How to engender understanding of differing religious beliefs among family members, friends

Never stop showing love for family members who do not believe as you do. Do loving things such as making frequent phone calls, sending sincere notes, giving favorite baked goods and showing devotion. These overt displays of loving feelings can eventually forge channels of trust and communication.

Find "common ground" when you find you are being challenged - even belligerently so. In other words, capitalize on things your religions may have in common, such as the life of Jesus Christ and His love for all mankind. This has been helpful in my relationship with my mother who is a Jehovah's Witness. When we talk of our love for the Savior, the prickly barbs of contention soften, and the Spirit attends us with a warm reminder of our relationship as mother and daughter and our mutual love made possible because of Jesus.- Show respect for another's beliefs. I believe that this means trying to understand the sincerity that others feel in their worship services. We must practice tolerance to receive tolerance.

Invite loved ones to special events, such as baby blessings, baptisms, Primary programs or other activities where they can see grandchildren or nieces and nephews participating. Pray for the Spirit to be in attendance in abundance at such times.

In return, be willing to attend church functions with your loved ones. My father belongs to the Knights of Columbus, and he wanted me to attend a function that he was in charge of. I very much enjoyed associating with members of his faith and was aware that my father was both proud to have me there, as well as proud to have me meet his friends and see the scope of his organization. - Jessica Williams McAdam, Santa Rosa, Calif.

How we did it:

Respect their faith

Don't focus on or maximize differences. The differences are there, but the core is the Savior, the Atonement, being thankful to the Lord, and family values.

Think of the other's point of view and how you'd receive things if you were where he or she is. Give soft answers to the hard questions.

Respect their faith. Appreciate the level of truth and goodness in it, and let it show. There is some good and some truth in all faiths. Treat them the way we want to be treated.

Realize reunions and family history research can be bridges of cooperation. - Daniel Baker, Bothell, Wash.

All God's children

It has been helpful to use family home evenings to discuss the principles embodied in the 11th Article of Faith - respecting the right of all to worship God according to their beliefs.

We also remember Christ's love for all of God's children, His patience, and, as a result, our friendships are independent of whether or not another is a member of the Church. - William P. Knowles, Guadalajara, Mexico

Seek understanding

I have sought to understand the beliefs of others. I have shared what I have learned with family members and encouraged our children to be friendly to people of all religious, as I believe all religions contain some truth and their adherents are as sincere as we are. - Hollye Holmquist, Lancaster, Calif.

Common beliefs

Build on common beliefs. As you do, you will find you have much in common with family members and loved ones of other religious faiths.

Ask about their beliefs. Ask because you really want to know and understand, not with a hidden agenda of conversion and baptism. As you seek to understand you will find that many of our differences lie in the definitions of terms.

Accept invitations from loved ones to attend their church services and activities, again no hidden agendas. Look for similarities not differences. - Ernie Morgenegg, Houston, Texas

Love, respect

In Alma 17:11, it says, "And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls."

Without question, it has been through "good example" that understanding and respect have resulted, as well as softening of hearts.

For me, it has been very important to remember the 11th Article of Faith: "We claim the privilege of worshipping 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 have left the door open. I welcome and encourage questions. - Candace L. Estrada, Vancouver, Wash.

Community groups

We have found that the foundational beliefs of most faiths are intertwined by the basic truths taught by the Lord's prophets. Get acquainted with people from different faith groups by working side by side with them, or by serving on committees in community groups working for a common goal. As one works with others for common goals, they begin to see these people of different religions and cultures through the eyes of our Father in Heaven, as His sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters. - Elder Donald and Sister Joan Conkey, North America Northeast Area Public Affairs directors

Choices of words

One must be very careful with choices of words. You do not want to offend or be offended. The most important thing with such diversity of religions in a household is to pray daily for the Holy Spirit to be your guide in whatever answers are given. - Victoria M. Downing, Staten Island, N.Y.

Listen, learn

Have realistic expectations. An important lesson I learned about the Holy Ghost is that He influences our Heavenly Father's children according to what each individual needs and can understand.

Invite the Spirit. The best way to bring the Spirit of the Lord into our discussions and visits is to talk about Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints should become well-versed in the words and deeds of Jesus and be prepared to share them at the appropriate moment and contribute to a spiritual discussion.

Follow the Savior. More than just talking about Jesus, we should be followers of Jesus, disciples in deed and in truth.

Listen and learn. There is no reason that a Latter-day Saint cannot find something of value to learn from a family member of another faith.

Be patient. Engendering understanding takes time. - Daniel Doornbos, San Jose, Calif.

How to checklist:

1 Remember all are the children of God; be loving.

2 Study gospel; be prepared for questions; be sensitive.

3 Show respect for others' beliefs; all have right to worship.

4 Find common ground; there are truths in all faiths.


Dec. 3 "How to help someone trying to come back into Church activity."

Dec. 10 "How to help your children develop self-reliance.

Dec. 17 "How to keep the Sabbath day holy."

Dec. 24 "How to filter out the bad from television and music while utilizing the good."

Dec. 31 "How to focus more on the spiritual and temporal well-being of children during 1995."

Jan. 7 "How to cope as a family with crisis."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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