Imagine that the Mormon church announces tomorrow that they’ve received a revelation from God telling them to accept gay marriage.
(Please note that I am absolutely NOT “agitating” for something like this. This is merely a thought exercise to make a point.)
In a perfect world, mainstream society would react like this: “They’ve worked so hard for so long to make sure we all know that they love us and want to be friendly with us, we can’t deny that only fidelity to their beliefs was what led them to the policies they had. Their efforts at explaining those beliefs kindly and reaching out to everyone in welcoming were nothing short of amazing.”
Of course, the more realistic reaction would be: “Well, it’s about time those morons decided to stop being so mean and hateful.”
So we’re at an impasse as far as the Mormons’ motives go. The Latter-day Saints themselves declare that they have a divine mandate to preserve the traditional family, while befriending everybody with the utmost, Christlike charity. Those in favor of gay marriage more likely assume the real reason for that opposition is pure ignorance, or even fear.
Why doesn’t mainstream society take our statements at face value? Two main explanations seem probable: either the Latter-day Saints just aren’t doing a good enough job at genuinely being friendly to those who support gay marriage, or those who support gay marriage are so emotionally invested in it, that they can’t imagine anyone disagreeing for any reason besides hatred.
(I’ve asked a few non-Mormons in conversation over the years about that: if they could conceive of anyone opposing gay marriage for any reason besides hate. They’ve all thought about it and then said no.)
So what does this mean for the Latter-day Saints? Are we to accept that many out there will simply never take our outstretched hands, and give up trying? Or should we wonder if maybe the world really doesn’t see those hands being stretched out at all, and try harder to fellowship those who might be suspicious of our motives?
Wherever the blame for this misunderstanding lies, I have to think we need to work on the second option. It may not be fair, but that’s our lot in life: to strive for peace as much as we can, even if the results might never materialize. I’m reminded of the counsel Mormon gave his son Moroni: “And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.” (Moroni 9:6).
Whatever happens with politics and society, it’s important that people know that we do what we do with love. We have to try.