Radiant Moments: A Thanksgiving Reflection

I began this Thanksgiving morning by setting myself a task: to describe my gratitude for specific things which are not controversial. (I have little taste for controversy today.) I thought first of the largest things, such as God, family, and country, but the very ideas of these are currently controversial. You may safely assume my profound gratitude for them, but I after a few moments I turned my thoughts toward smaller things. Granted, all things are smaller than the largest things.

So I made list of specific things for which I have felt grateful in recent weeks, and nothing is too small. A hamburger is not too small. But soon it was clear that I had sent myself on a fool’s errand, because even a hamburger is controversial these days. And I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me, in a time when many consider everything to be political, that a hamburger is easily politicized too. (I am not grateful for this.)

So the following are only relatively uncontroversial. Some are only relatively small. They involve people, you see, and people are not a small thing – but we are smaller than God.

Now that I have made the list, I see that every item, in some sense and degree, is a moment. Today, as on many days, I am grateful for moments. Here are ten and a spare. They necessarily reflect my own tastes, opportunities, and associations, but perhaps they will call to mind some of your own moments.

In neither ascending nor descending order …

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.

Am I My Neighbor’s Neighbor?

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This essay was published in my local LDS ward’s (congregation’s) newsletter in October 2013 and was adapted from a similar publication elsewhere several years earlier.

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Sometimes in the Church we think about being good neighbors to our neighbors only in terms of missionary work, as if our only role as neighbors were to get people into, or back into, the Church. Missionary work is very important, and it’s wonderful when these things happen, of course, but being a good neighbor is a separate duty.

We don’t shun a neighbor if we see him smoking a cigarette or if he offers us a beer (which we politely decline), or if she plays music we don’t like while she works on her car on Sunday afternoon. We don’t shun a neighbor whose speech is sometimes laced with profanity. We don’t shun neighbors who have chosen to live together without the legal sanction of marriage. We don’t shun a neighbor who rejects our missionary advances or even our neighborly advances. When we do these things, we look like hypocrites – because we are.

Truly, there are great rewards available in God’s Church, in making and keeping covenants and obeying commandments in the process. But do you think God only cares about his children if they join the Church and attend meetings regularly? What about the ones who choose not to, for whatever reason, or who simply aren’t interested right now? Don’t you think he wants them to be good and happy, too, and to have strong and loving marriages and raise decent, hardworking children?