30 December 2008

Mormon Kids Are So Tolerant That They're Blind to Right and Wrong

Yeah, that's what she said. Telling me about one kid in her ward's youth program who had expressed some difficulty and disagreement with the Church's stance on Proposition 8.

I've known her for some time and she is a wonderful person. She is kind, smart, talented, devoted to faith and family, accomplished, energetic, well-read, intelligent, a great mother to her kids and well-regarded in her community. Outstanding in every way. I have always respected her judgment. But I was surprised by her perspective.

I listened quietly as she told me how the youth of the Church today have grown up in an atmosphere that pushes and stresses tolerance as the supreme virtue above all else. And obviously she thinks this is a bad thing. Everything is out there for them, she said. Everything is available, and everything is presented as just "an option." So in her opinion, they think everything is equally acceptable, and thus when it comes to same-sex marriage, they have lost the ability to even recognize that it is just intrinsically, fundamentally wrong. By definition.

I didn't disagree or quarrel with her. No good purpose would have been served. But this brief conversation captures very well the essence of the whole issue and why for many, this gap will and can never ever be bridged.

Many, especially in the LDS Church, are locked into seeing this as a non-negotiable matter of divinely ordained moral absolutes to which ideally everyone must adhere. They see the voice of God in the First Presidency's letter advocating support for Proposition 8. Non-Mormons point to the Bible as establishing God's Pattern For Marriage. Both feel threatened to their foundations by any prospect of change.

Many others see no solid historical or scriptural basis for that perspective other than personal prejudice and bigotry, point out that marriage has been "re-defined" many times throughout history, and believe that the tolerance lamented by my friend is in fact a long-overdue abandonment of an irrational hostility toward something that's always been part of the human condition anyway. They point to the fact that slavery was finally eradicated in most of the world only after millennia of its being an unquestioned and assumed part of The Divinely Fixed Order Of Things, with apparently supportive references to it throughout the Bible (far more than references to homosexuality in fact), and ferociously defended by many good Christians as approved by God. But that still didn't make it right.

With rare exceptions, this gap cannot be bridged. There is simply no way to reconcile these perspectives. They are as different as chalk and cheese, and are destined to duke it out until one prevails either through the courts or through the ballot box. About the only time I've ever heard of any individual changing from the first category to the second is when they discover that a loved one is gay and suddenly the issue becomes personal and provokes some very profound re-assessment of beliefs.

What think ye? Are today's Mormon youth so soaked in a culture of tolerance that they have lost the ability to discern right from wrong?


Sarah said...

About the only time I've ever heard of any individual changing from the first category to the second is when they discover that a loved one is gay and suddenly the issue becomes personal and provokes some very profound re-assessment of beliefs.

That would be me.

Our 12-year-old daughter is right with us on the whole prop 8 thing. Of course, I guess I am giving her my own biased viewpoint, but I keep following up my viewpoint with what the church teaches. We discuss what feels right and what feels wrong, and we always seem to agree that tolerance wins.

Am I setting her up for the same anguish that I go through every time someone says something? I fear that I am, but it has really been her own choice. But maybe that is because we have brought her up such that she is now blind to right and wrong.

I don't really know the answer to your question.

Abelard Enigma said...

Adults through the centuries have complained about the youth of their day - how they are lazy, disrespectful, etc.

I think the changes we see in our youth represent the ongoing evolution of society. What we see in our youth today is a glimpse of how we will view society tomorrow. Unfortunately, many people don't handle change very well; so, they resist and try to turn things back to the way they were. They may very well win battles - but ultimately they will lose the war - change is inevitable.

Public Loneliness said...

I don't see young people being tolerant of others because they're blinded, on the contrary they are growing up in a global society where knowledge and communication run wild sometimes and where they see many, many more points of view that I would have only dreamed about while growing up. I think it is sad for us oldie moldies to think of the younger generation as deceived when in reality we should be taking clues from them.

If you ask many of these kids (I've read some moho relative blogs and I see this as a significant point) for the most part it really is not a big deal. While they recognize that there might be doctrinal issues, culturally it is something they've grown up with and for the most part it is important enough to state that while they support the church as a whole they disagree on their participation on issues like Prop 8 and they're quite vocal about voicing their love for their gay friends and relatives, if that is being blind perhaps the mote is in someone's eye!!

Forester said...

I don't know how she could say this when one of the greatest legacies left by President Hinckley is the message of tolerance. The next generation of Mormons is one of the greatest, if not the greatest generations of all time. They are far and away ahead of us in spiritual gifts and are the best prepared for what lies ahead. I beleive the generation that makes the worst decisions is the age between 35 and 65. This has been true throughout all history in my opinion. I would take the advice from any Mormon under 35 or over 65before I wold listen to the middle-age group.