In the fall of 2008, I campaigned actively for Proposition 8, with tens of thousands of other Latter-day Saints, after the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked members in California to “do all you can to support” it. For such a sensitive, complex, and difficult political issue, we were, without question, imperfect emissaries. Nevertheless, we did our best to follow the prophet.
Following a Prophet in Faith
Not surprisingly, many of us were intimidated at the prospect of going door-to-door in support of our beliefs about marriage. After our first Saturday knocking doors, a member of our ward expressed the questions and doubts that she had beforehand. Why would the Church be taking a controversial public position based on our private religious beliefs? What good could come of it? Then, welling up with emotion, she explained that she had come that first Saturday because of her love for the prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.
Those present knew what she meant. At times too numerous to count, our hearts had also been touched by the humble example and loving teachings of a man that we sustained as president of the Church and a servant of God—even a prophet. Our love and respect for him engendered deep trust. For difficult social and political issues, following a prophet can require great faith—even childlike faith that lovingly obeys before completely understanding.
Another inspiring example of such faith can be found in Voice(s) of Hope, published by Deseret Book. This compilation includes faith promoting and inspiring stories of Latter-day Saints who experience same-sex attraction, or have family members that do, and who abide by the moral standards of the Church and affirm its divine teachings on marriage and family. One of these “voices” is the father of a son who experiences same-sex attraction. He relates the following personal experience about his decision to follow the prophet:
For several years an acquaintance had encouraged me to attend a support group for parents of gay and lesbian children. Still looking for answers, I agreed to go with him. Most of those in attendance were LDS, and . . . they began their meeting with a song and a prayer.
That night there was a presentation on the legal efforts to gain equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals. There was wild applause as the speaker reviewed each court decision that expanded gay rights. He emphasized the need for parents to become advocates for their gay and lesbian children and to pressure Church leaders to change.
After the presentation I visited with a number of those in attendance. As we talked, each person emphasized that he or she was an active member of the Church and believed it was true. Each person also expressed a concern that the prophet and other Church leaders didn’t understand the larger issues associated with homosexuality and the individual struggles of gay members. One mother pointed out that President Gordon B. Hinckley had admitted that he didn’t know what caused homosexuality. She felt it was not acceptable to deny gays and lesbians full rights in the Church if the prophet himself didn’t know what caused a person’s sexual orientation. I sensed that those in attendance loved their children and wanted them to be happy. And although I didn’t feel the Spirit at the meeting, there was compelling logic to their arguments.
Over the next few days I struggled with what I’d heard and felt. I knew that I loved my son as much as those people loved their children. How should I show that love? They wanted their children to be happy, just as I wanted [my son] to be happy. How could I help him find happiness? They believed the Church was true and that the prophet taught the truth on every subject except homosexuality. Should I believe as they did? I began to worry that the prophet and the Church were wrong on this one issue.
As I pondered and prayed, the Spirit directed my thoughts. I knew that I couldn’t compartmentalize my faith in the teachings of the prophet; I either followed every word the prophet spoke or none at all. I was concerned that if I didn’t believe what the prophet taught about homosexuality today, tomorrow I might choose not to believe what he taught about another issue. I would essentially be saying that I knew better than God or His prophet what was right and what was wrong. That sounded like pride. In the end, I made the choice to follow the prophet.
Then speaking for his wife and himself, this father writes, “We believe that as God’s watchman (see D&C 101:44–57; 124:61), he stands on higher ground and can see dangers others can’t. We’ll follow him, even if he doesn’t have specific answers to every question.”
The True Change Needed
When the prophet’s teaching goes against a current cultural consensus or the prevailing popular opinions, there can be a temptation to believe that eventually the Church will change to be more in line with the rest of the world. Rather than follow in faith, it can be tempting to lobby for change.
My grandmother lived to be ninety-seven years old. I enjoyed my visits with her in the twilight of her life. She would share experiences from her memory that spanned almost a century. Not a member of our faith, she became acquainted in her 20s, through a professional sorority, with a young woman from Salt Lake City, perhaps the first Latter-day Saint she had ever met. This young woman was certain that the Church’s standards were outdated and old fashioned—it was then the 1930s—and that eventually the Church would be forced to change in order to keep the interest of a more progressive, younger generation.
My grandmother related that experience to me from her memory, as if she was reliving what she had thought and felt at that time. It appeared she was just as certain as that young woman that the Church would have to change to keep up with the times. Then, a peculiar thing happened. As her mind turned back to the present, she asked me with some apparent surprise, “Michael, the Church didn’t change, did it?” I responded simply, “No, Grandma, the Church didn’t change.”
With respect to same-sex attraction, the Church’s website