In philosophy, Edmund Husserl identified the “Other.” This is as opposed to the “Self” or “Us.”
Consciously or subconsciously, we all separate the “Us” vs “Them.” It is recorded in scripture, as Israel separates itself from the world. Nephites exclaim they are better than the Lamanites, the “Other.” When Ammon and his brethren seek to go on a mission to the Lamanites, the Nephites mocked and ridiculed them, for the Lamanites were savages that loved to hate, were lazy, and were forever lost.
Interestingly, God sees it differently. He sees us all as family. He doesn’t distinguish between us. He doesn’t have favorites. He doesn’t separate us. God didn’t cast Satan out, Satan’s actions divided and separated him from God. Satan sought for “Self” and in doing so, turned God and his followers into the “Other.”
In God’s view, “US” includes everyone. God established us as a family, and the only thing that can end that relationship is if we choose to separate ourselves. The Prodigal Son decided that the family was the “Other” and sought his own fortune among his own. Still, God didn’t cast him off forever. God did not make him the “Other.” The Father stood watching, until the Prodigal was ready to return to the family. When he was ready, the Father ran to him, wrapped him in royal clothes, and killed the fatted calf.
We focus and hope on the tender mercies of God that he will retain us in his love and family. In doing so, Book of Mormon prophets frequently remind us that as we gain forgiveness, to not forget the poor, needy and stranger. They are not the “Other” to God, and for us to be in the family means we must also accept them as family.
In making someone or some group “Other,” we are putting them in a category that justifies us in keeping them separate. Whether it is an issue of wealth/poverty, race, religion, political philosophy, fat/skinny, healthy/sick, LGBTQ/heterosexual, etc., we tend to place people in categories, so we can justify ourselves before the “Us” and before God.
God hates sin. Yet, he loves the sinner and always has his door open for them. No one has gone too far that the Atonement of Jesus Christ cannot reach them.
So, do we separate ourselves from God when we refuse to embrace his children, because we’ve placed them in the “Other” category? This isn’t to say that we accept all viewpoints, but instead that as we disagree on issues, we see the person as part of “Us.” We are family, unless we cast ourselves out of the Promised Land by rejecting to embrace God’s children, regardless of who or what they are or believe.
This gets to be challenging as we consider the Hitlers in the world. How do we hate their evil works, yet still see them as our brothers and sisters in need of repentance? Do we wish Trump or Biden (pick your poison) or someone else dead, because their politics are different than our own? Or do we pray sincerely for both of them, as they are children of God in need of our prayers? Do we seek to love them as God loves them? Or do we justify our distaste, because we have made them the “Other?”
How did the Nephites become one people in 4 Nephi? There were no more Nephites, Lamanites or any other “-ites” but were one people in Christ. Are we seeking that kind of unity? Will we as Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc., happily and lovingly work together to build Zion? Or will we keep Zion from being built because we are focused on destroying the “Other?”
Does “love your enemies” mean anything to us? Do we seek to listen, truly listen to them, even if we end up kindly and lovingly disagreeing? What things do we agree upon? How can we reach out to them and lift them up, even if they remain in sin or with a separate philosophy than us? Can the Church work with other religions and communist nations to bring about good, even while disagreeing on key concepts? Yes. Can we do the same? I hope so.
What can we do to eliminate the “Other” category of those around us, and invite them to become part of the “Us,” part of the family of God?