Religious and interfaith groups have organized events to help Utahns get to know the diverse faiths and believers represented in the state.
Utah is 67 percent Mormon, followed by Protestants and Catholics as the next most populous religious group, according to a Gallup poll.
BYU world religions professor Mauro Properzi has researched the benefits of Latter-day Saints learning about other religions.
“Better education on other faiths will facilitate trust and respect as we join hands in the defense of religious freedom and of other values like morality and the family,” Properzi said.
Utah Islamic Center
The Muslim community hosts Meet the Muslims every Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy. Feb. 24 is the last scheduled date for this event.
Imam Shuaib Din of the Utah Islamic Center started Meet the Muslims in December 2016 in response to community interest.
“After the general elections in November, we received an outpouring of support in the form of letters, cards, flowers, voice mail messages and gift cards,” Din said. “Some of them wanted to visit the mosque to show their support to the Muslim community.”
Din said visitors can expect to learn the basics about Islam, ask questions, mingle with the local Muslim community and enjoy good food at these events.
“The congregation at Utah Islamic Center is very eager to host these events,” Din said. “It is a positive exposure of Islam after so much negativity in the media.”
Din hopes visitors will gain a greater appreciation for each other and a sense of community. He also hopes visitors will realize minorities — racial, ethnic or religious — all have similarities.
Free and Accepted Masons of Utah
Freemasons gather at Masonic Temples. There are several Masonic temples in Utah, including one in Provo. The Free and Accepted Masons of Utah began hosting open houses for the Masonic temples several years ago.
Former Grand Master John Liley said the community response to the temple open houses has been positive.
“I believe people realize now that the building is not quite so secret and cloistered but actually part of the fabric of Salt Lake City, and the masons themselves are approachable, hospitable and more benevolent than previously known,” Liley said.
Robert M. Wolfarth, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons of Utah, agreed previous open houses in Salt Lake have been successful.
Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable
Another opportunity to participate in interfaith discourse is Interfaith Month, organized by the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable. Many faiths are represented in the Interfaith Roundtable’s leadership, such as Hinduism, Mormonism, Catholicism, and Buddhism.
Interfaith Month started on Jan. 30 and will continue through Feb. 28, with several events each week. All events are free and open to the public.
Wendy Stovall, a representative of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, said participants can expect to learn a lot about different faith traditions from the events.
“We hope that the guests will come to a deeper understanding of other faiths and learn that there are more similarities than differences,” said Stovall, who is also an Interfaith Roundtable member. “We hope that it will also deepen the guests own faith.”
Visitors to houses of worship can feel comfortable in attending events because they are planned especially for guests, according to Stovall.
Stovall recommends the Interfaith Bus Tour on Feb. 21. The bus tour allows guests to see a variety of worship places in Salt Lake City. Guests will learn about the buildings’ architecture and about the worshipers’ beliefs.
As part of Interfaith Month, the Calvary Baptist Church held a Gospel Extravaganza choir event, with singers representing Baptists, Methodists and the Church of Tonga. Pastor Davis said the audience was to participate by singing, clapping and saying “amen.”
“The project exposed the audience to a different kind of music,” Davis said. “It brought together people from different backgrounds. It (showed) how although different, we have much in common. It demonstrated how music is effective in reaching across human lines in spiritual ways.”