Yes, indeed, we have another entry from Dana King. Not only is the content compelling, her slogan "'Non' Be Gone" is one of those keeper phrases that I won't soon forget. I hope you won't either.
...I believe it would be good if we eliminated a couple of phrases from our vocabulary: “nonmember” and “non-Mormon.” Such phrases can be demeaning and even belittling. Elder M. Russell Ballard, Doctrine of Inclusion, Ensign, May 2001, 35.
I’m starting a campaign and I hope you’ll join. It will be life changing – you will become more perceptive and sensitive to others’ feelings. You’ll become a better Christian.
Let me explain. I have long felt that terms such as “non-member” and “investigator” leave visitors to our Church feeling cold and excluded, let alone bewildered. Putting myself in someone else’s shoes, I would not want to be called a non-member, if I were not a member of this Church.
Elder M. Russell Ballard feels the same way:
“Personally, I don’t consider myself to be a “non-Catholic” or a “non-Jew.” I am a Christian. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That is how I prefer to be identified—for who and what I am, as opposed to being identified for what I am not. Let us extend that same courtesy to those who live among us. If a collective description is needed, then “neighbors” seems to work well in most cases.”
When President N. Rock Erekson, a counselor in the St. Louis Missouri Stake Presidency, served as leader of the Pagedale Branch, he encouraged branch members to eliminate such words as non-member and investigator. The branch council and missionaries suggested alternative descriptions such as: friend, first-time visitor, new-to-the-Gospel, and friend of another faith.
Those who have eliminated the “non-word” from their LDS lexicon tell me it affects people in a couple ways. President Erekson noticed visitors to the Pagedale Branch no longer looked puzzled or awkwardly asked, “What’s a non-member?” But the most striking difference President Erekson noticed was in him: “I felt changed for doing this.”
That is a common feeling among those who have dropped “non-member” in favor of more inclusive language. Kara Hess, community relations assistant for St. Louis Missouri Stake Public Affairs also felt changed: “It has made me more aware of who I am speaking with/about and how I think and interact with friends of other faiths.”
Can simply eliminating a word from our vocabulary help us become more sensitive and perceptive in our relationships? I believe the results show it is an effective way to start.
Try the experiment, if you haven’t already, and join the campaign – “Non” Be Gone! It is simple to participate: just pledge to never use exclusionary terms in any setting – private or public - to describe our friends. It takes a little effort, but the rewards are life changing.
And just think. If every family and ward joined the campaign what can happen? Our foyers and homes might fill with friends and neighbors drawn to us, not only for our choice of inclusive terms, but also for the way we practice our faith as a result of our new-found sensitivity.
If you think your family, ward or stake can benefit from this life-changing campaign, consider sharing this post and leading a discussion in your family or Church council.
Repeat after me: Strike “non” from our lexicon!