Relief Society: Strengthening the community through interfaith outreach

Credit: Maria Torres
Credit: Maria Torres

Relief Society sisters from the Taylorsville Utah Stake recently organized and invited women of other faiths from their community — including members from the Shia Muslim community, the Sikh Temple and the Samoan Seventh-day Adventist congregation — to join with them in offering a day of “Loving Community Service.”

This diverse group of women gathered with the intent to help others in need within their own community. Their efforts were evidence of the natural “feelings of charity” among women as taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

The women worked side by side assembling hygiene kits, making handmade greeting cards, quilts, sandwiches for the homeless shelter and pajama bottoms for family emergency shelters. They collected previously crocheted hats for cancer patients, stuffed animals, items for hygiene kits, books for children and canned goods for the local food pantries.

Serving together gave the women the opportunity to come to know each other better in a comfortable setting. As they spent the day eating lunch, talking and working together they were able to foster relationships with each other, ones that will last for years.

Relief Society sisters said they were twice blessed as they developed friendships with women of other faiths, realizing they have much in common and a common desire to help others in need.

Ismat Hasnain from the Shia Muslim faith said that it was wonderful to work together “since we are all children of the same creator.”

To promote understanding, the stake Relief Society printed a small handout outlining the fundamental religious beliefs of each faith so that women would have a basic understanding of each other’s tenets and convictions.

“This has been a really wonderful experience for us,” said Ruth McGowan, a counselor in the stake Relief Society presidency. “We visited, as a presidency, each of the congregations invited. I know we have been able to dispel some previously held negative perceptions as a result of our activity.”

Natalie Ethington, stake Relief Society president, said, “We are hoping that the positive results of this initial invitation will result in these sisters joining with us next year in the planning process, as well as an increase in the participation.”

'No strangers and no outcasts'

“And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

— 2 Peter 1:7-8

“I would encourage members of the Church wherever they may be to show kindness and respect for all people everywhere. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours.”

— President Thomas S. Monson, “Looking Back and Moving Forward,” May 2008 general conference

“We honor and respect sincere souls from all religions, no matter where or when they lived, who have loved God, even without having the fullness of the gospel. We lift our voices in gratitude for their selflessness and courage. We embrace them as brothers and sisters, children of our Heavenly Father. … He hears the prayers of the humble and sincere of every nation, tongue, and people. He grants light to those who seek and honor Him and are willing to obey His commandments.”

— Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Faith in our Father,” April 2008 general conference

“In this Church there are no strangers and no outcasts. There are only brothers and sisters. The knowledge that we have of an Eternal Father helps us be more sensitive to the brotherhood and sisterhood that should exist among all men and women upon the earth.

“I bear witness that no one is a stranger to our Heavenly Father. There is no one whose soul is not precious to Him. With Peter, I testify that “God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”

— Bishop Gerald Caussé, “Ye Are No More Strangers,” April 2014 general conference

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