Melaney Tagg: Kindness Begins With Me
There is an old Primary song that says, “I want to be kind to everyone, for that is right, you see. So I say to myself, ‘Remember this: Kindness begins with me.'” Melaney Tagg, our guest on this week’s episode, is a living example of what this Primary song looks like in action. When she observed the contention running rampant in her county’s school board meetings, Tagg knew she couldn't stand idly by—she had to, as President Oaks put it, "seek to moderate and unify," knowing that kindness needed to begin with her.
A key pitfall is when we forget the divinity of the other guy.
Note: In the episode, President Dallin H. Oaks is credited as having said “You can disagree without being disagreeable.” This quote should actually be attributed to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. However, President Oaks has been quoted as saying “Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable.” This quote is found in this talk.
3:04- Loudoun County, Virginia
9:06- Breaking the Ice
11:16- Two Commandments
15:50- Venn Diagrams
20:04- Common Pitfalls
25:04- Absolute Truth
29:11- Coming to the Table
33:53- Love Thy Neighbor
40:37- Spiritual Momentum
43:15- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones Pearson 0:00
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to His disciples, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." But what does this look like in practice? Multiple news sources have highlighted the fact that Loudoun County's bimonthly school board meetings were nothing to write home about before the pandemic began. They were usually home to discussions about school resources and updates on construction projects. But contentious debate began with COVID protocol, continued into curriculum regarding race, and by the time protections for transgender students were raised, tensions had reached a boiling point. Melaney Tagg didn't have strong positions on these issues, but she knew she had to do something. She knew she had the ability to be a peacemaker. Melaney Dickson Tagg is a native Virginian. She is an engineer by degree, a teacher by profession, and an aspiring advocate for civility in the home, the church and in the public square. As a member of the Community Levee Association, she directs efforts striving to bring folks together from opposite sides of a variety of issues, facilitating civil dialogue that builds goodwill, replaces rancorous discourse with civility and respect, and ideally finds common ground that allows groups to move forward together. She's a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and currently serves with her husband Darren and their local YSA ward.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Pearson, and I am so thrilled to have Melaney Tagg on the line with me today. Melaney, welcome.
Melaney Tagg 1:53
Thank you, Morgan. That's great to be here.
Morgan Jones Pearson 1:56
Well, what we're going to be talking about today, I think is so important. And if we need back up on the how important it is, just this week, I've been studying President Nelson's spiritual momentum talk. And you know, one of the things that he talks about is eliminating conflict in our personal lives and seeking to be peacemakers and eliminate contention. And so I think what we're talking about today is so relevant. And I don't think people need to go very far to see its relevancy. But I wanted to set the stage there's been there have been multiple articles written Melaney, about some efforts that you made in Loudoun, County, Virginia, to be a peacemaker and to encourage unity. And they've been described, like I said, in great detail and articles. So we will link that in our show notes. But I wonder just to set the stage, if you could give listeners just a little bit of background about kind of the experience that we'll be diving into today.
Melaney Tagg 2:56
Sure. So here in Loudoun County, a very educated and relatively a fluent place, we live at a time where our state mandated that an LGBTQ+ policy, particularly protecting transgender students be implemented in each school by a particular deadline. And our county erupted in response to this mandate. The school board wrote a policy, super friendly to the trans population. And the more conservative population was very unhappy with the policy, it was likely that the policy would would pass close to unanimously and as a result, those that were opposed to it felt very unheard. So there were school board meetings leading up to this vote that were extraordinarily rancorous, bordering on violent. There was police presence and there were arrests, and just the tone was discordant at best. And while I was not particularly disturbed by either side's view on the policy, the totally disturbing thing was, in fact, the response, the tone of the response, the rancor, the unkindness, the incivility, the disrespect. And so some friends and I, Chris Stevenson and Alice Parkin, all of whom are part of a little organization called the Community Levee Association, who strives to improve the quality of life, for all especially for those on the fringe. We were all troubled by this discord and wondered what we could do. And so we participated...we had a lot of stops and starts, we've tried to find a model that would work and ultimately brought folks to the table that represented both the religious right and the LGBTQ+ community and use some different strategies of cooperation and respect and trust building that then led had to these two sides learning from each other, finding out they had way more overlap than they had any idea because it couldn't rise to the top during the the rancorous debate, and then offered some improvements to the school board that, in fact, were accepted and passed that represented the feelings and views of both sides. If I were to highlight some climaxes of the process, one of them would be that at the end of a long meeting with both sides at the table, it ended with an exchange of contact information, some hugging, a lot of hands shaking and back slapping of people that the news would have us believe our enemies. And in fact, it was anything but. Friendships were born, it was the opposite of enemy. The other climax was as we electronically tried to find how to verbalize our compromise and hone what to present to the school board, where we thought we had little agreement, 80% of the suggestions that were made by any of the participants were accepted unanimously, to be passed along to the school board. And so in fact, we are more alike than we are different. And when we talk to each other kindly, and civilly when we listen to understand one another's point of view is beautiful, cohesive, progressive things can happen.
Morgan Jones Pearson 6:28
So, so awesome. And so well said, Thank you so much. Before we get any further into this, you are a stake Relief Society president is that right?
Melaney Tagg 6:40
Morgan Jones Pearson 6:42
Was a stake Relief Society president. You're a teacher? And is there anything else that people should know about you as it relates to, you know, skills or qualities that you feel like you brought into this process, anything that might be helpful for people to understand about you or your personality?
Melaney Tagg 7:03
Well, I am a unicorn when it comes to concrete credentials. So there's not much in the bio that would lead you to think that I would have any gifts for civil discourse, I do have a degree in engineering, which I think reflects an interest in and a gift for analysis. I don't bring much emotion to it, I bring more interest in learning, and an ability to see both sides that were honed more in the math world. But I've learned later in life can be so beautifully applied to the humanitarian side of the world. And I'm almost an addicted volunteer. I love holy places like Catholic Charities and our local mosque where we do a lot of cooperative things. And so those experiences have also led to the wonder of cooperation and learning about each other.
Morgan Jones Pearson 7:58
I love that. And I love how you said I don't bring a lot of emotion into it. Because I think sometimes that's the thing for me, I'm a highly emotional and very passionate person. And so thinking about that, I think that in and of itself is something that gives you a skill set that is valuable in a situation like the one we're going to dig into today. So first of all, when you first brought these two groups together, one of the first things you did was you did some icebreakers to help people on both sides get to know each other. And you said in another interview that I listened to, people are like, "We're talking about really important things here. And you want me to share these little insignificant details of my life." But why was this so important?
Melaney Tagg 8:49
Yeah, so these exercises were kind of cheesy, but we got advice from very qualified people that almost the more basic, the better. And as we asked each other to share, what's your favorite meal? What's a childhood memory? We couldn't help but start feeling the commonality of our humanity. Now, that's a circular way to say, we couldn't help but feel that we all share the same divinity, the same divine parentage. This was a secular exercise. And so this is a delight to talk about in a religious context, and to give that overlay, but we found out that we all go to bed at night and wake up in the morning, we all eat breakfast. We all have positive childhood memories and painful childhood memories. We all have favorite foods and we like to recreate in the same ways and in different ways. And the more we shared these things, there was laughter there was joking, there was some different feedback. We realized we aren't different from each other. In the core human ways, we're the same. We are brothers and sisters that share a common heritage. And so we didn't have to be threatened by each other anymore. The egg shells left the room simply by talking about what's your favorite food?
Morgan Jones Pearson 10:07
So cool. I love that. So as we're talking about like this initial approach into a conversation like this, what would you say that we learned from the Savior's example about how to approach situations where there may be polarizing views or different experiences that people are bringing to the table?
Melaney Tagg 10:29
I love this question. The Savior in his infinite wisdom gave us those two great commandments. He distilled everything down to our love for Him, and our Heavenly Father, and our love for each other. He, even in the New Testament in the Sermon on the Mount, was pretty audacious in saying, to love your enemies, which is ironic and almost humorous, right? To ask someone to love their enemy? By definition, that's impossible. What he was saying was don't have any enemies, just don't have any because your love for the other guy is your charge. It's your moral charge in loving me to love everybody else. Because Jesus loves everybody else. It's a beautiful triangle, I think about his interaction with the beautiful woman that came while he was dining with the Pharisees, and rubbed his feet with ointment and kissed his feet, and wash them with her hair and her tears. Then the Pharisees got after him for having someone such as her at their table. And he taught so beautifully about his love for her, and that we shouldn't have these ites and isms between us. That story then led me to think about a wonderful story that Elder Cook shared fairly recently, I think, October 2020. In general conference, he told the story about General Kane and his wife, Elizabeth, non-LDS supporters of the LDS faith during their exodus to the west. And General Kane and his wife, Elizabeth, came to the west after the saints were somewhat settled to tour and learn how this resettlement had gone. And they along with Brigham Young, or in southern Utah somewhere, and they went to the home of a sister named Matilda, for a meal. And this Elizabeth Kane, she had heard a lot about the members of the Church and she was worried that she would see that women were treated badly or that Native Americans were being treated treated badly. And she arrived at Matilda's house for a meal and as they're sitting down for the meal, without even a knock at the door, five Native Americans walk in, and Sister Matilda spoke to those five gentlemen in their language to address the situation. And Elizabeth Kane is wondering what's going on and she asks Matilda's children, "What is your mother saying to those five men that just barged in?" And the children who also must have known the language because they knew what their mother had said. They said, "she told them that they were welcome at her table and that she had known they were coming, she hadn't made enough food, but that they were welcome to sit and wait, and she would feed them the same thing she was feeding her dignified guests." And I thought about why would Elder Cook tell the story? And for me, it coalesced around the notion that this dear Matilda has so involved herself in the lives of people who are different from her in every way. And she was the intruder, they should have hated her too. But instead, she knew their language. Her children knew their language. And they broke bread together peacefully in this coexistence. And so then I start thinking, wow, this sitting at the table together as a beautiful symbol, am I willing to have at my table someone who's impoverished, someone who's arrogant, someone who's rich or poor, or have a different ethnicity or race, you name it, is my table as open as Matilda's table and as Jesus's table to these neighbors that He has commanded me to love?
Morgan Jones Pearson 14:17
I love that story. In that example, I think that everything that you talked about in terms of your experience, and then the experience that you just shared from from church history, they have within them principles that can be applied to a much broader discourse, obviously, and I think as we go through this conversation, I want to kind of touch on how they can apply in our communities, in our homes with our families, even as far as I said to my husband, I was like, even in like a family group text, you know, sometimes I think things can get kind of heated or somebody says something and so I think all of us are facing these things, whether it be on a family level, a community level or a ward and stake level. So what principles would you say if you had to pick a couple of principles that stand out from this experience that could be applied to the broader discourse surrounding the polarity that faces all of us in some way right now? What would those be?
Melaney Tagg 15:27
Sure. So I think most of us can remember from our elementary school education, a little mechanism called a Venn diagram, where you draw a couple of circles and you put on the outside the things that are different about you, and you put in the middle, what's the same about you? And we actually do these in our family sometimes, that's a family activity is you buddy up with somebody and make a Venn diagram. And it's magical. Every time you find out things about you that are the same that you hadn't realized, and you're interested in things about each other that are different. It's not threatening, it's informative. And so the principles to me that arise from that Venn diagram notion. And I believe we all have a ton of things in the middle of the Venn diagram together, the principles that arise from that are principles of learning about the other person, about listening to the other person, about being honest yourself without being unkind, and about being eager to understand why someone's preferences are what they are, rather than to either feel threatened by the fact that they're different, or even worse, to feel morally judgemental about the fact that they're different. These little Venn diagrams are a mechanism to help us to see that our differences just are. They're not necessarily diabolical, or malevolent. They just are. And that's a wonderful thing that Heavenly Father has created this rich cast of characters that inhabit the planet that are different from each other, and learning about those differences together, hearing them, asking questions to further understand them, not feeling threatened by them, or judgmental of them, then allows us to grow ourselves, to expand, to see things from a point of view that we wouldn't if everyone, heaven forbid, were just like we are.
Morgan Jones Pearson 17:25
Melaney, now I'm curious. So when your family does this Venn diagram exercise, what does that look like in practice? So you have two people sit down, how does that get to take place?
Melaney Tagg 17:38
You just start asking each other questions, you just say, How about how about horseback riding? And, you know, I did it with a little granddaughter, and she's like, I love horseback riding. And I'm like, Oh, I'm a little nervous to do that. And so we write it in her side of the Venn diagram. And then I say, I love chocolate ice cream. Me too! And so we, we put that in the center. An extemporaneous Venn diagram, we have an adult son that loves these very extraordinarily complicated strategy games. And he'll beg me to play and I hate playing them. They're just not my jam. And so we said, let's make a Venn diagram of all the games, so that we can see what falls in the middle, and nothing fell in the middle. Nothing. But as we talked, we were each eating cottage cheese. And so we wrote cottage cheese in the middle to show that we do have some commonality, even in our differences, the thing that has resulted is that we don't pester each other anymore of come on, why won't you play this with me? Oh, I hate that game. We've learned enough about each other of likes and dislikes that we can move on from the negative interactions that might have otherwise resulted.
Morgan Jones Pearson 18:51
And just enjoy some cottage cheese together instead of trying to play a game
Melaney Tagg 18:55
Morgan Jones Pearson 18:56
I think that there are, there's so much to take away from even just what you just said, but I want to keep going into this experience that you had. I think that there are some people who are hearing you talk Melaney, and they're like, "This sounds great. I would love to have a positive experience surrounding some of these conversations that are going on in the world right now." But these people, sometimes no matter how well intentioned, or how hopeful they are, when they you know, wade into the waters of this political or controversial discourse. It doesn't end well. And so I wondered, What have you found to be some of the pitfalls that can trip us up in our best efforts?
Melaney Tagg 19:44
Sure, I think we, as humans, value our opinions. We like to think that we have been thoughtful and deliberate and informed in our opinion and we maybe wear it as a badge of honor a little bit to be firm on them. As if it's noble to have come to the right answer about something, which is especially tricky in the Church where we do believe there are absolutes, to which we cling, and that we love. And yet I fear we extrapolate that too far that certainty and that shortness about everything and I think that that's misplaced. And so, so some of the pitfalls that we've seen, one is a kind of an easy one. And that's pessimism, just assuming the worst about what the other guy thinks, or how it will go. If we simply had an air of generosity and optimism, I think that would go a long way to inform the process. I think we need to be aware of valuing our opinions, over valuing learning. I used to have a favorite gospel doctrine teacher and I loved it every time she said this. "I used to think this and now I think this" and she so beautifully encouraged us and allowed us to be different to change, to grow, to learn. And we need to afford that to ourselves and to other people, so that we aren't so entrenched and intransigent in our opinions. This is one that is hard for me sometimes, because I love a good debate. And that is that we need to stop listening and interacting in order to convince the other person of something, and we need to listen to learn about them specifically, and about the things that they think and the things they value. A friend gave me good advice once, which is we should always consider that we may be wrong. And when you go through life that way, it really opens up a wide array of opportunities for learning things we've never thought of before that allows us to massage our opinions and to let them grow and be organic, and change, which is divine, right? The growth of thought and the the enlarging of ideas is divine. It's godly. I think a key pitfall is when we forget the divinity of the other guy. Whenever we think that we have any kind of moral high ground, we have forgotten that we share that divine moral high ground with everyone, that we all are divine. And then the last one that I would offer to you is that we don't practice this enough. I think often we think, Man, that guy over there. He's from the other side. I'm not going to talk to him, I'm going to stick with these folks that think what I think and we think in our silence and our avoidance, we are contention free. When we examine our hearts, that's not contention free. That's just contention, not out loud. And so we need to practice, we need to say, and I'm optimistic on any issue, guns, abortion, any issue. "You have really interesting thoughts on this, share with me your ideas, share with me your experiences that have led to these ideas." And I have yet to have a time where I didn't hear things I hadn't thought of before. When I, without rancor and with an overarching mood of the divinity of the other person, I learned something every time. And my own opinions and views are, I think divinely honed, because my brother is divine. And he just shared with me what he thinks. So practice, practice, practice.
Morgan Jones Pearson 23:46
Yes, well, you've given me some some homework to work on. So I appreciate those tips so much. As I mentioned earlier, this is not something that that has been or that should come as a surprise to members of the Church that that it would even be a topic for this podcast, it might seem a little bit unusual but if we've been listening in general conference in recent conferences, this is actually something that's come up a lot and I earlier last year, I was asked to give a talk about eliminating contention. And I was amazed by how much specifically President and Sister Nelson have talked about eliminating contention and how to do that. But President Oaks has said "we can disagree without being disagreeable." What have you found to be the most important qualities in approaching conversations with those that might passionately believe things that are contrary to what we believe and I love how you touched on in your last answer about we are people that believe in absolute truth. And so how do you balance being a passionate believer in absolute truth, but also being able to have conversations with those that may see things differently than we do.
Melaney Tagg 25:09
Isn't it wonderful how much the Brethren and our organizational leaders have given us? On this topic? It is everywhere. I'd say maybe for the last five years, these themes have been broadly in general conference, and I'm so thankful they give us language and, and thought on on how to live in these loving ways. I love President oats advice that we can agree without being disagreeable. And he gave us some other language that I'll use to talk about that question. He said, on contested issues, we should seek to moderate and unify. So those are, you know, for me, unify, that sounds like a big word, to find unity, when there's a contested issue. But I find that I think mostly about that instruction from a prophet to moderate. And just like you highlighted, we do believe in some absolutes, but he's telling us look for where you can moderate instead of be firm, instead of be entrenched, which is kind of counterintuitive to the believer in the restored gospel. And so I have to think, what is he asking me to do what I have to moderate? When I'm contesting with my brother, I have to moderate what does that mean? Maybe that means I have to adapt, I have to hone a little more what I thought I believed, maybe it's rough, maybe it needs to be smoothed out. Maybe I even need to change what I think about something in order to moderate maybe I'm really far off. And moderation requires some full on change on my part. If I'm moderating and you're moderating the unify is easy. That's the natural result that comes from this demanding process of figuring out how and what to moderate. I think that's what he's asking us to do. I think he's asking us without being disagreeable, to openly talk to each other, helped me understand what you think. And you're going to ask me questions to help you understand what I think. And then even on enormous issues, when we really dig into what that word moderate means that a prophet of God has invited us to do. It's hard work. And it requires us to be different, to change to be humble. It requires us to ask a lot of questions of the other person, and to do some honest explaining, agreeably with the other person. And ultimately, it requires us to not view them as our enemy, but to love them, learn from them, and then moderate, which is a big, big deal.
Morgan Jones Pearson 28:03
I remember when President Oaks and I believe I said this in my interview with Judge Griffith as well, because he highlighted that phrase, but I remember when it was said, thinking, what does that mean to moderate and unify? And I think thinking about that, and what it looks like in practice is definitely a useful thing for us to consider. Speaking of Judge Thomas Griffith, who is a friend of yours, I understand Melaney, he said, in reference to the work that you did, "Compromise for the sake of unity is hard work, you have to give up some things valuable to you for the sake of another, hoping that they will do the same for you. But this is what the Constitution requires. The constitution will fail if we aren't willing to compromise for the sake of unity." I love American history. And I love you know, I've been to Philadelphia and learned about the Constitutional Convention and what was accomplished there as these brilliant people and minds came together. But I think that's just one example of a different perspectives finding compromise for the good of a larger group. What else gave you hope that this type of agreement was possible?
Melaney Tagg 29:24
Sure. So from us, from a secular standpoint, the primary model that we used that was lauded by a lot of people not loved by everyone, but lauded by a lot of people was Utah's fairness for All Effort to try to balance in the legislature, religious freedom, rights with the housing and employment and other rights of the LGBTQ+ community. So we, knowing that that had enjoyed a measure of success, we tried to model our efforts after that model. We got good advice from a lot of those participants to do that thing and the fact that they had had some success has made us very, very optimistic. It was so interesting that it was a secular effort that in our hearts was fueled by spiritual principles. And it's a wonderful exercise to try to live by spiritual principles while respecting those who aren't living in that same way. And so those principles gave us optimism, those spiritual principles of loving neighbor, of loving enemies, and of remembering the divinity of each one, more private principles that guided our more public secular effort. A thing that happened during the process, I found completely exploded my optimism, and it was the thing I wasn't expecting and think about all the time now, in our effort, where we had the religious right on one side of the table and the LGBTQ+ advocacy folks on the other side of the table, we were working on a policy that was a given that was going to pass the local school board, and that the LGBTQ+ population would be glad about, they had zero need for the other side. It was a given that they were already going to win, if you will. And yet they came to the table. What is that? What is that other than beautiful forbearance of seeing that we all need each other, to get the best results possible for everyone. And so a thing that fueled my optimism was the notion that even the winners, if you will, and I do understand that the LGBTQ+ community, as a whole doesn't typically feel like social winners when it comes to legislation and other kinds of civil rights efforts. But in this case, they were going to win and they still came to the table. And that says to me, this isn't about who has the upper hand, who's got their back against the wall, who's got more popularity or less popularity, who's going to win or lose an election or a piece of legislation, they demonstrated to me that when we all come to the table, regardless of our position, and our posturing, then wonderful things can happen. So my optimism was enormously fueled by the notion that those that were already ahead, slow down, came to the table, listen to the other side, to improve the results for all, even though they were already getting what they wanted.
Morgan Jones Pearson 32:32
I think that's beautiful. I totally agree. I think that is hopeful, and and recognizing that there are people like that in the world is a hopeful thought. You mentioned I love what you said about approaching a secular issue from a spiritual standpoint, and that that you all were influenced by spiritual principles. How would you say, Melaney, that the gospel and your testimony of the gospel shaped how you approached personally these conversations?
Melaney Tagg 33:09
Thank you, I love this question. I, like so many other members of the Church, love the account in 3 Nephi when Jesus institutes the sacrament to his disciples. And then He. in turn, asked them to give it to all the others that are in attendance there. And there, Jesus uses more than once the words I'll give this to you and then you go and give it to them. And so come commune with me, says Jesus' first great commandment. And then go commune with your neighbor. Second Great Commandment. And it's this beautiful balance between our own personal devotions to the Lord as we keep the first great commandment. And then our responsibility to share that with our neighbor in our efforts to keep the Second Great Commandment. And so that's the ultimate spiritual principle is Jesus's beautiful charge to us to do both things. On a personal note, I noticed over much of my adult life, and I'm a slow learner, and this will illustrate it, that as I, in my own sacramental experience, tried to think exclusively of Jesus the whole time, I often found what I thought then was that I let my mind wander. I often found that I was thinking, Oh, Sister Jones is sitting over there. I haven't called her for a long time, I really ought to call her or boys. I haven't seen Sister Smith for a long time. I think I'll stop by with something for Sister Smith. And I used to think, no, I gotta get back to thinking about Jesus. And now I know that in fact, as I thought about Jesus, He was rightly and very connectedly redirecting my thoughts of how I could love others that He also loved, like He loved me. And now sacramental mind wandering, has become holy neighbor loving, in that ordinance with the Savior. And so I think those are the spiritual principles that undergirded these otherwise secular seeming efforts. These are all our neighbors, and their experiences to them are real, and their opinions are real, and their desires and their wants are real. And it's our charge to learn about them and to love them, protect them, and collaborate with them.
Morgan Jones Pearson 35:34
Wow, that example and the sacrament that you're going to have me thinking for a bit about that, Melaney? Like I said earlier, this is something that obviously took place at a community level. But I wondered, What do you think this looks like, in our families, and especially as it relates to the church in our words and stakes?
Melaney Tagg 35:58
Boy, do I have optimism that these true principles work on all these levels? I, I am unashamedly optimistic that these Venn diagram type principles can work on all levels. I share your caution and concern that you mentioned earlier that sometimes these family group texts, or other social media applications of trying to interact with each other, really fall short—tone, message, meaning, and so especially in families, and marriages, and wards and stakes, Let's be together, let's talk to each other, let's learn from each other. Let's have each other in our homes, let's call on the phone instead of send a text if if we need to really interact with each other. I think that conversations that need to be had in loving and learning ways need to be as human as they possibly can. I don't think we could have done what we did, had it been an email or a texting interaction between two opposing factions. The humanness of being together in the same room with the set of ground rules that we would be kind, respectful, and forbearing made all the difference. And so we need to grow humanity, I am so optimistic that I kind of reject the notion of let's not talk politics and religion at Thanksgiving dinner. I say let's learn how to talk politics and religion at Thanksgiving dinner in love. And let's learn from each other and about each other by asking questions. As soon as we lose the notion that we're trying to persuade our word member or family member to be different. And we embrace the notion that we just want to learn about them, then the contention can slip away. I have a dear friend who taught me. He's taught me many things over the years. And just two weeks ago, he taught me a new thing that I love. We were talking about the home teaching model becoming the ministering model, and he has a brother that he was assigned to under both models. And when it switched to ministering, my friend went to see this assigned brother. And he said, I don't think I know you well enough to minister to you. I knew you well enough to home teach you. But I don't know you well enough to truly minister to you. And so he used all kinds of fun mechanisms to get to know him better, he made a questionnaire, the brother that he ministered to was an author and so he read all his books. And he made a conscious effort to truly know him. And in that knowing, then they found that they could love each other and be good friends. And so so I fear that we don't know each other well enough to cooperate, we don't know each other well enough to moderate and unify. And that maybe the key is really truly in human, many times intimate ways, know each other, learn about each other. I have yet to meet someone where the more I learned about them, the less I liked them. It's almost always the more I learn about them, the more I have love for them in my heart.
Morgan Jones Pearson 39:07
Well, and I think that is the beauty of a ward, family, or a stake is that it gives us an opportunity to interact on a very intimate level a lot of times about very personal things with people that otherwise we might never, we'd have to make a very intentional effort to share that space with. And I think it was Thomas Griffith that talks about the laboratory of Christian learning. And that is what the Church gives us. And so if we can find ways to use that in a positive way, in our lives, I think that that is incredibly advantageous. Like I said at the very beginning of this interview, our Prophet President Nelson recently said that one way to gain spiritual momentum is by ending conflict in our personal lives. How would you say Melaney, that all that we've talked about today helps us gain spiritual momentum.
Melaney Tagg 40:06
Isn't that a beautiful charge to eliminate conflict from our lives? I believe he expounded on that and he said that we need to love our enemies, we need to turn the other cheek, we need to forgive all men. I have had many experiences I'm sure that you and many others have, where I did not have natural love and affection for folks that I had to interact with. Whether it's on a family level, a ward Level, a civic level, a community level. And in each of those stories, there was a large measure of divine grace that allowed my heart to change to go from not having that natural affection, to having divine love for another. If President Nelson has asked us to forgive all men, and he has, and we can't do that by ourselves, and we can't, then relying on the Lord to live that charge will impel us forward, we will be partnering with Him to become better lovers of neighbors. And in that partnership, He enlarges us, He changes us, He hones us, He makes us into these wonderful creatures with the ability to love everyone. And so I can think of no finer way to move closer to the Lord than to forgive because in that forgiving, we are partnered in a beautiful way with the Lord and impelled towards Him. It's almost a thing that I crave after I experienced it once I'm like, "Oh great, who can I forgive? Now this feels awesome." Over and over and over. And so it comes back to the two great commandments. The spiritual momentum comes as we love our neighbor, which then demonstrates our love of Lord, which then impels us to love our neighbor. And, and around and around and around. Not so much in a vicious cycle, but more an upward spiral towards the Lord, as we continually and regularly and divinely love our enemy.
Morgan Jones Pearson 42:08
So well said. Thank you so much, Melaney, this has been so helpful. And I feel like there are so many things that I need to apply in my own life and things that I'd like to try and experiment with. But my last question for you is what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Melaney Tagg 42:29
Well, thanks, Morgan. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I feel today like I could distill it down to those two great commandments. When I think of the first great commandment, I have a conviction that Jesus is, in fact, real, that the heavens are open, He has come and not only visited us in mortality, but visited us a lot of other times, in other ways. We are His work, we are His glory, He is my personal savior, my Redeemer, my King. And I can't imagine following anything or anyone other than Him. As a result, I can't think of any place where I have more opportunity to do that, to worship Him, and to love my neighbor, than in the construct of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And whether it's in my family, or in my ward, or stake, or in the temple, or in the community, or in my neighborhood, or in the civic circles, the Church and forums the Church provides. The Church offers all that I need to as fully as I possibly can, as a mortal, the opportunity to love my neighbor, these divine brothers and sisters who all share Jesus as the Redeemer, and who all share the same heavenly parents that I do. I think often about some of the beautiful phrases that we use over and over. Most of them are inward focused, I am a child of God. I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me. I am a daughter of heavenly parents. And when I stop and think you are a child of God, I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers you. You are a daughter of Heavenly Parents, then the world is a different place for me. It becomes divine, it becomes holy. And my desires to be unified with every brother and sister are immeasurable. And I have great optimism through our Savior, Jesus Christ and what He affords us through His church, that all that we need to achieve in that effort are available to us.
Morgan Jones Pearson 44:46
Melaney, thank you so much. This is I've learned so much and I appreciate your time more than you know.
Melaney Tagg 44:52
Thank you, Morgan. It's been a delight.
Morgan Jones Pearson 44:57
We are so grateful to Melaney Tagg for joining So on today's episode A big thanks to Derek Campbell of Mix At Six studios for his help with this episode and thank you so much for listening we'll look forward to being with you again next week
Transcribed by https://otter.ai