How the First Presidency Letter in LDS Church congregations was presented these past two Sundays depended on the ward. Below are a variety of examples of how it played it in different parts of North America.
The Baltimore Maryland Stake Presidency prepared the following letter that was read to all members of the Stake July 5, 2015 during Sacrament Meeting
BALTIMORE MARYLAND STAKE
July 5, 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Baltimore Maryland Stake:
In the midst of various tensions in our political and social climate, we wish to take a moment to focus on an absolutely essential aspect of our faith as Latter-day Saints: the need to love one another as Jesus has loved us.
This fundamental truth was taught by our Savior during his mortal ministry, where he declared that his love is the ultimate expression of our discipleship to Him:
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
We declare our love for all of God’s children. This love is extended to all, no matter what their race or national origin or sexual orientation or personal struggles. The commandment to love is clear and is unconditional.
A modern prophet of God has given us this inspired counsel on the principle of Christ-like love:
“…As always, Christ is our exemplar. In His teachings as in His life, He showed us the way….
Jesus said it is easy to love those who love us; even the wicked can do that. But Jesus Christ taught a higher law. His words echo through the centuries and are meant for us today. They are meant for all who desire to be His disciples. They are meant for you and me: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
When our hearts are filled with the love of God, we become “kind on to another, tenderhearted, forgiving [each other], even as God for Christ’s sake [forgave us].”
The pure love of Christ [allows] us to see others the way our Heavenly Father sees us: as flawed and imperfect mortals who have potential and worth far beyond our capacity to imagine. Because God loves us so much, we too must love and forgive each other.”
“The Merciful Obtain Mercy”, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2012 General Conference.
We testify that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and testify further that this is His Church, established on earth in these latter-days to be a refuge from life’s storms and a beacon of hope and pure love to a troubled world. We exhort all members of the Baltimore Stake to be relentless in their pursuit of Christ-like love for all whom the Lord places in their path.
May the Lord bless each of us in our path to discipleship.
The Baltimore Maryland Stake Presidency
Sara Jade Woodhouse wrote the following blog on her site tparency.wordpress.com
“…we interrupt our program to bring you this important message…” – ???
Sometimes moments arise that force to you put everything else on hold while you share them with the world. Today held just such a moment. I have been attempting to put all the pieces into place in order to re-launch this blog…a re-launch that would hopefully lead to wider distribution and a more polished presentation. But…something happened today that forces me to begin some of those changes pre-maturely.
Today I attended my church meetings like any other Sunday (any other Sunday since starting at my new ward that is) and I knew…in the back of my mind…that today could be a VERY hard day. The Supreme Court decision on the 26th of June to legalize gay marriage nationwide, while in so many ways unbelievably awesome in all of its far reaching implications, was bound to solicit a response from my Church. I knew the letter was coming. I knew it was to be read to all of the members of the Church. And…I knew that there would be about an hour long discussion following that. I attended my Sabbath day meetings anyway. I did so…because I had hope…and because I wanted to feel the shared spirituality that I had become used to.
When the Bishop took the stand in Sunday School…I knew that this was it. What would happen in the next 20 minutes could spell either the beginning of something beautiful or the ending of the same. Before the Bishop even started to read the letter from the First Presidency…it was already clear that what he would read affected him profoundly. I sat there…head bowed…listening to the words that I had become quite familiar with over that past few months. It was a message that the Church had driven home in the April Conference of this year…in press releases to the world…and in public interviews both leading up to and following the Supreme Court decision. The Church would continue to affirm it’s position that same sex marriage was against the will of God and not condoned by the LDS Faith in any way.
I sat there…holding my breath…and waiting for what I felt might very well cause my heart to break. I had finally…after more than 10 years of searching…found a home for my soul. I yearned to share my spirituality with this new found family that I had only spent a few weeks with. I had experienced acceptance before (in most of the wards I had attended in fact) but nothing like the ward I was now enjoying the privilege of being a part of. I didn’t want to lose that. Not now. Not so soon after finding my home.
The Bishop finished reading the letter. Placing it to the side…he wept. Humbly he began to bear his testimony. He spoke of his lack of understanding. He didn’t understand why things happened the way they did. He didn’t know what God eventually had planned for all of us. But what he did know…was that God asked us to love each other. Unconditionally. He believed that the Church is filled with imperfect people. That God still has yet to reveal many things. He bore his testimony of his children…two of which are gay. He said he looked forward to the day when his family could be together at Church. When his gay children could feel welcome to bring their partners with them and feel the love surround them. He spoke of how unfair it is to expect someone who is attracted to someone of the same sex to spend their lives alone. After his sweet testimony he opened up to everyone else to discuss.
Again…I waited to be let down by those around me. What happened next…still has me in tears even now. Virtually every person in that room affirmed their love of everyone…no matter who they are…or who they love. I sat on the back row and wept. I was truly home.
This is my truth.
Sara Jade Woodhouse
The Salt Lake Tribune published the following article describing reactions to the letter: click here to link to the original article
Written by Peggy Fletcher Stack
Some Mormons left church in tears, distraught at the anti-LGBT sentiments tossed around by their fellow believers. Others emerged exuberant, surprised by the kindness shown toward their gay brothers and sisters.
Either way, at least they were talking — and in a religious setting — about an often uncomfortable, even taboo, topic: same-sex marriage.
Just days after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized the practice in all 50 states, the LDS Church sent its lay leaders in the United States and Canada an unusual request:
Read a letter from Mormonism’s top leaders to all members, reiterating the Utah-based faith’s steadfast support of “traditional” marriage and other stances on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, so the instructions said, but do it in another meeting than the main sacrament (worship) service and possibly use provided materials to lead a discussion about homosexuality.
This, the governing LDS First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote, should happen on either July 5 or 12.
In other words, save for the edict that the entire statement be read, officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not dictate how or when the materials should be discussed — an open-ended, individualized approach that is largely unprecedented in the LDS Church on such a major topic.
Mormon bishops (lay leaders of congregations known as “wards”) were free to choose the day of this action (last Sunday or this Sunday), which elements to highlight and what tone to set for the conversation.
This ensured the experience would vary dramatically from region to region, ward to ward, bishop to bishop.
And so it did last Sunday, according to reports from the Bay Area to Boston, Brooklyn, Baltimore and Boise, from Denver to Detroit, from Albuquerque to Atlanta.
Before the Sabbath ended, members were sharing their experiences on social media, both positive and negative.
“In EQ [elders quorum],” Joseph Stuart tweeted, “we were encouraged to prepare ourselves for the apocalypse after an unelected body trampled the Constitution.”
It was “a train wreck,” filled with distrust and fear and ‘us’ verses ‘them’ comments,” wrote a Lehi Latter-day Saint. “With the exception of one lovely woman, every comment and response was a reflection of perceived victimhood, how our religious freedoms are being attacked, and the persecution our church is under. There was almost nothing about Christlike love or compassion for those who are different than us. It was awful.”
Yet another Lehi member, a mother who works with the faith’s Young Women (teens ages 12-17) in a different ward noted that “the bishopric member reading it prefaced it by talking about his friend who is gay and how much he loves that friend. Then the YW had its regular lesson and the topic came up and they were basically counseled to be good to everyone.”
In Bloomington, Ill., according to an attendee, members asked questions such as “What if my friend invites me to their gay wedding?” or “What if someone who is gay wants to come to church?”
The bishop replied, “Are they your friend? Tell them we’d love to have them.”
‘Get used to it’ • Some LDS leaders chose to read the letter to their members immediately after the close of sacrament meeting. Some spoke only to adults. Some added their own words. Some chose to forgo discussion altogether, urging members to study the letter for themselves and only come to their leaders if they had questions.
“We had a special meeting during the third hour with all of the men and women age 12 and up. The bishop read it and asked for people’s thoughts and impressions. He then asked if there were any questions,” wrote Steve Densley of American Fork. “The tone was respectful. A number of people noted the importance of supporting the church in its position on the law of chastity, while at the same time being careful to extend love, fellowship and respect to those with differing viewpoints.”