My neighborhood erupted a little while ago. The issue was immigration. I found out about the eruption when I was doing my visiting teaching. I wonâ€™t go into the details of the neighborhood fight, just a few lines I heard as I prepared to do a typical visit.
â€œMaria is illegal, you know. She has her sisterâ€™s social security number. I donâ€™t even know if Maria is her real name.â€
(That tells me a lot about how much this woman understood Mexican culture. How many Mexican women ARENâ€™T named Maria somewhere in the list?)
As the fight worsened, one of my neighbors called not just the police but the INS. Three days later, I was to teach Sunday School. Mariaâ€™s son was in my class. I wondered if he would come.
He did comeâ€”wearing an American flag tie. The lesson was â€œGod is no respecter of persons.â€ I didnâ€™t talk about the neighborhood scandal, but I did talk about prejudice, and about forgiveness. I talked about hearing someone say, â€œI hate redheadsâ€ and (being a redhead) feeling terribly hurt by such meanness. (Of course, that was years ago. If someone said that now, Iâ€™d back them to a wall. I am not nearly as shy as I used to be.)
Mariaâ€™s son said quietly, â€œItâ€™s very hard to forgive.â€
â€œYes,â€ I acknowledged. â€œItâ€™s very hard.â€ And we left it at that.
I donâ€™t want this to start a conversation about immigration. Not interested in that topic at all right now. What I do want to say is that I serve weekly in the Provo Temple at the Spanish veil, and I know and honor the patrons. I became very close to my Hispanic students when I taught Spanish Institute, and I know their stories and why they are in the United States. I know something of their spiritual quests and their spiritual sensitivities.
Whatever political arenas we frequent, we simply cannot afford to have personal bordersâ€”borders wherein we choose our neighbors and exclude from our hearts those who fall into certain national or racial categories. Such is spiritual suicide. It denies us the gifts we are intended to receive, and denies others the gifts we are intended to offer.
I left my visiting teaching appointment quietly. I never gave the lesson. I wondered how long it would take before the Mexican family in my neighborhood chose to live elsewhere. I wondered what would happen to them. I wondered how they would feel about Mormons.
P.S. The website for the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons now includes a footage trailer. Hereâ€™s the link: www.untoldstoryofblackmormons.com.