Dear sisters and brothers,
You have all, undoubtedly, been tossed about by voices clamoring for not only your attention, but for your mind and your faith. In each of you is probably, down deep in your soul, very private feelings about yourself and how you make sense of everything, and yet so often, we fellow citizens fight to penetrate those feelings, to argue and bicker with you about what is your true self, your true identity, what makes you happy, what makes your suffer. In a way, we play God, acting as though we really know those inner feelings. Were I to even assume to praise you because we "agree" on something, I'd probably be doing you a disservice; I actually don't and can't know you well enough to judge how perfectly my own feelings can equal yours. All I can really do is try--try to notice if you say you are suffering, try to celebrate if you say your are happy. In a spirit of meekness, I acknowledge how incapable I am at understanding you the way you understand you, and how I am certainly and totally inept at knowing you the way God does. I shake my fist at the temptation to force you to understand me, but, with any humility I can honestly say is in me, I will try to first seek to understand you.
Because I voted for Prop. 8, I naturally want to withdraw when I read the headlines of protests on the front gate of places that are the most sacred to me. I certainly wrestle with coming out of my comfort zone and engaging those who are vocal about their distress over this issue. But, from what is clear from the protests, I'm trying to understand how I'd feel if something, whatever it was, effected me so much that I would grab a sign and march to the steps of someone else's holy place and seek for change. There's no question I would feel abandonment, profound sadness, maybe even despair to bring me to such an action. I know it's not an apt comparison, but as I try to understand before being understood, I realize that these feelings resonate with me as I contemplate my own experiences as a Mormon. I've been thrown out, taunted, teased, persecuted, and physically abused because of my Mormonism. I've watched institutions mock my faith and I've read the histories of a whole country marching into my people's hard-earned land, paid for with blood and sweat, and level their plural marriage customs. All I can say is that I feel humbled by all of these facts, I don't feel at all equal to you, or that my struggles are anything like yours because they certainly aren't. I only feel a sense of pause, and a desire to listen, and to seek healing before seeking to be right.
Sitting in priesthood meetings and being told to "defend marriage," and that it was as though I had been "assigned a priesthood duty" to be a political activist made me squirm. It was all I could do to hold on, to keep coming back to church, to keep my faith in my religion. I had been a missionary, and at great personal sacrifice, gave it everything I had to help others find a better life, and was ardent about defending my faith. But now, I felt shame at some of the behavior around me, and I certainly did not feel acceptance. I fought with feelings of immorality; immorality in the sense that I had such overwhelming evidences my whole life that God was in my faith, that he was in my family, and that I had a duty and a love for him to defend what he had revealed to me, and to abandon all of this, or to not stand up in my place as a priesthood holder, or to quickly insist on a different position without deliberation and careful study would, for me, feel immoral. I wrestled over this vote, I considered as many sides as I could, I got out of my comfort zone and approached those whom I knew were from backgrounds very opposite to my own. I made a decision and checked it against some challenging responses. I reconsidered my decision several times. I prayed. I tried so hard to try to understand how others would feel over this vote. I felt sick to my stomach here and there when conversations were rough and ideas that challenged the very fabric of my testimony were presented to me. I voted. I've prayed since, I've tried to listen, I've tried to understand, I've wept, I've talked, I've hugged, I've waited. I watch. I feel sorrow, not because I doubt myself or my decision or my experiences, but because I feel as though we have all been put through one of those excruciating trials of life and these are never fun. I know these issues will continue, and I refuse to categorically dismiss them because of one election. We can be siblings in this diverse human family, I hope I can be a loyal and loving brother.