Sunday, April 24, 2011

I am the Light of the World

This is another in a series called “Gay Gospel Doctrine Class,” which takes a lesson from the LDS Church’s (Adult) Gospel Doctrine class and presents it from a gay perspective.  Today’s lesson is based on Lesson #15 from the Gospel Doctrine Manual and was prepared by Quiet Song.  The lead photo was taken and provided by thisblogauthor/duck.

In our electric society we rarely experience darkness.  Places where the stars can be seen are dwindling.  And, we have not experienced what our forebears knew, utter and complete darkness held in contrast to brilliant sunlight. We have come to take light for granted.

Return with me to an earlier time . . . .

In John Chapter 7, we read that word of Jesus attending the Temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles had spread among the people.  There was lively debate, and I’m sure whispered titters among some, that this man known to perform miracles would arrive soon. The people asked themselves and each other, “who is this man?”

            “And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him:  
for some said,
            he is a good man: others said, Nay, but he deceiveth the people.  
(John 7:12)

One thing I love about the scriptures is that when you actually read them, you will find that they are replete with stories of people questioning, debating and intellectually striving to know what God wants for them.  You will also find a wonderful variety of characters with less sincere motives as well.  

Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles is described as a joyous time.   Occurring six months after Passover, it was a celebration of the harvest as well as celebration of the end of the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness.  Additionally, it was an outdoor holiday with the people building “booths” which they camped out in for several days.  And, among other things it was a wine festival, and, thus there was copious drinking and celebration of the vine and the harvest occurring in conjunction with religious ceremonies.  

During Christ’s time, massive candelabra were lit in the courtyard of the temple and it was against this very festive and stunning light display that Christ entered the temple and began to teach ultimately explaining that he was the light in a darkened world.  We are told that the people marveled due to the fact that Christ was not a man of letters.  Ever humble and clear on his mission, he explained that the doctrine was not his.  And, then, he challenged them:

            “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.  (John 7:17)

This is where things become a bit strained in our [LGBT] community and in the larger church, because we have a tendency to see this only in light of the things we shouldn’t do, including some things such as having a same sex relationship that some members of our community have come to total peace with.  Some even feel that their own decisions regarding their relationship status have some blessing of their union from the Lord.  However, I would strongly suggest that this particular verse is really a very simple suggestion to “experiment upon the word” and is really very much about taking those small steps toward Christ, however far away we may find ourselves and regardless of our “status.”

I love the testimonies of LGBT members, even as some struggle or are barred from finding full expression or opportunity to participate in the Church. I cherish the opportunity I had to work through my own conflicts and find healing, hope and comfort that things are moving in a more positive direction within the Church.  I particularly appreciate the work of John G-W and his great depth of spiritual knowledge and the fruits of his efforts to journey ever closer to the light despite the lack of opportunity he faces in doing so due to his same sex marriage status.

I believe it is particularly fitting on the day that we celebrate the resurrection and the atonement, that we as a LGBT LDS community have the opportunity to revisit the story of the woman taken in adultery.  Perhaps you have heard that the woman was brought before Christ to trick him.  This I believe to be the case, but even more distressing is the hypocrisy of using the law in a very, callous, and unkind way for inappropriate purposes.  Earlier, I explained that Sukkot was a time known for its joy, it was also a time due to the drinking and outdoor activity where a person very easily could slip into some forbidden sexual activity as the unfortunate woman did in this story.

 Moreover, there is some indication that she was enticed into the forbidden sexual activity by the very persons who wished to condemn her.  If that alone was not wrong enough, the same scribes and Pharisees sought not only to violate the law of Rome, but they also sought violate their own religious law which required two witnesses for certain acts before a person could be condemned to stoning.  And perhaps this was a sly way of reminding him of the circumstances of his own birth with the intent to embarrass him.  Curiously, only the woman was brought forward.

Christ also saw directly into the sad and corrupted state of their hearts.  The intent of stoning, as odd and inappropriate as it may sound to our modern sensibilities (today we clearly regard it as torture and cruel and unusual punishment), was to be a discipline of concern and “love” and was to only take place for very grave sexual error beyond the sexual sin committed by this woman.  The idea was one of collective societal capital punishment, wherein no one person casting a stone would know that they had thrown the stone that killed the victim/offender.

In this case they had all conspired not only to entrap this woman, but also to callously sacrifice her life as a political tool, not because they were truly concerned about her and her soul, or even her wrongdoing, but to get gain and to undermine the purposes of Christ’s work.  It was this sin among those who would condemn that Christ so clearly identified in their hearts when he offered the following:
            “ . . . He that is without sin among you, Let him first cast a stone at her.”

After all had left, Christ tenderly conversed with the woman and gently told her to go and sin no more.

I cannot help but think of many of our LGBT LDS community members having felt callously used as a political tool these past few years.  I also cannot resolve the issue that undoubtedly has arisen in some reader’s mind as to ultimately whether a same-sex sexual act in a marriage or committed relationship is a sin or more of a currently proscribed sexual union that could change some time in the future. 

What I do know is that I have read enough of what other faithful LGBT members have written regarding their cherished testimonies and the experience of drawing near to the light of Christ to fully believe that there is more than enough room for us all to go and sin no more in many, many areas of our life.  Each small step towards the light of Christ brings us closer to preparing ourselves for the reconciliation of the atonement where we will be judged perfectly in light of our ability, our hearts and our true desires to do his will, and, dare I say it, the sexual orientation of our bodies and perhaps even our souls.

I hope this Easter Morn to find a small way to try to do the will of God and step a little closer to experience the light of Christ.  Let us walk together with the true love and concern for each other regardless of our relationship or membership status with the tenderness and concern that Christ showed the woman taken in adultery.

Happy Easter, Everyone!

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