I loved to sing as a Mormon. I sucked, but I didn’t suck so bad that I couldn’t do a public performance on occasion. I particularly loved singing in small, 4-man choirs. I was usually the baritone.
One of my favorite hymns to sing this way was Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy (lyrics and mp3: warning, LDS Church site). It describes a dramatic scene: a storm-tossed sea, sailors on the verge of being overcome, hoping desperately to land, and behold: you stand in a protected harbor, and by holding your lantern high you guide the half-drowned souls to safety. Here are some of the lyrics:
1. Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning;
Send a gleam across the wave.
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.
3. Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.
If you buy into the LDS Church’s totalizing world view, with its strict but loving Father God, (as I once did) then the story described above, while filled with danger and darkness, is a noble one. But let’s say that your conscience dictates that you shouldn’t work actively to deprive a minority of their rights, and you attempt to shine forth your light on that subject. Here is one such example:
The Bishop in this video did not hold up a light. He ran through the darkness, knocked the lamp out of the hands of a man engaged in a selfless gesture, and stamped it under his heel until the flame went out.
This, my friends, is the institutional Church’s attitude towards the truth. Todd is a brave soul–it’s a shame that you actually have to be brave to voice your personal opinion in an LDS service on a political position that Church leaders on the one hand have said is yours freely to choose, and that you won’t be disciplined for. Note that the Church shouldn’t be upset about using the pulpit to voice his feelings on Prop 8: I witnessed LDS authorities do that when I attended a pre-election Prop 8 rally and organizational meeting via satellite broadcast from LDS HQ last year.
And even if you can argue that the Church has every right to constrain what is said across its pulpits, the truth is that it does not value any member’s voice of conscience that contradicts or criticizes its doctrines, policies or leaders in any venue.
The LDS Church defends a particular narrative, and guides all comers towards it. I don’t deny that many have found safe harbor there. But what if you’re trying to land nearby, or even to sail away from it?
Then the Mormon Church is a shipwrecker, shining a false light from its tower, actively seeking to destroy the lamps held by its members. And the saddest thing is that the metaphor crosses into reality at this point, and lives are lost in those dark waters as the lights go out.