President Gordon B. Hinckley shared a story both in a BYU Devotional back in 1971, but later repeated the story for a First Presidency Message in the Ensign in July 1993. In the story he relates the experience of a naval officer from Pakistan that was converted to the church and its teachings. At some point before this man returned to Pakistan from the United States, President Hinckley was introduced to this man, learned of his story and related the experience this way:
He was introduced to me just before he was to return to his native land. We spoke of these things, and then I said: “Your people are not Christians. What will happen when you return home a Christian, and, more particularly, a Mormon Christian?”
His face clouded, and he replied, “My family will be disappointed. They may cast me out and regard me as dead. As for my future and my career, all opportunity may be foreclosed against me.”
I asked, “Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?”
His dark eyes, moistened by tears, shone from his handsome brown face as he answered, “It’s true, isn’t it?”
Ashamed at having asked the question, I responded, “Yes, it’s true.”
To which he replied, “Then what else matters?”
Much has been said recently about the new policy regarding the children of parents in Same Sex relationships. It is not a new thing, as this story illustrates, for an individual to experience a great deal of personal sacrifice when people are baptized into the Church. Life changes when someone is baptized, its supposed to. Some of our old life is lost, and its supposed to be that way, too. Many people have lost or sacrificed much in making the decision to be baptized, but they are not the victims we may always see them to be. So, seeing this new policy, and considering how it might affect some lives has not rocked me to the core as it has others. People will continue to be required to sacrifice much when it comes to the decision to be baptized.
With the ensuring war of words that Facebook has become to be known, much of the purity of the gospel has been lost in these online discussions, and as a result so much contention and hatred has been spread. I want to offer the following, as an alternative approach to this new policy, and perhaps invite people to remember to love first. Let hurt and anger be the victim of our choices, rather than let hate and anger turn us into the victims of the choices of others.
When Jesus Christ visited the Book of Mormon people after his Resurrection, some amazing and enlightening things were recorded. First, Jesus took the time to introduce himself to the people, to show them the prints in his hands and feet and to help them know it was really Him. Once the people were convinced, he was the promised Messiah, they rejoiced and fell at his feet. Jesus then gave them the authority to baptize people, placing a premier importance on both authority and the role of baptism to Jesus’ work.
Jesus Christ went on to explain the method and authority by which baptism was to be performed. Why? According to 3 Nephi 11:28 it was so that “there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.” The counsel that then followed seems interesting considering the immediacy of the verse as it relates to the organization of the baptizing effort in v. 29:
“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.”
In the recent policy change by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on baptism, namely the one regarding the baptism of children under the age of 18 we read: “Minor children in same-sex households are not to be baptized into the Church until they reach adulthood At that point they must understand and accept the Church’s doctrine regarding the sinfulness of same-sex acts and marriages in order to be baptized.” Current understanding also has it that baptism would also require First Presidency approval in order that individual to be baptized.
It is easy to come to aggressive conclusions based on a first reading. However, all conclusions made says more about the individual interpreting the policy than does the policy itself. Some will respond negatively, and others have responded with understanding, while some may still scratch their heads. There is no shortage of emotional warfare going on when it comes to the issues of Same Sex….anything. Lines are being drawn. Even the definitions of certain words in our modern lexicon have become innocent bystanders in a war that is dividing families, communities, and nations. The word gay no longer means happy, but a lifestyle or sexual preference. The meaning of the word tolerance is drowning in a sea of irony.
The word family is perhaps at the heart of this contention and might just get lost in the crossfire. The two things of greatest value to God is the life and soul of his Children, and their relationships to one another. Family units are at the foundation of the church for this reason. Jeffrey R. Holland once said in relation to the issues of sexual morality and the principles that guide our commandments surrounding life and the family this way, “it is LDS doctrine that sexual transgression is second only to murder in the Lord’s list of life’s most serious sins. By assigning such rank to a physical appetite so conspicuously evident in all of us, what is God trying to tell us about its place in his plan for all men and women in mortality? I submit to you he is doing precisely that–commenting about the very plan of life itself. Clearly God’s greatest concerns regarding mortality are how one gets into this world and how one gets out of it. These two most important issues in our very personal and carefully supervised progress are the two issues that he as our Creator and Father and Guide wishes most to reserve to himself. These are the two matters that he has repeatedly told us he wants us never to take illegally, illicitly, unfaithfully, without sanction.” (Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments, Holland)
Being born and how one dies are critical to the plan of Salvation, and salvation has a great deal to do with our relationship to others. Baptism itself is the act of creating a relationship, both with God through covenant, but also with the Church as a community. It is a correlating principle, and it is interesting to consider, that Jesus Christ talked about being baptized as being “born again.” It seems again, that these doctrines of life, death, sexuality and baptism are all very much connected. These relationships are key in building up the church, but they are also key in helping us to move forward towards our eternal goals. There in lies the need to protect and orchestrate these things with great care, and not allow them to become a profane thing. Nor should children be used as a pawn in the social-political war that has been going on for years and will continue for years to come.
The Church has long established standards that are to be kept by Church leaders regarding the qualifications that an individual must address in order to be baptized. This is not to cause contention, but to address the need to preserve the most fundamental and important parts of God’s plan. Baptism is not a reward for righteousness, therefore restricting someone from obtaining baptism is not inherently a punishment.
When Christ taught the Nephites the true order of baptism, he was keenly aware that contention or disagreement not only was the results of the past efforts on the issue, but that it could still arise in other circumstances. I assume that people will still get angry, contention will still happen. But baptism is still God’s ordinance, and it is his standards that will dictate what he finds acceptable. Those who wish to be baptized must abide by his rules in order to enter his Kingdom. We may crash up against that rock, but it will remain in place. The task at hand is to recognize that hate was not the motivation behind this policy. However, popular opinion, social pressure, and personal preference will contribute to color the way people will respond to anything the church does, but especially issues relating to Same Sex relationships.
“Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).
President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life” (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ.”
I would add, that exercising faith means to give the benefit of the doubt. Not necessarily immediate and blind acceptance, or complete understanding and agreement. But show some level of faith that an organization that is spending millions helping political refugees, to alleviate suffering for victims of natural disasters, to approve legislation for the protection of civil rights and benefits, and which seeks to bring the peace of the gospel to the world, is not immediately thrown under the bus. On this issue, I have faith in God and his Church. That means that my initial reaction to this policy may have been confused and conflicted, but I have trust in God and in His leaders. The more I have faith, the more I see that there is wisdom, love, and understanding present. Why?
Because it’s true, isn’t it?
Nick Galieti is an experienced podcaster as both producer/host of The Good Word Podcast, and was named the recipient of the 2015 John Taylor: Defender of the Faith Award by FairMormon for his podcasting effort with that organization. Nick has directed and produced two documentaries on the life of Joseph Smith Jr., Picturing Joseph, and Murder of the Mormon Prophet.
Nick is also a published author of the books Tree of Sacrament, and The Exaltation Equation. A past guest of The Cultural Hall (click here to listen), Nick now contributes as co-host of The Cultural Hall Book Club Podcast, and writes regularly for the blog. Nick was born in Southern California, and served a mission to the Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Nick is a freelance sound engineer of over 15 years, is married, has 5 daughters, and now lives in West Valley City, Utah.