Monday, February 25, 2013

The Marriage Debate - Mormons Have Been Here Before [BOOK REVIEW]

This is not your typical book review. In fact, it's probably not your usual way to frame the gay-marriage debate. Instead, I wanted to use my recent study of the book, "More Wives Than One: Transformation of the Mormon Marriage System, 1840-1910", to help you understand a little more on why Mormons are so defensive of marriage. The fact is we've been here before. Our ancestors have been here before. And our Government has taken away Mormons' rights before surrounding our belief in eternal families and marriage. While I am certainly not defending polygamy with this review (I think it was perhaps necessary for a time, but not currently), this book, more than any I've read does a deep-dive into that, why the Mormons practiced it, and the gradual intrusion by the US Government in taking away their religious rights to practice such.

Mormons stopped the practice of Polygamy over a hundred years ago. What isn't always told however is that Mormons were forced by the US Government to discontinue the practice. The Church's assets were seized. The Church's incorporation was discontinued. Many men and leaders were arrested in the process. My own ancestors were tarred and feathered, and driven out of their lands because they stood by their religious beliefs in a genuine conviction towards the good of humanity through these beliefs. This book covers the history and evolution of the process that led to that, the foundations of polygamy in a rooted belief in eternal marriage and families, and the learning process in understanding the revelations that were received. More than anything though, I feel this book is a story of what could happen if religion were to be taken from the public square.

I see over and over the debate that marriage doesn't belong in the public square. Many want to take it out of government altogether. Understanding its history however I think puts a little more context into why those that want to defend its place in the public square, as a religious institution, are so convicted in keeping it as such. The fact is, and this book confirms such, marriage has always been in the public square. It has been very slowly removing its place as such though.

What I learned from the book is that it was when government started taking away the religious liberties of religions like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what people said would never happen, happened. Members of the Church were forced to stop practicing what they believed in, and before we knew it the very rights enabling free exercise of religion by the 1st amendment of the US constitution were being prohibited by the very government that was supposed to be protecting that right.

I hear over and over that if the US government allows gay marriage, religions will not be threatened or forced to practice such. I'm sorry, but history just doesn't show that's true. Our government has forced its ways on religion before, and it will continue to do so. My ancestors were tarred and feathered as a result of my own government's blatant violation of our 1st amendment rights. I have no doubt that will happen again, and my own religion's belief in eternal marriage and families is being threatened as a result.

I love my LGBT brothers and sisters. I sympathize with the way they want to live their lives, whether you call them trials or not (I only say that because I know even amongst many of my LGBT friends, many call them trials - I have no ill intentions in the way this was framed). I want equal rights for them. However, my right to practice my religion and believe in marriage between a man and a woman for eternity applies to me as well as it does them to believe otherwise. I am not willing to risk that right for what our government has already shown it cannot be trusted to protect. We can seek other options to protect rights for LGBTs, but let's leave the definition of marriage (as it has been since practically the beginning of time in Judeo-Christian beliefs), and its place in the public square alone!

The book, "More Wives Than One", while it doesn't address any of today's modern marriage issues, to me shows that the gay marriage debate truly is a legal issue as a result of history. It's one about survival of my right and freedom of religion, based on previous experience. Until all can come to terms with that, we cannot come to equal ground. While I don't believe or agree with polygamy at the moment, and while I do want equal rights for all, I will always protect the rights of any religion to believe as they may, so long as others aren't harmed in the process. The 1st amendment of the US constitution shows that religion, and government can, and should co-exist. It's the first of all the amendments for a reason.

If you really want to come to an understanding of why Mormons are so passionate about this, I think you'll find this book fascinating. Go get it at Amazon.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Spirit Leads the Mormon Church

Many critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints like to reiterate over and over the faults of the Church. The imperfections of its leaders, the bureaucracy of Church Headquarters, and I won't (as a non-critic) be the first to suggest that, as a former employee of the Church it had its share of red tape. This comes with any large organization led and employed by imperfect people. To the critics I can't help but ask, "is this really anything new?"

That said, hindsight is 20-20. I absolutely without a doubt, cannot deny the Spirit I felt as I walked into Church Headquarters my first day, and that lead me as I performed my day-to-day duties. It's something you really have to experience firsthand by working there to understand. And any that suggest it's not there either haven't experienced it, have forgot, are going in with the wrong heart, or are denying what they felt. It's a presence of light and knowledge I just can't explain. I was reminded this again today as I talked to another person recently employed by the Church that noticed the same thing. There are countless others that have experienced what I did while working there.

It was this Spirit that guided my everyday actions while there. It's clear that something supernatural is leading the Church, and that light penetrates and guides the imperfections of every single person that works there. To me, it was clear this was the Lord's Church, and He was the one in control of the end result of our actions. Were our actions always perfect? No. But the Spirit continued to guide, and it was that Spirit that grew my testimony and belief in the Church in ways it had never done before.

If you are ever in Utah, stop by, take a visit to Temple Square. Get a tour from the Missionaries there. Take a visit to the lobby of the Church Office Building (the big building in the middle), and get a tour from the missionaries there. Pay attention to the feelings you have. Come with a prayer in your heart, and notice the light and knowledge you feel as you are there.

It truly is a different feeling you can't explain - I don't know how to explain it. I just know it's there, and I know the entire Church is led by it, from the ground up. I hope all members, and non-members of the Church can be comforted by that - after my 3 years working at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my testimony is stronger than ever that the Church is led by God, and I feel stronger than ever that it is everyone's responsibility to learn that for themselves, and then support that once they do. I say that as "an insider", and will never deny it.

I just hope you can experience this too.