Lon Young is a former colleague of mine, but more importantly he has become dear friend. He began five years of service as a Mormon bishop in Utah right around the time my family and I moved to Texas. I'm grateful he started a blog because he's a very gifted writer with a giant and inclusive heart. When he has shared his thoughts, whether with me personally or publicly, I often find myself surprised at how like-minded we are, and I have been moved by his words on many occasions. Unlike him, however, I have no plans to move my family to India for a year to volunteer in a leprosy colony. The following words are excerpted from his post "Circles of Inclusion: A letter to my community from the leprosy colonies."
It was not the gods who did this–they did not command us to kick each other out of the church; they did not whisper that TRUTH was such a fragile thing it needed protection from IDEAS; they did not inspire us to pick up stones and hurl them at one another; they surely did not teach us that moral influence and power should be maintained by virtue of priesthood office, nor by exercising control, dominion, or compulsion, nor by contracting out the dirty work to modern-day hirelings, the PR Department.
Sadly, it seems to me that the hand of inclusion and acceptance we’d been extended by a few apostolic leaders seems to have been withdrawn. Now it’s all jabs and sucker-punches.
BUT I ALSO HEAR REPORTS OF KINDNESS, of inclusion, of individual ministries where institutional ones have failed. I rally when I hear these reports. They tell me that pockets of fresh air are possible where two or more are truly gathered in His name–a kind of rescue breathing where words of acceptance and inclusion resuscitate the dead and dying.
To those who have been excommunicated from the body of believers, whether formally (institutional punishment) or informally (social punishment), my heart aches for you. I’ve been working among the leprosy-affected here in India enough to witness how dehumanizing it is to be shunned, marginalized, even banished from a community. I’ve also come to understand the fear and ignorance lurking under the surface of such behavior. But you are not unclean for questioning injustice. You are not filthy for calling foul. You are not untouchable for challenging the status quo.
Every time someone, in fear, draws a circle that excludes you from the Mormon community, please know there are others of us drawing circles wide enough to take you in. And as your brothers and sisters, we will continue our commitment to inclusion, through renegade acts of radical acceptance, until we find ourselves—all of us–circumscribed into one great whole.