Thursday, June 12, 2014

Courage in our Convictions

This is my great-great-great-great-great grandfather. His name was James Hazelette Jack.  We discovered his story along with many other ancestors while doing some research on the Civil War. As it turns out, I have seventeen ancestors who fought in the war between the states.  All but James fought for the Confederacy.  He grew up in northern Alabama. The southern way of life was entrenched in him. His family owned a few slaves and he had recently married a young woman who's family was very affluent.  In fact, as a wedding present they were presented with several slaves of their own. James had difficulty with the morality of slavery but at the same time it was the way he was raised. It was a part of the culture of the South but somehow he knew it was fundamentally wrong.  When the war broke out he was faced with a very difficult decision. He could turn against his family, friends and state to ease his conscience or follow the status quo.  He joined the Union much to his brothers' dismay.  James had seven brothers who fought for the Confederacy.  Four gave the ultimate sacrifice for the cause.  The Union Army would not allow him to take up arms against his brothers so he served as a Spy and Courier for the Federalists. My grandma always told us he was shot in the back during the war.  We always assumed that meant he was quite a coward but then we learned the rest of the story. James spent many nights swimming important papers across the Tennessee River into the Union Camps.  In order to keep these important documents from getting wet he often recruited his six year old son to ride on his shoulders holding up the papers to keep them dry.  One particular night he was caught on such a mission.  Gun fire was all around him. He quickly pushed the little boy to shore and told him to find his mother.  James was shot in the back while clambering up the river bank.  He hid in a hollow gum tree until his wife found him the next morning.  A camp of Mormon Missionaries were nearby and they helped James and his wife throughout his recovery.  He never forgot their kind service.  Eventually the war ended.  The south was left desolate and destitute and James' relationship with his three surviving brothers was severely strained.  He attempted to rebuild his life and his relationships but things were tough for everyone. He also could not forget the Mormon missionaries he met during the war.  He was touched by their kindness and the messages they shared with him.  He felt a great desire to seek them out and learn more. Being a man always true to his convictions regardless of the cost, he and his young family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  This was the last straw for his brothers.  They burned James' home and barns to the ground and left them with nothing.  James was forced to leave Alabama and settle in Southern Colorado where I was raised.
I have thought about him often lately.  I have wondered if I would have had the courage required to choose the right in such difficult circumstances. His choice to support the Union and later join the church was an extremely unpopular decision.  Although I am sure he was called names and ridiculed, he and his family were also put in physical danger because of his desire to follow God.  My kids are growing up in a world where they feel like their is something fundamentally wrong with the morality of the society around them. Not unlike their Grandfather James, it is a part of their culture. It is confusing and they are daily faced with the decision to live according to the dictates of their conscience or follow the status quo.  I hope and pray they follow their grandfather's example. There has been some controversy among members of my church lately and there have been some negative things written and reported about the LDS church as well. Several groups have emerged demanding that the church change their policy on homosexuality and priesthood ordination.  These groups present logical and emotional viewpoints.  Their beliefs have the support of the majority of our country's most vocal population and an often biased media. We live in a civilization where embracing traditional Christian beliefs is becoming taboo and considered evidence of ignorance. Choosing to defend our church leaders and our beliefs are unpopular decisions. In Satan's most cunning way he has wrapped up sin in a beautiful package labeled-equality, love, or tolerance.  All wonderful things. All things that should exist in our culture but only within the bounds our Heavenly Father has set for His children.  Tolerance for, or a love of sin is not acceptable. Taking a stand for what we believe in will not be as difficult for us as it must have been for my grandfather.  Yet, we still hesitate to share our opinions.  We worry about being different. We are afraid we will be called bigots or anti-female if we stand up for our principles.  In my home  the time has come for our family to live according to our convictions without apology, popular or not. We can still love our fellow-man even if they choose a lifestyle different than our own, without advocating for a cause contrary to our beliefs.  Some would like to forget that God was at the forefront of this nation's founding. Prayer and a pleading for guidance was offered before every meeting of the Continental Congress. What has kept us strong in the past?  What made the Greatest Generation great?  Traditional values, hard work and standing up for what they believed in.  We are going to need courage not unlike my grandfather's.  We may be ostracized when we speak out about the differing roles of men and women in society.  We may be hated when we discuss our belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.  But, using the example of my grandfather, what may be the most popular belief in your state, may not be the right one.
If as a member of our church, or as someone who is not a member of our faith you have questions regarding the doctrine of the LDS church I encourage you to pray, read the scriptures and ask questions of the church's leaders.  If after those steps are taken and you still disagree with or find untrue the teachings of this gospel I ask you to respectfully move along. Please do not speak unkindly and derogatorily about members of the church or its leaders. You vocalize your hatred of being demeaned by others, yet you find it perfectly acceptable to criticize and demean church members and  church leaders, the majority of whom truly love and care about your happiness and well-being.  You profess to a live-and-let-live dogma, yet condemn the beliefs of church members. That is not courageous that is hypocrisy and it belittles your cause by making it look petty and vindictive. 

9 comments:

Kristin said...

You have a great way of expressing yourself. I envy that. I agree with you. I feel so frustrated that its ok for others to belittle or mock my belief yet if I mention that I don't agree with their standings or beliefs then I'm considered to be racists or behind the times. Its a double standard.

alexandra said...

Amen!

Shannon said...

What an inspirational ancestor! And great post all around.

Susan H said...

Very well said and I agree! We need to stand up for what we believe in. Love the sinner, but not the sin.

Casey and Allie said...

AGREE AGREE AGREE AGREE AGREE AGREE

Anonymous said...

A w e s o m e
Your sun is cool
Sublime
Atley

Evan and Lauren said...

This is awesome. You need to become a professional writer. Thank you for sharing!

Shae said...

Good job friend. This needs published in a newspaper. :) love ya

Shae said...
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