Sunday, July 15, 2012

Memories of LDS Temples Under Attack

In less than twenty-four hours, we kick off the Tenth Anniversary Celebration for Michael and Leesie!  Taken by Storm goes on sale for $0.99 and Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer will be free.

It's surreal how the issue I wrote about in the following post is in the news again. With President Obama's recent evolution on his position, this post that I wrote in November of 2008 from Singapore speaks to issues that are part of the political debate again. Four years ago, even from across the Pacific Ocean, the whole thing was pretty scary. It feels different this time. I live in Arizona now--truly still the wild, wild West. Cactus. Rattlesnakes. Sheriff Joe. A governor who eats scorpions for breakfast. No angry crowds. So many families still unemployed across the country. A Mormon heading the Republican ticket. Yup, surreal.

LDS Temples Under Attack
from "Storm's Story," November 11, 2008, from my original website.

I just read an article in Meridian, an LDS online magazine, written by a Mormon LAPD officer who witnessed the illegal demonstrations at the Los Angeles temple firsthand. His account and pictures are chilling. (Sadly, the link is expired.)

My daughter has a roommate in California who said the situation became so dangerous outside the LA Temple that it had to be closed. Twenty-five hundred protestors showed up outside the Salt Lake temple over the weekend.

It is surreal to sit here safe in Singapore and scan through photos of angry crowds with hate written on their signs and faces converging on our sacred temples. We just returned from a trip up to Hong Kong where we went to the temple. I find it ironic that in a city nominally controlled by communist China, I could practice my religion freely without harm or threats, but my brothers and sisters in California could not.

Our son, Andrew, served a mission in San Jose, California. He just returned home in August. He learned Vietnamese and served among the Viet population in San Jose. He taught English and Citizenship classes, helped keep a Vietnamese speaking branch running, and taught the gospel to interested Vietnamese speaking residents. I am thankful that he isn’t in California today. I’m worried about the missionaries who are still there--not to mention the millions of members who reside in California.

The LDS church joined a broad coalition of groups and churches to work to pass constitutional amendments in three states, California, Arizona, and Florida that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The passage of Prop. 8 wasn’t just the will of the Mormons--it was the will of an “historic alliance of people from every faith and ethnicity,” according to the head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento. But only our sacred buildings are being targeted. Our members homes and property have been vandalized. Our Christian faith and adherence to its commandments is branded hate. (See Official LDS church response.)

What impact will all this have on one unknown Mormon writer and her simple novel about love and healing, faith and despair? I have no idea. Today it doesn’t seem all that important. Deseret News is reporting calls for boycotting Utah Ski resorts and the Sundance film festival. Perhaps my book’s very insignificance will save it from being attacked. Perhaps not. This isn’t something I ever imagined as being part of the story behind my story.

Contrary to the slogans written on the signs waving in front of the LA temple, Mormons don’t hate the gay community. Most Mormons, like me, have gay friends who we care deeply about. The recent political campaigns were painful for us. I want to see basic rights, similar to those granted in Vermont’s civil union statute, extended to committed gay couples, but I must defend marriage and what I believe it is. Not all Mormons feel the same way about the issue. The church’s official position is fairly close to my own and the position President-elect Obama stated during one of his debates with John McCain. (See “The Divine Institution of Marriage.”)

I believe most Mormons understand the deep-rooted desire committed gay couples have to marry. We are sad to see the pain that the defense of the sanctity of traditional marriage and family causes them. We do not condemn--we ache for them.

The LDS church’s position on homosexuality is often misunderstood. One of the reasons I wrote Taken by Storm was to present a faithful, empathetic Mormon teen,  accurately portray the rules (really commandments) she lives by, and show how hard it is.

We believe in complete chastity--gay or straight--outside of marriage. ANY sexual indulgence, from masturbation to intercourse, violates strict commandments God has set to protect the divine procreative partnership He has established with His children here on earth. That divine partnership is essential to God’s plan for His children and must be protected. This is a vital component of our faith. We don’t ask our opponents to believe it or live it, but, in America, we do ask for and expect religious freedom and tolerance. We do not condemn those among us who break these commandments. We believe in repentance and forgiveness and renewal.

As a teen, I would have loved to have a novel like Storm to give to my friends. Intimate, sacred issues are personal and difficult to express. I hope the thousands of Leesie’s out there find Taken by Storm and share themselves through it with their friends who don’t understand them.

Understanding. I guess that’s all we really want. And if Taken by Storm, can play a small role in soothing the hate on the faces of those people shaking the temple gates, provide a drop of understanding in the sea of gross misrepresentation, this journey will have been well worth it.

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