We are becoming an exclusionary people. In both ancient and modern scripture, the Lord has taught us to flee Babylon and gather to Zion. In the early days of the restored Church, we fled from and gathered to specific locales. Though the time for physically fleeing and gathering is past, the mindset of separating ourselves persists. This has prompted living prophets and our communities alike to caution us against becoming an exclusionary people.

In the early days of the Church, the directive to gather to Zion was both figurative and literal. Today, it is only figurative—with one exception. In a 1973 General Conference address, President Harold B. Lee taught, "the time for gathering to one place is past," while underscoring that Zion is wherever "the pure in heart are."1 Therefore, in our day, the only physical gathering we are to do is to gather to the temple.2 (See Elder Lance B. Wickman below)

Notwithstanding President Lee's directive, the mindset of separating ourselves persists. Reflecting the concern that this mindset is leading to our becoming exclusionary, Elder Ballard was prompted to deliver a talk entitled "The Doctrine of Inclusion." In this talk he teaches: "Of all [the] people on this earth, we should be...the kindest, and the most tolerant because of our doctrine [of inclusion], loving and serving one another despite our deepest differences — including religious, political and cultural differences."3 Elder Ballard merely echoes the prophet Joseph Smith. In the 11th Article of Faith he taught, "we claim the privilege of worshiping [as we choose], and allow all men the same privilege."

Our elitist mindset is not just apparent to our church leaders, but also to our communities. A Church-commissioned survey, conducted in 2004, asked community leaders in nearly a dozen major cities throughout the U.S. how they would characterize members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We were described as "warm, tolerant, hard-working, devout, moral and clean-living," as well as "reserved, unapproachable, somewhat intolerant, clannish, closed and isolated."4


Being exclusive prevents us from fulfilling the Savior's commandment to be the "salt of the earth". In understanding the nature of salt—salt must be ingested to sustain life, for instance—we will come to appreciate why becoming the "salt of the earth" requires that we not only resist separating ourselves, but also seek to include.

According to Elder Carlos E. Asay, "salt has an important place in our lives. It is essential to health; body cells must have salt in order to live and work. It has antiseptic, or germ-killing, properties. It is a preservative. It is an ingredient in many foods and products. It is estimated there are more than 14,000 uses for salt."5

"The Organizer and Creator of this world understood perfectly the nature and importance of salt. More than thirty-five references are made to this substance in the scriptures. In the Old Testament mention is made of a "covenant of salt" (see Lev. 2:13). In the New Testament, he taught "Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the salt of the earth."

Elder Asay continues, "Among many peoples, salt is still used as a sign of honor, friendship and hospitality. The Arabs say 'there is salt between us,' meaning 'we have eaten together, and are friends'."

He concludes, "There should be salt between us and all people. We should extend honor, friendship, and hospitality to all of our brothers and sisters..."6


Know Your Neighbor (KYN) will help us become more inclusive. In its simplest form, KYN involves inviting one family or individual into our home with whom we have something in common, apart from religion. The long-term objective is to invite our communities into our homes—and into our hearts, triggering a shift from being inward-facing toward becoming outward-focused.

Changing how we speak (eliminating phrases such as "he isn't Mormon, but is a really great person") about our neighbors, and altering how we think (focusing on what we have in common, rather than what separates us) will help us become more inclusive. Know Your Neighbor further facilitates our effort by changing how we act. In its simplest form, we commit to invite a family/individual into our home, with whom we have something in common—apart from religion—over the next six weeks.

To reinforce to our stake and ward members the importance of an initiative such as Know Your Neighbor, during the next Stake/Ward Council, you may want to ask the following two questions:

1.  Who are the last five individuals or families that you invited into your home?

2.  Of those five individuals/families, was the common bond something other than religion?

Elder Ballard teaches that, "for the most part, our neighbors not of our faith are good, honorable people—every bit as good and honorable as we strive to be. They care about their families, just like we do. They want to make the world a better place, just like we do. They are kind and loving and generous and faithful, just like we seek to be."7


As we seek to include, we will find that we belong. Brother Stephen L. Tanner teaches, "Our plan of happiness has always depended on fellowship and a sense of community in the profoundest of terms."8 As we invite our communities into our lives, we will become "the salt of the earth," there will be "salt between us," and we will find that we belong. Author Naomi Remen teaches, "Service is the lived experience of belonging. There is no us and them, only we."9

BYU Professor Stephen L. Tanner teaches, "We [were] created to experience joy in our association with others...our plan of happiness has always depended upon fellowship and a sense of community in the profoundest of terms. The greatest satisfaction comes from those poignant, unforgettable moments when soul meets soul in spiritual communion..."

The Brother of Jared and his family understood our need for community. In Ether 1: 34-35, 40 we read, "At the time the Lord confounded the language of the people...the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion...that they were not confounded." During the chaos of Babel, the Brother of Jared and his family most earnestly prayed for—and were willing to travel thousands of miles for—was the ability to communicate, to feel a sense of community.10

Alma and his followers give us a further glimpse into the benefits of creating and thus belonging to a community. As the town of Mormon began to invite one another into their lives, their hearts became "knit together" and "the place of Mormon became beautiful to them." (Mosiah 18: 22, 30). As we become inclusive, our hearts will be knit together with those in our community. And, whether Mormon, Mexico City or Manhattan, our community will become beautiful to us.


The true spirit of gathering requires us to redefine "we." This redefinition will change how we think of, speak of, and interact with others, and can be facilitated by implementing Know Your Neighbor. As we participate in Know Your Neighbor, inviting our neighbors into our homes and hearts, we will not only become the salt of the earth, we will happily find that we also belong.


1 Harold B. Lee, "Strengthen the Stakes of Zion," Ensign July 1973: 2.
2 Elder Lance B. Wickman teaches, "Zion and temple belong in the same sentence together. In August 1833, as Saints attempted amidst much persecution to establish a geographic Zion in Jackson County, Missouri, the prophet Joseph was counseled in revelation to build a house unto the Lord "for the salvation of Zion" (D&C 97:12)...with the glorious promise: Yea and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God. Therefore...let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART (D&C 97:16, 21). For Zion, the pure in heart, the temple holds the key that unlocks holy places-places of rejoicing-while those in Babylon's byways are condemned to mourn." He then quotes a friend "the joy I receive is more than just being in the temple. The temple is in me. And when I leave the temple, its peace goes with me. When we visit the temple, the temple will be in us." When the temple is in us, we will always stand in a holy place — regardless of our physical location. Lance B. Wickman, "Stand Ye In Holy Places," Ensign Nov 1994: 82.
3 M. Russell Ballard, "Doctrine of Inclusion," Ensign Nov 2001: 35.
4 Key City Training Meeting—Salt Lake City, Utah, October 2004.
5 Carlos E. Asay, "Salt of the Earth: Savor of Men and Saviors of Men," Ensign May 1980: 42.
6 Elder Asay further teaches, "I count it significant that the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is located in Salt Lake City. From this center of the Church flows the message of salvation to all the world."
7 M. Russell Ballard, "Doctrine of Inclusion," Ensign Nov. 2001: 35.
8 Stephen L. Tanner, "Candle in the Window," Ensign Feb. 1981: 25.
9 Rachel Naomi Remen "My Grandfather's Blessings," Riverhead Trade, 2001: 204. Thanks to Ann Madsen for introducing me to Dr. Remen's work.
10 In Donald W. Parry's article, "The Flood and the Tower of Babel," we read, "because of her great iniquity, ancient Babel, or Babylon, has become a long-standing scriptural symbol for "wickedness" (see D&C 133:14). He further taught, "In spite of the confusion of tongues so long ago, the gospel of Jesus Christ is reversing the effects of Babel. Quoting President Kimball, in the context of a temple dedication in Europe, "the confusion of Babel is being overcome. The Finns, the Dutch and British, the German and the French and the Hollanders, the Scandinavians, the Italians and Austrians are all meeting under one roof. Every one of them heard the ordinances of the temple in his own tongue. The confusion of Babel is in reverse." Ensign Jan 1998: 35.