The most important scripture in my personal testimony is Alma 32:27,
But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
In this scripture Alma tells us that you do not suddenly know everything to be true at once. I know many people who are critical of those of faith, because they wonder how they can believe all the things that have been or are currently taught by that faith. Members of a faith are also often criticize for not following all the practices of that faith. There is no member of the LDS faith who perfectly practices the teaching of the faith. We are all sinners. As was shared in last general conference " the Church is like a big hospital, and we are all sick in our own way".
I know that when I am more active in the church, spend more time praying, and more time reading the scriptures, I am a happier, better person, than I am at the times I have separated myself from those activities. I do not have a perfect knowledge of the church, and I have failed at times to even live up to the values I do know to be true. If I am saved it will be by grace.
I can not explain all past teaching or even current teachings of the LDS Church. I don't feel like I have to. I will defend the values and teaching that I have a testimony of. If you have been heavily involved with the church and have not had the positive feelings that I have had, I can understand your choosing to leave. I hope we can still be friends. I do not consider you an enemy and I hope you don't consider me one either.
Growing up I had been exposed to conservative ideology from many sources, including parent, peers, and religious leaders(expect a follow up post on that soon). Of course in college is when I was exposed to the other side. First by a close friend I had grown up with(let's call him Eric), but soon followed by books, the internet, democratic candidates, college professors, and the College Democrats club. I remember engaging in a debate with Eric related to economics and I used Cuba as an example of how socialism didn't work(because of course I compared to any economic suggestion from the left out outright communism). He told me I didn't know anything about Cuba, so I went to the Logan public Library and got a book on Fidel Castro(I love biographies). He was right, I knew nothing about Cuba. That book was a changing point for me. I realized everything I believed about U.S. foreign policy was wrong. My political world was shattered. Over the next few years I began following politics more closely even meeting with candidates and elected officials, and while I occasionally agreed with some republicans it become clear that by and large I agreed with the democrats.
Some of my views didn't really change at all, like public education. By following actual legislation and votes I did come to realize that while republican leadership pays lip service to supporting public education, they do not support it with their votes.
Social issues were some of my last views to change, but eventually they did. Eric had long ago directed me to this statement, "The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.". While I still oppose elective abortion I have come to believe there are far more effective ways to reduce it. I also came to believe that homosexual marriages in no way damaged my own. By the time Utah voted on the marriage amendment, I was opposed to it and voted against it. I fully support strengthening the family through public policy, I do not believe that the research supports the idea that homosexual marriage harms families.
For a time I struggled to reconcile my new views on homosexual marriage with the council we had received from church leaders. I have pondered it in my mind, and I have prayed about it, and I have come to the conclusion that I do not feel good advocating against gay marriage. I remember telling my bishop this during an temple recommend interview nine years ago, his response, "That's O.K.". Since then I haven't particularly worried about it except when it's come up in class. Like the time I attended an elders quorum lesson that was supposed to be on raising children that turned into bashing those of us who supported gay marriage. Eventually after a member of the quorum shared his view that "the youth had been brained washed by the liberal media" I lost my temper and stormed out. I didn't attend elders quorum again until I moved, I regret handling it that way.
Last weekend I was asked to give a lesson on "Following the Prophet" as I prepared the lesson I realized that this lesson immediately lent itself to bashing those who supported gay marriage and began searching for a way to head off those comments. I decided I would ask my the elders to make their comments uplifting and constructive, and to please refrain from bashing those not present. I recommend that you all prepare to make the same requests in your classes this Sunday. You do not need to advocate for gay marriage, but you should advocate for constructive discussions. It is completely consistent with gospel principles to advocate for constructive comments.
To my friends and family members who are homosexual and wish to show your commitment to the one you love through marriage, Congratulations!! today is a big day for you. I wish you happiness and luck. To my friends who believe government recognition of homosexual marriages harms society. I still love you and hope you will work with me on improving each other and our communities.