Religious leaders and followers have long grappled with paradoxical points of doctrine. Thursday’s announcement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relating to the baptisms and blessings of children of LGBT couples is no exception.
It may also serve as the latest example of how revelation can come, in part, through a process Joseph Smith said involves “proving contraries.”
“Proving” in this context no doubt requires deliberation, study, fasting and prayer. It requires searching for, and understanding, God’s will. The answer comes in the form of revelation.
In 2015, a policy change in the church, which owns this paper, delayed baptism and other spiritual rites for children of LGBT parents until the minors came of age. Among the stated purposes was to prevent conflicts between children and their same-gender parents over family practices in the home that appeared in contradiction to church doctrine. Nevertheless, the news produced a gamut of emotions: approval, confusion and, in many instances, pain.
We estimate Thursday’s announcement, which removed those restrictions, will be met with a similar array of feelings: elated acceptance, confusion and even some bitterness among those who internally suffered four years prior.
Those feelings are real and should not be discounted by anyone inside or outside the faith.
They should, on the other hand, be a springboard for greater compassion, awareness and genuine inquiry about balancing beliefs and experiences.
Last year, in a devotional address at Brigham Young University-Idaho, President Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ, delivered a talk entitled, “The Paradox of Love and Law.”
He observed that the “gospel of Jesus Christ contains many apparent paradoxes.” He pointed to Christ’s dual charge to “love our neighbors” and to keep God’s commandments.
“If ye love me,” Christ teaches, “keep my commandments.”
God’s love and God’s law can present an apparent paradox. But, again, as Joseph said, it’s “by proving contraries” that “truth is made manifest.”
In some respects, this process may not be entirely dissimilar to the arduous work of democracy. Proving the paradox of individual liberty and communal responsibility, for example, describes some of America’s most important political moments.
Citizens, meanwhile, can’t help but confront the eagle clutching both arrows of war and the olive branch of peace on the back of every dollar bill. There are, of course, those who call for fixed national policies of exclusively war or exclusively peace; others, on the other hand, seek a nation guided by either libertarian freedom or forced communalism.
But the hard work — and, indeed, the revelation — comes in the negotiation and navigation of competing principles.67 comments on this story
Without changing its doctrine on marriage or the family, the Church of Jesus Christ is aiming to “reduce the hate and contention so common today.” The new policy reflects that goal.
As President Oaks taught: “to balance our commitments to love and law we must continually show love even as we continually honor and keep the commandments. We must strive to preserve precious relationships and at the same time not compromise our responsibilities to be obedient to and supportive of gospel law.”