Gospel Doctrine lesson 46: “He Will Dwell with Them, and They Shall Be His People”
Approximate Scheduled Teaching Date: Sunday, December 06, 2015
The above lesson contains the following questions:
“One thing we learn from Revelation chapter 6 is that Satan has fought against the righteous throughout the history of the earth. According to Revelation 6:4-11, what are some ways he has done this? What tactics does Satan use today to try to overcome the righteous? How can we maintain hope and a positive outlook as we fight the war against Satan?” (p. 27)
The Church has focused on various “lifestyle” sins over the years as society has evolved, both legally and culturally. In the 1950s and 1960s, smoking and drinking were in the spotlight. Then came drugs and gambling. More recently, immorality and pornography with its personal access through VCR’s, DVD’s, computers, and smartphones have received much attention.
The current issue appears to be the dramatic change in society’s acceptance towards homosexuality, gay rights, and same-sex marriage. The Church has addressed homosexuality by distinguishing between sexual orientation and behavior, and applying the Law of Chastity consistently, whether straight or gay. In 2012, they developed an official website, mormonsandgays.org, which provides official, up-to-date statements of the Church, tools to help members and local leaders overcome fear and ignorance through education and Christlike love, and interviews with members who share their thoughts and insights regarding these issues. On this website, for example, the Church states that sexual orientation is not a choice.
At a press conference held January 27, 2015, the Church came out officially supporting gay rights in housing and employment when balanced with protections of religious freedoms, acknowledging that they wish to work more closely with the gay community to find ways toward mutual understanding and supporting each other’s needs where possible, while showing a greater love in any case. At that press conference, the Church also avoided the use of the term “same-sex attraction,” using terms such as “gay,” “lesbian,” and “LGBT” instead, which are considered less offensive and more gay-friendly. Following the press conference, many conservative groups and churches felt the Church was selling out, while many liberals and gay activists and advocates felt it was just a slick public relations campaign to improve its image without changing any doctrine. However, Jonathan Rauch, an openly gay Senior Fellow from the Brookings Institution, observed that the Church’s position was very bold—because they placed themselves in the middle, where they were all alone, while so many others were polarized at one end of the spectrum or the other. (Tad Walch, “LDS leaders emphasize fairness for all,” Deseret News National Edition, 2-1-2015, p. 9) Individually, these may all seem like baby steps, but collectively, these developments showed a significant attitude change in just six years following the bitterness of the Proposition 8 campaign.
In addition, in an age where science is making such advances into the uncharted territories of medicine, genetics, the environment, agriculture, and other areas affecting all of us, the Church is facing issues with moral implications that were unheard of until recently. For some areas, the Church has no guidelines or policies at all. In an era where right and wrong increasingly seems filled with gray areas and no longer just black and white, the Church, like individuals, may need to rely more on the Spirit as our Liahona, and less on our own limited knowledge, opinions, biases, and past practices to guide us.
So it was in this context that made recent policy changes regarding same-sex marriage partners and their children so difficult, so jarring, for so many. Regardless of one’s sexual orientation, many members have been “wrestling with the Spirit” regarding not only the policy changes themselves, but also the tone of the wording and how the Church explained it in follow-up videos, printed clarifications, and press releases. While LGBT members and their friends and families are most affected, many others are struggling with the changes but have not felt safe in openly discussing them. Others may not even be aware of the hurt this has caused in individuals’ lives, some closer to them than they may realize. Others may be searching for answers but don’t know where to find them. While we lick our own wounds, this may also be an opportunity, as led by the Spirit, to reach out in Christlike love and teach those who are teachable. Rather than speaking in generalities of the 99, we may build more bridges by telling the story of the 1.