Sitting on the Fence

images-1I have short appendages. I look like a mini T-rex. I try not to draw attention to this, but sometimes the need to borrow long limbs becomes apparent and someone takes pity on me and pulls down the box of Cherrios from the high shelf. This fact is especially noticeable when trying to climb over things. When I was young, I would climb fences and get caught straddling the top. My feet were just not long enough to go either way. There I would perch, looking at both sides of the fence until someone came to the rescue. This position has become symbolic for a trait that I have – I can see both sides of an argument very well. Call it a blessing…or a curse.

Mormons don’t like fence sitters. We all know this! So, we hide and stay silent, watching what is going on. I think there is some scripture that states, “Woe unto the fence sitter, for in that day thou choosest nothing, thou choosest not me,” or something like that. We are seen as spineless, without opinions, and without gumption enough to make up our mind. Perhaps we are exactly the opposite. We see all opinions and have great empathy. Our views and understanding are without obstruction from where we sit. Despite the prevailing opinion, it takes a lot of courage to not take a side.

However, the gay marriage debate has taken a toll on my fence-sitting backside. For once, I am going to speak the truth about how I feel, in all of its chaotic messiness. From where I sit, the view is quite extreme on both sides.

I know that I am supposed to believe that acting on homosexuality is a sin – just as I do on other sins such as pre-marital sex, cheating, deceiving, or emotional abuse. I see posts on Facebook from my conservative Mormon friends being appalled by Utah’s acceptance of same-sex marriages. On the other hand, my liberal Mormon friends splatter their Facebook with rainbow images and calls to accept. They vehemently reject and pounce on those who voice differently. I get emails inviting me to upcoming rallies to protect traditional marriage. One caption read, “The Lord knows who is taking a stand and fighting for Him.” — a direct hit on the spiritual standing of fence sitters. I see the photos of the newly married same-sex couples filling the front pages of Utah papers – their faces beaming. For all I know, gay marriage could be the “desolation of abomination” that so many have been dreading. I pray about it. I ponder these stances. To me, God is silent on the issue. My own personal feelings are that gay marriage does not follow God’s pattern and therefore must not be right. I believe in patterns, but who am I to say? I wait for the Lord to explain things to me.

While waiting, I get the phone call from one of my two gay sisters. “I’m married,” she says in a gleeful whisper. “I’m almost 50 years old and I’m finally married.” There was no pomp and circumstance for her. I got the veil and the homemade wedding gown. I got flowers and a dancing reception. She and her partner left the state and had a quiet ceremony on a beach with all their daughters. I did not get to attend the wedding of one of my best friends in the world. I did not get to see her beautiful face glow in that sunset or celebrate with her. I did not get to help pick out the sundresses for my nieces or pin flowers in their wavy hair. I did not wrap my arms around my sister after she had taken her vows. I was broken-hearted at my loss. And I felt trapped by my own fear and my beliefs and my judgment. Do I congratulate her? Do I throw the phone in disdain? Do I love her? Yes, I could do that. “Are you happy?” I ask. She is unabashedly, gloriously happy. Then I am happy for her.

I think I’ll pull up a paisley-covered cushion so I am a little more comfortable on this fence. I think it’s going to be a long sit.

About Melonie

(Poetry Board) When not out on errands, Melonie lives in a white house with a bearded husband, one bagpiper, one Spelling Bee champion, one Irish dancer, and one "Angry Birds" addict. They call her "Sweetheart" or "Mom." She is pleased with both titles. She received her M.Ed from the University of Utah and has taught school and writing classes. She has lived in El Salvador, Italy, Washington, and Germany, but her favorite place is a hidden spot in the Uintahs. She has had too many strange hobbies and interests over the years to list here, but she is currently into inventing recipes, making healing potions, and dreaming about a new front door. She blogs when the moon is full at www.meloniesmind.blogspot.com or when something funny happens to her, which she wishes was more often.

35 thoughts on “Sitting on the Fence

  1. I’ll pull up a cushion and sit right there with you, Melonie. I’m a fence-sitter on this issue for many similar reasons and am still trying to get answers from the Lord that I am comfortable with. I think, most importantly, I’m willing to be patient with my feelings and willing to give people space to decide. I wish more people on all sides were willing to grant us the space to just sit for a while and figure things out.

  2. And I’ll bring the snacks for all us fence sitters :)

    This is pretty close to where I am. I don’t believe in either extreme – and those championing one side or the other always make it seem that one must be extreme to choose a side.

  3. Me five. My husband and my parents are all EXTREMELY conservative, so I often feel like I don’t have a sounding board for a lot of the issues I need/want to work out my positions on. But my feelings are very similar to what you have posted here. Thanks for giving them voice.

    Btw, there is a scripture about “fence sitting,” though it doesn’t use that particular analogy—Revelation 3:15–16.

  4. I’m never a fence-sitter; I nearly always know my own mind and choose a side. But this issue is grey for me. Most of the time, I choose to be silent. Most of all, I choose to love. If my gay friends get married, I will be happy for them. I will invite them to stay at my home if they are in town. I will attend the ceremony if I am invited. From a legislation standpoint, part of me still wishes for civil unions and not gay marriages, but the rabid nonsense spewed by both extremes makes me cringe. Honestly, I hope someday that actively gay couples will be able to participate in church callings and services. I’m not sure exactly where God stands on this issue, but I know He loves all of us.

  5. As an active LDS man with a gay brother who has been with his partner for as long as I have been with my wife, I couldn’t agree with your comments more. I can get worked up and condemn all day long, but in the end who loses? I believe the answer is me. I lose a relationship with my brother, his very kind and loving partner, and their one -year-old adorable son. I just don’t think that’s what God wants me to do. Thanks for sharing this post. I also missed out on my brother’s wedding. Life didn’t stop for anyone, but I regret the lost opportunity for family bonding nonetheless.

  6. Perhaps fence sitting or being lukewarm (in reference to the Revelations scripture in a comment above) is not so much being neither on one side or the other of an issue, but being strongly on the side of love, compassion, and joy and strongly on the side of not judging unrighteous judgment. Without being in someone else’s shoes, how are we to judge them? I read a great post on modesty one time by an Orthodox Jewish woman. She said her friends were great about not thinking twice about someone else’s decisions, even if they were not the decisions they would have made themselves. I love that sentiment. Perhaps it is not a choice we would make (either we are in the same situation and have chosen differently or we are simply not in the same position at all to truly understand).

    I, too, don’t know the answer. I, too, wish to know the mind of God. I too feel uncomfortable by the extremes of rhetoric and advocacy of both sides. But, when was love and sharing in joy and withholding judgment (when we only have our limited view of the eternities) ever lukewarm or indecisive? We have decided. We have decided to wait upon the Lord, but to love each other while we wait.

    I love your post and your courage for putting into words the place from which so many of us wrestle with issues like these.

    Kate @ BJJ, Law, and Living

  7. My brand of fence-sitting on this particular issue is more along the lines of… priorities. Why do we care so much about what the law of the land is on gay marriage? Why does it matter? Surely the only marriage that matters is the one in the temple, and no law is going to change who gets sealed. They say gay marriage is bad for families, for children, but I’ll argue til my face is blue that alcohol is much more destructive for families than homosexuality is, yet we’re not rallying to bring back prohibition? Divorce is more destructive to families, why aren’t we doing anything about that? Why aren’t we setting laws about shop opening times on Sundays? That commandment comes before the fornication stuff in the Ten Commandments, and we have prophetic counsel saying that when nation fails to observe the sabbath, it’s going down the drain. So if gay marriage ruins the nation and its fundamental building block the family, then we should also worry about the lack of Sabbath day observance ruining the nation. Why is gay marriage so important?
    And basically, my personal answer is that I’m not far along in my personal progress to start tackling these things. I’m still trying to get charity right, and the first commandment of putting God first, and the addendum about loving other people that Jesus included in it.
    Maybe when I’ve got myself all perfect and done I can start minding other people’s sins. Until then, I’ll refrain from taking a stance.

  8. The Lord looketh on the heart. That’s what I keep coming back to on this issue. We fought for our free will as messy as that may get. God values that free will and he values us and he knows our hearts. I think the government should get out of marriage and the the churches do what they will. Have they ever revoked a marriage license? Also, in this case I’m not sure you are a fence sitter, I tend to think God would be on the side of love and compassion, not divisiveness, anger and hate. Maybe he’s sitting on the fence too? At the end of the day, if God can not tolerate the least degree of sin aren’t we all equally dependant on the atonement? No one is above another, we are more alike than we are different.

  9. Your replies are gorgeous and unexpected. Thank you for sharing your insights. I do not feel lukewarm about the Lord. I love HIM!!!!! Hopefully, He will not spew me from His mouth.

  10. Love this article. Sorry you had to miss your sister’s wedding, Melonie, but I think your response to her was perfect. You’re happy for her happiness and obviously your sister knew that she’d get love and acceptance from you and that’s why she called you with her news.

  11. To my sister, Melonie, and to the commentators: Of course I called my sister. I called my whole family. I didn’t have any expectations on how they would react, but when you get married you should let your family know. Almost everyone was happy for my happiness. Just as I have been happy for them and their choices over the years. As for Melonie’s worries about right, wrong, God, gays, and getting her feet over that fence for one side of the other – I think she should stop worrying about it. Why? Allow me to explain.

    Marriage has evolved into a state run legal institution. As such, marriage is a “right” and when the state deprives anyone of that right, for reasons of color, sexual orientation, gender, etc., it is unconstitutional. Discrimination by the state is wrong and worse, it is bad for the state or for the gay families that live here or move here. Gay couples need the protection and privileges that marriage affords, both during their marriage relationship and if they get a divorce. Leaving gay couples in legal limbo does not protect them as a couple, nor does it protect their children. (This is just a sidenote, because I’m not sure of my audience here, but gay couples have kids, lots of kids. We are gay, not sterile.) Okay, that being said, I will now go out on a limb and say it: The Mormon Church, once again, is on the wrong side of history when it uses its resources to fight gay marriage. Simply put, the Mormon Church is discriminating against gay people, just as they discriminated against African-American men with the priesthood and women in the fight for equal rights.

    But I get it. The Mormon Church doesn’t believe in gay marriage and based upon their doctrine they shouldn’t. Frankly, I don’t think anyone is asking the Mormon Church to allow gay marriage in the temple and if they are, they shouldn’t. The Mormon Church has the right to believe in whatever it wants to believe in. Of course, they also have the right to publish their opinions. But, I don’t think my sister’s temple wedding hurts my marriage. I doubt she thinks my gay marriage hurts her marriage. She called me one day, concerned about the current state of the law in Utah. She wanted to understand it and I appreciate that she called me to talk about it. I explained the law to her the best that I could. I think she feels conflicted – is the church’s stance telling her to reject me? Or our other sister? What about my kids? Should she reject them too? As you can see, my sister is too loving to reject anyone. And so, she will describe herself as sitting on the fence, but the truth is – her heart is open and kind and her love unconditional – just as Christ would want it to be (I imagine). So, Melonie, don’t feel sad about missing the wedding. I missed yours too. And I love you with all my heart, just the same.

    1. so beautifully written by both sisters. i am touched, inspired, frustrated yet hopeful and blessed. Blessed by an open heart & mind – mine and my husband’s, my family’s, my dear friends’ (including you, Dianna) & my community/surroundings! I love LOVE for all!!

    2. so beautifully written by both sisters. i am touched, inspired, frustrated yet hopeful and blessed. Blessed by an open heart & mind – mine and my husband’s, my family’s, my dear friends’ (including you, Dianna) & my community/surroundings! I love LOVE for all!!

  12. Amen, sister! I cannot make myself choose a side, I cannot hurt people on either side that I love, I cannot see that God would have me condemn either side. I just want to love everybody and not be called/inferred to as weak. It’s wearing on my heart.

  13. This was lovely. I am a fence sitter too on so many issues, but I see the good in all the arguments and the intent behind those advocating them, and all those feelings and concerns deserve to be heard and have merit. And that ability to hear and listen is a good quality. Compassion is a worthwhile quality for sure. As is having the patience to wait upon the Lord while He takes His time making things clearer. You phrased this all so well. And Dianna, thank you for your perspective. You are clearly two lovely caring ladies who are thoughtful and deliberate about how you live your lives. The world is a better place because of those things. Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. I appreciate that you love your sister. I have friends in gay relationships that I care about too. I am not a fence sitter on this issue though and the Family Proclamation doesn’t leave much room for interpretation on this issue. It is pretty clear that God HAS spoken on this issue and that He is NOT silent about it.

  15. The Family : A Proclamation to the World is pretty clear, and came as a revelation to us well before we faced this debate as a country. Thank goodness for a God who knows all, and prepares the way for us to return back to him. I am so thankful for scripture and modern-day revelation.

  16. I’m not really sure why it’s being assumed that choosing the side of doctrine/prophets equates hate for gay people. That’s actually very insulting. I don’t think our prophets hate gay people, and they have been VERY vocal about the doctrine of the family. I understand the pull between wanting to support the people we love and our testimonies/faith (oh, how I know), but I believe we can do both, without straddling a fence.

  17. This is a hard issue for me too, one that causes enough distress that I usually avoid even thinking about it. let alone picking one side or the other. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone in my fence-sitting.

  18. Let me make sure I am clear. I said God has been silent with ME on this issue. I speak to Him regularly and so far, this topic has not been explained. If he speaks through a prophet, I still take it to Him to give me confirmation. The family proclamation was a position statement and has never been claimed to be revelation. So, again, I’m waiting on the Lord to explain to me personally. LOVE YOUR COMMENTS!

  19. Melonie, The Proclamation on the Family has been described as doctrine by apostles and prophets over the pulpit at general conference for years, ever since it’s inception. It’s not a suggestion. It’s not just a good idea. It is revelation, given to a prophet and the apostles, and then given as a proclamation to the world. It has been quoted in nearly every general conference since it was written, it was written by apostles, spoken of by apostles, and preached from by apostles. A prophet read it to the world in a general meeting. Every piece of information in it is doctrine and truth. Where are you getting your information?

    If you are waiting for the Lord to confirm this to you, then that is your deal, absolutely. I would never assume to understand your path, as I know we all need to come to an understanding with Heavenly Father leading us. But to claim that the Proclamation is not revelation seems foolish to me, because we are being told it is all the time.

  20. Melonie, you are entitled to your opinions. And I can’t argue when you say you don’t know what God thinks about homosexuality–who am I to judge what you do or don’t know? For me though, when the prophet and all twelve of the apostles put their names to a document, I take it the same as if it had come straight from God Himself. I don’t mean to offend or back you into a corner but I was taken aback when you called the Family Proclamation just a “position” statement. I think it is much, much more.

  21. I commented earlier but the comment didn’t show up, perhaps because I included three links. So I’m trying again, this time without the links.

    I find the idea that God hasn’t spoken on this issue strange. I believe He speaks through prophets and apostles. At our last conference, there were at least two talks that directly addressed this issue. Dallin H. Oaks said this in “No Other Gods”: ”
    “Outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman, all uses of our procreative powers are to one degree or another sinful and contrary to God’s plan for the exaltation of His children.” & “But man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority—to love and serve God—requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior. For example, we remain under divine command not to commit adultery or fornication even when those acts are no longer crimes under the laws of the states or countries where we reside. Similarly, laws legalizing so-called “same-sex marriage” do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities—even those becoming popular in our particular time and place.”

    Elder Russel M. Nelson said this: “Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to the Lord’s doctrine and crucial to God’s eternal plan. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fulness of life on earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood, or misconstrued.33 Not if you want true joy. God’s marriage pattern protects the sacred power of procreation and the joy of true marital intimacy.34 We know that Adam and Eve were married by God before they ever experienced the joy of uniting as husband and wife.35

    In our day civil governments have a vested interest in protecting marriage because strong families constitute the best way of providing for the health, education, welfare, and prosperity of rising generations.36 But civil governments are heavily influenced by social trends and secular philosophies as they write, rewrite, and enforce laws. Regardless of what civil legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed.37 Remember: sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God!”

    The Church has also issued this publication through its newsroom website entitled “The Divine Institution of Marriage” that is very relevant.

    If you feel you need to independently hear from God on the subject, then that is your privilege. But for me, I feel that it is enough to have had the confirmation that God has restored his Church and speaks through modern prophets. I listen to what they say on the subject and follow it.

    For me, the doctrine is clear. God has spoken, and I stand with Him and His apostles. This doesn’t leave any room for any fence sitting for me, appealing as that prospect might be.

  22. “With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history. I now take the opportunity of reading to you this proclamation:” ~ President Gordon B. Hinckley right before he read The Family: A Proclamation to the World (emphasis added).

    I think it takes a whole lot of mental gymnastics to say the Proclamation is not revelation.

    Also, earlier in that same General Conference address Pres. Hinckley said, “There are those who would have us believe in the validity of what they choose to call same-sex marriage. Our hearts reach out to those who struggle with feelings of affinity for the same gender. We remember you before the Lord, we sympathize with you, we regard you as our brothers and our sisters. However, we cannot condone immoral practices on your part any more than we can condone immoral practices on the part of others.” My position exactly. No fence sitting here!

  23. This is such a complex topic. Thank you for the beautiful writing.

    While I completely agree that the church is clear that it does not support gay marriage as a lifestyle compatible with the doctrines of the gospel, I think the topic of legalizing gay marriage can be a completely separate discussion. I appreciate the thoughtful approach Melonie took here.

    Here’s an analogy I thought of after pondering on this essay for awhile. I know many members of the church, some family members specifically, who recently voted to legalize marijuana in our state. (It did not pass.) These family members do not and have not ever smoked marijuana. They live the word of wisdom and have temple recommends. They don’t think marijuana is a great lifestyle choice, but their reasons for voting for it were strictly political/financially motivated. Mostly, they feel like public safety resources are better spent on other things than tracking down what they think are “minor” offenses like marijuana possession. The church’s teachings on using marijuana are pretty clear, but I don’t think any less of these family members and their interpretation of the words of the prophets because of this political stance they have, even as it differs from mine.

    Anyway, don’t know if this analogy made sense or got the point across that I wanted (I’ve got kids screaming my ears…whoops) but I guess my point is, it’s complicated. I think fence sitting on the political issue of same sex marriage is absolutely acceptable for a member of the church and that love and kindness are most important. I don’t think fence sitting implies that someone doesn’t support the prophet or his teachings.

  24. This brought tears to my eyes. This is so beautifully put. I was told to “judge not”, “love one another as I have loved. you” ,and to “cast my burdens”. I guess my stance is God loves me even if I support my homosexual brothers and sisters. We all deserve to hve human rights,
    and to not be judged. Meloni, you have my ” fence sitting support” and your sister has my support. We are ALL God’s children, I love God, and He loves each and every single one of us! Bless you for being a loving sister.

  25. I’m with El. And Mel, as well, who explained so clearly how so many of us feel on this issue. I sense absolutely no anti-prophet/doctrine/church in her position. Only deep love, not just for her sisters but for God. To wait upon the Lord is the pinnacle of wisdom.

    Oh, and El, I’ve never smoked marijuana but voted to decriminalize it in my state (and it passed). That’s a useful comparison. I for one, for now, intend to spend my energy on other issues that seem to me to matter more, like say, poverty or abortion or abuse against women or girls’ education or clean water for everyone or just getting meals to the homebound in my community.

    Scoot over, please. (Yes, I mean ALL of you.) Let’s wait and watch and pray and love together.

  26. Some people believe to follow sustained men and live their words without personal spiritual confirmation. Some say this is strong faith, others say this is “foolish blindness” (a fence-sitter viewpoint to see both, I might add, (; ). I’m fine with whatever you choose.
    Please show me once where it says this is “revelation.” It came out in 1995 as an official position statement on families. And since I know of someone who was on the committeee to help research it and put it together before the draft was presented to the 15 for changes, I’m just sayin’….
    The scriptures say we should put our faith in no man and only in our Savior, Christ Jesus. Therefore, for me personally, I need a personal confirmation about this other business discussed on the post.

    Oh, here’s a statement about Elder Packer’s talk in 2010:

    “The LDS Church has now released online text and audio editions of talks delivered at the Church’s General Conference last weekend, including a talk delivered by Elder Boyd K. Packer on homosexuality that has been the subject of public controversy among Mormons and the general public.

    The online published text of Elder Packer’s talk has been edited from the version delivered live on Sunday morning.

    The editing of Elder Packer’s talk introduces two significant changes:

    1. The Proclamation on the Family:

    Speaking live on Sunday morning, Elder Packer said of the Proclamation on the Family, a church statement released in 1995 that innovated theology on the essential and eternal nature of gender roles and has informed much of the Church’s political activity on same-sex marriage: “It qualifies according to the definition as a revelation and it would do well that members of the church read and follow it.” This line has been deleted from the newly-published text version. Instead, the following sentence has been inserted: “It is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and follow.”

    The deletion of Elder Packer’s phrase characterizing the “Proclamation” as a “revelation” is significant to Church members who look to the words of the General Authorities as truth revealed directly from God.
    http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/joannabrooks/3519/controversial_lds_conference_talk_edited_for_publication

    Again, I appreciate this great discussion and all the links. Its so great.

  27. Melonie, I’ve really enjoyed this discussion too, and agree with you about so much (even though I’m just barely on one side of the fence instead of sitting on it.

    To me, even though I understand that many here believe that God has spoken on this issue, the question really isn’t about the principle, it’s about the practice, as it is with so much of the gospel. Even if the church tells me gay marriage is wrong, how does that play out in my life? When I have dear friends who are gay? When a child is gay? When I am ostracized for being part of an organization that is seen by some as intolerant?

    I could go on and on with questions like there because living the gospel isn’t as much about the principles in my mind, it’s about we actually do. We all know the principles. I’m grateful we’re each allowed to figure out how to practice them even though it can be awfully hard sometimes to figure out what to do (especially when theprinciples seem to conflict).

  28. Melonie,
    You seem like a sensitive, open-minded person. I am sorry if my comments have come across as trying to back you into a corner. I admit that I am frustrated by this entire homosexuality/family proclamation issue. The main reason is because I feel like there are only two options being offered–either you are a fence sitter or you are a sheep following blindly. I do not consider myself to be either. I understand people’s personal feelings range all over the place on this issue and that it can be very complex and diffucult to sort out. Even though I have different beliefs on this subject than you, I wish you the best.

  29. What if, as mere mortals, we are looking at this all wrong? What if there isn’t a fence to sit on at all? What if there are many nuanced degrees/areas/sections/parts to this whole thing? What if we don’t have to be US or THEM?

    I think that the biggest problem in politics today is this idea of a fence. YOU are on that side and I am on this side. We can’t meet in the middle! We can’t mix or mingle!

    I think the reality is that we don’t have all the knowledge and answers to draw such clear lines and distinctions. We can just do our best as we follow our own path and hope that others do the same.

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