I delight in inclusion.

“Our message … is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father” (First Presidency statement, 15 Feb. 1978).

That is our doctrine—a doctrine of inclusion. That is what we believe. That is what we have been taught. Of all people on this earth, we should be the most loving, the kindest, and the most tolerant because of that doctrine.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard, Doctrine of Inclusion, October 2001 General Conference

Once upon a time, I was in a singing group. I loved the friends that I made and the experiences I had while in this group. I remember making up a song once about “exclude-ation.” I’d sing it whenever people were being excluded from whatever was going on. It became a fun way to help remind people to include others and not exclude them.

We live in an excluding world. It’s like you’re automatically on the outs until you’re on the in, not the other way around. I’m not sure why this is. I’m also not sure that it’s entirely true. However, something that contributes to this perception is that we all want to belong to something and be considered “normal” or “not weird” but we all also want to be our own individual selves. \

Others “best” lives are thrown in our faces through social media, the internet, tv, and pretty much all media consumption and in our day-to-day lives. We easily consume a lot of media and therefore, a lot of messages. Messages about what’s cool, what would make us happy, what “the good life” is supposed to look like, what dinner’s supposed to look like, how cute you could dress your kids, or how you’re supposed to look like a model and have tons of perfect pictures to post of you, your kids, your husband, and your house and don’t forget the dog. Oh and be outdoorsy and indoory. And crafty, creative, fun, and pretty much always look at the top of your game. Yep…did one of those make you go…oh yeah, man, so true.

To me, all the reasons that exclusion exists have roots in comparison. Comparison isn’t the thief of joy, it’s the thief of everything. It’s the thief of gratitude, of love, of kindness, of compassion, of caring, of generous thoughts, of good inclinations, and it’s the thief of inclusion. When we compare, we begin to think that our “whatever” has to be better than someone else’s “whatever” so we always strive to have the one up, excluding others from being on the path with us, coming along beside us, and doing it together.

I’ve long been impressed that perfection is not a race and that it’s more about bringing others with us than getting there ourselves (or getting there first). I’m not saying perfection is something to strive for in this mortal life but I think it’s kind of that grand goal…”be ye therefore perfect…eventually” as Elder Holland so eloquently put it last general conference.

In “eventually” we find inclusion. We find putting our arm around another. We find that if you can be anything, you can be kind. We find that loving another person is more important than judging them. We find that being genuine is the best thing you can be for yourself and for others. We find strength in our similarities and in our differences. We find that we don’t have to agree with someone or even understand them and their choices and their lives to love them. We love them. We find that everyone we see is a brother or sister regardless of any category or description. When we do this, as we do this, we have just put ourselves all in, on the Lord’s side of the line.

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