Family values help drive Utah's diversity of faith

Published: Thursday, June 12 2014 6:35 p.m. MDT

Charu Das, temple manager at the Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, has seen locals express a similar curiosity with the Hindu religion.

Hinduism is the second-largest faith tradition in Utah County, with 1,562 reported adherents.

Curiosity brings thousands to the temple each year for Holi — the festival of colors — Llama Festival and Diwali — the festival of lights. Weekly services draw anywhere from 50 to 150 participants. For years the temple sent out a regular radio broadcast in Utah that included Hindu teachings. Other Hindu practices such as vegetarianism, yoga, karma and reincarnation are becoming more mainstream, Das said.

"I think that people that are referring to themselves as Hindus are doing so because they buy into the tenets," Das said, explaining that unlike other religions, Hinduism does not have clergy or specific congregations. "I do think that the ideas are pretty much prevalent anywhere."

Welcoming atmosphere

Reform Judaism is the second-largest faith in Summit County, with 710 adherents. This does not come as a surprise to interim Rabbi Jim Simon, who has seen the growth of Reform Judaism throughout the Western United States.

He has felt that diverse lifestyles are welcome in Park City, a mentality that also exists among those who worship at the Temple Har Shalom, a reform Judaism community. The congregation welcomes all who want to come, from young families and those with second homes, to interfaith and gay couples, couples living together and singles, he said.

"All these who have found that they are welcomed in Park City are also finding that they are welcome in our congregation," Rabbi Simon said.

His work as an interim rabbi has taken him all over the country. During his time with the Park City congregation, he has noticed that members of the community and other faiths have embraced their Jewish neighbors.

"I have really not heard in the year that I have been here of any congregants who have felt that in any way, manner, shape or form that their being Jewish was a problem, an obstacle, a challenge, something that they were not allowed to be proud of," he said.

The global growth of one religion is troubling to Imam Mehtar.

"I personally think the fastest growing religion right now is capitalism and desires. And sadly religion, too, is becoming more of a money-making game, so to speak. Not any particular religion. All religions in general, unfortunately," he said.

The solution is a return to spiritual roots, including living with the Ten Commandments as a guide, the Imam said.

"I think if anyone did that, any faith, whether it's Muslim, Christianity, LDS, whatever it may be, if they just abided by the Ten Commandments, in the proper manner, not with rigidity, not with fundamentalism, not with extreme laxity, just in a manner of moderation, I think we would have tremendous amount of progress on every level," Imam Mehtar said.

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