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Suggests that being a true fellowcitizen with the saints requires us to like and get along with each and every person in our family and in our ward.
A Talk Given in Sacrament Meeting
of the Sterling Park Ward, Ashburn, VA Stake
By D. Calvin Andrus, Bishop
13 January 2008, Version 1.0
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Story of Sister
A few years ago, a sister--who is no longer in our ward--came into my office. Let's call her Sister Apple. She stated that just didn't like another sister in the ward--whom we will call Sister Orange. Not only did Sister Apple not like Sister Orange, but Sister Apple said that she couldn't even get along with Sister Orange. Sister Apple said she avoided Sister Orange because every time Sister Apple came in contact with Sister Orange, Sister Apple just got a bad feeling. Sister Apple hinted that I should be sure not to issue callings that would have the two of them working together. Sister Apple concluded by asking my advice about what she should do about Sister Orange.
I remarked that this was a curious situation, but before I offered any advice, I wanted to ask Sister Apple some questions. First, did she think that I, the Bishop, liked her. Sister Apple said, "Why, of course." I then asked if she thought that I liked Sister Orange. Sister Apple said, "I am pretty sure you do." I responded that I did. I then asked Sister Apple how it was that I could like Sister Orange, but she could not; that is, what made the difference? Sister Apple admitted, the difference was not Sister Orange, but that the difference was herself, Sister Apple.
I then asked Sister Apple if she liked everyone in the ward besides Sister Orange. She responded that there were a half dozen or so people she really didn't like. I asked her if those people thought the Bishop liked them. Sister Apple supposed they did think the Bishop liked them. I asked Sister Apple what would happen if she were called to be Bishop. Would she have to pretend to like people? Or, would she actually have to like them? She supposed she would actually have to like them. But she knew she couldn't do it.
I then asked her, how does a Bishop do it? How does he like everyone in the ward? She didn't know. I suggested that liking a person or not liking a person is a choice we make. It is not something that happens to us, but something we do to ourselves. I told her that for more then 20 years I had made it a goal to like and get along with every person I met. I would get to know the person well enough to know what their admirable characteristics were and then focus my attention on those.
I went on to ask Sister Apple if Heavenly Father liked all of his children. She said yes. I asked if she thought Jesus Christ liked everyone. She said yes. "What about the Holy Ghost?" I asked. Yes, she said. So, we have three Celestial Beings and they all share the attribute that they like every single person that has been, is now, and will be on the earth. I suggested that all Celestial Beings have this attribute: that they like everyone.
I asked Sister Apple if that particular notion scared her. She asked "Why?" I suggested that if all Celestial Beings like everyone, and if she wanted to go to the Celestial Kingdom, then she, too, would have to like everyone, including Sister Orange. The scariness started to hit her. She asked, "You mean if I want to get into the Celestial Kingdom, I will have to like and get along with Sister Orange?" "Yes!" I said, "and everyone else." She said she had never heard that before.
Sermon on the Mount
I found it curious that Sister Apple had never heard that one must like every other person in order to get into the Celestial Kingdom. This doctrine can be found in the Sermon on the Mount. During the sermon, the Savior asks a couple of rhetorical questions.
Luke 6:32-35 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? . . . And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? . . . And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
Let me render this into language that is more familiar to us in the 21st Century. If you only like those who like you, you cannot become a child of Heavenly Father--or, in other words--you cannot enter into the Celestial Kingdom. The only way to enter into the Celestial Kingdom is:
- to like the unlikable;
- to be friendly with the unfriendly;
- to include those who deserve to be excluded;
- to be kind toward the mean;
- to be warm toward those who are cold;
- to be generous toward the stingy;
- to be gracious to those who are ungracious;
- to love the unlovable; and
- to get along with the cranky.
While I have talked about our behavior toward others, one should not approach this insincerely. Pretending to like the unlikable or faking graciousness toward the ungracious is only little better than not trying at all. What I am suggesting is that we have a deep down change of heart. That our very beings become different. That we actually, truly, and without reservation like that unlikable person. Sister Apple must not only act as if she liked Sister Orange, but she must change her heart and soul so that she actually does like Sister Orange.
In some circles, they call this repentance.
Start in Our Families
The first place to practice the Celestial behavior of liking the unlikable is our family. Our families, both nuclear and extended, are filled with unlikable people. This is by design, by the way. It is our assignment, should we choose to accept it, to change ourselves so that we like and get along with every member of our nuclear family--our parents, our siblings, our siblings-in-law, our children, and our children-in-law. Once accomplished, we can move on to our extended family--our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren (and sundry spouses).
I invite each of us to consider one member of our family that we don't like or we don't get along with. I further invite each of us to change ourselves so that we come to actually like that person and we come to actually get along with them. Once accomplished, we can choose another person; and then another, until we end up getting along with all our family members. And please remember, getting along with our family members is the starting point.
The Community of Saints
Sister Apple said she could get along with Sister Orange if Sister Orange would just change. Beep! Wrong answer! The Celestial program is that we change, not that the other person change. The more we choose to change ourselves to like the unlikable, the more Celestial we become. The unlikable people in our lives are a blessing to us, because we have the opportunity to become more Celestial in nature as we learn to get along with them. There are some among us who probably don't believe what I just said. The unlikable people in our lives are a blessing to us. The unlikable people present us with an opportunity to become more Christlike. This opportunity is something for which we should be very grateful.
We are members of the Sterling Park Ward. We are members of the Ashburn Stake. We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Paul told the Ephesians:
Ephesians 2:19 - Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
What should members of the household of God feel about each other? How does a fellowcitizen treat the other saints? Members of the household of God like each other. Fellowcitizens get along with the other saints.
I invite each of us to consider a person in this ward we either don't like, or don't get along with. Our assignment, should we choose to accept it, is to change ourselves so that we come to like, or we come to get along with that other person. In doing so, we won't treat others as if they were strangers and foreigners. We become worthy members of the household of God. We become true fellowcitizens with the saints.
A Different Angle
I would now like to come at this topic from a different angle. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet we call Alma the Younger sent a reproving letter to his son, Corianton, who was doing a poor job serving a mission. Corianton had some questions about what happens to people after they die. Alma, as part of his answer, says that:
Alma 40:23 - The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.
However, Alma did not want his son to misinterpret the restoration of the body with the restoration of the person's character. Alma continues:
Alma 41:12-13 - And now behold, is the meaning of the word restoration to take a thing of a natural state and place it in an unnatural state, or to place it in a state opposite to its nature? O, my son, this is not the case; but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.
So if there are people we do not like in this life, or there are people we don't get along with in this life, those deficiencies will be restored to us in the resurrection. If we don't want our personal flaws restored to us in the resurrection, then we are like Corianton. Alma advises:
Alma 42:13,15 - Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God. . . And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.
If we want to live in harmony with our families and acquaintances in the resurrection, then we must take advantage of the atonement in this life, and repent of our dislike of other people; repent of not getting along with other people.
Then, oh what a happy day the resurrection will be for us. We will be restored to the people we like and the people we get along with, because we will like everyone and we will get along with everyone.
As we repent and change ourselves to broaden and expand our ability to like and get along with other people, we begin to discover an eternal insight. Unlikability is not a characteristic of other people. Other people are neither likable nor unlikable. We choose to like them or not. If we do not like another person, that is something ugly and evil inside of us. It has nothing to do with that other person. Once we clearly understand that getting along with others is our personal problem, we are liberated to get along with anyone and everyone. It is totally within our grasp to practice becoming a Celestial person. We should be grateful we have lots of opportunities to practice right in our own families and in our own ward. What more could we ask for?
Being a good member of the household of God is hard. Being a true fellowcitizen with the saints takes years of practice. Through the atonement of Christ, we can change our natures to like and get along with those around us. To this I bear my witness. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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