I'm sure your mind has been as occupied as mine lately, what with every corner we turn having a request to become more informed, more active, more supportive of the passing of Proposition 8. Many of us feel conflicted and even measures of guilt if we don't whole-heartedly and enthusiastically support the passing of Proposition 8. I hope to ease any feelings of undesired dissent. Even though this topic has been weighing so heavily on your mind, ultimately it shows how seriously you are taking the Lord's counsel and how deeply you are considering the words of our prophet and what they mean to you and how that those words DO affect your life. If we were not meant to falter and if we were not meant to struggle, we would never have the opportunity to understand the Atonement or allow Christ to have any true significance in our life.
For those who like to say they have experienced these personal schisms before and have concluded they are beyond hope of harmony between their personal life and spirituality, let's be realistic here; to suppose you have already received every witness of your faith and every answer the Spirit offers would be to suppose your ability for spiritual growth stops before we even graduated college. Doubtful. Without trials and without this inner conflict, we would have no idea how strong we truly are because we would not have the opportunity to be tested to our limits, and without that test, there is no way of defeating evil or coming out winning on the other side. There really would be no goal and no point to anything. Ever. Furthermore, it is the extent of that test and struggle through conflict that we are shown our strengths; more than that (if we truly believe that we will not be tested beyond our abilities to overcome that test) it proves not just our faith in God, but the amount of faith that God has in US. If it is true that we are never given a burden greater than what we can bear, that means the Lord only allows us to struggle with issues that ultimately are meant to be our strength. When we are given a trial, it is only because we have become strong enough to succeed against it, which proves the amount of faith God has in our ability for success. And somehow, knowing that and having that perspective, can change the way we approach conflict.
Many of us may have close friends whom we fear may be offended or may not understand the position our church leaders have asked us to take. What I've come to accept about my friendships with people who don't share my faith or my belief system is that they respect me because they care about me, regardless of what they may understand of my faith. I imagine that is because they know how much I love and respect and care for them and their well-being and happiness. While we may not agree on most things, we remain friends (and share an even deeper and closer a bond) because of those times where, despite our differences, we choose to continue loving and respecting one another- regardless of our personal feelings or actions. We recognize that we don't have to be the same in order to love and appreciate each other. It's that level of acceptance- mutual tolerance and acceptance- that proves our friendship is valuable and real.
You know how they say you're supposed to pray for answers and THEN read? Tonight I read 1st Nephi. And it blew. My. Mind. Nephi is commanded to do something that he feels is immoral, that makes no sense, and is completely contrary to what he believes or even wants to do. The struggle he has- the way it's written- it is totally fascinating (1 Nephi 4:1-3). As for dealing with the potential conflicts of today and any other day, Nephi admits, "I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do." (1 Nephi 4:6) Which really is the only way we can succeed- if we can manage to keep the Spirit with us at all times, we will have the power to call upon it to know what to do at the time when we need to do it (or say whatever it is the Lord needs us to say and that our friends need to hear). The Spirit is what ensures that our message will be understood, even if our words might be weak. And let's face it- some of us have more of a difficult time with words than others. Thankfully, it is the Spirit that can speak directly to all souls, that the intention of our message will be understood and accepted.
Verses 10-15 display the true struggle and inner conflict Nephi has, admitting that- in response to the command to kill Laban- "I said in my heart; Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him." And I SHRUNK. Nephi himself, a faithful and obedient, visionary man "SHRUNK" at the idea of doing something the Lord commanded in a situation he did not fully understand, one which he knew directly countered one of the Ten Commandments. And the verses continue to determine that, not only is this something commanded of the Lord, but that he prepared the situation and chose someone who lived by the Spirit to do it- I imagine because only someone truly living by the Spirit would really receive such a command. Later, we even see how fickle his own brothers are (1 Nephi 7:9-12), and the reason WHY the Spirit "ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets" and by actively choosing to reject the words of the prophets (for what I thought were rather understandable reasons- minus seeing angels and having experiences where the prophet has proven to be right), Laman and Lemuel weren't even able to receive understanding of these commandments because they chose not to live in a way that would allow the Spirit to be in their lives.
And it is not simply something encountered among the young. I love Sariah's experience from her perspective; here she is in the desert, having abandoned her home and beautiful, prospering city of Jerusalem, to wander based on faith in her husband, the prophet, and now her husband has endangered her children in a reckless and deathly mission- and for what? Simply because they were commanded? She doesn't even see the purpose or importance of the task, so why should she be expected to be supportive of the mission to retrieve plates, of all things? She's abandoned EVERYTHING, is sent to wander the wilderness in her age and now THIS?!?! Geez! But when they return, she comes full circle and understands- a confirmation of her husband and son's faith AFTER the task is complete and AFTER they're home safely and then she rejoices and understands the purpose of the mission (1 Nephi 5:8). I don't think this moment should be trivialized. Her reaction is totally understandable. There are times where we won't be happy or understand the purpose or point of an act of faith until AFTER the fact. That doesn't make the rejoicing any less, but it does make enduring the task significantly more painful.
Now for the modern day application of these verses. Over the years my experiences have eventually proven to me that I do have a testimony of God's prophets. My faith has shown that I do honestly and truly trust in their words, knowing their counsel is given in love, kindness, acceptance and wisdom. Why would I allow one thing to suddenly cause me doubt, when already I know where I stand on my faith in the prophet? I truly feel that this is my opportunity to make a choice that is not based on my own understanding or will, but that is God's, and the idea of being able to do that- knowing it has nothing to do with myself or my own personal, political beliefs- makes me very, very eager to find the big payoff that will be in the growth of my testimony and in proving that I really can be faithful in a way I never trusted myself to be. How many times do we have the opportunity to exercise true faith? A faith that is based off of what we know already to be true. No predetermined result or foreseeable reason of our own, but an act of faith based purely in what we know of God and His called prophets. A faith that has been proven in the past to be true, with an opportunity to act on our own accord based off of prior knowledge and understanding of sacred testimony; not with a man-made based political outcome. We do not need to justify our apologize for our actions when they are based in honesty, integrity and faith. It is faith that we have in the Lord that He will direct our paths to do the right thing. Regardless of our own lack of vision.
This was originally written in August. Now, in retrospect, I am grateful to have continued striving to move forward to understand BOTH sides of Prop 8. Two months later, I find myself feeling strongly about this issue for reasons I would have not fortold then. Just a reminder; line upon line, precept upon precept- when we excercise a mustard seed of faith in moving forward and ask for the Spirit to keep our hearts and minds clear and prepared for further revelation. Live worthily and prepare that you might receive it.