ISSUES OF FAITH: Build stronger community by finding common values

I have always been interested in learning about different religions. I graduated from seminary, which in our church is a four-year religious education program for youth during ninth through 12th grades.

Here in Port Angeles, the youth meet at 6:30 a.m. to attend seminary before going to their high school classes. I learned about myriad religions while serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France. I had many engaging conversations about a variety of beliefs.

While I was in college, I took a class called, “World Religion,” which introduced me to religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Jainism and Judaism.

Throughout my career, I’ve been able to meet many people who have a multitude of diverse faiths.

I have had the opportunity to travel to Asia, Europe, Canada and across the United States.

From these experiences, I have found that there are good people among all religions around the world. In most instances, I’ve found common ground with these faiths and discovered that we share similar core values.

One of our Articles of Faith says, “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.”

Many came to America seeking religious freedom in the 1600s.

If you were to go back to England in 1683, you would find my ancestor, John Bringhurst, in jail for simply printing a religious pamphlet.

He was part of the Religious Society of Friends, and he printed a Quaker publication that included his testimony.

It got him into trouble with the law, and he was arrested.

He continued to be persecuted because of his faith and, in time, fled the country.

My ancestors eventually made their way to Philadelphia where they could practice their religion without fear of government interference.

Religious liberty is not just the freedom to believe what you want but to have the independence to act upon it and talk about your beliefs.

We are fortunate to live in a country where we can pray and worship without trepidation.

Others in the world are not so lucky.

Interfaith service projects bring unity to communities. Because of COVID restrictions, the friendship dinner at the First United Methodist Church has been postponed, but for many years, members of our congregation have volunteered there.

When the Port Angeles Dream Playground needed volunteers, many churches answered the call.

Our youth group built 50 sawhorses to be used for the construction of the playground.

The collaboration to make the Dream Playground a reality was remarkable.

Latter-day Saint congregations recently gathered kits for refugees coming to Seattle from Afghanistan.

I was touched by how many people from the community, many from different faiths, generously donated the needed supplies.

I have tried to imagine how grateful those Afghan refugees were to receive basic supplies to help them get started with a new and better life after having gone through horror and uncertainty in their country.

Working shoulder to shoulder with other faiths often brings blessings to those who need help the most.

We may not all agree on every doctrinal issue, but I think that those of any faith can agree that it is a blessing to be able to worship as one sees fit. It is a wonderful freedom to be cherished. And while we may worship differently, it is my hope that we will have more interfaith service projects.

These projects build bridges in a time when there are too many divisions.

We are all children of our Heavenly Father.

I think it pleases Him when we link arms together to succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down and strengthen the feeble knees, which in turn strengthens our communities.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Bishop Jason Bringhurst is the leader of the Mount Pleasant Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Port Angeles. His email is jasonbring@gmail.com.

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