“Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience. Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.
Two Degrees off Center
By Rich Keys
Law & Disorder
One of my favorite TV shows is Law & Order—the reruns of the original series. Almost every day of the week, there’s a Law & Order marathon on some cable channel. It’s even on in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep. I’ll probably choose my degree of glory based on where I can find Law & Order reruns. It just wouldn’t be heaven for me without it.
In one episode, assistant DA Serena Southerlyn was fired by Arthur Branch, the head DA. He told her she had too much passion for the job. A prosecuting attorney is cold and calculated, cut and dried, heartless, goes by the book, without any regard for compassion, and doesn’t let emotions get in the way, he said, while she was more suited as a defense attorney, who does use emotions, argues with passion, pleads for mercy, has a heart, and uses it to elicit compassion from the judge or jury.
I thought of that episode as I watched the opening session of LDS General Conference this month. As I listened to Elder Oaks’ talk on the family proclamation, I felt attacked and pummeled by a bully who uses the law to judge and condemn, telling his followers because ye are not of the world, the world hateth you…the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God…a friend of the world is the enemy of God…reject anything that does not conform to our standards…refuse to surrender…and on and on. It seemed so either/or, take it or leave it, and reassuring them the more they’re hated, the more they’re doing the right thing. Then I remembered his background as an attorney and Utah Supreme Court justice, and I realized this guy’s an excellent prosecutor—cold and calculated, cut and dried, by the book, not letting emotions get in the way of things. At the end of his talk, I felt so defeated, but I had to admit he’d made his case very clear, logical, and well laid out. Regardless of the hurt and pain he caused me and other LGBT members, families, and friends, I definitely knew where he stood on the matter of us and same-sex marriage.
Later in the same session, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of becoming perfect, but from a totally different perspective. It wasn’t only what he said, but also the way he said it, as a defense attorney, with empathy, compassion, mercy, acknowledging and accepting our difficulties, that failing doesn’t mean failure, asking us to be a little more God-like in little things and don’t sweat the big things, and to give my help to anyone trying to walk the road back to God. He didn’t micromanage that road either. He let me, and others, sort that out with the Lord.
Yesterday at church, I asked my adopted bishop in my adopted ward for help. He’s a true LGBT ally, an anchor in my life, a safe person in a safe place. I mentioned how much Elder Oaks’ talk hurt me and quoted many examples throughout his talk. He finally said, “I didn’t like it either.” Suddenly, I felt the burden totally lifted from me and replaced by hope. He reminded me that even though all the general authorities wear the same suit and the same tie and all look like a unity of the faith, they’re not. They have strong opinions, sometimes differing like night and day, and this positioning plays out not only behind the scenes, but even at the pulpit. He asked me to picture the Uchtdorfs and the Hollands on the stand cringing throughout Elder Oaks’ talk, shouting, “noooo, not that, not that way,” in their minds. He asked me to listen to the leaders’ talks again as a full session or full conference, and I’ll hear them communicating and posturing and counseling each other on these issues, and we’re just 16 million people eavesdropping on the conversation.
The waves have calmed, the storm is past. My silly critters are back, and the spiritual conduit is once again clear. I’ve been reminded that each of us—even the bully who thinks he knows it all—is a work in progress. Things aren’t etched in stone at that pulpit—the church is a work in progress too.
Thank you, Lord, for allies who care and are always there… and for anchors who steady the boat during the storm, no matter who causes the waves.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.