I grew up in a predominantly non-Mormon small town in Oregon. One of the most impressive and Christ-like families I’ve ever met is from that town, and belongs to the Catholic faith. In that same town I became friends with a foreign exchange student who belongs to the Buddhist faith. Several other friends identified with the local Baptist church. I’ve been exposed to several religions and belief systems throughout my short life, and I thought it’d be good to share what I most love and respect about several of them.
Of course, I’m generalizing extensively, but if I were to pass judgment on these religions based on my personal experience and choose one aspect of their faith that I admire or want to assimilate more into my own life, here’s what they would be:
Baptists—Passion for the Bible
My Baptist friends could quote the Bible all day long. I love that. They take it seriously, they study it and they work to apply it to their lives. They understand the power that comes from the word of God, and they use it!
Jehovah’s Witnesses—Missionary service
As I write this I’ve got a little JW pamphlet open on my desk. Two of their missionaries knocked on my door about an hour ago and invited me to a service. We may disagree on plenty of doctrines, but I sure do respect their missionary efforts.
Their passion for their beliefs is inspiring, and the fact that they frequently go door to door shows how willing they are to do much more than just passively believe. As a former full-time missionary for the Mormon Church myself, I understand how difficult it can be to do what they do. And for that, I open my door.
A couple of years ago I attended a Scientologist church service in the heart of Mormondom: Salt Lake City (bold move, Scientology, bold move). It was quite the experience! Again, we disagree on a theological level, but I love how focused Scientology is on helping people recover from past emotional trauma and current drug addictions (both prescription and illegal). I applaud them for their efforts and congratulate them on their success. Addiction is a terrible thing and I’m grateful they offer services that can help victims overcome it.
Catholics—Strength in the public eye
I’m no expert on Catholic doctrine, but I have noticed how faithfully the Catholic Church has stood by their beliefs about family and marriage despite brutal opposition from the public and the media. We share similar beliefs about many social issues and as pressure has grown to abandon those values, I feel bonded to our Catholic friends as we press forward together. And for that, I thank them.
Buddhists—The principle of Karma
Karma is a bit of a suspicious idea to many of us westerners. But as I understand it, Buddhist karma is essentially the idea that good works will lead us to happiness in the long run.
I can get behind that. And any belief system that encourages goodness in any form is a belief system I support. We need more good in this world, and that’s what Buddhism is all about.
We’re all in this together
I’m a Mormon. Maybe you are too, or maybe you’re not. No matter what religion we subscribe to, we can be friends. We can respect each other, we can help each other and we can love each other. Yeah, I’ll probably try to get missionaries through your door at some point, and I wouldn’t be surprised (or disappointed) if you tried to do the same to me. But at the end of the day, we don’t have to go to the same church to be on the same team. No matter your religion, thank you for the good you do in the world and for the positive influence you strive to be. You’re great.
For the most part, our neighbors not of our faith are good, honorable people—every bit as good and honorable as we strive to be. They care about their families, just like we do. They want to make the world a better place, just like we do. They are kind and loving and generous and faithful, just like we seek to be.
M. Russell Ballard (Doctrine of Inclusion, October 2001)