Before I dive in, I want to make it clear that I have a deep belief that the things that make us different are important. Race, culture, socioeconomic status, gender, age, sexual orientation, and opportunities all shape us and influence how we see the world and live our lives. Diversity and differences within a whole enrich the group with understanding.
I value our difference and by no means attempt to diminish them and their consequences.
Recently, President Nelson invited us to retire the label of “Mormons.” I’ll admit that it has taken me some time to feel at peace with this motion. I had/have my own concerns and doubts. The acknowledgment of those questions has led me to put a good amount of time and thought into President Nelson’s motion and to seek personal revelation. I’d like to share my thoughts with you.
What if this is less about defining ourselves and highlighting what makes us different and more about becoming part of a larger whole? His whole. The Body of Christ.
It is common cultural rhetoric within The Church of Jesus Christ to talk in terms of us and them. Members and non-members. Those in and out of the boat. People on the path and people in the building. Saints and the world.
But at the same time, we celebrate the Savior of the world who died for everyone’s sins. We believe in a plan of salvation designed for everyone, not just the ones who know how to lay out the series of circles and arrows representative of the various stages that the plan of happiness plays out on.
Elder Ballard recently taught, “We believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior and the Redeemer of the world. He atoned for all who would repent of their sins, and He broke the bands of death and provided the resurrection from the dead. We follow Jesus Christ. And as King Benjamin said to his people, so I reaffirm to all of us today: ‘Ye should remember to retain [His] name written always in your hearts’ (Mosiah 5:12)" (“The Importance of a Name,” Oct. 2011 general conference).
To have His name written on our hearts can mean many things, but accepting ALL people as equally valuable members of our Heavenly Parents’ family is most definitely one of them. I wonder if we too often speak in terms of division while sitting in the Church that bears the name of the Great Unifier.
So what if, in the spirit of following the example of Him who “hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:14), we decided to also retire some “Mormon” labels that may be building unnecessary walls between us?
What if we stopped dividing ourselves and others as ‘active’ and ‘less-active'? What if stopped labeling someone as an ‘investigator’ or ‘non-member'? What if we stopped categorizing people according to their relation to us and our group and doubled down on our efforts to see them in relation to their Heavenly Parents and Savior?
Do you see what I’m getting at here?
What if it is less important how much someone fits in our culture and more important how much someone, with all of their differences and uniqueness, belongs in the family of Heavenly Mother and Father? Initially, I saw President Nelson’s efforts as a strategic branding move, but what if there is more to it?
In the words of President Nelson’s announcement, “We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will.” Here’s to continually seeking what that is and doing our best to help the Church appropriately bear His name in both word and deed.