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New Harmony: Strengthening links that bind faiths

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 5 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Stained glass windows in the Cathedral of the Madeleine Sunday, April 8, 2012 in Salt Lake City during Easter Mass.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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As The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to make headway and headlines, many members of the church wonder how they are coming across to the rest of America.

Inside the LDS Church, we tend to make things an "all or nothing" proposition: If Joseph Smith saw God, then it's all true; but if he didn't, then it's all for nothing.

But other people don't see Mormons that starkly. They tend to see us as a mixed bag.

From my conversations and observations, I find other folks look at Mormons much the way Mormons look at Catholics. The value of Catholicism doesn't hinge on whether the pope is God's one true emissary, but feelings have more to do with the works, attitudes and personal impressions.

For instance, I dare say Mormons find Catholic sacred ritual and theology a bit confusing — filled with trappings from another era.

We Mormons see Catholicism trying to find a niche in a world that is quickly becoming more secular.

We see Catholic people as devout, steeped in tradition and bonded deeply to history.

We can also sense there's a river of faith beneath the Catholic Church, flowing like an underground well.

Catholics have a strong sense of right and wrong, an unvarnished view of guilt and a deep love for the music, art and sacred spaces.

I'm slowly learning that the way Mormons see Catholics is much the way others see us. They don't say, "It's either all true, or none of it is true." They see us as a mixture of traits — some very appealing, others less so.

As I said, they see us as a jumble of pros and cons.

And I suspect that's not a bad thing.

Such perceptions give us all a little more common ground to work with.

It was author Harold Kushner who said the days when Protestants could stand at odds with the Catholics, and Christians could take on the Jews, are over. Good people can't afford that luxury anymore. We must link hands as decent souls in a world that is sliding toward selfishness, coarseness and despair.

We must strengthen the links that bind our faiths together.

I think members of the LDS Church embrace that thought as well. They look forward to joining forces with members of other faiths to enhance the greater good and meet common goals.

We Mormons like to say, "Bring the good you have to us and we'll add to it."

If you listen closely, you can hear voices in other churches saying the same thing.

Perhaps it's time we all said, "Bring the good you have to us so you can add to the good we already know."

For Mormons, Mennonites, Methodists and Maryknoll nuns, it's time to see that we are more alike than we are different.

To crib a line from "The Glass Menagerie," "We live in a world that is lit by lightning."

It's time to rise and shout. Or, as a popular billboard puts it, now's the time to rise and shine.

The era of "Bible bashes" and dust-ups over doctrine needs to come to a close.

Jerry Johnston is a former Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears every other week in Mormon Times. Email: jerjohn@desnews.com

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