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Standard Deviations: Stop the merry-go-round, columnist wants to get off

By Mark Saal, Standard-Examiner - | Apr 7, 2019

When I was just a little tyke, I loved the merry-go-round.

My father or mother would pick me up, wade into a herd of colorfully painted wooden horses, lift me onto the saddle of one of them and wrap a loose leather strap around my waist for a “seat belt.” I’d then grip tightly the brass pole running through the center of my trusty steed as the whole contraption began to move in a gentle, predictable arc.

As I got older, I discovered other rides at the amusement park. Rides that went much farther — and faster. Eventually, the merry-go-round became the most boring and predictable attraction in the place and I stopped riding it.

It’s a shame we can’t figure out a way to stop riding the equally boring and predictable virtual merry-go-round we often find ourselves on in this state.

That carousel started up again this past week when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reversed a policy from 2015 that banned baptism for underage children of gay couples. At the same time, the Mormon Morality Condition Alert for same-sex marriage was downgraded from “DEFCON Apostasy” to “DEFCON Serious transgression.” (With many of us hoping it will eventually be ratcheted down even further, to “DEFCON Possibly worse than drinking coffee, but not quite as bad as shopping on the sabbath.”)

I’d expected the announcement to be met with at least some sort of begrudging acknowledgement that it was a step in the right direction. But apparently, even that was just too much to ask for many people.

Instead, the same folks who — understandably — jumped all over the church for the 2015 announcement decided to use Thursday’s reversal of the decision as another opportunity to make political hay. And just as predictably, members of the church took umbrage at what they assumed would be seen as a positive move for LGBTQ relations, and suddenly it was off to the social media races.

Self-righteous social-justice warriors immediately began squaring off against hypersensitive defenders of the faith in a battle royale cage match to prove, once and for all, who’s fuller of the warm, brown stuff that comes out of the south end of a cow.

Such conflicts didn’t used to be this “entertaining.” Time was, you had to go to Temple Square in Salt Lake City to see this sort of Mormon/anti-Mormon friction playing itself out between infidels and believers. But these days, all you have to do is click on Facebook.

Not that anyone cares about this next part, but anytime I address the subject of religion I feel the need to offer full disclosure. I’m an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And heaven help me, I love the church and the people in it — warts and all.

However, having said that, I don’t always agree with my church. I was deeply saddened by the 2015 announcement on same-sex families, as I’m acquainted with just enough gay couples to know that they’re no different than my wife and me.

Now, I suppose the defenders of the faith would argue this puts me in direct opposition with God. Maybe so, but I can live with that one. I just figure God has bigger fish to fry than punishing me for giving my fellow sinners the benefit of the doubt.

Because of my church membership, coupled with my rather liberal leanings, I often find myself — like so many other liberal church members — caught between the two extremes. Frankly, when I’m not being called an anti-Mormon for my writings, I’m being labeled a Mormon apologist. Sometimes, for the very same column.

Look, I don’t expect critics of the LDS Church to be doing cartwheels over this latest announcement from the brethren. The church has a long way to go to reconcile with the LGBTQ community. But the fact is, church leaders reversed a decision that many, including me, saw as hurtful and unnecessary. And that’s something.

It just seems recklessly counterproductive — especially if you’re truly interested in changing the hearts and minds of your neighbors rather than simply scoring moral points against a faceless enemy — to use this change to further embarrass or shame the church and its members.

Somehow, we’ve managed to erect this sad little fence between the two sides in this state. And while you can argue that one group built it initially, since then both have done their level best to maintain it. It’s going to take people on both sides, reaching across that barrier, to solve this problem.

I’d like to believe that we could find a way to stop the cycle of anger and hatred from both sides. To that end, members of my faith would do well to practice the sentiment offered in a song sung by the little children in Primary:

“Jesus said love everyone/ Treat them kindly, too/ When your heart is filled with love/ Others will love you.”

And for those outside the faith? Consider the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who reminds us that no matter how justified we may feel in our righteous indignation, anger and hatred is never the way forward: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Thursday’s announcement, however small, was a good thing. Can’t we at least all celebrate that tiny victory?

Otherwise, it looks like we’re in for another spin on the old Mormon/Gentile merry-go-round.


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