Are We Not All Sinners? I Comment Contra an Allegedly-Prevalent Attitude Among LDS About Last June’s Orlando Nightclub Shooting
By Ken K. Gourdin
I stumbled across the following comment I made at the Latter-day Saint (Mormon) blog Times and Seasons. On June 12, 2016, security guard Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people and wounded 58 others at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Allegedly, there is a strain of thought that is supposed to be particularly prevalent and particularly strong among LDS that, somehow, the shooter’s despicable act made him an instrument in the hands of God for gays and lesbians to “get theirs” (my phrase). I haven’t noticed this attitude. Perhaps I simply don’t run in the right circles, or perhaps the fact that my current work schedule impedes my full participation at church has prevented me from observing it.
As a Latter-day Saint, I hew to the Church’s teachings that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and that sex outside of marriage is a sin. That said, I also know that, as the Apostle Paul taught, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 KJV). Because of that, I try to follow the admonition of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the Church’s governing First Presidency to not judge others simply because they sin differently than I do. (See President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (April 2012) “The Merciful Shall Obtain Mercy,” address delivered at the 182nd Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, accessed on line on October 17, 2017 at https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng.) And since it need not be said that murder is the most serious sin one possibly can commit, there is no way that the Pulse nightclub murderer possibly could be an instrument in God’s hands.
A word of explanation: Each month, two Priesthood holders are asked to visit a list of families and to see to their physical and spiritual welfare, blessing the home and its residents as moved upon by the Holy Spirit and leaving a short spiritual message. This program is known as Home Teaching. Regarding the attitude I mentioned in my first paragraph, I commented as follows:
Re: “Worse” sins and “worse” consequences
Yes, in a way, there is a hierarchy of sins, e.g., consequences of not doing one’s home teaching =/= consequences of murder (I hope! ;-D Still, perhaps someone is adept enough at manipulating logic that s/he can do a sort of “six degrees of separation” thing which shows that, actually, the two, and their consequences, are equivalent.) On the other hand, sin is sin in that all sin separates us from God, no matter what the sin.
I love the LDS production, “The Prodigal Son” (1992). (Yeah, I know: sappy, campy, dated, whatever, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for sap, and camp, and datedness, and whatever!) I especially like the scene in which Jim’s real problem is laid bare. Speaking of Tom, he tells Joanne, “There’s a big difference between what he’s done and anything I might’ve done.” And she replies, “The difference I see is that one of you is trying to repent and one of you isn’t.” He asks, “Since when have I become the big sinner?” And she replies, “The minute that you let your pride convince you that you’re better than somebody else.”
Then, she goes on to say, “Just like cocaine and alcohol almost destroyed your brother, jealousy and bitterness are trying to destroy you. You’ve got to realize that it’s not just your brother with the ‘big sins’ that needs Jesus Christ. You need him just as desperately as any of the rest of us do. If you think you can overcome this bitterness by yourself, you’re just fooling yourself. Tom couldn’t overcome his problems alone, and you can’t, and I can’t. Nobody can. The bottom line is, nobody can make it halfway through this life or into the next without the Savior.”
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a lot of us have Jim’s attitude when it comes to homosexual behavior because we’ve let our pride convince us that we’re better than those who have that particular temptation. But let’s face it: if all sin had the “ick factor” that homosexual behavior does for many of us, it’d be a lot easier to keep the commandments. As much as I think homosexual behavior is a sin, I can’t demand that someone accept my paradigm. Anyone who does share my paradigm and who has that particular struggle has, in some respects, almost a uniquely tough row to hoe, so it’s easy for me to say, “Well, everyone should keep the commandments.” And while I think people should be ready to defend the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some of us seem quite eager to impart “Living Water” to others we believe desperately need it … through a fire hose set at full blast.
Say not, “Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men are.” Rather, say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” [See Luke 18:10-14]. And let he that is without sin cast the first stone. [See John 8:3-11, esp. v. 7].