Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rivers continued

He did finally get on that plane. And he did finally see the massive expanses and great depths of the Amazon.

He stepped into the water; it was warm against his skin. He relaxed and then it happened. A school of piranhas swam by. They circled back as he eased out further into the warm waters. He sank deep, letting the water wash over his head; he wanted to know if he could touch the bottom. Sink sink sink. Then the fish flowed around him, ignoring him, almost as if they didn't believe their good luck. But not all the fish were tricked by such good fortune.

The last fish opened its mouth and bit at his calf. He felt a small sting. Then the other fish received the firsts silent message--sent through thousands of blood cells: nourishment was here. The blood of our blood. The life of our life. The love of our love. And there in the dark green waters of the Amazon he was consumed.

After the fish had picked his bones clean and moved onto smaller meals, the unrelenting flow of the river caught hold of his bones and washed them out toward the ocean. They mixed with the silt, passed alligators, fresh water dolphins, and children wise enough to stay clear of schools of piranhas. They were swept off the continent and into the ocean, spewed from the mouth of the land. There in the ocean he was swallowed by a giant whale, mouth opened wide, eating blindly. The whale closed its eyes and sank to the ocean floor where it slept. And slept. And slept.

Many years later it awoke, hungry for air. It rushed to the surface. A spout of water shot from its back, reaching for the moon and stars. And out came the bones. When they hit ground he was back, back on the quiet shores of the Mississippi. There he rested until the river overcame its banks.

Then They were together again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Failed Letter

I sent a letter to the SF Chronical in hopes of being published but the attempt failed (my poor ego). Anyway, here it is, a bit late, but no less relevant at this point as the Church now confronts the pain it helped cause.

I'm a Mormon and I'm voting No on Proposition 8. If you too are Mormon then you're probably scratching your head in disbelief; if you've been watching in horror as the money flows into the Yes on Prop 8 funds you're probably also equally confused. How can it be, a Mormon openly voting "No" on this, the most important proposition of our time?

There is a small band of us here in San Francisco, we walk in two worlds, one that assumes too much about our beliefs and hearts because of the church we belong to and another that isn't quite sure what to do with us because of our liberal politics and because we openly chose not to follow Prophetic wisdom. Outside the Church our friends (and sometimes families) wonder why we stay in a Church that causes so much internal conflict. And in the walls of our church buildings people worry about our testimonies and commitment to the Church and the Gospel. I doubt I, or anyone, can explain the dynamic in anything less than a full memoir. This won't end up as a perfectly wrapped bundle; it's messy and real, like your own life, only the details differ.

One of the Articles of Faith (a list of thirteen statements that briefly summarize the Mormon religion for those unfamiliar with it) says: "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." I belong to a Church whose home state was once barred admission into the Union until it dropped its own marriage practices that fell outside the norms of modern society. One might think we would sympathize with the Gay and Lesbian community better than most other churches, but here we are leading the charge against them. This contradiction causes me to look at the current situation and think that perhaps the leaders of the Church are wrong on this issue because it goes against so many of the principles I've been taught by the Church itself. But at the same time other church members look at this exception and think it must be really important for the Church to come out and take a stand that isn't completely consistent with its own teachings.

My intent, my desire, is to plead with both sides. My church is one that believes that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor, and that also believes you are in the service of God when you are in the service of your fellow man. Regardless of your political bent there is much to be admired about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There is a near constant flow of charity from the Church to those suffering throughout the world. The Church is full of people with big hearts and good intentions, and although they might be your enemy today you have many causes in common with them and overall they are a valuable asset to America and the World.

And to my church: What we ponder this voting period is whether or not to extend the rights of the majority to a minority. The Constitution was built with the intent (one of its many intents) to protect the rights of the minority, and on every occasion in our past when we have extended such rights--the right for women to vote, the abolition of slavery, the right for interracial couples to marry, the right of people of all color to vote--we have never regretted such an extension. I pray we will all consider this move with the utmost seriousness, with as much care and concern as we would employ when considering these other past accomplishments of this great nation. I ask that you pray, fast, and seek the Spirit before placing your vote on this issue. I've pondered this issue for the past four or five years, I will continue to ponder it, but as of now I'm not ready to throw a blanket of oppression over the sweet bell of liberty.

The choice to be in both these worlds is not easy, another assumption made by both sides. From those not affiliated with the Church we hear it is easier to stay in the church you were raised in than to leave it. And from the our fellow Mormons we hear that it is easy to side with society and modern progression. It's not easy—it's a tight rope, with dueling desires that are very hard to balance. So when you meet a Mormon on the street don't judge them too fast, they just might be your ally in this cause.

Monday, November 3, 2008

On the Wise and the Beautiful

Yesterday I beheld something truly amazing. (But honestly I'm sure the amazement mostly reflects my biases more than anything.) Yesterday Robyn bore her testimony at church. She cried a little, which usually gets me rolling my eyes at the speaker (because crying doesn't imply truth). But when she cried I cried, and there was truth. The truth is and was that she is greatly pained by her church and the actions it has taken over the last several years and especially in the last three or four months as it pushes to pass Proposition 8. At the same time she loves her church, which is precisely why it hurts so terribly much.

The amount of courage and passion (and sadness) it took to get up and stand before her peers--her peers that by all appearances hold little to no sympathy for her position, her peers who have marching orders from no less than a prophet of God--to say that she is in pain but that she also loves her church is probably more than I could have ever mustered. I spend a lot of time expressing my struggles in the written word which lends itself to a certain amount of cowardice, but this thing she did was bold and without guile. I'm lucky to know, much less be married to, such a girl. The church is lucky to have her as a member. Robyn Kessler, I solute and love you for all that you are: your struggles, your love, your passion, your kindness, your heart, your sympathy, your selflessness. I have no doubt that God will fling the windows of heaven open on that great and sad day when you return to him. My pride overfloweth. :)