After jumping on the trolley, I headed for an empty seat. As I sat down, I noticed the woman across from me. Her hair color was absolutely beautiful. I complimented her. She smiled and we struck up a 5 minute conversation.
I love riding the trolley to my commuter train. I meet people I would never run into normally. The other day, I even got skateboard advice, for my skateboarding bulldog.
In less than one stop, beautiful-hair woman confessed that people stare at her all the time and told me how much she valued sincere compliments. She then mentioned that she works as an exotic dancer in a gentleman’s club.
Admittedly I chuckled a little. We’d both just gotten off of work. She’d just grabbed a beer as she left the club. I’d just finished my bottled water as I left my job at the Salt Lake Temple.
Her eyes lit up as I asked her about herself and she almost missed her stop while detailing a hot springs I HAVE to experience by light of the full moon.
A friend texted to see if I’d made the train. I mentioned my conversation with beautiful-hair woman. She texted back that I probably didn’t have much in common with her. As I read her text, I relived our 5 minute conversation:
Beautiful-hair woman grew up in Davis County, Utah, decided to spread her wings and moved to Las Vegas, missed her roots so moved back to Utah, loved Salt Lake City, worked hard and was tired, enjoyed nature and shared one of her favorite spots with me, and said she wished me well.
Her story was actually quite similar to my story. I grew up in Midland County, Texas, craved freedom and adventure when I moved away, 23 years later felt my roots tugging my heartstrings so moved closer to family, I love Salt Lake City, had worked hard and was also tired, I enjoy nature, and I wished her well.
I’d discovered a lot of commonalities.
Expecting commonalities really impacts our relationships with others. I’ve been able to find common ground with all kinds of people. I think I learned “how” to relate to others from my dad. He is quite the extrovert and has never met a stranger.
My dad’s mission advice to me was to look around the house I was going to and find something to sincerely talk about with the person who answers the door. It’s a conversation trick I still use regularly (ie— hair color on the trolley).
There are a lot of metaphorical ladders in life, but to me, people’s core value isn’t ladder-based. I see everyone lined up horizontally as children of God, the infant and the aged and everyone in between, to be treated with love and equity.
I wonder sometimes if we’re so nervous about being rejected by people that we congregate with others who seem more like ourselves—for safety and a comfort zone.
Why is it so important to break out of the comfort zones? Does Heavenly Father really expect us to have all things common with everyone? It seems like it, since His unconditioned goal is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
Seeing Others as Brothers and Sisters
The first step to having all things common seems to really view everyone around us as brothers and sisters–hopefully in sibling relationships of a more functional than dysfunctional nature.
This obeys the Lord’s commandment in the Doctrine and Covenants,
And let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me. And again I say unto, let every man esteem his brother as himself. … I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine (Doctrine and Covenants 38:24-25, 27).
Not everyone is as open or chatty as beautiful-hair woman. Our conversation was comfortable, interesting and engaging and felt like a quick phone call to a sister or friend.
Her easy friendliness reminded me that we really are all brothers and sisters, even though she believes differently and lives differently than I do. She is the daughter of the same God I worship. And He loves her and me and you immeasurably.
The scriptures give examples of people of different traditions and beliefs finding commonalities in the Gospel and the joy that produced.
In the New Testament,
“all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:44-47).
I don’t believe those people sacrificed individuality or unique talents to have things in common. I believe they began to see each other as brothers and sisters, children of God, and began to love each other with charity.
They recognized their abundance comes from God and turned toward Him rather than away from each other.
In the Book of Mormon,
“the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift” (4 Nephi 1:2-3).
Could a stripper and I really find this unity? In these scriptural examples, the whole world didn’t choose to live a unified, consecrated life. But, those who were willing found the strength to do it.Then they let others choose for themselves, while giving them ample opportunity to hear the word of God.
One essence of having all things in common is not about lumping all of our belongings into a communal pile, it’s realizing and then believing that beautiful-hair woman has the same right to choice, life, and grace I do. When that epiphany happens, then our hearts can be knit together in unity and love even if our situations are radically different.
Unfortunately, many who espouse the same faith cannot find love and unity with each other. Hopefully, one day as a Church we can experience the great joy saints before us experienced.
The Lord gave us the opportunity to experience “having all things common” in our homes, wards, and communities to teach us how He lives and operates.
“That you may be equal in the bonds of heavenly things, yea, and earthly things also, for the obtaining of heavenly things. For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things;
For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you” (Doctrine and Covenants 78:5-7).
Look at Others with Love and Compassion
Stories abound about children and teenagers whose compassion for a local community’s homeless or indigent children in faraway lands led them to make an effort to better people’s lives. We’re touched and may shed a tear as we read the story or watch the video.
But, the miraculous lesson to me is that the children or teenagers have the power of seeing other people as brothers and sisters…and then believe they can make a difference! And, they do. The Lord magnifies efforts of love and compassion.
The sons of Mosiah felt love’s powerful motivating effect as they repented of their sins and then were filled with love. They decided to preach the gospel to their mortal enemies, despite the obvious threat of death.
“They were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble” (Mosiah 28:3).
Love and respect are prerequisite to have all things common.
Ammon went down to the land of his enemies, with a heart full of love and expectation to find common ground.
Instead of approaching the Lamanites offensively (or defensively), he set aside his ego altogether and established a friendship. Instead of setting himself up as teacher or leader (aka I know more than you and the right way to do it), he became a servant.
Ammon ultimately became Lamoni’s teacher and leader, but they freed the imprisoned missionaries and established the church in the land together as brothers.
Beautiful-hair woman was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. I had no idea what she meant by wistfully saying that she was used to people staring at her all the time. I figured they must like her hair, too.
I felt surprise when she tapped on the gear in her bag and said she was an exotic dancer. Then I realized how much she craved genuine conversation. I could tell she didn’t trust most compliments tossed her way. But, she felt an underlying respect from me when I started the conversation. I wondered if she told me her “secret” to see if I would pull away from her. I felt prompted to stand firm in the conversation, that perhaps through me she could feel the love God had for her.
I’m not Ammon, but appreciated the small scale experience following his example provided me. I’ve always welcomed those who approach me with love, respect, and compassion. What a difference they’ve made in my life!
All Things Common with God
In His intercessory prayer, after acknowledging that He sanctified Himself so we could be sanctified, Jesus prayed that
“they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:21-22).
How is my relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Savior? Am I truly one with Them?
Establishing relationships of love and compassion with people around us also helps us figure out how to become one with God. We learn to keep the commandment to “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 19:19) so we learn to see others as God sees them—and we learn to view ourselves as He sees us!
Ordinances and commandments help us to know the mind and will of God. We gain the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. We take Christ’s name upon us.
Our very identity begins to merge with Christ’s!
The scriptures are FULL of examples of people who achieved this kind of oneness. Most scriptural examples were folks of no great position—until called by God after their loyalty had been proven.
David ran towards Goliath shouting, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts…whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand…that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45-46).
Elisha’s servant saw their enemies surrounding them and feared for his life. But, Elisha knew that, because of his relationship with the Lord, God would fight their battle.
“Elisha prayed and said Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the Lord, and said Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17-18).
Nephi heard the voice of God declare,
“Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou has done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou has not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but has sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people…Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people” (Helaman 10: 4-7).
They acted through the power of God because they bound themselves to Him! The Lord’s confidence in Nephi is so meaningful to me: “all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.”
When we align ourselves with God’s will, instead of losing identity and uniqueness, we gain the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and divine power. The Holy Ghost’s sanctifying power strengthens our weaknesses and pulls the motes from our eyes so we can see others, ourselves, and God clearly.
Sometimes it’s beautiful-hair woman that we really get to see.