How to help children learn tolerance, understanding of those of other faiths

Helping our children develop tolerance for other faiths begins in the early years. When children begin to become aware of the differences among people (about age 3 or 4) it is our role as parents to take their observations and teach them respect for others. Children can learn through songs, stories and examples that we treat one another as each of us would want to be treated.

Give children a strong sense of identity, rooted in their heritage and the teachings of the gospel. Our religion is not only about our relationship with our Heavenly Father, but also about how our beliefs flow from that relationship into our daily lives and to our treatment of our neighbors as ourselves. Terrible wrongs can occur because a child is raised to think that their particular background is better than everyone else's.- Teach children to respect others. It has been my experience, as a parent and school psychologist, that the best way children learn respect and tolerance for other people is to learn to respect themselves. I have learned that what tolerance is really about is respecting individuals not because they are from another faith or another culture, but because they are individuals.

Be aware of the model you provide for children and openly discuss intolerance with them. Sometimes we may ignore observations and questions because we are uncomfortable or think we might say the wrong thing. When we ignore our children's comments we are allowing others (the media and their peers) to teach them. By answering our children's questions simply and directly we are helping them understand diversity.

Be sensitive to the language your children use and hear. If you hear a religious or ethnic slur you could say: "We don't talk that way in our family," or "Please don't talk that way in front of my family," or simply "Ouch, that really hurts." If we find that our children are the target of name calling, bigotry or bullying it is important that we communicate with them by telling them that we understand the pain. We can also remind our children that those who are doing the name calling do not really understand them or their faith.

Tolerance and respect are ongoing lessons in today's world and, as always, the answer to helping our children learn begins in the home. Children learn tolerance when nourished with respect and love. - Julie A. McBride, Davis, Calif.

What we did:

Learn Article of Faith

One of the first things the Church teaches children is the Articles of Faith. The 11th article states: "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." If we show tolerance to other religions, they usually will respect ours.

My wife and I also try to take time to look up religious terms and answer all of our children's questions about other religions. - Thomas W. Clark, Pocatello, Idaho

Experience religious art

Allow your children to attend or watch services or youth activities at their friends' churches. Talk with them about the experience when they return.

Experience contributions to the arts by other faiths.

Learn about the vast amount of service other churches render to your country or community.

Assist in community service projects and programs sponsored by local churches as appropriate.

Emphasize examples of Christlike living. - Christine Dutson, Fort Madison, Iowa

Teach by example

Living in the East provides many opportunities to teach our children tolerance and understanding for people of other religions. In fact, we hope for that understanding and tolerance toward our children as they are the only LDS children in their school and neighborhood.

We teach by example and follow the rule to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

When it doesn't conflict with our Sunday worship, we have supported friends and family by attending baptisms, first communions, choir performances, etc., just as they have shown support to us by attending the blessings and baptisms of our children. This affords us the opportunity to explain some of the differences in various religions to our children, and at the same time to share testimony of what we believe to be true and why.

The children memorized the 11th Article of Faith last year. We talked about what it means and then live it by never speaking unkindly of other religions.

And even when missionaries from other churches come to our door, we show them the respect of listening before sharing our own testimonies in return. - Colleen Frost, East Hartford, Conn.

Don't begrudge diversity

We recently moved out of Utah, where most of my children's friends were members of the Church. Our children are now faced with teachers and friends not of our faith who have different habits and life-styles than what they are accustomed to.

While I want my children to remain strong in their own convictions, I don't want them to begrudge others for their diversity. I came up with an analogy that has really helped my children understand how our Church compares to other churches in a positive way.

I likened the fulness of the gospel to a pie. Then I told them that their friends from other churches only have some of the pie, but that they are still Heavenly Father's children and He loves them just as He loves us. The part of the pie they have is good, and if they really love the part they have, someday it will make them hungry enough to search for the whole thing. Then they will be ready to accept the fullness of the gospel.

We also encourage our children to invite their friends into our home so they will feel the positive influence here. I encourage my children to always try to make choices that will show others where they can find the rest of the "gospel pie." - Janet Hemsley, Redmond, Wash.

Be courteous

Never let religious disagreements lead to quarrels or bad feelings; remain friends and enjoy talks as different subjects present themselves. Be courteous, kind and complimentary. Remember Calvin, Luther and others helped set the stage for the Restoration. - Lois Dahlberg, Tacoma, Wash.

Teachings are incomplete

During a family home evening, I wrote the alphabet, minus the last three letters - X, Y and Z - on a chalk board. I then asked them if they could still spell words using this incomplete alphabet. Of course, they could spell many words. Then I asked if they could spell EVERY word with this alphabet. They realized they could not. I explained that other churches were sort of like this alphabet - they have some of the teachings of Jesus, but not all the teachings, like our Church has.

Jodi Barrus, West Bountiful, Utah

How to checklist:

1 Be a good example; be sensitive to language use; don't tolerate religious slurs.

2 Assist in service projects sponsored by local churches.

3 Teach 11th Article of Faith, allowing others to worship how, where, what they may.

4 Experience contributions to the arts by other faiths.


April 27 "How to practice integrity in one's life."

May 4 "How to show respect, be polite while on a date as a young person."

May 11 "How to take control of, responsibility for your own life."

May 18 "How to make extra money as a youth under 16."

May 25 "How to decorate your home on a limited budget."

June 1 "How to keep children busy during summer vacation."

June 8 "How to curb impulsive spending."

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, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: 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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