Lori Wadsworth, MPA program director and professor of public management, spoke at Tuesday’s devotional about being fellowcitizens with the saints and acknowledging the divinity in others.
To begin her address, Wadsworth shared Ephesians 2:19, which says, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”
To become fellowcitizens in the gospel, we must acknowledge the divinity in others. Wadsworth outlined seven steps to accomplish that:
1. Don’t judge others
Wadsworth shared a memorable LDS General Conference address where Elder Uchtdorf counseled those prone to judgement to “stop it!”
“We simply need to stop judging others,” said Wadsworth. Not just because we don’t want to be judged ourselves, but because as disciples of Christ, we need to see others as He sees them.”
2. Avoid contention
Wadsworth acknowledged that contention is common in our society, especially as people rush to post their initial reactions on social media. But, she asked, “How can we justify this type of behavior if we know that the recipient of our bashing or contentious response is a child of God and a fellowcitizen in the household of God?”
“If we fall into the practice of bashing and personal attacks, we are giving Satan power over us, and we lose some of the access to the Spirit that we so desperately need in this life,” she said.
3. Respect the opinions and beliefs of others
Even with differences, every single person is a child of God, shared Wadsworth.
“Rather than looking for differences between us and our brothers and sisters, we should be actively looking for commonalities that we can then use to build strong relationships of mutual respect and understanding,” she said.
To illustrate the importance of listening, Professor Wadsworth shared the story of a man who needed to borrow a carjack after his truck broke down. As the man walked to a nearby farm, he imagined how someone might react to him asking to borrow their carjack. Instead of waiting to listen for an answer, he imagined the supposed answer in his mind.
He imagined the farmer being rude and unhelpful. By the time he actually arrived at the door to ask for the carjack, he knocked on the door angrily and said, “I don’t even want your stupid jack!”
“We might fall prey to this same type of behavior – assuming the intentions and response of another without giving them the benefit of the doubt and listening,” said Wadsworth.
“As we listen to others, we are crossing barriers that might divide us, opening lines of communication and building bridges of understanding.”
Regarding service, Wadsworth asked, “What are we doing to make the world a better place? Are we helping those who are hurting; are we standing up and speaking out to protect our Heavenly Father’s children?”
To make this point about service in her ethics class, Professor Wadsworth tells the story of a final exam in an ethics class at another university. When students arrived for the exam, they found a note saying that it had been moved to a building across campus. When they rushed to the new location, their professor informed them that the final exam was complete: the exam was not in the classroom, but in the world around them. Did they stop to help the people the professor had placed in their paths?
“You see,” she pointed out. “This life isn’t just about writing papers and passing tests. It’s not even about working hard at your job. It’s all about how we treat others.”
6. Love all people
In order to more fully love others, Wadsworth suggested that we “move in closer.” Moving in closer to see the reality of others’ lives gives viewers a better perspective of those around them. It helps them see the pain of others’ suffering and the goodness of others’ strength.
“Love is a Christlike attribute, so it is through our expressions that people will feel the love of the Savior. We are simply the instruments in God’s hand leading to that love.”
Lastly, Wadsworth suggested prayer as a way to see the divinity in others.
We see examples of praying to love others in the Book of Mormon. The sons of Mosiah prayed to be instruments in the hands of God and were able to serve and love the Lamanites.
“If we are honestly striving to love others, we must also pray for them, even if they are our enemies – maybe especially if they are our enemies. As we humble ourselves to earnestly pray for them, our eyes and hearts will be open, and we will gain a greater love for them,” said Wadsworth.
“Knowing that everyone is a child of God changes the way we see, think and behave,” concluded Wadsworth.
Writer: Erica Ostergar