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Mormonism's Engagement with Other Religions

Panel Chair: Roger Minert | Friday, August 28, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

This panel will explore the history, theology, and current state of Latter-day Saint efforts to engage in interfaith dialogue, and joint cooperative movements on social, moral, and political issues. In recent years, a renewed emphasis emerged out of initiatives taken by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to improve relations with Christian and non-Christian religious communities throughout the world. This panel provides the opportunity to engage with a broad range of interpretations about these efforts, their historical development, and commentaries on their perceived effectiveness. The panel will deal specifically with Mormonism and Islam; Mormonism and Judaism; Mormonism and Roman Catholicism; and Mormonism and evangelical Protestantism.

Daniel Peterson

Mormonism and Islam

Emerging from its isolated refuge in the American Great Basin, Mormonism began to take serious root beyond North America and Europe only after the Second World War. However, Mormon activity in Africa came much later and remains minimal in the Middle East. Thus, Mormon encounters with Islam have been comparatively rare. But they’re increasing in both frequency and significance. This paper will describe several of the most important efforts undertaken, with the enthusiastic approval and sometimes at the initiative of leaders of the Mormon Church, to build bridges to Islam and to cooperate with Muslims. It will also examine certain Mormon beliefs, and a few of the key statements of Mormon leaders—going back to the faith’s nineteenth-century beginnings—that reveal an exceptional openness to other religious experiences, perhaps surprising in a notably missionary-minded church making exclusive truth-claims, and that not only theologically authorize outreach to Muslims but encourage it.

Andrew Reed

“I have marked well the plight of My people”: Jewish and Mormon relations – a look at contemporary views

The return of the Jews to Palestine prior to the second coming of Christ is a central tenet of Mormon theology. Early on in the Mormon tradition, there was a concerted effort to formulate a religious identity that was based on understandings of “Israel” as a marker of God’s chosen people. Early comparisons of Brigham Young to Moses and the Mormon trek west as an Exodus experience further infused biblical motifs into Mormon self-perceptions. In the post-Holocaust world, these motifs have remained and continue to inform Mormon theology and missiology. This paper provides a survey of key moments in the relationship between Mormons and Jews since the Shoah, with particular interest in recent events and debates about how Mormons view Jews and their past.

Mauro Properzi

From the Periphery to the Centers: the Development of LDS-Catholic Relations

Mormonism’s interaction with Catholicism has been characterized by a trajectory that involves movement from the periphery to the center(s) in a geographical, sociological, and theological sense. The two faiths first interacted in the context of nineteenth century America where they existed as “peripheral” minority religions. Both also operated in a context that was either distant from their center (Catholics) or in continuous struggle to establish such a center (Mormons). When Mormonism established its home in Utah the interaction between the two faiths continued in that setting, even expanding, most recently, to the center of Catholicism in Rome. While Mormonism and Catholicism have also moved to a more central place within American society the two faiths owe much of their recent interaction to shared theological tenets, which are mostly peripheral to secularized society while being central to each respective tradition. This paper summarizes and examines the multi-faceted dynamics of this interaction.

J.B. Haws

Mormons and Evangelical Christians in the United States: Religious Identity-Making in Modern America

Both Mormons and evangelical Christians raised their public profiles in the United States in the late 1970s and 1980s as religious activism and partisan politics converged in new ways. But although both groups shared similar positions on issues of social morality, historic theological differences made evangelicals reluctant to embrace Mormons as allies. In fact, evangelicals vociferously redoubled their efforts to identify Mormons as counterfeit Christians or non-Christians. This paper will trace, first, Mormon efforts over the past four decades to respond to what became something of an identity crisis for them in American public perception; and, second, trends in evangelicalism over the past four decades to adapt to an increasingly pluralistic American religious landscape. This religious minority-religious majority “gatekeeper” case study speaks to institutional introspection on one hand and new levels of outreach on the other.


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Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

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