Six months ago my husband was laid off from his job. New work has not come easily and our financial situation has remained very tough. During this time we have learned new lessons about receiving help from others. For the most part, this help has come from close friends, family, and systems set up within the LDS church for families in need. At the invitation of our dear friends, however, last Saturday my family drove to the parking lot of the First Assembly of God in Mesa just a few miles from our home for their “Great Giveaway”, a “totally free event for those in need in our community.” Receiving such help is never easy, but we were undoubtedly outside of our comfort zone in accepting help from a neighboring Christian faith.
Baptists at our Barbecue
One of our favorite movies is Baptists at our Barbecue. While depicting the comical side of LDS culture, the focus of this story is the struggle of a community to heal itself from a serious religious division between the Baptists and the Mormons living in the small rural town of Longfellow (or Longwinded, to its residents). In an attempt to heal the community two new members of the Mormon church’s leadership and newcomers to the town suggest that the Mormon branch host a community barbeque. The response? “But none of the Baptists are actually going to show, right?” asks one concerned Mormon. The community of Longwinded does come together, enjoying food, sports and a talent show, and they begin to heal. When Mormon member Sister Wingate hears the mountains humming to her, Baptists and Mormons alike go together to the mountains to hear. Another newcomer to the town incredulously asks, Tartan, one of the new Mormon leaders, “You actually think it’s from heaven?” To which Tartan responds, “Who cares? Look at everyone!” He is watching a miracle taking place. Personal religious conflict melts into hugs and forgiveness. The community, though still separate in their faiths, now comes together to serve each other. Tartan reflects, “It was as if everyone had just been waiting for a sign from God to finally get along.”
Comedy can be a powerful tool to help us understand problems in our society. The chasms of difference between Mormons and neighboring Christian faiths are very real and have a long history. LDS claims to the very title of a Christian Church causes much of the contention because of fundamental doctrinal differences. Do we diminish our goal of standing for truth and righteousness by finding peace in ourselves with what we claim as another’s erroneous religious
understandings in the name of bridging the chasm between us? I proclaim that the answer is no. The key is not to perceive misunderstandings or doctrinal differences as a challenge to our faith. Rather, as Elder Robert D. Hales explains, “True disciples of Christ see opportunity in the midst of opposition,”* an opportunity to answer with boldness, concern, and love, not with overbearance, for personal vindication or in judgment. And “sometimes true disciples must show Christian courage by saying nothing at all” because I believe that only then can bridge building be the focus. President Henry B Eyring claimed that, “God will help us see a difference in someone else not as a source of irritation but as a contribution. The Lord can help you see and value what another person brings which you lack. More than once the Lord has helped me see His kindness in giving me association with someone whose difference from me was just the help I needed. That has been the Lord’s way of adding something I lacked to serve Him better.”†
During these days of trial and struggle we are being “prepared as a people for our glorious destiny”‡ as servants of a king. Part of that preparation requires unity. “The miracle of unity is being granted to us as we pray and work for it in the Lord’s way.”§ When our family chose to attend the Great Giveaway, we did so in the spirit of reaching that goal. We needed help. They offered it. We accepted. We went and found a few items to help us out, and we stayed to enjoy some of their youth worship. Along the way we connected with our friends and others of this neighboring faith. We saw lots of differences in our religions, but we also saw lots of similarities. And we saw Goodness, and we were blessed. Sister Wingate is right when she said, after the healing had taken place, “We are all eternally bound together.” When we reach out to participate in service with others in our community we follow the 13th Article of the Mormon Faith where it says, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” Furthermore, as Tartan promises in the movie, “If we do this, our burdens will be made light. I promise.”
Thank you, Mesa First. Thank you for lightening some of our burdens. We hope yours have been lightened too as a result of your service.
The Rob & Verena Beckstrand Family
* October 2008 LDS General Conference
‡ Pres. Henry Be Eyring October 2008 LDS General Conference
§ Pres. Henry Be Eyring October 2008 LDS General Conference
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