This is an article I wrote and originally published on another of my blogs here. It is written from an LDS (Mormon religion) perspective, but I think it applies to us all, especially Christians. I’d love to hear any feedback you have to offer!
I Refuse to Hate Muslims
The New Testament contains the proclamation to “let your light so shine before men.” This means that we should offer the world an example that would help others come unto Christ and glorify God. The light it speaks of is the illumination of our testimony. It is a flame of love and warmth. It is a symbol of invitation. It is not the flickering light tossed by the flames of a burning Quran.
It troubles me deeply to see the increased negativity and hatred poured out against the Muslim world. This is certainly nothing new in our history. For a long time, people have been aggressively anti-Muslim in the name of Christianity. It is incredible that in the name of the Prince of Peace, the Christian world has raised up metaphorical pitchforks and torches like a mob against the alleged encroachment of Islam on our nation and our Christian way of life.
I do not wish to over-generalize. It is not all Christians acting in this troubling manner, but it is enough of them and the fact that the major media outlets give them a loud voice that worries me. It especially concerns me the overwhelming number of my LDS friends who share this hatred of our Muslim brothers and sisters. Because of our teachings and the history of our church, I expected more understanding and tolerance from LDS members towards other persecuted faiths.
The bulk of the material for my article comes from an August 2000 article in the LDS magazine called the “Ensign” andJacob chapter 3 from the Book of Mormon. I highly recommend that you read both in their entirety.
The following excerpt from the article shows that the anti-Muslim sentiments prevalent today were present and addressed by the LDS church leadership in the mid 1800’s.
As early as 1855, at a time when Christian literature generally ridiculed Muhammad as the Antichrist and the archenemy of Western civilization, Elders George A. Smith (1817-75) and Parley P. Pratt (1807-57) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles delivered lengthy sermons demonstrating an accurate and balanced understanding of Islamic history and speaking highly of Muhammad’s leadership. Elder Smith observed that Muhammad was “descended from Abraham and was no doubt raised up by God on purpose” to preach against idolatry. He sympathized with the plight of Muslims, who, like Latter-day Saints, found it difficult “to get an honest history” written about them. Speaking next, Elder Pratt went on to express his admiration for Muhammad’s teachings, asserting that “upon the whole, … [Muslims] have better morals and better institutions than many Christian nations.”
The argument will certainly arise that this quote if from so long ago, a lot changed since then, and 9-11 changed everything. I do not wish to minimize the tragic loss of thousands of innocent individuals but I refuse to assign the responsibility of that horrible act to an approximate fifth of the entire world’s population. Similarly, I feel neither personal guilt nor responsibility for the polygamy and mistreatment of young men and women practiced in Fundamental LDS communities. Even though we share common religious roots, the FLDS broke off from the LDS church because of their own interpretation of God’s expectations of them; therefore, their beliefs, teachings, and practices are not congruent with my own. Members of the church bear no blame for FLDS practices. BUT! Even if a member of my own congregation committed a crime, neither my fellow worshippers nor I bear any guilt if we were not co-conspirators or partners in crime. My point is that even though the terrorists were Muslim that does not make the entire Muslim world culpable or complicit.
It is a shallow and hateful argument to claim that all Muslims want to destroy America and our way of life. It is ignorant or disingenuous to quote isolated verses of their scripture and brandish them like proof of their alleged violent nature. Christians conveniently seem to forget the various biblical stories wherein God commands the slaughter of all men, women, and even children of entire cities and geographical regions. Do those verses mean all Christians are blood thirsty, anti-Semitic, savages void of all mercy? It is spiritually dangerous to “cast the first stone” or search for motes in our brother’s eye.
However, let us assume that there really is a pervasive hatred for America’s people and culture. Let us pretend that constantly we are under impending attack on a scale so massive that the enslavement, slaughter, and eradication of entire cities would result. If this were true, we would do well to search our history for similar circumstances to learn from them.
Amazingly, the Book of Mormon contains such a parallel. The Book of Mormon tells the history of two great nations. The Lamanites hated the Nephites. Their hatred originated from false teachings passed down by their fathers and resulted in many wars with the Nephites. Nephite cities were conquered, and their people enslaved or slaughtered. A Nephite prophet named Jacob recorded some of the struggles that his people experienced because of Lamanite aggression. The amazing thing about this chapter; however, is that Jacob’s focus is not on the Lamanites but on the deficiencies and faults found among his own people.
If we operate under the assumption that Muslims hate us and seek our destruction, then the story of the Lamanites and the Nephites is quite applicable. Furthermore, I believe that the Book of Mormon bears the intent to prepare us for the challenges specific to our times as one of its goals. Keeping this in mind, let us explore Jacob’s writings:
1 But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and apray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will bconsole you in your cafflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down djustice upon those who seek your destruction.
3 But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God; for except ye repent the land is acursed for your sakes; and the Lamanites, which are not bfilthy like unto you, nevertheless they are ccursed with a sore cursing, shall scourge you even unto destruction.
4 And the time speedily cometh, that except ye repent they shall possess the land of your inheritance, and the Lord God will alead away the righteous out from among you.
7 Behold, their ahusbands blove their cwives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children; and their dunbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?
9 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye arevile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.
10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your achildren, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the bexample that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.
Jacob makes several points worth noting. First, if we are righteous God will comfort us, protect us, and fight our battles. Second, if we fail to live up to the Christian religion we profess to believe, we curse ourselves. In other words, we will have to bear the consequences of our sins; one of which is that we lose the Lord’s protection. Third, God is no respecter of persons, and even our enemies receive blessings when they live up to the standards and rules set by their faith. Included in this third point is that even though their faith is not 100% correct, it does contain good teachings. Fourth, the destruction of our children is near certain if we live contrary to God’s commandments, and the guilt for that will be on us, not on our enemies.
I fear that by quoting scripture I set myself up for potential retaliation via scripture. Surely there are verses out there that say we must aggressively fight sin and evil in all its forms, but isn’t that the type of scripture we hear about in the Quran that has us afraid of Islam?
We must stop fearing others and focus on our own morality. The scriptures counsel us to seek truth in all its forms and love our neighbors and enemies. Joseph Smith taught that this search for truth should extend into the teachings of other religions. The following reiterates his teaching:
In a recent meeting with Muslim dignitaries, Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles focused on the common spiritual heritage of Mormons and Muslims. After quoting a verse from the Qur’an, he observed:
“God is the source of light in heaven and on earth. We share the belief with you. We resist the secular world. We believe with you that life has meaning and purpose. … We revere the institution of the family. … We salute you for your concern for the institution of the family. … Mutual respect, friendship, and love are precious things in today’s world. We feel those emotions for our Islamic brothers and sisters. Love never needs a visa. It crosses over all borders and links generations and cultures.”
This glares in the face of the perception that Islam is a culture of hatred and violence. In fact, during my research the amount of articles and quotes by LDS leadership regarding the beneficial teachings and contributions of Islam astounded me. I read a few accounts of the creation of the BYU Jerusalem Center. I found myself thinking that if Islamic teachings were so dangerous to our way of life, the church would not have hired local Muslims to teach the students about Islam with the express intent that the students receive a more authentic introduction to their culture and teachings. Instead, the BYU study abroad program promotes tolerance and mutual understanding with the hopes that the students return to the US with the ability to teach fellow Americans to appreciate and understand the Muslim and Jewish ways of life.
I read several LDS articles testifying that God inspired Muhammad to teach the people that there is only one God and that it was contrary to His will that the people worship idols. I learned that Muhammad initially gained notoriety because of his talent for peaceful moderation of conflict. The people revered him for his humility, service, and kindness. His example and teachings are such that his followers became strong contributors to their communities. The teachings of Muhammad that I read were not violent. In fact, they were similar to the Christian beliefs that I believe were part of the founding of our nation.
The Founding Fathers understood the need for religion and morality. They discussed the importance of avoiding contention between denominations. They provided a guideline for focusing on the common points of all beneficial religion. Their guideline consists of five fundamental points that they felt should be taught in the schools. Islamic beliefs are consistent with these five points found in Principle 4 of the book The 5000 Year Leap by Cleon Skousen:
- There exists a Creator who made all things and mankind should recognize and worship him.
- The Creator has revealed a moral code of behavior for happy living which distinguishes right from wrong.
- The Creator holds mankind responsible for the way they treat each other.
- All mankind live beyond this life.
- In the next life mankind are judged for their conduct in this one.
I wanted to write this post on September 11th. I hope that my love of my country, my religion, and my humanity are evident in what I have shared. I cringe at the comments I hear that equate tolerance of Islam as support for terrorism or anti-Americanism. I feel that the best way to honor and protect our American heritage is to honor and obey Jesus Christ. He is the author of liberty. We would not have this land of freedom were it not for His intervention on our behalf. I fear that the establishment continues to strip us of our rights and freedoms while we distract ourselves with emotionally charged irrational conflicts. Islam cannot begin to compare with our own government’s systematic destruction of our liberty nor its threat to the American way of life. I close with one last quote:
Elder Russell M. Nelson quoted a public statement issued by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in October 1992, calling upon “all people everywhere to re-commit themselves to the time-honored ideals of tolerance and mutual respect. We sincerely believe that as we acknowledge one another with consideration and compassion we will discover that we can all peacefully coexist despite our deepest differences.” He then added: “That pronouncement is a contemporary confirmation of the Prophet Joseph’s earlier entreaty for tolerance. Unitedly we may respond. Together we may stand, intolerant of transgression but tolerant of neighbors with differences they hold sacred. Our brothers and sisters throughout the world are all children of God.” (Emphasis added)
I am grateful for inspired church leaders. They offer us a clear and peaceful voice of understanding and direction in times of confusion, fear, and doubt. Their words serve as a filter that temper our emotions and allow the constant flow of principles that will righteously affect the decisions we make.
My invitation to us all is to listen to this voice. Let us all allow ourselves to be persuaded to stand on higher ground. Let our words and actions emulate the example of our Savior and Redeemer. I have confidence in the Lord’s promise given through Jacob that if we are righteous, the Lord will fight our battles and protect us from our enemies. The net effect of my life will be much greater for having lived my life righteously and built others up than it would if I spent my time tearing down that with which I disagreed.