School districts all over the United States are changing their curriculum to include topics such as the changing of the roles that family and gender play in the lives of students. As the curriculum changes become public knowledge, religious leaders are taking steps to help the members of their congregations know how to deal with the changes. For example, leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – local or otherwise – are holding a multi-stake youth fireside in my area to discuss the topic “Religious Freedom and LGBT Rights.”
Consider what you would do if your local school board made this decision, confusing the youth in your ward or stake. What counsel would you give to your bishop in discussing the situation with parents who are concerned about what to tell their children? Imagine that your bishop is preparing to present a talk to the parents in your ward on the topic of “Teaching our children the importance of Gender and Eternal Identity,” and he asked for input from you. What would you tell him?
I would suggest that Bishop Sinclair read and discuss the second paragraph of “The Family – A Proclamation to the World." “All human beings – male and female - are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
This paragraph would lay the foundation for the rest of the presentation and show exactly what the Lord’s doctrine is as proclaimed by modern prophets and apostles. It explains plainly that the gender of each of us was determined in our premortal life, is important in our mortal life, and will continue to be “essential” in eternity.
I would suggest to the bishop that he encourage the members of his ward to stand for correct principles in a kindly way. He might weave some counsel given by the Apostle Paul into his talk: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Paul is saying that we do not need to apologize for our beliefs because the gospel of Jesus Christ will lead us to salvation.
I would recommend Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson’s talk “Defenders of the Family Proclamation” to the bishop. She lists three principles in the proclamation on the family that are “especially in need of steadfast defenders” and gives some good reasons why she believes we should defend them. The first principle is “marriage between a man and a woman” (paragraph 10). The second principle is “elevating the divine roles of mothers and fathers” (paragraph 11). The third principle is the “sanctity of the home” (paragraph 17).
I would suggest that the bishop show the video titled “Respecting Our Differences While Defending Religious Freedom.” This video was published by the Church on June 27, 2016, in an effort to seek fairness for all. It is one of “a new series of dramatized videos” that “shows members how to navigate the landmine-laced terrain of the sensitive social and religious issues of the day.” The video would teach the parents how to have open and honest discussions with people who have different beliefs without becoming angry and making the situation worse.
I would also suggest that the bishop use Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ talk “Truth and Tolerance” as part of his presentation. Elder Oaks said that Truth and Tolerance are “twin ideas” (paragraph 2). In the next paragraph Elder Oaks speaks first of Truth: “We believe in absolute truth, including the existence of God and the right and wrong established by His commandments.”
Elder Oaks also spoke of “three absolute truths” for tolerance. The first absolute truth is that “all persons are brothers and sisters under God, taught within their various religions to love and do good to one another” (paragraph 20). The second absolute truth is that “living with differences is what the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us we must do” (paragraph 23). The third absolute truth is that we “do not abandon the truth and our covenants” (paragraph 31).
Additionally, Elder Oaks gave four principles of truth and tolerance that we can use when seeking government action: (1) Seek the inspiration of the Lord to be selective and wise in choosing which true principles [we] seek to promote by law or executive action (paragraph 54). (2) Always be tolerant of the opinions and positions of others who do not share [our] beliefs (paragraph 57). (3) Do not be deterred by the familiar charge that [we] are trying to legislate (paragraph 59). (4) Do not shrink from seeking laws to maintain public conditions or policies that assist [us] in practicing the requirements of [our] faith where those conditions or policies are also favorable to the public health, safety, or morals.
Elder Oaks closed his remarks by reminding his listeners/readers that he is one of the Lord’s watchmen on the tower who has seen the dangers ahead and is warning us how to avoid them. He said that he had delivered the message that the Spirit directed him to give, and that we can obtain answers to our questions or doubts by going to the same source (the Holy Ghost) (paragraph 66).