Wednesday, November 05, 2008

seeking forgiveness

"thanks. i am one of those guys who hopes to get married soon."

i had never voted with a punch card before. each time i had voted in utah it was with an electronic voting machine, which was rather simple: press your finger on the name of the guy you are voting for, watch it change color, and then press confirm to move onto the next one. these punch cards scared me. it's not that they are difficult to use, any child could do it. it's that this year i felt my vote was more important than ever.

i wasn't too worried about my vote for obama, whose electoral votes were pretty much locked in california. i was much more worried about proposition 8 where a simple majority (50% +1) could strip away the rights of california couples because of their sexual orientation.

is the ballot fully inserted? check. are the two red knobs poking through the holes? check. obam/biden. punch. did it punch through? check. not too difficult... prop 8. the space next to 'no'. check. ok. that's the right spot, right? ok. double check. ok. punch. did it punch through? check. double check. am i sure i punch the right one? check. double check. triple check. alright...

i turned in my ballot, watched it get counted, and left the building with a sticker on my chest telling the world that i had just participated in our democratic process.


outside the polling station in the parking lot stood a couple of volunteers with their last attempts to urge voters to vote down proposition 8. in blue with red and white lettering their signs read:

VOTE NO ON PROP 8
UNFAIR & WRONG

i walked up to one of the volunteers and thanked her for her work. her name was jeanette. with her cheerful smile she thanked me and wished me a good day.

as i pulled out of the parking lot i noticed a woman across the street standing in her yard which was thoroughly decorated with signs supporting proposition 8. she sat in a lawn chair near the road holding a yellow sign with baby blue lettering:

PROTECT MARRIAGE
VOTE YES ON PROP 8

she was also smiling. though i obviously disagreed with her, i admired her braving the cool weather and possible scorn for going out of her way to support what she thought was best.

'you need to go back and help jeanette'

in mormon lingo, we call it the still small voice. i tried to ignore it at first as it was almost noon and i had a lot of studying to do before my 4pm class. the more i tried to ignore it though, the stronger it became until i knew i needed to go back. i made myself a quick lunch, read as much as i could in an hour, and drove back to the polling station a few miles away.


the woman in her yard, who looked awfully like a mormon mother, was still outside. just inside the parking lot stood jeanette and another guy smiling and waving with their signs as cars pulled in.

"hey. do you have an extra sign i can hold for a while?"

she handed me a sign and asked how long i could help. for a couple hours, i told her, i have a class at 4 and have some studying left to do before then. she thanked me and told me a short list of rules about how far i away i need to be from the door of the polling station, about not being confrontive, etc, and said she was glad i want to help as she and the other guy would have to leave shortly for a break and would return with new volunteers.

i picked a spot near the entrance of the parking lot, turned on my ipod, and began smiling with my sign to all the cars coming in.

i am completely serious when i say that this was a deeply spiritual experience for me.

within 15 minutes, the other volunteers left for their break and i was left alone in the parking lot with my sign. the clouds began to block out the sun and cool breeze began to blow, just enough to make me slightly uncomfortable in my shorts and thin running jacket.

judging by the responses of those in the cars, i began to feel confident that the amendment would not pass. i received far more gestures of appreciation (smiles, thumbs up, and waves) than i received gestures of disapproval (disgusted frowns, thumbs dowm, and the occasional middle finger). though i had to remind myself that perhaps most who made no gesture at all were also going to vote yes on the measure.

two hours went by and i was still alone. instead of volunteers returning to take my place, the woman across the street returned with her yellow and baby blue sign, this time accompanied with her 8 or so year old son. he seemed excited to help and shouted out 'vote yes on prop 8!' as loud as his little voice could. it was getting much colder now and i wasn't sure how much longer i could stay out.

and yet i couldn't leave. i didn't want to leave.

the humid cold began to numb my fingers, requiring me to alternate which hand would receive some warmth in a pocket as the other held the sign, and a lingering cough from a cold i have had began to slightly increase and worsen. my legs were cold and my weak back was starting to ache from standing in place for so long.

a woman came up and thanked me for doing this. marilise. she grew up in claremont and said it took some courage to do this out here as claremont is fairly conservative. i told her i was more worried about people from my church seeing me and making judgments.

another woman in a white van pulled up, rolled down her window, and began yelling at me. she accused me of breaking the law with what i was doing. i smiled and said that i was well far enough away from the doors and that i was fine. she said she was going to call the police. i told her to do that and wished her a good day. she told me to go to hell and drove off.

an elderly couple drove by and smiled, both of them giving me a big thumb up.

a man about my age drove by with his middle finger waving proudly.

a married couple, middle aged, rolled their windows down to point their thumbs to the ground. they frowned at me with disgust. i wonder what it was that i was doing to them. am i hurting you? am i taking away any of your rights? what is it that i am doing to you?

a man holding his young son's hand approached me. he had his 'i voted' sticker on his chest. thank you, he said, thank you for standing out here and doing this. he asked if i was a student out here. we chatted for a few minutes, then he went away.

an elderly man drove by yelling something i couldn't quite understand. i'm pretty sure he didn't like what i was doing. again i wondered what it was that i was doing to him.

another hour passed and no volunteers had arrived. the woman across the street was now alone. she was looking at me. i wondered what she thought of me. was i her enemy? did she also think that i was somehow trying to hurt her?

it was getting really cold and my class had just started. my back ached and i needed to crouch in between cars to stretch my muscles. my fingers felt even more numb. i couldn't leave though. this felt too good. too right.

i don't know exactly why i felt i needed to be out there. i'm pretty sure most voters were already set with how they were going to vote. perhaps, i thought, there might just be someone or a few persons who might see me, alone with my sign in the cold, and that seeing me might just influence them to change their mind, or might finally convince the undecided. perhaps after seeing me, they would feel inspired to call and encourage friends to vote, or something. or maybe it was just for me. whatever it was, that small voice warmed what should have been frozen and encouraged me to stay. i decided to stick around for another hour until it began to get dark.

more people drove by and smiled or waved. a few others frowned or pointed their thumbs down.

a man in an suv stopped on the road, rolled down his window and yelled to catch my attention. when i looked his way he stuck out his hand with his finger held high.

others drove by and smiled and waved. others frowned. some thumbs up. another down. another middle finger.

a middle aged man in the parking lot stepped out of his car and approached me.

"thanks. i am one of those guys who hopes to get married soon."

tears welled up in my eyes. i wanted to hug him and beg for his forgiveness. i wanted to tell him how sorry i was for all who used fear and ignorance to hurt him. i wanted his forgiveness for the actions of my church. i wanted him to know that i knew that what they and so many others were doing was wrong, and hoped that he would forgive them for they know not what they do.

instead i smiled and wished him luck.

as the sun finished setting over the horizon, i wondered if and how we could be forgiven for what we have done.

driving out of the parking lot, the woman across the street was still there. i smiled and gave her a friendly wave. she smiled and waved back.





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22 comments:

  1. I'm fascinated by your suggestion that you listened to the "Still Small Voice" and I'm honestly curious about your thoughts concerning those who fought for Prop 8 to pass. If they also claim they have listened to the "Still Small Voice," do you believe they are wrong and deceived, or do you believe God doesn't really care, so he inspired you and the other side? I'd appreciate your thoughts.

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  2. Thanks for this bit of inspiration. I'm going to try to follow your example in the coming fight.

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  3. Loyd,
    Thank you for sharing this experience. It was a beautiful story. I think this whole election season, but with this topic specifically, has brought out the best and worst in people I know and love. Thank you for putting yourself out there. Thank you for be willing to bear the attacks of people who doubt the validity of your beliefs, who question your devotion to your faith. Thank you for struggling with those whose lives and families are being torn apart by something that could have been stopped. Thank you for continuing to write and think and battle for the just causes in our world.
    Love,
    Errin

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  4. Loyd, i know i probably don't tell you this as much, but so much of what you do and say, is a huge example to me. Your a great older brother.

    And just to comment on Tom Moore's comment, I would personally have to say that the "Still Small Voice" is always going to be very personal to you. Whatever it may be, God has individual ideas and goals for us and as long as these actions lead us to the ultimate goal in the end, then it is good.

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  5. Tom, what bobby said. I can't speak for anyone else. i can only speak for myself. i just don't know.

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  6. Saw the link to this post from Errin's facebook. Very moving words. It's good to know that there are at least a few religious people out there who are not engaged in spreading hate to the lives of their family members, friends, neighbors, and complete strangers across the nation. I wish that guy luck too, and hopefully the fight will end in time for him to make that special commitment to the one he loves.

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  7. So commendable Loyd. I appreciate this.

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  8. I initially read this post while at work, and it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you Loyd, for ALWAYS standing up for what you believe in. You are very inspiring.

    -Aimee

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  9. i think the spirit prompts us to do things for a multitude of different reasons. i like to think that Loyd needed to stand out there just to learn to repect other people´s beliefs and opinions when they differ from his own. ;)

    and maybe to show all of us that we can believe different things and still love each other.

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  10. Gay and Touched11/06/2008 5:33 PM

    Thank you very much for your hours in the rain and the cold. Even if all the voters were already decided, I'm sure that every gay person who saw you out in the cold had a renewed sense of hope. I myself feel more hopeful for the future having read your story. To know that you did what you felt was right and stood out in the cold to protect the rights of people so very different from you makes me feel extremely relieved after all the sudden sadness that has taken it's toll since prop 8 passed. As a gay woman I just want to say "thanks. i am one of those who hopes to get married soon." Someday I hope to be able to get married and have a family. My parents took their names off of the mormon church when I was very young, but I still grew up surrounded by mormons. I attended church every week. I read my scriptures. I fasted. In my heart I was lds. I even considered rejoining the church. But there was another part of myself that kept me from joining long before I knew what it was. The fact that I'm gay was very hard for me to deal with at first because my heart was set on joining the church but also 100% gay. Ever since that battle I had with myself over the church and being gay. I've always felt like I was missing something. Especially since I have become more and more distant from the church because of the on going debates about homosexuality. My brother has rejoined the church, and the issue of me being gay has developed a huge gap between us, because it is hard for him to accept my beliefs as true for me because they go against his beliefs. I want you to understand how much your story really has done for me. It has not only given me hope that I will someday be able to marry, but that also my brother and I may be able to set aside our differences. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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  11. Thank you Angela....my thoughts exactly.

    Loyd, thanks for the post. It's an improvement from all the other ones. I like hearing about your personal experiences so much more than the other stuff.

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  12. That was lovely.

    Thank you.

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  13. Thanks Loyd. The world needs more of this---more thoughtfulness, more compassion, more trying to understand those who are different than us.

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  14. I am Mormon and have been since I was about 7. Baptized. Family went through the temple. Taught to love others and be Christlike. It hurts my heart to see rights withheld from LGBT folks. I am married to the person I love more than anyone else in this world, and I literally almost cry when I think that anyone would be prevented from having the same right. We simply cannot tolerate this. I believe in the Church, but I can't support an ammendment that would withhold the same happiness from others that I have been so blessed to have. No to proposition 8! At the same time, having been an ardent gay rights activist, I am also disappointed by the hypocritical hate directed singly at the LDS Church. The hate, discrimination, and persecution needs to stop on all sides.

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  15. It is interesting that active lds people are outrightly saying the leadership of the church is wrong. It reminds me of the early church when people fell away (whether sooner or later) because they didn't agree with Joseph Smith on his decisions...and I am not speaking of his personal/professional/everyday decisions... I am talking about those decisions that he made acting as the prophet. Following the prophet is a key role that we take on when we choose to enter into the gospel fold. When the Prophet speaks...which several have on this issue perhapes most noted in the proclamation of the family...we should listen becuase he is the mouthpiece of God. We are apart of the last days are the adversary is working double time to divide and conquer the saints.

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  16. You have tremendous character. I thank you from the bottom of my heart! Tears welled up in my eyes reading this... THANK YOU!!!

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  17. My heart feels better reading this. Thank you so much for what you did. I've left you a comment on facebook, but I wanted to say thank you again.

    Bright Blessings to you.

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  18. So glad you did this! When you say, "i am completely serious when i say that this was a deeply spiritual experience for me" I know what you mean. It was a genuinely spiritual thing you did.

    To Tom, who asks about the "still small voice" that speaks to so many people. I think people sometimes claim the "still small voice" of God is inspiring them when in fact it is not God but the residual voices of some other authority figure, or their own fears, or their own lack of understanding. To know if the "still small voice" is truly from God, you need to first be still and silent in response. You have to let your heart and your soul determine if what you are hearing truly and most genuinely supports God's will that we love Him as He has loved us and that we love each other with active compassion. God's will has been made complex by individuals and religion throughout time. But His will is not complex. We are to love, support, and care for each other, and we are to love God. Working to suppress someone else's civil and human rights is not God's will. He created us, gay and straight, and is ready for us to tackle the genuinely troublesome issues of life (poverty, hatred, cruelty, etc.) rather than waste our time trying to "correct" something that does not need correction.

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  19. Apostates are against 8.
    -NOYDMB

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  20. This is a wonderful, wonderful story. I came by your blog via Lisa (of The Liberal Mormon That Could). I was moved to chills reading your story. Thank you for doing what you did. I hope your professor was okay with you missing class.

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  21. People do not "follow the prophet" because they choose to follow the teachings of Christ when it contradicts what a man has said. When a man contradicts Christ's gospel, makes ya wonder about the "man".

    The "still small voice" is a piece of this universe that will prompt you into action, not necessarily one that agrees with what a Mormon would do. FYI: Mormons don't own Christ, His gospel or the Holy Ghost. Can't wait til the end of time when everyone gets to see that. =)

    (I'm born and raised in the church, a RM and sealed in the Temple and proud parent of four kids. I voted NO on Prop 102 in AZ. If that makes one an apostate, make me a name tag.)

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