Dear 100 Hour Board,
I find it frustrating when members of the LDS church talk about what other churches believe in sacrament meeting. I don't mean when they talk about how other churches also believe in Jesus or serving others or in prayer and how great that is. I mean when they talk about differences we have as Latter-day Saints with them. Often it is their perception of what other churches believe and what they are saying is not completely true. My ward (far, far away from Utah) encouraged us to invite people to church for Easter. The talks were given by the bishopric and two of the talks were sprinkled with "other churches believe..." and then they essentially explained why we are better. I find it distasteful and I was embarrassed, especially given the fact I brought a visitor.
This happens almost every Sunday, even among the senior primary kids I teach. To them, I just say "We are going to talk about what we believe. We should be respectful towards other people even when we believe something different than them." I think it takes away from worshiping Jesus Christ and learning about the restored gospel, especially when its preached in sacrament meeting. How do you think I could encourage other ward members to focus on talking about what the restored gospel is rather than why other people are "wrong"? Do you think I can? Is there an appropriate way to approach the bishopric about this?
I totally hear you. This is especially irksome when someone calls out a particular religion ("I know the Catholics believe..."). Even if it's true, it doesn't go very far to promote the feeling of love and brotherhood that Christ taught and exemplified.
I think a clear, non-accusatory, reasoned discussion with your bishop about your concerns could go a long way. As far as what you yourself can do, I think tasteful interjections can do a lot to express your feelings on the matter. Saying something in Sunday School like, "I'm not totally comfortable making a generalization like that about other churches, but [principle] is what our church believes." Can often do a lot to let people know how you feel about their comment without making a scene or being confrontational.
If you are in charge of a class, I think you can do a lot more than that. You can specifically request that participants restrict their comments to statements about our own church and beliefs (I have done this with positive results) and kindly remind a member to do so if they stray into criticism of other churches (it seems like you're well on your way with this already).
I applaud you for wanting to do something about this.
The Man with a Mustache
I absolutely agree with everything from The Man with a Mustache, and with you. I hate it when people have the gall to tell me what I believe. So, it's only fair that I hate it when those who believe as I do behave that way toward others.
I think it is absolutely appropriate for you to discuss your concern with your bishop - simply make an appointment and tell him what you told us. I think that you are in a particularly good position to bring this up since you have personally brought a visitor and been embarrassed by this behavior.
Also, you could find a way of discussing some of these issues as part of a lesson for your Senior Primary kids. One particularly fantastic resource for a good discussion on this topic is Elder Ballard's talk "Doctrine of Inclusion." Here is one of my favorite passages that applies well here:
Perceptions and assumptions can be very dangerous and unfair. There are some of our members who may fail to reach out with friendly smiles, warm handshakes, and loving service to all of their neighbors. At the same time, there may be those who move into our neighborhoods who are not of our faith who come with negative preconceptions about the Church and its members. Surely good neighbors should put forth every effort to understand each other and to be kind to one another regardless of religion, nationality, race, or culture.
Best of luck to you.
I kind of geek out about other religions. I find the topic of religion itself to be fascinating. Something my polisci professor said once is, "If your political theory relies on the fact that a large number of people were stupid or evil for a long time, that theory is wrong." I feel this applies to religions.
People aren't stupid, and they don't believe stupid things. Religions that see any kind of serious growth always always have internal consistency, and a method for improving or helping their adherents in some way. I have never seen a Mormon attack another religion without using a vicious double standard. (The converse of this is also true. I have never seen someone attack Mormonism without a double standard, and I have never seen an atheist attack any religion without employing a double-standard. That's a topic for a different time, though.)
I talk about other religions all the time in my primary class. Maybe I shouldn't, but see the above statement about geeking out about them. Generally I do this because I think other religions are fascinating and informative, and I have some really liberal ideas, like that maybe they help save people and get them to Heaven as well. (Please don't flame me for this! I don't think I can answer questions after today!) I never ever portray other religions in a negative light, and I defend them when others do.
What I'm saying is that sticking to discussion of LDS doctrine only is fine and prudent, but that there's nothing inherently wrong about discussing other religions. This just needs to come from an informed, compassionate standpoint that acknowledges their validity.
I hope that made sense.