BYU-Idaho’s devotional speaker on July 10 was Bryce Mecham, the Chair of the Music Department at BYU-Idaho. The title of his talk was “Publicans, Centurions, and Samaritans: Developing Charity for the Other.”
“The Other is anyone who is different than you,” Mecham said. “The term refers to any individual or group that you differentiate from yourself or your group and is usually used in terms of describing individuals or groups that are considered drastically different or in some way inferior to or opposed to oneself or one’s own group.”
Mecham said this is a subject he has been able to learn more about through teaching his World Foundation classes. He told BYU-Idaho Radio the principle of “other” is how we define ourselves as individuals.
“I think the place where I have encountered this idea of otherness the most is in studying things in history, like the Holocaust,” Mecham said. “Where a group of people were seen as so much other or so different that they were then dehumanized and treated very horribly.”
He said we can see different levels of this principle throughout history and we also do this in our lives all the time.
“Music majors think that theatre majors are weird, and I’m sure theatre majors think music majors are weird, because we’re different,” Mecham said. “We have different things that we do different ways. I think it probably happens in families too and with roommates.”
Mecham said we often look at people and we will define them based on how they are different.
“Unfortunately in human nature there is a tendency to take that to extremes sometimes, and to then decimate against people or treat people badly,” Mecham said.
In his devotional talk, Mecham used three examples from the New Testament of Christ holding up a publican, centurion, and a Samaritan. He said these examples teach us how even people who are very different than us can be examples to us.
“Jesus holds up as an example someone who would have been considered the Other, an undesirable, and even an enemy,” Mecham said. “Furthermore, he juxtaposes the example of this Other against a believer, or the ‘in’ group.”
Mecham said while travelling to India a few years ago he was able to personally feel what being the “other” felt like.
“I felt like a foreigner, and completely different than these people,” Mecham said. “We visited various religious sites, and in each of those places I found something in their spirituality and their beliefs that supported some of my own beliefs and actually was a good example to me.”
He shared an experience of a Sikh man who took time to explain some of the rituals surrounding the Sikh scriptures and he bore his testimony.
“’I know that if you make time for the word of God each day in your life, he will bless you,’” Mecham said quoting the Sikh man. “This simple statement hit me very powerfully and the Spirit confirmed its truth. My testimony of daily scripture study was strengthened. I have never forgotten that lesson and I have never forgotten this kind man. He was faithful to the light and truth that he had, and it blessed me.”
Mecham said we need to try to not look for what is bad in other people but instead should look at the things we have in common.
“We are children of God, we believe that we are literally children of God,” Mecham said. “We are all brothers and sisters. The people that I don’t like, that people that are different, the people that I struggle with, they are all children of God too.”
Mecham lastly gave out the challenge to those in attendance to be able to identify who are the Publicans, Centurions, and Samaritans in their life and to start learning how to love them and learn from them.
“For me, taking on this challenge over many years has yielded wonderful blessings of learning, understanding, acceptance, and love. It has strengthened my faith and my testimony,” Mecham said. “It has helped me to emulate the example of my Savior a little more.”