Interfaith efforts invite Utahns to learn about other religions


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.

Muslims and Utahns attend a Meet the Muslims event. (Photo courtesy of Imam Shuaib)
Muslims and other Utahns attend a Meet the Muslims event at the Utah Islamic Center. At this event, guest learn about Islam from Muslims. (Imam Shuaib Din)

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.

“The community response in Salt Lake is tremendous,” Wolfarth said. “We have had up to 3,000 people come through the building in a few hours.”
Utahns interested in touring a Masonic Temple can visit any temple in Utah during the annual open house on May 6.
Utah Inclusion Center
The Utah Inclusion Center hopes to bring communities together through understanding. They host an interfaith event called CommUnity each year. At this event, religious leaders from various faiths speak on unity. After the speakers’ remarks, guests can mingle and enjoy refreshments.
“These services often give us opportunities to bring groups together who are often at odds where we discover we are really very similar and share common beliefs,” said Utah Inclusion Center member Melody Grey. “We find bringing people together where they are provided a safe environment to share those things which are very personal and precious to them creates space for love and understanding of each other as fellow human beings.”
First Nation Representative Lacee Harris explained the Peace Pipe at the Capitol Blessing Event. (Courtesy of Wendy Stovall)
First Nation Representative Lacee Harris explains the peace pipe at the Capitol Blessing Event. (Wendy Stovall)

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.

The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (formerly the Unification Church) children's choir sang during an event celebrating Re. Sun Myung Moon's and Mrs Hak J Han Moon's birthdays (January 6 on the lunar calendar).
The Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (formerly the Unification Church) children’s choir sang during an event celebrating Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon’s birthdays. (Wendy Stovall)

“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.”

The Hilltop Choir and the Calvary Baptist Church Choir preformed at the Calvary Baptist Church's "Gospel Extravaganza" for a fundraiser for Crossroads Urban Center. (Photo courtesy of Wendy Stovall)
The Hilltop Choir and the Calvary Baptist Church Choir perform at the Calvary Baptist Church’s “Gospel Extravaganza” for a fundraiser for Crossroads Urban Center on January 30, 2017. (Wendy Stovall)
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