The words in General Conference can hurt. I know many people who believe this “hurt” is what is meant to happen in order for those of us who don’t conform to the Church’s wishes to be influenced into conforming. It is the “hard sayings” that prick the heart of the wicked.
May I contend that there is a better way to bring about repentance than hurting people and making them feel alienated? Because I believe there is.
Certain groups of people will always be hurt when certain things are said in Conference. But they also hurt because of what the membership of the body of Christ says after those words are shared on pulpits. Here are examples of responses online that people shared when Mr. Oaks spoke:
Think about it. You are just told by an apostle of God that what you’re struggling through—your sexuality or your gender identity—is contrary to God’s plan. That’s all you’ve been told. No help is given. No balm provided. A simple “That is not the way.” Even though you feel, in the deepest part of your soul and your very biological being, that even if it isn’t “the way,” it is still something you’re dealing with.
And then, once an apostle of God has illegitimized your very personal feelings, members of the Church cheer on those “hard sayings.” Instead of providing love for people who are struggling with coming to grips with what an apostle has said, these tweets—Oaks is on fire; Oaks is coming out hitting; Oaks is laying down the law—hurt. The words people speak in the halls of the church buildings for the comings months will harm because online or in-person, many members of the Church say the same thing. These sayings rip and tear at a soul—no matter how old you are, no matter how separated from these words you seem to be. They are, to utilize the Church of Jesus Christ’s framework, Satan working through you to harm these people who are attempting to reconcile what is happening in their body and what they are being told over a pulpit.
It is a shame on every follower of Jesus Christ when a fellow disciple cheers for an apostle to “lay down the law” instead of doing what they have covenanted to do: weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn.
Instead of cheering for an apostle who says in dispassionate terms that a friend or family member of yours is not welcome in the house of God, why don’t you reach out in love to those people?
“I love you” is a simple text to send. A heart emoji is not that difficult to type. A “I’d love to listen to your perspective on what we heard in General Conference so I can understand more about you. I don’t want to talk; I simply want to listen to you. How about dinner this week?” is not that difficult to ask.
I remember being the person who would say, “Hot dang, this apostle is really saying it how it is.” It’s difficult to get out of that mindset. But we really do need to change our mindset from one that only supports apostles to one that has room for those who the apostles are “calling to repentance.”
People are not brought to God through hard sayings; they’re brought to God through Love.