Sunday, September 24, 2017

Spiritual Sunday: Being Kind to Those Who Are Different Than Us

Every third Sunday, I teach in the women's organization at my church.  I intend to share my lessons here after I have taught them.  This is last week's lesson that I taught.  Please feel free to post any questions you might have.  Inflammatory comments will not be published.

This week's lesson is chapter 20 in the Gordon B. Hinckley manual, called “Fellowship with Those Who Are Not of Our Faith.”  The lesson starts by talking about how most people share the common desire to help others.  Most people want to help the poor, lift the distressed, give comfort, hope, and help to all those who are in trouble and pain from whatever cause.  It also talks about when President Hinckley was interviewed by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes.   Part of the interview went as follows:   Mr. Wallace asks: “How do you view non-Mormons?”  President Hinckley responded: “With love and respect.  I have many non-Mormon friends.  I respect them.  I have the greatest of admiration for them.”  Mr Wallace followed up by asking, “Despite the fact that they haven’t really seen the light yet?”  President Hinckley said: “Yes.  To anybody who is not of this Church, I say we recognize all of the virtues and the good that you have. Bring it with you and see if we might add to it.” 

One thing that often helps me to better understand Heavenly Father’s point of view on things, is by relating how He is our parent.  If we think like a parent, things seem to make more sense. If I were to ask all my children to do their chores, and at the end of the day, a few of them did not do them, I do not love them any less than I do the ones that did what I asked. To take it even further, if I handed the list of chores to one child and asked that (s)he share it with the others, would it be fair for me to hold those who never knew about the list equally responsible when they didn't complete their chores? Heavenly Father sees us the same way. Those who do not have a testimony of the gospel, or any part of the gospel, are not held to the same level of expectation as those who do have a testimony and have made covenants to live the gospel. Heavenly Father does not love us any more than He loves a Catholic, a Muslim, a Jew, a Wiccan, or even an atheist. We are all equal, and just as I would be upset if one of my children, even the one who was the best behaved, treated another one of my children with unkindness, I am certain it hurts Heavenly Father when He sees us doing it to each other. 

In the eleventh Article of Faith, we read,  "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship, how, where, or what they may. "  This means that while we may worship differently or have differing beliefs, that we can not allow ourselves to become arrogant, self-righteous, or prideful.  We need to allow others to worship how, where and what they may.  I love these words, by the prophet Joseph Smith, back in 1843, If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a Mormon, I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination."  We need to ensure that we are not demonstrating a holier-than-thou attitude.  We need to be open and friendly.  We can do this without compromising our own beliefs. 

The church is often involved in helping around the world.  We see stories of the work that is being done by the church every time we hear of a disaster striking anywhere in the world.  Often, the church as a whole, and the individual members, are working side by side with other churches and other good people.  We are encouraged to be involved in good community causes.  What are some ways that we can reach out to those in our community that are not of our faith?  I know in our neighboring ward (our church is divided into wards, similar to how the Catholic church is divided into parishes), they regularly volunteer at the clothing closet run by another church in their area.  

If there is an instance where serious moral issues are involved, we need to be sure not to bend on matters of principles, but we can politely disagree without being disagreeable.  We can acknowledge the sincerity of those whose positions we cannot accept and speak of principles rather of people.  President Hinckley has said, “ There is a better way than the way of the world.  If it means standing alone, we must do it.  But we shall not be alone.  I am confident that there are millions of people throughout the world who grieve over the evil they see about them.  They love the virtuous, the good, and the uplifting.  They too will raise their voices and give their strength to the preservation of those values which are worthy of maintenance and cultivation.” 

When we are treating others with love, respect, and kindness, we are showing that we are true disciples of Jesus Christ. We bear testimony and witness of Him, through our actions.  I think of how Christ was when He was still on the earth.  When the adulterous woman was brought before Him or when those who were sick and afflicted reached out to touch his robes, He reacted with love and kindness.  He did not recoil or act as though He was better than they were.  Why would we?  Our kindness may be the most persuasive argument for that which we believe.  President Hinckley encourages us to live the Golden Rule, treating others as we would want to be treated.  This reminded me of when my oldest girls were little.  Chloe was a bit on the mean side and Yasmin would give it right back to her, even though it was not her typical nature.  I talked to her about it one day and asked if she knew the Golden Rule.  She responded by saying, “Yes!  That is why I am so mean to Chloe.  She is mean to me, so she must want me to treat her the same way.”  I quickly re-explained the Golden Rule, to say that we should treat others as we want them to treat us, regardless of how they actually treat us.  Being friendly does not mean we need to be friends, but we do need to be kind. 

There is a poem in the lesson that I really like that also reminded me of the Chloe and Yasmin story.  It is by Edwin Markham and it goes like this. (I drew 2 stick figures on the board). 
He drew a circle that shut me out- 
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. (draw circle around one man)
 But Love and I had the wit to win:  
We drew a circle that took him in!” (draw circle around both men)
This poem reminds me that it is important that we make a conscientious effort to not be excluding people from our circle, even if they have excluded us from theirs.  An example of this can be seen in the church’s response to the Broadway musical Book of Mormon.  Those who wrote the musical, and in many ways those who act in it, and in some ways, those who see it, are drawing a circle around themselves, with the church on the outside.  The church responded by taking out ads in the billfolds encouraging viewers to now read the book. Missionaries were often found outside the theaters when they let out, handing out copies of the Book of Mormon.  They were drawing that bigger circle and inviting all of them in, and I personally know people who have joined the church as a result of the musical and the church’s reaction to it. 

I want to take this lesson one step further, to say we need to love each other with ALL our differences, not just religious ones.  The world is full of diversity and we need to cultivate tolerance and appreciation and respect one another.  Have any of you watched the movie, “My Big Fat Greek WeddingFor those who have not seen it, it is about a Greek girl who meets a non-Greek man who she falls in love with and decides to marry.  Her father has a very hard time accepting the man since he is not Greek.  However, at the end of the movie, during the wedding reception, the father makes a speech about how the two families have come together.  He had discovered a commonality to build on: one of their last names was derived from the Greek word of orange and the other last name was derived from the Greek word for apple.  His realization was that in the end, they are all fruit. 

I challenge you to look for opportunities like these on the board, to work side by side with others who are different than us.  Whether someone be Catholic, Jewish, black, white, Hispanic, male, female, transgender, gay, straight, old, or young, in the end, we are all children of God.  It is my prayer that all of us will be a little more aware of how we are treating those who are different than us.  Your world will be much richer when you do and you will be treating them the way our Heavenly Father would want us to be treating our fellow brothers and sisters. 

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