Sunday, October 13, 2013

a note on respect

Recently, I had an experience that made my heart ache. It made me so sad! I feel like I need to write about it, because of the principles I try to stand for. Maybe it will help someone, I can only hope so!

A few weeks ago I gave a friend a copy of a book I consider to be very sacred, and that is very dear to my heart and to my faith - a Book of Mormon. (We believe this book to be a second witness, in companionship with the Bible, of the divinity of Jesus Christ).

Well, this past weekend, a group of people were talking about the Book of Mormon. One person told the group that their pastor informed them that if they ever received a copy, they should burn it. To this, my friend replied that they were going to rip out the pages I had written notes on, and would burn the rest of the book. I wasn't present, but later heard about the conversation from a friend who had been there.

I don't wish to take it personally, since obviously their words were concerning the Book of Mormon, not me. I think the course I'll take is letting that individual know how precious that text is to me, and that if needed I will write on every single page so they don't destroy that book!

But the main principle this brought to my mind was respect. Every person has their own free will, and chooses to believe and act as they may. I am so incredibly grateful that I have that freedom!

With that freedom, I believe it is critically important that we treat others with kindness, respect, and dignity. Although we may have different beliefs and opinions, we should remain respectful and treat each other with kindness.

One part of this responsibility is being respectful of things other people consider to be sacred. If, say, a Jewish friend gave me a copy of the Torah (or another religious text they study) I would never treat that with disrespect. Although I don't consider that book to be part of my scriptures, I would recognize how important that book is to them. I would also - and do recognize - that there is probably actually a lot of good in that book, and some things that we would probably agree on!

One of our beliefs is that we should study and gain knowledge -

"Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass, things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms"
"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning, even by study and also by faith"
To me, I don't see why this wouldn't include a knowledge of other religions and other opinions. Even if you don't believe that it is true, surely there is something of value to have that knowledge. One great thing of value I can see would be being able to understand others, and knowing how to serve them. 

There is one more thing, and that is the burning of books in general. Throughout history, every example I can think of where some group burned books is when that group was trying to suppress a dissenting view that threatened their ideology. This suppression of dissenting views is contrary to freedom - including religious freedom.

Why would someone want to burn a sacred text of another faith? Wouldn't that individual be able to distinguish whether the text were true or false, good or evil, in their own personal study? Wouldn't they have a right to make that judgment in their own pursuit for truth?

I'll be the first to admit that I am such a flawed person. I am not perfect. However, I do try my best to live these principles - respecting other's opinions and beliefs, and standing for freedom so that both myself and others can have the opinions and beliefs that they choose to abide by. I just hope that other's will do the same!


  1. Random fact: the Torah is actually just the Jewish name for the first 5 books of what Christians call the Old Testament. So I'm guessing you would be able to find *a lot* of things you'd agree with in there, with most or all disagreements being due to different interpretations or translation differences.

    They also tend to write/print them on these big scrolls instead of making them into regular books, so I'd think that would be a really neat thing to have even if there wasn't any religious agreement involved.

    1. Haha, thank you Eddie! I actually thought of that, how it's the Old Testament, but I figured it still worked, because we don't consider it part of our standard works of scripture... if that makes sense. That is very cool they make them on scrolls, too! I would actually love to study the Jewish faith. I'm a huge supporter of Israel, and think it's really neat.

  2. That is so sad Whitney! :( I'm sorry that your friend did not see the value in the Book of Mormon. I haven't given one to a friend before, but I have written my testimony in the front of a few copies and left them in different places for people to find. I figure that the Spirit can prompt them to at least curiosity about what it is, so that they may take it with them. I have shared very personal aspects of my testimony with some of my friends, and had a couple of them spit it back in my face. One actually went so far as to pretend to ask my opinion on an article that they read, and when I offered my thoughts on it, they proceeded to explain to me how I was wrong and that I was 'willingly allowing myself to be deceived, and that such willful disobedience would only result in my going to Hell'. It's hard to not take things like that personally...Especially when we know so strongly for ourselves that it is right and the peace that it brings into our lives. I remember reading a quote from Elder Holland (I think it's in the Preach My Gospel manual) where he said that, "Your duty as a missionary is to teach people the Gospel, to bear your testimony of the Book of Mormon, and share your knowledge and experience of God's love with others. Your job is NOT to convince others of it's truthfulness. That is what the Holy Ghost is for. Your job is to teach and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and let that person decide for themselves if they will believe it or not." (And I'm paraphrasing that more or less, but you get the gist :) ). As hard as it is to not want to shake people sometimes, our jobs as missionaries of Jesus Christ is to bear our testimonies, both in word and by example, and let the Holy Ghost testify of its truthfulness.

    1. So true, Amanda! Thank you! I love that we can search for truth for ourselves, and that we are blessed with the Holy Ghost to discern truth from error, and that He can testify to us of the truth of all things. I'm so sorry your friend did that, as well. But good job for standing up for what you believe in (:

  3. I like how you have put this into words Whitney and focused it on Respect. I try not to disrespect other people and their religions and would certainly not burn their book. People often tend to disrespect what they don't understand and I am guilty of that too. I hope for and wait for a better world when we all truly respect and love each other. When we all truly know how important a book or some other item is to someone and take care of it cause we care and respect for the other person.
    Amanda, I with agree. That as missionaries, and as members, we are to provide everyone we can with the ability to use their agency for them to choose to learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ and then hopefully get baptized by the convincing power of the Holy Ghost or they can choose to deny it by their fear, misunderstanding, or just being lazy. In fact the persecution of the early saints during the restoration and the misunderstanding and fear that so many people in our day have against us and the church helps show how true it is. That's my two cents worth. I know this church is true by the power of the Holy Ghost, I have come to know of myself by study, pray, ponder, and the Spirit. That's all it takes, is desire.

  4. Whitney, great thoughts, however sad. Respect for other religions, books, and what can seem like foreign practices and traditions by others, is such a necessary part of our LDS church doctrine. In addition to the 10 Commandments, we abide by what we call the 13 Articles of Faith. Article of Faith #11 says: "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

    I find it the sacred and reverent thing to do, to respect what others hold sacred and reverent. Recently, I attended a traditionally annual Catholic Mass, and felt obligated to behave with the utmost respect for traditions, music, rituals, clergy, property, etc. Those things I felt were in conflict with my own beliefs, I simply abstained from participating in, but politely allowed others to worship how, where, and what they may. It was an uplifting and fulfilling experience, as there were some commonalities with my Faith. The only exception to this mutual respect and tolerance of other faiths that I can think of, would be if the endangering of the sacred life of our fellow man were to become at issue.