Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Moral Imperative

I've been thinking about the Prop 8 issue a lot for the last few months. I've struggled with feelings of compassion for those who feel attacked by Proposition 8. I know that many people feel that Prop 8 is about closed-mindedness and intolerance.

I read a book called In Quiet Desperation that was written a few years ago about the issue of homosexuality and the teachings of the Gospel in the LDS Church. I was actually roommates at one point with one of the authors of the book, a young man who says in the book that he has never felt attracted to a woman in his life. The book starts out with the story of another person, however, named Stuart Matis, another person who felt same-gender attraction very strongly. Without ever acting on those feelings, Stuart lived the very best he could. He served a mission, went to BYU, graduated, and started working for a consulting firm while living at home in San Francisco on the weekends when he was in town. A personal acquaintance of mine was Stuart's roommate at BYU. He said Stuart was one of the most amazing people he had ever met - he was dialed in on every level. He had always believed that if he lived righteously enough, he would be changed. He ultimately gave in to despair and committed suicide outside of his stake-center (an LDS church building).

Stuart's story is written in this book by his mother, who knew of his struggles and of the suicidal tendencies he was developing during the last part of his life. Her perspective is so powerful. While she pleads for less closed-mindedness and greater understanding on the issue of homosexuality, her conviction about the true standards of morality never waiver. Throughout her account of her painful experiences, which I believe are equal to almost anybody's, she doesn't ever question the moral truth that is at the center of this debate - the truth that homosexual behavior is not right. Neither Stuart nor his mother doubted this truth. The author of the second part of the book makes it clear that homosexual behavior is not right. He bears a powerful conviction that what he feels in his body and what he knows to be true in his heart can be at odds with each other, and that he can legitimately choose what is right over what his body feels.

The fact that people struggle with a certain moral principle doesn't mean that we need to change the principle. It means that we need to teach it more powerfully. It does call for compassion and understanding, but not for a softening of the values that uphold personal happiness and social stability. There are many other struggles people have, which, like homosexuality, seem to be a combination of physical and developmental processes. Some examples are alcoholism or drug abuse. Some children are born addicted to cocaine. This evokes compassion in all of us. However, we don't enact legislation to change our stance on whether the behavior is right or wrong. To do so is a mistake of epic proportions.

We don't have to agree with the behavior of homosexuals to accept them and to have compassion for them. We should not take away the legal right of individuals in our society to disagree with their behavior. The moral principles God gave to us are now and have always been right. To depart from them can only bring negative consequences.

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