8.26.2010

Where am I standing?

When I first heard about the proposed Muslim community center being built next to Ground Zero in NYC, I was negative about it. I felt that it was inappropriate and I related to those who protested its development. I believe I was wrong. I am a Mormon, a Latter Day Saint. In the 1800’s, the founder of my church was tarred and feathered, beaten, spit upon, cursed at, and murdered. Mormons in that time were persecuted daily just because of what they felt in their hearts and knew in their minds. People hated them for that and showed their hatred often. There was even a law brought into effect in Missouri that stated a person could legally kill a Mormon. While this has since then been revoked, it still amazes me that such a law was even allowed after our great country was founded.

So, how could I possibly justify the stubborn emotions I had when I heard a religious group wanted to build a community center anywhere? I couldn’t. I felt ashamed that my natural reaction was to feel offended. My life is about my faith, and my faith and religion both have an intense history of violent persecution and torment. A handful of men deeply scarred our nation in 2001 in New York City. But I refuse to believe that those men accurately represent the entire population of Muslims around the world (even though their actions were "linked" their beliefs). I know that men and women in the Mormon faith have made mistakes in the past and I am certainly grateful that their choices do not represent what the Church and its teachings are really about.

Now, I want to make a distinction between religion and lifestyle. It is true that I do not support same-sex marriage. This is an example of a lifestyle choice that I believe is inherently wrong and will damage our society as children of God. I do not appreciate the spin celebrities and gay rights activists put on Proposition 8 by labeling the movement H8. I do not hate people. The reason I am against it has absolutely nothing to do with hate. It has to do with my convictions concerning the act, not the person.

With that side note out of the way, I want to state plainly that I hope this community center is built without too much contention and rivalry. I fear that if we refuse this just because of location and religion, we could very well hinder our nation's progression and peace.

I sometimes wonder if issues such as this are assessments from Heavenly Father. I wonder if He is testing us to see how soft-hearted and kind we are as individuals and collectively, as a nation. If this is a test, I hope America passes. And if we do not, I am grateful we have a patient Heavenly Father who, no matter what we choose to feel or believe, will continue to have faith in us.

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