“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.
by Rich Keys
Since the dawn of time, we have been taught that in every close relationship, there are three little words that magically heal the hurt, ease the pain, and make things better. Regardless of your race, gender, culture, social circle, economic level, religion, or sexual orientation or identity, we’ve have been taught the same thing by sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, bishops, marriage counselors, and every movie on the Hallmark Channel: If you want your relationship to go from bad to good, or from good to gooder, then sincerely say those three little words and say them often: “I love you.”
But those aren’t the three little words I’m talking about today.
Last December, the general authorities of the COJCOLDS wanted to build a bridge, wave an olive branch, and break bread with its LGBTQ members and allies. Maybe they finally realized that we’ve taken quite a beating in the last few years, a roller coaster of hurtful policy changes that backfired, then reversing the policy changes, and speaking to mainstream Mormons about loving your neighbor but always with an asterisk reminding everyone to NEVER compromise your standards. So, the Q15 tweaked Handbook #2 (the one for everyone’s eyes) and added Section 21.5.1, Attendance at Church Meetings. (Frankly, if you have to have two decimal points in a paragraph number, it’s a sign that there are way too many rules in the handbook, but that’s for another time and another discussion). The new policy stated as follows:
“Those who attend (church meetings and events) should avoid disruptions or distractions contrary to worship or other purposes of the meeting…. That precludes making political statements or speaking of sexual orientation or other personal characteristics that detract from meetings focused on the Savior.”
And before you could say #(*[email protected]!!, everything hit the fan and it went viral. The reactions were swift and brutal: There it is in black and white! Now they’ve gone too far. Now we can’t even speak in church about sexual orientation because it detracts from focusing on the Savior. The ultimate censorship and insult. They might as well put duct tape across our mouths.
Except that wasn’t the new policy.
The church accidentally left out three little words from the last sentence of that paragraph. It should have read:
“That precludes making political statements or speaking of sexual orientation or other personal characteristics in a way that detracts from meetings focused on the Savior” (Emphasis added).
The words were added later that same day.
Now I admit that I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy in these things. I try to analyze, find a logical explanation for things, and not jump to conclusions. I also admit I’m far from perfect with this. In fact, the only exercise I get some days is jumping to conclusions. But I’m willing to cut the Brethren some slack on this one and consider one of the following explanations for the gaffe:
- They used Spell Check to proofread their document. Always a bad move. Spell Check is NOT proofreading, and there is no substitute for a real human being.
- They didn’t run it by their attorneys before going public. (See my previous blog, “Have Ye Inquired of the Lawyers?” October 2018)
- They didn’t read it through the eyes of LGBT members.
I put my chips on #3. To me, the revised paragraph seems pretty positive and levels the playing field. It tells straights to play nice, that church is a safe zone with no bullying allowed, even the self-righteous kind, and it also allows the gay team to correct misinformation and publically express our connection with the Lord, even when it involves our sexual orientation and identity. But the absence of those three little words totally changed the intent and meaning.
So often in our world, we don’t listen to understand. Usually, we don’t even listen. We interrupt the other person’s thought and finish it for them. Sunday morning news programs are full of “experts” who all talk at the same time until it’s obvious they can’t even hear what the others are saying, let alone try to understand it. Even governments don’t listen to understand. Just last month, a nation’s military shot down a passenger plane full of innocent victims by mistake, killing all 176 people aboard, because everyone was so nervous, so close to the edge, that any little hiccup could set things off, and no one took a big step back to listen…and consider other explanations…before pulling the trigger. As the saying goes, “measure twice, cut once.”
Seeing things from the point of view of the other guy (or church, or government, or political party, or LGBTQ group) doesn’t mean we have to totally agree with them, convert, and join their side, but it does give Christlike love a fighting chance in this world.
This month many of us celebrate Valentine’s Day, and we find creative ways to say the other three little words to whoever we consider significant enough in our life. When you do, please also consider this: The next time a significant someone in your life—whether it’s a person or church or LGBT group, or the guy in front of you in traffic, or even an entire nation—the next time they say or do something that triggers a little road rage in you, and you feel like putting them in their place, please count to 10, take a few deep breaths, and consider how they see it from their perspective, their history, and the day they’re having, before jumping to conclusions.
PS: I used the word gooder intentionally. No typo, no Spell Check. It’s the silly critters in me. Thought you should know before jumping to conclusions.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.