Monday, March 26, 2012

The Gospel of Love


Romany caravans at "South Farm" where the civil union ceremony was held.
I stayed in the caravan on the right.

Yesterday I had the honor of speaking at a dear friend's wedding, or civil union, in the countryside around Cambridge, England.  With the brides’ permission (or at least one of them!), I share my speech from last night here: 

Liz and I were unlikely friends.  She was an atheist in a lesbian relationship and I a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a heterosexual marriage.  I distinctly remember Liz proudly showing me a beautiful picture of her girlfriend after our Oxford matriculation ceremony.  She watched my face carefully to see if I would blanche, and I don’t believe I did.  I also remember our first conversation—on bicycles, no less—about my faith once she discovered I was a committed Christian. 

Almost instantly and inexplicably—to both of us—we became fast friends.  She invited me to attend her constitutional theory seminar, where we were feisty participants.  We went to each others’ events and dinners.  And we often discussed the topics that were important to us: religion, her love for Ligaya and mine for Lance, and the discrimination we both encountered for very different reasons. 

Looking back, I can probably say that we were equally astonished by each other.  I was the first devout Christian Liz had ever met who could believe what I did, including all of the traditional “thou shalt nots” (click here to read what I believe about marriage, the family and the use of  procreative powers) and yet still be immediately warm and accepting and even love her and Ligaya.  Yet as I saw and understood it, I was compelled by Jesus Christ’s command to love God and then love my neighbors as myself.  It was both the first and culminating commandment.  The Savior instructed me, “By this shall man know ye are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”  The Apostle Paul taught that if I had not charity, I was nothing but sounding brass—good for tooting my own horn, but not enough to claim fellowship with the Lord’s suffering.  In my faith’s own unique scripture, The Book of Mormon, I was taught by the prophet Mormon (after whom the book is named and my faith is nicknamed) to “cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all…the pure love of Christ, [which] endureth forever. Wherefore…pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love.” Charity is generally something I have to work for, to pray for.  But not with Liz—and Ligaya. They were easy to love.

For my part, I was astonished by Liz’ strong spirituality despite her disclaiming the ability to believe in God.  She would often teach me about my faith.  On several occasions, when I was at ultimate lows, I would get a call not from a “sister” within my own faith, but from Liz.  She would then proceed, amazingly, to teach me about my faith. One time in particular stands out.  I had probably just uttered a prayer of desperation, and my phone rang.  It was Liz.  She listened to my dilemma, and then patiently told me that sometimes, I forgot that I had faith.  I did all sorts of things to comply and be obedient—no alcohol, no coffee or tea, no pre-marital sex—but then I forgot that there were benefits.  “Have you asked for help?,” she said.  I sputtered and was stunned.  I was in the habit of praying, of asking for small things.  I prayed, actually, about everything.  But no, I had not asked to be delivered from the trial that bound me.  She then proceeded to teach me that I needed to ask and believe I would get an answer, but then be willing to accept worse case scenario—perhaps such acceptance was all that was needed for me to show my willingness to submit and be obedient to the Father’s plan. 

I could not have been better taught. As we finished the call, I felt empowered to apply my faith, ask, and submit.  Liz sheepishly told me that the feeling I often described as the Holy Spirit was something she had felt from head to toe for the duration of the call.  I told her that even though she did not believe in God, I believed that He had inspired her to call me and to tell me the things I needed to hear.  I believe that Liz had been an answer to my prayer.

I share this experience because it taught me in a profound way that though she does not believe in Him, nor believe or know the things that I know, I believe that God works through this wonderful woman and loves her very, very much.  I know that He does.  I also know that He loves Ligaya.

In another place in the Book of Mormon I am taught that the Lord “denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”  I would add, and “both female and female.”

I speak now to those of us gathered here who share my belief in God and all of his commandments, although perhaps of a different tradition.  If God loves these two women as much as I know He does, and if He has invited them to come unto Him, how could we not do the same?  It is my prayer that the pure love of Christ may be reflected in our hearts as we welcome and invite these two wonderful women, now bonded together, into our hearts, homes and lives.  May we love them together even as Christ loves us.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Inside the caravan

main "farm house"

4 comments:

  1. That was beautiful and I bet the wedding was beautiful as well. Just the small glimpses are amazing.

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  2. Hello sweet,

    I woul just like to say that was one of the most powerful speeches I've heard and you had me in tears (happy ones) I am not a Christian but unlike Liz I do believe in god I am more along the routes of spirituality , but I believe we should all love and accept one another and you truly are a wonderful young woman and I am pleased I had the pleasure of meeting you on such a special weekend too :) All the best and love to you xx Paula xx

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  3. I am surprised to read of your support for your friend's marriage. Thank you for putting the LDS faith in a different light. Open minds and open hearts are a beautiful thing.

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