'You Do Not Belong Here': A High Councilor’s Talk About Inclusion

Every time I give a talk in church I feel obliged to begin with a warning, so here it is. I do not consider myself an expert on spiritual matters. I plan to share ideas that I hope will be helpful and inspiring, but please take them for what they are: the opinions and ideas of a guy who isn’t totally sure he knows what he’s talking about.

On top of that, I’ve chosen to speak today on a tricky topic, and I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to collect and structure my thoughts. So please bear with me, and try to listen with a forgiving attitude.

Many years ago I served a mission. It was a transformative experience for me. I was a proud, thick-headed kid, but through steady work and service I learned some profound lessons about the gospel. Most importantly, as I served people and tried to help them turn toward Christ, I was given glimpses into how much our Heavenly Father loves his children. Detailed memories have begun to fade, but the overall experience and its effects on me are still things that I deeply cherish.

Of course, not all of the experiences I had on my mission were positive ones, and as an entry point to my topic I want to describe a negative experience I had in the missionary training center. We had fairly regular meetings with general authorities of the church, and it was typical in those meetings for a choir to perform a song or two. My boys can tell you that I like to sing, but they can also probably tell you that I’m not especially good at it. Certainly I have no training, nor can I read music. But I decided to join the choir one week with my companion (who actually was a good singer). Early in the first practice, the choir leader said something about how baritones should sing this part, and basses should sing that part. I leaned over to my companion who was seated next to me and said “What should I do? I’m not sure if I’m a baritone or a bass.” At this point a missionary seated in front of me turned around with a scornful look on his face and said “If you don’t know that, then what are you doing here?”

I’m sure you can imagine how I felt. But I’m not telling you the story so you can feel sorry for me and my hurt feelings. And in fairness, the missionary had a point. But I want you to think about the message he was delivering: You do not belong here.

Read the rest of this story at rationalfaiths.com