Megan Sanborn Jones, chair of the Department of Theatre and Media Arts, delivered Tuesday’s devotional address. She spoke on diminishing selfishness through being a good neighbor.
Sanborn Jones roused the audience with a robust performance of the iconic opening song from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and used its lyrics to lay a foundation for her remarks:
"It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood, a neighborly day for a beauty.
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you; I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.”
She explained, “I am compelled by the vision of the world that Mr. Rogers creates, one filled with good neighbors who like each other just the way they are and — in so doing — turn a neighborhood into ‘beauty wood.’”
However, Sanborn Jones pointed out that society has distanced itself from Mr. Rogers’s neighborly ideals through polarizing partisan debate, bitter intolerance and growing trends of selfishness.
Selfishness, said Sanborn Jones, is one of the strongest sources of societal decay. Luckily, we have an example of selflessness to emulate.
“Jesus Christ Himself has given us clear direction for how to turn selfishness into selflessness. His lesson comes to us, as so many of his lessons do, in a parable,” the biblical parable of the good Samaritan.
Referencing a sermon from Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Sanborn Jones identified three kinds of selfishness: selfishness of intellect, individualism and income.
Selfishness of intellect Intellectual selfishness is “where the selfish person claims credit, bears false witness and is disdainful of the ideas and opinions of others.”
Selfishness of intellect is apparent in the context that prompts Christ to share the parable. A lawyer, master of Jewish law and rhetoric, asked Christ how he could obtain eternal life, and who qualified as his neighbor. The man’s disingenuous intentions and question prompted Christ to reframe his intellectual assumptions.
“In framing this story about a Samaritan, Jesus was creating an opportunity for the lawyer to identify mercy in a person who looked, acted and worshiped differently than himself. Jesus was inviting the lawyer to set aside his own high opinion of his learning and position and to see the good in an other.”
Sanborn Jones also shared a personal experience while traveling in Morocco that reaffirmed to her that selfishness of intellect prevents us from seeing the innocence and goodness of others.
“Even in our own neighborhoods, we are guilty of the selfishness of intellect when we hold on so tightly to our own ‘right’ ideas that we stop listening to, learning from and loving those with whom we disagree. We must work even more diligently in the familiar to set aside our own egos and to put away overweening confidence in our own opinions.”
Selfishness of individualism The religious leaders that passed by the wounded Jew are examples being motivated by selfishness of individualism. While they might have felt uncomfortable with the situation or too busy to help, leaving the injured man was not acceptable, explained Sanborn Jones.
“We must be willing to accept small or even large discomforts in our own lives in our efforts to be better ministers to those around us. We will become our best as we think of ourselves the least.”
Selfishness of income The Samaritan in Christ's parable gave all of his resources to bind up the man’s wounds, provide him with shelter and secure additional medical assistance.
Sanborn Jones also shared a story about how her son gave away his daily tips from work to people in need. Both of these examples remind us that our income can and should be consecrated to holier purposes.
“Every penny in our banks, every thing we own, every award we win, grant we receive, each job we land, every raise we earn is a blessing from the Lord. He is the one who preserves us day to day and supports us from one moment to another.”
As we shed personal prejudice and desires and instead give to others, we can build a global neighborhood of saints and qualify for special blessings.
“Imagine our heavenly parents giving us this invitation to heal ourselves of the sickness of selfishness. Our heavenly parents are pleading for us to do their work in the world: “Could you be mine? Would you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?”
As we consecrate our time, efforts and talents to help others, we'll be pulled closer into the loving, sustaining embrace of the Father.
Next devotional Elder Kelly R. Johnson, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will deliver the next devotional address on Tuesday, March 15, at 11:05 a.m. in the Marriott Center.
His remarks will be broadcast live on BYUtv, BYUtv.org (and archived for on-demand streaming), KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYUradio 107.9 FM and SiriusXM 143. Video, text and audio are archived on speeches.byu.edu.