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On Tolerance

My mother recommended that I read this month's issue of The Ensign (one of the LDS Church's monthly magazines) because it had many good articles in it.  So, I started perusing through the magazine (I do have a current subscription).  There was an article entitled "Defending the family in a troubled world" by Elder Bruce D Porter (who is currently in the Quorum of the 70, which is one of the general bodies of leadership in the Church).  I may possibly address some of the other topics he discusses in this article in later posts, but as I was reading it the first thing that stuck out to me was what he said about tolerance.

Quoting the article, "To some the very idea of a strait and narrow path will seem intolerant of those who choose different paths.  By holding up a divine ideal of what a family ought to be, they claim we are guilty of intolerance toward those who choose other paths, other standards, other definitions of right and wrong.  But is this true?"  I will answer the question that this indeed is false.  Certainly, any person or organization is entitled to set for whatever beliefs they wish to have about--well, anything at all really, but in this particular case morality and the concept of family.  I do not agree with the LDS church that a family is of necessity one man, one woman, and ideally children as well.  I do not agree with the idea that it is the duty of every man to find a woman to marry, nor that it is the duty of every couple to raise children.  However, I certainly do not feel that the Church is being intolerant when it teaches these things inside its own organization, in meetings that it organizes itself (namely, General Conference or CES broadcasts).  I might feel like it's rather intolerant when my friends un-friend me because they found out that I'm gay, but that is more appropriately blamed on their own misinterpretation of Church doctrine (or their own inability to properly deal with the hurt/shock/surprise that they initially feel) rather than the Church's teachings themselves.

Returning to the article, "Curiously enough, this new modern tolerance is often a one-way street.  Those who practice it expect everyone to tolerate them in anything they say or do, but show no tolerance themselves toward those who express differing viewpoints or defend traditional morality.  Indeed, their intolerance is often most barbed toward those of religious conviction."  Sadly, I must say that this statement is altogether too true.  One of the large obstacles I had in accepting my own sexuality was because I saw so many gay people in the media (or gay rights activists) who seemed to be extremely intolerant toward religion.  I have even been accused of the same thing in some of the things I have posted here on my blog and on Facebook recently.  I would like to defend myself against such claims, which I will do below.  At any rate, I would like to point out quite clearly that I do not believe that tolerance means making everyone else agree with your way of thinking.  Rather, it means existing in a world (or forum, etc) where other people are allowed to voice their opinions just as loudly as you are, regardless of whether they agree with you.  I have every right in the world to say that I feel like homosexual behavior is not sin, and the LDS Church has just as much right to teach that it is.  Again, from the article, "Believers of all faiths have every right to participate in and share their convictions in the public arena."  One last thing, which I feel is rather important to remember and often quite difficult to live by, "But love, or charity, is the highest of all, and it is far better to genuinely love those with whom we differ."

Concerning the accusations against me that I have been intolerant or that the nature of my posts has been to force other people to agree with my viewpoint, I do admit that I am not perfect and in every aspect of my personality I have room for improvement.  However, I do not feel that I have been intolerant and I candidly present the following evidence to support that assertion.
  1. The post David Baker, my new hero had as its sole purpose the statement that all people have room for more love in their hearts--in particular gay people (including myself, of course) could definitely improve in the area of loving religious people.  
  2. In several of my posts I have spoken very highly of the LDS church.  I believe it is a good organization.  I even dedicated this post to that particular topic.  From the little I know of other churches, I would have to say the same thing about them.  I believe that most churches have as their main goal the welfare of the people, and this is a good thing.  
  3. I have been quite forceful at times (in particular in this post) about my views concerning homosexuality.  However, I have not at any time presented my opinions as anything more than just my own opinion.  I have not left the realm of my own blog or my own facebook wall.  I have not campaigned these ideas, I have not gone tracting door-to-door, I have not in any way pushed these beliefs on anyone else.  They are there, available for anyone who wishes to read them, and for anyone who does not wish can ignore them quite easily.  
  4. I have repeatedly, in many articles made statements of the following nature "I do not mean to disrespect anyone's religious beliefs. If you wish to believe that homosexual behavior is sinful, then feel free to believe it." (from the post Would I be a hero?)
  5. From the post Study it out (addendum), I said "This is a follow-up to my last post. First, I'd like to make the disclaimer that I don't truly believe that everyone that studies this issue out and reaches an educated conclusion will reach the same conclusion I did. I do not claim to have clairvoyance into the will and mind of God, nor do I claim to be a source of truth. So, I admit my own fallibility and the possibility of my error. "
  6. In the post Anti-, I state my resolve to go to the source to find out information about a particular person or organization.  I feel that having this standard equally applied across the board is one way to help avoid intolerance due to misunderstanding.
  7. Finally, in the very post where I came out of the closet, I stated "I welcome any feedback that you have to offer and I will be fully willing to answer any questions you might have. If you have very strong negative things to say, please do not do so publicly, such as on a comment to this post or on my Facebook wall. Please do so privately. I will delete any public comments that I do not feel are amiable. But, I do wish to hear how you feel, so please relate those emotions to me via email or a private message on Facebook. I do not mind people publicly disagreeing with me or voicing warnings that they feel they must voice, as long as it is done peaceably."  I have welcomed all sorts of feedback--positive and negative.  In some cases, I probably did not respond in the most desirable way, and I do apologize if I have hurt any feelings in such cases.  I am always trying to be more understanding of other people and waiting sufficiently long for my emotions to cool before I attempt a response.  However, I do reiterate this invitation--anyone who has anything they wish to say to me or ask me is certainly free to do so.  Much of the feedback I have been given has been very useful if to no other end than to help me better understand myself.  
At any rate, I hope that I always come across as tolerant.  Whether you agree with me or not--whether I agree with you or not--I hope that you view me as someone who is capable of hearing your viewpoint.  And I will always fight for a country where all are truly free to express themselves--whether it be those who agree with me or those who disagree.  

And thank you, mom, for encouraging me to read the Ensign this month.  I'm sure there are many other articles as good as this one.

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