The secret to peace isn’t war; it’s travel.

Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” and he was right. You can’t decide to hate a country or a region when you’ve spent time with its people and learned to love and respect them. (If only some country’s leaders would do this with their own citizens. Alas.)

Travel does broaden your perspective and your realization that we’re all pretty much alike, we all have dreams and sorrows, we all want to be loved. That commonality rises above our differences if we travel to learn rather than to self-indulge. We come home with larger hearts, clearer vision, and greater satisfaction. It’s easy to see that if people traveled more, they would quarrel less.

But what about the way members form clusters and sub-cultures in our home wards? I recall attending a BYU Women’s Conference when Sheri Dew spoke about the way we sometimes form divisions, instead of striving for unity. She spoke of the various ways this happens, and quoted a sister as saying, “She’s a Utah Mormon.” You could almost hear a collective gasp as the Utah residents in attendance realized this could be a negative label in some members’ eyes. And what did it mean?

I’ve wondered the same when I’ve overheard someone say, “Well, he’s from California, so that explains it.” Explains what? And we all have friends who’ve tried to move to areas of the country where the unacceptance has escalated to vandalism, nasty notes left on windshields, and worse. One of my friends lived in a community for seven years and was still referred to as “that new family,” the one that didn’t quite fit in, yet.

Maybe we need to travel more, to get out of our cliques and routines, and see how members strive to live the gospel all around the world. Pride in one’s town is good only insofar as it doesn’t look down upon other towns. And the same is true of wards.

All over the landscape members are striving to raise good families, fulfill callings, follow the Prophet, and attend the Temple. These efforts are Herculean in some areas where strife and conflict present daily obstacles to covenant-keeping. Each person who has paid the price for a testimony, and then nurtures it with obedience and action, who shares a love of the Savior and a determination to feed His sheep, deserves our deepest respect. Even more, they deserve a hand up when they’re down, an encouraging smile, a welcoming embrace.

The power of a united, faithful people cannot be overestimated. When factions are erased and geographic labels stripped away, you simply have a body of dedicated disciples. It doesn’t matter where they live or came from, only that their hearts are dedicated to God. In Camelot, Merlin the magician turns the young King Arthur into a hawk, at which points he soars high above the earth and realizes that borders and boundaries are all man-made contrivances. God does not favor one group of children over another, simply because they live in a certain ward or state. Charity and dedication can be found everywhere, and no single region has a monopoly on faithfulness. It’s all a matter of individual choice.

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