Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When my morals exceeded my church's morals

I was sitting on my bed this last Sunday, getting ready for the day, and I started contemplating morals I was taught growing up in the Mormon church versus the morals I hold now.  I'm not sure why that thought struck me then, when I rarely think about Mormonism much on a day to day basis.  It could have been the fleeting thought that I enjoy my Sundays much more than I used to, and that my children will never know the mind-numbing obedience drilling, that directed my thoughts down that path.

A common question to the irreligious by the religious is, "If you don't get your morals from god, where do you get them from?"  I would say I learned some beneficial morals from the Mormon church that have benefitted me in life.  The thing is, those things I learned transcend Mormon dogma and fall within the realm of civilized society.  I've said before that there's nothing positive I learned from the church that couldn't have been learned elsewhere, without a heaping helping of harmful stuff on top.

I learned to care for those different than me in spite of the church's teachings.  One thing that continues to stick in my mind is Constitutional Amendment 3, or the Utah Marriage Amendment introduced on the ballot in 2004.  I was fairly active in the church when that amendment was voted on and I remember being torn.  I knew what the church wanted me to do but it didn't feel right.  

Read that again.  

What my church, the source of my morals and guidance in life, wanted me to do didn't feel right to me and my own internal moral compass.  Who was I to prevent gay people from entering into committed relationships?  But according to the church Obedience is the first law of heaven.  So I voted in favor of limiting marriage to one man and one woman.  (insert polygamous pioneer joke here)  I felt sick about it.

I've since realized that placing such an emphasis on obedience is wrong for many reasons.  I could write a whole other blog post about it.  Maybe I will.  But I would argue that voting against my conscience was one of the first earnest cracks in my testimony.  Why would the holy ghost, supposedly the entity in charge of my moral compass, make me feel awful about doing what the church wanted me to do?

I've come to learn that there is no other intelligence guiding our decisions, only us and our knowledge gained thus far.  Somewhere along the way, even while attending church, I gained the knowledge it was wrong to quash the happiness and legal rights of others just for the sake of getting a gold star for following the rules.

Being gay isn't a sin, it's a genetic, environmentally, and developmentally acquired trait that causes your brain to romantically prefer the same sex.  You can choose to ignore it, and behave straight, and try to marry someone of the opposite sex, and have children.  But that preference never goes away, because it's hard-wired in you.  If you exhort someone to ignore that preference, especially from the pulpit of authority, I believe you're asking individuals to break another one of god's rules.  The one about being honest, especially to one's self.  And I think that's one of the most important rules a person can learn in this life.


Celeste said...

Excellent post. It's too true that morals can be gained without the interference of religion. My own upbringing is positive proof of that. Parents and family are far more instrumental in shaping morals. But for any moral to really take hold in a person, I believe that person must also learn to empathize with others. All too often, people that cannot empathize have the tendency to preach love, but display ignorance and hate.

dogma7 said...

The bad thing is we all know what morals are very few live by them.

Jer said...

Or live by morals proscribed to them by an ancient belief system that precludes their own critical thought.