Editor's note: This article by Nate Sharp originally appeared on Aggieland Mormons. It has been reprinted here with permission.
The Prophet Joseph Smith once described a fundamental belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as our respect for the right of all people to “worship how, where, or what they may” (The Articles of Faith 1:11).
Brigham Young similarly taught that Mormonism embraces all truth, “whether (it) be found with ... the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties” (Journal of Discourses 7:284).
As I reflect on the many ways my own life has been enriched through associating with people of different religious faiths, I see clearly that much of what I know about how to be a devoted Latter-day Saint comes from lessons I have learned from those outside my faith. I have been strengthened in unique ways by the virtues and values reflected in the lives of the followers of many religious faiths. Here are five simple ways other religions have touched my life and helped make me a more committed Latter-day Saint:
1. Catholicism’s beautiful antiquity
Throughout my life, I have loved and admired the beautiful antiquity of the Catholic Church. I love the tradition, the ritual and the depth of a faith that traces its roots back nearly 2,000 years to Peter, the chief apostle called and ordained by Jesus himself. I find so much in Catholicism that makes me want to be a better person, a better Latter-day Saint.
Recently, I have admired Pope Francis for his emphasis on love and service. A statement he gave in a 2013 interview has stayed with me: “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.”
2. Evangelical Christianity’s focus on grace
During our 12 years in Texas, most of my family’s friends have been evangelical Christians, including Baptists, Methodists and nondenominational Christians. How I have loved learning from the strength of their convictions regarding the grace of Jesus Christ. Their commitment to Christ, to the Bible and to sharing their faith with those around them have inspired me and my family. I see so much in their love for the Lord that makes me want to be a more faithful Latter-day Saint.
3. Judaism’s strength and its contributions to humanity
Because Christianity’s roots trace back to Judaism, I have always been grateful for the contributions of Judaism to my own faith and have appreciated the vast common ground between us. I am also humbled by and feel reverence for the suffering and persecution Jewish people have faced throughout history. In spite of these difficulties and although Jewish people today represent just 0.2 percent of the world’s population, collectively they have been awarded more than 20 percent of the Nobel Prizes ever given. The contributions of Judaism to humanity generally and to Western society specifically are incalculable, and there is so much in this ancient faith for which I am thankful.
4. Buddhism’s kindness and respect for others
Prior to my full-time missionary service in South Korea, I confess I did not know a lot about Buddhism, one of the largest religions in the world, with approximately half a billion followers today. When I was fortunate to become close to many Buddhists during my two years in Korea, I found that there was a lot about the way these kind and gentle people lived their lives that I wanted to emulate. I admire their emphases on learning truth through study and meditation, seeking wisdom, living peaceably with others and striving for enlightenment. Although Buddhism differs from Christianity in many fundamental ways, I found in the most basic beliefs of Buddhism a pattern that could help make any follower of Jesus Christ a better and more faithful disciple.
5. Islam’s devotion to God and family
It has been an honor to associate with Muslim friends and colleagues over the years, including my friendship with a current colleague of mine who is the faculty adviser of the Muslim Student Association at our university. I have learned that devout Mormons and devout Muslims have a lot in common. The importance of prayer and fasting, caring for the poor and needy, and devotion to God and family are just a few of the beliefs we share. I also empathize with the plight of so many Muslims around the world who feel their religion is so often mischaracterized and unfairly maligned. I am thankful for the good examples of Muslim friends who have taught me valuable lessons about how to be a more devoted Latter-day Saint.
Nate Sharp is an associate professor in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. He grew up in Holladay, Utah; served a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Korea Seoul West Mission; and later graduated from Brigham Young University and the University of Texas at Austin. He married Holly Carroll in 2003, and they are the proud parents of five beautiful children.