming from, and then I’ll explain why I now accept full inclusion.
I believe (in/that) …
1) God: This may seem obvious, but it is still worth highlighting. I should also point out that most conservatives (in my experience & including myself) understand God in the traditional Christian sense (save perhaps where tweaked by Restoration scripture) – that of some sort of supreme, divine personage with purpose, intelligence, personality, memory, identity, etc. This is very important, because a person’s view of God will shape his or her theology *and* how they approach scripture.
2) Jesus Christ: I believe that Jesus was a historical figure, and that he was truly God incarnated, rose from the dead, etc.
3) the Great Apostasy: The ancient church & priesthood became corrupt and had to be restored by God.
4) Joseph Smith Junior: was A true prophet of God called to restore the priesthood and the church; whose sections in the Doctrine and Covenants (along with those of his true successors) presented as divine revelations, truly are.
5) Joseph Smith III was the true legitimate successor to Joseph Smith Jr., and that true succession of the prophetic office continues only in Community of Christ.
6) Authority: We are the one true church & our priesthood alone has power and authority from God. But what this truly means is likely not well understood.
7) the Book of Mormon Is both inspired scripture, and a historical account of a lost civilization.
8) the Inspired Version Is the result of divine revelation, for the purpose of correcting some errors and restoring some lost content.
9) The Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants are the only true examples of scripture, which is spiritually inerrant.
10) Scripture trumps World Conference resolutions, which trump the Bylaws, which trump various statements and policies, procedures, parliamentary rules, etc., including the Enduring Principles, History Principles, Statements on Scripture, Basic Beliefs, the Church Administrator’s Handbook, theology statements, individual policy statements, etc. The further revealed will of God, by definition, becomes (if accepted), scripture. Therefore, *nothing* trumps scripture.
The above are what I call my “cardinal convictions”. I believe in them because, quite simply, I just believe in them. So, pointing out that the church no longer promote that we are the true church, or that the Book of Mormon is historical, etc. is not a great use of your time. I’m fully aware, respect, and support (and celebrate) much of what makes us the 21st century church that we are.
I don’t believe it makes sense to tell people “we are the one true church and you’ll burn forever unless you join us” – so, I’m glad that we don’t push that anymore. But I still believe that we are the one true church (but nobody will burn for not being a member). Its just not something that we need to open with, or get into, in our outreach efforts, evangelism or missionary work. But, recognizing this, does not mean that I need to surrender my personal conviction that we are the one true church.
Another example: As currently taught, I believe that we are called to build Zionic communities. Everywhere. Wherever we live. But, while I’m aligned with, and support and celebrate that modern interpretation of the cause of Zion, I still believe that a Zionic city will one day be established in Independence, Missouri. And/or that the city of Enoch will return.
I’m mentioning all of the above to show that I can be very passionate about our 21st century identity, as defined in our Basic Beliefs, Enduring Principles, Mission Initiatives, etc., but still have my own, personal heritage convictions, that mean just as much to me, as these other elements. And, for me, my cardinal convictions, my heritage beliefs, are the core of my faith (surrounding, of course, an inner core of God as revealed in Jesus Christ).
They are sacred to me. You don’t need to understand why I believe what I believe. You don’t need to ask “How can you possibly think that the Book of Mormon is historical?” You don’t need to ask “How can you possibly regard the Inspired Version as truly being the result of divine revelation?” You don’t need to ask “How can you possibly believe that there was a Great Apostasy, and a need for a Restoration, and that we alone have priesthood authority”. Just understand that for me, those are very real, sacred beliefs, which shape my faith and how I view the Church, the Latter Day Restoration movement, the Christian religion, and the world.
And then please understand that for many people who think as I do, our approach to some issues is grounded in our heritage beliefs, our cardinal convictions, and this then impacts how we respond to pending or implemented church changes. When you believe that God corrected the Bible, its hard to find common ground on controversial issues with people who say “But Moses never existed”. But we can find common ground, if we strive to understand where we are coming from, and work at not being exasperated with one another.
It is my belief that conservative church members do understand where liberal church members are coming from. Justice, equality, worthiness, etc., these are motivations for change that are easy to grasp, and even sympathize with.
But, I tend to feel that (in my own opinion), liberals often do not have an accurate understanding of where conservatives are coming from, with regard to why we sometimes resist implemented or pending changes. Sadly, as noted before, some of the more extreme conservatives object to changes because they want whatever the change is, to be wrong.
Consider same-sex marriage or female ordination. There are some people who believe that one or both are wrong, and view it that way because they just don’t like either, and want them to be wrong – they want God to view each as wrong. They don’t want God to ever sanction either, and they will go to great lengths to not have to deal with such changes, sometimes even forming other denominations.
But, there are other conservatives who object to some of the changes that have been made, as I touched on earlier, because they believe that the way things are right now (before a change goes into effect), is God’s will – and to make the change therefore would be to go against the will of God.
To have a deeper view of how church conservatives think and why change is sometimes not easy for us, I strongly encourage you to read my blog “the New Conservatives”
So, now that I’ve shared what I believe in, I’m sure many people will wonder “well how can you support full inclusion?”
For a long time, I did not. And I wrote documents and posted at length, several items on Facebook explaining why I did not support it. And I spoke and voted against it at the Canadian National Conference.
However, in exploring other doctrinal and theological questions, I discovered that God does change things. You see, one of the major obstacles in supporting full inclusion is the belief that many conservative church members have that God does not change what God has established.
This belief, that God never changes things, is derived from multiple verses of scripture found in our canon that seem to imply that God does not change things. And, truthfully, there is no verse that says that God *does* make changes.
And there are of course multiple verses of scripture that condemn same-sex relations. The various explanations I’ve seen, given by those who support full inclusion, as to why those scriptures are not roadblocks after all, are, in my opinion, flawed. I’ve not changed my view on that.
Now, when you believe that scripture was written by the prophets of God, inspired by God, to reveal God’s will, and such scripture informs us that same-sex relationships are prohibited, and you combine that with the belief that God does not change things, you are held to the view that full inclusion cannot be divinely sanctioned. Which of course means that the church should not sanction them.
But God does change things! And I have no choice to accept this, if I’m being honest with myself. You see, as I stated earlier, in my overview of my cardinal convictions, I believe in the Book of Mormon, the Inspired Version, the Doctrine & Covenants, etc.
And, since I do believe, and claim these as my beliefs, I have to be guided by what they say. They are authoritative. And, officially speaking, that is not a “me” only comment – they are authoritative for the entire corporate church. I cannot claim to be an advocate of the one true church, restored through Joseph Smith Jr., if I ignore what the scriptures state. I cannot disregard the Book of Mormon, the Inspired Version, and the Doctrine & Covenants.
And when we study these books, and consider our church history, we do see that God has indeed made changes. Here are some examples:
Teachers Can Baptize – And then Cannot
“And Alma established a church in the land of Sidom, and consecrated priests and teachers in the land, to baptize unto the Lord whosoever were desirous to be baptized.” -Alma 10:103
Compare the above passage with Doctrine & Covenants Section 17:11e:
“but neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands”
So, we see that in the ancient church, according to the Book of Mormon, teachers could baptize. Yet, in the restored church, as indicated by the Doctrine and Covenants, they cannot. God changed what the office of teacher was authorized to do. This represents a change made by God to the priesthood.
Slavery Endorsed, Commanded, and then Condemned
Another very important change pertains to slavery. In the Old Testament, slavery was tolerated and even commanded by God:
44 Both thy bond-men, and thy bond-maids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bond-men and bond-maids.
45 Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession.
46 And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bond-men for ever; but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor. -Leviticus 25 (Inspired Version)
However, we read the following in Section 98:10g:
“Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.”
This demonstrates God reversing a prior divine position. This would be, in my own opinion, an example of something that was not previously viewed by God as a sin, becoming so.
Regardless of that question, the point here is that God, for whatever reason, openly tolerated, and seemed to even command, or at least encourage slavery – the treatment of some people being regarded as property by other people; only to then reverse that position in 1833 – several centuries after the Torah was recorded.
An Eye for An Eye – Or Not!
In Leviticus 24:20 we see a reference to God’s Old Testament version of justice: “eye for eye”. The verse states:
“Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.”
According to verse 13, this was the word of God spoken to Moses. So, this custom was God’s will. However, this policy was reversed in the Gospel of Matthew:
40 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
41 But I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. -chapter 5
Divorce – Forbidden. Then sanctioned.
We are told by Christ that divorce was not permitted in the days prior to Moses. However, at some point, because of the hardness of their hearts, divorce was sanctioned.
This change is significant. I’ve often had people tell me that God does not make changes to suit humanity.
This clearly teaches us that such is not the case.
These are just some of the examples of God making changes. However, the most extensive changes were made to the priesthood, and the church itself. I’ve written a detailed overview of these changes in another blog that you can read here (and it also includes the changes just mentioned).
Anyone who claims to believe in the Book of Mormon, the Inspired Version, and the Doctrine & Covenants, and who does not agree with me that God can change things, I ask that you read this other blog, slowly and carefully. Print it out. Highlight and underline. If you refuse to read this other blog, and yet claim that God does not make changes, then you are not being honest with yourself, nor with your faith in God.
And those of you who do believe that God can change things, I think you may still find my other blog to be interesting – and potentially helpful in future discussions.
When I realized that God can make changes, it occurred to me that perhaps God has made a change with regard to full inclusion. Some might say that this is one change that God could not make, since he won’t ever declare something not sinful that He has previously stated was sinful.
But, God has already done this. In the Old Testament, God forbade people from eating pork. This prohibition was part of the law. Therefore, eating pork was a sin.
However, the law was ended by Christ, as recorded in the Third Book of Nephi. Therefore, there is no longer a prohibition against eating pork. So, it is no longer a sin to eat pork.
(for an exploration of just what a sin is, please read this blog)
Now, some might say that same-sex relations are on a different order than what we eat. A different magnitude of sin.
I do believe that some sins are greater than others. Some sins are sins because they are things forbidden by God. Some things we fail to do are sins because they are things commanded by God. But, some things are sins because they are just plain evil.
Murder and rape are two such things that immediately come to mind, as examples of things that are, quite simply, evil. These are sins that *are*greater than many other sins.
But, it is not evil for two loving, committed, consenting adults, of the same-sex, to be in a relationship with each other. No harm is being done. No one is being taken advantage of. There is no evil being done. Therefore, God can approve that which was previously prohibited.
Some might claim “but it does go against nature”. The implication of course being, that in order for the human race to be fruitful, and propagate itself, men and women must have sex with each other.
This is a flawed argument. How many times will a person engage in some form of sexual activity, with an opposite sex partner, in his or her lifetime, and how many of these experiences will directly result in the human population increasing?
The purpose of sex is not *limited* to propagating the species. How many times have you had sexual intercourse with an opposite sex partner? How many children do you have? If the latter is lower than the former, you cannot disagree with me.
Sex, and loving relationships are of tremendous value for reasons other than having children. So, to tell people of the same sex that they can never have a functional, happy, intimate relationship with someone they love, because they are biologically unable to make a baby together, is absurd.
My wife cannot have children. Should I leave her for a woman who can? I did not marry her for the purpose of having children. I married her because I fell in love with her, and wanted to have an ongoing, lifelong relationship with her. Is our marriage, and our love for each other, and our desire to support each other, improve each other, be devoted to each other, etc., a form of blasphemy in the eyes of God because my wife cannot have children?
The simple fact is this: the human race is not in jeopardy of dying out because some people form relationships with members of their own sex. In fact, in our modern era, being married to a person of the same sex is not at all a barrier to raising children.
This takes us to another issue. Some people fee that same-sex couples should not become parents because a child should have a parent of each sex. I’m not a child psychologist, so I honestly don’t know if this view has any merit or not.
But, I don’t see this concern as a factor in deciding if full inclusion is itself appropriate or not. People with same sex attraction are going to form relationships with members of their own sex. And, some of those couples are going to become parents.
Would it not be better for the parents to be jointed together in a covenant with God, than not? Would it not be beneficial to the child to be fully accepted into our church community and raised in the Restoration, in a way that makes them want to remain active, by fully accepting the child’s parents, and not driving them away by telling them that their parents are not able to be married or serve in the priesthood?
Some people accuse the Church of “giving in” to the whims of society. The Church does not do things simply because society does something. People might ask “well then why now? Why is it that when society, for the most part, opposed same-sex relationships, the church did likewise? Why did the church sanction them when society did?”
It is actually not unexpected that the church and society would, in some ways, mirror each other. Conservative church members sometimes like to remind us that we are meant to be in the world, not of the world. This does not mean that disciples of Jesus Christ should ignore the world. This does not mean that the world cannot sometimes move in the right direction.
So, to simply dismiss a course of action because it seems to have originated from secular society, and not within the church, is very flawed reasoning, and suggestive of being against a change because you want it to be wrong (which is an expression of bigotry).
As people in the church, and outside the church, have moved together towards having a more accurate understanding of same-sex attraction, it is perfectly reasonable to see the church take steps to sanction full inclusion as society does.
Besides, can we truly claim, as a fact, that society was not influenced by the church? I once heard a story that claimed that members of the RLDS church were somehow instrumental in the modern state of Israel being established. I’m sure its probably more complicated than just saying it that way – but the views or actions of one person can influence an unlimited number of other people.
You share an idea with someone else. It might only be with one other person. But what if your idea really resonated with that one other person, so he or she shared it with others, who in turn shared it, etc. Perhaps you never wrote a book, but it your idea may have been the seed of a more complex system of ideas that formed in the mind of someone else who did write a book, and thus read by hundreds of other people, some of whom expanded your idea further, and wrote their publications, who can say how many people you might have influenced?
Also, can we truly claim that God was not helping to guide secular society to where He was also guiding the Church? If we don’t consider these possibilities, and jealously try to claim that God’s Holy Spirit only moves within the membership of the church, we are limiting the very nature of God, and making God less than God.
If God can influence the authors of the American Constitution (“And for this purpose have I established the constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.” –Doctrine & Covenants Section 98:10h) and if God can confirm to a non-member the truths of the Book of Mormon by setting the reader’s chest afire, and if God can respond to the prayers of a young boy kneeling in a grove, we cannot claim that God works only through the members of the church, and it is blasphemous to suggest such a view.
Another objection that is commonly made is that God said that same-sex relationships are an abomination. I’ve used this argument myself, when I was trying to prevent our polices from being changed. I would quote the Law of Moses, and those who supported full inclusion would point out that the Law of Moses was rescinded – but when I quoted the Law of Moses, I wasn’t quoting it for the sake of it being a law, but because that the specific commandment in question states that the pertinent sin is an abomination.
However, when I read the word abomination, I translated that in my mind to mean “obscene” or “disgusting”. This is our typical, modern understanding of that word.
However, I’ve come to understand that the Biblical use of the word abomination means that something is prohibited, or forbidden. And, as with the eating of pork, which was a sin that became a non sin, there were some forbidden foods listed in the dietary code that were also described as abomination – forbidden. But, the dietary law was lifted, we were told to view nothing created by God as unclean – therefore, that which was forbidden to eat, is no longer forbidden, and such things were not incorporated into the Word of Wisdom.
Likewise, other prohibitions can also be lifted by God.
Of course, there are always those who ask “Why have we never received a revelation telling us that full inclusion is now OK?”
We have. Twice. The first revelation was Section 164. The second revelation was the 2013 Word of Counsel. Neither has wording that says what people expected them to say, with regard to sanctioning full inclusion (Just as Christ did not conduct himself in the manner, or do the things, that the Israelites expected).
Section 164 does state:
164:6a. As revealed in Christ, God, the Creator of all, ultimately is concerned about behaviors and relationships that uphold the worth and giftedness of all people and that protect the most vulnerable. Such relationships are to be rooted in the principles of Christ-like love, mutual respect, responsibility, justice, covenant, and faithfulness, against which there is no law.
164:6b. If the church more fully will understand and consistently apply these principles, questions arising about responsible human sexuality, gender identities, roles, and relationships; marriage; and other issues may be resolved according to God’s divine purposes. Be assured, nothing within these principles condones selfish, irresponsible, promiscuous, degrading, or abusive relationships.
164:6c. Faced with difficult questions, many properly turn to scripture to find insight and
inspiration. Search the scriptures for the Living Word that brings life, healing, and hope to all. Embrace and proclaim these liberating truths.
164:7a. A world-wide prophetic church must develop cultural awareness and sensitivity to distinguish between issues that should be addressed by the World Conference and those that are best resolved nationally or in other ways.
164:7b. Fundamental principles of ethical behavior and relationships should be addressed by the World Conference. The Conference should not decide specific policies for all nations when those decisions likely will cause serious harm in some of them.
164:7c. However, timely resolution of pressing issues in various nations is necessary for the restoring work of the gospel to move forward with all of its potential. Therefore, let the proper World Church officers act in their callings—as already provided in church law—to create and interpret church policies to meet the needs of the church in different nations in harmony with the principles contained in this counsel.
164:7d. Where possible and appropriate, convene national or field conferences to provide opportunities for broader dialogue, understanding, and consent. In those gatherings, let the spirit of love, justice, and truth prevail.
It is clear from these verses that one of the themes being covered is same-sex attraction. And, God, in verse 7d, has invited the church to hold national conferences to explore, on a nation by nation basis, if full inclusion is, or is not, viable for the nation in question.
God of course would not grant the church permission to hold such conferences if it was still God’s stance that people in same-sex relationships are defying God’s will. So, clearly, God is now ok with such partnerships. He does not need to actually say it. It is enough that he is putting the matter into our hands.
The 2013 Word of Counsel state:
3 a. More fully embody your oneness and equality in Jesus Christ. Oneness and equality in Christ are realized through the waters of baptism, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, and sustained through the sacrament of Communion. Embrace the full meaning of these sacraments and be spiritually joined in Christ as never before.
3b. However, it is not right to profess oneness and equality in Christ through sacramental
covenants and then to deny them by word or action. Such behavior wounds Christ’s body and denies what is resolved eternally in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
3c. You do not fully understand many interrelated processes of human creation. Through its wonderful complexity, creation produces diversity and order.
3d. Be not consumed with concern about variety in human types and characteristics as you see them. Be passionately concerned about forming inclusive communities of love, oneness, and equality that reveal divine nature.
3e. Oneness and equality in Christ do not mean uniformity. They mean Unity in Diversity and relating in Christ-like love to the circumstances of others as if they were one’s own. They also mean full opportunity for people to experience human worth and related rights, including expressing God-given giftedness in the church and society.
4 a. Regarding priesthood, God calls whomever God calls from among committed disciples, according to their gifts, to serve and reach all humankind.
These words, even more so than 164, must be understood as indicating that sexual orientation is not something that God considers with regard to who is, and who is not, suitable to be called & ordained to the priesthood.
So, we have received two revelations which, when responsibly interpreted, reveal to us that God is no longer prohibiting same-sex relationships.
I’m sure some people want to know “Why did God not simply say so, in more direct language?” I’ve delved into that before, in my blog “Breaking Deadlock”. However, I believe that there are other reasons.
Consider what God is, who God is to us. Some religions seem to teach that God is distant and cold. They believe that the relationship between mankind and God is one of the former submitting in all things, in all ways, to the latter. In such a culture, God seems to want, and perhaps even need, active human worship, and it is the role of humans to provide this worship, and to be, in all things, totally subservient. Mankind exists to submit to, and worship God. That is the very purpose for which humanity exists.
Thankfully, this is not the Christian approach. And, we can look to our own Restoration scriptures to see what the purpose of humanity actually is:
“Adam fell, that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” –Second Nephi 1:115
This verse I believe says a great deal about God’s nature.
Christianity approaches the Divine in what is, in my view, a much more wholesome, way than other religions. God is our creator, but more than that, God is a loving parent, a father who provide for us because He truly cares about us.
The entire human race is the child of God. We are all the children of God. And, thorough the teachings of Jesus Christ, we have come to understand that God loves us, and wants us to be happy, and to take away our burdens, and to provide for us, to sustain us and nurture us. He created us for no other reason than for us to have joy!
The dynamic between the human race, and God, is, from a Christian perspective, perhaps rather unique. We are in a parent-child relationship with our creator, with our deity.
God is the Supreme Being. God is the Divine. God is God. But, God is more than these things. God is our father, and we are His children, Or, collectively, we are, as the sum of all humanity, God’s child.
And, like a child, the human race has evolved over time. In our infancy, we were prone to temper tantrums. We committed atrocities, and waged wars, and worshipped false gods. God has to discipline us, as any parent disciplines a child. He gave us laws, he separated the wicked from the righteous, he confounded our language. But, as we have matured, we have become, to some degree at least, civilized. And, we continue to grow, to mature, to move out of our infancy and juvenile years.
It is my belief that we are now old enough for God to teach us, and guide us, by asking us “Well what do you think?” Like any child-parent relationship involving children who have grown to a certain degree of maturity and intellect and individualism, we are, in a sense, in some measure, now in a relationship with our creator that is more like a partnership.
God does not want to rule us like a tyrant sitting on a throne. He wants us to grow, and to impress him. I believe that God wants us to make Him proud. So, now that we are where we are, on some matters, God, I believe, is essentially saying “this is fine by me – what do *you* think? Is this something you are ready for?”
This is why the recent revelations have taken the form that they have. God does not wish to just dictate such things to us, but to encourage us to go on a soul searching journey, to give us the means to express our own collective maturity and sophistication.
Another insight I’ve come to understand in my exploration of this topic is that, the way God’s will has been shared with the church in these two revelations has called the church into a deeper, and more sophisticated approach, and understanding, of the principle of Common Consent, which is of course one of the foundational principles of the Latter Day Restoration.
So, instead of drifting from our roots, as some might believe, we are being called back to our roots, for revelation itself has now become part of our greater appreciation, celebration, and utilization of Common Consent. To some degree, Common Consent has always been part of the process of considering and approving a revelation, as it is through Common Consent that revelations are formally submitted and voted upon.
But, Common Consent is much more than voting and the rule of alternates, and now are beginning to understand more fully what the principle of Common Consent is all about, as we are brought, more directly, into the process, through extended prayerful study, dialogue, discernment, etc.
To move us in this direction, the revelation are worded they way that they are, because if the wording was as simple, and brief as “Same-sex marriage is now OK”, there would be no opportunity for growth on our part, to develop a deeper appreciation and utilization of the multi-dimensional principles of Common Consent, and our own spiritual growth and maturity, and evolving relationship with our divine Father, would not evolve.
I also believe that embracing the many changes that the church has made, is key to our survival. We could, if we had so wished, voted down any action that would have resulted in full inclusion being sanctioned. We could have voted down Section 154, never approving female ordination. We could have stuck to our guns on baptism, and kept our longer name as our only name, and opposed being welcoming by withholding communion from non-members, etc.
But the more we strive to prevent anything from changing, when the changes sought are not actually contrary to God’s will, the more we try to make it about what we want, vs. what God wants, the more we will continue to stagnate, shrink, and die.
In order to flourish, people must see value in our church. They must see that we are redemptive. They must see that we resonate with people, and that we are relevant.
But, the reality is, those churches that do not strive to be such, are not actually doing God’s work, but are in fact transforming themselves into Pharisees and the Great Sanhedrin, who are so caught up in tradition, and preserving everything as its always been, for that sake alone, that God’s Spirit is no longer with them. Christ brought renewal to the people of Israel. He made things relevant, redemptive, and resonating. We must always ensure that we do the same, or we will become the Pharisees of today.
The church will, quite simply, die without embracing change. Not all change is appropriate, but those changes that are not contrary to God’s will, and which bring us closer to the purposes of Christ, naturally are. If we fail to see them as such, if we continually try to confound Christ by saying “But does it not say….” we will only succeed in driving people out of the church, and accelerating our own demise.
In my “Breaking Deadlock” blog, I talked about how I gradually came to feel that Section 164 was truly reflective of the mind and will of God. I don’t want to repeat myself here (but I encourage you to read that other blog), so it suffices me to say that I went through a deliberate and prayerful and extended period of reviewing that revelation, and came to believe, over time, that it is truly a revelation from God. This is my testimony; and it is my further testimony that the document known as the 2013 Words of Counsel is also an authentic revelation from God.
Thus saith the Spirit.
Please also read “The New Conservatives”
Please also read “God’s Changes”
Please also read “What is Sin”
Please also read “Breaking Deadlock”
Please also read “What Did We Gain from National Conference?
Please also read “21st Century Restoration”