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An open letter to all Long Beach faith leaders:

After having the privilege of participating on a conference call with Mayor (Robert) Garcia and other faith leaders last month, I was reminded of just how important organized religion and institutions of spiritual growth are to a community. As leaders, we serve to inspire those within our stewardship to become more in touch with their own personal divinity.

We teach the importance of how we treat others, how we love our neighbor, and how our love for Deity is reflected in how we treat others. The golden rule is a common thread woven through most spiritual disciplines.

It occurred to me that at this time, the definition of “neighbor” needs to be seen in a broader light. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus refers to the one needing help simply as “a certain man.” There are no other qualifiers. Our neighbor is effectively anyone who needs our help. At this difficult time, I feel that our communities, our business owners, and our city leaders all qualify as our neighbor. And brothers and sisters, these neighbors need our help.

As faith leaders, I think we all wonder whether we are doing enough to represent the principles we believe in, and whether we are setting the right example for those who follow us. It is my belief that we currently face a defining moment. A moment to show the love we have for the Light we bow to, and a moment to show just how deep that love is.

My belief is that if each of us turn in prayer to the Higher Authority we answer to, we will be given specific inspiration as to what we as a faith organization can do to bless our community. One idea came to my mind through this process, and that is when we eventually resume our youth nights, our weekly activity will be to have dinner at various local restaurants. This supports one sector of many valuable local businesses that enhance our quality of life and teaches our youth their responsibilities to our community, both as citizens and as members of a faith institution.

This is just one simple idea that came through prayer. There will be others.

It is also clear to me that much can be accomplished by faith groups working together. Doctrinal differences are irrelevant when it comes to serving our fellow human beings. We have established several interfaith relationships over the last few years, and those collaborations have provided thousands of backpacks to low-income families in Long Beach, thousands of pounds of food to local pantries, and a significant amount of resources to the homeless population on skid row.

We all have a role, we all have talents and resources that we can use together to help love our neighbor, our neighbor called Long Beach.

Emerson Fersch is president of the Long Beach East Stake, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

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