When I saw this week’s theme, I wasn’t sure what to write. But I’ve had a couple of things bubble to the top of my brain.
First of all, I think it’s likely that, as time goes on, in a way we may be perceived as more “weird” — more different– than ever before. Then-Elder Eyring once said, “it will become harder, not easier, to keep [our] covenants.” That suggests to me that we will continue to look more and more different from “the world.” Elder Eyring talked of the increasing forces of wickedness, and the need for “a place of safety in the storms ahead.” Again, on one hand, there is that sense of division, of separation of some sort.
I imagine one arena in which we will continue to see this separation will be in terms of morality and family. We may be among the few who don’t succumb to the rhetoric of rights and tolerance and equality at the expense of eternal values and doctrines.
As others have discussed, temples may also be something that defines us as different. Since only worthy members may enter, there may always be that sense of boundaries. (Some view us with suspicion because of this, thinking of these as ‘secret’ rituals rather than understanding that we don’t talk much of them because they are sacred.) We see more and more temples, so there will be more and more awareness of (and curiosity about) them all over the world.
But I have been thinking about the fact that the sacredness of the temples doesn’t exist primarily to keep people out. It exists to help us get the profane out of us. Our desire is for all people to be able to be worthy to go inside the temples and to enjoy the fulness of gospel blessings! Part of the purpose of the Church is to provide the opportunity for all of God’s children, living and dead, to receive these ordinances. We are also anxious to allow people to enter temples before they are dedicated so they can get a sense for the buildings themselves, and some of what goes on inside. The hope is, I imagine, that we will seem less weird and that the boundaries will seem less stark. And that people can understand that in principle, the doors are open to anyone who chooses a life consistent with the standards of the temple.
And so, I’ve been thinking of other boundaries, other defining elements of our faith, and how we approach them with those of ‘the world.’ Going back to our stand on the family and on morality, while we are known for these standards, our leaders encourage others to join with us in defending them. For example, The Family: A Proclamation to the World states:
We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
We also make efforts to join with those who share our beliefs in marriage, family, and morality. Think of Elder Nelson joining with others to sign a petition. Think of our leaders seeking to work together with other faiths in other efforts to protect the family. These joint efforts open doors for friendships and combined efforts, thus reducing the sense of boundaries and giving the Spirit a chance to touch lives in all sorts of ways (where there is good, the Spirit is present).
We see this combined effort in humanitarian relief as well, another thing for which we are known.
What about Family Home Evening? This is not left as an exclusively “Mormon” thing.
Elder Ballard recently said:
Latter-day Saint families are encouraged to hold family home evenings weekly, usually on Monday nights. This provides a regular and predictable time for parents to teach values to their children and to have fun together. We invite those not of our faith to adopt this practice with their own families.
President Hinckley said:
I don’t hesitate to say if every family in the world practiced that one thing, you’d see a very great difference in the solidarity of the families of the world” (interview, Boston Globe, 14 Aug. 2000).
And from a First Presidency letter in 1999:
Where practical, members may also want to encourage community and school leaders to avoid scheduling activities on Monday evenings that require children or parents to be away from their homes.
So, what I’ve been thinking is that perhaps as we identify things we might define as boundaries, we can see them also as doors we can open to introduce fruits of the gospel into our friends’ and neighbors’ lives. Clearly, they are things that define our membership, but I’m hard-pressed to think of any of these “boundaries” that we couldn’t invite others to experience, from Word of Wisdom, to chastity, to family values, to Seminary and Institute classes, all the way to the fullness of temple blessings.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17; see also Alma 42:27)