“Chapter 20: Fellowship with Those Who Are Not of Our Faith,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley (2016)
“Chapter 20,” Teachings: Gordon B. Hinckley
Speaking at a conference of religious leaders in November 1994, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“We are of various doctrinal persuasions. While recognizing our theological differences, I think we are of one mind in our awareness of the evils and problems of the world and the society in which we live, and of our great responsibility and opportunity to stand united for those qualities in public and private life which speak of virtue and morality, of respect for all men and women as children of God, of the need for civility and courtesy in our relationships, and of preservation of the family as the divinely ordained basic unit of society.
“… All of us carry in our hearts a desire to assist the poor, to lift the distressed, to give comfort, hope, and help to all who are in trouble and pain from whatever cause.
“We recognize the need to heal the wounds of society and replace with optimism and faith the pessimism of our times. We must recognize that there is no need for recrimination or criticism against one another. We must use our influence to still the voices of angry and vindictive argument.
“… Our strength lies in our freedom to choose. There is strength even in our very diversity. But there is greater strength in the God-given mandate to each of us to work for the uplift and blessing of all His sons and daughters, regardless of their ethnic or national origin or other differences. …
“May the Lord bless us to work unitedly to remove from our hearts and drive from our society all elements of hatred, bigotry, racism, and other divisive words and actions. The snide remark, the racial slur, hateful epithets, malicious gossip, and mean and vicious rumor-mongering should have no place among us.
“May God bless us all with the peace that comes from Him. May He bless us with thankful hearts and with the will to mingle together with respect one for another, uniting our efforts to the blessing of the communities where we are fortunate to live.”1
A year after delivering this message, President Hinckley spoke to a group of secular leaders. It was a small group—only about 30 people—but it was a group with far-reaching influence: presidents, editors-in-chief, producers, and reporters representing the major news outlets in the United States. In a “congenial and sometimes humorous interchange,” he gave “an overview of the international scope of the Church, commented on its missionary, humanitarian, and educational pursuits, and then offered to answer questions. … He answered each question candidly and without hesitation or any hint of awkwardness.” Attendees expressed some surprise at his openness, to which he replied that the only thing he would not discuss was the details of sacred temple ordinances. “The door is wide open on everything else,” he said.
At one point in the question-and-answer session, Mike Wallace, a senior reporter with the television show 60 Minutes, said that he wanted to do a special report on President Hinckley. President Hinckley paused and then responded, “Thank you. I’ll take a chance.”2
President Hinckley later admitted that he had some apprehension about being interviewed by Mike Wallace, who had a reputation as a tough reporter. He explained why he agreed to the interview despite this apprehension:
“I felt that it offered the opportunity to present some affirmative aspects of our culture and message to many millions of people. I concluded that it was better to lean into the stiff wind of opportunity than to simply hunker down and do nothing.”3
The wide-ranging interview included the following exchange:
Mr. Wallace: “How do you view non-Mormons?”
President Hinckley: “With love and respect. I have many non-Mormon friends. I respect them. I have the greatest of admiration for them.”
Mr. Wallace: “Despite the fact that they haven’t really seen the light yet?”
President Hinckley: “Yes. To anybody who is not of this Church, I say we recognize all of the virtues and the good that you have. Bring it with you and see if we might add to it.”4
By the time the interview process was over, President Hinckley and Mike Wallace were friends. Mr. Wallace spoke of President Hinckley as a “warm and thoughtful and decent and optimistic leader” who “fully deserves the almost universal admiration that he gets.”5
We must never forget that we live in a world of great diversity. The people of the earth are all our Father’s children and are of many and varied religious persuasions. We must cultivate tolerance and appreciation and respect one another.6
There is no need in any land for conflict between diverse groups of any kind. Let there be taught in the homes of people that we are all children of God, our Eternal Father, and that as surely as there is fatherhood, there can and must be brotherhood.7
If we would hold before us that image of divine inheritance constantly, of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man as realities, we would be a little more tolerant, a little more kind, a little more outreaching to lift and help and sustain those among us. We would be less prone to stoop to those things which clearly are unbecoming us. We are children of God and we love Him. Act that way a little more.8
“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” (Articles of Faith 1:11).
How very important that is—that while we believe in worshipping God according to our doctrine, we do not become arrogant or self-righteous or prideful but that we extend to others the privilege of worshipping according to their desires. Much of the trouble in the world comes from conflict between religions. I am happy to be able to say that I can sit down with my Catholic friends and talk with them, that I can sit down with my Protestant friends and talk with them. I would stand in their defense, as this Church has done and will continue to do, in defending them in this world.9
I plead with our people everywhere to live with respect and appreciation for those not of our faith. There is so great a need for civility and mutual respect among those of differing beliefs and philosophies. We must not be partisans of any doctrine of ethnic superiority. We live in a world of diversity. We can and must be respectful toward those with whose teachings we may not agree. We must be willing to defend the rights of others who may become the victims of bigotry.
I call attention to these striking words of Joseph Smith spoken in 1843:
“If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon,’ I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination” (History of the Church, 5:498).10
We must not be clannish. We must never adopt a holier-than-thou attitude. We must not be self-righteous. We must be magnanimous and open and friendly. We can keep our faith. We can practice our religion. We can cherish our method of worship without being offensive to others. I take this occasion to plead for a spirit of tolerance and neighborliness, of friendship and love toward those of other faiths.11
We must not become disagreeable as we talk of doctrinal differences. There is no place for acrimony. But we can never surrender or compromise that knowledge which has come to us through revelation and the direct bestowal of keys and authority under the hands of those who held them anciently. Let us never forget that this is a restoration of that which was instituted by the Savior of the world. …
We can respect other religions, and must do so. We must recognize the great good they accomplish. We must teach our children to be tolerant and friendly toward those not of our faith.12
We are not out to injure other churches. We are not out to hurt other churches. We do not argue with other churches. We do not debate with other churches. We simply say to those who may be of other faiths or of no faith, “You bring with you such truth as you have and let us see if we can add to it.”13
We can and do work with those of other religions in various undertakings in the everlasting fight against social evils which threaten the treasured values which are so important to all of us. These people are not of our faith, but they are our friends, neighbors, and co-workers in a variety of causes. We are pleased to lend our strength to their efforts.
But in all of this there is no doctrinal compromise. There need not be and must not be on our part. But there is a degree of fellowship as we labor together.14
Let us not forget that we believe in being benevolent and in doing good to all men. I am convinced that we can teach our children effectively enough that we need not fear that they will lose their faith while being friendly and considerate with those who do not subscribe to the doctrine of this Church. … Let us be involved in good community causes. There may be situations where, with serious moral issues involved, we cannot bend on matters of principle. But in such instances we can politely disagree without being disagreeable. We can acknowledge the sincerity of those whose positions we cannot accept. We can speak of principles rather than personalities.
In those causes which enhance the environment of the community, and which are designed for the blessing of all of its citizens, let us step forward and be helpful. …
… Teach those for whom you are responsible the importance of good civic manners. Encourage them to become involved, remembering in public deliberations that the quiet voice of substantive reasoning is more persuasive than the noisy, screaming voice of protest. In accepting such responsibilities our people will bless their communities, their families, and the Church.15
We must never surrender to the forces of evil. We can and must maintain the standards for which this Church has stood since it was organized. There is a better way than the way of the world. If it means standing alone, we must do it.
But we shall not be alone. I am confident that there are millions of people throughout the world who grieve over the evil they see about them. They love the virtuous, the good, and the uplifting. They too will raise their voices and give of their strength to the preservation of those values which are worthy of maintenance and cultivation.16
Let us pray for the forces of good. Let us reach out to help men and women of goodwill, whatever their religious persuasion and wherever they live. Let us stand firm against evil, both at home and abroad. … We can be an influence for good in this world, every one of us.17
As we carry forward our distinctive mission, we work under a mandate given us by the risen Lord, who has spoken in this last and final dispensation. This is His unique and wonderful cause. We bear testimony and witness of Him. But we need not do so with arrogance or self-righteousness.
As Peter expressed it, we are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” Why? That we might “shew forth the praises of him who hath called [us] out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). …
… Let us be true disciples of the Christ, observing the Golden Rule, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us strengthen our own faith and that of our children while being gracious to those who are not of our faith. Love and respect will overcome every element of animosity. Our kindness may be the most persuasive argument for that which we believe.18
I want to suggest that we develop an outreaching attitude to help those who are not of us, to encourage them, to lead them in a gracious and kindly way toward those associations which could expose them to the wonderful programs of the Church.
I think of Edwin Markham’s poem:
He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!19
We certainly do not need to be boastful about [our religion] or to be arrogant in any way. Such becomes a negation of the Spirit of the Christ whom we ought to try to emulate. That Spirit finds expression in the heart and the soul, in the quiet and unboastful manner of our lives.
All of us have seen those we almost envy because they have cultivated a manner that, without even mentioning it, speaks of the beauty of the gospel they have incorporated in their behavior.
We can lower our voices a few decibels. We can return good for evil. We can smile when anger might be so much easier. We can exercise self-control and self-discipline and dismiss any affront levied against us.20
Do we really comprehend, do we understand the tremendous significance of that which we have? This is the summation of the generations of man, the concluding chapter in the entire panorama of the human experience.
But this does not put us in a position of superiority. Rather, it should humble us. It places upon us an unforgiving responsibility to reach out with concern for all others in the Spirit of the Master, who taught, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 19:19). We must cast out self-righteousness and rise above petty self-interest. …
We of this generation are the end harvest of all that has gone before. It is not enough to simply be known as a member of this Church. A solemn obligation rests upon us. Let us face it and work at it.
We must live as true followers of the Christ, with charity toward all, returning good for evil, teaching by example the ways of the Lord, and accomplishing the vast service He has outlined for us.21
From the dedicatory prayer for the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah: May we of Thy Church be hospitable and gracious. May we maintain the standards and practices for which we are known and accord to others the privilege of worshiping who, “where, or what they may” [Articles of Faith 1:11]. Bless us to reach out as good neighbors and be helpful to all. May we lift up the hands and strengthen the faltering knees of any in distress [see D&C 81:5]. May we all live together in peace with appreciation and respect one for another.22
In our relationships with others, why is it helpful to remember that we are all children of God? (See section 1.) How can we cultivate greater appreciation and respect for others? How can adults teach children to appreciate and respect others?
Review President Hinckley’s counsel about our relationships with people who are not of our faith (see section 2). How can we recognize if we are manifesting arrogance or self-righteousness in these relationships? How can we show greater friendship and love toward those who have different beliefs?
Why is it important that Church members work together with other people in good causes? (See section 3.) What are some examples of such efforts? How can we become a greater influence for good in our community?
What can we learn about discipleship from President Hinckley’s teachings in section 4? How have you seen love and respect overcome feelings of animosity? Why is our behavior toward others “the most persuasive argument for that which we believe”? Consider specific ways you can reach out to others.
“As you feel the joy that comes from understanding the gospel, you will want to apply what you learn. Strive to live in harmony with your understanding. Doing so will strengthen your faith, knowledge, and testimony” (Preach My Gospel , 19).