What I Have Learned that My Fellow Latter-day Saints Ought to Know

When I was first approached by Professor Harold Heie about the possibility of my involvement in an e-dialogue, “Respectful Conversations,” I wondered if I would have the time and energy to do so, given that I was already engaged in dialogue with Evangelicals, Nazarenes, and was a part of a Christian interfaith dialogue (eight of us) in Los Angeles. But when I learned that my friend, Richard Mouw, had recommended me, I felt that I should participate. And I am so grateful that I did. It has been a wonderful experience for me—expanding my understanding of other Christian groups’ beliefs and practices, correcting my own misperceptions, and possibly helping others in some small way to better understand my beliefs and way of life. I am eager to express some things to my own people that I have either learned for the first time or had reaffirmed. Some of these include:

  • that in spite of what many people through the years have accepted as fact, religion is an area that can be discussed and discussed seriously without dispute, rancor, or confrontation;
  • that interfaith dialogue can be helped along by a good dose of curiosity; because we live in a world of immense diversity, we simply ought to be interested in what other people believe;
  • that through interfaith dialogue one not only learns a great deal about the other person’s faith, but in the process may also learn a good bit about their own;
  • that God continues to work through people of various religious traditions to accomplish His purposes;
  • that the women and men with whom I have associated in this dialogue are followers of the Lord who want to do what they can to bless individuals and, in their own way, change the world;
  • that those who have participated in this dialogue manifest a deep and abiding sense, not only of love and adoration, but of awe and wonder toward Jesus Christ our Savior. Latter-day Saints could be greatly blessed by seeking to understand and feel such abiding reverence for the grandeur and majesty of Deity.
  • that not everyone out there dislikes the Latter-day Saints, and that in this group I have encountered God-loving and Christ-affirming persons who, while deeply committed to their own tradition, acknowledge goodness and Christian virtues wherever they may be found.
  • that after having read and studied the comments of eleven other religious scholars or church leaders from Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant denominations, there are a number of beliefs or practices of my associates for which I feel, in the words of New Testament scholar Krister Stendahl, “holy envy.” There is much that they believe and practice that I find both fascinating and deeply moving.