I taught a lesson in church yesterday. The topic was taken from the conference talk, "Obedience to the Law is Liberty," by Elder Perry. It had the potential to blow up into a full-fledged bashing of current controversial social movements (i.e. same-sex marriage, healthcare reform, equalizing the salary gap between genders...). I nipped it in the bud by saying the entire purpose of the lesson was to help members decide how they could personally apply the precepts taught--we were not going to think or talk about how someone we knew needed to hear the Elder Perry's words, we weren't going to discuss how the world is going down the toilet, and we were instead, going to discuss how this conference address can help us do an inventory of our very own lives so we might find a bit of self-improvement.
It actually went very well. With one exception, the women respected my request to personalize the topic, and the one who did not recognized, mid-comment, that she was doing exactly what I had asked her not to do, corrected her course and apologized.
I asked one of my friends to tell us about raising children as a single parent--because her husband decided, when she was pregnant with their third child, that he didn't like the responsibility of being a husband and father. He left and is now living a life that makes him happier. But my friend was left to take care of his children. Sometimes life does not work out as the mormnorm dictates.
We talked about loving others, regardless of circumstances or beliefs--the kind of love that means involvement, not lip service. We discussed never saying, "I love this person (or group of people) but..." and instead ending the sentence early and then getting to know that person (or group of people) well enough that the words, "I love you," have meaning.
We talked about how there will always be people who do not endorse our beliefs or the laws embraced by the gospel--and that does not make them our enemies. It just means they believe different things and it's a good idea to hear and talk about different ideas, even when we disagree with them.
We discussed ways to include people, rather than excluding them because they support Obama-care, or are rabid about the right to bear arms. We wondered how to be more supportive of single parents, how to be accepting and welcoming to same-gender couples who might be our neighbors or colleagues, and how to become more involved in their lives.
We stepped outside the box.
Some of the women were obviously uncomfortable, but when I asked them, they all admitted to believing that Christ would not approve of excluding any of his children, and they remembered that the second great commandment is to love thy neighbor.
Two of the women wept through the entire lesson. Later, when I asked them why, both admitted to feeling left out in the church, for different reasons. Both said they hoped the message we discussed would be received. Both admitted that they, themselves, had been judgemental of others and wanted to do better.
I believe there are laws decreed by God. I believe some of them are absolute. I also believe only the Lawgiver, Himself, can judge people who might be transgressing those laws. I cannot. It's not my job. My job is to love. If that was the message sent by that lesson--if that was the message received by those who discussed it, then I believe it was good enough.
Darrin was sad he couldn't come to my class. He said the men's class (discussed the same conference address) was boring and contentious. They had conservative versus liberal debates and it was not fun. Which just goes to show, girls are better than boys ("I'll never grow up, Never grow up, Never, never grow up--Not Me!").