Building bridges between Latter-day Saints, Muslims
Apr 3, 2022, 8:17 AM | Updated: Apr 6, 2022, 3:26 pm
(Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released a new 35-page pamphlet designed to enhance understanding between Muslims and Latter-day Saints. The booklet is the fruit of years of work, including collaboration with Muslim imams.
Elders David A Bednar and Gerrit W. Gong of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles led a discussion during a conference on Islam at Brigham Young University in October 2021 to introduce this new and powerful resource, which became available in January.
Elders Bednar and Gong joined Boyd Matheson, the host of KSL NewsRadio’s Inside Sources, on the occasion of the 192nd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints occurring Saturday, April 2, and Sunday, April 3, 2022.
During the past 50 years, Muslims and Latter-day Saints have been engaged in interfaith initiatives throughout the world to provide relief for the poor, strengthen families and build supportive communities.
Disaster leads to bridge-building
A powerful undersea earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra island, Indonesia. It set off the Indian Ocean tsunami, also known as the Christmas or Boxing Day tsunami, on Sunday morning, Dec. 26, 2004.
“President Boyd K. Packer invited Elder Gong and I to go with him to inspect the damage and be of assistance to the government with our humanitarian outreach,” said Elder Bednar.
He added that the earthquake and tsunami took him to a part of the world he had never visited.
“That was my first opportunity to understand the commonality between Islam and the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about prophets,” he said.
“Once we were on the ground, it was so much more hopeful because you saw the opportunity for people to work together in common cause,” said Elder Gong.
Understanding others begins with one simple question
“I asked Elder Bednar how building bridges begins,” Matheson said.
“‘I’ve had the experience of encountering very different religious world views from a lot of people. It’s very instructive to ask them the question: Can you help me understand?” Elder Bednar said.
“I think we need to, with people everywhere, have a feeling that there’s always more that we can learn. We learn from each other in that setting,” Elder Gong added.
A shared focus on family
“Elder Bednar shared one of the important building blocks on the shared commitment to family,” said Matheson.
“[For] the Islamic leaders with whom we have met in relation to this project and other initiatives around the world, there’s a strong focus on the family in Islam, and in that, we share so much in common,” Elder Bednar said. “I’ve had a number of relationships with some of these leaders that have endured over time.”
“Family is something where you can really feel that there’s a common bond with people of good faith and religious belief whatever that background may be,” Elder Gong said.
Framing the bridge-building model
“Elder Bednar begins by laying out the four major themes for building bridges of understanding,” Boyd said.
Elder Bednar said they are:
- “Latter-day Saints and Muslims are both people of faith, and we have much in common.”
- “We want to directly address false and cruel comments voiced or written by some of our church members about Muslims.
- “We will describe resources BYU and the church have prepared to assist in understanding and strengthening our relationship with followers of Islam.
- “Muslims and Latter-day Saints differ, of course, in some core doctrines, but we have many similar beliefs, values, and lifestyles.”
“Elder Gong explained how the pamphlet hopes to increase understanding,” Matheson said.
“At a time when societies and religious believers want and need mutual understanding, this pamphlet signifies a conscientious effort to provide dignity and tolerance for Muslim and Latter-day Saint believers,” he said. “It represents hours of conversation and study by religious scholars and others, including Muslims from diverse backgrounds.
“…It does not interpret the Quran. It does seek to understand some Islamic tenets and practices as explained by Muslim scholars and religious leaders and to portray these tenets in a positive and engaging manner,” said Elder Gong.
Commonalities of faith
“One of the interesting things Elder Bednar went on to share were specific similarities between Islam and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Boyd said.
“Both Latter-day Saints and Muslims have sincerely held beliefs, like faith in God, prophets, scriptures, and holy places,” Elder Bednar said. “We share common values, like the importance of family, chastity, and helping those in need.
“The lifestyles of both faiths, practices such as prayer, fasting, and protecting our physical health, are central and important. The common beliefs, values, and practices in both faiths extend beyond any political, ethnic, or cultural boundaries,” he said.
Elder Gong expanded on shared beliefs between Muslims and Latter-day Saints.
“Jesus Christ teaches the two great commandments are to love God and to love one another. A greater understanding of one another helps us love one another more. May we learn to share and understand openly and accurately so we can meet with the extended hands of respect and goodwill, not clenched fists of ignorance or antagonism,” he said.
In closing, Elder Bednar said:
“As apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, Elder Gong and I humbly pray that the God of Abraham, the God of us all, will watch over and bless each of us in this important and essential endeavor.”
“The world needs more citizens who can break down barriers, remove wedges, transcend divides and build bridges of friendship and understanding. We all can do that, beginning today,” Boyd said.
Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.
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