Response to Charlottesville

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” 2 Timothy 3:1-4

“The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.” Moses 7:32-33

The events of this last weekend in Charlottesville and the subsequent conversations and discussions about what happened and why have been weighing on my mind. I am also, as of a few weeks ago, meeting with a psychiatrist and taking medication for my ADHD and anxiety. I am still adjusting the dosage and adjusting to the new medication, so my thoughts are a little bit different, at times more scattered and distracted, at other times more subdued. But I feel the need to write something, to help me organize my thoughts and to declare what I believe.

I quoted two scriptures above that speak to the sadness and sorrow in my heart. It has long been prophesied and foretold that “in the last days perilous times shall come.” I look around and I am beginning to believe that those last days might be now. Those behaviors that Paul described are certainly very evident, “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud,… despisers of those that are good.” And, as Enoch, I have wondered that our God, in all his might and holiness and perfection, could weep for the children of men. And God’s response to Enoch touches my soul. He weeps because we are the workmanship of his own hands and he has given us simple commandments to love one another and choose him, our father. But, God says, “they are without affection and they hate their own blood.”

I have seen that hatred and it has appalled me. I must state unequivocally that I do not and can not and never will support any anger, hate, nor violence against any group or individual. I will do whatever I can, within my ability, to withstand hate, to protect and comfort and support any victims of hate or violence. There are many who say, after a terrorist attack perpetrated by individuals who claim to be followers of Islam, that the Muslim community must speak out and publicly denounce all such actions. The violence and vitriol last weekend was committed by white, predominantly Christian American men so it is now my place, as a white Christian American man, to speak out publicly and denounce all such actions. That behavior has no place in the America that I love, but I must recognize that such behavior has been going on for such a long time in America, it is just now becoming more public and widespread.

I was shocked to see Americans, professing to be patriots, but really just nationalists and supremacists, carrying the flag of the Nazi party. An evil, malicious political party formed almost 100 years ago to mask oppression and racism and unthinkable crimes against humanity, and against humans. I have studied the German language and culture and history for most of my life. I lived in Germany for two years and I met and spoke with many people who lived under the Nazi government. None spoke of it with anything but shame and a conviction that such things should never happen again. There are some neo-Nazi groups in Germany, but they are almost all younger men who have romanticized and idealized an era of their history they did not live through nor fully understand. I have visited sites in Germany where Nazi and SS soldiers committed and condoned unconscionable acts against fellow human beings, by first convincing themselves and others that the differences between them meant that these others were inferior and not really human at all. They were without affection and they hated their own blood.

There were millions of Americans, true patriots and heroes, who sacrificed their time, their families for a time, sometimes their limbs or their good health, even their own lives to defend against the spread of Nazi ideology and hate. Such should be honored for what they gave and what they did for others, selflessly.

So, in the wake of such publicized racism and bigotry and violence against fellow Americans, what is there to be done? I am a white, Christian, middle-class man, as such I recognize that I have privilege in modern American society. I did not ask for this privilege, I had no choice as to how and where and when I was born, but this privilege comes to me despite all that. There are many, so many people, who do not have the privilege I have in this current society. I want to be obedient to my God, I want to love one another. I want to remember and completely internalize the belief that I am a child of God, and if I am a child of God, then every other person born into this world is equally a child of God and is my brother and sister.

It sounds cheesy and too simple: love is the answer. It sounds like I am downplaying my own responsibility to do more to resist hate and violence and to increase the positive in the world. Love one another is not just a trite platitude, it is God’s plan and his commandment to his children.

Anyone who claims to believe in God and follow Jesus Christ who also engages in speech or behavior that does not lift up those around them will be answerable to God at the last day for all the evil that they did and all the good they did not do.

I feel compelled to say something at this moment, to do something good for the world, for someone else. I want to do my part to counter evil in this world by overwhelming it with good, with love, with positivity.

I want to hide away with the Fourth Book of Nephi in the Book of Mormon, and hope and pray and work for a better society which can exist, as it did then for almost 200 years.

“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered.” 4 Nephi 1: 15-18

There was no contention because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. There were not any manner of -ites among them, no divisions among the people, no separation into groups or factions, but they were in one, the children of Christ. When they were filled with the love of God and they realized that they were all one in Christ, there was no contention and there could not be a happier people and the Lord did bless them in all their doings and they were prospered. One can indeed be proud of one’s ancestry, and of one’s family. One can honor ancestors and the stories and traditions that are passed down, but the love of God and the love of all mankind must take precedence. When one person’s cultural traditions is oppressive of another person or group, that is a tradition that cannot be celebrated or allowed in our modern multicultural society, nor within the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement regarding the situation in Charlottesville on Sunday, and they amended and clarified that statement on Tuesday. Part of that updated statement reads: “In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39). The Book of Mormon teaches “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).

White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a “white culture” or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church.”

I am proud of this statement and the boldness of it’s denouncement of white supremacy. I am proud of the language that reminds us that God’s greatest commandments are to love him and to love our neighbor as our self, and that all are alike unto God. God is truly our Heavenly Father, with all that it means to be a perfect, eternal Father. He loves all of his children and wants all of his children to have joy in this life and eternal life in his kingdom in the life to come. Through the life, Atonement, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that is possible. Every person can turn to Jesus Christ and be forgiven of all sins they have ever committed, of all shortcomings and failures and anything that might keep them from entering God’s presence. All that is unright and unfair about this mortal life, with such atrocities and heartache in it, can be comforted and healed and made right through the love of our Savior. If not now, then in a time to come.

These are perilous times, but there is hope to be found in the Love of God. “Ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.” 2 Nephi 31:20. Love one another and choose God, our Father.

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