Monday, February 16, 2009

Don't mix politics and religion

I received an email last night from our stake high counselor over seminary and institutes.
To: All Seminary Teachers

It was brought to my attention today that at least one parent is concerned with the amount of time spent in seminary discussing politics. This was true during the heat of the election, but has now continued. I do not know which teacher and as such this message is meant for all as a reminder of the Church’s stand on politics.

1) The church remains neutral on politics. This has always been the case and is reiterated every year at election time. We are advised to be involved by running for an office, supporting a candidate of choice and by expressing our opinion through the voting process.

2) When there is an issue that is in direct conflict with our beliefs or the nature of free religion the church will play an active role in standing up for what we believe through due process. The most recent example is Proposition 8 in California.
He went on to reiterate that we only have a limited amount of time with the seminary students each morning and that we need to focus our instruction on the scriptures.

On one hand, I'm glad parents are complaining and voicing their concerns - and I'm glad my stake is stepping up to rectify this situation.

On the other hand, I'm flabbergasted that there are, evidently, seminary teachers in my stake who feel it's OK to discuss politics during seminary. And, I'm sure these discussions are not pro-Obama.

I've worked with the youth in various capacities for most of my adult life - and I've never brought politics into my lessons. When a youth asks me about my stand on a particular political issue, I explain that it's not appropriate for me to discuss politics in church - but if they really want to know they can ask me out in the parking lot. Usually that's the end of it - but, occasionally, I've had them come to me after church in the parking lot and repeat their question, to which I gave an honest answer - often to their disappointment since they took my refusal to discuss in class to mean that I held a controversial position - and I am usually in line with most members of the church in my political leanings.

Political neutrality is the official church policy - this has always been the formal policy since I've been a member of the church. In the leadership meetings I've attended over the years, that principal has always been clearly taught. So, I am dumbfounded that there are people today who think that policy is passé.

I find myself wondering if this is more fallout from proposition 8 in California - do church members feel empowered to bring politics into their lessons at church because the church got involved in a very controversial political issue in California?

Lest I get puffed up in my own self righteousness - our priesthood lesson yesterday was "Chapter 27: Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy". And, [groan], proposition 8 was brought up as an issue that has caused many members of the church to apostatize.

One quote stood out for me
Heber C. Kimball, while serving as a counselor to President Brigham Young, reported: “I will give you a key which Brother Joseph Smith used to give in Nauvoo. He said that the very step of apostasy commenced with losing confidence in the leaders of this church and kingdom, and that whenever you discerned that spirit you might know that it would lead the possessor of it on the road to apostasy.
Heber C. Kimball, Deseret News, Apr. 2, 1856, p. 26; spelling and capitalization modernized.
Have I lost confidence in the leaders of the church? When it comes to their decision to get politically involved with proposition 8 in California - I have to answer "yes". Does this mean I've started down the road to apostasy? According to the statement above - the answer would be "yes".

Regarding item #2 in the email I received - I don't agree that proposition 8 was in "direct conflict with our beliefs or the nature of free religion". Having members of the GLBT community adopt a position similar to ours, on the importance of marriage fidelity and family, is IMOHO a good thing. We're taught "by their fruits ye shall know them" - aren't these (fidelity and family) good fruits?

Instead, we tell them that family is important - except for yours because it's illegitimate. And, it doesn't really matter that you remain faithful in your relationship - because you're a couple of immoral perverts who are going to hell anyway. Is this what we mean by "Christ-like compassion"?

What strikes me is that, on one hand, we have somebody preaching politics in their seminary class - in clear and direct violation of church policy. On the other hand, we have me - who disagrees with the church on a political issue, although remains quiet about my feelings in church. - yet, between the two of us, I am the one considered to be on the 'road to apostasy'.

Does this strike anyone else as being odd and out of balance?


Beck said...

I do observe the increase in making polical statements in Church lesson discussions(especially regarding Prop 8) ever since the Church decided to go more political. I do think there is a correlation.

Duck said...

I do wish people would leave politics out of Church. And, religion out of the state. The principal at our school is LDS. When he was hired as our administrator, he stood up in faculty meting and told everyone, "I prayed many times that I would get this job. And, my prayers were answered."

I am happy his prayers were answered, but I slunk into my chair when he shared this, knowing how many anti-Mormon people are on the faculty.

OK to share his experiences in Fast and Testimony meeting? Sure. With a few close confidants? Sure. In a faculty meeting? NO way.

It made me FEEL VERY uncomfortable.

By the way, "Enlighten Up" has been deleted. Thank you. :)

Alan said...

It's naive to think that after the Church pulled out all the stops on Prop 8, the general membership would not think it's okay to talk more about politics at church now.

As to being on the road to apostasy, apostle Charles Penrose (who later served in two First Presidencies) said something to the effect of Pres. Wilford Woodruff being a good and wise man, but just because of that, and just because he was the president of the Church, that didn't mean we took everything he said without question as The Voice of God. We still had individual responsibilities to seek inspiration for ourselves and ask for confirmation of anything the prophet said was the word of the Lord. In light of the Church's 20+ year campaign against civil rights for gays & lesbians and any kind of legal recognition of their relationships, I think it's reasonable to interpret Pres. Monson's letter--which did NOT say "this is the word of the Lord"--as just the next step in the strategy. And Whitney Clayton of the 70 has confirmed that we are free to disagree if we want.

To me the bigger questions are: is your testimony of the Savior and the Atonement still strong and are you still trying to follow His teachings every day? Do you keep your temple covenants as best you know how? Do you try to show the Savior's love to others in your life? If you can say yes, yes, yes, then I wouldn't worry about being an apostate.

And yes, it is ironic that the Church is opposing something that could actually increase family stability and reduce promiscuity, and makes you feel like an apostate for a political disagreement.

Christopher said...

Ditto what Alan said.