By Shana Helps
Relationships between members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Muslims and Jews were discussed at the annual conference of the International Society.
The conference, held on Aug. 18 and Aug. 19 at BYU, took focus away from the political conflict between Palestine and Israel, as well as the terrorism on the United States, said Lee Simons, editor of Kennedy Center publications. Instead attendees looked at Islam from a broader and more personal perspective, she said.
“It was the Latter-day Saint perspective on what is going on in the Middle East, and how we look at that, and how we understand that, and how to be more educated on those issues,” said Cory Leonard, assistant director at the Kennedy Center.
Elder Charles Didier of the First Quorum of the Seventy set a doctrinal tone with his talk about how Latter-day Saints are taught through the concept of religious uniqueness, Leonard said.
“That doesn”t give us license to treat other people of other faiths as less than us,” Leonard said. “It essentially said ”look just because we believe this, we don”t undervalue faiths, including Islam.””
Elder Bruce Porter of the Second Quorum of the Seventy talked about the spiritual dimensions of Palestine, Leonard said. Elder Porter looked at the spiritual ramifications of the Holy Land. He provided a spiritual look at a political and emotional situation, Leonard said.
“It gave perspectives that you couldn”t really hear anywhere else. It”s kind of a different approach,” he said.
While Latter-day Saints may feel a connection to Israel, it is important to know their relationship with Muslims, Simons said.
“It was clarified that we support both groups-Jews and Muslims. We shouldn”t be taking sides and saying Israel is always in the right,” she said.
Muslims do not have a central religious authority, something Simons had not previously realized, she said.
“We have the prophet. Catholics have the pope. Islam has nothing like that,” Simons said. “You have all these people believing in the Koran, but it”s open to interpretation by whatever group wants to interpret it.”
The purpose of the International Society is to provide an opportunity for interaction among its members, Leonard said.
People who join should have an interest in international issues, and they must be supportive of the Church of Jesus Christ, he said. The main focus is for LDS professionals but students are welcome to join.
“The society is a great opportunity for students to meet people who are doing interesting thing internationally,” Leonard said. “For students who are interested in an international career, it”s a wonderful organization.”