This coming week, I will be attending a luncheon honoring one of my colleagues. In advance of the luncheon, the organizer contacted me asking for my sign-off on several people he wanted to invite to participate, explaining their world views may different significantly from the honoree's. Was this ok?
I deeply appreciated his sensitivity to our Mormon beliefs, but at some level, I wondered why this conversation had even come up. Are we as Mormons doing something to convey that we don't welcome differences of opinion, and if so, can we do more to convey that we welcome the opportunity to engage with people who think differently than we do? Because we recognize, as clearly the event organizer does, that we all feel more connected to the world around us when we seek out and tread common ground.
In the Spring 2010 edition of BYU Magazine, there's an article titled Fostering Religious Understanding by Sue E. Bergin. In this article, BYU Philosophy professor James E. Faulconer tells of being a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University, and studying the book of Genesis with one of his professors who was a part-time rabbi.
Faulconer shares, "I was a returned missionary and a convert to the church, and I thought I knew a lot. I'm studying these scriptural passages with him, and I'm thinking, 'Oh my goodness, I had no idea that this was here.' It wasn't that I learned something that was contrary to what I believe. It's that I learned things I had never seen."
Author Bergin continues: "Faulconer uses a marriage analogy to explain how people of different faiths can enrich each others' lives. When God tells Adam it's not good that he's a lone, He says He will make a help meet for him. Faulconer points out that "help meet" is not one word but two. "It's help that is meet for you--appropriate help. The root of those words is 'helper opposite'--one who stands over against you. So it means, 'I'm going to make someone different from you.' If I married myself, that would not be very interesting. What's the point? The difference is enriching. I think the same thing is true of our relationships with people outside the Church. The differences among us enrich our lives. I learn a lot more about life. My life is fuller."
A help that is meet for you-- appropriate help.
Who in our lives -- who doesn't believe quite what you or I believe -- can enrich our lives, can give us help that is meet?
Are we seeking them out?