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|The Elephants in this Room|
Sep. 12th, 2011 at 11:41 am
I was recently visiting a ward in rural Wyoming. In Sunday School we discussed the first several chapters if 1 Corinthians. One of the issues Paul raises in this epistle is that of contention in the Church. The instructor, a former bishop of the ward, asked if there was contention currently in the Church as a whole or in the ward in particular.
I was simultaneously impressed and dismayed. Impressed that this brother was willing to confront the status quo and state what was on his mind. I think that there should be room in the Church to discuss issues that we don’t understand well and don’t necessarily all agree on. But I was dismayed that he clearly didn’t want a discussion and that he approached the issue with such venom.
The instructor simply said, “I agree with you,” before moving on. Had this been my own ward I like to think that I would have spoken up, but as a visitor I didn’t feel comfortable contradicting my hosts.
I’m told that a different brother brought the topic up out of the blue in High Priests Group with a similar tone and lack of resolution.
I probably have more sympathy for these brothers that I’ve indicated. This is because in some ways I’m a mirror image of them. While I applaud the stand the Church has taken on immigration, I do not agree with the stand the Church has taken on gay marriage. I particularly dislike that individual members sometimes seem to feel that they’ve got license to say hateful things about entire groups of people because the Church has a difference of opinion with those groups over a political issue.
I also wonder why it is that people who take a “conservative” view that is opposed to the Church’s public stance on an issue feel at liberty to discuss this openly in meetings. I have not heard anyone with a more liberal view on gay marriage bring it up randomly in Sunday School and state their opposition to the Church. If someone did that it would be a scandal. Is there a double standard at play here?
Interestingly, I think that Paul has a solution to these issues and the broader issue of contention later in his epistle in 1 Corinthians 13. In fact I think the entire epistle builds to this sublime chapter. Were we to approach these contentious issues with charity would we think of them differently? Would we be able to have an actual discussion?