Gathering the Good of Other Faiths

Hawkgrrrlchristianity, church, Culture, Humor, inter-faith, LDS, Mormon, mormon, Mormons, religion, testimony 34 Comments

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:

  • fish_fry.jpgThe 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?

Comments 34

  1. I actually like the idea of Lent. The hallmarks of the Lenten period are supposed to be prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial, all things we probably could do a bit more of. And with counsel constantly coming from the first presidency to avoid excess, it seems like giving up something for a while each year might put things in perspective for people. In theory, it might make them question whether the thing they gave up was a necessary component of their lives in the first place. On the other hand, given the way people act on Mardi Gras, in practice this may not be a good idea for those just going through the motions.

  2. The concept of total deprivation as “fasting” is less common than what Fish Friday and Lent are about: small changes in life or diet by forgoing extravagance or richness in order to focus on God and our spiritual needs. But practice of such discipline is dying out, sadly, (for example a seafood dinner out on Friday is usually no more frugal nor simple than a dinner of meat) or among some heady “Born Againers”, even an evil “work.”

    That the LDS church observes such regularity of fasting, even if a deprivating matter, is something I still admire. Since donations and alms don’t represent a literal equivalent of meals that one has forsaken, I think it would be a nice and productive change for Mormons to incorporate more Lent-like discipline. Rather than give up everything: give up something more favored: take the bus instead of driving; kids could forego TV or video games; eat a vegetarian meal instead of a large meat dish; give up the morning coffee (I’m not kidding 😉 ). Just imagine what a change this could mean. Of course, many would still not observe or not observe meaningfully, but maybe more would. If you get the choice about what little sacrifice will mean the most to working on what’s between you and God, I think it is a small and meaningful empowerment.

  3. The “principle” of recognizing and celebrating the events leading up to the resurrection is one I really like. I don’t want the official pomp of constant ceremony that occurs in Catholicism, but taking the general principle and addressing the significance of Palm Sunday and Good Friday, for example, would be nice.

  4. I’ll also agree with you on the music thing. At our worship services, still predominantly white or hispanic, the music is contemporary and energetic. Even when we sing a traditional hymn it is upbeat. (We’ve even liked other churches we’ve visited that tailor the music and program to different services in order to appeal to different generational preferences.) We start off standing with about three songs, which gives people time to come in if they’re late, without getting any funny looks. Having worship be upbeat, energizing, well prepared, and content rich really makes for a day that stands out from the rest of the week. Some of our extended LDS family visited our Easter service for the first time last week and compliments about the music, sermons, and that “they don’t give you any time to sleep” were gushing. It was kind to say, but I regret that it’s a worship environment they feel they have to envy {in a good way} or only enjoy on a special occasion.

    If I can offer another thing we love: Style of prayer.
    1. We hold hands if we’re in small groups, which we’ve also incorporated into family prayer or dinner prayers.
    2. No “Thees” and “Thous”; the language is more personal.
    3. Prayer can be very spontaneous and informal. If the pastor or classroom teacher is moved they will stop to say a small prayer and then continue on.
    4. More open confession of personal challenges. It’s not like we’re in AA or anything, but more open acknowledgment of challenges, unworthiness before and need for God. (Sure, some of it is a cultural humility shtick, but some of it is very comforting, too.)
    5. Everyday “true order of prayer”: In small groups it’s common that one person will start off a prayer and pray for someone else or a personal reason, Then they will take a break and the next person will continue the prayer, adding their part; and on and on till everyone who wants to say something, does. The first person then closes the prayer. We like this as it’s a common experience and makes us feel like we are sharing each others burdens and building our faith community.

  5. I’ll say Amen to Just for Quix #5, with the exception of holding hands, which may be nice, but I don’t feel as strongly about as the other music and prayer tips.

    I would enjoy more energy in LDS meetings. I would also enjoy more personal prayer and sharing. I also like that people pray when moved to pray. Very cool.

  6. Hey Adam, even when we hold hands, it’s cool if someone doesn’t want to. So we’d still invite ya 🙂

    Some people don’t go for that touchy-feely hand-holding stuff. Some people stand when we pray. Some sit. Some hold out their hands when they sing. Some don’t (me). And some don’t sing at all. Some say Amen, and some a little more loudly than others, to everything that they agree with throughout prayer or the sermon. Some come on time. Some a little late. Some dress in sunday best. Some dress in what they have. That’s all cool to us. A bit more organic. 🙂

    Can appreciate the other prayer stuff maybe being just a little to foreign, tho… I still haven’t quite got used to the band starting to play accompaniment (quietly) during the final prayer as they prepare to send us out with the final songs.

  7. KC (#4): I served my mission in Japan 20 years ago. I always loved visiting the buddhist temples and shinto shrines. The architecture. The gardens. The serene way of doing everything. Yah, I’m down with ya on that one…

  8. Great post, Hawkgrrrl, and welcome aboard!

    I have attended church services in another church only 3 times in my entire life, so I’m not well educated. But I can say that when we had a black Gospel choir come sing at our stake center last Christmas, my family and I left wishing that we had a lot more of that absolutely joyful expression of happiness and gratitude for the “good news” that is the Gospel.

    So I wholeheartedly endorse your music-related point above. We spend a lot of time emphasizing reverence and the importance of creating a library-like atmosphere in our church meetings. But have you ever noticed how awkward it is at a temple dedication when everyone does the “Hosanna Shout,” but nobody actually shouts hosanna with the type of feeling you’d expect? I think that’s because we Mormons are just very unaccustomed to expressing joy and gladness in a vocal way in our meetings, and I love how the black Gospel songs do that.

  9. 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.

    Have you heard of people loosing their faith and then go off the deep end- nothing matters any more! I sometimes wonder if morality, ethics, and humanity is burned deeper into the RAM of an atheists soul- they’ve lost their faith and live it anyway!

  10. This is a great post, Hawkgrrrl – I’m not going to add any specifics to the list, but I just want to express just how much I agree with the principle… it would be wonderful to adopt all those good traits into our worship, and LDS culture.

    It’s already been said, but the exciting thing for me is that we can adopt almost all of these things into our personal faith and practise. What an exciting world God gave us – and what wonderful ways of worshipping Him, from His children around the world!

  11. #2 Just for Quix – “Rather than give up everything: give up something more favored” The reason I was never a big fan of lent is that my lent-observing friends are usually giving up things we have already given up, but I like your idea of giving up something that is more of a personal sacrifice.

    #5 Just for Quix – I agree about using less “thee” and “thou,” at least in English. In English it adds formality and an archaic feel, but in romance languages it connotes a closer, more familial relationship. So in practice, it has the opposite effect in English that it does in other languages.

    #11 James – There was an intersting article recently in Time about atheist Sunday School:,9171,1686828,00.html

    #12 Andy – I totally agree. There’s nothing above that’s really in conflict with our faith (except reincarnation and being expected to go to church more than twice per year).

  12. Such a celebratory first post as a full MM member. Welcome aboard Hawkgrrrl. I totally agree with what you have said.

    Something that has impressed me with Islam is how much they hold their scripture sacred. I had a friend at boarding school who was muslim and he saw that I had laid my book of mormon on the floor as I was getting into bed. He gently reprimanded me let it touch the ground. He walked over, kissed it and then put it on my bed side table.

    Rather fantastic I thought.

  13. Your take on reincarnation is very western. There was a similar idea taught in the early church: “multiple probabtions”. However from Buddhist perspective the emphasis is on how to overcome the affliction of reincarnation.

  14. Post
  15. I am open for any religious practice that would dispose of the need for garments. Any ideas where this would come from?

  16. I love the Praise and Worship aspect and experience of some of the Protestant Pentcostal groups. Why can’t LDS members raise their arms toward Heaven in praise and worship and gratitude?
    Sometimes at the SLC Tabernacle, listening to the Choir, I have to hold my hands together in my lap to keep from “looking pentcostal”!

  17. Hawkgrrl,

    Excellent first post. Consider yourself baptized and confirmed!

    Two comments:

    1) Energy – Our LDS services could use a little more life and energy. While being overly respectful, they can be dull. I used to play drums for a friend’s Black gospel group and when we performed in churches, I just had the best time, listening and rocking out. They really know how to throw their whole souls into worship and praise to God. And that was when I thought I was Jewish!!!! Absolutely loved it! I was also impressed when a black gospel chior sung with the MoTab during M&tSW. They rocked the Tabernacle as well. I bet the MoTab singers loved it as well.

    2. Yiddish – I love Yiddish! It has to be the most fun language in the world! Those words you mentioned as well as those which are incorporated into our language are just priceless. So descriptive. We should all learn it and then we’d have a secret language. Kenna Hora!

  18. How can you treasure something you believe to be false?

    Tolerate? Yes.

    Respect? Possibly.

    But how can you treasure something that is in opposition to God’s revealed word and still be in harmony with God?

    I think Joseph Smith meant something more profound rather then just identifying things in other faiths and cultures that we think is “cool” or interesting.

  19. I’m not sure our services would increase in attendance if we worshiped in the nude, but it probably would be interesting to watch who starts coming to church from total inactivity. *grin*

  20. Cicero – “I think Joseph Smith meant something more profound rather then just identifying things in other faiths and cultures that we think is “cool” or interesting.” Doubtless JS intended this to refer to actual true doctrines, under the premise that all churches have edifying, good truths. IMO, there is far less in other churches that “is in opposition to God’s revealed word” and far more that is admirable. Even if people are operating under incorrect principles, but doing so with earnestness and genuine love for God, I admire that. It doesn’t hurt anyone, and it helps many people. I prefer the sentiment: “He that is not against us is for us.”

  21. #28 I certainly do not mean that we shouldn’t admire some elements of other faiths- even if we believe they are incorrect.

    I guess you were using the Joseph Smith quote as a jumping off point and were not actually listing things you thought came under J.S. guidelines for treasuring.

    #27 A specific example would be Re-incarnation. It is a false doctrine, so how can you treasure it in the sense that Joseph Smith was talking about? Apparently the OP merely meant that Re-incarnation was an idea that gives an interesting perspective that is valuable to contemplate even if it is ultimately false.

  22. Cicero – My admiration of reincarnation is conceptual as it relates to progression, but as Keithb pointed out, there is an interesting Mormon parallel in “multiple probations” (see #15 and #16).

  23. Although I am not LDS – I am Unitarian – I find that so many of my beliefs root themselves in LDS (went to mormon church as a child). I live in a very conservative area, where evangelism is becoming the majority by far and I find that there is very little tolerance of others in that faith. Most of them that I speak with still think LDS is a cult (that doesn’t allow dancing 🙂 )and are not open to understanding or even hearing about anything that is not from their faith. I did not know that Joseph Smith said to learn and treasure from other faiths, but that is an enlightened thing to tell your followers. I think that shows an openess to learn and not just spew doctrine at people and expect them to obey. And although you may personally believe that something is false in anothers faith, it doesn’t sound to me like JS would be proclaiming it as false. He said to treasure it, which is to accept that others firmly believe it and that’s ok. I recently had a conversation with a “born-again” co-worker about Mitt Romney. He strongly feels that Mormons are not Christians. I believe in God and reincarnation, so obviously I am just as much a non-Christian as Mormons in his eyes. We agreed to disagree, but in the end all we have is our own belief and faith and won’t truly know what is real until we do die and move on.
    It is exciting to me to read that all of you who have responded do think about things and want to be open to learning more. We are in this life for a pretty long time and although it is great to be certain in your beliefs, it is also worth the time to explore and learn. It will teach tolerance.
    So, hawkgrrl, thanks for starting a great conversation! CLC

  24. Friday Fish Fry is one of the best things in the world. Around here we have it available every Friday at several locations, not just during Lent, since much of the population is older Catholic. I can’t say I would like livlier music in Sacrament Meeting as I think it would distract us fron the reason we are there. I do think there is a place for it in Sunday School and other meetings, however. Yiddish is great and I also like the way the name of G-d is respected by the Jews. Tithing time is also a terrific idea as far as I am concerned, but I don’t think too many people would agree with me. Great post!

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