Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Recently, Deseret News columnist Jerry Earl Johnson wrote a piece called 'Time to listen and learn from our neighbors" (read the article here). I thought he had some interesting advice for the LDS community, but I wondered if he took the thought far enough? Here are some snippets:

President Gordon B. Hinckley, especially, sounded that theme.

"My brothers and sisters," he told the Saints in Sudbury, Ontario back in 1998, "we must be good neighbors. We must be friendly people. We must recognize the good in all people."

The problem, I think, is that to "recognize the good in all people" we need to be curious enough to pay attention to them. We need to listen and learn. We must realize everyone has something to offer.
AMEN Jerry!! After recounting some missionary experiences and the account of a black student going to an all-white Utah High School, Jerry observed the following about the latter:

The wiser students hoped to learn new perspectives and insights from her. The less wise feared she would somehow upset the status quo and force them to adjust. Those two attitudes — fear on one side, and a desire to learn on the other — show up today when the discussion turns to Hispanic immigrants or to the growing number of Utahns who are not LDS.


The wise among us feel curious and want to learn. The less wise among us feel threatened. Fortunately, LDS leaders seem to honestly believe that people who are different from us have many things that can enrich us. They don't fear the change. They sense an opportunity — not just for conversions, but for a wider, brighter way to live. Curiosity may have killed the cat. But I think curiosity also makes an old dog wise. The counsel has been given: be good neighbors and recognize the good in all people. It's time to put down our guard and look for ways our new neighbors can enrich our lives, and we can enrich theirs.
These are wise words. Inspiring, even. I wondered, however, why Jerry did not include one of the most talked about minorities in the news today in his thought process - gays! How could he overlook that???

Jerry's omission got me wondering what a good LDS family might do if they discovered their new neighbors were GAY (yikes!), so I posted the following comment to his article:

These are great thoughts. But I wonder sometimes if we, as a people, are ready and willing to follow this admonition.


Let me pose a hypothetical - picture yourself in this situation - what if your neighbors in this case were a gay couple? Would you have the same enthusiasm for getting to know them? Would you listen earestly and honestly to their point of view? Would you diligently search for the good in them? Would you allow them to enrich your life, and would you, in turn, enrich theirs? Would you be eager to share the gospel with this couple?


Food for thought. Do we, as a people, really reach out to EVERYONE? And can we truly consider ourselves disciples if we do not? I think the Saviour would find a way, don't you?

I was hoping some lively and meainingful dialogue would follow, since mine was the first comment on this article, but I guess people really don't post a lot of comments on DN articles, at least Church related ones (as opposed to the Tribune - telling?!) Anyway, there were a handful of answers but nothing of note.

I would really love to see how LDS people actually handled my hypothetical. It would make an awesome documentary, wouldn't it? To track the reaction when a married, totally charming gay couple moves in next door to a stereotypical straight-laced Mormon family with like 8 kids? WOW! Might make for some exciting footage!

2 comments:

Trina said...

I've lived in Vegas for most of my life (recently moved to northern Utah). I remember going out to eat at Benihanas with my husband and another couple (all four of us LDS) and we shared a table with a gay couple celebrating their 1st anniversary. We had a blast talking! Conversation started a little hesitantly when the couple that came with us mentioned that they were from Utah, but that soon passed. We laughed learning about how one of the men used to work for the telephone company and how the telephone book (his Bible at the time) is now obsolete. By the end of the dinner, the other male partner offered me and my husband tickets to Blue Man Group which we hadn't seen yet (he worked for them). Looking back, I wished I had somehow fit into the conversation that we were all LDS to diffuse some of that negativity that is out there (I know of a gay bassoonist that is still suspicious of me--I played in a few collegiate bands with him). There are a lot of things that I am continually pondering about, but I will always believe that I am no better than my neighbor.

Trina said...

I've lived in Vegas for most of my life (recently moved to northern Utah). I remember going out to eat at Benihanas with my husband and another couple (all four of us LDS) and we shared a table with a gay couple celebrating their 1st anniversary. We had a blast talking! Conversation started a little hesitantly when the couple that came with us mentioned that they were from Utah, but that soon passed. We laughed learning about how one of the men used to work for the telephone company and how the telephone book (his Bible at the time) is now obsolete. By the end of the dinner, the other male partner offered me and my husband tickets to Blue Man Group which we hadn't seen yet (he worked for them). Looking back, I wished I had somehow fit into the conversation that we were all LDS to diffuse some of that negativity that is out there (I know of a gay bassoonist that is still suspicious of me--I played in a few collegiate bands with him). There are a lot of things that I am continually pondering about, but I will always believe that I am no better than my neighbor.