Accommodations for Exceptions Rather than Rule Change

Exception to the rule

Politics. Ahh – rrrghhhhh! They get so beastly … so nasty … so quickly. I have noticed a pattern as I have discussed points of view with many of my friends who agree and many who oppose my opinion. First of all, it seems to me that many of my friends who are liberal minded care deeply about  social issues that deal with exceptions to the rule. My friends who are more conservative minded care about those effected, but worry more about the oppression that will happen if we make those exceptions ‘the law’ rather than ‘the accommodation.’

Let me give an example using gay marriage. Previously, the law of the land was such that those who lived as homosexual partners were being oppressed (not given legal rights to care for children, have domestic health insurance, etc.). The accommodation to the rule, that I believe would have worked the best, would have been civil unions. This would have given the legal rights to the partners who desired to make a life together, while still upholding the views of  the majority (as evidenced by the vote of the will of the people in the cases of marriage protection acts) regarding marriage. Instead of having discussion and understanding others’ points of view and needs, Judges have overruled the will of the people and the exception has now become the rule (the far reaching affects of ignoring the voice of the people is a blog post for another day).

“Why should this matter?” say many of my friends.

Because, now the law becomes oppressive to the majority. Rather than finding a way to work together for a solution, the answer has become – “force everyone to act, even if that means to act against their moral conscience.”

Here are some examples – instead of a gay couple going to a photographer who would be happy to take their pictures they would rather force someone (by civil lawsuits) to act against their moral conscience. The same is true for bakers, florists, etc.  – instead of going to those businesses who would be over-joyed to serve them, they seek to force those who disagree to act in ways that go against their moral conscience. Many who are liberal minded shout “hooray” and say “it is the price of citizenship.

What will happen now when a priest refuses to marry a gay couple?

My liberal friends assure me that this will never happen. That homosexuals only want to work with people who agree with them. This (as evidenced above) is obviously not the case.

Which right in the Constitution is more important to be upheld? The first (which guarantees the free exercise of religion) or the 14th (which is the equal protection clause)?  We know from history that the law and the people of the land haven’t always been kind or tolerant of the free exercise of religion, and yes, vice-versa for the equal protection clause (but that’s another blog post for a new day).

Many people who are not religious will say, “what’s wrong with marrying them, or changing your religion to incorporate all views?” But if we did that, then our religion will cease to be a religion. We would effectively cut ourselves off from that Being which we believe in. We’ve been warned by Him about that [capitalization has been added by me for clarity] –

And wo be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus, and also to them whom He hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom He hath sent receiveth not Him; and therefore He will not receive them at the last day;

And it would be better for them if they had not been born. For do ye suppose that ye can get rid of the justice of an offended God, who hath been trampled under feet of men, that thereby salvation might come? 3 Nephi 28: 34-35

You see, those of us who have received the gift of Grace from the Savior are under condemnation if we turn our back on Him, do not carry our cross, or change His laws and statues. We do not have the right nor the inclination to do so. He paid a dreadful price for every act that each of us would commit, simply to give us the opportunity to repent, if we chose to do so. It was completely unfair, and unjust, but I am so grateful that He did. I will not proudly wave my banner in the air proclaiming the opportunity and right to choose to sin at so great a cost.

So now, instead of finding a way to compromise, to allow accommodations for those exceptions to the rule (so that the effected might not feel oppressed) we have created new rules that oppress others.

Unfortunately, this issue is FAR from over and it will only get more divisive over time as we continue to deal with questions that force a religious person to be a part of action that is against their moral conscience (i.e. a pharmacist who is forced to dispense the morning after pill, a doctor or medical person who is forced to perform or help with an abortion, etc.) Can we not find a way to deal with another’s accommodation (for example allowing a different pharmacist to fill the prescription?) Why must we live in a world that insists on ALL have to do it my way without accommodation?

In my job as a professor, I constantly ask my students to discuss matters of disagreement with civility. I ask them to take a look at other sides with an eye of understanding (not total agreement, but with respect toward those ideas and opinions that are different). Then I ask them to come up with solutions that will help. Sometimes we have to table a discussion with the “agree to disagree” compromise which leaves both parties with the ability to walk away with dignity. Mostly, my sweet young students come up with the “too bad, they just have to deal with it because it’s what I want to do” answer, which (though it makes total sense for a kid who truly feels that way) is not a way to live in society!

With the new changes in the US government, I ask my friends, both liberal and conservative to try to discuss rather than name call. To try to understand and allow for differences and accommodations rather than to try and force EVERYONE to go along with your agenda. To at least try to look for a third way that will allow all to live in harmony.

To the believer who hasn’t spent any real time with God, please understand that there are and have been TRILLIONS of God’s children here on the earth and He has a responsibility to all of them (living, dead, and yet to be born) not just to the world as you know it and have experienced it.

I ask my sweet religious brothers and sisters to remember that though we are trying to build a Celestial City, Zion Community, etc (depending on which form of Christianity that you believe in) we are not currently “in one” as a total society. Put away that all of that Righteous Indignation and let’s find kind and merciful ways to build that great Kingdom together (following the example of the Savior who lovingly accepted the person as they were, healed them, and then invited them to live a better life by saying, “go thy way and sin no more.” He did not crack the whip over the broken person’s head with a “you stop doing this or you will go to HELL” mentality. He only cleansed the temple twice in His entire ministry  – NOT on a daily basis on Facebook). I am NOT suggesting that we drop the fight for the souls of our brothers and sisters, but that we put down the whip more often so that people will actually want to listen to the amazing message of the Gospel.

To members of my faith who are currently trying to change the doctrine, I ask you to go and find out WHAT the doctrine is from the PURE source (that’s the scriptures and words of the living prophets, folks. Not the blog posts of the disgruntled who try to make laws based on exceptions to the rules. It takes study, and time, and humility to ask God why things are a certain way, but if you go to Him, He will teach you.)

To my atheist friend, I will always allow you to disagree with me with the mutual understanding that “we shall see” when we come to the other side. If you are right, I’ve lived a good life. If I am right, well … I’m open to a chat about religion anytime you want! 😉 (That’s how I left it with a sweet Bulgarian man who honestly believed in the principle of sharing the shirt off my back if I have two and my brother has none. I admired his goodness and desire to help his fellowman. He promised to listen to my message on the other side if I were right. We left with mutual respect and handshake of good fellowship.)

We can live together. We can find ways to hear each other out and work together to allow others to live freely.

 

 

 

Putting our “Exception” on the Altar

Exceptions to the Rule. They crop up everywhere, don’t they? Nature, Math, English grammar. Always there … lurking. Just when we think we understand something, an exception pops up and we have to re-examine our thinking.  But do the exceptions make the rule “untrue”? Do we throw out the rule because there are exceptions to it?

Personally, I don’t think so.  When we begin to say that rules don’t exist, or shouldn’t be followed because of exceptions, then we delve into a space of chaos.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

Everyone who ever  has lived on earth has sinned, so everyone needs to repent.

That’s a pretty inclusive rule!

Oh, wait. There is (at least) one exception.

Jesus Christ never sinned.

I think that the most interesting thing to go along with our discussion then, is that, though He  clearly was THE great exception to the rule, (like 0 in mathematics) He got baptized anyway.

So what does this teach us?

Before we go into that, I’m going to share a couple of stories.

Story # 1 –

When I was at Basic Training, I broke my leg, a stress fracture just under the right knee. I was in excruciating pain for several weeks. No one believed me and I tried to continue to “run through the pain”.  When we took our final PT test, I hobble-ran around the track and began to be lapped by all of the other soldiers.  The drill sergeants then realized that there was something real and horribly wrong and sent me to the Army hospital where an x-ray proved the break.  We still had several weeks of training left, and I began a strange routine of doing the best I could.

During PT one morning, my Drill sergeant yelled at me for doing the exercises and made me sit and watch.  A few days later, when we were at a special camping training (bivouacking in the woods) I was chosen as one of the night guards because of my injury. Guard at night, sleep during the day.  Although, on one of those days, I went out for training with my platoon, at my drill sergeant’s behest. We were supposed to run through an open field (practicing the art of covering ourselves and our buddies). Each group went out and I lingered at the back (as running with a broken leg had proven not to be my thing.)  Then my Drill Sergeant told me it was my turn.

“But, Drill Sergeant Jones, remember? My Leg?”

“GO! I DON’T CARE! GO, MOVE, MOVE MOVE!!!!”

He could be quite persuasive, so out I ran, hobbling through the exercise, hoping that an enemy soldier wouldn’t “pick me off” as I went.  Hobble, hobble, hobble,  hide behind a tree, cover my buddy, hobble, hobble, hobble, run behind a rock, watch for enemy snipers – you get the idea.

The funny thing was that, as silly as I looked, I actually enjoyed being out in the field that day – injury and all.  It was such a relief to participate in something after being “held back”. The air was fresh. Movement was welcome to my body.  I felt unified and reconnected with my platoon again, and I never got hit by the pretend enemy! 😉

Story # 2 –

When I was in my twenties, I became the Laurel adviser in my ward (that means that I was the teacher for all girls aged 16-18 in my area). I began to teach them, that though they wanted to get married – which every Mormon girl wants of course, [note that’s the general rule, not the exception] 😉 sometimes marriage didn’t come as fast as we planned, and that they should have a something else in mind for life without nuptials.

As it turns out, all of the girls in my class got married before I did.

I thought that “marriage doesn’t come right away” was the “new rule”, because it was so in my case (and, after all,  it is the teaching of mainstream American society).  It turned out that I was the exception, and that in that class, the original rule (that most Mormon girls get married young) was in full force.

So now, let’s get back to our discussion above, about the Savior and His baptism and introduce a BIG, GIANT, sticky problem.

What do we do in gospel living when we are the exception to the rule?   Does it make the rule “untrue”? Do we throw out the rule for everyone in the whole church simply because I am an exception to it (or because exceptions exist)?

The scriptures teach us that we are to follow the example of the Savior. (See this link for a plethora of scriptures about this teaching.)  Here is one of my favorites –

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (1 Peter 2:21)

 WHAAAAT?

Are you saying, Laryssa, that if we are the exception to the rule, we are still supposed to follow the rule?

Yes, I am. Or at least, I am saying that if you can’t follow the rule, because of your exception, you should live as close to the rule as possible. Yes, I am Drill Sergeant Jones, pushing you out onto the field with a broken leg.

"'To fulfill the law,' said Jesus, when the baptist questioned why."

“‘To fulfill the law,’ said Jesus, when the baptist questioned why.”

Why?

For two reasons.

Reason #1.  Because of this great promise –

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17).

That by doing, we will know and understand the reasons that God gave us the doctrine to begin with.  Then we can testify from our own experience about  A.) the truthfulness of the teaching, B.) why it is the doctrine of God, and C.) of the miracles that helped us live the doctrines even while in our exceptions.

Reason # 2.  Because, if we follow the example of the Savior, (especially in our exceptions) we will have the power to bless the human family in ways so powerful it is incomprehensible.

Just look at what the Savior wrought, by taking on sin as a sinless being.  He was the exception. His was an adult life devoid of sin. He had every right to enter into the Kingdom of God because He lived perfectly (see 1 Nephi 15:34,  3 Nephi 27:19, and Revelation 21:27) and yet, He gave up His “exception to the rule status” and took upon Himself our sins, and through that great and glorious Atonement, gave every single human being the ability to enter into the Kingdom of God, should they chose to accept it.

Now, that is phenomenal.

Each exception to the rule of life carries with it a huge burden and a huge opportunity.

So, how do you live as close to the rule as you can with such difficult problems? What are you expected to do? I don’t know, because your case (quite probably) is so very different from mine. But there is Someone who does know.  If you ask Him, He will show you with baby steps, and then sometimes, with grander steps, what is right for your unique and personal situation.

I will give a simple example from my life.

When I was a single sister in the church that teaches that Marriage is the ultimate design of both earth life, and of ALL ETERNITY, I found myself getting older and older without the opportunity (and I found that the rule was that most Mormon young adults were getting married and having those babies that I so desperately wanted – see story # 2 above).

I went through a period of anger and rebellion.  But then, because I loved God, I decided to try to live life in the gospel, even though my circumstances were not ideal according to the general rule.

Then, I went through a time when I demanded that every one, every religious talk and teaching about marriage (in conference or any other church function) bring up and recognize my own personal exception to the rule (and coincidentally, offer praise and comfort for my “amazing faithfulness”).

Finally, I came to a point in which, I began to realize the necessity of giving up my demands, and doing what the Spirit was prompting me to do – to testify of the importance of the family, without regard to my own personal exception.

I focused my thoughts and prayers on my relationship with God. When the pain, anger, or injustice came up, I prayed or sang a hymn, treating those thoughts as I would an immoral or upsetting thought – forcing them to leave my mind, rather than spending time dwelling on it,  “licking old wounds”.

In so doing, over time,  it took away the pain and anger.  It drew me closer to the Savior. It made me an effective Seminary teacher because I could teach without angry energy seething out of me. It put me in a position to be taught deeper truths about the doctrine.

And, OF course, not getting married young brought me these exceptional military stories that I am now able share with you. 😉

The years have passed. Eleven, to be exact, since I got married and started my own family. Now, I am asked to live with different set of exceptions to the rule.  Exceptions that I do not have the courage or the permission to talk about yet.  However, the Spirit whispers the same solution to those problems — follow the Savior.  Live the rule, or as close to the rule as I can.

We hobble, hobble, hobble, and hide behind a bush, hobble hobble, hobble, cover each other as battle buddies, hobble, hobble, hobble and watch for enemy snipers. It’s not pretty to watch. My husband and I don’t move as gracefully in the battlefield as other families that live without our exceptions to the rule. But, we are participating in the activity.

Yes, I am petty and wish for things to be ideal, but, I see miracles on a regular basis. Miracles that help us live as close to the rule as possible. I am learning the doctrines and finding that they bring joy. I can witness that following God’s ways and rules give me peace and great opportunities that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t live this way. And finally, hopefully, as you and I try to be more like the Savior, by placing our own “exceptions to the rule” on the altar, that sacrifice will bless lives, just as His did.