Why I can't leave it alone

This morning I read about the quiet edits made to Boyd K. Packer's general conference talk.  I felt a mixture of satisfaction and frustration.
  • Satisfaction: that his words were considered in need of changing.  
  • Frustration: that this kind of quiet editing goes on all the time without coming to the attention of every-day members of the LDS Church.
I thought how, in light of last weekend's controversy, such edits might be considered news-worthy.  And I thought how, considering their "quiet" methods, the LDS Church was probably hoping that wouldn't happen.  Which I think is unfortunate, because couldn't they use these corrections as evidence that they're trying to be more cognizant of other perspectives?

When I was 17 years-old, my father was a mission president.  General authorities visited our home at least a couple times a year.  During one particular visit, I sat with my family and the visiting general authority in the living room, listening earnestly as he related anecdotes about his interactions with then president of the church, Gordon B. Hinckley.

The general authority mentioned how, in a recent meeting, President Hinckley had wondered aloud why the world wouldn't just "leave us the hell alone." Everyone chuckled, but my stomach dropped.  President Hinckley - the man I considered God's chosen spokesperson on earth - swore?

I mean, I had sworn before.  In fact, it was a favorite bad habit of mine when I'd been a 4th grader.  But by the time I was 12 or 13, I felt enough remorse to confess to my bishop.  So as a 17 year-old striving for pure speech, I felt troubled by what seemed a double standard.

I quickly made peace with the cognitive dissonance, reassuring myself that the pressures on President Hinckley were much greater than those I faced.  He was God's servant, but not God himself.  And in later years, as I became increasingly disillusioned with the principle of "exact obedience" but still maintained my faith, I began to see the anecdote in the same humorous light as had my parents and the general authority.  Today, as a nonbeliever, I still have a tremendous amount of respect for Gordon B. Hinckley, and am not bothered if he chose to spice up his dialogue with an occasional hell or damn.

But Gordon, I now understand something that you couldn't.  I understand why they (we) can't leave the church alone.  Because when the church publicly speaks words of condemnation, only to send a semantically different message in private, we feel disappointed by the lack of integrity.

We Need a New Dialogue

Even though I left the LDS church over a year ago, most of my close friends are still active Mormons.  My friends tend to be intelligent, open-minded, politically moderate, compassionate individuals...who are also informed by their individual spirituality and religious convictions. 

Yesterday I spoke with one of these friends about Boyd K. Packer's talk and the ensuing controversy.  We discussed the heartache each of us and many of our acquaintances (on both sides of the issue) had experienced over the weekend.  As we talked, my main question was this - How can we all learn to live with, love, and reach out in understanding to one another, in spite of significant idealogical differences?

My friend expressed her view (and I agree) that different groups - like Mormons and Exmormons - often share many common values, but allow hot button issues to polarize and divide and prevent working together productively on shared goals.  She reminded me of Jon Stewart's recent admonition that we all "take it down a notch."

We need a more constructive dialogue.  I don't agree with the LDS viewpoint that any sexual relationship, other than that of 1 man and 1 woman legally married, is impure.  I believe that to publish such a viewpoint is hurtful.  But I also think - to be fair - I should acknowledge that LDS teachings emphasize individual worth, compassion, empathy, and tolerance.  I think it's telling that I can talk with many of my Mormon friends about my atheist perspective and lifestyle choices and not feel judged, but rather, loved and accepted.

In another conversation I had with a loved one the other night, I began to suggest that there is a way to share your views such that others will feel loved or at least respected, and there is a way to share your views such that others will feel angered and alienated.  As soon as the words left my mouth I realized I needed to take my own advice.

Let's stand up for what we believe without demonizing those who disagree with us.  We will never all see things the same way - it's the blessing and curse of diversity.  But through understanding and tolerance, I hope we can find a way to work together for the good of mankind.

10/7 edited for clarity

Conference Time

Spent a lovely weekend in Park City with my boyfriend.  As we drove back to Salt Lake this afternoon, the gorgeous fall colors reminded of another fall drive with my college roommates following general conference 10 years ago.  We went up the canyon near BYU to ponder the messages we received (incidentally, the personal revelation I received during that particular conference was that God could help me to gain control of my weight through scriptural principles - lol!).

Yesterday morning I commented to Dave that General Conference used to be my favorite time of year.  No, I'm not kidding (Yes, I used to be a total church nerd).  Between the ages of 17 and 27, I was actually more excited for conference than for any other holiday. I always watched all sessions (even when I lived in Taiwan)...then I would listen to them over and over again while jogging...and I enjoyed filling my hard copy of the Conference Ensign with handwritten cross-references.

Dave asked me why I loved it so much (which I thought was a very good question).  I guessed that it was because during conference 1) I felt validated in my perspective and life choices, and 2) I felt inspired to be better.

I felt pretty upset this afternoon as I read about some of the messages delivered so far, messages which my family members and many of my friends accept part and parcel with messages of faith and comfort and encouragement as the word of God.  Argh.  Considering that most of the active Mormons I know believe that homosexuality has at least some genetic components to it...sounds like backwards progress to me. *sigh*