Reader Voices: Loving neighbors regardless of religion

By David Candland

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 29 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

What can we do to improve and how can we put ourselves in a better light? The following are suggestions that might endear nonmembers, less actives and others to those who live here and in pockets of Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, the islands or other places with large LDS populations and even those with small ones:

Follow Christ’s example. Did he preach only to his flock? No, he shared what he brought to this earth with everybody, from the poor, sick and down-trodden to the wealthy and wise, the obedient, the sinners, law-breakers and adulterers.

Let’s don’t assume everyone has knowledge about us and our culture — we’ve all heard the stories of those who thought the “stake house” was a restaurant! Not everyone gets what “endowment” and “primary” means in our vernacular or what a CTR ring is. I always, when referring to my mission experience in mixed company, state it was an LDS mission. I don’t want those to feel I take for granted that they are by default versed in our lifestyle and lingo because they live amongst us, even though they might be.

Observe the Golden Rule. It’s really as simple as that. With many high-profile LDS members running for political offices on a state and national level, do we appreciate being unjustly scrutinized and having our beliefs misunderstood and disregarded by nonmember candidates and the public in general? The answer is no.

Be inclusive. Most everyone likes to be included or at least recognized; it equates to being accepted. Years ago, as a high council member, I was over music and activities on a stake level. We had a big sing-a-long around Christmas, not just for members, but for whoever wanted to come. We even promoted it that way and didn’t push any agenda — just come, sing and make merry … and yes, there were of course refreshments.

For other activities, we made a point of inviting anyone who wanted to stop by for dinners, neighborhood breakfasts in the summer, holiday parties and other programs. I even promised a few we wouldn’t fill the font or hand out Books of Mormon!

It’s human nature to be drawn to those who are like-minded, however, let’s make an effort to understand others and their beliefs to avoid becoming the Sadducees and Pharisees we rail against in Sunday School. Let’s nurture an appreciation for others and try to step outside our comfort zones. Surprising results may ensue. Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve said, “This is especially important in our interactions with members of other Christian denominations. Surely our Heavenly Father is saddened — and the devil laughs — when we contentiously debate doctrinal differences with our Christian neighbors. This is not to suggest that we compromise our principles or dilute our beliefs.”

He further said, “Without guile, true disciples avoid being unduly judgmental of others’ views. Many of us have cultivated strong friendships with those who are not members of our church — schoolmates, colleagues at work and friends and neighbors throughout the world. We need them, and they need us. As President Thomas S. Monson has taught, 'Let us learn respect for others. … None of us lives alone — in our city, our nation or our world.’ ”

Love is a verb, a noun and preferably both.

Don’t be a fake friend. Treat someone nice because you care for that person, not because you are duty bound or it’s a calling. There is a difference, and people can tell.

For those men, women or couples desirous to serve a mission, only commiserating with your own isn’t a good way to prepare for teaching the gospel and hinders the missionary effort. I recall a mission presidency counselor at a stake training meeting telling us if we fully comprehended what we have in this gospel, we would be pounding on someone’s door at 2 a.m. to excitedly share with them what we believe. Two in the morning is not recommended, but I get what he was saying.

We need to do all we can to dispel the label of the “Utah Mormon” or the self-righteous member, no matter where we live, no matter whether we are a majority or a minority. We owe it to others and ultimately to our own salvation. What we hold sacred and are blessed with is not a guaranteed free ride to heaven … we still have to earn it. Let’s share what we have with others and befriend them in the process regardless the outcome.

David Candland has a good heart, would love to change the world and is keenly aware that he "kind of" looks like Elvis and talks too much.

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