God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it... Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting... Thy kingdom is divided...In English, we use the phrase "the handwriting is on the wall" in situations where some troubling, inconvenient truth that those in positions of power and authority would like to ignore becomes obvious to everybody present. That moment -- when the handwriting is on the wall -- is the moment when change has now become inevitable, just a matter of time.
A gay, married man with two young children has been struggling to be a good father; he has kept himself worthy according to Church standards. He attends Church every Sunday, prays with his family, pays his tithing, avoids pornography, is faithfully celibate within marriage. He's at the end of his rope. No matter how good he is, he now finds thoughts of suicide pushing up unbidden out of his subconscious into his conscious mind, during the work day, when he's alone. He can't overcome the feelings of sadness, loneliness, and inferiority that make his good life a prison. He reaches out to his Stake President. His Stake President, a good and loving man, wants to help him. He tries to counsel him. But he cannot -- he will not -- say the words this faithful man needs to hear, because he is afraid of being out of step with the brethren. This faithful, married gay man leaves his office, more depressed than ever, with that word, "suicide," more insistently jangling around in his heart.
A straight man, a man who has devoted his entire life to faithful service in the Church, who has served in responsible callings of high leadership, a father and grandfather, a man of deep compassion, an articulate, educated, intelligent man, has his temple recommend taken away and his church privileges rescinded because he wears a "No to Prop 8" pin to Church.
Another gay, married man, also doing the best he can to live faithfully and worthily, has his temple recommend taken away because in his efforts to stay faithful and worthy, he has written certain things on his blog. He refuses to hide behind a blogger pseudonym. He now feels he must choose between telling the truth as he perceives it, and staying in the good graces of Church leaders. He chooses the truth.
Another straight man, a faithful member of the Church, a father and grandfather, attends a suicide memorial and speaks words of comfort to those who are gathered. He knows he may suffer repercussions in relation to his Church membership for being at that gathering and speaking those words. He chooses to be there anyway. It is better, he decides, to mourn with those that mourn.
A gay Mormon man marries his same-sex partner in California. He is doing his best to live a good life, a moral life, a life that is focussed on love and family and faith. He obeys the Word of Wisdom, prays, attends Church, volunteers at local food shelves and homeless shelters. He does these things not because it will win him back membership in the Church. That is impossible for him. He lives this way because he loves God and wants to do what is right. His parents -- life long, faithful members of the Church who have devoted many years of service to the Church, have served two missions and are contemplating serving a third -- insist on attending the marriage ceremony of their gay son. In a quiet moment, the father, explaining to his son why he has chosen to be present at this wedding despite the Church's recent letter urging Saints everywhere to support Prop 8, says simply, "They just don't understand."
Are these fingers writing on the wall?
A general authority of the LDS Church speaks at a gathering of "ex-gay" Mormons, and spends most of his time talking politics. Many faithful Mormons won't say anything publicly, because they are afraid to be disciplined. But privately, they are distressed, in anguish.
Another general authority makes another political speech at a Church college, lashing out against people he characterizes as opponents of the Church. Many faithful Mormons won't say anything publicly, because they are afraid to be disciplined. They love the Church. They have testimonies of the Church and its leaders. But privately, they have quietly decided that they share the beliefs of the so-called opponents of the Church.
Whether or not these are fingers writing words on the walls in the corridors of power and authority, they are not signs of health in a spiritual community.
When ordinary people, loving people, faithful people, people who have spent their entire lives committed to things like family, church, community, country and duty, find that they are being forced to choose between, on the one hand, truth and compassion, and on the other, loyalty to Church leaders, this is not a good sign.
When honesty and conscience are punished, when they are publicly tarred as disobedience and faithlessness, this is not a good sign.
That's handwriting on the wall kind of stuff.
I have spoken to too many faithful LDS individuals in recent weeks and days who feel a deep sadness. The kinds of choices they are being forced to make are sad choices. They are choices where, no matter what you do, a part of you is lost. What can you do but keep doing what you've been doing your whole life? Pray, listen, love, work, and be patient. Ignore the bad stuff. Focus on the good. Be grateful for what you have! Do what you know is right, and then accept the consequences, and hope for the best. Trust that God is in charge -- of his Church and of his world. Hold on to your testimony, no matter what! Be faithful.
I feel the sadness too. But it is a bittersweet kind of sadness. It is not a hopeless sadness. Not despair. Not hopelessness. It is a very, very hopeful, joyful sadness. (Is that even possible? Can such feelings really be all mixed up together, deep inside your heart?) I am grateful for my blessings. I am doing what I know I am supposed to be doing. My conscience is clean. I don't envy those who are in power, those who must make big choices, far bigger than all the little choices I've ever made in my tiny, insignificant life.
Whether the handwriting is on the wall or not, we must always be aware that we are being "weighed in the balances."