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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Three Rules of Religious Understanding

by Pete Codella (bio)


Although I'm a practicing, believing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I'm a firm believer in being familiar with other religions.

When we lived in Bountiful, Utah, a couple times a year the LDS ward choir would get together with the Lutheran choir to present musical numbers in each other's worship services. I loved that, especially at Christmastime.

When we were in Henderson, Nevada, we attended an annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King where the pastor recited his I Have a Dream speech. It was always powerful and moving.

When I was a teenager, my parents would occasionally take us to the Catholic's midnight mass, a Christmas tradition carried over from my dad's family (he was raised Catholic).

I've been to a number of different faith's worship services. I love the music and spirit present in many of them.

Believer or non-believer, one thing's for sure: We're all perfectly loved by a Heavenly Father who wants nothing more than our individual and collective joy.

Listening to BYU radio, I recently heard some advice provided by Church of Sweden's Bishop of Stockholm, Krister Stendahl. He advocated three rules of religious understanding:

1 – If you want to understand another religion, talk with its believers, not its enemies.

2 – Don't compare your best to their worst.

3 – Leave room for "holy envy." This is my favorite point. Stendahl's meaning is something along the lines of: Be willing to recognize elements of other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish, in some way, could be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith.

It seems to me that people of faith have more in common than not, especially given today's secular, non-religious worldwide trend. It's not so much about the right religion as it is about recognizing and developing the divine potential of every human soul.

Perhaps the world would be a better, more peaceful place if we approached things from the simple, common understanding that we're all children of the same Heavenly Father, and if we respected other's beliefs, leaving room for holy envy without being holier than thou.

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