No Monopoly on Truth

“We don’t believe we’ve got a monopoly on truth,” were the words that eased my dad’s welcome into a room full of Methodists.  My father is the regional public affairs rep in his area, which means this wasn’t the first formal gathering where he has spoken to about us Mormons to those who are not. This particular group was a group of single adult Methodists aged 30-50ish. The goal of their study group was to learn about various religions, ways that other people understood God.

My dad’s utterance, was not the first time I’ve heard that phrase used.  I just wish we confessed it more freely.  And I am wishful for a Sunday School class that studies the world’s religions. Sigh. I just haven’t seen it offered in the 3 hour block just yet. I just wish it were. I have come to understand my own faith so much more fully as I have studied and observed other religions.

I felt that way in a chapel sparkling with stained glass sunlight where I watched a friend’s Copic (Egyptian Christian) wedding. It was a spiritual experience for me. The richness of the symbols in the ceremony connected with similar ideas in our own faith. And I marvelled at the parallel. I read about religious meditation and think I’m sorely in need of that mindfulness in my spiritual ponderings. A documentary about Mecca resonated in my soul as I saw the to the fervent devotion in the prayers always on the lips of the pilgrims. Today it was a Benedictine blessing shared by an acquaintance:

A Fourfold Benedictine Blessing

May God bless you with discomfort

At easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships,

So that you may live deep within your heart.

 

May God bless you with anger

At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,

So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

 

May God bless you with tears

To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,

So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.

 

And may God bless you with enough foolishness

To believe that you can make a difference in the world,

So that you can do what others claim cannot be done,

To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

– Sister Ruth Fox, OSB

I was struck. Often we pray for nice things like peace, charity, kindness. This prayer by Sister Ruth Fox, a nun from the Sacred Heart Monestary, doesn’t. It embraces humanities commonly seen as weakness as appropriate and desirable for the right moments, and as signals to seek peace, exercise charity and share kindness. We don’t come from a tradition of scripted prayers, and so reading this one makes me stop and wonder about all of the prayers and meditation went into this one before Sister Ruth penned it. I add this prayer to my own.

I kind of like knowing that I don’t have to have at all from Mediterranean Place to Boardwalk. We all learn line by line, precept by precept. I am thankful for the many lines I do have, a gospel with so many more, and for the opportunity to borrow a few from others. Personally, I understand best as I learn about the world around me and relate and adapt it in my own life. Whether it is law of physics, a math principle, literary device or an additional meaning from another denomination, I want to seek out wisdom from the best of books. I love that our thirteenth article of faith ends on this line: If there is anything virtous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

How have you found truths elsewhere? What other principles have enriched your understanding?

About Sandra

(Blog Editor and Prose Board) recently moved back to California by way of north Texas, Baltimore and San Francisco. She loves sunlight, color, and intense dark chocolate. She devours cookbooks like novels and writes a bit at www.section89.com.

29 thoughts on “No Monopoly on Truth

  1. What a lovely post, thank you so much! Especially sister Ruth’s prayer, made me think of that story in a talk by someone (I’m terrible at remembering references, sorry!) about being thankful for the fleas. It also echoes a lot with what I’ve been thinking about lately, about how everything good comes from God and how everything that comes from God is good – yet we call the trials and challenges in our lives bad things. The Book of Mormon warns against mixing up that which comes from God with that which comes from other sources…

    The three-hour block is there for us to help with the gospel essentials (faith and repentance) so a world-religion Sunday School class is probably less likely because of that, but it would be wonderful – and I know I would definitely go – if there was a Relief Society meeting or a weekly class during the week about seeking out the “virtous, lovely, or of good report” from other sources. You could even ask different people to treat one subject at one time (get a YW to teach about the truths they have learnt from Twilight? :P :P ) so that it wouldn’t become overwhelming to a non-expert teacher…

  2. In the last town I lived in, I could hear the bells from the Russian Orthodox Church in the morning and the noon call to prayer a few hours later on Sundays. I hadn’t heard both those sounds together since I’d lived in Jerusalem 15 years ago. Now I walk by the main mosque in town on Friday afternoons.

    I love listening to the different ways people are called to prayer and it always calls me to prayer to, no matter how it’s done.

  3. Betsy and Corrie Ten Boom (sp) were happy for the fleas in their concentration camp (WWII) so that the guards didn’t come in to take away their Bibles and they could teach the other women inmates! Talk about sharing truth from others!!
    Actually I find hope in that Mother Teresa and Corrie and Betsy will be taught in Heaven and if they aren’t Celestial Types – there is no hope for me!

  4. Thank you for this post! I took World Religions at Ricks College. It was such an eye-opening and inspiring class. At the end of the class we asked our teacher if there was no Joseph Smith and LDS church, after all of his travels and studies, which church would he join? His answer?

    Islam, because their teachings on family and morality nearly mirror ours. His other option was Methodist because their teachings on salvation our closest to ours.

    I recently moved East Coast and the first month in RS class made a comment about how reading a book about a Muslim woman inspired to do want to be a better Mormon and to have the same relationship with my Creator that she did.

    The silence was deafening. :-)

    I would LOVE a World Religions class in SS – I think it would 100% help us be better member missionaries because there is SO MUCH common ground amongst us. And if we can have Marriage or Temple work classes during SS, why not :-) ?

  5. Loved this post!I have been privileged to usually live in areas where I am not a part of the majority religion. Living in these areas have given me precious opportunities to learn from my friends with different religious beliefs. I cherish the things I’ve learned from them. And yes, I do think that your faith can deepen as you learn from other religions.

    When we recognize the commonalities that exist between various religious and express respect for different traditions, I think we open doors of understanding that can only benefit all parties.

  6. I’d even settle for a “Christian Denominations of the US” class with each class taught by a member who had personal experience with that denomination (e.g. their denomination prior to conversion, a family member of that faith).

    I deeply wish that we’d be better about preaching that, yes, we believe we have the full truth, yet, yes, we believe others have partial truth as well. At a recent baptism of a young man the individual presiding (fortunately, I’ve blocked out who) stated, “This is the Church of Christ and all others are of the devil.” I was so shocked at the callous and inaccurate statement — particularly as there were “friends of other faiths” present.

    One of the faiths that has impacted my own faith greatly is that of Judaism. At the Wailing Wall I expected to be bothered and upset by the segregation of men and women; I certainly am bothered by it within the context of my own religion. Yet, there at the wall as the sun set and the Sabbath observations began I found a joy in sisterhood that I have never experienced within the LDS context. It was a beautiful paradigm shift, and it’s given me something to strive for within my own religious observations.

  7. When I was studying abroad in Vienna, my group met an American girl about our age at an ice-cream shop. We mentioned we were from BYU, she asked if we were Mormons, etc. and it turned out she was a very religious evangelical Christian. We chatted for a while about our religious beliefs and then she asked if she could pray with us. We all got ready to fold our arms and bow our heads, Primary-style, but she took our hands and turned her face up to the sky. Her prayer was beautiful in its openness and familiarity. She talked to God like an old friend. I hope someday I can have that kind of relationship with my Father.

  8. what a lovely prayer!! i love it!

    i have really, really enjoyed visiting other churches – it really has brought perspective to my own beliefs. i agree – we do not have a monopoly in truth. there is quite a bit to go around.

    i have gone to catholic mass at midnight on christmas eve — such a beautiful tradition here in minneapolis — many of the people aren’t even catholic. the st mary basilica is gorgeous and very traditional.

    i love parts of the koran. i’ve love to learn more. i love learning about the buddhist faith, and meditation. i took a class on that once — it’s crazy how little time we take to really think about how we are living our lives.

    thanks for this thought provoking post. :)

  9. I agree about learning about other faiths. I also took World Religions (and American Christianity) at BYU. I’ve read most of the world’s major religious texts including the koran, the Tao te Ching and others. I have close friends who are Muslim, Jewish, Lutheran, Catholic–you name it. I love discussions with them about their beliefs.

    So, I absolutely believe in learning about other religions, but I DO NOT think that we should teach about world religions during our three hour meeting block. And DEFINITELY not from LDS members who used to belong to other religions. People who leave their religion are generally dissatisfied with it and will present it more negatively than someone who is active in that faith. I have had evangelical friends tell me that they learned at about Mormonism in Sunday School from a member of their church who used to be Mormon. Mormons really love to be represented by ex-Mormons, don’t they? If we want to learn about Islam–we should do it from a Muslim. If we want to learn about Catholicism–learn from a Catholic. Learn from someone who loves their religion. We can stick to teaching what we know at our church and go to the source to find out what they know.

  10. I love your Dad for his perspective. My Dad has often said something similar, yet different. “Mormons don’t have a corner on good people.” I think our congregations would greatly benefit from more exposure to and increased dialogue with committed members of other faiths. When I first moved into our current ward, they asked a muslim woman who lived in our neighborhood to come and explain the tenets of her faith to our members one Sunday evening. It was extremely enlightening. And allowed many women in our ward to develop a deeper friendship with her. Truth can definitely be found in many places. And yet, I’m so grateful that the Restoration of a more complete truth allows us increased understanding and eyes to discern. Thanks for this post Sandra!

  11. Catherine- I love that one too. You are right I am grateful for my truths, appreciative for so many others elsewhere. Yes to “eyes to discern.”

    Amos- I see logistics as to why we would never teach about world religions in the Sunday School hour, because it most certainly should be taught by someone who thoroughly understands and honors it, mostly likely a believer of that faith.

    But sometimes, when I am sitting in a dull meeting, I wish for something more. I would however, love to see this in another, perhaps more feasible evening. I think the church spends a great deal of effort and money on putting a positive face out the public with the new I am a Mormon campaign, and it has done good things. I also think that we could do good things on a smaller level as we come to appreciate and respect other religious groups and people- and we would see more of that for us as well.

    Marla- Wow. I love that you have read those. Reading other religious texts is on my bucket list. I’ve been meaning to read the apocrypha first.

    Tiffany W.- “When we recognize the commonalities that exist between various religious and express respect for different traditions, I think we open doors of understanding that can only benefit all parties.” YES.

    Amira- I always loved the church bells, call to prayer in the assorted cities I’ve lived in. I am sad there are none in my current city.

  12. I know I already commented, but I just remembered this. Also when I was in Vienna, the LDS Institute had an activity where a young Orthodox Jewish man came and gave a presentation on his faith. It was fantastic. I think I’ll suggest something like it to the activities committee in my ward.

  13. This is beautiful and so true. Your post prompted me to share this that I wrote a few years ago

    http://womeninthescriptures.blogspot.com/2012/02/abrahams-tent.html

    I think sometimes we loose sight of how precious ALL Of God’s children are to him!

    Also, while I don’t think that it is appropriate to study world religion in Sunday school it would be an AWESOME thing to do as a RS activity. You could put together a class that met weekly or monthly to study religions, history and such. Wouldn’t that be awesome!

  14. Ummm… if y’all want, you can send me questions about Episcopalians, Baptists, and Lutherans and I’ll answer them. I’ll even tell you my impressions of visiting Temple Square, the Convention Center, and the Family History Museum.

    I’m geeky.lutheran @ gmail.

  15. In a humanities class at BYU I remember reading something by Rumi (or was it Averroes?) that urged people to look for truth, no matter the source. That made a big impression on me.

  16. My institute class in LA frequently invited speakers of other faiths to come share about their religion, and a YSA conference I volunteered at recently had sessions taught by a Muslim leader as one of the workshop choices. I love these kinds of things, and would love to see more of them. How about inviting women of other faiths to post at Segullah? Maybe jen (#15) would consent to be the first?

  17. Funny you should mention the world religions Sunday School class.

    A few years ago, our church building burned down during a Sunday service. The Society of Friends (Quakers) who meet across the street helped us out a lot that day. So when our building was rebuilt and dedicated last year, the Quakers approached us and asked if we could do something together to welcome us back. We did a Sunday School exchange to learn more about each other and then took guided tours of both church buildings.

    It went so well, we decided to make it something of a tradition. Yesterday, we had an interfaith Sunday School with some Muslim friends co-teaching with members of our ward about the Islamic faith and its similarities to Mormonism. Some of our Quaker friends even came to our Sacrament meeting, making it a total of about 30 people of different faiths attending our ward yesterday.

  18. I recommend the reading of Heather’s post. It is really amazing.

    Valerie – that sounds absolutely inspiring!!

    I am pretty sure I learned this truth from my father, as well – that we don’t hold a monopoly on the truth. In fact, I believe some people not of our faith have more truth that some people of our faith.

    I wrote a paper in college about the Church of the Lamb of God and the Great and Abominable Church, and the interesting thing about it is that being a baptized member of the LDS Church doesn’t automatically give you membership in the Church of the Lamb of God. I have more thoughts about the subject, but a comment section just won’t do them justice.

  19. One more thing I just thought I might share…

    I’m a ward missionary right now, and in talking recently about how sharing the gospel is not just about us giving someone a neatly wrapped package, but about a two-way conversation, our ward mission leader said, “We need to learn how others feel about God so we can better understand how we feel about God.”

    Having had that on my mind the past month or so has made gospel conversations with my co-workers and friends so much more enlightening.

  20. The Benedictine Blessing blew me away, to the point that I’m not able to say much on topic. Today I shed many tears over sad sad things. I felt weak and helpless. This blessing by Sister Ruth Fox is a comfort and reminder to em. What a wonderful example of your topic!

    The best multicultural/religious experiences I’ve had were talking to people one on one. Maybe this is what we’re being led to do with the more recent guidance from the Brethren to have an open dialogue with our friends and neighbors as part of our missionary efforts. It is about a lot more than baptizin’.

  21. Valerie: in regards to your ward missionary calling, may I share a recent experience of mine. I served as stake public affairs director for 11 1/2 years and during that time made a concerted effort to establish relationships with ministers and members of other churches. I started attending a monthly, Episcopalian women’s interfaith mtg, which I still do, after being released. I was then asked to serve on the board that organizes these meetings. Everyone knows I’m a Mormon, not Episcopalian.
    Last month I received an e-mail from one of the other board members saying something to the effect that a friend of hers had told her that because of Mitt Romney running for President, Mormons were running around trying to prove Jesus once lived in the Americas. She then said, “I know I can trust you to tell me the truth. What do you know about that?” I was then able to tell her that we believe the Book of Mormon is a record of a people who lived anciently in the Americas and we believe that Christ visited them after His resurrection to teach them and to bless them. That is one of the reasons we consider the Book of Mormon to be a second testament of Jesus Christ in addition to many other references to the Savior throughout the book. However it does not replace the Bible which we also believe in”.

    Her response back, regarding Jesus visiting the Americas? “Who’s to say He didn’t?”

    I have a testimony that the most effective way to acquaint people with the gospel is to go to them, not expect them to come to us – and to realize they have much that can enrich our lives. Its also by joining with them on common ground to achieve good.

  22. All truth can be circumscribed into one great whole. Praise God for that! I think it’s important to seek God wherever He is to be found, both through our “inside” work — meditation, devotionals, prayer, study — and our “outside” experience –sharing worship with others, exploring sacred texts, etc. Life is so much richer and our spiritual life so much deeper when we share!

  23. In case anybody’s interested, there was a two-day conference on Mormons and Methodists, organized by the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, over this last weekend. It was all filmed and is available here:
    http://fora.tv/conference/At_The_Crossroads_Again

    Each session featured a Mormon and a Methodist, talking about things like theology of family, historical parallels and divergences between Mormons and Methodists, Mormon and Methodist hymnody, etc.

  24. The more I have thought about this post, the more I loved it. I live right now in a foreign country where I hear the call to prayer at the mosque every day and wish that I could speak on intimate terms with some of the Muslim women I have met. I have so many questions I would like to ask, but there is a language barrier for most. We simply do not need to be afraid of learning, and not be afraid to find out who we really are. Thanks for so much food for thought with this post.

  25. I really appreciate the thoughts in this post. I gain a lot from learning about other religions. I like to frequent Patheos and study about different major religions.

  26. I have lived all around the world, and am consistently struck by the truth to be found in all religions. I am more amazed by the similarities in different faiths than dismayed by our differences. I too find inspiration in the soaring cathedrals of Europe, in the quiet, daily offerings of flowers in Bali, by the muezzin’s call to prayer 5 times a day by our house in Malaysia. I was awestruck by the faith of the Tibetans who journey over long distances usually by foot, relying on the kindness of strangers on their way to visit the Potala monastery. The world is filled with faithful people who seek to know God. We seek after these things!

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