UVU president speaks at BYU on finding her ‘interfaith’

President Astrid S. Tuminez gives her lecture titled, “Finding My Faith: A Journey to Discover the ‘Virtuous, Lovely, Of Good Report, and Praiseworthy,'” for BYU’s second annual Richard L. Evans Memorial Lecture. (Sakina Steflik)

UVU President Astrid S. Tuminez shared her journey to faith in all of its different forms during a lecture Thursday night, recounting scenes ranging from worshippers in Bali to the Church of the Woods in California.

Tuminez weaved stories from faiths and cultures from around the world, noting the characteristics she has observed during BYU’s second annual Richard L. Evans Memorial Lecture in the Hinckley Center Assembly Hall. The lecture is meant to highlight interfaith understanding and is named after the Latter-day Saint apostle known for his ability to reach across religious differences.

Tuminez shared stories of her early childhood in the slums of Iloilo City, Philippines, and early foundations in Catholicism and spiritualism. Her religious life became more formal when Daughters of Charity nuns found her family and invited them to attend school for free.

After she converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she became full of hope and satisfied with her state of life and knowledge. As time passed, however, she said her faith became more fragile. “I began to hunger for a fuller understanding of how God manifested his love for all his children.”

In a world of many ways of worshipping God, Tuminez resolved to open her mind to “truths that others experience in which I didn’t know.” She studied not only scripture of her own Latter-day Saint beliefs, but also explored Hindu and Buddhist passages to gain a fuller understanding.

Tuminez presented truths she learned on her journey, focusing on each with a perspective of interfaith curiosity. These truths included mindfulness, temples, worship in its many forms, gratitude, compassion and mercy.

Tuminez emphasized embracing change and advised against clinging to the notion of permanence. “We suffer because we don’t understand deeply that happiness and suffering are two sides of the same coin.”

She explained that the balance of happiness and sadness are essential to overall fulfilment, but according to Buddhist teachings, suffering can be alleviated through love, kindness and compassion.

Tuminez advised listeners to aim for mindfulness amid their busy lives and recommended strengthening the muscle of meditation. She said using one’s breath can help “unite your body to your thoughts.” After a life of being her harshest critic, Tuminez described progress on caring for herself and other people.

When describing each characteristic she strengthened during her faith journey, Tuminez shared stories of travel and appreciating distinct cultures, including religions such as Hinduism, Catholicism, Sikhism and Islam. She discussed her 11 years of kung fu training and adventures in many temples throughout the world.

She also mentioned a broader understanding of prayer. “Prayer could not mean anything we say. In some instances it can simply be the ability to feel awe in the presence of mystery and the sacred.”

Tuminez said she felt awe when she saw the transient northern lights in Finland, and advised her listeners to strive toward this same awe for “what is around and with us” and to not take life for granted.

Tuminez shared one of her greatest lessons learned from her Muslim friend and businessman, Datu Ibrahim ‘Toto’ Paglas III. She said his establishment of a plantation helped transform a local area, turning Muslim and Christian hearts toward each other. Following this example, Tuminez said, “We are to remember that the sun and the rain fall on everyone, and we are not to judge. We are only to love others.”

Concluding her lecture, Tuminez described all of her experiences, saying, “I rejoice in the proposition that God’s truth is one. Everywhere is the light of God.”

“In every moment, in every circumstance, in every interaction, in shared experience, if we pay close attention, we can find the virtuous, the lovely and the truthful. We can touch God. We can find love. It is abundant and it is enough,” she said.

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