Monday, May 27, 2013

A friend of mine, who is active in another religion, e-mailed me to ask my opinion on the Church’s endorsement of the Boy Scouts of America ruling to allow homosexuals into the organization. She also wanted to know how I felt about the Church’s stand and whether or not the Church ordained homosexuals to the priesthood. Here is my response…

As for your questions about the Church and homosexuals, the Church has long been concerned about homosexuals and have spoken out on their behalf. I remember almost 30 years ago reading a tremendous talk by Boyd K. Packer, one of the 12 Apostles of the Church, wherein he spoke with kindness and concern to those in the Church struggling with same-gender attraction. It was a talk ahead of its time.

Do not mistake the Church’s love and concern for homosexuals as approval for their lifestyle because that is not the case. I, the Church’s leaders, and the main body of Church members, see those struggling with same-gender attraction as beloved sons and daughters of God and our spiritual brothers and sisters who need love and not rejection. We teach and truly believe that God’s love and Christ’s example charges each of us to love one another. We are to treat each other with respect as brothers and sisters and fellow children of God, no matter how much we may differ from one another.

As for the act itself, the Church has said their “doctrinal position is clear. Sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married. However, that should never be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality but never cruel. His interest was always to life the individual, never to tear down.”

In the political arena, the Church is strongly opposed to same-sex marriage, but it has openly supported other rights for gays and lesbians such as protections in housing or employment.

Within the Church, we have always recognized that attraction to the same sex is not inherently sinful, but engaging in homosexual behavior is. That is the difference. Acting out on those desires is in conflict with God’s commandments (based on scripture) that sexual relationships are to be reserved for those who are married and marriage is between a man and a woman.

HOMOSEXUALS AND THE PRIESTHOOD. Do we ordain homosexuals to the priesthood? I guess that depends on how you define homosexual. Those in the Church who are attracted to someone of the same sex but stay faithful to the Church’s teachings of chastity and morality are allowed to take part in services and serve within the Church. They can—and do—enjoy full fellowship with other Church members, including attending and serving in temples, and ultimately receive all the blessings afforded to those who live the commandments of God. It is when they fall and break the commandments that they lose blessings. We don’t withhold opportunities and blessings based on what ‘could’ happen. If that was the case, none of us would be worthy to partake of spiritual blessings for all of us are susceptible to sin.

Obviously, no matter what I or the Church say, some will disagree but, as the Church states, “we hope that any disagreement will be based on a full understanding of our position and not on distortion or selective interpretation.”

BOYSCOUTS: As for their view on the new BSA ruling, the Church said, “Young men…who agree to abide by Church standards (are) welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate. This policy applies to Church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been—and it is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.

“These standards are outlined in the booklet For the Strength of Youth and includes abstinence from sexual relationships. We remain firmly committed to upholding these standards and protecting and strengthening boys and young men.

“The Church appreciates BSA’s reaffirmation of its commitment to “duty to God,” which includes service to others and moral behavior….As in the past, the Church will work with BSA to harmonize what Scouting has to offer with the varying needs of our young men. We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner.”

So, to sum up, I agree with the Church’s stand that, “Few topics are as emotionally charged or require more sensitivity than same-sex attraction. This complex matter touches on the things we care about most….The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all of God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

While I can, and do, deeply love those around me who struggle with same gender attraction I don’t approve of acting on those desires and committing homosexual acts. I also do not condone hatred, bigotry or discrimination against them or anyone else who looks, acts, believes or sounds differently than I do. All of us have thorns in the flesh and crosses to bear. The sin is in breaking the commandments of God, not in wrestling with the weaknesses of the flesh and bearing our personal burdens in life well, walking in harmony with the Lord’s teachings despite the many pulls on us. Those who do walk uprightly in the Lord’s path deserve my respect. Would that I could bear my crosses as well as so many others do.

The Church has a tremendous Web site, if you're interested.

Well, I’m off to make banana nut muffins now and—hopefully—have a barbecue. We’ll see what the clouds are threatening to do!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ye are the salt of the earth--so why not sugar?

Christ teaches, “Ye are the salt of the earth” and he tells us “Have salt in yourselves” (see Matt. 5:13 and Mark 9:50). Yet most of the earth craves sugar. In America each individual consumes an average of 156 pounds of sugar per year and we eat less than two pounds of salt every year. That's a big difference.

Crystallized, granulated sugar was around at least 800 years before Christ so the Savior definitely knew about the sweet commodity, yet he told us to be like salt, not sugar. Why, especially when sugar can taste so...sweet?

Anciently, salt was used to preserve food and keep it from spoiling. It was used at every temple sacrifice to preserve the sacrifice from corruption, to symbolize divine protection from corruption, and to give enhancement to the flavor and smell of the sacrifice. In fact, so essential was it to the sacrificial ordinances that salt became the symbol of covenants (Lev. 2:13, Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chron. 13:5).

It was used to greet each newborn child, being rubbed onto their bodies to tighten and protect the skin.

Salt also became the symbol of fidelity. In fact salt, untarnished by worldly contaminants, last indefinitely.

For all those reasons, we can see why Christ would have asked us to be the salt of the earth.

Yet, there are some other reasons we may not readily know.

Salt is a natural mineral while sugar is not. Salt is necessary for life. Sugar is not.

To become sugar a natural source such as sugarcane or sugarbeets, must be cooked and processed and boiled into a syrup to which lime is added. As the sugar crystallizes in the syrup, it is skimmed off, dried and even bleached with sulphur dioxide to produce a false white color.

In fact, sugar looks so similar to salt that, for the untrained eye, it is difficult to visually tell the difference. In many ways, salt and sugar are like wheat and tares.

One way to tell the difference, though, is that sugar dissolves easily in water and salt does not. Try this experiment. Add 1/3 c. of water to two clear glasses. Into one glass add two teaspoons of sugar. To the other glass add two teaspoons of salt. Stir them both equally. You will see that the salt does not readily dissolve in the water and will color the water white. Sugar, on the other hand, melts easily in the water and quickly disappears from view. This resistance to dissolving is one reason things float easier on salty water than on sugary water.

In life, Christ does not want us to melt easily in the influence of the world. When life stirs us up, he wants us to remain separate—white and pure, able to influence those around us rather than being influenced by the world and quickly melting away from view.

Another interesting truth about sugar is that it becomes sticky, whereas salt does not. The hydrogen molecules in sugar bond to other molecules and form a weak glue. Once you get sugar on your hands all sorts of things seem to stick to, dirt, etc. And that stickiness spreads. Touch something after handling sugar and it gets sticky, too. Then that object also begins to attract dirt and grime. Spill something sweet and it takes great effort to clean it up and remove all traces of stickiness.

Salt, on the other hand, actually cleans away dirt and grime.

But for me, one of the greatest reasons Christ may have asked us to be like salt is that fact that salt crystals are always the same. In fact, so consistent are salt crystals that you can actually mix sugar and salt together and still separate them based on sight alone.

Look at salt granules up close (if you have a magnifying glass that is even better). Salt always forms perfect, uniform cubes--like tiny boxes. Sugar, on the other hand, forms all sorts of different shapes and sizes from small to large, to rectangular to fractured.

Christ wants us to be consistent throughout our lives: to be true to our covenants and not fractured or of random conformity like sugar. Like the straight, clean sides on a cube of salt, the Savior wants us to be straight and honest in all that we do and live a clean and consistent life so that, no matter what side is viewed, we still project the same true character…that people can pick us out from the worldly sugar crystals around us.