Sunday, September 26, 2010

Elder Marlin Jensen Makes an Apology

I remember sitting in sacrament meeting next to my friend sipping nonchalantly on her can of Diet Coke, legs crossed at the knee and looking fabulous.  She and my other friends in our row made sitting in church much more fun, I must say.  Sure they all had strong testimonies and were temple-worthy through and through, but they had a quirky style that made them just a little bit more exciting than your average bunch of BYU singles.

The meeting was about to start, and I noticed a long list of names scrawled on the chalkboard ahead.  At first I thought that it had nothing to do with us.  We were, after all, holding church services in an empty science classroom on campus.  The giant Periodic Table above the chalkboard wasn't any sort of religious symbol, ya know.  But upon further inspection, I recognized several of the names as being kids in our ward.  One was sitting on my other side. 

I didn't have to wonder for too long, because the Bishop soon got up and the meeting began.  In his opening announcements, he commented that everyone listed on the board would have to talk to him in his office sometime during the block of church meetings.  Later that afternoon I discovered that it was a list of everyone in our ward who was a Californian, and thereby eligible to vote in that state.  Each and every one of them was told to vote in favor of Proposition 8, ensuring that same-sex marriage be stopped.

Looking back, this was the first time that I had a strong feeling to come out of the closet.  My hypocrisy was already reaching toxic levels, but I was still under the belief that I would follow the herd until the day I died.  But if the LDS Church was planning to openly wage war on homosexuality, could I really fight against myself?

My friend came home from church and told me about the meeting with the bishop.  He was a little disconcerted because he never thought he'd see the day where the Church would counsel us politically.  The Church has always taken a nonpartisan stance on politics, and here the Church was clearly taking a side.  My friend further went on to say that he personally didn't think Proposition 8 was constitutional.

"So what are you going to do?" I asked him.

"I guess I'm supporting it."

"Even if you don't think it's right?"

He paused for a moment.  "But if it's what the Church wants me to do, I don't really have a choice."

* * *

I bring this story up so late in the game because I recently got a Facebook message from an ex-missionary friend of mine in regards to Proposition 8.  The message contained a link to an article about a recent apology from an LDS General Authority, Elder Marlin Jensen.

Basically, there was a special meeting held in a California stake of the Church, where Elder Jensen of the Seventy spoke with gay (and non-gay) members (and non-members) of the Church just prior to a Stake Conference.  The floor was open to anyone who wished to speak or ask questions.  Many people expressed feelings of heartache and despair, and one man even went so far as to demand an apology from the Church for its support of Proposition 8.  According to the post, at this point Elder Jensen got up and said, "To the [extent that] it's within my power to apologize, I want to tell you that I am sorry.  I am very sorry."

Of course the message boards were full of comments both positive and negative about this apology.  Many people felt that it was a positive move forward; many people didn't think it meant anything at all.  Of course Elder Jensen wasn't speaking for the Church.  He isn't the Prophet; he doesn't have that authority.  He was only giving his own personal apology.  And what's more, he probably wasn't saying that he was sorry for Proposition 8 because I'm sure he believes whole-heartedly in it.  At most, he was expressing his sorrow for the pain the gay community is feeling.  Nothing more.

However, I do believe that it was a genuine apology.  It's at least comforting to me, to know that at least one person in the Church's leadership is aware of the sadness Proposition 8 has brought to so many gay couples.  It's a mere baby step, but it's a step.  I just hope the man doesn't get in trouble from his superiors for speaking out of turn.

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