06 November 2008

"I reserve the right to be fair."

In my education classes recently we've been talking about how there are times when the "rules" have to bend to accommodate students with special needs. Students that have a hard life at home or have been ill or struggle intellectually, etc. That means that, although I will have a late-work policy as a teacher that will usually need strict adherence, there will be times when that policy will be adjusted depending on the needs of the individual. My classroom management teacher put it best when she told us that she puts the phrase "I reserve the right to be fair" on all of her disclosure documents at the beginning of the year.

Fair and equal are not the same thing. Equality implies that if I have five cookies and two children I will give each child exactly 2 1/2 cookies. It means that what you give one you must give another. True equality is very nearly a kind of covenant where one party gives exactly the same as he receives. It should include exact sameness in quantity, degree, value, rank and/or ability (see the Dictionary for elaboration). To be "fair" is not always the same as being equal. Fairness implies that you are free from bias or injustice - in the case of a teacher, being fair is looking after the needs of individual students.

Where am I going with this?

As this recent election came to a close I more or less decided that I did not care who got the presidency. Both President-Elect Obama and Senator McCain presented themselves well and with dignity and more or less each had something to offer the nation. I am glad to see that our nation has reached a point where we can elect a black man - and the fact that it was by such a large margin is impressive. Regardless of whether or not I agree with his politics, it is remarkable.

There was only one issue that I really cared about by the end of the election - the passing of Proposition 8 in California.

It's been frustrating for me to see how everything has come apart with Proposition 8 and the way people follow the counsels of the Prophet. On an internal level - it bothers me that members of the church have so openly and deliberately gone against the counsel of the Prophet and his counselors. I respect that everyone has different experience with the gay community. Being a theater-person myself, I've had a fair amount of experience myself. I empathize with the struggle. That said - when the prophet specifically asks for support on an issue; you should listen to him. If you raised your hand in support of him at the last General Conference, that means that you have sustained him as a seer and revelator - as one who knows more and sees more than we do because of that connection with God. If you have a testimony in the power of God to speak to man, specifically through his prophet, then you should recognize that regardless of personal experience or understanding - God must know what he is doing. This isn't part of the church's "political agenda" - this is the Prophet protecting the most sacred institution on earth - the family - and asking for our support.

Outside of the church it makes me feel ill to see the reactions that have been thrown around. The term "tolerance" has been completely misused. Those who do not support Proposition 8 ask for tolerance but do not give it - tolerance is a "fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own" It is defined as "freedom from bigotry". Look at the advertising that has happened. The church's support of Proposition 8 was all very positive. There is not ONE negative add bashing the other side that is supported with the church's name on it. But as I write this there are protests going on outside the LA temple. There was a commercial last week slandering the church's name that presented two "missionaries" raiding the home of a lesbian couple. The "missionaries" stole the wedding rings of the couple, tore their house apart, and ripped their marriage certificate into pieces.

Another example, non Prop-8 related: On Halloween there was a story on the news about a house in Hollywood (I think it was there) that had put up an effigy of Sarah Palin being hung. No one made a big deal about it - it was a political statement. If someone had done it with Barack Obama's image - it would have been considered racist.

The double standard is ridiculous. It makes me ill to watch how the church has been singled out because of our stance on this issue. The church is not slandering anyone. Our leaders have never once encouraged members to show bigotry towards homosexuals. We are encouraged to love all people, regardless of race, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, etc. If there are members of the church that go against that counsel, they are in the wrong. That said, the stance of the church on the sanctity of marriage will not and cannot change.

"Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions. President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had 'never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life..'

"This is hard doctrine, but it is particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ. . . . Your discipleship may see the time when such religious convictions are discounted. . . . This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions.

"Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened....

"Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel.

"There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds which was, till then, unconscious of itself.

"Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves, 'summer is nigh.' Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat."

From "A More Determined Discipleship" by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy. An address delivered at Brigham Young University, 10 October 1978.