Neighbors, Strangers, Pilgrims, Friends

I talked recently with some non-LDS friends and neighbors in Utah Valley. They’ve lived here for years, and they know us Mormons (officially, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) quite well. In speaking of their experience here, they praised us for welcoming their particular religious minority among us. I gratefully add that they were philosophical and forgiving about our occasional clumsiness and outright failures on that score over the years.

Welcome to Utah sign

When we truly welcome others into our towns and neighborhoods – and homes, hearts, and circles of friends – we’re not just being nice. We’re obeying two key commandments. Both are literally as old as Moses.

Short Take: Old Law for New Times

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter, focusing on the Old Testament and related scripture in 2014. Here’s one of my “short takes,” as previously published there.

The Law of Moses is a lower law, compared to the Gospels’ higher law, but the higher law’s highest principles are in the lower law, as well.

Jesus identified the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:35-40; see also D&C 59:5-6), quoting the Old Testament: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18).

Other Mosaic verses add helpful insight.

“The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love [him] with all your heart and … soul” (Deuteronomy 13:3). God also helps us to love him that much, “that thou mayest live” (Deuteronomy 30:6).

Besides loving our neighbors, we are to treat strangers and outsiders as our own. In Exodus we read, “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him” – and, as if to show us that he doesn’t just mean fellow believers from out of town, the Lord continues, “for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (22:21). Leviticus adds, “The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (19:33-34).

These ancient commandments would surely serve us well in the 21st Century.