In speaking of other faiths, Joseph Smith admonished early church members to “gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up” or they would not be “true Mormons” [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316]. Are the true principles only the ones we have in common? Why principles (vs. doctrines or values or practices)? What are the true principles that are unique to other faiths, not encompassed in Mormonism, that we should gather and treasure up?
In Romney’s speech on Faith in America, he mentioned the things that he admired in other religions. However, my list is a bit different from his. Here are some practices and principles I suggest we treasure up from other religions:
- The Catholic Friday fish fry, and not just for Lent. There is some major competition on this one in our town. I have heard that in some areas they are serving smelt and other “chum” fish, so I would not like that, but perhaps a nice swordfish or mahi mahi. For me, this one is more of a practice than a principle, since I don’t eat a lot of meat anyway, and I’m not sure I want to adopt Lent outright.
- Mardi Gras/Carnival – OK, with the alcohol prohibition and modest dress, this could be a little lame, but Mormons could use a little more celebration, music and dancing. The principle here is akin to the one we use every Saturday before we fast: eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we fast.
- Ramadan. I am all for doing all our fasting at once vs. once per month twelve times per year. Plus, you can eat and drink whatever you want before sunrise (not likely) and after sunset. I have a Muslim friend who says she loses 10 lbs. each Ramadan.
- Yiddish. This has to be the coolest lexicon out there, hands down: chutzpah, tchotchkes, bubkes, meshuga, kibitz, kvetch, mensch, nosh, tuchus. Not sure this is a “true principle,” but I like to use Yiddish words whenever possible. The deseret alphabet is no substitute.
- Reincarnation. It’s a cool idea and a good premise for movies and science fiction. It feels like a second chance and a third and fourth and so on, and who does not like the sound of that? It’s similar to our principle of progression. However, I do not want to come back as a veal, if possible.
- The music & dancing from the black Christian churches. You just can’t dance to our hymns. I’ve tried. It ain’t pretty. As I recall, Gladys Knight made the same observation (about our music, not my dancing specifically).
- Universal Unitarians are so open-minded and accepting of everyone. You can believe anything you want, even nothing at all, and you still belong. Kind of like here at MormonMatters! Everyone is welcome.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses tithe their time. I’m not sure if that’s on net time (waking hours only) or gross time (including sleeping hours), but it’s a pretty cool principle.
- Atheists have a compelling focus on morality, ethics, and humanity that puts the responsibility for being good directly on the individual by taking God out of the equation.
- Amish work ethic. It would be great if my kids were excited to do chores. However, I would miss my TiVo.
- Lower expectations. I’m not going to name names here, but there is something to be said for only showing up on Easter & Christmas and being considered “active” in one’s faith.
So, while we’re coveting, are there traits you would like to incorporate from other faiths? Are there some “true principles” you think we should be treasuring up that we are not currently?