Wednesday, February 26, 2014

On These Two Commandments Hang All The Law

I have purposely reserved judgment and steered clear of the arguments and rhetoric on both sides of Arizona SB 1062 until I had the opportunity to read it for myself and at least attempt to understand the implications of this bill.

Now that I have read the bill, the existing statute and accompanying summaries and fact sheets I feel I can speak with all the authority of a moderately informed citizen with absolutely no experience as a practitioner of law. (Are you still reading? Okey dokey.)

My first thought on this amendment is that it was virtually no effect on my life personally. My freedom to practice my religion is currently protected by the first amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Furthermore, as I understand it, Arizona state law section 41-1493, of which SB 1062 is currently amending, already provides protection without amendments.

Now I understand that I am representative of just a small portion of this state and country and that the effect of this bill has very real ramifications to people’s lives. After reading SB 1062 I allowed myself to read comments, thoughts and arguments on both sides. These were proffered almost entirely from friends and family who I know personally and sincerely respect and care for. Outside of a few exceptions, on both sides, I found there to be an abundance of handwringing and fear mongering that bordered on the extreme.

As it pertains to government and specifically our liberty I prescribe to the notion that “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's (or woman’s) nose begins”.

Best I can tell, those on either side of this bill are seeking to swing their arms more widely and are expecting those who oppose them to move their flipping noses out of the way. And whichever way this thing goes there will be those who have their noses severely bent out of shape. (I may have overused the nose analogy. Are you still reading? Really? Well alright.)

I won’t pretend to speak for the lawmakers who wrote this bill or those who will be more directly impacted by it. I intend to speak for myself and myself alone, but to speak to those on both sides; those who claim they are seeking to protect and exercise their religious freedom and those who claim that they are being discriminated against based on religious beliefs.

Full disclosure: I was born and raised in Arizona. I am a husband and father, a Caucasian heterosexual male who is inordinately proud of a very limited Native American ancestry; that’s right ladies part Cherokee and Choctaw (Indian Outlaw? Anybody? No? Okay, moving on). I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose history of religious freedom “issues” have been well documented (I’m looking at you Missouri).

As a Latter Day Saint I “claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of [my] own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” I also believe “in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” (Articles of Faith 11&12)

However, in this case the law that concerns me is not SB 1062. The law that concerns me is one that, from appearances, might be getting brushed aside. When Jesus was asked, by a lawyer nonetheless, which was the greatest commandment in the law he answered and 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 neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

In a righteous desire to stand for truth and right, to protect the freedom to worship Almighty God, foremost in our hearts and minds should be the love of God and His children; all of His children.

Before I begin to seem Pollyannaish I do not wish to suggest that we live in a world where love would end all disputes, cause us all to see things the same way and render governments and all other laws unnecessary. The reality is that each of God’s children is unique and wonderful. He has given us this life and the power to direct that life (2 Nephi 2:14, 27). We are not intended to believe, think or act the same (2 Nephi 2:11). Thank goodness.

With that said there are opposing forcing at work that seek to entice us either to light or to darkness (2 Nephi 2:16). Shining light (1 John 1:5) is of the utmost importance. It is only through that light (John 14:6) that we will draw God’s children out of darkness and invite them to come unto Him and partake of His goodness (2 Nephi 26:33).

I realize that these concepts are not universally accepted by an increasingly apathetic world that says “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” (2 Nephi 28:7-8) and there are many “of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them” (1 John 4:5) and those not of God will not hear God or the spirit of truth. Conversely, there are those who know God and hear Him. I speak now to both, if I may paraphrase the prophet Alma, to the first by way of invitation and to the latter by way of command (Alma 5:62).

“Let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might alive through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another…If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:7-16)

We cannot shine forth a righteous light without love. We cannot entice our brothers and sisters out of darkness and into the light without love. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” (1 John 4:18) We should not act in fear but with love.

God lives. He loves me and He loves you. Out of that love He sent His son to die that we might live. He wants us to love each other. May this spirit of love guide our thoughts, our words, our actions and even our laws, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer. Amen.

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