"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
—PLATO Each of us has a litany of reasons for not reaching out to our neighbors: we are too busy, too self-sufficient, too transient, and too scared! Scared of persecution, outside influences and rejection.
FEAR OF PERSECUTION
Fear of persecution is at odds with the doctrine of inclusion. Beginning with the First Vision, persecution against the Latter-day Saints raged across the better part of a century, in New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and even Utah. Neither our lives nor our livelihood are at stake today, but who of us has not been mocked by those in the great and spacious building, or excluded in some way-because of what we believe?
During the 1800's the pioneers circled the wagons, hoping to preserve their lives. Today, we circle to avoid rejection and pain. There's the neighborhood group we aren't a part of-because we are different. The business parties where we can't get comfortable-because we are different. (Or maybe they do like us, but find it too much work to figure out how to entertain a teetotaler, for instance.) Maybe it's easier to focus on our comfortable church associations.
But, if we stick with our own kind, how can we be inclusive?
In a community where Mormons are in the majority, a bunker mentality will actually be perceived as an elitist, even exclusive, mentality.
FEAR OF OUTSIDE INFLUENCES
In both ancient and modern scripture the Lord has taught us to flee Babylon and to gather to Zion. Though the time for physically fleeing and gathering has long since past, the mindset of separating ourselves persists.
Of course we are worried about outside influences - the child that takes the Lord's name in vain, or tells a dirty joke. We can be certain, however, that just as we find bad influences inside our church community, we can find good influences outside. President Hinckley teaches "We must teach our children to be tolerant and friendly toward those not of our faith. We [must] work with those of other religions in the defense of those values which have made our civilization great and our society distinctive.1
FEAR OF REJECTION
If we are scared of being rejected, that's a good sign. If we didn't care whether or not the people we are reaching out to will receive us, we might want to ask why we are befriending this person in the first place. C.S. Lewis taught: "If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, then we are not giving enough."
1 Gordon B. Hinckley, "We Bear Witness of Him" Ensign, May 1998: 4.