Relief Society Lesson 20: Fellowship with Those Who Are Not of Our Faith
I’ve been doing Relief Society lessons on this blog for a long time now, and I was delighted to see this new topic. Consider asking a member of another religion to come and speak for 10 minutes about why interfaith relationships are important to them in their spiritual life. You can ask a friend of another faith or consider googling “interfaith council” in your city. These groups often have individuals willing to speak (I googled “interfaith council in Phoenix, Arizona” and found this group).
This lesson is so broad that lends itself to some great discussions. If you are not comfortable asking someone from another faith to come, consider asking the Public Relations representative in your stake to speak about his or her experiences in the broader community or invite a member of your ward who has expressed an interest in those belonging to other faiths.
Another option would be to have a convert talk about how her faith from another tradition helps her as a Mormon or have someone sing a favorite hymn or spiritual from another faith. (I
Creating Relationships with Other Faith Organizations
In the manual, we have a quote from President Hinckley that I love:
“We recognize the need to heal the wounds of society and replace with optimism and faith the pessimism of our times. We must recognize that there is no need for recrimination or criticism against one another. We must use our influence to still the voices of angry and vindictive argument.”
Here are some other quotes from later in the manual that may also help with discussion:
“We must not become disagreeable as we talk of doctrinal differences. There is no place for acrimony. But we can never surrender or compromise that knowledge which has come to us through revelation and the direct bestowal of keys and authority under the hands of those who held them anciently. Let us never forget that this is a restoration of that which was instituted by the Savior of the world. …
We can respect other religions, and must do so. We must recognize the great good they accomplish. We must teach our children to be tolerant and friendly toward those not of our faith.”
“We are not out to injure other churches. We are not out to hurt other churches. We do not argue with other churches. We do not debate with other churches. We simply say to those who may be of other faiths or of no faith, “You bring with you such truth as you have and let us see if we can add to it.”
- Have you spoken to someone from another religion without the intent to do missionary work? How was it similar to a missionary discussion? How was it different?
- Was the discussion difficult? Were there disagreements?
- Did you find common ground? How did that make you feel?
The Importance of Diversity
In D&C 1:30, we read about our church as “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” Sometimes, this is off-putting to those of other faiths.
- Why might they feel that way?
- What have you done in discussions to bring a spirit of kindness and equality?
I think President Hinckley’s quote in the manual here is helpful to keep in mind and has helped to create relationships based on shared faith and mutual respect without an intent to convert (after all, it is the Holy Ghost, not me who will convert others):
“… Our strength lies in our freedom to choose. There is strength even in our very diversity. But there is greater strength in the God-given mandate to each of us to work for the uplift and blessing of all His sons and daughters, regardless of their ethnic or national origin or other differences. ”
Later in this lesson, President Hinckley speaks again about this concept:
“We must never forget that we live in a world of great diversity. The people of the earth are all our Father’s children and are of many and varied religious persuasions. We must cultivate tolerance and appreciation and respect one another.”
I love the idea of greater strength in our diversity. President Okazaki gave a great talk in April 1996 at General Conference called “Baskets and Bottles” where she talks about how women in Utah and Hawaii store fruit differently.
“The basket and the bottle are different containers, but the content is the same: fruit for a family. Is the bottle right and the basket wrong? No, they are both right. They are containers appropriate to the culture and the needs of the people. And they are both appropriate for the content they carry, which is the fruit.”
She uses the analogy to talk about the differences and strengths we bring as diverse members of the Church. I think this analogy can easily be applied to different religions. The beliefs of different religions speak to the hearts of different people but all work to bring about greater love.
- When, in your life, have you benefitted from the another’s religious perspective to increase your own religious understanding or build your own relationship with God?
After I finished college with a degree in Anthropology, I was fascinated with the different religions of the world. I love reading the sacred texts of other religions and finding commonality between my faith and other religious traditions. I continue to do this in my life by:
- attending other religious services when I am moved to
- searching other texts like the Koran, Talmud and sutras from Hinduism and Buddhism
- listening to the music of other religions
- looking at the art created by artists inspired by their religious traditions
How else do you experience the things that are lovely or of good report in other religious traditions?
Collective Strength to Drive Away Evil
I believe that one reason why it is so important to have relationships with our sisters and brothers of other faiths is so that we can battle evil together.
In the manual, President Hinckley said, “May the Lord bless us to work unitedly to remove from our hearts and drive from our society all elements of hatred, bigotry, racism, and other divisive words and actions. The snide remark, the racial slur, hateful epithets, malicious gossip, and mean and vicious rumor-mongering should have no place among us.
“May God bless us all with the peace that comes from Him. May He bless us with thankful hearts and with the will to mingle together with respect one for another, uniting our efforts to the blessing of the communities where we are fortunate to live.”
- Have you had the opportunity to work with others to battle racism, sexism, homophobia, or other kinds of bigotry with others of different faiths who shared your values? How did that feel? What did you learn?
President Hinckley encouraged us to join with those not of our faith “in good community causes.”
We should live with respect, appreciation, and friendship toward people who are not of our faith.
I thought this section in the manual was so well done.
“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may” (Articles of Faith 1:11).
How very important that is—that while we believe in worshipping God according to our doctrine, we do not become arrogant or self-righteous or prideful but that we extend to others the privilege of worshipping according to their desires. Much of the trouble in the world comes from conflict between religions. I am happy to be able to say that I can sit down with my Catholic friends and talk with them, that I can sit down with my Protestant friends and talk with them. I would stand in their defense, as this Church has done and will continue to do, in defending them in this world.
I plead with our people everywhere to live with respect and appreciation for those not of our faith. There is so great a need for civility and mutual respect among those of differing beliefs and philosophies. We must not be partisans of any doctrine of ethnic superiority. We live in a world of diversity. We can and must be respectful toward those with whose teachings we may not agree. We must be willing to defend the rights of others who may become the victims of bigotry.
- President Hinckley exemplified love, tolerance, and acceptance of other religions. Who else have you seen do this well? What did he or she do?
“We certainly do not need to be boastful about [our religion] or to be arrogant in any way. Such becomes a negation of the Spirit of the Christ whom we ought to try to emulate. That Spirit finds expression in the heart and the soul, in the quiet and unboastful manner of our lives.”
In our relationships with others, why is it helpful to remember that we are all children of God?
How can we cultivate greater appreciation and respect for others?
How can adults teach children to appreciate and respect others?
Why is it important that Church members work together with other people in good causes?
How can we become a greater influence for good in our community?
How have you seen love and respect overcome feelings of animosity? Why is our behavior toward others “the most persuasive argument for that which we believe”? Consider specific ways you can reach out to others.
What are your favorite resources from other religious traditions?
How will you teach this topic?