“We’re worried about Jimmy; we’re worried that he’s going to lose his faith.”

This was actually something that some members of my local church community said to my mum a few weeks after I had returned from my mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What had precipitated this conversation? I was still attending Church, I was teaching my youth Sunday School class, I was still participating in every other aspect of my religious life. The concern? I was preparing to leave home to go to University; in and of itself this wasn’t problematic, though as University Professor and a parent I can now see the concerns that some people have with the lifestyle that seems to be common among many students. The issue was that I was going to study Theology and Religious Studies at a University with an Anglican foundation. Much later I came across a book written by John Hull about how food metaphors could be used to illustrate the importance of learning about other faiths. He outlines a particular attitude that might be found within people of faith, and within wider faith communities: “I am holy, the argument says, and you are holy but the ground between us is unholy ground and we will contaminate each other through harmful mingling of blood if we meet.”[1] The idea seemed to be that be coming into contact with ideas and beliefs from outside my faith tradition then my personal faith would be challenged and potentially eroded.

This was not an isolated incident during that first year of University. A few months into my course I met with one of my local Church leaders who, as we talked, raised the concern that I was associating and agreeing with people and ideas that were contrary to or opposed those accepted by the Church. This was a long discussion and one where I felt I was very much on the defensive. It is a part of life that we associate with people that have ideas that are contrary to our own- we all experience that every day of our lives. The concern was that I was purposefully exposing myself to beliefs that were opposite to those that I held as I studied Christian theology and aspects of other world religions. After about thirty minutes we were able to agree that being with and agreeing with were two very different considerations. I am not sure I articulated very well my belief that by learning about other faiths I was, in actuality, strengthening my own. Geoff Teece suggests that the space between us that constitutes holy ground, holiness being discovered through encounter-[2] this was an idea that was to become very important to me as my career continued and will be explored in much greater depth throughout this book.

Consternation with my choices were not limited from within my faith community. Towards the end of my undergraduate degree I was applying for teaching courses. During one interview I was asked how my faith would affect me in the classroom (they had noticed the mission for my church prior to my undergraduate study). I did not react very well but I did ask for clarification. The interviewer explained, ‘Surely your faith requires you to witness within the classroom?’

A brief introduction to my career may be of benefit at this point. In the UK it is nothing extraordinary, but in different countries around the world aspects of it do not exist in the way that I have experienced it. For twelve years I was a Religious Education teacher in secondary schools (11-18) in the North West of England. This would involve me teaching different aspects of world religions, in addition to exploring aspects of philosophical and ethical issues and how religions responded to them. I remember a friend visiting from Arizona, and bringing with her a sixteen year old young woman for an exciting holiday. One of the exciting days was spent in school with me! As this young lady reflected on her day with me she recounted the topics that we had explored: the nature of God within Hinduism; Christian arguments surrounding abortion; arguments for the existence of God; the parable of the Good Samaritan; and the nature of suffering within Buddhism. Her mind was swirling as she commented something to the effect of: “I can’t imagine being able to discuss any of those things in school. Maybe in Social Studies we might touch on abortion laws, but that was not what I expected.” I have articulated the purpose of Religious Education and quote the aims here to help the reader understand that its purpose is not confessional in any way:

  1. To stimulate interest and enjoyment in Religious Education.
  2. To prepare pupils to be informed, respectful members of society who celebrate diversity and strive to understand others.
  3. To encourage students to develop knowledge of the beliefs and practices of religions; and informed opinions and an awareness of the implications of religion for the individual, the community and the environment.
  4. To give all students equal access to Religious Education and provide enjoyment and success.
  5. To develop pupils’ own responses to questions about the meaning and purpose of life (Holt, 2015).

After twelve years I left the secondary classroom and moved into University teacher education. In this role I help train the teachers who will be teaching Religious Education in schools with children from the age of 4 to 18. I spend my days teaching and researching pedagogy of Religious Education, along with the lived reality of religion and worldviews for people from all kinds to traditions.

As my career continued so did the questions from people within and without my Church: ‘How could I, as a Latter-day Saint, teach RE?” For the most part these questions did not come from people I knew, they had been around me long enough to recognise that my faith was not diluted by teaching about other religions, and similarly for those outside my faith they recognised that I was good at my job and did not proselytise. The questions usually came from people who did not know me and thought there might be more suitable jobs for a Mormon than teaching about other religions- maybe owning a bar!!!

Although my faith as a disciple of Jesus Christ is central to my life and all of my choices and behaviours, I can say that after over twenty years into my career I do not, and never have, shared my personal beliefs with a high school class. I do not believe it is the purpose of Religious Education in English Secondary schools. I live my religion within the classroom but do not answer personal questions about my faith. If you were to ask my pupils what I have explicitly taught them about my faith during lessons they would struggle to know, but they might do better in listing the qualities that they believe a Latter-day Saint Christian has. I remember a group of university students once commenting that they were looking forward to visiting a local chapel because they would find out what Latter-day Saints believed. I was confused, and said that surely they knew what I believed. They said: “No, from you we have learned how Latter-day Saints live their lives, but not what they believe.” As an educator I quite liked this response.

Religious confessionalism (as a form of nurture in, or conversion to, a particular belief) is not my intent. By acknowledging the influence of my beliefs on my teaching practice I can live a more cohesive life where I don’t have to separate aspects of my personality and identity. I am a teacher but I am also a Christian. This does not mean that I preach my faith in the classroom, just that I live it as best as I can.

It is strange to reflect on my career of over twenty years. Although I have had much career success probably the first thing that people within education may use to identify my work and background is that I am a “Mormon”. Whereas within Church (outside of my local faith community), people usually comment on an aspect of my career and education to identify me- in conversation with a national leader of the Church in UK he articulated the view that I am in a unique position for a member of the Church. Although I am fully involved in both worlds, sometimes I feel that the other aspect of my life places me on the periphery of the other, maybe not the periphery but certainly on the ‘viewed as an oddity’ end.

Why do I share this history? My faith is an integral part of who I am. I strive to keep the armour of God moulded to me- I view it more as Wolverine’s adamantium rather than Iron Man’s suit- it is not a bolt on and off accessory. The study and teaching I do about other world religions, the inter-faith activities that I undertake all serve to evidence and strengthen my faith rather than dilute it. I am not sure that this is always recognised within the Church. There is a lot of work that has gone on in recent years to teach about religious freedom but I think there is a still a residual influence that suggests that we should concentrate solely on the tenets of our faith because there is a risk that our faith could be diluted.

When choosing an area for my PhD thesis in 2004 I decided that I would explore the place of other religions within Mormon theology. This was designed to help me provide an answer to those people I met who questioned the career I had chosen. The question that I sought to answer focussed around an area of theology called ‘theologies of religion’; this has a long tradition within other areas of Christian thought. Veli-Matti Karkainnen has defined the area as follows:

Theology of religions is that discipline of theological studies which attempts to account theologically for the meaning and value of other religions. Christian theology of religions attempt to think theologically about what it means to live with people of other faiths and about the relationship of Christianity to other religions (Karkainnen, 2003:22).

The longer discussion of the issues is for another time and publication, but exploring the ‘meaning and value of other religions’ is an important question of Latter-day Saints. We live in a world of plurality and we have to know how best to respond to people not of our faith in a way that is true to our theological tradition.

There seemed to be different ways of understanding and answering the question that seemed at different ends of the spectrum. Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there are two seemingly competing strands of thought. On the one hand, Mormonism is fundamentally exclusivist with regard to other religions and on the other hand, it suggests other religions reflect the light of Christ. Both are justifiable from scripture and the writings of Church leaders. However, up until recent years the idea that other religions were generally negative and were philosophies of men mingled with scripture held sway. How is it right to respond to the religious beliefs of others?

For me, he plan of salvation provides a metaphor for the answer of how Latter-day Saints view other religions. Mortality is one stage in a linear development that stretches backwards and forwards into eternity. Before this life there was a two stage existence. Firstly, existing without beginning all people were intelligences. God the Father then took of these intelligences and organized them into spirit bodies. These spirit bodies were given mortal bodies as they came to earth (Abr. 3:22-25). Following death, in the judgement and the Resurrection, humanity progressed into immortal bodies such as that possessed by God. At all stages prior to exaltation it can be suggested that humans are gods in embryo; everything in the plan of salvation (including the gaining of knowledge and mortal experience) is designed to prepare humanity for godhood.

Exploring other religions is a correlation to this linear development of existence. In addition to the belief that all humanity is on this continuum, the pursuit of truth and exaltation as a developmental process. In the same way intelligences progress to spirits, to mortality, to Resurrection and godhood; so individual people progress in knowledge and experience in preparation for fulfilment in exaltation. The plan of salvation is about the accumulation of knowledge and truth: “[t]his provides an interesting perspective on eternal progression. There is apparently no end to learning and no end of things to learn.”[3] In this sense it could be seen that other religions are  somewhere on the continuum to fulfilment in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matt 5:17). This purpose is highlighted in The Doctrine and Covenants: “And now, behold, according to their faith in their prayers will I bring this part of my Gospel to the knowledge of my people. Behold, I do not bring it to destroy that which they have received, but to build it up” (D&C 10: 52; see also 3 Nephi 9:17). This echoes the teachings of George Albert Smith when discussing the conversions of people from other religions:

We have come not to take away from you the truth and virtue you possess. We have come not to find fault with you nor to criticize you. We have not come here to berate you because of things you have not done; but we have come here as your brethren … and to say to you: “Keep all the good that you have, and let us bring to you more good, in order that you may be happier and in order that you may be prepared to enter into the presence of our Heavenly Father.[4]

The purpose of the message of Christ, in either dispensation, is to fulfil the truths that people already have. This is exemplified in Elder Gary Coleman’s description of the relationship between traditional Christianity and Latter-day Saint Christianity in light of his own conversion:

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you are a Christian, and I am too. I am a devout Christian who is exceedingly fortunate to have greater knowledge of the true “doctrine of Christ” since my conversion to the restored Church. These truths define this Church as having the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.[5]

This suggests that other religions stand in the shadow of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; in other religions there may be elements of truth but, because of the apostasy, these truths are insufficient to offer any salvific power. The truths that other religions hold are useful but not crucial to Latter-day Saints. The distinctiveness of Gospel lies in what we hold distinct and independent. Without the Restoration there would be no path back to God. Building on this there is “nothing in [the Latter-day Saint] message [that] is more important than the announcement that there is a sure path– one true and living Church.”[6] The continuum of truth and knowledge is thus dependent on the fact that there is a culmination and a fulfilment in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 The Book of Mormon provides a reflection of the dialectical tension that can be found in other religions’ belief in Jesus:

[F]or every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him (Moroni 7: 16-17).

A religion, and its belief in Christ, can at the same time be “good” and “sent forth by the power and gift of Christ”, and also “of the devil.” If a person accepts the teachings of Christ and are open to further development and teaching along the linear continuum, then those beliefs serve the good, preparatory role with relation to fulfilment in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and, ultimately, exaltation. However, if those beliefs serve as a barrier to a person’s progression along the continuum then they can be seen to be negative.

Understanding the role of the Holy Ghost and the Spirit of Christ can help us understand and appreciate the value and importance of the beliefs held by people throughout the world. In a discussion of the work of the Holy Ghost, it is evident that certain teachings are given by the light of Christ and/ or the Holy Ghost. These teachings serve as a preparation for further light and knowledge, culminating in the fulfilment through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is a continuum in the reception and knowledge of the Spirit which can be seen in the linear development of a person’s response to truth. The first stage is the reception of the light of Christ at birth. As the light of Christ is followed, and a person lives their life according to its revelations, a person feels the promptings of the Holy Ghost as they receive further truth available through the teachings of the Church. If these promptings are listened to and followed, then the result will be the reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost following baptism. This enables sins to be burned out of a person as if by fire, and the application of the ratifying seal of the Holy Spirit of promise.

It is evident, therefore, that other religions provide no means to receive either salvation or exaltation. They are, however, helpful mechanisms that have been inspired, to some degree, to lead people to the fulness of truth available in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Opposite this hopeful view of other religions, is the associated teaching that mixed with this degree of inspiration are either the philosophies of men, or the inspirations of the devil. Both of these interpretations block adherents; serve as obstacles to the reception of further truth; and hinder progress along the continuum, as people cling to deeply held beliefs.

I feel that central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the development of relationships. Most important are our relationships with the Godhead and other people have been at the forefront of a person’s mortal experience and their ultimate exaltation. The nature of exaltation is as a fulfilment of a relationship with the Godhead that has been developed throughout the pre-earth life, mortality, and the spirit world. These relationships are developed in communion with the Godhead, but also our relationship with the Godhead is evidenced through, and prepared for through relationships with other people. This reflects the teaching of Jesus that “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25: 40). This  relationship is developed is expressed within a person’s life and actions. The Book of Mormon suggests that a change takes place in a person reflecting this grace:

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the Church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? (Alma 5: 14).

There is a hopeful interpretation to the development of relationships with other people being a preparation for exaltation. The making of a new creature could suggest that the image of Christ in a person’s countenance as being more than adherence to certain ordinances. If the actions which a person performs are evidence of the presence of Christ’s grace then it is possible suggest that those actions are performed by a person of any religion. Joseph Smith taught that the motivation behind such actions might be the same: “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.”[7] Thus if someone “feeds the hungry” they are reflecting the light of Christ, and a portion of his grace within their life. They could also be reflecting an embryonic relationship with the Godhead.[8] In a similar way to knowledge being preparatory to the reception of the fulness of truth, service is an evidence of a partial relationship that finds fulfilment in the completion of a unity with the Godhead. This interpretation of a preparatory relationship, based on action, can be seen to be reflected in Bruce R. McConkie’s hierarchy of religions.[9] At the same level as the religions of the world McConkie lists temperance societies and the like, suggesting that it is the standards of decency rather than the system that is important.

If actions can be evidence of grace, then religions which encourage people to follow certain behaviours could be seen to contain partial truths in their moral code. However, as practices are at variance with those found within the Gospel they could provide stumbling blocks to the evidencing of faith and grace. In the same way that a positive action evidences grace and the existence of a relationship, does a negative action evidence a lack of grace, and move a person further out a of a relationship with the Godhead? In conjunction with their reception of truth, how a person lives their code of ethics (religion) will determine their level of salvation. These religions, as they seek to draw people into a relationship with the Godhead, can be seen to be a fulfilling of God’s purposes:

For all the good which such an organization may accomplish the Lord will give them credit, and they will be rewarded for their efforts to establish faith in the hearts of people, I believe far beyond their expectations, for everything that is good, and persuadeth men to do good, cometh from God. The Latter-day Saints wish all people who are thus striving God-speed.[10]

The works that individuals perform are not counterfeit expressions of the teachings of God. Rather they are important expressions of a preparatory relationship with the Godhead. This is an important recognition; religions and their codes of morality provide an opportunity to develop a relationship with the Godhead. This may not to the same degree outside of religious frameworks, as religions can be seen to contain elements of the light of Christ, such as a belief in God, not available in social societies. The “credit” given is not, however, salvific. Only when this good is combined with the saving ordinances found within the Church can a person be seen to be within the covenantal relationship.

The  light of Christ does signify the burgeoning of a relationship with the Godhead. The relationship that the whole human family enjoyed in the pre-existence is replaced by the light of Christ. This manifests the will of God to all people and strives to draw people into a closer relationship with the Godhead. As people ignore or dull the light of Christ then that relationship diminishes. It would thus follow that religions and teachings that have more of the light of Christ would provide better opportunities to lead people into a fulness of relationship. However, as with knowledge, these stages in a relationship can either be helpful mechanisms, or stumbling blocks to the fulfilment in the covenantal relationship.

The extension of the continuum beyond death enables Latter-day Saints to explore fully the importance and veracity of other religions, their rites and teachings. The way that a person has lived their moral code is fulfilled as it is coupled with an acceptance or rejection of the further truth and ordinances offered. In this sense, Latter-day Saints should encourage people of other religions to live up to the light they have received. This serves a dual purpose: firstly, by so doing the person will receive “line upon line” and be more prepared to accept the fulfilment Latter-day Saints offer; secondly, it will enable a more hopeful judgement following Resurrection. Joseph Smith once suggested:

But while one portion of the human race are judging and condemning the other without mercy, the great parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care, and paternal regard; he views them as his offspring; and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes “his sun to rise on the evil and the good; and sends his rain on the just and unjust.” He holds the reins of judgment in his hands; he is a wise lawgiver, and will judge all men, -[not according to the narrow contracted notions of men, but]- “according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil;” or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey India: he will judge them “not according to what they have not, but according to what they have;” those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will be judged by that law; we need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the great Jehovah, he will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed; the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information; and his inscrutable designs in relation to the human family: and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess, that the Judge of all the earth has done right.[11]

The response to the light received does not bring exaltation, but does provide a greater reward in the kingdoms of glory more likely. It could be suggested that it is more desirable for a person to follow a religion, as they are thus able to follow more of the light of Christ. However, these religions might block further acceptance, so belonging to no religion may enable a person to be free from any ties that would stop them progressing along the continuum. Again, this is dependent on the individual, but at their “best” religions provide more light and knowledge than is available to the non-religious.

Some Latter-day Saints go further and suggest that all truth is a copy instigated by the devil.[12] However, this inspiration of the devil model of truth in other religions is not borne out by closer scrutiny. It can be seen to be a lazy shorthand to simply disregard other beliefs (based on such sayings as “Will everybody be damned, but Mormons? Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent, and work righteousness”[13]); it is not simply this straightforward.

In light of the continuum, and the eventual fulfilment that each person will find (either partially or completely), how should Latter-day Saints treat those of other religions? The suggestion is that the religious beliefs that people hold are either stumbling blocks or helpful mechanisms to a person’s relationship with God and eventual degree of salvation. It would be possible, for a Latter-day Saint to treat other religions disparagingly as those truths are disguised and intermingled with error. However, this would not reflect the general attitude of numerous Latter-day Saint writings that suggest we should “treat all whom we meet with dignity and respect– heartily joining hands with all whose lives are founded on the principles of love and kindness.”[14] Being open to learn from other religions’ practice of shared truth suggests a humility that is not automatically associated with teaching a fulfilment theology. Rather than judging other religions harshly Joseph Smith suggested:

If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way. Do you believe in Jesus Christ and the Gospel of salvation which he revealed? So do I. Christians should cease wrangling and contending with each other, and cultivate the principles of union and friendship in their midst; and they will do it before the millennium can be ushered in and Christ takes possession of His kingdom.[15]

One of the Articles of Faith allows all people “the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of [their] own hearts” (1:10).[16] In essence we should treat those of other religions positively, judging them at their very best. In light of this, the very best would be observing a person’s religion as a helpful mechanism on the way to exaltation. The resultant attitudes and actions

…may at times be to encourage Marxists to become better Marxists, Jews and Muslims to become better Jews and Muslims, and Buddhists to become better Buddhists (although admittedly their notion of what a “better Marxist,” etc., is will be influenced by Christian norms). Obviously this cannot be done without the most intensive conversation and cooperation.[17]

We might see that a person is truly living the Gospel as they help others live their religion without fear of condemnation. They would have the responsibility “to treat those with differing views with the dignity and respect they deserve.”[18] This could be seen to recognize the writings of Joseph Smith:

The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a Mormon, I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denominations who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.[19]

From a Latter-day Saint perspective if this is the attitude members adopt, then the light of Christ, that followers of other religions recognize will lead ultimately to fulfilment in the Gospel either in this life or the next. Therefore, judging religious beliefs as helpful mechanisms will enable attitudes towards, and engagement with, other religions to be grounded theologically in friendship and cooperation.[20]

As we, both on an individual and institutional basis, continue in engagement, the points of convergence and divergence will develop and how the relationship can be deepened will become apparent. This engagement will utilize as its backdrop the necessity of observing religions and religious practice at their best. This attitude does not ignore the “worst” of other religions; rather it adopts a paradigm of engagement with other religions that incorporates the Golden Rule. It is here that Latter-day Saints would be able to adopt the three rules of inter-faith dialogue attributed to Krister Stendahl, then Archbishop Stendahl:

  1. When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.
  2. Don’t compare your best to their worst.
  3. Leave room for “holy envy.”

Engaging with other religions, from a Latter-day Saint perspective, would always be against a background of fulfilment but should not necessitate an arrogance or dismissive nature. In this way we can be true to their beliefs, but also enable those not of our faith to be true to theirs. There is a reciprocal paradigm that should be in place for both sides of the engagement. Charles Randall Paul, the founder of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, has explored the benefits of contestational dialogue suggesting that:

The future for all useful religious interaction is mutuality (both listen carefully to gain more truth) and parity (both grant similar value to the intelligence, diligence, and good will of the other) and transparency (both acknowledge “holy envy” for the good they have not, and testify to the truth they have.) In the latter case of testifying, when their truths contradict each other, they engage in honourable contestation.[21]

The honesty of such dialogue requires a “risk” from the participants, in the sense that they are sharing what is most sacred to them, and being open to a transformation of their own beliefs. In this way, engagement with other religions helps a Latter-day Saint “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thes. 5: 21). A Latter-day Saint would thus “hold fast” to the truth they hold while always being open to investigating more truth. It is possible to posit a way forward in Latter-day Saint engagement with other religions that retains honesty while also engaging with other religions as full partners in this dialogue. It would then be possible for us  to utilize the belief in a continuum by recognizing and learning from truth, and also acknowledging the “mists of darkness” that other religions encounter by stating Mormonism’s opposition to such things. Paul argues that “If we stop dialogue at ‘mutual understanding of differences’ and do not allow someone to warn the other of heresy or blasphemy or unenlightened backward thinking, then we damn the flow of transparent truth they desire to transmit. No trust comes from such encounters.”[22]Enabling truth and falsity to be evident in dialogue enables a development of an individual’s faith by gaining new insights into truth from the “other”, but also defining what they believe against the falsity of the “other.”

Latter-day Saints are missiological in their approach to other religions. Mission is one of the three main purposes of church organization. The imperative is not merely organizational however, it is also doctrinal. Dallin H. Oaks and Lance Wickman outline the various scriptural injunctions in a section they entitle “Doctrinal Foundations” and then suggest the impact that these scriptures have on Latter-day Saints today:

For Latter-day Saints, who believe that God has restored vital additional knowledge and power to bless the lives of all his children and who believe that they have a duty to share these treasures with humankind, the command to witness is fundamental to all their belief and practice. It is a vital part of what it means to be a Latter-day Saint. To all who hold these convictions, the duty to witness and to share is a fundamental matter of conscience.[23]

Thus, the primary purpose of any Latter-day Saint’s interaction with non-members is missiological. This does not mean that in every discussion a Latter-day Saint is trying to convert; rather, that their desire is that all receive of the fulness of truth that they have. Using this missiological imperative as a foundation it is possible to argue that one of, if not the, main purpose of engagement with other religions is missionary in nature. From the perspective of a Latter-day Saint engaging in interreligious dialogue Paul recognizes this as a universal principle for all those engaging with other religions:

In contestational dialogue, participants desire to persuade others to adopt a more comprehensive truth or higher way to live through sharing their foundational experiences and reasons for giving allegiance to their particular religion or worldview rather than that of another. There is no attempt to coerce the other, only to persuade one’s dialogue partner to consider adopting a different religious or ideological belief system.[24]

This is a logical outworking of the belief in a continuum of knowledge. If all the light in other religions is to point towards a fulness in Christ, then Latter-day Saints should engage in discussion to provide people with an opportunity to fulfil their existing knowledge. Any justification of engagement with other religions must begin with mission as an overriding purpose.

Recognizing this fact may seem anathema to true dialogue where a person is open to what the other person is saying. However, there is a possibility that with both parties being firmly rooted in their own religious faith a third space opens between them where genuine interreligious dialogue can take place. Teece argues that “it is the space between us that constitutes holy ground, holiness being discovered through encounter.”[25] The dialogue becomes “open” when the exchange of ideas is honest, and each party is open to learning rather than acceptance. Greggs has argued that:

By engaging with the religious other, the practitioner of inter-faith engagement is in dialogue with other religious traditions, but, by engaging in the activity of dialogue with the religious other, practitioners of any individual faith are also in dialogue with the particular tradition of their own faith. In this way the transformative nature of inter-faith dialogue can become reformative for the individual communities of those who engage in it.[26]

For a Latter-day Saint this would mean that by engaging with other religions, and the light that they have, they are open to the reformation of some of their religious practice or beliefs. As a crude example, engaging with a Muslim about the purpose and practice of fasting and listening to what that person feels and experiences, may enable a Latter-day Saint to evaluate their own attitude and motivations towards the law of the fast, recognizing that other religions have light opens Latter-day Saints to this type of transformative learning. Walter Brueggemann’s discussion of dialogue in the Old Testament can be used to explore how dialogue can be transformative when the two parties engaged begin from unequal positions:[27]

… [T]he defining category for faith in the Old Testament is dialogue, whereby all parties– including God– are engaged in a dialogic exchange that is potentially transformative for all parties… including God. This constitutes a conviction that God and God’s partners are engaged in mutual talk. That mutual talk may take a variety of forms. From God’s side, the talk may be promise and command. From the side of the partners, it may be praise and prayer. The Old Testament is an invitation to reimagine our life and faith as a dialogic transaction in which all parties are summoned to risk and change.[28]

Engagement with other religions thus becomes a “dialogic transaction” whereby Latter-day Saints may begin to change some of their understandings and behaviours. Inter-faith encounter may become transformative of a Latter-day Saints own belief and devotion. However, it should always be remembered that there are parameters of orthodoxy that should be maintained for Latter-day Saints.[29] The “dialogic transaction” of engagement with other religions enables a further purpose to be added to Latter-day Saint participation in inter-faith activities (of whatever nature): through encounter with the other a greater development of one’s own belief and practice can be more deeply understood. This is not possible if the religions with which they are in dialogue are considered to be completely inspired by the devil, and so the previous discussions of more constructive views of other religions remain necessary.

To be open to learning from other religions means that we need to recognize that there is truth in other religions, the First Presidency suggested in their 1978 Easter Message wrote that Muhammad and other non-biblical religious leaders and philosophers “received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations”. [30] We also need to recognise that those following these religions are not simply other, but fellow children of God at a different point in their eternal progression; and that these religions are providing their adherents with the opportunity to respond to the light of Christ. Joseph Smith argued that engagement with other religions is about developing relationships, and not just missiologically motivated, as referred to above  he felt that people should build one another up in their faith and “cease wrangling and contending with each other, and cultivate the principles of union and friendship in their midst.”[31] This also means that when Latter-day Saints engage with other religions they should recognize the value and purpose of such dialogue­. Hinckley suggested that in such encounters members should “Look for their [those of other religion’s] strengths and virtues, and you will find strengths and virtues in your own life.”[32] This will, in no small part, come from defining oneself as other− in asserting and defending unique and divergent beliefs with those taught in other religions as evidenced in the First Vision. However, it will also come in the encounter between people and religions.

In genuine inter-faith encounter people can develop strength and faith as they are open to learn from each other: “When our hearts and minds are properly focussed, our dialogues with one another, however impassioned they may be, become the means by which we lovingly help each other appreciate aspects of God’s work we might otherwise overlook or fail to understand.”[33] As Latter-day Saints engage with other religions they are able to learn things about their own faith as well as another person’s: “One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.”[34] The benefits of engagement with other religions are not just a greater understanding of others but also a greater understanding of what it means to be a Latter-day Saint.

Thus, when a Latter-day Saint engages with other religions, understanding how they are to frame that relationship enables them to reflect far more deeply on what it means to be a Latter-day Saint. It is possible to posit the existence of a dialogical space between religions that constitutes “holy ground.” This third space enables a place where adherents of two religions meet to transform their understanding of one another, but also their understanding of themselves and their faith. The concept of a dialogical third space borrows heavily from the work of Homi Bhabha but diverges from the resultant hybridity models that he suggests such spaces would create. Bhabha argues that the “third space displaces the histories that constitute it, and sets up new structures of authority, new political initiatives, which are inadequately understood through received wisdom… The process of cultural hybridity gives rise to something different, something new and unrecognisable, a new area of negotiation of meaning and representation.” [35] The hybridity and new structures would not be appropriate or desirable in engagement with other religions for reasons already enumerated. However, engagement with a third space as a place of “radical openness”[36] provides a perfect description of the type of space needed for inter-faith dialogue to be successful. The way that this space can be “radical” and transformative at the same time is in utilizing areas of convergence and divergence.

If other religions contain elements of truth and the light of Christ, then it follows that we will find in these religions areas of convergence. Whether the purpose of inter-faith dialogue is missiological or to be found in the third space, the recognition that there are shared values and doctrines is important for meaningful conversation and action to take place. In this type of engagement Latter-day Saints are able to appreciate and recognize the common understanding that they share. The benefits of recognizing convergence are threefold for Latter-day Saints. Firstly, and as already explored, is the recognition that in shared discussion of similar topics, a Latter-day Saint can enhance their own faith and “find strengths and virtues” that can make them more rooted in their own religion.[37] There is a danger that has been highlighted at different points that in seeking common ground it is possible to overreach and suggest links that do not exist. When recognizing elements of convergence it is important that this is done honestly, or the validity of the process will be destroyed. An example that has been used earlier is the declaration that Latter-day Saints believe in a different Jesus. Robert Millet outlines that in relationships with other Christians suggesting that the Church is the only true one “does not mean that they (other Christians) are worshipping a ‘different Jesus’…. True Christians worship Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah.”[38] Although Millet argues for the convergent approach advocated in this chapter, he goes too far in presenting a palatable view of Latter-day Saint teaching to non-Latter-day Saints. It may be true that the events of Jesus’ life are viewed similarly between Latter-day Saints and other Christian and non-Christian religions, but there are significant differences between the teachings of who Jesus was and is. To suggest otherwise goes beyond the boundaries of the doctrines of the Church. To suggest that Mormons and others share a common view of Jesus could be analogous to suggesting that Jews, Christians and Muslims hold a common view of God. Nibley provides an example of the limitations that should be placed upon the seeking of commonalities. In his comparison of Islam and Mormonism he highlights various commonalities such as the Word of Wisdom and elements of Joseph Smith’s life when compared to Muhammad. However, he recognizes that “the resemblances… are quite superficial, while the differences are profound and fundamental.”[39] Similarities are important in engagement with other religions but only when they are valid.

The second purpose of seeking convergence which is focussed around the missiological imperative so important for Latter-day Saints, is the recognition that “seeking… such groundwork of truth as may be held in common” will enable the possibility of adding “to that truth, to increase it, to enlarge it, until at the last God, through the agencies He has appointed, shall gather together in one system all truth,”[40] that one system is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This may not be a palatable objective of engagement with other religions, but is honest.

The third purpose of utilizing convergence in engaging with other religions is the desire to “work with those of other religions in various undertakings in the everlasting fight against social evils which threaten the treasured values which are so important to all of us.”[41] Mormon understanding of exaltation is fundamentally about relationships with God, family and others. One of the purposes of the Church is to prepare people for exaltation by forming relationships and giving opportunities to serve. Engagement with other religions (and the resultant actions) can aid in this process. The social aspects of engagement enable people of different religions to take stands on shared concerns. Examples of Latter-day Saint efforts include the combatting of pornography,[42] and humanitarian efforts to alleviate suffering.[43]In so doing Latter-day Saints are fulfilling the admonition to “shew forth the praises of him who hath called [us] out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). To some extent this type of engagement with other religions can be seen to serve the two other purposes of focussing on convergence. It builds understanding on shared values, and can have missiological results (whether intended or not). However, this type of service should be selfless and oriented to those who are served and worked with.

Greggs argues that “dialogue cannot only take place for our own benefit [or our own purposes], but should also take place for the sake of the other, and – ultimately – for the sake of God… Talk must turn into action; and action must lead to further talk.”[44] It is a Latter-day Saint’s responsibility to “stand as a witness of God” and to engage in Christlike service. Engaging in inter-faith service opportunities, or campaigns, enable them to be in the service of God.[45] Similarly, seeking the best for those who are less fortunate (physically or spiritually) is a religious obligation:

And also, ye yourselves will succour those that stand in need of your succour; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just— But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God (Mosiah 4: 16-18).

Utilizing shared beliefs helps Latter-day Saints live their religion in their daily lives, but also enables those of other religions to have opportunities to practise their religion (either in the service activity, or the resultant “better” society). Both respond to the degree of the light of Christ evident in their religion, both are motivated by a love of God and of humanity. Thus, engagement with other religions becomes a strengthening process for Latter-day Saints. The dialogue and activities provide further opportunities for discussion as believers are able to “build bridges of cooperation instead of walls of segregation.”[46] In focussing on commonality it is important that Latter-day Saints do not become so entangled with commonalities that they lose sight of the differences.[47] Latter-day Saints acknowledge the light in other religions, but also teach that there is error that needs addressing and, ultimately, fulfilling.

Inherent in a missiological purpose for inter-faith dialogue is the recognition that points of divergence need to be recognized and discussed. Mission is not the only reason for sharing differences but, within a Mormon paradigm of engagement with other religions, it is a crucial reason for Latter-day Saints. If other religions have elements of truth, and the light of Christ, then it follows that those aspects of Mormon belief that are not shared are the elements of knowledge that will aid the fulfilment of that light and truth. The two fundamental teachings of Latter-day Saints that would remain preeminent are belief in Christ, with all its associated outworkings, and the prophetic calling of the prophet Joseph Smith. This is not to suggest that no other differences exist, but that these two beliefs are the pillars from which all the others proceed.[48] In practice this would mean that however other religions are engaged with or viewed, it must be against the background of the First Vision. Any paradigm of engagement with other religions that seeks to be truly Latter-day Saint must do so retaining the validity and importance of the Atonement and First Vision as benchmarks.

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 Saviour of the world. It is not a reformation of perceived false practice and doctrine that may have developed through the centuries.[49]

Recognizing such a basis for engagement with other religions would validate participation for Latter-day Saints who view such relationships as potentially diluting. This approach would also maintain the theological integrity of Mormonism while opening up further possibilities for the Church (not just in terms of people joining).

The myth of religious unity “has made the world more dangerous by blinding us to the clashes of religions that threaten us worldwide… These differences may not matter to mystics or philosophers of religion, but they matter to ordinary religious people.”[50] The honesty of Latter-day Saints in presenting their beliefs to others lies in the recognition of their distinctive doctrines. Returning to the notion of the creation of a “hybrid” in dishonest dialogue, Gartenstein-Ross argues

The question is whether such doctrinal compromise actually creates interfaith opportunities. Not only is this approach unlikely to bolster interfaith activities, but it may actually undermine them. The available evidence suggests that interfaith dialogue is least effective when those engaging in it do not have their feet firmly planted in their own faith traditions. The point of interfaith dialogue is to learn about religions that are foreign to us—and an integral part of accomplishing this is being upfront about theological differences. When a church involved in interfaith dialogue soft-pedals Christian doctrine in the interest of painting a picture that appeals to its dialogue partners, its credibility can be undermined. A couple of years ago, I spoke with a member of a conservative church that had recently begun interfaith dialogue with a mosque. Before that, the mosque had dialogued with a more liberal church. Mosque leaders were pleased to have more conservative dialogue partners: They expressed satisfaction that “now we’ll get to see what Christians really think.”[51]

In recognizing the, sometimes brutal, honesty that engagement with other religions entails it will provide Latter-day Saints with a much greater justification to engage in such activities. There will always be the concern about the dilution of a Mormon’s faith, but from the outset there should be an understanding that Latter-day Saints who engage with other religions do so without sacrificing any of their deeply held beliefs, or covenants to “stand as a witness” of Christ (Mos. 18: 9). The differences will, however, promote relationships rather than hinder their development.

The engagement with inter-faith dialogue advocated in this chapter seeks to retain both elements of Mormon teaching. It recognizes that all participation should be grounded in the distinctiveness of Mormonism (especially the First Vision) and serve a missiological purpose. However, the framework also recognizes the value that inter-faith dialogue can bring to a our own faith as we define ourselves in relation to the “other”, and discover new ways of expressing their belief from the way other religious people practice theirs. As we recognize that all people are on a continuum leading to fulfilment we are able to recognize the importance of helping non-members be true to their own religion. Latter-day Saint engagement with other religions is much more than identifying beliefs as inspired of the devil. It is also much more than recognizing areas of convergence. Latter-day Saint engagement with other religions should utilize both strands of Mormon belief to be honest and create a fruitful relationship. The fundamentals of a Latter-day Saint engagement with other religions can best be summarized as:

  • Be honest about the exclusive position and teachings we hold.
  • Be true to the Atonement of Jesus Christ and First Vision and their legacies.
  • Appreciate the truth found in other religions
  • Be open to developing one’s own religious practice and understanding.
  • Help others live their religion.

It is against this background that this project will proceed. Each section will begin with an autobiographical discussion of my encounters and understanding of the religion; in this I will explore a number of different beliefs and practices with which I have engaged. These will be presented as understood by believers of the chosen religion, and then explored in terms of what I have learned about myself and my faith as I have stood in dialogue with the beliefs and practices. The question will be asked: “How has my faith been transformed through engagement with this aspect of religion?” I am very mindful that some may accuse me of cherry picking aspects of religion that are most palatable to me and that I am ignoring other aspects of the religion that are antithetical to my faith. As mentioned earlier, transformation is possible through interaction with areas of convergence and divergence. I am necessarily choosing aspects that help me understand my faith, but at the same time these are not limited to the most similar- only those aspects from which I feel I have learned the most. The purpose of this book is not to suggest “we’re just like them” rather that there is no “us’ and “them” just fellow travellers in the plan of salvation, and that we can learn much from each other.


[1] Hull, J. (1991). Mishmash: Religious Education in Multicultural Britain – A Study in Metaphor. (Birmingham Papers). Birmingham: CEM., 38.

[2] Teece, G. (1993). In Defence of Theme Teaching in RE, Westhill Occasional Paper 2. Birmingham: University of Birmingham. 8

[3] Henry Eyring, The Faith of a Scientist, 157.

[4] Preson Nibley, ed., Sharing the Gospel with Others by President George Albert Smith, 12-13.

[5] Coleman, “Mom, Are We Christians,” 94.

[6] McConkie, “The First Vision and Religious Tolerance,” 189.

[7] “History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844],” p. 1666

[8] Reflective of the belief that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mos. 2:17).

[9] McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary,  1:69-71.

[10] Anthony W. Ivins, “What Is a Christian? Why the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Is a Christian Church,” 18-19.

[11] Times and Seasons (Nauvoo, Hancock Co., IL), 15 Apr. 1842, vol. 3, no. 12, pp. 751–766.

[12] See Palmer, Keller, Choi, and Toronto, Religions of the World. A Latter-day Saint View, Part 5.

[13]History, 1838–1856, volume B-1 [1 September 1834–2 November 1838],” p. 794

[14] McConkie, “The First Vision and Religious Tolerance,” 181.

[15] Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 313.

[16] Recently reiterated by Nelson: “Religious liberty is essential if we are to raise up righteous children. Morally responsible families will not marginalize religious liberty, they will nurture and protect it.” Russell M. Nelson “Elder Russell M. Nelson: The Family: The Hope for the Future of Nations, ”19; see also Dallin H. Oaks, “Transcript of Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ Speech Given at Chapman University School of Law.”

[17] George A. Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age, 54.

[18] Millet, A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints, 172. Echoing the words of Tanner: “Let us always remember that men of great character do not belittle others nor magnify their weaknesses.” N. Eldon Tanner, “The Great Commandments,” 4.

[19] “History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844],” p. 1666

[20] This recognizes the starting point and judgements inherent in interreligious dialogue advocated by Paul:

Those with cultural or religious fundamental disagreements would be prudent (without compromising integrity) to grant each other the benefit of the doubt with respect to motives and intelligence. They should begin by assuming the other to be a trustworthy opponent desiring to help—not a vicious enemy bent on destruction. Charles Randall Paul, “Inter-Religious Diplomacy: Trustworthy Opponents Engaging in Respectful Contestation Yield Peaceful Tension,” 2.

[21] Charles Randall Paul, email to James D. Holt, April 7, 2011, printout in my possession.

[22] Charles Randall Paul, email to James D. Holt, April 7, 2011, printout in my possession.

[23] Dallin H. Oaks and Lance B. Wickman  The Missionary Work of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In John Witte Jr, & Richard C. Martin, eds, Sharing the Book. Religious Perspectives on the Rights and Wrongs of Proselytism,250.

[24] Paul, “Types of Interreligious Dialogue,” 12.

Commenting on Mormonism, Shepherd and Shepherd identified the missiological motivation to be the main factor behind Mormon inter-faith activities:

The Mormon’s claim to exclusive truth as the restored Church is one of those key beliefs which militates against the ecumenical spirit. No matter how this position might be softened by conceding the possession of partial truths in other religions. Mormonism, in order to remain true to its original premise, must conclude that every other religion in the world is ultimately in error. Any ecumenical (sic) cooperation between the Mormon Church and other religious bodies is most likely to be viewed by Mormons as primarily an opportunity to accomplish some missionary work or to generate favourable publicity for the Church. Gordon Shepherd and Gary Shepherd, “Mormonism in Secular Society: Changing Patterns in Official Ecclesiastical Rhetoric,” 39.

[25] Geoff Teece, In Defence of Theme Teaching in RE, Westhill Occasional Paper 2, 8.

[26] Greggs, “Legitimizing and Necessitating Inter-Faith Dialogue:The Dynamics of Inter-Faith for Individual Faith Communities,” 201.

[27] Walter Brugemann, An Unsettling God. The Heart of the Hebrew Bible, xii. Utilizing Brueggemann’s argument may seem out of place, however, Latter-day Saints in their self-perceived, fulfilled position could be seen to be similar to God in the Old Testament dialogic process. God, it could be argued, would have nothing to gain from dialogue, because he has everything. Latter-day Saints may argue that they have nothing to gain because they have a fulness of truth.

[28] Brugemann, An Unsettling God. The Heart of the Hebrew Bible.

[29] For this reason, those participating in inter-faith dialogue should be, from a Latter-day Saint perspective, be grounded in their own faith.

[30] The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (1978). Statement of the First Presidency, February 15, 1978. In S. Palmer, The Expanding Church. (p. 1). Salt Lake City: Deseret Book. 1

[31] “History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844],” p. 1666

[32] Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward With Faith. A Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley , 576.

[33] Gregory A. Boyd, God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God, 20.

[34]History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844],” p. 1666

[35]Homi Bhabha, “The Third Space: Interview with Homi Bhabha,” 211.  Although Bhabha’s work does not refer to interreligious dialogue it is possible to adapt some of his conclusions for use in such a sphere. As a precedent for this application to other areas, O’Toole has utilized third space theory for drama. John O’Toole, Doing Drama Research.. Gutierrez  has completed similar research about the development of language in the third space. Kris D. Gutierrez, “Developing a Sociocritical Literacy in the Third Space,” 148-164.

[36] Gerald McMaster, ed., Reservation X: The Power of Place in Aboriginal Contemporary Art., 28.

[37] An example of how this has been accomplished, outside of Mormonism, can be found in Scriptural Reasoning. This project works from the basis that “recognizing those differences can be a source of illumination to each” faith group. David Ford, “An interfaith wisdom: scriptural reasoning between Jews, Christians and Muslims,” 345. In revealing that which is important to faith communities scriptural reasoning celebrates disagreement:

One might suggest that the handling of disagreements is one of the important ways participants in scriptural reasoning establish and acknowledge friendships. In a context which aims at consensus, disagreement is a problem to be overcome. In a context which values friendship, disagreement is a gift to be treasured. Scriptural reasoning is a practice that sometimes treasures disagreement as a gift. Nicholas Adams, “Making Deep Reasonings Public,” 398).

Paul (a Mormon writing about general principles of interreligious dialogue) advocates an approach that utilizes “Respectful Contestation”:

Through forthright dialogue that discloses both appreciation and criticism, we can fulfil our obligations to express as witnesses the truth we hold dear, and to listen as our opponents do the same. We must choose not to rip our garments in disgust at their claims, because we enter the contestation granting respect for the intelligence, integrity, and goodwill for our opponent. If in this experience we come to trust the motive (not the doctrine) of our opponents, we have a basis upon which to build trustworthy diplomatic relations. Even religious zealots can sustain a peaceful tension of co-resistance with opponents, who like them desire to influence the hearts and minds of others for good. Paul, “Inter-Religious Diplomacy: Trustworthy Opponents Engaging in Respectful Contestation Yield Peaceful Tension,” 4.

[38] Robert L. Millet, “Joseph Smith and ‘The Only True and Living Church’,” 203.

[39] Hugh Nibley, “Islam and Mormonism- A Comparison,” 55.

[40]  Brigham H. Roberts, in Conference Report April 1906,16. An example of such an approach can be found in The Book of Mormonwhere Ammon builds on the common ground he shares with King Lamoni, but adds to that truth:

And Ammon began to speak unto him with boldness, and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth. And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said, Yea. And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth? And he said: Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens (Alma 18: 24-29).

[41] Gordon B. Hinckley, “We Bear Witness of Him,” 4.This does not, however, need to be on the basis of religion:

Our pluralistic society makes space for peaceable coexistence and cooperation between diverse people of good will, including the religious and nonreligious… Even so, all societies have some moral basis, whether originating from religion, philosophy, science, or any number of sources. Religious values cannot be dismissed from the public square any more than the vast array of other positive values can be. Efforts to do so ignore the deeply embedded religious antecedents that give shape to the common heritage and identity of peoples across the globe. Newsroom:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Religious Values in the Public Square,” 6-7.

[42] Hinckley, “We Bear Witness of Him,” 4-6.

[43] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Humanitarian Services,” Dallin H. Oaks has argued that in seeking principles of religious freedom religions should join together, in so doing, however, such work:

…does not require any examination of the doctrinal differences among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, or even an identification of the many common elements of our beliefs. All that is necessary for unity and a broad coalition along the lines I am suggesting is a common belief that there is a right and wrong in human behaviour that has been established by a Supreme Being. All who believe in that fundamental should unite more effectively to preserve and strengthen the freedom to advocate and practice our religious beliefs, whatever they are. Oaks, “Transcript of Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ Speech Given at Chapman University School of Law,” v.

[44] Greggs, Theology against Religion: constructive dialogues with Bonhoeffer and Barth,208.

[45] “This can be done without losing independent identity and strength.” Russell M. Nelson, “Combatting Spiritual Drift- Our Global Pandemic,” 108.

[46] Russell M. Nelson, “Teach us Tolerance and Love,” 71.

[47] Joseph McConkie argues focussing solely on commonalities dilutes the missiological imperative and motivation for Latter-day Saints and those they hope to convert:

Perhaps we need to rethink the idea of seeking common ground with those we desire to teach. Every similarity we identify leaves them with one less reason to join the Church. When we cease to be different, we cease to be. The commandment to flee Babylon has not been revoked, nor has it been amended to suggest that we seek an intellectual marriage with those not of our faith. The fruit of such a marriage will always be outside the covenant. McConkie, “The First Vision and Religious Tolerance,”195.

[48] It could be argued that the belief in Christ is the only doctrine that is necessary, as the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith is an outworking of the nature of Christ and his dealings with the world. However, for the purpose of interfaith dialogue, the distinctiveness and centrality of Joseph Smith suggests a separate identification is useful.

[49] Hinckley, “We Bear Witness of Him,” 4.

[50] Stephen Prothero, God is not One, 3.

[51] Gartenstein-Ross, “The First Openly Muslim Priest,” 11.