In the October 2017 General Conference, Dallin H. Oaks said, “I believe our attitude toward and use of the family proclamation is [a] test for this generation.” This came after a discussion of how the Lord calls His people to “be not conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). President Oaks included in his discussion the laws that allowed gay marriage in opposition to the statement in the family proclamation that marriage is between a man and a woman.
For many, the talk was a battle line being drawn between the Church’s teachings on eternal marriage and the increasing advocacy for gay marriage and other gay rights found in governments and societies through out the world. This battle has been going on for quite a while, even before Elder Oaks’ talk in 2017, and it has been hurting my heart for decades.
I took these words to the Lord and asked Him what I was supposed to do with this. I love God, I love this Church, I believe in revelation through Prophets and Apostles. And I fiercely love my gay and transgender family members and friends. I do not like battle lines. I do not think it is appropriate or the will of God for me to deny love to any of His children. So, what do I do when others around me insist on waging war?
I got stuck on Elder Oaks’ phrasing, “our use of,” and thought, how does the Spirit use the family proclamation?
I went to a small liberal arts women’s college in southern California. The LGBTQ+ Allies group was the largest student group on campus. Everyone was a member. Joining the group didn’t necessarily mean participating in rallies or events; it was a statement that you would not participate in or allow discrimination against or harassment of LGBTQ+ students. This was the atmosphere of the entire school–all were welcome and all were safe.
Los Angeles was near enough to our school that students would often take trips there on the weekend and big news from LA impacted our campus life. One night, a gay man was attacked after leaving a bar in LA and beaten to death. This news rocked our campus. LGBTQ+ students no longer felt safe leaving campus and the student group rallied around them to make campus a safe and comforting place to ease their fears and sadness.
A day or two later, we heard that the murderers were three young evangelical men who claimed they committed their crime in the name of Christianity. Those three men waited and watched the gay bar all night. If men left in groups or pairs, they did not attack. They didn’t want a fight, they wanted to kill, so they waited for a man to leave alone and then committed their crime.
All of the fear and sadness on campus erupted into rage. I was furious that such a heinous act was associated with my God. To me, this is a blasphemy of epic proportions worthy of all the fires of hell. But my anger turned to fear as I realized that many of my fellow students directed their rage at Christianity and any religion that taught anti-gay sentiment. I defended myself by saying, “Not my God! I do not believe those men were true Christians. They perverted the teachings to do what they wanted.” But still I feared, and I worried, and I questioned.
One Sunday, my friend Nichola shared her experience. Before church, she was eating breakfast in the cafeteria with her friends when this news story came up. They became angry, insulting religions and religious people. Nichola became uncomfortable and wanted to leave. One of her friends turned to her and asked, “What about your church? What do they teach about homosexuality?”
Nichola said she froze. Her brain completely shut down because she didn’t know what to say. And then words started flowing from her mouth. As she recounted this story in Relief Society, she said she didn’t even remember what she said exactly because her brain was in shock, but she knew that it was from the family proclamation. She knew that the Spirit, through her, was basically explaining that we were all a part of God’s family, we all existed before this life and lived with God, our families here are eternal and will be with us when we return to God again. The Spirit taught our eternal identities and the divinity of families.
When Nichola finished, her friends were all staring at her in a stunned silence. One friend said, “That’s actually one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.”
As I remembered this moment and asked, how does the Spirit use the family proclamation? I knew the answer.
When the Spirit teaches the family proclamation, it is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard. The Spirit uses gospel truths to comfort, lift, and inspire.
If we use the teachings of Christ to destroy or belittle, we are doing it wrong. We are committing blasphemy if we use the gospel of Christ to destroy instead of build.
I think Elder Oaks was right. Our attitude towards and use of the family proclamation is a test for our generation. Will we learn it and teach it by the Spirit or some other way? Will we love and use that love to call down revelation and guidance? Or will we abandon love and allow fear and confusion to become to anger and hate?
Our battle is not between gays and Christians; it is a continuation of the eternal battle between fear and love.
I know God loves all of His children. I believe that Prophets and Apostles receive revelation from God. And I believe that God will yet reveal many great and important truths. But He will not do that if we do not love, if we are not ready to hear, if we are not using His revelations properly and with His Spirit.