This Sunday is Fast Sunday – a day when you fast from Saturday dinner to Sunday dinner and share your testimony during church.
I’m not one who often feels like God speaks through me but this week, I have felt that God or the universe has been preparing me to share a message. However, I’m a bit of a coward and what I feel I need to say is just out of my comfort level to share at church. So to compromise, I’m sharing this here. What I am sharing is a little more in depth than what I would share at church because I have the time and space to explain things a little bit more.
I was raised LDS but left in my teens. During my “absent” years, I studied many religions. One that captured my complete attention was Buddhism. It was Buddhism that actually paved the way for me to return to Christianity (and Mormonism). I started to notice similarities between what the first Buddha taught and what Christ taught.
In Buddhism, they have the Five Precepts which are the core guidelines for how you are expected to behave. Think of these as their version of the Ten Commandments or the Articles of Faith. Let me make a slight detour here and explain that in Mormonism there are thirteen Articles of Faith. Joseph Smith wrote these as a way to define what Mormons believe.
Now, the first precept is basically “do not take life”. This is where many Buddhists believe that to be true they must be vegetarians because it’s doesn’t say not to kill humans, it says life which means all forms of life. However, in one Buddhist book I read they said it was not enough to not kill but that to truly live that first precept you must protect life. That is why Buddhists support civil rights and protest against governments. They are on the forefront of gay rights because they believe that everyone has the right to live their life as they see fit.
Recently, there’s been a big push from the Mormon church to encourage their members to support freedom of religion. I’ve heard that this is the church’s way of not supporting gay rights without coming out and saying they are not supporting gay rights.
To me, there’s more here than just people’s right to marry so please don’t think this is about gay rights at all. I do support gay rights but this message is so much more.
You see, earlier this week, I got a home lesson from a Mormon website on religious freedom. The scripture associated with that lesson was Article of Faith 11 “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
At first, I knew this was important but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my budding realization. The idea that one of the core beliefs of Mormonism was in support of everyone choosing their own belief system was eye opening. It doesn’t say that they can choose so long as they are Mormon, or white or straight or American. Just like the constitution it says “all men”. There’s no interpretation, it just is.
While ruminating on this, a thought came into my head. This is where I believe I received a message:
“Religious freedom is not the weapon we wield to justify our actions or beliefs but the shield we use to defend others.”
Discord has always ruled the world but we can make it easier if we remember that we are not here to serve our own needs but to meet the need of others. It is my plan to stand before God and say I did the best I could to support the freedom of others. I strived to serve in Christ’s and Buddha’s examples – I gave even when I had little to give, I tried to love those I didn’t understand or even like, and more importantly, I tried hard not to put my freedom above another’s.