I had a chat this week with Hillary, one of my best friends from growing up. She texted me wanting to have an intelligent conversation about recent events about the Mormons in the news. We talked about our understandings and opinions of things and how sad we were at the portrayal of the church in the media, and the hurt feelings and heartache on both sides of the divide. We ended our conversation with expressing our hope that Mormons could just be nicer to each other in general. Hillary said, "I think they should sing 'Jesus Said Love Everyone' at church for every song." Amen, Hill. That'd be great. Plus, its short so my kids would like that.
After I talked to Hill, I got to thinking about the presidency lesson I needed to give in Relief Society--I decided to teach about kindness.
Here is my lesson:
Our world is very diverse. Our church is diverse as well. We have members throughout the world. We speak many different languages. We have many different jobs. We believe in the same doctrine and sustain the same prophet but we also have different ideas and convictions. We belong to different political parties. We may think differently about the things we eat. We may think differently about the media we may choose to use. We raise our children differently. We think differently about what type of behaviors and manners are appropriate and acceptable. We are just very different.
The differences we have used to really bother me. I used to wonder how it could be that all of us don’t feel the same way about ________________________ (fill in the blank). Shouldn’t we all feel the exact same way about everything in the world? We are members of the only true church--we should be the same. Or should we?
As I have pondered our differences and why they exist I have realized that Heavenly Father puts great trust in us. He directs us on the important things and has blessed us with the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, prayers, prophets, and our smart little brains to find and live the truth that we seek about things. Some things, no matter how important they may seem to us just are simply not that important in the grand scheme of things. They don’t have any eternal consequence.
What are some things that you or other people have strong opinions about that probably don’t really matter in the eternal scheme of things?
· Breastfeeding/bottle feeding
· Sports team loyalties
· Comparing yourself with other’s accomplishments
· Political parties
· Being vegetarian
Okay, I have established that we are very different. And we are very passionate. And some of the things that we are passionate about are not eternally significant.
During the General Women’s Meeting this spring, Sister Bonnie Oscarson said:
“To be sisters implies that there is an unbreakable bond between us. Sisters take care of each other, watch out for each other, comfort each other, and are there for each other through thick and thin. The Lord has said, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”
The adversary would have us be critical or judgmental of one another. He wants us to concentrate on our differences and compare ourselves to one another. You may love to exercise vigorously for an hour each day because it makes you feel so good, while I consider it to be a major athletic event if I walk up one flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator. We can still be friends, can’t we?
We as women can be particularly hard on ourselves. When we compare ourselves to one another, we will always feel inadequate or resentful of others. Sister Patricia T. Holland once said, “The point is, we simply cannot call ourselves Christian and continue to judge one another—or ourselves—so harshly.” She goes on to say that there is nothing that is worth us losing our compassion and sisterhood over. We just need to relax and rejoice in our divine differences. We need to realize that we all desire to serve in the kingdom, using our unique talents and gifts in our own ways. Then we can enjoy our sisterhood and our associations and begin to serve.
I love that! We are sisters. Raise your hand if you have a sister in your family. Raise your hand if you are exactly the same—same opinions, same problems, same accomplishments. Raise your hand if you sometimes can’t believe how different you are having been raised in the same house. Now, Raise your hand if you LOVE your sister. Sisters are the best thing. Nobody makes me laugh as hard as my sister. I joke with my sister that I have to borrow some of grandma’s depends when we get together—I laugh that hard. My sister and I don’t always agree but nothing can or will ever change the love that I feel for her or the support that I hope to be to her throughout our lives.
When we were getting together for presidency meeting a few months back, Teren texted this to Melissa, Raquel, and me:
We all agreed that we feel that way about our sibling sisters as well as about each other—sisters in the presidency and sisters in Relief Society. As Sister Oscarson said, “There is an unbreakable bond between us... there is nothing worth us losing our compassion and sisterhood over.”
And yet I see so often on facebook and elsewhere on the internet (chiefly in non-face-to-face communication) such ugly and unkind ways of communicating. When addressing those with whom we share a difference of opinion, we often let the difference of opinion overshadow the “friend” we are communicating with. We are often disrespectful, rude, and hurtful and I think we must do it without thinking. I think it is easier to say unkind things when you are hiding behind a screen and not looking the person in the face. When I disagree with a statement made by a friend on facebook or an article or post on the internet I ask myself if I really need to state my opinion in response? And if I decided that I need to how I can do it in a loving way.
How do you respond when a friend states an opinion that you don’t agree with?
My kindergarten teacher had a poster of Thumper the Rabbit from the movie Bambi hanging in our classroom. Does anyone remember the great quote that Thumper’s mama taught him? “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” It is a simple thing, but one that I try to think of more often.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said:
When we are filled with , we are not judgmental. The Savior taught, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”He also taught that “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
“But,” you ask, “what if people are rude?”
“If they are obnoxious?”
“But what if they offend? Surely I must do something then?”
The answer is the same. Be kind. Love them.
Why? In the scriptures Jude taught, “And of some have compassion, making a difference.”
Who can tell what far-reaching impact we can have if we are only kind?
There are quite a few primary songs that go along with that same message. These are the songs that we all probably still have swimming around in the backs of our brains somewhere. My friend Hillary does and she sings them to her cute baby.
-Jesus said love everyone
-I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus
-We are Different
-Kindness Begins with Me
These songs remind me that one of the greatest lessons Christ taught was the importance of being kind.
Can I have someone read Matthew 22: 37-40?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Before I go on, I want to clarify that I am not advocating that we never speak up when things are contrary to our beliefs. When others are engaging in activities or beliefs contrary to the doctrines and policies of the church we should not go along with it just so as not to be rude. However, I see the need for us to consider more carefully how we respond. This has been on my mind a lot lately.
President Hinckley said:
“Let us reach out with love and kindness to those who would revile against us. I think frequently of the words of Edwin Markham as he put them in that little verse:
In the spirit of the Christ who advised us to turn the other cheek, let us try to overcome evil with good.”
While I was on my mission it often helped me in my teaching to think of my own sister or brothers and imagine that the person I was teaching was actually my brother or my sister. When I would become frustrated with an investigator or wondered if my visits to a less active member made any difference to them I would think, “if this was my sister would I want missionaries to give up on her? Never.”
We are all brothers and sisters. We need to draw a circle of love around our differences.
President Hinckley told the following story:
I have permission to tell you the story of a young man who grew up in our community. He was not a member of the Church. He and his parents were active in another faith.
He recalls that when he was growing up, some of his LDS associates belittled him, made him feel out of place, and poked fun at him.
He came to literally hate this Church and its people. He saw no good in any of them.
Then his father lost his employment and had to move. In the new location, at the age of 17, he was able to enroll in college. There, for the first time in his life, he felt the warmth of friends, one of whom, named Richard, asked him to join a club of which he was president. He writes: “For the first time in my life someone wanted me around. I didn’t know how to react, but thankfully I joined. … It was a feeling that I loved, the feeling of having a friend. I had prayed for one my whole life. And now after 17 years of waiting, God answered that prayer.”
At the age of 19 he found himself as a tent partner with Richard during their summer employment. He noticed Richard reading a book every night. He asked what he was reading. He was told that he was reading theBook of Mormon. He adds: “I quickly changed the subject and went to bed. After all, that is the book that ruined my childhood. I tried forgetting about it, but a week went by and I couldn’t sleep. Why was he reading it every night? I soon couldn’t stand the unanswered questions in my head. So one night I asked him what was so important in that book. What was in it? He handed me the book. I quickly stated that I never wanted to touch the book. I just wanted to know what was in there. He started to read where he had stopped. He read about Jesus and about an appearance in the Americas. I was shocked. I didn’t think that the Mormons believed in Jesus.”
Richard asked him to sing in a stake conference choir with him. The day came and the conference started. “Elder Gary J. Coleman from the First Quorum of the Seventy was the guest speaker. I found out during the conference that he also [was a convert]. At the end Richard proceeded to pull me by the arm up to talk to him. I finally agreed, and as I was approaching him he turned and smiled at me. I introduced myself and said that I wasn’t a member and that I had just come to sing in the choir. He smiled and said he was happy that I was there and stated that the music was great. I asked him how he knew the Church was true. He told me a short version of his testimony and asked if I had read the Book of Mormon. I said no. He promised me that the first time I read it, I would feel the Spirit.”
On a subsequent occasion this young man and his friend were traveling. Richard handed him a Book of Mormon and asked that he read it aloud. He did so, and suddenly the inspiration of the Holy Spirit touched him.
Time passed and his faith increased. He agreed to be baptized. His parents opposed him, but he went forward and was baptized a member of this Church.
His testimony continues to strengthen. Only a few weeks ago he was married to a beautiful Latter-day Saint girl for time and eternity in the Salt Lake Temple. Elder Gary J. Coleman performed his sealing.
That is the end of the story, but there are great statements in that story. One is the sorry manner in which his young Mormon associates treated him.
Next is the manner in which his newfound friend Richard treated him. It was totally opposite from his previous experience. It led to his conversion and baptism in the face of terrible odds.
This kind of miracle can happen and will happen when there is kindness, respect, and love. Why do any of us have to be so mean and unkind to others? Why can’t all of us reach out in friendship to everyone about us? Why is there so much bitterness and animosity? It is not a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Does anyone have a story they could share about how kindness affected their life in a positive way?
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin shared this experience: Kind words not only lift our spirits in the moment they are given, but they can linger with us over the years. One day, when I was in college, a man seven years my senior congratulated me on my performance in a football game. He not only praised how well I had done in the game, but he had noticed that I had showed good sportsmanship. Even though this conversation happened more than 60 years ago, and even though it’s highly unlikely the person who complimented me has any recollection of this conversation, I still remember the kind words spoken to me that day by Gordon B. Hinckley, who would later become President of the Church
I would like to close with these words of President Monsen:
Beyond comprehension, my brothers and sisters, is the love of God for us. Because of this love, He sent His Son, who loved us enough to give His life for us, that we might have eternal life. As we come to understand this incomparable gift, our hearts will be filled with love for our Eternal Father, for our Savior, and for all mankind. That such may be so is my earnest prayer in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.