I have been receiving messages from friends about a pro-traditional-marriage rally that is going to be held at the Utah Capitol Rotunda next week. This rally comes in response to a recent federal judge strikedown of Utah’s state amendment protecting marriage that was passed by voters in 2004. As I understand it, the hope is to create a sense of unity and action much like what has happened in France with La Manif Pour Tous.
Strikedowns related to gay marriage, such as what has happened in Utah and in other states, deeply concern me for many reasons. I have long been an active and involved advocate of protecting traditional marriage; I do not believe it is in the best interest of our society to allow gay marriage. I am concerned that the voice of millions of people on this matter in various states is being cast aside by judicial fiat. I believe that religious freedoms are connected to the dynamics we have seen unfold over the years as well. I believe that the rights of children to be born to a mother and a father need to be represented in our laws and public discourse.
Although I know that most of my friends and I would agree on the “what” of these concerns, what I am finding is that we don’t always agree on the “how” to take action. That can prove to be both a bit of a frustration when we don’t agree, but in my mind, it can also can be a reminder that there are many ways to take a stand for what we believe is good, right, and true.
I’ve been thinking about this more this week as I have engaged in conversation with friends about this rally. I think it provides a simple case study for what I would like to communicate with this op-ed.
Some friends, whom I deeply love and admire, are passionate about attending this rally, and feel it is nothing short of the duty of anyone in the area to do so. To give a glimpse of the passion of these friends of mine, I invited one of the women who is helping promote the rally to write an essay about why she has chosen to attend. (Hint: For her, it’s about much more than standing for traditional marriage. She is a daughter of immigrants and to her this rally represents an opportunity to celebrate the freedoms her parents worked so hard to come to enjoy.) She and I have had several conversations over the past few months about issues related to faith, family, and freedom that have inspired me.
I had the privilege of talking with the woman who spearheaded the rally and she is simply a mom trying to follow through with something she feels strongly about. I admire her grit and commitment and am amazed at what she has been able to organize. Another friend may be flying from out of state to attend. She is a fearless defender of the family and of religious freedom.
On the other hand, with regard to this rally, I have heard from others — friends who are equally passionate about these things that matter so much to us as Mormons (faith, family, freedom), friends I also deeply admire — who feel there is perhaps more room for personal decision and revelation with regard to events like this. At the very least, they are not necessarily feeling the same pull to go to this particular event.
I am compelled to conclude that we simply may not all feel pressed or prompted to do the same things to take a stand for the shared ideals we believe in, but I think (or hope) we would all agree on what is captured in the following meme created from a quote in the February 2014 Ensign.
In discussions about this rally, I’ve seen people express concern that sometimes it’s fear that keeps us from action. And that can sometimes be true. Especially with hot-button issues in our culture, sometimes fear can drive us to avoid political or other topics altogether. I believe sometimes it IS better to stay silent, but when silence is driven by fear, it’s likely not the right choice.
I am glad my friends invited me to this rally, because if nothing else, it got me thinking more about why I will or will not go. (As it turns out, I have another commitment that I made a couple of weeks ago. Interestingly enough, it’s another opportunity to peacefully assemble for the cause of faith and family, just in a different way.) It gave me a chance to ask for and share my friend’s story. It gave many of us a chance to talk together about things that matter to us. It even spurred some to face their fears and take some action.
To those who believe in marriage, family, faith, and freedom, I invite you to think about how you can not “do nothing.” Be proactive, creative, and deliberate about what you do. Be “bold but not overbearing,” to coin a phrase. To claim the blessings of a robust, free society, we need the exercising of rights like the right to peacefully assemble, the right to exercise and act on religious beliefs, the cherished right of free speech. We can embrace the opportunity, blessing, and responsibility of learning to peacefully co-exist in our pluralistic society and to allow the political process to take its course.
I hope that this rally will go well and be what the organizers hope it can be. But the event will come and go. These issues are not decided in a day or with one event. Opportunities to stand for the family and for God’s plan will, I’m sure, only become more plentiful as time goes on. We are running a marathon, not a sprint. Because of that, we will each have to continually choose where and how we will get involved,and that may look a little different for each of us. I believe that sometimes (often?) if we are willing to take action, we can be compelled to use our particular skills, talents, and interests to express our positions and help the cause in which we believe.
How are you choosing to stand for the family? What talents, skills, and experience might you be able to bring to bear in the process of standing for marriage, family, children, and religious freedom? I’d love to hear your thoughts, see your memes, read your blog posts. We don’t have to be about making others change their minds, but I think we can and should be always looking for times and places to stand for what we think and believe, and finding ways to join with others in our efforts.