We went to church in Maui Hawaii today. There were two newly baptized converts confirmed in sacrament meeting. Afterwards the bishop stood from the podium and invited all those who "would show their support to the two who had just been confirmed, to show it by the uplifted hand". And then there was traditional pause for the audience to respond by raising a hand.
This was a packed sacrament meeting and we had to sit in the cultural hall which was behind the usual full room of pews. From the looks of it there were many many tourists in attendance. What struck me was how few people raised their hands in support of the newly baptized and confirmed members. Hardly anyone did from the entire cultural hall. And the hall was packed all the way to the very back wall.
As the bishop was extending the invitation I noticed my own hesitancy to raise my hand as well. I sat for a minute tying to figure out why, and the only reason that came to mind was "I'm not a member of this ward". That reason however only made me question further. The thought crossed my mind: "Can you not support a new member of the church unless you live in their ward?
The bishop had asked for a raised hand from those who would support them, nothing more, nothing less. After my internal debate I raised my hand because I supported those two searching for, and finding truth that is confirmed by the Holy Ghost. This is what the missionaries invite new converts to experience, and hopefully such an experience is what brings them into the church. That is why I'm a member of the church even though I was raised in the church. I thought it appropriate for those two new members to see member support, even though they have never seen me, and will probably never see me again. They are part of the body of believers, and my geographic ward boundaries should not prevent me from raising my hand to support them and welcome them into the fold. I think it's important they know and see that they have brothers and sisters from many walks of life, and from many different places who joined the church because they too received an answer to prayer from God. To me, that is one of the reasons we meet together in the first place.
In this context my home "ward boundaries" didn't matter. I was sad that more people didn't raise their hand. I wish more had. Many of the back section of the audience seemed to be wondering if they should or shouldn't. From what I understand there is a tradition that if you're not a member of that ward, you don't participate in that ward's business. To some degree it may be true, but in another sense, it blinds us.