Linda & Richard Eyre: Why the family: We must learn, teach tolerance for other faiths

Published: Sunday, May 29 2011 2:48 p.m. MDT

The LDS missionaries we presided over years ago in London came to know that one thing we would not tolerate was criticism and disrespect for other religions.

A sure way to pique President Eyre's ire was to say something like, "It's idle-worship to have these statues in churches" or "Cathedrals have a cold, dark spirit" or "How can they believe these stupid apostate doctrines."

In almost all cases, as we worked with these wonderful young men and women, we found that there was no real animosity or prejudice in them. They were just reflecting some of the inappropriate comments they had heard from others — sometimes their parents.

The concern didn't end with the mission field. We still cringe when we hear Mormons (or any Christians) say things like, "Muslims teach hate rather than love" or "How could any rational person believe he once lived as a cow?"

Besides the disrespect for non-Christians or "other" Christians, we also often hear judgmental comments that disrespect others within the same faith. "She seems way too liberal to be a Mormon" or "He's so letter-of-the-law that he thinks drinking a Coke is a mortal sin."

Comments like all of the above are even more disturbing when they come from children or young people who are basically reflecting what they have heard their parents say.

For what it's worth, let me (Richard) tell you about a favorite speech I like to give that requires one "costume change." I start as "Richard," an arch-conservative dressed in a dark three-piece suit and a white shirt and solid color tie and talk about my hero Ezra Taft Benson and the importance of literal interpretation of all scripture and doctrine. My real hero, of course, is Jesus, because he said we must not look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. I answer questions from the audience, ranging from doctrine to lifestyle issues, in a predictable, ultra-conservative way.

Then I make a quick, off-stage wardrobe and hair style change and become Rick, dressed in jeans and a casual shirt, who presents his live-and-let-live philosophy and liberal political views. I love Harry Reid, of course, and thank goodness for the balance and compassion he provides. Naturally, my true hero is Jesus because of his tolerance of everyone and his association with sinners and his admonition that we not judge anyone. I take questions then, and every answer and every interpretation is predictably, stereotypically ultra-liberal.

I try not to say anything so totally outrageous that either Richard or Rick look ridiculous or unreal; in fact, I say only things that I have actually heard fairly "normal" real people say. Yet I think it leaves the impression that there is no way that these two guys could both be members in good standing of the same church, and it begs the question of how they could possibly both be called the same thing — "Christian."

The remarkable thing about the exercise is that the seemingly opposite views they each have of Christ are actually both true. He did (and does) view sin without the least degree of allowance, AND he is completely interested in and can be forgiving of every kind of person.

He is both the yin and the yang, the epitome of all "masculine" and "feminine" virtues, and both the strongest and most gentle being who has ever lived.

Believing in this kind of God should help us all to be a little broader, a little more respectful, and a bit more tolerant and balanced in how we view others and in how we view the world.

Teaching our children religious tolerance and respect for other faiths and other opinions is one of the most important things parents can do.

I end the presentation by having Richard and Rick come together in an understanding that they are both right (or both wrong if they get too extreme or begin to think they are superior to the other.)

Respect for others with different beliefs is not a sign of weakness but a mark of strength. And teaching our children to look for the best in others and in their religions will not undermine our kids' own convictions, but will allow them to learn from others and to recognize and accept light and truth wherever it is found.

The Eyres' next book is "The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child With a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership." Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 bestselling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com. For information about preordering "The Entitlement Trap," see www.valuesparenting.com.

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