Faith, Family, and the Priesthood: A Guest Post by my Wife

This is a post written by my wife Jessica. I really enjoyed her words and her strong faith in those that we sustain as Prophets, Seers and Revelators. I really feel her perspective is incredibly valuable:


Although many of my friends and those around me have written about their views involving issues such as gay marriage, gender roles, and women and the Priesthood, I have often refrained from doing so because I find all of these issues to be very complicated and very personal to those affected by them.  I do not really feel qualified to share my views on these subjects because I know so little concerning them in comparison to those who are involved and I often find that both sides of the issue make very valid points.  I do not claim that I completely understand the issues involved, or the reasons why things are the way they are (I often still wonder why), only that I know that God knows better than I do and that by following Him and His leaders I can’t go wrong.  I do not expect this to be a valid reason for all, especially given the religious nature of it, but for me it is enough. 

The Ordain Women movement has been interesting for me.  I admittedly do not know very much about the individual members of the organization, and mostly know the main points that have been more hotly discussed.  Many of the issues they have seen within the church, are issues that unless pointed out to me, I never would have noticed.  For instance, I had no idea women had never prayed in General Conference before, until people were making a big deal of it happening.  I personally do not feel any need to have the Priesthood to be equal to the men of the Church, however I realize that to those that do feel that need, it is very real.  It saddens me to know of so many who feel left out and less important, and I wish there was a way to help them feel otherwise.  

I do not believe that just because men have the Priesthood that means that God must love them more.  God’;s love for us is unconditional and perfect.  It is impossible for him to love anyone more than he does, or any less than he does, because His love is perfect, or whole and complete.  He loves the sinner just as much as he loves those who do everything right.   He loves everyone regardless of circumstance or how inconsequential they seem to be to the world.  However, his love for us does not prevent us from going through trials.  Many people seem to have much harder lives in this world than others, and go through much more difficult things.  It is hard to understand that the unfairness of life is not at all related to God’s love for us, and that God loves the people who go through terrible things just as much as he loves those who never experience those things.  What we are given in this life, is not correlated to how much God loves us.  Although I do not understand how it works, part of having faith in God is knowing that God loves each of us, and in the end wants each of us to reach our full potential and knows exactly what it will take to get us there and is there to help us do so.  Having different blessings and quantities of blessings such as a loving family, a home, money, running water and electricity, food, the Priesthood, the gospel, friends, safety, and many others is part of the way life is.  Blessings or trials are in no way a tool for measuring God’s love. 

Similar to how I failed to notice that women haven’t previously given prayers in conference, I did not realize how controversial The Family Proclamation was and is at the time it was given.  At the time, it seemed like simply a reiteration of things I have always grown up knowing.  Men and women are created in the image of God.  Gender is something you are born with and gives eternal identity and purpose.  Marriage is between a man and women.  Married couples are supposed to raise kids.  Families can and are supposed to be together for eternity.  Men and women have different, important, and equal roles when it comes to the family—fathers are responsible for presiding in the family and provide for them while mothers are primarily responsible for nurturing children.  It also allows for adaptation for non-ideal family situations, like when the father is disabled and can’t provide for the family.  

As I have grown and been exposed to more families, and more people of different backgrounds I have realized that the way things are supposed to be, often is not possible.  No one has a perfect family.  Not everyone gets married, and not all married people are blessed with the opportunity to have kids.  People struggle with same-sex attraction. One income often is not enough to provide for a family.  Some women are much better at providing than nurturing, make great leaders, do not feel happy or fulfilled being a stay at home mom, or otherwise want or need to have careers outside of the home.  Some men are way better at nurturing children, and are much happier being a stay at home dad, than having a career.  In other words, family and gender issues are messy.  This does not change the inspired nature of The Family Proclamation.  It sets forth the ideal for us to strive to, but ultimately it is up to the individual members of the family, especially the husband and wife to pray and get revelation for what is best for them and their circumstances.  Everyone is entitled to and should seek to receive their own revelation on when to have children, how many to have, and how to raise them.  It is not our job to judge those who choose to follow their personal revelation on what is best for their family circumstance, it is God’s job. 

Gender roles and Priesthood are often super interconnected with each other.  We do not know why God has chosen men to receive the Priesthood, or why he has chosen to give men and women the different roles that they have.  We do know that it is not because of talents.  Both men and women make really good leaders, both can be really good at nurturing and raising children.  Both men and women equally receive the blessings of the Priesthood.  Ultimately, men and women share the same goal and purpose in this life which is to become who God wants us to be and return to Him. 

One of the main goals of Ordain Women has been to get the leadership of the Church to ask God if women can be ordained to the Priesthood.  Although it has yet to of been explicitly stated that they have indeed asked, I would be super surprised if they haven’t.   The leaders of the Church have been called of God, and one of their main roles is to receive revelation for the church.  I respect these men too much to believe that they would give talks in conference such as Elder Oak’s talk last Priesthood session, or tell the public relations department of the Church to release the statements that have been released (all of which say that now is not the time for that revelation) without praying first about it and receiving the answer that now is not the time.  They respect the women of the church, and are striving to help make women feel more included especially in settings such as ward council where many local leadership decisions are made.  The missionary age was lowered allowing many more sisters to serve missions.  Women pray in conference.  Because average members serve in leadership positions of the church, sometimes things are handled imperfectly.  However, it is very difficult to listen to the General Authorities speak about their wives and the women of the church or read scriptures that share how God feels about women and have any doubts that they respect, love, and honor women. 

Another common concern is that there are a lot more examples of men to look up to in the church than they are women.  Most scripture stories are about men and are written by men.  Most conference talks are given by men.  Most of the leadership of the church is male.  This is also a valid concern.  Men and women are different from each other, and often learn, think, and do things differently.  One comforting thing to me is that all people on this earth have been given the same person to look up to and to strive to be like—Jesus Christ.  He is the ultimate example for us to emulate in this life, and by trying to be like Him and following the commandments, we can learn what we need to in order to fulfill our purpose here on Earth.  The leadership of the church teaches us through their own lives and examples how to be like Christ.  Personally, I have never really felt a shortage of good, strong, righteous men and women in my life to look up to.  I have learned a lot from the many people and leaders in scripture stories as well as modern leaders in conference talks.  I have been blessed to have many wonderful leaders in my life, so many that it is impossible to name them all.  I have learned many life changing things from being taught by and watching the example of the several Bishops, teachers, young women leaders, relief society presidents and presidencies, visiting teachers, home teachers, mission companions, other missionaries, leaders in my mission, ward members, family members, and friends in my life who are all striving to be like Christ and are amazing examples of how to follow Him.  Many of the examples that have meant the most to me and have influenced me the most are those of the people closest to me.  Although more examples and people to look up to are always appreciated, we have so much we can learn from those around us, even those who are not members of the Church, that we can never learn it all. 

I am very grateful for revelation in my life that allows me to know that the leadership of the Church is following God’s will and because I know that these things are from God, I can trust that they are the right answer even though there is a lot that is very hard to understand surrounding these issues.  It is often difficult for me to understand why same sex couples cannot get married, after all, God loves them too, and they are just as entitled to happiness in this life as anyone else is.  It is hard for me to see people feel like they don’t belong or are lesser in the church because of things that they didn’t choose like not having the Priesthood, gender, whom they are attracted to, the inability to have children, imperfect families, or any other of the many many things that make life not fair.  I know that God loves each and everyone one of us and only He knows what is ultimately best for us, even if we do not know why it is the best for us and it goes against what most of society teaches is best.  If we follow what He says, and His plan, all will work out, and eternally everyone can be happy and the unfairness of this life will work out.  


My Name Used to be Muhammad: An Inspiring Story of Faith

Tito Momen’s story is a truly incredible example of discipleship in these latter days. He was named Muhammad Momen and raised in an incredibly conservative Muslim community in Nigeria. His father named him Muhammad because he was chosen to receive training and become a great Imam. Yet, while studying at an ultra conservative school in Egypt, Tito wandered from his faith and began drinking and engaging in inappropriate sexual activities. During that time, he ran into an old friend who had previously been a drinking buddy and eventually converted to the LDS Church. Impressed by his friends example, Tito attended Church, read the bible and the Book of Mormon, and deeply felt the spirit. After attending Church for an extended period of time, Tito was baptized into the Church. His betrayal by a long-term girlfriend eventually led to being disowned by his family. He attempted to flee Egypt and eventually wound up in prison where he languished for fifteen years. Throughout it all, Tito maintained his faith and was eventually released due to increasing medical problems and the concerted efforts of groups dedicated to freeing Christian martyrs and the LDS Church.

Tito’s depiction of his baptism reminded me of my conversion:

“A few members of the Church were able to attend the baptism. I changed out of my street clothes into white baptismal clothes. Standing barefoot, I looked in the mirror, tears streaming down my cheeks. I was overjoyed and frightened, a weird combination of emotions. I kept reminding myself that Latter-day Saints believe in life after death. They also believe that the gift of resurrection is not exclusive to Christians. Everyone is resurrected. All I could do was hope that when my parents reached the other side, they’d recognize that salvation comes through Jesus Christ. Maybe then they would thank me for having the courage to accept Christ during my lifetime.” The True Story of a Muslim Who Became a Christian (2013-10-15). My Name Used to Be Muhammad (Kindle Locations 2760-2764). Ensign Peak. Kindle Edition.

He knew that his family would disown him or worse. Indeed, soon afterwards his father called him and disowned him and his mother eventually committed suicide out of shame. Tito’s new faith was pushed to the brink. As he spent 15 years in prison, he doubted whether those who loved would ever come to understand.

Yet, an especially remarkable experience that occurred soon after Tito came out of prison. His father was an especially harsh individual who had disowned Tito because of his faith. Yet, years later as his father lay on his death bed he called for Tito. Tito was scared to return to Nigeria because he could be called, but he returned to see his father. This was his experience:

““My son,” he whispered. I approached slowly. We stared at each other in silence. Then he reached for my hand. His touch felt frail. I leaned over the bed to get closer to him. “Now that I see you,” he whispered, “Allah has answered my prayer. I asked Allah that if what you believe in is true, I should see your face before I died. Allah has shown me your face. So I believe in whatever you believe in.” Was I hearing things? Was my father senile? “Is it too late for me?” he asked. He sounded so desperate, so pathetic. By that point I was an emotional mess. My father had made me cry many times in my lifetime. But this was the first time the tears were born of sympathy. I could see the fear in his eyes. “It’s never too late,” I said. “Father in Heaven is a God of mercy.” He looked in my eyes. I took his hand. “Christ died for everyone. Everyone can be redeemed, Father.” “The Lord you’re worshipping will take care of me?” he pleaded. Too choked up to speak, I just nodded. We talked for two hours that day. It was the best conversation I ever had with my father. It was the last time I saw him alive. He died later that afternoon.”

The True Story of a Muslim Who Became a Christian (2013-10-15). My Name Used to Be Muhammad (Kindle Locations 3938-3950). Ensign Peak. Kindle Edition.

The immediate result of Tito’s faith was tragedy and suffering. Indeed, one that he loved died because of his choice. However, Tito knew that in the long run his faith would be rewarded and that eternally his family would come to praise his choice.  Like Tito, none of my relatives have converted, and I have faced opposition due to my choices, yet like him I also maintain faith that one day those I love will understand and be grateful that I had the faith to do what was right despite the challenge.

Maintaining the Boundaries of the Faith

A recent post on By Common Consent was highly critical of the Church’s recent actions meeting with Mormon Women Stand and being unwilling to meet with members of Ordain Women. In particular, one part of the post stood out to me:

This raises an interesting question for those who lead the church, and therefore—according to the doctrines of the church—speak for Christ.  Are we more concerned with boundary maintenance than universal care for souls?  Is boundary maintenance the more Christian choice?  Are we so certain about the eternal rightness of our cultural attitudes about gender that the loss of these souls from our fellowship is worth rigidly and publicly enforcing those boundaries?

I posted a comment on the post, but I felt strongly enough about my response that I wanted to make a post here and perhaps elaborate a little bit more fully. Here’s what I wrote in the comments section: 

Boundary maintenance, as you put it, is essentially the reason that we have Prophets and Apostles that we may “be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness . . .” Without Prophets and Apostles clearly explaining God’s will and enforcing it, it is so easy to drift almost unnoticed into apostasy. If we read Paul’s letters or the other epistles, they are essentially engaging in acts of boundary maintenance. Paul is responding to a heretical practice that arose and telling the members in the name of Christ to stop. Some of those practices critiqued may have in their day seemed petty or illogical (buying food that had been sacrificed to idols, eating blood, etc), but they were seen as essential for the perfecting of the saints and the progress of the kingdom of God. The result of members ignoring this advice was apostasy, at first individual and ultimately collective. Ultimately the people of Christ’s time lost the Apostles because they would not Hearken and considered their words to be uninspired or a thing of naught.

The more I have reflect on this comment, the more I have become convinced. Many have remarked about the alleged “inconsistency” in Paul and James discussion of faith v. works. Some have suggested that these Apostles had a different understanding of fundamental theology. I have always found a more charitable answer far more plausible. Each was writing in response to the particular heresies and challenges that faced the members they counselled. Those to whom Paul wrote had failed to understand grace and felt that they could rely solely on their works. James was instead writing to those that believed that Grace allowed them to neglect good works and to enjoy their “christian liberty.” Both of these extreme positions were misguided. Grace and works both were necessary components of the faith. Paul and James both warned members who had embraced extreme ideas outside of the boundaries of the Christian faith.

Every general conference, we listen to the Prophets and Apostles warn us to not stray from the core doctrines of the Gospel. We frequently hear talks reminding us to avoid the philosophies of man and the doctrines of the world. We hear both reminders of the importance of faith and the examples of the importance of Christian service and works. Like those in the time of Paul and James, some members suffer from too much emphasis on works, while others claim to have faith but fail to follow through and act upon what they claim to believe. The Apostles tend to preach the middle ground because each of these extremes come as a perversion from Satan. 

We see extreme examples of this in the heresies of the early Christian period and the Book of Mormon. For instance, the Gnostics embraced the beautiful teachings of faith in Christ, but perverted true teachings of the importance of our physical bodies. The Zoramities in the Book of Mormon likewise embraced a faith of being a chosen people of God, but took it to the extreme of excluding all others from God’s graces. It is in these appeals to extremes that Satan triumphs. 

Thus, the Apostles and Prophets of all generations have been engaged in “boundary maintenance.” This is because of the seductive allure of extremes. For instance, focusing on Grace and Christ’s message to love others and not judge is alluring and necessary. His mercy and charity is at the core of the Gospel. Yet, Satan loves it when we focus solely on these teachings and forget that Christ also urged us to keep his commandments and to be perfect. I am so grateful to have Apostles and Prophets willing to search for that perfect balance between mercy and justice and to urge each of us to seek that balance through faith and prayer.

Jefferson and Adams: A Clash of Conservative Ideals

This week, I read Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis. Overall, it was a pretty average look at the decades following the establishment of the Constitution. However, it’s greatest strength was in pointing out the ideological and philosophical tensions underlying the views of the various members of the founding generation. The final chapter looks at the legendary friend to enemy and back to friend relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. As I read this chapter, I thought more about the differences in temperament and philosophy that stood between these patriots. These differences belie simple labels as “liberal” or “conservative”

For instance, John Adams was certainly in favor of a larger government and particularly a robust executive.  For instance, he believed that the President needed to have the trappings of power such as titles and ostentation. He also supported industrial development through the foundation of a national bank and assumption of state debt. Yet, Adams embraced a truly conservative political philosophy and world view. He feared the excesses of populism and the democratic process run amok. He saw the French Revolution as an excess which the new American Republic needed to guard against. While he wasn’t averse to change – even radical change such as the American Revolution itself – when change was needed, he was also cynical about the potential for human rationality and self-perfection absent a strong moral and social foundation

Jefferson on the other hand can be seen as a small government conservative in his mistrust of centralized power and his focus on the rights of the various states. He saw a strong executive as a potential despot that would take away the rights of the people. Yet, Jefferson also had great trust in the democratic process and that arbitrary differences such as social class were abolished, that people would be inclined towards good. Ultimately, Jefferson saw the world as divided between the righteous masses and the wicked elite that sought to put down the people. As such, he saw the French Revolution as a righteous people’s revolt for liberty. Jefferson saw the American Revolution as the first step towards a world wide revolution that would invariably sweep the globe.

Thus, both Jefferson and Adams had tendencies that we would label as liberal and conservative. Yet, the true divide between the two was not so much based on role of government, but a deeper disagreement on the nature of mankind. Because Adams saw government as the protector of liberty against excess, he sought to impose order on the chaos that surrounded him and to resist the impulses of partisanship and populism. On the positive side, this attitude led Adams to be willing to stand up to the masses clamoring for war against England and France and to pursue a salutatory policy of neutrality. On the other extreme, Adam’s focus on order could lead to repressive legislation such as the Alien and Sedition Acts (though Adams was at best a reluctant supporter whose hand was forced by radicals in his party).

 Jefferson saw the people as the ultimate sovereign and a centralized government as a danger to the will of the people. Positively, this view led Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican party to be more responsive to the will of the people and to focus on supporting the more responsive states. On the other hand, Jefferson’s idolization of the French Revolution led him to turn a blind eye to the revolutionary excesses and to nearly lead the country to war with England. Likewise, his view of humanity as divided between the righteous people and the selfish elites led Jefferson to be unwilling to compromise with his opponents and willing to outright lie and slander to get his way. He didn’t see shades of grey, and tended to assume the worst of his opponents.

These strands of tension: populism v. restraint, centralization v. federalism, liberty v. order that Jefferson and Adams embodied are still with us. Conservatives must seek to find the proper balance on these tricky issues. Neither populism taken to excess, nor an obsession with law, order and restraint are right. Either when taken to excess can endanger the values of our Republic. From the founding generation, we can learn that conservatives must embody all of these ideals.

Forgiving Others: The Example of Abraham Lincoln

I recently finished reading “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”  the remarkable biography of Abraham Lincoln (as well as Seward, Chase, and Bates his three rivals for the Republican party nomination in 1860) by  Doris Kearns Goodwin and was deeply touched by the portrayal of Lincoln. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it to any that have not read it (though it seems that everyone from President Obama down has already done so).

Though I took a fantastic course at Brandeis  on the American Civil War taught by Pulitzer Prize winner David Hackett Fisher, I hadn’t come away especially impressed by Lincoln’s character or leadership. Indeed, so much of what Lincoln did as President seemed to me as ineffective and weak (for instance unwilling to fire General McLellan even as he refused direct orders). In Professor Fisher’s class on the American Revolution, I came away absolutely impressed by George Washington’s truly inspired leadership, and so my lack of passion for Lincoln surprised me. That is no longer the case.

Lincoln’s magnanimity and charitable character came through so clearly in every page of Goodwin’s book. What especially struck me was his willingness to forgive wrongs and to act without incredible kindness to those that had slighted him.

Lincoln in every act seemed to embody the famous crescendo of his second inaugural address “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in . . .”

One of the examples that stood out to me was a Lincoln’s willingness to forgive an absolutely humiliating slight by Edward Stanton who was at the time a slick veteran east coast lawyer. Lincoln had been hired in 1855 as local counsel for one of the largest patent trials of the 19th century (regarding the McCormick Reaper). When the trial was moved to Ohio, Lincoln was not informed about the change or relieved of duties with the lawyers deciding that “the mere sight of him might jeopardize the case.” Not being informed of the opposition, Lincoln continued his research and showed up in Ohio for the trial.  Stanton upon seeing Lincoln asked: “Where did the long-armed baboon come from?,” and proceeded to describe Lincoln as “A long, lank creature from Illinois, wearing a dirty linen duster for a coat and the back of which perspiration had splotched wide stains that resembled a map of the continent.” Lincoln was then ignored and required to sit in the spectator’s section of the court room. He was also not invited to any of the parties or other social events. He left dispirited and frustrated. One of the Ohio lawyers explained that Lincoln was  “pushed aside, humiliated and mortified.

Nevertheless, despite his snubbing and the insults of Stanton, Lincoln was greatly impressed with Stanton’s court room performance. He took the opportunity to recommit himself to more deeply study the law and work on his rhetorical skills. His rhetorical skills served him well in his subsequent elections and helped vault him to the presidency. Even more incredibly, several years later when his first Secretary of War showed himself unequal to the task, Lincoln appointed Edward Stanton, the very same man who had insulted and rejected him to be his new Secretary of War. Despite his rough edges, Stanton was an absolutely inspired choice for the job and his appointment was instrumental in the ultimate Union victory.

It is hard to imagine a lesser individual than Lincoln not only forgiving such a personal slight, but appointing the individual to one of the most important posts in his administration. Stanton was not the only individual who had previously insulted, underestimated or attacked Lincoln who eventually found a place in his Cabinet. Lincoln truly had the remarkable character to look past insults and to see the potential for individuals. Lincoln earned respect of even those who had insulted him because of rather than in spite of his willingness to forgive. (Indeed, at Lincoln’s death it is Stanton who remarked that “now he belongs to the ages.”)

I have seen individuals offended at the slightest sharp remark who leave jobs, political parties or even churches because of alleged slights. Abraham Lincoln offers wonderful example of Christ-like long suffering and forgiveness.

I am reminded of the wise council given by Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of my church, regarding taking offense: “When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.”

I am also reminded of these deeply profound words of revelation: “ I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”

Our life will be much more harmonious and successful if we choose to forgive and forget. If we allow wounds to fester, we will destroy our own potential for success and our own personal and spiritual growth. May we follow Lincoln’s example and be always willing to forgive those that offend us.

Legislative Prayer: The difference between good policy and what the Constitution requires

            One of the common problems I often face when discussion constitutional issues with friends (especially those without a legal training) is an unwillingness to distinguish between what the law SHOULD or should not be and what the Constitution REQUIRES the law to be or not to be.

Simply put, our constitution is not meant to dictate or require the legislature to pass the most prudent or wisest laws. Especially on the state level, the constitution was meant to impose very limited checks on the elected officials. There is a reason that states are known as “laboratories for democracy” where different policies can be tried and tested. The Bill of Rights/Subsequent Amendments and the structural restrictions found in the main articles of the Constitution are meant to provide for specific restrictions on a limited range of clearly unconstitutional laws, rather than to be used to attempt to strike down merely unpopular laws.

Of course, if one disagrees with a law that is enacted by a state, or by congress one has several recourses. One can elect different officials, seek to pass subsequently laws to narrow or overrule the existing laws, or seek to amend the state or federal constitution. However, what happens with unfortunate frequently is that those that disagree with a law will try to prove that the law violates an existing amendment to the constitution. This often seems to me like attempting to put a square peg in a round hole and reeks of laziness and an unwillingness to go through the proper procedure to achieve a desired result.

The Supreme Court’s latest decision on legislative prayer in Town of Greece v. Galloway well illustrates the point for me. As the majority of the court correctly surmises, the Founding Fathers and the founding generation universally did not see legislative prayer as a violation of the Establishment Clause. In fact, just days before approving the language of the First Amendment, they paid for congressional chaplains. And the practice of having chaplains for congress has continued unabated since that time. As such, almost by definition legislative prayer cannot violate the Establishment Clause and any theory that suggests that it does must be changed rather than changing the meaning of the clause.

Now, many may find legislative prayer unwise. Indeed, as a former Atheist before joining my church, I completely understand the animosity to legislative prayer. As a member of a minority faith, I see the potential for majoritarian abuse. (interestingly, one of the original plaintiffs in the Santa Fe football game prayer case was Mormon). And I can see my Jewish relatives feeling excluded when legislative prayers invokes Jesus Christ. I totally get it. Indeed, praying to God before a legislative session seems a bit strange to me just as praying for ones favorite football team to win does. On the other hand, I also see those seeking divine guidance for the legislative session as being motivated out of a sense of stewardship and a desire to humbly seek help from a higher power. Truth is, I am pretty undecided about the merits of legislative prayer and probably lean against legislative prayer AS A MATTER OF POLICY. However, as a legal matter, I am decidedly in favor of legislative prayer.   

The same can be true in the other direction in terms of laws that the constitution clearly forbids despite policy arguments to their favor. Gun Control is the prime example for me of this. Though I went shooting for the first time this past year, I am far from a gun lover. The idea of concealed carry permits makes me feel uncomfortable, as does the idea of individuals owning “semi-automatic” or “automatic” weapons. On a blank slate, I might support a far wider range of gun control measures than I currently do. However, we do not have a blank slate constitution. Instead, we have a constitution with a Second Amendment which clearly protects an individual’s right to bear arms. I find the historical arguments of D.C. v. Heller to be compelling as a matter of originalist interpretation, and so the Second Amendment clearly forbids something like the total handgun ban that was struck down in Washington D.C.

Of course, the outer limits of the Second Amendment’s protection remain ill-defined. The exact confines of this right will be determined by historical scholarship and legal analysis. Legislation that deals with matters outside of the clear scope of the Second Amendment should be treated as a policy question and left to the legislative process just as the question of legislative prayer should be. 

The key point for me is that our Constitution does not dictate every matter of policy or constitutionalize ones preferred policy position. We have a vibrant “marketplace of ideas” precisely because most of those ideas are within the realm of what is constitutionally permitted. We may not always love the messy results of our constitutional democracy, but our response should be to petition or legislature rather than petition the Supreme Court for Certiorari.