Sunday, October 21, 2018

No More Strangers and Foreigners

My wife and I recently (2 months ago) moved to Fishers, Indiana to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was raised in Northern Indiana so for me it is like coming home even though it has been 48 years since leaving for college. I grew up in a small farming community (Argos, Indiana) of about 1600 people which is far different than the area we are living in now. Fishers is part of the Indianapolis metropolitan area and has a population of just over two million people. It is also different than where we lived for the past 30 years in Cache Valley Utah which has a population of 124,000 and where about 83% are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Compare that with the .007% of Hoosiers, citizens of Indiana, that are members of The Church.

Another culture shock to us is the diversity of the people that live in our neighborhood. We live in an apartment complex and we have a lot of families from India, many that are Hispanic, and many African Americans. Also, unlike the naturally friendly nature of our neighbors in Cache Valley, it is difficult to get to know our neighbors here. We only know the names of two of our neighbors next to us. Hopefully that will change as time goes on. So far, I have learned the Indian (East Indian, not native Indian) greeting, namaste, which means “I bow to you”. Whenever we meet any East Indian and greet them this way they are more accepting and friendly.

The point of all this is that we are trying to fit in and learn to love our neighbors as we hope that they will love us. It is easy to learn to love your neighbors when they have the same values and beliefs that you do, but how do you respond when they don’t share those values and beliefs. Sister Lori Wadsworth speaking at a BYU Devotional quoted President Boyd K. Packer:

“You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!” (Seeing the Divinity in Others)

President Packer is reminding us that every member of the human race are children of God, our Heavenly Father and we need to remember that when we interact with them. Even saying “them” seems like I am putting “them” in a different class. It should not be us and them, we are all in one class, that of Heavenly Father’s children. Sister Wadsworth continues:

“Look around you. You are surrounded by children of God. Every single person on the earth now and forever is a child of God. It doesn’t matter what their religious or political affiliation is, it doesn’t matter where they come from or the color of their skin, and it doesn’t matter if they are just like you or are vastly different from you—they are all children of our Heavenly Father.”

Sister Wadsworth then shared a statement published by The Church regarding respecting everyone and eliminating bullying:

We remain committed to support community efforts throughout the world to prevent suicide, bullying, and homelessness. Every young person should feel loved and cared for in their families, their communities, and their congregations. We can come together, bringing our perspectives and beliefs, and make each community a safe place for all.”

She then shared a quote from the Church’s Instagram account where a member talked about how she felt she did not fit in and suggested that if we are having a hard time understanding someone that we should move in closer:

“Move in to see the mother hurting because her daughter is ostracized because she won’t be baptized like the rest of her peers. Move in to see the teenage boy terrified to tell his parents that he doesn’t want to serve a mission. Move in to see those who struggle with doubts or grief and still want to fit in. Move in to see [how] amazing [people are], regardless of where [they are] on [their] faith journey. Honestly, the worth of a soul is way, way too great to not move in when the chance presents itself. Plus, you may be surprised at what you find.”

This counsel is good for us as we try to get to know our neighbors, especially those of different nationalities and cultures that we don’t understand. The Savior’s teaching to love others as we would have them love us applies to us as we interact with everyone that we come in contact with. The more we see and treat everyone as our brothers and sisters, as children of Heavenly Father’s family, we will move beyond our preconceived ideas and learn to understand their ideals and culture and eventually we will all be “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)

Your comments and questions are welcome. If you like this post, I would ask that you share it with your family and friends on your social media.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What’s In a Name?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the announcement that was made encouraging members and the media to use the proper name of The Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, instead of the common nickname Mormon Church or LDS Church. (It’s Not Mormon’s Church) Since that time, I have tried to use the proper name of the church when talking to people I meet, but I have to admit that I am still guilty of using the “Mormon Church” because it is easier to say it and people know the name. After general conference last weekend, I now understand the importance of using the full name and not shortening it. President Nelson explained why it is important:

“What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement.

“After all He had endured—and after all He had done for humankind—I realize with profound regret that we have unwittingly acquiesced in the Lord’s restored Church being called by other names, each of which expunges the sacred name of Jesus Christ!

When we omit His name from His Church, we are inadvertently removing Him as the central focus of our lives. names, each of which expunges the sacred name of Jesus Christ (emphasis added)” (The Correct Name of the Church).

I had never thought of it this way that we are removing the name of the Savior from His Church when we shorten the name or use a nickname. This was a wake-up call for me, I am serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I represent the Lord and His Church. If I really am his representative, how can I eliminate his name when I speak of His Church?

This past week while standing in a checkout line at a grocery store a woman behind me looked at my name tag and said: “I love Jesus, I wish I had a badge like that”. When I asked if she knew much about our church she took another look at the badge and admitted she did not know anything. When I said: “you might know us as the Mormon Church” and she said is that the same church? When I said yes, she was surprised. This is what President Nelson is talking about; the world know the Mormon Church and they know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but they don’t know it is the same church.

I had another experience while on a bike ride with a group here in Fishers, Indiana. One of the riders is a minister for a local Christian Church and we were talking about how the church has changed the name of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. Ron, the minister, asked why. I told him that we are trying to get away from the name Mormon Church and use the real name as directed by the Lord. I told him that we are trying to help people understand that we are Christians and that Christ is central to our worship and is the head of our church. Ron did not respond but at least he knows how I feel and that we want the world to know we believe in Jesus Christ.

President Nelson concluded his talk with these words:

“My dear brothers and sisters, I promise you that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints,17 the likes of which we have never seen. We will have the knowledge and power of God to help us take the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.

“So, what’s in a name? When it comes to the name of the Lord’s Church, the answer is “Everything!” Jesus Christ directed us to call the Church by His name because it is His Church, filled with His power.(The Correct Name of the Church)

I am interested in the blessings that President Nelson promised so I will do all I can to use His name and the full name of His Church when speaking to those I come in contact with. I am proud to be His representative and bear witness that he lives and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His Church here on the earth.

Your comments and questions are welcome. If you like this post, I would ask that you share it with your family and friends on your social media.