My name is Karma Hammouz and I am an Arab-Muslim BYU student who decided to attend church on Sunday, September 6, 2015.
It was at 11 a.m. in Orem, Utah. As soon as I walked in the building with my friends Tianalei Siufanua and Ului Lapuaho, I realized I was utterly out of my comfort zone.
“Why would a Muslim Arab go to church?” my friends asked when I first suggested the idea. I can’t blame them. I had been in BYU for four years and never thought of waking up early to go see what church is like, but I did it.
All BYU students are required to finish a minimum of fourteen credit hours of religion courses, including Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and, for non-LDS students, Introduction to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Learning about a different religion is a new thing for me. I decided to give it my best not to judge, given that as an Arab Muslim myself I understand the powerful effect of stereotype. With that being said, I woke up at 10 a.m. and I started getting ready for church. All I kept thinking was, will I be judged? Will they ask me if I was thinking of converting? Will they assume that I am judging their lessons when I am there? All these questions were answered when one of the church members went up to bear his testimony, “I believe God exists in each and every one of us.”
I would say the religion classes at BYU can explain concepts and a non-LDS student might get tested and pass the class; however, it is completely different than the process of applying the concepts learned at church. When I was listening to testimonies and lessons and saw the sincerity of the members it made me think of how much courage it takes for people to share their opinions and sometimes their doubts. Nevertheless, they all reach the same conclusion: God is there.
Those words stayed with me all day; the teachings of that specific Sunday were about the strength of faith and devotion to God. I have to be honest, I felt the gift of God while attending church. I felt that my spiritual journey is about the truth that God put out there for his followers to find. The truth is not about comparing who is right and who is wrong, it is about confidence in finding that divine power to guide us through life.
My belief in God and his plan for us became stronger that day because I believe attending a spiritual activity, no matter where it is, should not feel mandatory. Think about it as a workout. When you want to be healthy, you start changing your diet and your activities to feel better. I did not for once feel pressured to attend church in BYU. I chose to go.
We all might feel spiritually weak but any event that might take place in our daily life can be linked to God. Do not think for once that being a Muslim attending a religious Christian school might make me leave my faith or doubt myself. You can become a better you when you start counting the blessings in your life. I was blessed to have people accept me for who I am. I am blessed to have Mormon friends who remind me every day even though we might come from different cultures, religions and countries, we are still blessed to have that divine power to direct us.
It is my duty as a student to attain education not only in my field of studies, but also in my surroundings. In this case, BYU and its spiritual teachings as a religious school. I believe that gaining knowledge about any religion is an enduring effort that takes involvement as well as effort.
I thought of the criticism behind me attending church. My only response is: wherever you go, whether it’s to a church, mosque or temple, you can find that heavenly power. Your only duty is to aim to seek it.
One of my favorite quotes about the commitment in loving God and how devoted a person must be in any learning experience is by President Spencer W. Kimball : “Experience in one field does not automatically create expertise in another field. Expertise in religion comes from personal righteousness and revelation. … Why, oh, why do people think they can fathom the most complex spiritual depths without the necessary laboratory work accompanied by the laws that govern it?”