Elder Bednar, Elder Gong preach goodwill among Latter-day Saints and Muslims

Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong speak at the last session of BYU’s Islamic conference. Elder Bednar and Elder Gong spoke to Latter-day Saints about similarities between members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Muslims. (Dallin Wilks)

The last session of “The Islamic World Today: Issues and Perspectives” conference featured two leaders in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong gave a presentation titled “Muslims and Latter-day Saints: Understanding One Another” on Tuesday night.

BYU President Kevin J Worthen began the session by introducing the conference and Elder Bednar and Elder Gong. These two apostles have “supervisory responsibilities over the Middle East, Africa and Asia,” President Worthen said.

Elder Bednar and Elder Gong had a dialogue back and forth about the importance of showing love and working together with one’s Muslim brothers and sisters.

In conjunction with this conference, they announced a new pamphlet titled, “Muslims and Latter Day Saints: Beliefs, Values, and Lifestyles.” This pamphlet will note differences but will also show similar beliefs between the faiths. Elder Bednar explained that the ways Latter-day Saints practice their beliefs and their similar core values show their love of God and fellow man.

As Elder Bednar and Elder Gong began their discussion, they expressed their appreciation for their Muslim brothers and sisters. “Our desire is that Latter-day Saints gather a greater understanding of our Muslim brothers and sisters,” Elder Bednar said.

The discussion focused on four talking points the apostles felt Latter-day Saints needed to hear. The first was “Latter-day Saints and Muslims are both people of faith, and we have much in common.”

In this point, the apostles highlighted the importance of religious freedom — specifically the need for people of all faiths to stand together and protect everyone’s freedom to practice any religion. Elder Gong quoted Article of Faith 11: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

Elder Bednar introduced the second subtopic by stating “we want to directly address false and cruel comments written or voiced by some Church members about Muslims.” He talked about how disparaging generalized statements are ignorant, offensive and overlook the kindness and goodness of all Muslims.

“It is better to understand our differences and similarities openly, and honestly, as brothers and sisters with a common humanity,” Elder Gong said.

The third point highlighted the resources BYU and the Church have that can strengthen understanding and friendship with Muslims. Elder Gong and Elder Bednar touched on the English to Arabic translations the school has and the art exhibit “Beauty and Belief.” 

Elder Gong also shared an Islamic belief to not depict God or the last prophet. The last resource that was touched on was this conference on Islam, which represents a long-standing academic exchange.

The final point was, “Muslims and Latter-day Saints differ, of course, in some core doctrines, but we have many similar beliefs, values, and lifestyles.” The apostles referred back to the new pamphlet and shared eight of the 13 topics it will cover.

These topics are where differences and similarities can be seen and include: Faith in God, Prophets, Jesus Christ, Scriptures, Prayer, Chastity, The Role of Women and Family. 

Regarding the section on Jesus Christ, Elder Gong said, “He plays an important but different role for both groups.” 

In Elder Gong’s concluding remarks he referred to the second great commandment which is to love one’s neighbors. “Greater understanding of one another helps us to love one another more,” he said.

Elder Gong and Elder Bednar encouraged audience members to meet others with open hands of goodwill and to stand together.

The pamphlet “Muslims and Latter Day Saints: Beliefs, Values, and Lifestyles” will be available on the Gospel Library app early next year as announced by Elder Bednar.

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