It’s beautiful in Washington state right now. Just last weekend, my family and I visited the Quad at the University of Washington, where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. The winters here are cold and dark – in December, the sun doesn’t rise until 8am and sets as early as 4:30pm – so it’s refreshing to see color and vibrancy return as we meander into spring.
That beauty was offset by some difficult news. I say difficult, because while it doesn’t really affect me directly now, it’s indicative of a culture shift that will impact me in a big way, sooner or later.
Mozilla (the company behind the popular browser Firefox) announced on its blog that Brendan Eich is stepping down as Mozilla CEO. I won’t pretend to know everything about this situation, and it may very well be that it’s more complicated than any “outsider” knows, but it looks fair to say that this resignation had its roots in the uproar over Eich’s contributions to the Prop 8 campaign in 2008.
The blog post above reeks of hypocrisy, as it extols the virtues of free speech while simultaneously citing a very specific kind of free speech as justification for the departure. Business Insider’s Jim Edward said:
“At the heart of the move is a fundamental contradiction: Eich’s foes disapproved of Eich’s intolerance for LGBT people. But in the end they could not tolerate Eich’s opinions, which for years he kept private and, by all accounts, did not bring into the workplace.”
As I look at this story, I wonder what it means for me as a devout Latter-day Saint that ascribes to theological pillars like those contained in The Family: A Proclamation to the World (now almost 20 years old, by the way).
For me, my fundamental religious convictions are as negotiable as your skin color or your gender or your sexual orientation. You may suggest, innocently or not, that I could change if I wanted – “It’s just a belief” – and to a degree that’s true. As they say, “If, in the last few years, you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.” We all should be constantly learning and evolving when it comes to forming ideas and opinions.
And yet, when looking at someone’s fundamental convictions, it’s unreasonable to expect them to change as easily as one might change their clothes. Jesus is the Christ. Joseph Smith was His prophet. The Book of Mormon is everything it purports to be. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s church, and is led by modern prophets. Those things aren’t open to negotiation – “It’s true, isn’t it? Then what else matters?”
(I can’t change, even if I tried – even if I wanted to.)
So what happens when people finally decide that my beliefs are unacceptable? What happens when we can decide that any person’s beliefs are unacceptable, and then dole out punishment? I get that we can’t shake our Puritan heritage to the point that the slutty girl dying in horror movies is still a reliable trope, but this isn’t fiction. Society is demanding blood from those it sees as sinning against it, and Society’s bible is terrible subjective.
Bottom line? It’s gonna get hard for folks like me. Really hard. And that’s a little scary.
Alma taught us that faith is like a seed. We plant the seed in our hearts, and then we can see for ourselves the effects that follow, the kind of growth that takes place.
But Alma cautions us against merely spectating. He says,
“But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
“Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof” (Alma 32:38-39).
Alma doesn’t suggest that the scorching sun is conditional. It actually sounds like the opposite – ‘The sun’s coming, so prepare!” In the Savior’s parable, the rain falls on everyone’s house, regardless of who is wise or foolish.
But that rain and sun are also nourishing and strengthening to a seed that is cared for. That rain and sun are essential, in fact, if the seed is to grow into a fruit bearing tree.
I think about this in relation to something Joseph Smith said – “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” Perhaps hard times are coming, but when they come, I have faith that I’ll be better for having experienced them.
(It’s a good thing I’ve gotten used to half-baked premises and vitriolic rhetoric from my Evangelical Christian friends – love you guys!)
That might sound disheartening. I don’t look forward to strained (or lost) relationships and increased animosity all around me, or the defamation of a position that I find far from ‘bigoted’.
But in the end, that’s just sun and rain. After every winter comes a springtime, and the tree grown from that tiny seed of faith, in the light of those hard times, can produce fruit and flower every bit as beautiful as my local cherry blossoms. That kind of fruit is sweet above all that is sweet – eternal life, the greatest gift.
General Conference is this weekend. There will be a lot going on. You even have some misguided Latter-day Saints continuing their practice of shanghai-ing spiritual events for publicity.
Because that’s how the Church works. Goobers.
But you will also have good things going on. There will be leaders, men who talk to God, that will tell us those things that will lift us up, and give us answers. I’m going in to this General Conference with questions, about these and other subjects, and I’m confident – I know – that I’ll come out with answers. I know the same can happen for you.