David A. Bednar and Gerrit W. Gong, Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke at the conclusion of a two-day lecture at Brigham Young University entitled “The World Islamic Today: Problems and Prospects. “
The two men encouraged church followers to better understand the similarities and differences they have with the 1.8 billion followers of Islam around the world.
“The two denominations are different in many of our core doctrines, but many of our values and the way we practice our respective denominations are similar and reflect our love for God and our neighbor,” Bednar said.
Gong said understanding should be sought openly and honestly, “recognizing that we are brothers and sisters with a common humanity.”
He added that Latter-day Saints should learn more about their Muslim neighbors, because such knowledge “will help us to be kinder and more specific in what we say and feel about each other.”
Bednar repudiated all derogatory remarks and generalized statements Latter-day Saints have made about followers of Islam. Such comments, he said, are false and offensive.
“Such prejudices cause those who feel this way to overlook the kindness and kindness of the overwhelming majority of all Muslims,” Bednar said. “To suggest that all Muslims are linked to serious crimes here in the United States or elsewhere in the world is… inaccurate and offensive to Muslims. Muslims disavow such actions, as do Latter-day Saints. Every major religion has extremists who misinterpret the teachings of their own religion or seek to do evil in the name of religion.
The apostles highlighted the church’s joint efforts with Muslims to defend religious freedom and engage in humanitarian work. They also highlighted resources that enhance mutual understanding and highlighted several common beliefs shared by the two religious communities.
“As we meet with Muslim leaders from all over the world,” said Gong, “we are talking about the defense of religious freedom. Believers must unite for tolerance and the dignity of people of all religious beliefs.
Church leaders have met with leaders of the Muslim faith on several occasions. Gong met with a Sunni Muslim leader during a visit to Asia and Oceania in 2019, Bednar has met with leaders of Sudan in their country and in Temple Square over the past two years, and Ronald A. Rasband has met several Muslim leaders at the 2021 G20. Interfaith Forum in Italy.
Gong read an 1841 Nauvoo City Ordinance that shows religious tolerance at the start of the Latter-day Saint movement. “Let it be ordained by the municipal council of the city of Nauvoo,” the text reads, “that Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, bishops, Universalists, Unitarians, [Muslims], and all other sects and religious denominations whatsoever, will have free tolerance and the same privileges in this city.
Bednar said the church is very committed to religious freedom not just for ourselves, but for all. Like some Muslims in the United States or elsewhere in the world, members of our church have felt the effects of the persecution and profiling and we join with the right people everywhere in condemning such actions.
Elder Bednar shared some of the comments on religious freedom he made at the G20 Virtual Interfaith Forum last year, which was hosted by Saudi Arabia. At that forum, he called for solutions to COVID-19 that don’t cut people off from worship experiences.
The two apostles traveled to Indonesia – the country with the most Muslim citizens in the world – shortly after a devastating tsunami in December 2004 that killed an estimated 225,000 people. Bednar had just been called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Gong worked for BYU.
Gong said he met the former Indonesian president, visited Jakarta’s largest mosque, visited the heart of the devastation and donated necessary medical and humanitarian supplies. Latter-day Saint Charities worked with Islamic Relief and the Indonesian government to provide millions of dollars in needed relief.
Bednar said post-tsunami assistance from the two organizations lasted for years as they remained to rebuild communities.
“This is just one example of how Latter-day Saints have worked with our Muslim brothers and sisters to help alleviate suffering and ensure that all of humanity is treated kindly. , compassion and respect, ”said Bednar.
The church’s most recent humanitarian actions with the Muslim community include a donation in May 2019 to help rebuild two attacked mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Gong and President Russell M. Nelson visited the Muslim leaders there and presented them with a check.
“I was very grateful to stand alongside our church president in love and solidarity with our Muslim friends,” said Gong. “We contacted people who had been injured during attacks on mosques. I was happy that we could provide practical help in the face of tragedy and pain and commit to working together to increase understanding. “
Gong noted three resources made available by BYU to help Muslims and Latter-day Saints better understand each other:
- BYU’s Islamic Translation Series is a 14-book collection of some of Islam’s best-known classical philosophical and scholastic contributions.
- The Islamic Art Exhibition “Beauty and Belief”, organized by BYU.
- BYU Islam lectures are academic exchanges between scholars of Islam and are one of the university’s long-standing traditions.
On the last point, Gong noted, a scholar of Islam stated that, “here [at BYU] among believers, I have the impression of sharing a spiritual oasis in the midst of the modern secular wasteland.
The two apostles read an excerpt from an upcoming resource – a new pamphlet called “Muslims and Latter-day Saints: Beliefs, Values, and Lifestyles.” This will be published in the Gospel Library app. Elder Bednar said the document is the product of years of work, including working with Muslim imams.
The document describes the commonalities and notes the main differences in beliefs. These include the following:
- Faith in an omniscient and omnipotent God is a fundamental belief.
- The Vital Role of Prophets in Providing Counsel from God.
- The revelation of God given by the messengers as scripture is the foundation for learning God’s will, keeping commitments, and participating in faithful worship.
- Human beings must communicate with God through daily prayer.
- God loves purity and chastity.
- Both value women and their essential role in society and at home.
- The family is the fundamental unit of society and an essential source of joy.
- Jesus Christ plays an important, albeit different, role for both groups.
“Jesus Christ teaches that the two great commandments are to love God and to love yourself more,” said Gong. “A better understanding of each other helps us love each other. May we learn to share and understand openly and accurately, so that we can meet with outstretched hands of respect and goodwill, and not with closed fists of ignorance or antagonism.