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)

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