“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”
Romans 12: 5
The new movie “Meet The Mormons” has gotten a lot of press lately. It certainly has made the rounds here in the Bloggernacle, with many conversations exploring the issues it raises. Many will assume that it is a missionary tool or a P.R. ploy, which it may be, but I see a much more valuable potential:
helping Mormons see their own diversity.
“Hopefully, the LDS faithful who see this movie will reflect…and begin to welcome those diverse voices within their own flock that have recently been more marginalized.”
-Andy Wilson, Huffington Post.
“The film shows that even though members of the Church are very diverse, they are all a part of a big family striving for the same goals.”
-Starla Awerkamp Butler, Ensign October 2014
Diversity is critical.
“Whether we recognize it or not, diversity is now a part of the Church, and it is increasing daily. If our experience in linking and unifying diverse membership is successful…an institution of color, beauty, and deep spiritual unity can develop. To succeed, we will need unifying ideas taught by thoughtful leaders. Stakes and wards whose members are imbued with flexibility and openness to greet and make welcome the diverse membership…”
-John K. Carmack, first Quorum of the Seventy
For many LDS church members, it is too easy to take the realities of a global church for granted. Especially since most of the policy makers are immersed in the not-so-diverse Mormon-saturated culture of Utah. A world-wide church means that there are Communist Mormons, Socialist, Republican, Whig, Marxist, and probably Anarchist Mormons. Every skin color from beige to black. Eyes that are blue, black, brown, grey, green and every variation in between. Every culture with customs, food and attire. Men who wear skirts to church, women who wear pants where no-one bats an eye. Cultures where men and boys wear white shirts even though it’s really weird for them. Flip-flops, bare feet and dirt floors at church. Families who hold church at home because it’s too dangerous to venture out. There are Mormons who live under oppressive regimes where religious expression is severely limited. There are Mormons who live in conditions of famine and poverty, Mormons who die of starvation. There are Mormons with servants in large homes. Mormons who pay more in tithing each month, than their neighbors make in a year. There are Hippie Mormons, Punk-Rock, Hip-Hop, Cowboy and Preppy Mormons. Cafeteria, black-and-white, pious, holier-than-thou Mormons. Carpenters, scientists, artists, engineers, lawyers, farmers, social workers and politicians. There are gay Mormons who desperately believe. There are doubtful Mormons who are scared to death that their faith is slipping away. There are happily oblivious Mormons and adamantly certain Mormons, survivalist, humanist and existentialist Mormons.
How have you felt as you’ve read this? Can you honestly say that you love them all? Because of? In spite of?
Unity seems hopeless.
Christ himself seemed uncertain. He predicted that his message would be controversial and divisive:
“34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”
-Matthew 10: 34, 35
But he also entreats us to overcome this division:
“43 ¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
-Matthew 5: 43-45
How can we accomplish a task that seemed daunting, even to The Savior? The action is simple; reach out in love and draw people in. The complexities of human emotion and personal relationships make this one of the most difficult tasks we will ever attempt, assuming we are even willing to try.
I’m a practical guy. If I’m convinced that I need to make a change, I need specific things to do. A list. So here it is, thought exercises, activities, and physical acts, based on the principles of charity, to build unity in a global church.
1- Seek personal relationships. People generally learn to love each other through personal, emotionally intimate relationships. Let down your guard, and love. Protect what you need to, but work toward trusting generous relationships.
2- Everyone you meet is superior to you in at least one way. If you can figure out what that is, you will both benefit.
3- Don’t stay small, reach out. Family, neighbors, Ward, Stake… Social media has made this possible in ways that have never been available in the history of the world!
4- Smile. Yeah, it’s cliche and it may not be as easy as it sounds,but it has an immediate uplifting effect, which brings up the next item:
5- Seek to uplift everyone you encounter. (or at least don’t drag them down) Encourage, compliment, support. Sincerely. You will change lives.
6- Serve others. Another cliche, especially in the Church, but if you do it sincerely, giving from your unique abilities, you will change the world. Do it because you love. Imagine a community that loves and serves each other. Hold that vision in your mind and work toward that. It should require sacrifice, but it doesn’t have to be physical. Social media offers opportunity for personal connections which would be unlikely otherwise. Listen, share, understand, offer.
7- Accept service. Recognize the sacrifice being offered to you and receive it with gratitude, then express your gratitude. Few things will invoke divine love faster that sincere declarations of thanks.
8- Alleviate suffering. It’s hard to feel part of anything when you are struggling for survival. Give what you can afford and then give more. Fast offerings are an immediate way to help locally, but, in a global church, there are dire needs in other countries and cultures. We, at Rational Faiths, have adopted a stake in Ta Khmau, Cambodia, through the Liahona Children’s foundation. We invite you to join us. Our Combined resources will provide education and food for them and draw them in. Click here to help.
9-Love the “Other”. The one that is not like you, that speaks a different language, lives somewhere else in a different culture. The one on the other side of the political aisle who hates “your kind”. The one who chooses to sin differently than you. Love. Them. This is the most difficult, but it is the most powerful. It is hard to love those who hurt you. It requires you to forgive. Not for them, but for you. Love them, for them. The power in this difficult task (did I mention that it will be hard?) has changed, and will change lives. Unity is impossible without it.
“And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.”
-Mosiah 18: 21