Holy Places

If you’d rather not read what I wrote here about Park 51, someone more eloquent than me wrote about this idea here. I wrote this blog post before reading the CNN blog…and I get that it might offend some of you. Please don’t hate me, rather, respectfully disagree with me and give me a hug…just like my dad always does.

I’ve spent most of my life explaining my beliefs to other people, mostly because despite 50,000 missionaries knocking on doors and various media campaigns, there’s still a lot of misinformation about what it means to be LDS. One of the most common questions I get is about our temples.

I’ve heard it all–that our temples are exclusionary, that what goes on in the temple is weird.

And most of the time, whenever an LDS temple is announced, people freak out. And I mean freak. out.

Take what’s just happened in Phoenix–after much opposition from various activists in Phoenix, Church leaders and architects this week revealed a new design for the temple. The Boston Temple was met with just as much opposition, and my New Testament teacher at BYU often spoke of the outrage that accompanied the announcement and building of the Washington, D.C. Temple.

So this whole brou-ha-ha over Park 51 hits a little close to home. I can’t quite tell what people are opposed to, other than the fact that a couple blocks away, almost ten years ago, a few off-the-reservation Muslims attacked the U.S. And I don’t mean to minimize the gravity of that day, but the loudest opposition voices cutting through the chaos don’t even belong to people who have a right to be angry (i.e. survivors, families of those who died at the WTC).

So question: many members of the Ku Klux Klan–a terrorist organization–identified as Christian Protestant. Does anyone in the South oppose Protestant places of worship being built in communities where lynchings were synonymous with parties? If Japanese-Americans wanted to build a Shinto Shrine within walking distance of Pearl Harbor, would it be an issue?

And the more important question for me: where are my LDS people in all this mess? Have they forgotten their ancestors fleeing Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, finally settling in a part of the continent that wasn’t officially part of the Union to escape mobs and persecution? Have they forgotten that their temples in Ohio and Illinois were desecrated once the LDS contingent left town?

We’re not perfect. We definitely have skeletons in our religious closet, because at the end of the day, imperfect human beings end up leading and supporting any church, but we do the best we can.

And not to get too simplistic, but we teach our children a song:

Jesus said love everyone
Treat them kindly, too
When your heart is filled with love
Others will love you.

There is no asterisk in the song to exclude any group. Is it easy to love everyone and treat them kindly? No. Isn’t that part of what it means to “practice” a religion, to have faith?

I don’t know what the answer is for Park 51. But I know that the rhetoric and vitriol certainly isn’t helping. And as long as I have to explain to people that yes, I do believe Jesus died for my sins and afflictions and yes, I read the Bible, I’m siding with the Muslim community.

4 Comments

  1. “let them worship how, where or what they may”.
    I don't see how any LDS person in good conscience cannot stand with the Muslim people right now. I don't know how any US citizens who claims to hold freedom of worship and religion close to their heart, can in good conscience not support the peaceful Muslim people from creating a community center.

    Apart from anything else…hatred, fear and intolerance only breeds more. Extremist Muslim groups will use America's intolerance regarding this issue to breed more hatred toward them…not smart.

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  2. And I think this is the piece people don't know: “peaceful Muslim people.” In the first few months of my mission, I spoke with many, many Muslims who were kind and dedicated to their faith.

    One family invited us in on a rainy night (in an area where all we did was go door-to-door), and told us they did not want to listen to our message, but they had all kinds of food that they wanted to share with us. We did talk about what we had in common–prophets, kindness, dietary laws, etc.–and after we ate, they sent us away with extras.

    So admittedly, I have a different perspective and a super soft-spot for Muslims.

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  3. I have been feeling the same tuggings. I applaud your endless courage to say what you know is right, even if it's not popular (in our “culture”). And I think you are so eloquent in expressing it, too. The Articles of Faith clearly should be our guide on this issue, as Kirsty pointed out. We will never heal as a nation until we can separate the terrosists from the Muslim community…they are not the same. I'm not afraid of Missourians anymore, ya know?!

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