How to foster unity among those from different cultures

It was stake conference in the San Francisco West Stake. I was directing the choir. I looked at the singers and thought, "How glorious that music and the gospel can unite us." We had several nationalities and various ages in the choir. What a wonderful variety of people, united by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When we moved to the San Francisco area, our bishop told me that when he became a bishop he wondered how he would be able to unite such diverse people. He realized that we had to become a ward family. By referring often to our ward family and expressing love for its members, we came to think of others as our family.It helps to realize that every culture contains things that are and are not harmonious with the gospel. Find those things that are in harmony and celebrate them, such as the following:

  • Enjoy the dancing, food and handicrafts of all cultures. At a recent stake women's conference, the Chinese sisters sang (in Chinese), we had Filippino food, and learned Japanese oragami, American quilting and other various handicrafts.
  • Emphasize gospel principles when teaching lessons, not cultural solutions.
  • Don't be afraid to ask others about their cultures. A simple question, "What were the schools like in Japan?" brought a long and detailed answer.
  • Simplify your language, if necessary, but there is no need to talk louder. Speak slowly, enunciate distinctly and simplify your sentences and vocabulary.

As we work together in Zion, it doesn't take very long before we stop thinking of people by their ethnicity and think of them as our friends, sisters and brothers. The external appearance is so much less than the soul it houses. The eternal friendship and family relationships that are based in the gospel are most satisfying. - Marilyn Bunker Wells, Pacifica, Calif.

What we did:

Constantly striving

I have the privilege of being in a ward rich in cultural diversity. Cherry Park Ward, Portland Oregon Stake, is host to a Spanish group drawing brothers and sisters together from many nations. We also have members from Polynesian countries, and New Zealand, Vietnam and many other places.

Our ward is constantly striving for understanding and unity. Many ward members study a second language. Those who are bilingual bridge communication gaps. Primary children learn verses of songs in other languages. Relief Society sisters have had mini-lessons in Spanish. Ward activities provide cultural exchange. Friends swap skills such as making egg rolls in exchange for baking bread. Each of these aspects of culture sharing is important and significant. - Jessie E. Turner, Portland, Ore.

Unity through music

I served in a Primary presidency in a ward where we had many cultures. One way we tried to foster unity was through singing the Primary songs, especially with hand movements that can go along with the music and through pictures and visual aids. This helped the children come together and all participate, despite cultural differences. Thus, no one felt left out and they all received the gospel message of the song.

In addition, including children through music helps them feel the Spirit. Music transcends all cultures and languages. - Paula Cannon, Taylorsville, Utah

Noble birthright

Last year, I taught a bilingual Relief Society homemaking meeting in our branch. I told the sisters that history is filled with stories of people who sought after diamonds because they, of all the gems of the earth, symbolize beauty, rarity, wealth and love. Diamonds occur in almost every color of the rainbow.

Continuing, I said that in the final analysis, your color, like that of a diamond, is uniquely yours. And no matter what color you are, the fact that you are a diamond, a daughter of God, is a characteristic you share with your other sisters. - Connie Obara, Hartford, Conn.

Sense of self-worth

Through the Spirit, one can gain a sense of the self-worth of all people. We can seek for qualities in ourselves that allow us to see others' strengths and to realize there is much we can learn from them.

We should not expect people from other cultures to totally "fit in" to our cultural mold. Instead, we should find ways for them to share their cultural and spiritual strengths with us. - Patricia Foster, Bountiful, Utah

All walks of life

One ward in my stake includes people of all educational and cultural walks of life. The bishop in his priesthood executive committee always reserves time for home teachers of certain families to report on their progress and situation.

And on a frequent basis, as a stake presidency, we go with elder's quorum presidencies to homes of members, many of whom are from various ethnic groups. It's like a home teaching visit. We deliver a spiritual message. We ask about their conversion to the Church and how they get to Church. This way, as the area grows, we plan for that growth within stake boundaries.

In addition, we have in one ward an unusual program where couples meet with several receptive non-LDS families within ward boundaries frequently to teach them how to hold family home evenings. This has the side effect of making ward members of various ethnic groups feel the Church cares about others in their neighborhoods.

The most important thing I find, as a stake president, is to give everyone a calling. Callings help members thrive and blossom. We encourage bishops to give callings to new members where they can receive support by someone working closely beside them. - John R. Stone, Scarsdale, N.Y.

Feeling welcome

What I see the most of in our culturally diverse stake is people making others feel welcome. We have some Spanish-speaking people in our ward and some have been called as Primary teachers. The teachers speak mostly Spanish, so the children have actually helped them with English, and they work together to understand the lessons.

In Relief Society homemaking, we've had the sisters cook Spanish food for us. Through all this, we've become more aware and more appreciative of cultural diversity.

In addition, stake leaders have visited the Spanish ward and taken part in its progression. - LeeAnn Thompson, Salt Lake City, Utah

How to checklist:

1 Remember we are all children of God; we are brothers and sisters united in gospel

2 Emphasize gospel principles, not cultural solutions

3 Share, learn about other cultures; trade recipes, handicrafts; learn new language

4 Be understanding of cultural differences.


Feb. 22 "How to unleash the personal impact of scripture study in your life."

March 1 "How to dress on a limited budget."

March 8 "How to commemorate the pioneer sesquicentennial in your personal life."

March 15 "How to overcome obstacles to serving a mission as a retired couple."

March 22 "How to prepare spiritually and emotionally for death of loved one."

March 29 "How to place people above tasks."

April 5 "How to help children benefit from general conference."

April 12 "How to break the habit of being late."

  • Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to be more patient with your children," "How to foster positive communication in your family."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: [email protected] Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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