Friday, July 31, 2015

The Friday Four, Part 129


A few years ago, I read a book by Kathryn Schulz called Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margins of Error that (along with Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind) fundamentally changed the way I approach learning, disagreements with others, and making mistakes, as well as my own view of the world. (Read my goodreads review here.) Seriously paradigm-shifting book.  Go read it. Really.

And then I stumbled on her TED talk from 2011. (Watch/read it here. Really. Right now.) And now I need to go re-read her book.

She talks about how being wrong feels just like being right. How our fear of being wrong limits our ability to learn and stretch and grow. How our certainty in our own rightness can lead to disastrous results. How recognizing our own fallibility can lead to greater understanding and improvement. How some of the most wondrous, open, vulnerable, and powerful words in the English language are, "Wow! I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong."

And I begin to wonder if this isn't why humility is lauded as such a precious and valuable virtue, and pride such a dangerous sin, because the one opens us up to the chance that we don't have all the answers, the possibility of being wrong which allows us to learn and to better understand each other, while the other rejects that possibility and the growth and connection to others that could accompany it.


Recently, I have been following the heart-breaking news stories - and lots of opinion pieces from across the political and social spectrum - about Sandra Bland and others who have either died in police custody or been killed by police. (For example, for an interesting pairing of pieces that came to different conclusions on the legality of Sandra Bland's arrest, read this and this.)

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an article about the effect of police body cams and dash cams - and bystander video - on public perception of use of force, as well as on indictments and prosecutions of police officers. Please note that when you click over to the article, the accompanying video starts playing automatically. It's a disturbing and upsetting video, so consider this a trigger warning. It shows clips of several high profile shootings or arrests including Samuel Dubose; Sandra Bland; teenagers in McKinney, Texas; Freddie Gray; Walter Scott; Antonio Zambrano-Montes; Tamir Rice; and Michael Brown.

And in this Washington Post piece, a soldier who served in Iraq provides perspective from his experience on both sides of a raid. He compares current police policy and procedure to the ineffective and ultimately counter-productive policies he used as a solider in Iraq, as well as the progress that was made when, as he says, "We refined our warrior mentality — the one that directed us to protect ourselves above all else — with a community-building component." His conclusion:
The culture that encourages police officers to engage their weapons before gathering information promotes the mind-set that nothing, including citizen safety, is more important than officers’ personal security. That approach has caused public trust in law enforcement to deteriorate...Domestic police forces would benefit from a similar change in strategy. Instead of relying on aggression, they should rely more on relationships. Rather than responding to a squatter call with guns raised, they should knock on the door and extend a hand. But unfortunately, my encounter with officers is just one in a stream of recent examples of police placing their own safety ahead of those they’re sworn to serve and protect.

The internet and social media have been flooded lately with things to be upset and even outraged about. Sometimes they are trumped up issues; sometimes they represent real injustices. In most of these topics I'm a bystander, but just reading the outrage, the insults, the epithets, the refusal to listen or acknowledge another point, is draining.

In the article How Long Can the Internet Run on Hate, mob mentality and how it relates to social media is discussed. Anyone can make incendiary comments and literally destroy people's lives with little more than rumor or innuendo. Of course, there are people who deserve to be called out, but there are also people who don't.
Public shaming as a deterrent does not work. It does not make positive change. It does not magically create more “freedom” for others. 
Public shaming is, however, an effective means of ruining the lives of singled-out individuals.
But the web runs on it anyway.
This is not, as Ronson points out, a political construct. The web runs on a currency of shame regardless of your political party.
“It happens on the left. Then on the libertarian right—those who are, in theory, diametrically opposed to social justice—people also get outraged, but they don’t call it that. It’s on both sides of the fence,” says Ronson. “The hardest, coldest, most extreme people are winning.”
Ronson thinks it detracts from real social justice—issues of systemic, abject corruption and abuses of power—that is happening because of policy and power structures, not bystanders.
“This is not social justice. This is a cathartic alternative to social justice,” he says. “It’s become this amorphous way to destroy anybody that we don’t like.”
As Glennon Melton said once, "If you're not kind on the internet, you're not kind."

And then there's this pointed article: "Who Would Jesus Troll?"
God's commandments to love don't change just because we're in front of a computer screen or a smartphone.
When we proclaim we are hurting people on social media in the name of the gospel, we disrespect ourselves, we disrespect our faith, and we disrespect our God.
Amen. Please see point number one above.


And now, some cute, fuzzy, adorable kittens, because sometimes that's just what you need.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

In my last review of a Mary Roach book, I wrote that "she makes learning fun." Which she does. But she also makes it exciting and almost effortless.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void addresses every possible question you've ever had about the effects of outer space on human beings and other related topics. What training do astronauts undergo? How do astronauts shower and go to the bathroom? Why are astronauts classified as radiation workers? How many G's can the human body withstand? What are the long term - and short term - effects of weightlessness on human physiology, psychology and behavior? Why does equipment tend to overheat in zero G? Why do people get motion sick in space? What's the best way to survive in a falling elevator? (Lying on your back, in case you were wondering.)

And every question leads to a dozen more.

Roach is incredibly thorough, peppering her interviewees with detailed questions on every aspect of life in space. Never settling for the vague answer, always digging just a little more deeply, providing a little more perspective on the realities of science and engineering. And always with tongue firmly in cheek. For example:

Talking about varying gravity forces in different places on earth: "If you carry a bathroom scale to the top of Mt. Everest, you may see that you actually weight a tiny bit less, not counting the marbles you have obviously lost."

On terminology: "Compressed food not only took up less stowage - which is how children and aircraft designers say 'storage' - space, it was less likely to crumble."

On the distasteful phenomenon of in-space-flight "fecal popcorning" where fecal matter gets "decapitated" during "collection" and can escape to float around the cabin: "Howdy, doody."

In describing her subject for the book, Roach says, "Space doesn't just encompass the sublime and the ridiculous. It erases the line between." So does her delightful and educational writing.

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
by Mary Roach
ISBN: 9780393068474
Buy it from Amazon here: (hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook)
Find it at a local independent bookseller.
Look it up on Goodreads.
Check it out at your local library (find the nearest one here).

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Friday Four, Part 128


I love this article about Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the deep friendship between the two. There aren't two people on the Court today who are more ideologically and diametrically opposed of the issues before the Court than Scalia and "the notorious RBG," but the care and respect they demonstrate for each other, the sincere and long-standing friendship between them, inspires me to seek out and develop more real, meaningful relationships with those with whom I may disagree on some issues.

And I so want to see the opera based on them!

(And I want one of these t-shirts!)


Serena Williams is an amazing athlete. In addition, she has handled with grace many prejudicial and demeaning comments and situations and demonstrated incredible skill and perseverance. I'm adding her to the list of my sheroes.


People are not always what they seem. And we are so quick to make judgments based on external data. I have to admit to being a wee bit skeptical of potentially ulterior motives for warm fuzzy commercials that promote great messages, and also products (looking at you, Dove, and every Thai telecommunications company ever!). But this Coca Cola commercial, created specifically for Ramadan, hit me right in the feels.

The first step is awareness. Really think about the judgments and assumptions you make, both consciously and unconsciously, and then deliberately work against them.


I love learning more about women in the Bible. And I was pleased to see LDS Living publish brief profiles of "5 Righteous Women Called Prophetess in the Bible" including Miriam, Deborah (one of my favorites!), Huldah (another one of my favorites!), Isaiah's wife, and Anna (with nods to Noadiah and Jezebel as false prophetesses). Fascinating women, all.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Friday Four, Part 127


I am so excited to read Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman! Currently, I'm #148 on the waiting list at my local library, so it might be a while...

In the meantime, here's an interactive version of the first chapter, narrated by Reese Witherspoon. And I've read several reviews lamenting Atticus's racism and fall from grace.

It's hard to realize a hero isn't quite a perfect as we thought he or she was, but I'm intrigued by the complexity and reality the reviews are lauding. I'll let you know what I think after 147 other people have gotten around to reading it...


There have always been dark corners of the internet where hate rules supreme, cyber-bullying is common, and mocking and denigrating others is the standard. I (almost) never read the comments on articles because they so frequently devolve into epithets, talking points, and drivel.

But this past week a photo of me was ripped from a website which I had given permission to use it and posted on a domestic hate group's site. Fortunately, there was no identifying information on the photo, but readers - true, blue Americans - called me "ugly," a "traitor," and worse. (Yes, I did read the comments that time. Ugh.) Several of my friends and acquaintances were also named in the piece.

The picture has since been taken down because we exerted copyright, but I've been told it's made its way to another similar site now. This is nothing compared to what I know others face on the internet every day, but it shook me deeply. I like to believe, with Anne Frank, that people really are good at heart. It's been a little harder to believe that for the past week.


For another one in the category of "it's harder to believe people are really good at heart" this week, the New York Times reports that outside psychologists shielded and defended the US torture program.
The [American Psychological Association]’s ethics office “prioritized the protection of psychologists — even those who might have engaged in unethical behavior — above the protection of the public,” the report said...
...the report said that senior officials of the association had “colluded” with senior Defense Department officials to make certain that the association’s ethics rules did not hinder the ability of psychologists to remain involved with the interrogation program.
“The evidence supports the conclusion that A.P.A. officials colluded with D.O.D. officials to, at the least, adopt and maintain A.P.A. ethics policies that were not more restrictive than the guidelines that key D.O.D. officials wanted,” the report says, adding, “A.P.A. chose its ethics policy based on its goals of helping D.O.D., managing its P.R., and maximizing the growth of the profession.”
I was frankly devastated to learn that one of the architects of the program was called as a bishop in a local LDS congregation a few years ago, though he was released a week later after the media firestorm, reportedly at his own request.


And then there's Sandra Bland. Pulled over in Texas for a minor traffic violation, charged with assaulting an officer, a 90 second video shows her on the ground with two police officers restraining her while she asks why they are treating her so roughly. Three days later she was dead, found hanging in her cell, supposedly a victim of suicide.

vocal anti-racism activist who had just posted bail.

Two days before starting a job at her alma mater.

In a Texas county with a notoriously bad record on race.

Tanisha Anderson. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Yvette Smith. So many others. And now Sandra Bland.

When is enough enough?

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Friday Four, Part 126


I was glad to hear that South Carolina's state Senate and House both voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds and place it in a nearby museum. By the time you read this, the flag should be down.

Some people decry this is removing or erasing their heritage. I say, go research your history. Some people complain that "no one was offended until liberals told you to be offended." I say, you haven't been paying attention. Some minimize it as a meaningless symbolic move. But symbols are important, and you have to start somewhere. As long as it doesn't end here, too.

And I love this commentary on Bree Newsome climbing the pole and taking the flag down herself (language warning on the article):
So I’mma say that the pole here – flagpole though it were – still marks a liminal space of possibility for what Black resistance beyond respectability looks like. Bree Newsome’s Black girl body climbed a pole, quoting scripture, to take down a flag that is emblematic of so much violence enacted on the Black body by the U.S. nation-state. Her act exploded every simple discourse we are currently having about what faith demands, about what decorum dictates that we should accept, about what are acceptable forms of resistance for (cis) Black women’s bodies.

It's astonishing to me the number of people who are content to ignore our racist past and present, including slavery. "It was so long ago! Why can't we just move on?"

Because history is important, and there are real and lasting effects from the past. We need to understand where we've been in order to chart a new course.

Read Frederick Douglas's moving "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?"

Here are some incredible recordings of interviews with former slaves telling their stories.

I recently found this article at the Smithsonian showing rare pictures of African Americans on the Plains in the early 20th century.

And as a great example of why it's important to know our history, here a woman who worked as a tour guide at a plantation explains some of her experiences answering (ignorant, often well-intentioned, but startlingly oblivious) questions about slavery to the guests.


I'm a big fan of the Bechdel test for movies. Of course it doesn't mean that it's necessarily a good movie, or even a feminist one, if it passes the (very) low bar of have two named women characters who speak to each other about something other than a man, but it's a start, at least.

On a related note, I discovered Every Single Word on tumblr. Dylan Marron has taken some popular movies and spiced together every word that a person of color says on screen. Not even to another person of color - just a single person of color speaking! And if you ever doubted how white Hollywood is, this will be a rude awakening.

Into the Woods: 7 seconds
Her: 43 seconds
Noah: 0 seconds
American Hustle: 41 seconds
(500) Days of Summer: 17 seconds

Of course, there are movies which have more diverse casts, but this is still a very visible issue and one that could be addressed by individuals in the industry if there was the desire, and if "white" stopped being seen as the default.


I found another great resource on Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian: Do You Take Your Truth Black, or With Cream & Sugar? 14 Articles For White Folks Willing To Do Their Own Work

And this article is pointed, too:
We continuously examine racism by its effects on black people, instead of its roots in whiteness. As convenient as this is for white people, especially those who pride themselves on being “color-blind,” it continuously lays the burden of resolving racial issues at the foot of the very people it devastates. The result is a conversation where both black and white never create a solution to the root cause of systemic racism: Whiteness.
Yeas, it can be uncomfortable to recognize and examine your own privilege which you've been able to blithely ignore, but
White people being uncomfortable is [a part] of the healing process, and it is the pathway to developing authentic alliances...

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Friday Four, Part 125


Photo credit
The shooting at Emanual AME in Charleston, South Carolina deeply affected me. Attending services at Bethel AME here in Spokane was healing, but I am horrified at the continued violence and racism of the last couple of weeks. And as I often do when processing hard topics, I read. Here are a few of the articles that have helped me think and understand better:

Dylann Roof's True Legacy Will Be That He Brought Black and White Together by K.J. Kearney
Dispatch from Charleston: The Cost of White Comfort by Chenjerai Kumanyika
We Need to Talk about White Culture by Joshua DuBois
Our God Will Never Us Forsake by Mica McGriggs
Through the Valley: Theodicy and Black Suffering in America by Janan Graham
Repenting of 'Colorblindness' by Rachel Held Evans
We Need to Deal with Our Discomfort and Talk to Our Kids about Racism by Meghan Leahy


I was moved by President Obama's eulogy remarks at Rev. Clementa Pinckney's memorial service. A few excerpts:

"Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small. He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently. He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen. He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes. No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us -- the best of the 46 of us.”...
"According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God -- (applause) -- as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.
"As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. (Applause.) He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. (Applause.) We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other -- but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace. But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift...
"By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American -- by doing that, we express God’s grace.
And President Obama's rendition of Amazing Grace, joined by thousands of others, was powerful and heartfelt.


If you feel so inclined, you can donate to the Rebuild the Churches Fund being managed by Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in St. Louis. All of the money raised will be disbursed to the four black churches (and hopefully no more) whose recent fires have been determined to be arson. I was glad to see two local Spokane congregations on the list of churches who have agreed to hold a special offering in July to raise money for the fund: Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ.


A folk artist named Panhandle Slim developed stunning portraits of each of the Emanuel Nine. You can see them on his facebook page or in this article. He's also done portraits of the Dalai Lama, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bree Newsome. Bright colors, simple lines, using the person's own words to describe her or him. Love it!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

We Need Our Differences

This is the full text of the talk (sermon) I planned to give in my ward's (congregation's) Sacrament Meeting (the main worship service for Latter-day Saints) on Sunday, June 28, 2015. The Young Women (girls aged 12-18, I'm the president of the ward's organization) had just returned from a five-day-long camp and were each given the opportunity to speak to the ward about their experiences and testimony. They did a great job and I'm so proud of them! Time ran short and I had to cut my remarks about in half. However, since I've had several requests for the references I used, I thought I'd just post the whole thing here for what it's worth. Hyperlinks will take you to the original sources of the quotes on, except for one quote by Chieko Okazaki that's in a book that I own.

TL;DR - We're all different in many ways, and God made us that way on purpose. We need to rejoice in our diversity, seek it out, learn from it, and certainly never reject, ostracize, denigrate or ignore others because of it. We also need to work toward unity by reaching out to each other, truly feeling love for each other, and then acting on that love in meaningful ways.


We have an amazing group of young women. Each is “a beloved spirit…daughter of Heavenly Parents.” As I’ve spend time with these girls over the past couple of days at camp and in various settings over the past couple of years I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the diversity of their personalities, talents, strengths, weaknesses, and opinions. Girls’ camp can be such a great bonding experience. By putting the young women and leaders together in a different setting from a standard church meeting or activity, we see a new side of each other – who has a limitless supply of hilarious jokes, who is the first every time to volunteer to do dishes or fetch water, who is ridiculously determined to cram that uncooperative tent back into the tent bag. Each of you young women contributes something precious and unique to our group. These differences make our lives richer and more interesting, they broaden our perspective and expand our hearts. Sr. Okazaki, a member of the general RS presidency years ago, said:

“…look around the room you are in. Do you see women of different ages, races, or different backgrounds in the Church? Of different educational, marital, and professional experiences? Women with children? Women without children? Women of vigorous health and those who are limited by chronic illness or handicaps? Rejoice in the diversity of our sisterhood! It is the diversity of colors in a spectrum that makes a rainbow. It is the diversity in our circumstances that gives us compassionate hearts. It is the diversity of our spiritual gifts that benefits the Church.” (Chieko N. Okazaki, “Rejoice in Every Good Thing,” October 1991 GC)

Particularly I think in our teenage years, but for those of us who are grown as well, it can feel like there’s safety in numbers. It’s more comfortable for most of us to not stand out from the crowd, to blend in, to conform. We can slip into the false mindset that if we’re like someone else, we’re safe, we’re ok. I love this analogy from Elder Wirthlin that reminds us that the diversity of God’s children is intentional, not accidental, and we need to be ourselves rather than try to be someone else:

“The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has [her] own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.
“This variety of creation itself is a testament of how the Lord values all His children…” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Concern for the One," April 2008 GC)

It also seems like the teenage years are the prime time for people to feel picked on for being different. One day I came home from middle school upset about someone teasing me for being different, my mom put a label on it, “Middle-school-itis.” She said something to the effect of “Mostly, when people give you a hard time for being different, they’re just scared. They feel threatened. You see, if what you believe or do is different from what they believe or do and you’re happy and confident, then sometimes people get worried that that means that they’re wrong or that what they’re doing is not ok, or not as good. They’re insecure and afraid, and they’re trying to make you feel as insecure and afraid as they are.” President Uchtdorf alluded to this mindset when he said:

“…while the Atonement is meant to help us all become more like Christ, it is not meant to make us all the same. Sometimes we confuse differences in personality with sin. We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God. This line of thinking leads some to believe that the Church wants to create every member from a single mold—that each one should look, feel, think, and behave like every other. This would contradict the genius of God, who created every man different from his brother, every [daughter] different from [her mother]. Even identical twins are not identical in their personalities and spiritual identities.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Four Titles,” April 2013 GC)

And another analogy from Sr. Okazaki:

“[P]lease don't think that you must make footprints exactly the same way that everyone else does...I say this because some of you may feel as if you're permanently out of step. Some of you may be single in what seems like a married church. Some of you may be childless in a family-centered church. Some of you may be struggling in a ward where everyone else looks as if their toughest decision is which tie to wear to sacrament meeting. I'm here to tell you you can do it your own way...There are many ways of being righteous. There are many ways of being Mormon..." (Chieko Okazaki, "Following in Faith," Being Enough)

Unfortunately, sometimes we’re not comfortable enough even at church to show our differences – we’re human, scared of how others will react, scared of being hurt or rejected. Church should be a safe place for us to be ourselves, to be vulnerable and genuine. As President Uchtdorf recently said: "We come to church not to hide our problems but to heal them.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “On Being Genuine,” April 2015 General Conference)

We all need to contribute to making church a place where it’s safe to be different, where everyone feels welcomed and celebrated and wanted, not just those who fit a certain mold. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone and we need to act like it. Elder Holland had some strong words on this topic:

"Some members exclude from their circle of fellowship those who are different. When our actions or words discourage someone from taking full advantage of Church membership, we fail them--and the Lord. The Church is made stronger as we include every member and strengthen one another in service and love." (Jeffrey R. Holland, "Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction," Liahona, October 2007)

And I love Sr. Okazaki’s counsel here:

“Let us value everyone’s contributions. Let us not exclude a sister, whatever her life choices and whatever her circumstances. Let us express trust that she used both study and prayer in making her decisions, and provide a supportive environment in which she can carry out those decisions, evaluate them for their success, and modify them if necessary. If change is necessary or desirable, it will be easier in a nurturing, supportive atmosphere…let us never judge another. We do not know her circumstances. We do not know what soul-searching went into her decisions…Let us be accepting and supportive as sisters. Let us trust the Lord, trust ourselves, and trust each other that we are trying to do the best we can.” (Chieko N. Okazaki, “Rowing Your Boat,” October 1994 GC)

In several places in the New Testament Paul uses a great analogy to describe the members of Christ’s church.  He says:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or fee; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

Then he sets up a couple of different scenarios, first:
“If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?” (v 15-16).

Here we have a member comparing themselves to another member and concluding they themselves don’t belong because they are different. And here’s Paul’s response:
“If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.” (v. 17-18)

The body couldn’t function if every member were the same, and God made it that way deliberately. And then here’s the second scenario, almost the opposite of the first:
“And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” (v. 21)

Here a member is rejecting another member because of their differences, demonstrating pride, claiming they don’t need the other members. Paul’s response is adamant:
“Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundance comeliness.” (v. 22-23)

Every part, every member is necessary for the body to function. The hand might be more glamorous than the elbow, but couldn’t do its job without it.
“That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member by honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (v. 25-26)

All members are needed, and should care for, suffer and rejoice together. We lose something precious and irreplaceable when someone - anyone - leaves.

Don’t fall into either trap. Don’t look around at all the other people and decide that you’re just too different, so you don’t belong in this Church. And for heaven’s sake, don’t look at someone else and decide they are too different, you don’t need them in this Church.

Not only do the foot and hand and eye all need each other, they need their opposite as well. We have two eyes to provide depth perception, perspective. Hearing out of two ears allows us to pinpoint directions sounds are coming from. Having two hands and arms on opposite sides of our body expands our reach. Opening our minds and hearts to different views and opinions, varied life experiences of other members, all grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ, provides us with a more complete understanding of each other and how we can work together for the benefit of all and the glory of God.

Quoting Paul's analogy, Pres. Packer said this last fall:

“We seek to strengthen the testimonies of the young and old, the married and single. We need to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to men, women, and children, those of every race and nationality, the rich and the poor. We need the recent convert and those among our numbers descended from the pioneers. We need to seek out those who have strayed and assist them to return to the fold. We need everyone’s wisdom and insight and spiritual strength. Each member of this Church as an individual is a critical element of the body of the Church.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Reason for Our Hope,” October 2014 GC)

We need our differences – “different” doesn’t mean “bad”. It might mean new or uncomfortable or misunderstood or I need to learn more, but different is good, it is vital, it is intentional.

“Your background or upbringing might seem different from what you perceive in many Latter-day Saints, but that could be a blessing. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church…As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.
The Church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity and encourage each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Four Titles,” April 2013 General Conference)

So we’ve heard from church leaders that our diversity and differences in talents, experiences, opinions, and applications of the gospel to our lives are a strength, are needed in this church. But we are also commanded several times in the scriptures to “be one,” and Christ must be serious about it because He warns “if ye are not one, ye are not mine”. How do we do that? How do we honor the differences while becoming one?

I noticed something about every scripture I read about unity while preparing for this talk. In every single case, unity was linked with love, and often specifically with charity, the pure love of Christ. First, we need to truly desire unity and then pray for the charity it requires “with all the energy of heart”. Then we reach out to each other in love, to get to know others who are different from us, to strike up conversations, to find ways to serve meaningfully, to open our homes and invite people over, to ask questions, to listen to their stories and learn from their experiences. This is easier for some than for others, but we can all do something to reach out to someone.

If we find ourselves drifting into a judging mindset, “hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm”, we need to take President Uchtdorf’s advice and simply “stop it!” We should assume the best of each other.

“The most important lesson [is] that we are truly all one in Christ Jesus. We are one in our love of the Savior. We are one in our testimonies of the gospel. We are one in faith, hope, and charity. We are one in our conviction that the Book of Mormon is the inspired word of God…We are one in loving each other.
“Are we perfect in any of these things? No. We all have much to learn. Are we exactly the same in any of these things? No. We are all at different points on our journey back to our Father in Heaven…God has given us many gifts, much diversity, and many differences, but the essential thing is what we know about each other—that we are all his children. Our challenge as members of the Church is for all of us to learn from each other, that we may all love each other and grow together.” (Chieko Okazaki, “Baskets and Bottles,” April 1996 GC)

It’s my hope that our Young Women organization and our ward can more fully appreciate, enjoy, and celebrate the God-given differences we have, that we can all help make church a safe place to be different, and come together more completely in love and unity, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.