BYU professor shares 7 principles to help identify and 'acknowledge the divinity of others'

As Lori L. Wadsworth and her husband were raising teenagers, often they would say to their children as they were walking out the door, “Remember who you are.”

The BYU professor and her husband hoped the reminder helped their children feel armed with the knowledge of their divinity as they left their home and headed in to the world.

“Look around you — you are surrounded by children of God,” said Wadsworth, who is the MPA program director and a professor of public management at BYU. “Every single person on the earth now and forever is a child of God. It doesn’t matter their religious or political affiliation; it doesn’t matter where they come from or the color of their skin; it doesn’t matter if they are just you or vastly different from you — they are all children of our Heavenly Father.”

It is also important to see that potential in others, she said during a campus devotional on July 31.

“If knowing that we are children of God changes the way we think and behave, how important it must be for us to acknowledge the divinity of others, these ‘fellow citizens’ all around the world,” Wadsworth said. “I believe it will change the way we view and interact with them.”

Wadsworth shared seven principles to help individuals in the process of becoming “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens”:

1. Don’t judge others.

Drawing from the words of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Wadsworth told listeners to “Stop it!” in regards to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges or wanting to cause harm.

“So if we take Elder Uchtdorf’s advice, we simply need to stop judging others,” she said. “Not simply 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.

Warning students of the harm that comes from practices that offend and alienate others who are not of their same faith, Wadsworth said followers of Christ should be examples of civility and steer away from contention.

“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.

“I love the reminder that ‘God’s message is one of hope,’” she said. “It is a message of hope for all of us and we can be the messenger of that hope in the way that we interact with others. 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.”

Using the examples of refugees, as well as the LGBT community, Wadsworth spoke of finding solutions and building communities through finding commonalities.

4. Listen.

“How often are we tempted to jump to conclusions quickly based on a very limited amount of information?” Wadsworth asked. “The instant access to messaging that is now readily available in many forms makes it much easier to judge each other quickly and harshly. Practical advice regarding the use of social media is to weigh our thoughts and words carefully before we post our reaction online.”

In addition to warning of offering opinions too quickly, Wadsworth encouraged listeners to stay away from assuming intentions and responses of other people without first listening.

“As we listen to others, we are crossing barriers that might divide us, opening lines of communication, and building bridges of understanding,” she said.

5. Serve.

“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? … What is our duty to mankind?” she asked. “I am not suggesting that we ‘run faster than [we] have strength.’ What I am suggesting is that we actively look for ways we might better serve the children of God. As we provide service and show kindness to others, we immerse ourselves in loving and helping, rather than judging and contention.”

6. Love all people.

“We all have a lot to accomplish and numerous places to get to, but in our busy-ness, are we perhaps missing the real purpose of this life?” she said. “Maybe we need to seek ways to slow down and look out the window of our life, and see the people around us. … Do we ‘embrace, help and love’ those who are different than us? Are we developing that Christlike attribute of love in our interactions with others? It might be easier to love some of God’s children than others, but we are commanded to love all people.”

7. Pray.

“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. I would suggest that we also pray for ourselves — that we might see others as our Heavenly Father sees them; that we might have a testimony of their divinity, so that with our actions, we will treat them as children of God.”

Knowing that everyone is a child of God changes the way a person sees others, thinks and behaves, Wadsworth taught.

“We can make a difference in our families, our wards, our communities, our workplaces … wherever we are. That requires that we have a testimony of our divinity and the divinity of all of God’s children.”

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