It's been a week since the 9th District Court ruled that California's amendment to the constitution was unconstitutional. The outlash of emotion bottled since the last foray has erupted, with charged and pent-up anger, frustration, and misunderstanding coloring both sides. Name-calling, deliberate misinterpretation, mudslinging and personal fouls have become the norm of those trying to get their point across... and it's not just in private communique; the public sphere of forums and debates has been laid with traps and mines by zealots on either side, ready to catch anyone so foolhardy as to say an errant word. Both sides are entrenched, ready and waiting for their part in the battle that has already begun to ensue.

But no one can see the fatal mistake. The real enemy has already administered poison by degrees, and it's only a matter of time before both sides succumb.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. - Ephesians 6:12

In the wake of the decision by the court, the Church gave a short news report. It reiterated the Church's position and then, at the end, gave counsel to those involved:

"We recognize that this decision represents a continuation of what has been a vigorous public debate over the rights of the people to define and protect the fundamental institution of marriage. There is no doubt that today’s ruling will intensify the debate in this country. We urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion."

I'm not an expert in communication with respect and civility, but I've tried to become better at communicating with others. In that tone, here are some of the things I do to share my testimony, on this subject, with the world.

1. Don't use metaphors. In the Church we use metaphors and symbols regularly. It helps to compare our thoughts and ideas. Metaphors are always imperfect though, and in heated situations can be taken too literally, and are easily taken for a change in subject. I don't compare same-sex marriage to anything else, or bring up any other topic during the conversation, even if I feel that same-sex marriage is like (insert event here).

2. Use "I" and speak about my own personal experiences and testimony. I do not have authority to make statements of doctrine. But a sincere, honest testimony about the gospel and its blessings always opens doors and hearts far more than pontificating on doctrine and the reasons behind it.

3. Don't bash or retaliate. If the discussion begins to degenerate into slurs or tangential arguments, stay focused on the ideals at hand and focused on my own experience. Don't call names, make remarks about judgment or remarks of others, use sarcasm, or tongue-in-cheek statements... and let them roll off if they are directed at me. People will never listen to epithets, and burning bridges that will always need to be crossed again is the absolute worst way to come unto Christ. Honesty, sincerity, humility, and kindness will always do far more for the cause than getting in the last word.

4. Think twice, write once, edit thrice, and think again. What I write online lasts forever. Literally - forever. Saying the wrong thing, or posting something with an unintended double entendre, will have lasting negative effects. It may be tempting to dive into the fray at ground zero, but often it is far more compelling to think, watch, and contribute only when I know what I have to say is worthwhile. And once I've written it, I stop and think again - not only about what I've written, but about the ways it could be interpreted and the impact it might have on the discussion as a whole.

5. Focus improvement inward - not outward. Sometimes I feel pressured into the trap of thinking that I am the source of truth that needs to be instilled in others. I'm drawn to take my light and shine it as brightly as possible on others, hoping that some of it will enter and change their nature. That's the trap outlined in the opening scene of this post - each side has weapons of knowledge and truth, hoping to use them to advance on the field. That may seem effective in advancing a specific cause, but that's not how it works in helping people change and learn truth. Light and truth doesn't come from individuals. It comes from God, and individually, through the ministration of the Holy Ghost. What that means is that if I want someone to learn truth, I need to create an environment where he can hear the Holy Ghost. In the end, this is what guides what I say and write most.

There is a war raging, and I find myself standing at the front. But my opponents are not protestors or activists, politicians or judges. My opponents are greed, hatred, frustration, impatience, dishonor, misunderstanding, and spite. And hopefully, against those opponents, I can triumph... and in doing so in my own life, make the world a better place.
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