As I’ve mentioned on the blog, we just moved back to Minnesota after a five year stint in Utah (nutshell: we’re both from Utah, DH went to MN on his mission, came home and married me, we went back to MN in 98 for grad school and stayed for work, said work moved us to Utah in 05, same said work just moved us back to MN for who knows how long). One thing I loved about my first experience as a Minnesotan was the plethora of great religious preschools dotting the landscape. My three oldest kids all went to a wonderful Catholic preschool, St. Mary’s, where certain concepts I’d been teaching at home were reinforced: numbers and letters and how to hold a pencil, along with the idea that God created the world and that Jesus loves them.
Now that I’m back, those older three are in elementary, middle, and high school, but my youngest, Wyatt, is in his first year of preschool. We found a great little Lutheran school just a few minutes from our house, and Wyatt has eagerly strapped on his backpack and marched through its doors a grand total of three times now (success!). On the drive home from his second day of school, we had the following conversation (and my apologies to my Facebook friends who are already familiar with this exchange):
Me: What did you learn today?
Wyatt: There was this guy? And Jesus taked his rib?
Me (thinking): Adam?
Wyatt: Yes! And guess what Jesus did? He turned that rib into a woman named Steve!
Gotta love three year olds, yes? While I’m quite sure that my son’s preschool isn’t recasting the creation story for political purposes and used Eve’s proper Biblical name, I also found it interesting to contemplate the small differences in the creation story that my son will be hearing in a Protestant preschool as compared to what he’ll be taught in church on Sunday. At the end of the day, though, I think the slight doctrinal differences (especially as presented in a preschool) are outweighed by the daily reminders of God’s presence and Jesus’s love that he’s receiving.
As Mormons we believe in seeking after all that is virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy. There is so much of this goodness to be found in our interactions with those not of our faith. Consider this quote by Joseph Smith:
“The inquiry is frequently made of me, ‘Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?’ In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, pg. 499)
Here’s another quote by an LDS prophet, this time as a statement issued in 1978 by the First Presidency–President Spencer W. Kimball and his counselors President Marion G. Romney and President N. Eldon Tanner:
“The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.”
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believe we have the fullness of the gospel, and that beginning with Joseph Smith and through continued prophetic revelation, many plain and precious truths as well as priesthood authority have been restored to the Earth. But this doesn’t mean its members can’t learn and grow—even be spiritually fed—by those outside our faith. I know I’ve learned much from my non-Mormon friends and neighbors. My spirit has recognized truth while reading books by New Age spiritualists or even while listening to pop music written by evangelical Christian rock bands. While I don’t agree with all the philosophies espoused by these different groups, of course, I’ve often found myself able to see a gospel principle in a whole new way by viewing it from a slightly different angle. For example, during a particularly difficult bout with anxiety about ten years ago, I gained a great deal of strength and power through reading the scriptures and prayer. But a non-Mormon friend also loaned me New Age spiritualist Gary Zukov’s book The Seat of the Soul, where I read this:
“Temptation is the gracious way of introducing each soul to his or her power. When you are seduced or threatened by external circumstances, you lose power. They gain power over you. With each choice that you make to align yourself with the energy of your soul, you empower yourself. This is how authentic power is acquired. It is built step by step, choice by choice. It cannot be mediated or prayed into being. It must be earned” (145).
My spirit immediately recognized this statement as truth, and suddenly it was clear to me that my own desire to indulge in my predilection for anxiety and fear was, in fact, a temptation that had been set before me, just as another individual might be tempted with feelings of lust or greed. I understood in a way I really hadn’t before that simply praying for my anxiety to go away wasn’t doing me any good; that I had to actively choose to resist the temptation to feed my own fear. So, although I didn’t agree with Zukov’s ideas about reincarnation or the higher consciousness of dolphins, I was extraordinarily blessed that day to find the peace and power I needed to find in his book.
There is so much truth out there to seek after. I love the invitation in Moroni 7 that teaches us how to seek after truth and light, but lately, I’ve been particularly mindful of the following scripture:
Moroni 7:4 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
It seems to me that we are reminded often of the first half of this injunction. But what of the second half? Do we Mormons sometimes close ourselves off to that which is good and of God simply because it doesn’t come in a recognizably LDS package? Do we take full advantage of the capacity to judge as it’s laid out in Moroni 7, and in so doing, increase our faith and knowledge? I’m sure many of you do, but I know I could do better.
Now I want to hear from you. What truths have you found in your interactions with those of other faiths? If you are a convert, what traditions or ideas from your former faith do you hold dear? If you’re not a Mormon, what do you love about your own tradition? (I would ask that we please keep this discussion friendly and positive, focusing on the common good in all religions!)