Two Degrees off Center: Putting Out the Welcome Mat
February 19, 2019
“Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience. Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.
by Rich Keys
One of my stops in my Human Resources career was at a small-appliance manufacturer. When I arrived, I made it known to all the employees that my door was always open and I was available for whatever needs they had. When no one stopped by, I assumed all was well in the assembly plant. The owner came by one day and asked how things were going, and I assured him everything was going according to plan. He then said I needed to get out in the plant and see for myself, and not wait for the employees to come to me.
So I started making the rounds, in tool and die, wiring, plastic extruding, assembly, quality control, shipping and receiving, and all the other departments. At first, things were stiff and formal. They were sizing up the guy with the tie. So I loosened my tie and rolled up my sleeves when I was on their turf, and I used their job as a conduit to get to know them as people, taking a sincere interest in them. I asked specific questions about their job and how they did the work, why they did it this way and not that way, and the teacher became the student as they demonstrated their confidence in themselves and what they were doing. Walls soon came down, we were on a first name basis, and I was asking how they did with their college midterms, whether their baby was over their colic, and how their favorite football team could blow that lead last Sunday. When they realized I was their sincere, trustworthy friend, their needs came spontaneously. Some were simple, others were serious, but it was all real, and I began to help solve their problems and satisfy their needs. Had I stayed in my office, I would have kept that false-positive reading that all is well.
Every LDS meetinghouse has a sign in front stating “Visitors Welcome,” many carved in stone to give the impression of permanence, unyielding, and never-changing. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBT Catholics, recently said, “(Pope) Francis said ‘welcome’ five years ago. I think we have to move forward from welcome. What are you going to do with LGBT people after you welcome them?”
If the LDS Church really is sincere, if it really proclaims itself to be Jesus Christ’s church and this new ministry movement is more than just an experiment, then it has to do more than put out the welcome mat and proclaim an open-door policy. It has to do more than display a sign in front of its buildings stating “Visitors Welcome.” It has to do as the Savior did, get out of their offices, loosen their ties, and go out to the plant and get to know us on our turf, taking a sincere interest in who, what, where, and how we are, building trust and solving problems…and if they won’t do that, then at least add a line under the Visitors Welcome sign that states “*Certain restrictions and exclusions apply, see lds.org for details.”
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.