I have always been interested in learning more about different religions. I graduated from seminary, which in our church is a four-year religious education program for grades 9 to 12 youth.
Here in Port Angeles, the young people gather at 6:30 am to attend the seminar before going to their high school classes. I discovered a myriad of religions during a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France. I have had many interesting conversations on a variety of beliefs.
While in college, I took a course called “World Religion,” which introduced me to religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Jainism and Judaism.
Throughout my career, I have been able to meet many people who come from a multitude of different faiths.
I have had the opportunity to travel to Asia, Europe, Canada and across the United States.
From these experiences, I discovered that there are good people among all religions of the world. In most cases, I have found common ground with these denominations and discovered that we share similar core values.
One of our articles of faith reads: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the precepts of our own conscience and grant to all men the same privilege, that they worship how, where and what. they can.
Many came to America in search of religious freedom in the 1600s.
If you were to go back to England in 1683, you would find my ancestor, John Bringhurst, in prison for simply printing a religious pamphlet.
He was a member of the Religious Society of Friends and he printed a Quaker publication that included his testimony.
This got him in legal trouble and he was arrested.
He continued to be persecuted for his faith and over time fled the country.
My ancestors eventually made it to Philadelphia where they were able to practice their religion without fear of government interference.
Religious freedom is not just the freedom to believe what you want, but to have the independence to act on it and speak out about your beliefs.
We are fortunate to live in a country where we can pray and worship without apprehension.
Others in the world are not so fortunate.
Interfaith service projects bring unity to communities. Due to COVID restrictions, the Friendship Dinner at First United Methodist Church has been postponed, but for many years members of our congregation have volunteered.
When the Port Angeles Dream Playground needed volunteers, many churches answered the call.
Our youth group built 50 sawhorses to be used in the construction of the playground.
The collaboration to make the Dream Playground a reality has been remarkable.
Latter-day Saint congregations recently gathered kits for refugees from Afghanistan to Seattle.
I was touched by the number of people in the community, many of them from different faiths, generously donated the necessary supplies.
I tried to imagine how grateful these Afghan refugees were to receive basic supplies to help them start a new, better life after going through the horror and uncertainty in their country.
Working side by side with other faiths often brings blessings to those who need help most.
We may not all agree on all doctrinal matters, but I think those of any faith can agree that it is a blessing to be able to worship as we see fit. It is a wonderful freedom to be cherished. And although we may worship differently, I hope we have more interfaith service projects.
These projects build bridges at a time when there is too much division.
We are all children of our Heavenly Father.
I think it pleases Him when we unite our arms to rescue the weak, raise our hanging hands and strengthen the weak knees, which in turn strengthens our communities.
Issues of Faith is a revolving column of five religious leaders from the Northern Olympic Peninsula. Bishop Jason Bringhurst is the Mount Pleasant Ward leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Port Angeles. His email is [email protected]