In my interactions with the critics of the LDS Church, and in reading their arguments, I’ve taken note of something that I believe to be of immeasurable importance in our dialogue with and about other faiths. Indeed, I believe it is a key by which the judgment of one’s character can be quickly discerned (D&C 46:23). It is simply this:
- How do people treat that which others hold sacred?
As I see it, there are three general modes of conduct that could take place:
- Do they respect those things which others hold dear? Are they reverent around things which they may not personally believe, but which others find to be the pinnacle of holiness? Are they tolerant of other religious views? Do they honor the wishes of others to keep sacred those things others hold sacred? What is their esteem for the beliefs of others? Do they conduct themselves with concern for that which others hold in the highest regard?
- Or perhaps they are indifferent towards the sacred of others, not caring one way or the other for others values? Are they unconcerned with keeping things sacred which are held sacred by some? Are they disinterested in the beliefs, customs, traditions, teachings, and practices of others? Does apathy replace honor?
- Or do they cast the sacred things of others to the ground and trample them under their feet (Matt. 7:6; 1 Ne. 19:7)? If they do not personally believe certain things, do they attempt to expose them in the most profane ways? Do they disrupt the reverence of others? Do they flaunt and deride the hallowed things of other faiths? If they don’t believe in consecrating the venerated things of others, do they desecrate and blaspheme them?
Many of the things I’ve read from critics of the Church about our teachings, particularly the temple, are held in no reverence whatsoever, and tend to fall in the second, or more likely, the third category. So-called “exposés” of our sacred teachings are not hard to come by. But there are some, who are not members of our faith, who still respect our teachings and honor that which we hold most sacred. These we most gratefully appreciate.
So what is the appropriate way to treat the sacred things of others? What does this reveal about one’s character? If a person falls into the second or third category, how might they treat other things or people, besides Mormons, with which they do not agree or personally believe? It is a harder road to follow the first category, because it forces us out of our own belief system to teach us to regard with respect the humanity and beliefs of others. Those that can do so are infinitely more honorable and esteemed among their fellow men than those who can’t. These who regard the sacred of others with honor are perfecting what the late Krister Stendahl would say is “holy envy,” leaving room to admire those elements in other faiths which you wish could be reflected in your own tradition. Those who can’t do this, I believe, epitomize the character extremes of selfishness, pride, and arrogancy, traits which the scriptures strongly warn against (Ps. 10:2-11; Prov. 16:18-19; Prov. 13:10; Prov. 6:17-19; Isa. 2:12; Isa. 5:20-24; Jer. 13:15; Mal. 4:1; Matt. 23:12; Rom. 1:29-32; 1 Tim. 6:4-5; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 2 Nephi 9:28; 2 Nephi 26:20; 2 Nephi 28:12; 2 Nephi 28:15; D&C 88:121; D&C 90:17; D&C 121:37).
We must understand that we, too, are not immune from acting inappropriately. We must constantly be cognizant of regarding the sacred and holy of others with respect and reverence, and honor those things that others wish to hold sacrosanct. Of course, we must also judge righteous judgment in whether those things may be intruding on that which others hold inviolate (John 7:24).
Generally, the golden rule still stands – do unto others as you would have others do unto you.