After decades of living where members of the Church are a minority, my husband and I moved into a neighborhood in Rexburg, Idaho, USA, that contained only two nonmember families. It was our good fortune to live next to one of them.
The father was mowing his lawn the first time we drove into our driveway. My husband and I crossed our lawn to get acquainted. As I put out my hand, I asked, “So what brought your family to Rexburg?”
He replied, “My job—and we searched specifically for a town that needed to be introduced to Christ.”
I felt as though a bucket of cold water had been thrown in my face, but I smiled. I determined at that moment that no matter what our new neighbor said or did, we would become the best neighbors the family ever had. We would try to respond in every interaction with them in a kind, loving, and reasonable way, as the Savior would.
The following eight years brought many shared activities between our families. The mother was invited to and attended Relief Society activities. She invited me and many of our Latter-day Saint neighbors to a Christian women’s retreat sponsored by her church. My husband and I were invited to their children’s dance and piano recitals. Their family was included in neighborhood cookouts and parties. And we received calls from their older children when they needed rides home from work and couldn’t reach their parents.
The parents worried that their children might begin to like Latter-day Saints too much, so they didn’t let their sons join our ward Scouting program. But our home was considered a safe place, where they let their children play when our grandchildren visited.
Every time our neighbors tried to help us see “the error of our ways,” we reminded them that we had the utmost respect for their beliefs and the way they lived and nurtured their children. We then added that we expected the same respect for our beliefs, which also centered on the Savior’s teachings.
When the mother tried to make our differences into a deep, uncrossable chasm by claiming that Latter-day Saints believed in a “different Jesus,” I reminded her that we both believed He is divine and the beloved Son of God. Eventually she and I enjoyed a warm and friendly relationship.
Their family moved without joining the Church. But if they can say, “We lived among Mormons; they are good and respectful people with sincere hearts,” then I feel we succeeded in being good neighbors and in helping them become more open and fair in their assessment of Latter-day Saints.