Many of you have read Lengthen Your Stride by Edward Kimball. It’s a great book in an of itself, and it includes a CD with a treasure trove of material. Included on the CD is a much longer version of the book, but few people read the “long version.” Edward Kimball and Deseret Book disagreed on some parts of the book that the publisher wanted to cut, so the compromise was to add the CD for people that wanted all of the details. I’ve been reading the long version of the book.
Benchmark Books has published a limited edition of the long version (only 400 copies were made), known as Lengthen Your Stride: Working Draft. I’ve actually purchased one of these rare books. I thought I paid too much for it, but just checked Amazon and discovered that new copies are selling for $475 or $500 plus shipping (more than twice as much as I paid for it.) Wow, now I feel like I got a good deal.
I plan to write about some of the cool stuff in the longer version of the book. I will highlight the additional reading material in blue color. I was especially intrigued to learn about missionary efforts in Muslim countries, that receives short shrift in the shorter version. The short version does mention Egypt, but completely leaves out Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and China. Here’s some of the good parts from chapter 14 page 18 (page 176 of the long version) that highlight the difficulties in trying to proselyte in Muslim countries.
Egypt. In 1975 businessman Lynn M. Hilton, inspired by President Kimball’s sweeping view of missionary work, including the Muslim world, established a business in Egypt drilling water wells. The International Mission president set him apart as district president of Egypt and the Sudan, where forty-four Mormons lived among sixty million people. He filed papers seeking governmental recognition for the Church but was met with pleasant smiles and endless delays. Over the four years he lived in Cairo five General Authorities visited. Hilton engaged in proselyting until the police chief forbade his proselytizing Muslims. When the leaders of the Coptic Christians complained, the chief ordered Hilton deported, despite the fact that he had business interests in Egypt, but relented when Hilton agreed not to proselyte any Egyptian of any religion. He was, however, not forbidden to teach expatriates. Consequently a few Ethiopians and Koreans living in Egypt were baptized. At the end of 1979, when the Hiltons left Egypt there were fifty-six Church members.93
In further pursuit of government recognition, in September 1979 the First Presidency met with professor D. Delos Ellsworth. As a representative of the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute at BYU, he had been working with government and university officials in Egypt to improve agricultural practices and has their good will.
President Kimball told him, “We are concerned that the Arab world not think that the Mormons are too pro-Jewish. We want the leaders of the Arab nations to understand we believe that the Arabs are children of Abraham and as such are entitled to the blessings of Abraham. In your meetings with any of these leaders would you please convey that to them.”
Howard W. Hunter, who was overseeing development of the BYU Jerusalem Center, also strongly encouraged LDS outreadh to Arab and Muslim peoples.
President Kimball gave Ellsworth a new formal petition to the Egyptian government for recognition of the Church. He also provided credentials for Gerald WIlliams, a BYU law professor then working in Cairo, to officially represent the Church in seeking that recognition.94 As he left, Ellsworth asked, “Is there any advice you could give me?
President Kimball shook his hand, looked him straight in the eye, and, without a smile, said, “Yes. Â Don’t make any mistakes.”
Iran. When David Kennedy visited Tehran in 1974 a branch of the Church already existed, made up almost completely of Americans.96 He hired an Iranian law professor to help obtain legal recognition and missionary visas. Dean B. Farnsworth, a BYU English professor who had lived in Iran on professional assignment from 1959 to 1961, was appointed mission president in July 1975. He had four missionaries. They contacted Iranians who had visited Church visitors centers in other countries and indicated they would like to know more about the Church. The elders also taught free English classes. They could answer people’s questions but were not allowed to approach strangers. The lawyer who had been fired failed to act, and Farnsworth had to spend much of his time pursuing the legal recognition of the Church that would permit it to own a meeting place. Legal recognition finally came in November 1977, just a few months before Farnsworth was released. The new mission president, William Attwoll, had to leave the country along with his missionaries in December 1978 when the fundamentalist Islamic revolution overthrew the government of the shah and made further delay dangerous. The mission formally closed in 1979.
Indonesia. In January 1970 missionaries began proselyting in Indonesia. After some initial difficulty with the police, the Church obtained recognition in 1970, but the recognition did not permit door-to-door proselytizing. A separate Indonesia Jakarta Mission was organized in July 1975. By 1977 the Book of Mormons was published in Indonesian and membership reached twelve hundred, but continuing governmental restrictions on visas and proselytizing and danger from violent conflicts between Muslims and Christians led to discontinuation of the separate mission the end of 1980.95 Repeated visits by David Kennedy between 1979 and 1983 failed to lighted the government restrictions.99 Local missionaries continued to serve until the mission reopened in 1985 under a native mission president, only to be closed again in 1989 as a separate mission and became part of the Singapore mission.100
Saudi Arabia. Since the 1960s, Mormons working in Saudi Arabia had met together as a branch under the International Mission. By 1984 there was a district with eighteen branches and about fifteen hundred members, who met for religious services in homes in groups of twenty-five or fewer, as required by government regulation. They met on Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, and dressed casually so as to be inconspicuous. Members refrained from proselytizing.
In April 1984 Elder Packer orgainzed the Arabian Peninsula Stake to include these Church members, nearly all of them Americans working for oil companies or on Saudi projects. Â In 1985 Saudi secret police detained for a time several Church members based on reports of proselytizing made by two Saudis who had been fired by a Mormon supervisor. Â After several months of investigation and close surveillance of LDS meetings, the reports were determined false and the complainants imprisoned. Â The government kept close watch to assure compliance with the law.101
Malaysia and Singapore. Â Four missionaries from the Southern Far East Mission arrived in Singapore, a secular state, in March 1968. Â With government restrictions on visas and tracting, conversions were few. Â Foreign missionaries were excluded between 1970 and 1988, but local missionaries carried on, and by 1974 membership amounted to perhaps two hundred. Â A separate Singapore Mission, opened in 1974, was discontinued in 1978 and reopened in 1980 with responsibility also for India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. Â In 1985 membership was nearly one thousand.102
The first missionaries in Malaysia, a largely Islamic nation, came to Kuala Lampur in June 1972 on thirty-day tourist visas. Â When the Singapore Mission was organized in 1974 it included Malaysia. Â Official recognition in 1977 allowed the Church to acquire a chapel site for its few hundred members, many of them expatriates, but severe restrictions on proselytizing and denial of missionary visas greatly slowed growth.103
Spencer talked with as many people as he could who had lived in or had traveled in China or had connections there. Â He sought information and ideas useful in planning eventual missionary work among that huge population.104
In September 1978, before assembled Regional Representatives, Spencer praised the Chinese for being: “a disciplined, industrious, frugal, closely knit people. Â Their moral standards are very high by modern western standards….Family life is strong.” Â He then stated: Â “When we are ready, the Lord will use us for his purposes. Â There are almost three billion people now living on the earth in nations where the gospel is not being preached.”105
In response to this challenge, Dallin H. Oaks, president of BYU, asked Bruce L. Olsen, his assistant for University Relations, to begin planning for a BYU performing groups to go to China. Â Two months later U.S. president Jimmy Carter announced that the United States and China would exchange formal diplomatic recognition on January 1, 1979. Â Byu sought and obtained an invitation for a musical group to tour China in July.106
That April 1979, in a talk to Regional Representatives, President Kimball reiterated his point: Â “The door to China is starting to open. Â Rather than waiting to be asked, we should take affirmative action to obtain approval to enter.”
Kimball and BYU continued to make overtures to the Chinese, and then the author talks about India and notes that there were 500 members in India when President Kimball died in 1985. Finally, I wanted to conclude with
As a result of the revelation in June 1978 authorizing ordination of black members of the Church, a burst of missionary activity occurred in Africa, particularly in Nigeria and Ghana. In 1964, before the revelation, a plan to send five missionary couples to Nigeria had foundered when negative publicity about the Church’s priesthood ban led the government to deny visas (see ch. 20).
In November 1978, Rendell and Rachel Mabey and Ediwn and Janath Cannon, called as special representatives of the International Mission, arrived in Nigeria.132 By early 1980, after serving in both Nigeria and Ghana for a year, they reported Church membership in the two countries at seventeen hundred.133 In 1980 and 1985 the Church established regular missions in those two countries.134 In 1981 Benjamin Crosby Sampson-Davis and Samuel Eko Bainson, the first full-time missionaries called from West Africa, served in the England Manchester Mission135 (see ch. 24).
After the 1978 revelation substantial missionary efforts also opened on the Caribbean islands with large Black populations. New missions were established during President Kimball’s time in Puerto Rico (1979), Dominican Republic (1981), West Indies (1983), Haiti (1984, and Jamaica (1985).
I was shocked to hear about some of these missions, especially Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, though I wasn’t surprised to hear about problems with proselyting. It was interesting to hear the Coptic Christians complained too. What are your thoughts?
Seems to me that preaching a religion infused with american exceptionalism and based upon restoring “true” christianity to regions of the world where those two concepts are nonstarters is wrong-headed.
The success of mormonism on the american continents is due in part to the attractiveness of the message of core christian beliefs, coupled with the comforting idea that the american continents are special in some way.
And, when you add to that words still in the LDS scriptures that equate fair skin with righteousness and dark skin with a cursing, it’s just not going to go over well in the majority of the world where skin isn’t white.
What if, instead of forcing the idea of an american, jewish-christian faith onto muslims, hindus, copts, taoists, and buddhists, the church focused on ‘restoring’ the core faith of these belief systems?
What if LDS missionaries taught that Muhammed was indeed a prophet, and that at his core his message divine, yet his message was to those of arabic decent? What if instead of trying to replace Muhammed with Joseph Smith, we ask muslims to go back to the core messages of the qur’an? Not the ones that preach hate, but the ones that recognize the core principles of faith, repentence, love of one another, dependence upon the divine? What if the outcome of our preaching was that to strengthen a muslim’s faith in allah, and his or her commitment to the five pillars rather than on the cultural artifacts that creep into religion?
Restoration has a message: when we go back to the idea that god inspires prophets, and then churches that follow typically force cultural rules on the flock, we might find, at our core, we all need god and each other in meaningful ways.
I believe the concept of preaching the gospel in all the world is not about converting people to one flavor of religion, but rather, to help people find the Way in their own words, language, and paradigm. I would rather see missionaries helping:
– Muslims be better, more inclusive muslims
– Copts find the richness of their faith tradition and find god thereby
– Hindus become one with their souls by finding message beyond the vedas: vedanta
– Taoists finding the Way naturally, not through superstition, but thru wu-wei
– Buddhists recognize that the message of gautama wasn’t a ritualized set of right-this-and-that and endless meditation practices, but rather, that enlightenment is in the here and now.
– Humanists recognizing the myriad paths to being human, and accepting others faith as valid paths.
I see a world that is neither forced into one religion, nor without faith, but rather, an inclusive, diverse set of traditions that respectfully point to a single divine reality that no-one fully comprehends, but all are walking toward.
That to me is the gospel, and the LDS church, with its vast ‘Reserves’ and willing, motivated volunteers could make a huge difference.
What occurred to me is the danger of the church being so closely aligned with one political party, particularly today’s radical Republican Party, and how detrimental this could be in seeking to spread the gospel in Islamic countries, but also China and many other countries as well. The church is the Lord’s. It is not and should not be seen as an arm of the United States in any way, shape or form.
I was shocked to hear about some of these missions, especially Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia
I think you are overstating things a bit. Of those three, only Iran was an official mission. Egypt was basically one guy doing missionary work on the side. The Saudi situation is not mission-like at all–it is just an arrangement by which non-Arabs can be active in the Church while working there. Indonesia was an official mission, and I actually taught an Indonesian man in Germany back in the 70s (but he was already Christian).
One of my fellow missionaries (79-81) was a teenager when his father worked in Saudi Arabia for an oil company. My (now 30 year old) recollection matches the description above. It seemed to me that the church in Saudi Arabia was just Americans working there and that there were a lot of restrictions on what you could and could not say about the church.
Oh, and one other thought, while none of the above surprises me it doesn’t seem to match the vision of the stone cut out of the mountain without hands that rolls forth and fills the earth. 30 years after Kimball’s death we still don’t have official missions in India, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. There are probably TWO billion people who no live in countries where the LDS church has no official recognition.
Wayfarer, good to see you! But I have a question for you. Even if Mormons adopted Muhammad as a prophet, do you think that would have made any impact on the stories in Egypt, Iran, or Saudi Arabia?
Last Lemming, I see your point, but I was still surprised to hear about these missions, unofficial or not.
Michael, I think the Church (and Kimball especially) agrees with you, but aren’t sure how to go about trying to promote Christianity in these countries where religious freedom is not allowed.
we still donâ€™t have official missions in India
We have two: Bangalore (opened in 1993) and New Delhi (opened in 2007).
RE: the Copts in Egypt — they have been a severely abused minority group in Egypt. A common problem is the abduction, rape, and forced marriage of Coptic girls by Muslim men as a means of extinguishing Coptic Christianity and swelling the Muslim ranks. The government provides virtually no help in these cases. I can see why black-suited foreigners trying to convert Copts from the oldest continuous Christian church would put them off after they’ve fought so hard to survive as an ethnic and religious group.
Mo, I’m formulating this opinion a bit, so it’s in process, but i’m feeling more and more strongly about it.
First of all, bear in mind my model: JS and TSM are prophets to me and Mohammed is not my prophet. So in that dimension, my path does not have to include Mohammed, nor does their path have to include JS or TSM. That makes this model a bit more palatable, I believe.
What I am proposing is that we drop any pretense whatsoever to convert a muslim to have to believe in Jesus Christ as god, in Joseph Smith as a prophet, nor do we require any of the ordinances for a muslim. Our goal is simply to celebrate, together, the idea that our religions point to a divine reality, that for *me*, Joseph Smith and TSM point to that divine reality, and for them muhammed does as well. we are both ‘of the book’, believers, and have complete mutual respect for our respective journeys.
I would hope that I would support them in ramadan, in alms giving, respect their need for regular prayer, and for Hajj. LIkewise, I would expect them to respect me in my observance of fast sundays, tithes and offerings, my prayers and scripture study, and for my pilgrimages to the Temple. Two different forms, but a single destination. In the end, I would hope our dialog would result in increased (1) increased faithfulness to our respective faiths and commitments, and (2) increased inclusiveness to see the other’s path as equally valid to them as my path is for me. Whether I say “I believe in God, the Eternal Father”, or “There is no god but god and muhammed is his prophet”, or “Shema Ysrael, Adonoy Eloheinu, Adonoy echad!”, I am pointing to that same divine reality.
You might know that in my work I dialog with government officials from many lands. I was talking in London with a senior official from Saudi Arabia. We shared a spiritual moment that helped him recommit to his faith in a way he had not done before. We are very close friends now. We share faith, and celebrate a divine reality, and he knows that I in no way want to convert him, nor him me.
It’s a beautiful thing. And I’m not trying to say that I’m all that, I’m just saying it’s possible to share faith language in a way that truly edifies, if we understand the divine bridge where our beliefs are in common.
I should be able to practice the same way with a Catholic, helping them become more faithful and devoted to their faith, to a Jew, to a Hindu, buddhist, or daoist.
Obviously, those who polemically believe that their way is the only one are not going to go there with me, or even if they do, they will be polite at best. But that is far better than saying ‘My god is better than your god, nyaa, nyaa, nyaa’, and frankly, for a devout person of faith outside of mormonism, that’s the end of any conversation with a missionary.
All I’m asking a person of faith to consider is that god talks in many languages to many people (mainly because “god” is our inspiration within and not some ‘big guy in the sky that only reveals his will to one culture’). It only makes sense that if god wants to talk to arabs, he’s going to talk in arabic, and maybe even mix in arabic nationalism, cultural mores, and symbolic mythology that makes god’s message accessible to arabs, but not to non-speakers. What sense does it make that god would only talk in arabic to the whole world? It doesn’t.
continuing the thought…
Imagine if possible, that two missionaries go out on a mission to a diverse culture in, say, new york city. The companionship is mixed: a muslim and a mormon. They’re goal, going from house to house is simply to encourage faith as a way to find happiness. They walk into a catholic home: perhaps the family is having challenges, they’re depressed, and unhappy. Instead of trying to convert the family, they simply offer to listen, to pray, and to encourage the family to find god wherever they can. If they are catholic, the missionaries tell them where the local parrish is. the missionaries have also met the catholic priest, and have shared lunch with him, talking about his needs among his flock. He doesn’t have time to visit everyone, but the missionaries do.
With the permission of this suffering family, the missionaries go back to the parrish priest and tells him about some of the needs they’ve heard form the family. They eventually connect — lives are improved, faith improves, the missionaries have had real success, the priest is having better impact, and the family has grown in love.
At another house, they meet with an atheist/humanist, who has no time for people of faith. turns out the humanist has a skill as a fix-it guy, and instead of trying to convert the humanist, the missionaries tell about the catholic family who is having some trouble, say with their furnace and can’t afford to replace it. They’re neighbors. The missionaries ask the humanist to teach them how to fix a furnace, by going over to the catholic household to fix theirs. The humanist willingly serves, the missionaries learn a vital skill, a family’s furnace is fixed in time for winter, and neighbors are connected.
Meanwhile, two missionaries from completely different cultures and religions are learning to really love one another across these vast boundaries. Neither tries to convert the other, and as a result, both faith and inclusiveness increase. Each missionary becomes more committed to his or her own path, while gaining deep respect for the other’s.
If we want to preach the gospel in all the world, then we need to focus on the gospel, and not the church. seriously. The gospel is to be had in more scripture than the standard works — It specifically says so in 2 Ne 29:12-14. Were we to anchor on ‘truth’ and recognize that ‘faith’ is the unknowable that lies in our culture and religious traditions and text, we may be able to share a universal gospel that all can agree upon.
Excuse me? We have two, one in Bangalore, and one in New Delhi. We have branches in well over a dozen cities. we have strong, faithful members of indian ancestry, typically of christian legacy, but a few hindus as well.
I lived there for a year and a half both in Delhi and in Bangalore.
I believe a stake is being formed in Hyderabad.
sorry, my reply should have been directed to Michael — yare are saying the same thing as me…
Ok, assuming the Church went along with this idea (which is a BIG stretch), I still expect that the Saudi government would jail you for proselyting. What do you think? Also, what’s stopping you from serving this mission now?
You might know that I am serving that mission now — in a sense, as I mentioned above.
As for saudi arabia. one of my guys was there this week (I have been avoiding going), and I don’t think the wahhabi influence would let a sunni, shia or sufi be part of the religious life there, let alone a christian mormon.
The saudi kingdom and its wahhabi stranglehold is not sustainable over the long haul. We’ll see what happens as the next generation of leaders has no clear front-runner. Who knows.
But what I’m suggesting is a bit different than ‘proselyting’ wouldn’t you say? As i worked a little with the mission people in bangalore, i sensed the profound hopelessness of proselyting christianity to any hindu. Sure, some success can be had among the dalits, perhaps, but islam is doing much better there. Christians are a very small minority in India, and those are the ones who are coming into the church. It’s fruitless.
I’m just trying to see a more beneficial way of missionary service. And you know, the idea of NOT trying to convert people, yet seeing the selflessness of the service, would be very attractive to people. Paradoxically, but NOT being ostensibly sales-oriented to the church, people might be far more attracted to it.
Being a student of Arabic and the Middle East at BYU, and spending a semester in Jordan, I’ve had a lot of time to think about this topic. First I want to point out that the Coptic Christians are actually the main driving force behind keeping Mormon proselytizing out of Egypt. If missionaries went there, they’d be forced to teach only other Christians, and that would mean sheep stealing from an already stressed and somewhat paranoid religious minority. They don’t want that one bit.
Second, as a note about Islam in Saudi Arabia, I disagree wayfarer. The wahhabi form of Islam is under no threat whatsoever. Although the next king is a little up in the air at the moment, non of the frontrunners are known moderates, and definitely not liberals. And though the king is the most powerful man in the country, right underneath him are the clerics. They’re the bottleneck, and he doesn’t have the power to ignore them. It is very possible that Saudi Arabia will actually regress towards extreme religious conservatism when King Abdullah dies. That’s my opinion, but I am willing to support it if anyone is interested.
Third, I don’t think we will ever have success among the Muslims in the Middle East, just like we’ll never get a stake in the Vatican (though we’ll put a temple right next to it!). Muslims question whether trinitarian Christians count as monotheists, but to them we are a straight up polytheists. I’m not sure we could argue effectively that we are really people of the book. How could we ever convince a religious group that considers itself a restoration of lost truths, that we are the restoration of their lost truths? And while the Qur’an is not nearly as violent as we in America like to think, it is decidedly against the idea of Jesus being the Son of God.
But in my opinion all of this is okay. Minus those few miraculous stories we hear now and again, we never convert people who actually believe in their religions. We convert people who aren’t satisfed with the religion. We don’t need to think of clever ways to make Mormonism and Islam more compatable, or some kind of extension of each other, we need to give disaffected Muslims something new and different to believe. And I do have a great deal of respect for Muslims, but if I were to make a wager, hell will freeze over before elders get into Mecca.
Hattusili, I defer to you on the saudi politics. I have to wonder, how long can a people remain as oppressed as the saudis are? perhaps as long as there is enough light, sweet crude under their deserts to be in demand and provide money and power to the royal family and the wahhabi clerics, I suppose.
I do not believe that we can really have success with non-christian religions as long as LDS religion supports the core christian claims. Obviously, LDS will never relinquish the christian concept of Jesus being physically the Son of God and thus equal to god. As a physical construct, the atonement as including a unique intercessory suffering, killing of a god, and then the resurrection of a god to be equal to god will never fly to islam. Hinduism has no problem with miraculous stories like this, but let’s then also include Krishna, Rama, etc.. And either every story will be taken for the mythological construct it is, or be taken physically as true and equivalently true.
But my premise is not that we convert catholics, muslims, or hindus. far from it. Rather, we come to an equivalence of respect: seeing that each way is there for a purpose. I know that my boss, for example, a very devout irish catholic, is never going to change his religion, nor am i to his, but we can completely share and participate in each others worship services and respect each others’ beliefs. I believe that we should set aside the goal of converting the world to the “church” in this life entirely, and preach ‘the gospel’ only: that is, that there is a thing out there called “all truth”. For things provable, we can agree that such provable things are true. For things non-provable, no one among us among these various religions has an edge over another. “God” is the ultimate unprovable. Whether Jesus is God is an article of faith for some. I would suggest that LDS ontology for Jesus differs materially from the typical christian ontology, and of course both differ from islam. No. Big. Deal. None of us know for sure.
Were there to be a god out there that judges us, the idea that he would judge us for our speculative ontology as superior to muhammed’s is absurd. We don’t know. They don’t know. Nobody knows, because it’s unprovable. So let’s set aside polemics on that which is unprovable, and focus on truth.
Once upon a time, islam was the religion of the educated: people like AbÅ« Ê¿AbdallÄh Muá¸¥ammad ibn MÅ«sÄ al-KhwÄrizmÄ«, from whom algebra and algorithms come. At the time, the Church was killing of heretics who might say things against the bible.
Why cannot we find a happy place where we can appreciate knowledge of truth as the ultimate gospel?
Okay, I read too much into your argument. Thanks for clarifying, and I agree with the noble goal of coming to mutual respect (and not just tolerance).
As for Saudi Arabia, you have to understand some important reasons why the regime maintains power. First, Saudis don’t pay taxes. The government doesn’t need the money. Think about America and how many people are ultimately okay with the government invading people’s privacy because comfort is more desirable than freedom. We’re not that different. Second, the Saudi religious police aren’t like normal police. They’re sole purpose is to keep people in check, and if you think about it, how easy is it to tell the religious police they’re wrong? Third, the Saud family, which is the reigning family, is massive due to all of the polygamy, and it is absolutely morally wrong in Arab society to oppose your family. So even if you want to revolt, if the neighbors have a claim to the Sauds, tough luck getting their support.
Interestingly, Saudi Arabia did have a few revolts last year in accord with the Arab Spring. Surprisingly 10% of Saudis are Shiite (they all live in the east), and there were a few attempts over there. Nobody knows how big the riots got because the kingdom really is that good at controlling even social media. There were also a few riots in the west near Jedda, but they were probably quite small. As ruthless as the Saud government is, they do turn a blind eye to things around Jedda. You can buy alcohol there if you know where to look. But I’m starting to ramble. The most important thing, I believe, is that the government doesn’t charge taxes.
Wayfarer, you might want concider joining the the Bahai faith or the Unitariariean who accept all kinds of religeous beliefs. What would be the point of missionary work if we do not teach the gospel of Jesus Christ as it has been restored?
I’m a little past that point, my friend. I have lived in India, China, and for 25 years actively involved in interfaith dialogue. As an active, practicing, LDS, I’m perfectly content in my own faith, thank you so very much.
I think you missed my point. We don’t succeed in pushing our version of the ‘gospel’ to those who have received another version of the ‘gospel’ in their own language and cultural paradigms.
Let me ask a question: Do you think it’s possible that god communicates truth to the various people of the earth distinctly in a language and culture they understand? I’m not asking you to make a conclusion of fact here, but simply that it is possible?
And if that is possible, is it possible that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is, in this life, not required for every person on the earth?
If we believe that those ‘noble and great ones’ who were ‘foreordained’ to be members of the Church in mortality, then we must believe that there were others who were not ‘foreordained’ to the church, correct? And if someone is not foreordained to be member of the church, then what is the point in pushing them into the church? I’m not trying to take away free agency, only that if someone is not ordained to something, then having them act in that role is more or less like ‘steadying the ark’ is it not?
So, if I run into a poor soul who isn’t one of the noble and great ones who will readily join the church — the vast majority of people we encounter on our missions, and perhaps 99.99% of muslims, then what should we teach? Should we continue to offend them by pushing our version of the gospel on them, or should we seek to help them find peace and joy in their own path?
Lastly, do you think that the Gospel as preached currently by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ‘all truth’ and ‘all true’? Or is it possible that the prophet muhammed may have also had a take on truth, and by merging our scripture with theirs, we might find the nexus that, line upon line and precept upon precept we can learn more truth?
Joseph Smith practiced this disciple, syncretically combining things outside of his understanding of christianity into a more full picture of truth. Why can we not continue that practice?
Consider 2 Ne 29:12-14: 12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.
13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.
14 And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.
Are not muslims Abraham’s seed? Given the way the 10 tribes ‘disappeared’, do you think its possible that part of the house of israel also mixed into the peoples that now believe the Qur’an?
Consider one other thought. You ask, “What would be the point of missionary work if we do not teach the gospel of Jesus Christ as it has been restored?”
Four sons of Mosiah went to the land of the lamanites. I’m pretty sure that three of them did exactly what missionaries typically do: promote the religion and try to convince people of the rightness of the church. The fourth did not. Instead, he offered to simply stay and serve the people of Lamoni. He made a commitment to live with them, to serve them, and he did not begin with preaching to them.
His name was Ammon.
Before Ammon could effectively convert the majority of the people of Lamoni, which he did, he first had to establish trust. He honored their traditions, becoming more faithful than any of the other servants of Lamoni. When the assets and resources of Lamoni were threatened, he risked life and limb in the power of god to save his fellow servants, and recovered the flocks of Lamoni. This opened up an opportunity.
But what happens next is even more important than anything else. Lamoni doesn’t start preaching, but rather, Lamoni asks a question, “By what power do you do these things.” And instead of answering, he gets a commitment from Lamoni that if he tells him, Lamoni would ‘hearken’ to what Lamoni had to say. Lamoni agrees.
And now it even gets more interesting. Of course, Ammon starts using the language of the gospel: probing belief in God. Lamoni doesn’t have a clue what Ammon is talking about. “god” is as foreign to Lamoni as “the gospel of Jesus Christ” is to muslims. Instead of insisting on using Nephite terminology, Ammon decides to use Lamanite terminology: “Do you believe in the Great Spirit?” And Lamoni does. So, in order for Ammon to be effective, he built respect within the Lamanite culture, he honored their traditions and service, and spoke about religion in their language and terminology.
Evaluate these three phrases:
1. Shema Ysrael, adonoy eloheinu, adonoy echad!
2. lÄ Ê¾ilÄha Ê¾illÃ l-LÄh
3. We believe in God the Eternal Father…
They convey a thought. A principle. A fundamental precept of the Gospel. They say the same thing, but have radically different implications. For someone to proclaim in faith any one of these is for them to express the very first principle of the Gospel. Does it really matter what language we use to express this core concept?
I have been transported to the most sacred experiences in reciting the Shema, the Shahada, and our own statements of belief. They are all true. In me, it has come to pass that god’s word has been gathered into One.
…and the outcome of the Ammon/Lamoni dialog is even most interesting of all. Eventually the people of Lamoni, including Ammon, form their own church, subordinate to the main church of Alma, but with distinction as well. They become absolute pacifist, even to the point of sacrificing themselves rather than take up arms. The synthesis of the cultural and moral strengths of the people of Lamoni merged with the doctrines of the gospel as taught by Ammon to create something superior.
The power of these people’s faith was exceptional, leading eventually to the 2000 stripling soldiers, etc.
This Ammon Principle is what I’m talking about. You don’t go into Muslim countries to preach the gospel. You go there to serve, and commit to that service within the rules and confines of the rulers of that country.
That’s why when I spoke to a Saudi official, I am his servant (in fact, my teams are serving him in providing support to the Saudi government). I as able to have a very enlightening conversation with him because I respected and honored his religion.
Will it result in a conversion? Does it matter?
[…] I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been reading the Lengthen Your Stride: Working Draft. Â Chapter 22 provides more […]
[…] I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been reading the Lengthen Your Stride: Working Draft. Â Chapter 22 provides more […]