My neighbor came to my mom's house today while I was there. This is the husband of my neighbor referred to in my last post (the one who sent me the Facebook message). My neighbors (let's call them Raymond and Ruth) have been close friends of my parents since my parents and my neighbors moved into this neighborhood nearly 50 years ago.
I asked Raymond to give me his first account description of what occurred in Priesthood meeting yesterday. He said that they had been watching clips of different speakers from General Conference, and towards the end of the meeting our other neighbor (who we'll call Clyde) made a rather sharp comment about "the gays" and how they needed to be stopped because it was just plain wrong.
Raymond said my former bishop said something akin to "Now, hold on, Clyde. There are people in our neighborhood, even our ward, who deal with this, and they are good people, and when you say things like that, it is very hurtful, and it is inappropriate for you to say things like that." Raymond said that the message my former bishop was giving (in kinder words) was "You need to mind your own business, stop judging others, and sit down and shut up." Raymond said he was so proud of our former bishop and of the Christlike way in which he handled the situation (because, of course, he didn't actually say "sit down and shut up), but he did chastise Brother Clyde (and, justly, I feel).
I told Raymond that through the course of my life I had heard many ignorant and hurtful comments said about gay people in church meetings, and that they often caused great pain. Raymond said he was sure that was true. It was nice to hear of somebody saying "That isn't right!" It made me love my former bishop even more than I already do.
Raymond and I talked about how we're glad that God is the one in charge of judging and that we were glad he knows each person's heart intimately. Raymond (who's very active and has been a temple worker for many years and has held many callings in his life) told me he had a theory. He said he felt we were put on this earth for three things: to gain knowledge, to do, and to become.
He said that, first, we gain knowledge, but that no matter how much knowledge we gain while we're here that if we don't do things based on the knowledge we've gained, all the knowledge in the world is pointless.
So the second thing is that we must do things based on the knowledge we've acquired, but that we should do things for the right reasons. For example, a person can go to church and pay tithing and go to the temple, but only be doing it out of duty or to show others what a "good person" he is, whereas somebody who isn't a member of the church at all might be doing acts of service or good things because he genuinely cares for others, and so the supposedly "lesser" of the two is actually doing things for the right reasons and that will count in his favor. It's like the difference between the Pharisees that gave loads of money in tithing to show how obedient they were and the widow who gave her "mite" (all that she had) because she knew it was right. In actuality, she gave the most.
Which brings us to the third thing: becoming. Based on what we do, we become. We may become like God, which is (according to LDS doctrine) the whole point of being here or we may become like Satan. And then Raymond said something that really resonated with me. He said a person who isn't necessarily following the "rules" can become more like God by his genuine actions than someone who is following all the rules for the wrong reasons, and it is those people who will gain celestial glory in the last days.
In his theory (and again, he stressed that it was merely a theory), he wondered if those who gained telestial glory were simply the "gainers of knowledge" while those who gained terrestrial glory were simply the "doers" and those who gained celestial glory were the ones who were actually "becoming like God" regardless of their religion or lack of one. It really rang true in my heart, and I really felt a strong spirit as he relayed his theory.
In the religious tenets of Mormonism, I always thought that I was just consigned to terrestrial glory based on the choices I've made (which I felt I could live with), but a voice whispered to me that maybe it was indeed possible for someone like me who has been excommunicated from the LDS Church to gain celestial glory simply based on pure intentions (and deeds perpetuated by those intentions) of a heart that is trying to become like God and do those things that God would do.
I'm not saying that I'm bound for celestial glory. Only God knows that, and frankly, I have no idea how good one has to be to achieve that or whether I am that good. But it was something I just saw from a different point-of-view this evening, and I was grateful for it.
I have many weaknesses and faults. I am, by no means, perfect. I can be selfish and lazy and critical. But I am trying to be the best me I can be. I figure that's all I can do, and that Jesus Christ's atonement will make up for that which I lack. I'm just glad God is in charge of final judgment and that he bases that judgment on a perfect communication with his individual children's hearts. That gives me great comfort.
I try not to concern myself too much anymore about where I will end up in the afterlife. I spent many years fretting and worrying about it. Now I just try to live the best life I can and hope that my actions and words help lift people up or bring people closer to Christ rather than tear them down or draw them away from Christ. I don't know whether I am doing that or not, but I just try to be as good of a person as I know how to be; improve on the things I lack or am weak in; and let God take care of the rest. Isn't that all any of us can do? As far as I'm concerned, it is.