Writing about Mormonism, specifically over this past year or so, and what we believe, and stand for, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, brought me to an unexpected, temporary plateau -- a plateau that briefly made it difficult to assess my closest surroundings. I prefer the advantage of standing upon a mount, where all things are in clear view, and making decisions about how to act is made with confidence. But alas, that condition only exists in a perfect world.

I clearly see, now, that this challenge should not have come as a surprise. In fact, it is the great work of the adversary to confuse and muddy the water, so we cannot see clearly that which is immediately in front of us

Satan does not have to work a large area of our lives to distract us from our desired destination. With that in mind, it has become even more important for me, personally, and I suspect all of us, to know, without a doubt, exactly where we are going and how we intend to arrive. In this way, even when our immediate view becomes temporarily clouded, without question or interruption, we can continue to press forward – without fear. 

Our closest surroundings most always include people who believe as we do, or who profess such beliefs -- therefore included within our seeming circle of safety. And to me, this is where the waters have gotten pretty murky lately, and knowing how to continue to act is made a bit trickier. Not that it should be, but it is. 

One encounter, that immediately comes to mind, with this up-close, murky water came about when I wrote a post that identified the apostasy and restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ as foundational teachings of Mormonism. Little did I know, but not all members who claim activity in the Church agree that this is a basic to what Mormons believe. In my desire to share my Mormon faith with others, I was informed that I did not represent another member’s beliefs about the Church of which we both belong. Honestly, that was the beginning of when I realized that my genuine desire to share the gospel, online, was offensive to a small minority of very vocal members -- willing to challenge me, publicly, for standing with the teachings and counsel of living prophets. 

I’m also becoming more and more accustomed to knowing that there are a small percentage of members who do not support defending traditional marriage, and believe that our current prophets are misguided in the positions they take, on most every social/moral issue of the day. As much as I find this hard to understand, I do recognize each individual’s moral agency to have different opinions – and God’s mercy to generally allow it.

What I don’t find acceptable, and/or have difficulty reconciling, is publicly, knowingly, advocating that which is oppositional to the work of the Lord. And in fact, what I do here on WBMW is often in direct opposition to such advocacy. However, when that advocacy is coming from other active members of the Church, it takes on a completely different tone – of which I am not comfortable. It’s much easier to tell a stranger why you don’t agree with them -- because the hope is that you are teaching -- than to tell a family member the same thing. Aren’t families supposed to be unified? How can we call ourselves the “children of Christ” if there is contention, or disagreement, among us?

As I was studying 3rd Nephi chapter 11, in preparation for a recent lesson I was giving in church, I was struck, in relation to these thoughts, that the Savior’s first instruction given to the Saints who had gathered at the temple, was to set in order the mode of baptism, so that there would be no further confusion or contention among the people. I came to understand, with greater clarity than ever before, that it is the Lord and His servants who determine and declare the doctrines, policies and practices that when individually embraced, create the desired and commanded unity of the Saints -- Zion.

Those who oppose their direction have no right to consider themselves unified with the Savior’s work – member or not -- nor are we obligated to make it appear otherwise. As uncomfortable as I know many of us are, with how a small group of liberal members are currently representing Mormonism to the public, via the mainstream media, that fall into this category, we must continue to share, with boldness, that which living prophets have revealed about the moral issues of our day – without apology. We are not in opposition to any specific person/member and where they are on their own personal journey of faith, or how they go about expressing it. However, we are in opposition to everything that opposes the work of the Lord. His plan is what faithful latter-day Saints should be advocating. 

Jeffrey R. Holland, speaking at a recent CES Devotional, seemed quite aware of this current dilemma: how latter-day Saints must live in Babylon, until the Savior comes again, versus fleeing into the wilderness -- as in ages past. For those who have taken the time to listen to the broadcast, which I highly recommend, most have been quite struck with the needed direction he gave to faithful members of the Church -- to boldly, and compassionately, act with charity, toward all.

I took the time to, once again, enlist my mad transcription skills so that I could share some of Elder Holland’s inspired words, here, that I find pertinent to this discussion. But as always, I caution you about re-sharing these quotes, just in case I have not done my job perfectly.

“Some principles are defended and some sins are opposed wherever they are found, because the issues and the laws involved are not social or political, but eternal in their consequence. And while not wishing to offend those who believe differently from us, we are even more anxious to not offend God -- or as the scripture says, "not offend He who is your law giver". 
There is a wide variety of beliefs in this world, and there is moral agency for all, but no one is entitled to act as if God is mute on these subjects. Or as if commandments only matter if there is public agreement over them.

In the 21st century we cannot flee any longer. We are going to have to fight for laws, and circumstances, and environments that allow the free exercise of religion and our franchise in it. That is one way we can tolerate being in Babylon but not of it.

I know of no more important ability, and no greater integrity, than for us to demonstrate, in a world from which we cannot flee, that to walk that careful path, taking a moral stand according to what God has declared and the laws He has given -- but doing it compassionately and with understanding and great charity.

Talk about a hard thing to do; to distinguish perfectly between the sin and the sinner -- I know of few distinctions that are harder to make, or at least harder to articulate -- but we must lovingly try to do exactly that. Believe me, brothers and sisters, in the world into which we are moving we are going to have a lot of opportunity to develop such strength, display such courage, and demonstrate such compassion -- all at the same time."

He went on to further explain how our influence should extend beyond our close associations…

“All of us should care for the welfare of others and the moral safety of our extended community. Elder Quentin R. Cook, of the Quorum of the Twelve, devoted an entire General Conference talk to this very subject a few years ago.  In speaking of the need for us to influence society, beyond the walls of our home he said, "In addition to protecting our own families we should be a source of light in protecting our communities. The Savior said, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven". In our increasingly unrighteous world, he continues, "It is essential that values based on religious beliefs be evident in the public square. Religious faith is a source of light, knowledge, and wisdom and benefits society in a dramatic way".”

He then gave counsel as to how we should go about accomplishing this…

“Without being naive or Pollyannaish about it, we can live our religion so broadly and unfailingly that we find all kinds of opportunities to help each other, help families, bless neighbors, protect others, including the rising generation. I've not uttered the word missionary in this context for fear you would immediately think of white shirts and name tags. Don't limit me on this one -- stay with me on the big picture -- the huge need to share the gospel always, yes as full-time missionaries, but also when you're not in full-time service.  
Latter-day Saints are called upon to be the leaven in the loaf, the salt that never loses its savor, the light set up on a hill never to be hidden under a bushel… If we do right, and talk right, and reach out generously with our words and our deeds, then when the Savior cuts short his work in righteousness and says, "time is no more in this last great dispensation" and then comes in His glory -- He will find us, you and me, and all of us, doing our best, trying to live the gospel, trying to improve our lives and our church and our society the best way we can. 
When He comes, I so want to be caught living the gospel. I want to be surprised right in the act of spreading the faith, and doing something good if I can.  I want the Savior to say to me, ‘Jeffrey, (because He knows all of our names) I recognize you not by your title but by your life, the way you're trying to live and the standards you're trying to defend. I see the integrity of your heart. I know you've tried to make things better first, and foremost, by being better yourself, and then by declaring my word, and defending my gospel to others in the most compassionate way you could. I know you weren't always successful (he will certainly say) with your own sins or with the circumstances of others, but I believe you honestly tried. I believe in your heart you truly loved me.' I so want to have something like that encounter, someday, as I want nothing else in this mortal life, and I want it for you. I want it for us all.

God is calling us to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, personally, in small ways as well as large, and then to reach out to those who may not look or dress or behave quite like we do, and then where you can go beyond that -- to serve in the widest community you can address."

In other word, and in my opinion, Elder Holland is teaching us that God is no respecter of persons, member or not, in or outside of the Church, in expecting us to stand for revealed truth -- kindly, compassionately, boldly – with charity. I think we can do that. I think we can continue to reject any lie, intended to distort God’s plan, wherever it may be found, and whoever might be advocating it. And most importantly, if done by the Spirit, we can feel confident that we have the Lord’s blessings as we do so.

Kathryn Skaggs

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Watch Video: Jeffrey R. Holland, September 2012 CES Devotional -- HERE.

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