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How can we collectively reduce judging so everyone can feel welcome in Latter-day Saint congregations and enjoy the fruits of our restored doctrine? How can we root out judgmental attitudes or comments and become more like Christ? When we look inward, what work do we each still need to do, as we try to be a loving people?
Sister McConkie urges us to see others as Jesus Christ does:
I know people who come to church every Sunday so that they can be inspired and uplifted and who just simply walk away feeling judged and unloved, unneeded, like there is no place for them at church. We need to do this differently. We need to be deeply aware of what the purpose of coming to church on Sunday is, and make sure that everyone who comes feels loved, needed, accepted, and lifted. . . .
We cannot allow judgment to dictate the way we interact with people. It’s simply not right. . . . We just cannot be, or even call ourselves, a disciple of Christ if we are not helping others along that path.
The gospel of Jesus Christ does not marginalize people. People marginalize people. And we have to fix that. . . . [All] have talents and abilities and personality that is needed in the kingdom of God. And if we’re going to build the kingdom of God on the earth, we need everyone to come and do their part.
These are powerful words: “The gospel of Jesus Christ does not marginalize people. People marginalize people. And we need to fix that.” I think about her words frequently and ask myself if my words or actions are making it difficult for people to consider join- ing or continuing as a member of our restored Church. I hope ideas will come into your mind and heart about what you can do within your circle of influence to implement Sister McConkie’s vision.
I became more aware of this topic during my Young Single Adult (YSA) assignment. For the first time, I met with many individuals who were not regularly attending church. Before this experience, I had assumed that those not attending church did not believe in our restored doctrine. However, I soon learned that many did hold core Latter-day Saint beliefs but were not participating because they felt judged or not good enough, or they lacked a sense of belonging.
I had also supposed that those who had been hurt were simply too easily offended and they should “learn not be to be offended,” putting all the responsibility on their shoulders to resolve a painful experience. However, I have come to honor how people feel. Asking them not to be offended can invalidate their experience, potentially deepening the wedge between them and the Church and decreasing the likelihood they will return. Validating their feelings is often vital in helping them put difficult experiences behind them.
I have also tried to ask more often, “Lord, is it I?” as taught by Elder Uchtdorf:
It was our beloved Savior’s final night in mortality, the eve- ning before He would offer Himself a ransom for all mankind. As He broke bread with His disciples, He said something that must have filled their hearts with great alarm and deep sadness. “One of you shall betray me,” He told them.
The disciples didn’t question the truth of what He said. Nor did they look around, point to someone else, and ask, “Is it him?”
Instead, “they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?” (Matthew 26:22)
I wonder what each of us would do if we were asked that ques- tion by the Savior. Would we look at those around us and say in our hearts, “He’s probably talking about Brother Johnson. I’ve always wondered about him,” or “I’m glad Brother Brown is here. He really needs to hear this message”? Or would we, like those disciples of old, look inward and ask that penetrating question: “Is it I?”
In these simple words, “Lord, is it I?” lies the beginning of wisdom and the pathway to personal conversion and lasting change.
Elder Uchtdorf’s words motivate me to reflect with an open mind and heart so that the Spirit can guide me to the changes I need to make in my attitude and behaviors. Making those changes allows me to be part of the solution.
The following was taken from the book, Listen, Learn, and Love: Improving Latter-day Saint Culture by Richard Ostler, currently on sale at Cedarfort.com.