FINDING COMMONALITIES

"There are two ways to spread light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
—Edith Wharton There are commonalities to be found on deeply spiritual matters. Brother Robert Millett and Reverend Greg Johnson came to Boston in the Fall of 2004 and gave a seminar entitled "An Evangelical Christian and a Mormon in Dialog." They spoke of a conversation that began nearly seven years ago to compare and contrast points of doctrine. The initial dialog has evolved into something much larger, perhaps more important. They now ask—how do we find common ground, how do we work together?

Since attending that seminar, I have detected a shift away from my separatist attitude. When the topic of religion has been broached, rather than saying "I'm Mormon" which can be a conversation stopper when speaking to another Christian, I say "Oh, really, I'm Christian too. My denomination is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sometimes we refer to ourselves as Mormon." The spirit of discussion is different. There is a seeking of commonalities, rather than an emphasis on the differences.

President Hinckley teaches, "We can respect other religions, we must do so. We must recognize the great good they accomplish. We must teach our children to be tolerant and friendly toward those not of our faith. We [must] work with those of other religions in the defense of those values which have made our civilization great and our society distinctive."1

Dana King of St. Louis shared a superb example of building on common ground taking place in Cincinnati, Ohio. In partnership with the National Underground Freedom Center, the LDS church hosts a FamilySearch Center inside the museum. It is an opportunity for members of the church to volunteer and to share, to help the community. This center is the only one in the United States not connected to an LDS meeting house.

This we know:
All things are connected
Like the blood
Which unites one family.
Whatever befalls the earth
Befalls the sons and daughters of the earth.
Man did not weave the web of life:
He is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web,
He does to himself.
(Chief Seattle)

What if we started trying to make statements such as "I have loved working with the people in my neighborhood that are interested in lowering the speed limit," "I enjoy working with the parents that are interested in raising money for the school," "I enjoy being involved with the inter-faith council where so many faiths in our community are concerned about family, same-gender marriage, pornography, gambling." Or, "I love to find people that are interested in making the world a better place."

"Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient's soul. The great thing is to direct his malice to his immediate neighbors whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary."
—C.S. Lewis' Screwtape on how to steal a man's soul
1 Gordon B. Hinckley, "We Bear Witness of Him" Ensign, May 1998: 4.