A guest post by Mitch Mayne
Earlier this month, LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks spoke at a meeting in Boise, Idaho. Media coverage has speculated that the impetus was to aid Mormons with concerns or questions similar to those expressed by Denver Snuffer, who was excommunicated for apostasy by his local leadership two years ago.
I’m grateful for a leadership that responds to Latter-day Saints who need a little extra tender loving care. For those of us outside Salt Lake, that kind of “hands-on” approach helps us connect more to a Church that can sometimes feel a little distant when we’re not on Utah soil. In fact, shortly after Proposition 8, Elder Marlin K. Jensen (now emeritus) held a similar meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area where I reside. As a result , much healing took place. Having our general authorities make a personal effort to be among us when we’re troubled can be incredibly reassuring—we feel heard, recognized, and loved.
The title of Elder Oaks’s talk in Boise was, “Who’s on the Lord’s side?” and I like that! All of us want to be on the right side—there is an innate desire among us to do the right thing, even though we do it imperfectly.
At the same time, I squirm in my chair a little bit when we answer that question with a single acceptable response: Only those who believe and behave exactly as we do.
You don’t have to venture far to discover what happens when this viewpoint is played out. Believing that Mormons are the only ones on the Lord’s side quickly pits us against the rest of the human race, who—if they’re not on the Lord’s side—must be on the side of the other guy. Our non-Mormon friends, coworkers, and neighbors can transform from being our spiritual brothers and sisters into a sinful, wicked mass, ready to victimize us at every turn.
Inside the Mormon community it also drives a divide: It muzzles any commentary other than unwavering support, and suffocates any potential question before it can even be asked—independent of how innocent or relevant that question might be.
And then any uncertainty—no matter how small—becomes apostasy.
On social media we see this play out every day. On Facebook, a gay Mormon woman shared her pain about being uninvited to family functions with her married partner. Instead of being included by those she loves, she was told her relationship was counterfeit—and she and her wife were no longer welcome.
Another man questioned the recent decision to excommunicate a couple from Washington State, and was met with this comment: “I pity you, and everyone like you. Christ distinguishes between the sinful and the wicked with the judgments of His prophets. You sound like you’re going to be next.”
Above all, I worry that when we proclaim ourselves the only righteous humans, we plant the seeds of pride. When we are proud and certain of our righteousness, we lose our humility. And with it, our ability to understand that constructive criticism can sometimes be a form of our Savior’s correction—whether it comes from the top down or the bottom up.
But there is another approach.
When we ask the question “Who’s on the Lord’s side?” we could take our Savior at His word when He promised to save all of humanity.
When we do that, we no longer live in a world of “them vs. us”; instead, it becomes a world of only “us.” We recognize that our Savior’s reach is infinite, His quest for human souls unending. We release our view of a limited Savior, and begin to grasp the depth of His love and atonement—not just for us, but for everyone.
Then let us ask again: Who is on the Lord’s side? The answer: A lot of us.
- People of other faiths and cultures: Truth, like our Savior, doesn’t hide. If we watch with open eyes and open hearts, we can see Him active and very much alive in the paths of those who belong to other religions and who have different cultural beliefs.
- LGBT individuals and families: Despite often being shunned and exiled from both family and faith, many LGBT people have a seemingly unending capacity for kindness, forgiveness, and compassion. And more importantly, they extend those Christlike qualities to those around them—including those who have rejected them.
- Intellectuals, scientists, and philosophers: Historical literature is rich with philosophers and intellectuals, many of whom share profound and touching wisdom about our Savior. And in our current day, His hand is evident in science (like that of the Family Acceptance Project that keeps our Mormon LGBT youth safe)—as another way He shows His love for us.
- Those who have left Mormonism—by force or by choice: I’ve often seen those who’ve left the faith (including members of my own family) continue to blossom as disciples of our Savior—doing kind acts not because they’ve been assigned to do them, but because they’re the right thing to do.
- Feminists: Seldom do I find a richer source of spiritual nourishment than when I visit the site of my sisters in the Feminist Mormon Housewives Society. In fact, on their page today is a fundraiser for refugees of the FLDS, and a post about the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
- Atheists: This might seem like an odd one to include, but I think it belongs—for a very important reason. My self-proclaimed atheist friends don’t worry about an afterlife full of punishments or rewards. Instead, they’re concerned with doing the right thing here and now. That sometimes makes them better Christians than many of the actual Christians I know.
But perhaps the best approach of all is to use the question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” as a chance to be introspective. Maybe the next time we hear it asked, we regard it as a cue to inventory our own thoughts, words, and deeds toward our fellows listed above—and the rest of our human family.
If we fall short of flawless adherence to our Savior’s second great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves (and we will—we’re human and imperfect), then we already have a great improvement project right in front of us: Ourselves.
Mitch Mayne is an openly gay Latter-day Saint in the San Francisco Bay Area who works with the Church on outreach to LGBT members.