Things as they really are

David A. Bednar gave a talk at BYU-Idaho in May 2009 at a CES Fireside.  The full text of the article can be found here.  It was also summarized in the Ensign in June 2010 here.  Elder Bednar is a very good speaker and a very intelligent man.  And I agree with what he is saying in this article.  I believe that it's very important for us to remember what in this life is real and what is fantasy.  Spending hours on end playing a video game with online friends you've never met in person, it's quite easy to grow more attached to these friends than to your real-life friends or your family.

So, for this post I'd like to talk about things as they really are.  In a previous post, I pointed out some of the falsehoods spread by opponents of same-sex marriage.  Here I address a couple more.  I have heard the concern raised by some of my LDS friends that were same-sex marriage to be legalized, the church would be forced to perform gay marriage--even in its temples.  So, I present the following facts to address these concerns.

There are currently 10 countries where same-sex marriage is legal (Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden).  As far as I am aware, the LDS church has a presence in each of these countries.  Aside from these countries, there are also six US states where gay marriage is legal, as well as the District of Columbia and Mexico City, Mexico.  The church certainly has a presence all over the USA, and Mexico.  There is not one single incident where the church was forced to perform a gay marriage in any of these locations.  As far as I am aware, there has not even been one single gay couple who has asked the church to perform their marriage.  

Concerning the matter of temples, in the locations listed above where same-sex marriage is legal, there are  18 temples currently operating, not including one under renovation, one under construction, and two more that have been announced (totaling 22).  Of all of these temples, not a single one has been forced to perform a gay marriage.  The rights of the church to continue its operation of these temples exactly the same as it was prior to the legalization of gay marriage have not been infringed.  As far as I am aware, the church continues to operate in these areas exactly the same as it operates in areas where gay marriage is illegal.  Furthermore, the church has always been allowed complete control over whom it allows inside its temples to be married.  They have very rigorous standards for entry into the temple, and this has never been challenged by the government.  The government has not forced the LDS church to perform interracial marriages.  As of 1978, the church itself decided to allow interracial marriages, but prior to that it did not perform them nor was it required to.  The church has never at any point been forced to deviate one iota from its strict criteria dictating whom should be allowed to be married in the temple.  

So, when we hear propaganda in the news, let us remind ourselves to see things as they really are.  When you hear that religion is being oppressed, go look for the actual evidence of that oppression.  Find out what really happened.  Not too long ago, Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk at Chapman University where he claims that religious rights are being infringed (the video and full text can be found here).  He cites several cases to support this claim.  However, it appears that he only cites part of the story and leaves out some important details.  I have a good friend who debunked each one of these cases individually, giving the full story for each one and the real legal reasons for the decisions that were reached.  You can read about them on his blog.  The series of eight posts begins here.  Thank you, Rob, for doing your homework and checking all of the facts.  I think we would all do better to follow suit.  Let us see things as they really are.

One thing that I have noticed when people claim that they have experienced religious persecution--especially in regards to the homosexual issue--is that for some reason or other, religions (or religious people) think that having religious freedom means being immune to the law, but it does not.  If, for example, a city has an ordinance that a person cannot be fired due to their sexual orientation, then any violation of that law is a crime.  Thus, if a church employs a person and at some point during that employment discovers that the person is gay, they cannot fire that person without facing consequences of the law.  This is not persecution of that church, it is merely enforcement of the law.  Is it ethical to fire someone because of their orientation?  That matter is up for debate, but I believe that it is not ethical.  But the point is that, in this scenario, it is illegal and religions are not immune to the law.  So when you see a story about someone being "forced to choose between their religion and their job", ask yourself what the real story is.  Perhaps they, as a doctor, are not legally allowed to dismiss a patient simply because they are gay.  That is no infringement on their religious rights.  If they want to be a doctor, they have to follow all of the laws that doctors are required to follow--whether they're religious or not.  Think what our country would be like if religions were granted immunity.  If one religion taught that it was okay to kill, then all of its members could be mass murderers and there would be nothing the government could do to stop them because it would be considered religious persecution.

People take advantage of emotion, belief, part-truths, and other things to get people to believe what they want.  This happens all over the place.  It is more the rule than the exception in the political sphere.  It is not uncommon for both sides to engage in such underhandedness.  So, it is up to each of us individually to seek out and search what is true and what is not.  Is it true that religion is being oppressed by gay marriage laws?  I don't believe so.  Is it true that gays are being oppressed?  I do believe so, since they are being told how to live their lives and not being treated equally in society.  Is it true that anyone who opposes gay marriage does so out of hate?  I don't believe so.  So, let us spread no more falsehoods, but find out what is true and what is not.  Let us share what is true and speak out against that which is not true.  

In his talk, Elder Bednar spoke of a game called Second Life.  In this game, a person has a character that they can design to be any appearance they like, and wear any clothing they wish.  Then they can interact with other people playing the game.  In the popular TV show The Office, Dwight has a Second Life character who in turn has his own Second Life character (within the game), therefore removing himself from reality one step further.  I don't know that I would say this game is dangerous, but the idea of living in a fantasy world and thinking that it is true is dangerous.  And, in my opinion, eating all of the propaganda that is spoon-fed to you over a pulpit is one way to live in a fantasy world where you're disconnected with reality.  Go find out what is true and what is not.  Don't take my word for it.  Don't take your bishop's word for it, and certainly don't take Spencer W. Kimball's word for it.