On April 11, 2019, accompanied by his wife Marva, Elder Thomas T. Priday of the Seventy attended and was among various leaders recognized in opening remarks at the 2019 Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner hosted by Multicultural Mosaic Foundation and Abrahamic Initiative.
This special evening program, held at historic St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Denver, provided a wonderful opportunity for making and deepening relationships with interfaith friends in the community–including many members of the local Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities.
Among the many guests and interfaith leaders in attendance included The Reverend Jim Gonia, bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (and his wife Kim, also an ordained ELCA pastor), Imam Muhammad Kolila of the Downtown Denver Islamic Center, Brother Ismael Akbulut (President) and Gulsum Katmer (Executive Director) of the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation, The Very Reverend Richard Lawson (Dean) of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Osnat Fox (senior Israeli emissary) of Jewish Colorado and the Reverend Bonita Bock, member of the Metro Denver Faith Leaders Caucus and former director of Wartburg College West, and emcee of the dinner program.
Amid current headlines about the living and enforcing of Honor Code guidelines at Brigham Young University, Roger E. Olson, Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology of Ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University posted the following essay. We include it here for your edification.
Thank God for Mormons
I’m not a Mormon; I could never be one. I disagree with many teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I disagree with its emphasis on “temple work” and many other things. My own personal opinion is that the LDS Church is not a Christian church, but I have come to know some Latter-day Saints who I consider Christians anyway.
I write this essay in response to an article entitled “Students at Mormon-owned BYU urge code compassion.” (April 13, 2019) The article, written by Brady McCombs of the Associated Press, reported on a controversy about lifestyle code enforcement at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah which is operated by the LDS Church. I have no dog in that fight, as the saying goes. However, I do admire much about the traditional LDS lifestyle.
I have been invited to BYU three times now. Each visit was for dialogue with LDS religion scholars and students. Usually there were other Christian theologians and church historians present for these events. It is clear to me that LDS religion scholars want Christians to recognize and embrace the LDS Church as equally Christian with us. I see the LDS Church moving in the right direction and pray that it keep moving “our way” (toward orthodox Christianity).
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
In the meantime, I wish some of us orthodox Christians would move more toward LDS values and lifestyles. Too often we have simply shifted with the secular and pagan culture around us without serious consideration. We tend to either limp or run to catch up with secular-pagan culture. Mormons (excuse me, Latter-day Saints) are much more cautious about that. The church changes, but with caution and consideration.
My LDS friends at BYU invited me to speak at the university’s November, 2017 celebration of the birth of the Protestant Reformation five hundred years earlier. Other speakers came from many different Christian traditions. LDS scholars spoke glowingly about Martin Luther as BYU students sat enraptured (I assume) by this new admiration for a great Christian reformer. Some of us who have studied Mormon history and theology were amazed at it. This was not my father’s Mormonism! (He was an evangelical pastor who considered the LDS Church a cult.)
During the breaks between sessions of the symposium I wandered around campus. I also stayed overnight on campus in its pristine and extremely comfortable guest house. Everyone hosted me with grace and favor; I felt nothing “cultic” about the place (unlike perhaps at Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City). The “vibe” at BYU was conservative Christian. Clean, nice, modest, friendly—all seemed more than normal there.Of course I didn’t go everywhere on campus, but where I walked and observed, both indoors and outside, I saw every student well-dressed, respectful of the academic environment, clean cut, and friendly to each other and to visitors. I asked a group of male BYU students if I could sit with them in the student lounge area and ask some questions. They were eager that I do so.
I asked about their lack of facial hair. They said they are required to shave every morning. I asked if that bothered them and they said no. I asked if they listen to “contemporary Christian music” on Christian radio and CCM CDs. They asked me to name some artists. I mentioned David Crowder and Matt Redman. Yes, they said, and went on to name Chris Tomlin and other giants of CCM.
Each time I have visited BYU I have been impressed by the ethos of the place. I disagree with distinctive LDS doctrines and find no inspiration in the Book of Mormon or other writings they consider Scripture that I don’t. However, in conversation with LDS scholars of religion over coffee (excuse me, non-caffeinated soft drinks), I have been assured that they are moving away from doctrines most critics bring up to prove them a cult and I have become convinced that their leaders are slowly but surely moving toward orthodox Christianity. I pray that shift continues all the way. But, in the meantime, I wish we more “mainline” Protestant Christians would move back toward a greater appreciation for traditional Christian values such as modesty in public attire and reverence in worship. As an outsider to BYU I urge them to hold fast to their admirable code of conduct while showing compassion to those who violate it and truly repent and return to the lifestyle they agreed to live when they enrolled.
*Note to commenters: This blog is not a discussion board; please respond with a question or comment only to me. If you do not share my evangelical Christian perspective (very broadly defined), feel free to ask a question for clarification, but know that this is not a space for debating incommensurate perspectives/worldviews. In any case, know that there is no guarantee that your question or comment will be posted by the moderator or answered by the writer. If you hope for your question or comment to appear here and be answered or responded to, make sure it is civil, respectful, and “on topic.” Do not comment if you have not read the entire post and do not misrepresent what it says. Keep any comment (including questions) to minimal length; do not post essays, sermons or testimonies here. Do not post links to internet sites here. This is a space for expressions of the blogger’s (or guest writers’) opinions and constructive dialogue among evangelical Christians (very broadly defined.
Yesterday marked the beginning of a new day in Colorado. Governor Jared Polis shared remarks with a standing-room only crowd after signing a proclamation declaring April 12 Colorado Religious Freedom Day. Heralding in the news with prayer and speech were religious leaders representing Jewish, Catholic, Sikh, and Christian faiths. Elder Thomas T. Priday of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints conducted. An interfaith choir directed by Kent Jones filled the air and hearts of participants with songs of patriotism and gratitude. Local Muslim leaders, who supported the efforts of the day were unable to attend because of their Friday Congregational Prayer, look forward to joining next year.
Rabbi Black of Temple Emanuel opened the event with a prayer soliciting unity. Elder Priday read the proclamation declaring Colorado Religious Freedom Day. Pastor Del Phillips, of the The House Worship Center, and Mayor Hancock’s Faith council, followed with opening remarks. “We not only advertise religious freedom, we practice it. The practice of religious freedom is personified by the presence of so many people here…. We must have the freedom for many types of faith to coexist,” he said. Pastor Phillips further reminded all of the crucial need for a unified front for tolerance. “If men and women of faith don’t know how to demonstrate tolerance, we can’t expect those not of faith to find faith, to respect faith, and to respect houses of worship.” He closed with the reminder for all to “remember when you enter your private space of worship, you are not the only one praising God and praying for Colorado.”
Following Pastor Phillips was Dilpreet Jammu of the Colorado Sikhs. He focused on the equality of mankind, the attributes we share, and the duty to accompany our prayers with action. “We share far more than we differ. All humans are equal. Our actions matter more than words and belief. What matters is you are a human being and you are hungry. If you are suffering, it is my duty to help you.” He reminded faith leaders of their opportunity to promote civility and mutual respect. Jammu also taught about the power of prayer to provide dignity. He said, “Prayer has the greatest power when it is made manifest. You cannot pray away hunger or pray for compassion without action.” He called all to “move beyond words to actions,” and invited those in attendance to Lunger, a meal they will be sharing with all in need, regardless of faith belief.
Deacon Geoff Bennett of Catholic Charities spoke next. Highlighting the power of unity in action, he invited all to do as is said at the end of each service and “Go live this faith outside of our walls.” Without watering it down, he said, we should “practice proudly and recognize that our faith is what brought us together and makes us who we are.” He called for us to see that it is all about relationships and working together. Highlighting the joint efforts of Catholic Charities and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Deacon Bennett shared the good works that have been accomplished by working together, to include furnishing an apartment building built in Broomfield for the homeless, and feeding those in need. Deacon Bennett invited everyone to “celebrate each other and work together so our faith becomes contagious.”
Governor Polis’ remarks, noted the day of religious freedom that would heretofore stand in Colorado. He told those gathered “to reflect on and never take for granted what we have.” He said, “We have a welcoming environment for all faiths, whether they have it or not. Our diversity is what gives us strength. We are all better off because of our diversity before the almighty.”
Steve Collis, chair of Holland & Hart’s nationwide religious institutions and First Amendment practice group, gave the final remarks. He taught that a lack of religious freedom is what has led to persecution in the past. He said that religious liberty is more controversial today, and we should treat it with reverence. “We all have religious views,” whether or not we identify with a specific religion. Answers to the questions “Is there a God? “Why am I here?” or “What happens after I die?” are all religious in nature, even if the answer is “I don’t know.” Using an example from the early days of the United States, Collis shared the story of the Quakers. Given their bedrock belief against conflict, they sought exemption from the War of Independence. Instead of forcing them to their civic duties, George Washington assured them that the “conscientious scruples of their members must be respected.” They were able to contribute to the effort without conflict. In like manner, today we need to show civility and respect for others’ beliefs. In direct tones, Collis reminded listeners that “if we lose religious liberty, everyone loses, including those who think they have won.”
Following Collis, the interfaith choir sang “America the Beautiful.” Kent Jones directed, and two soloists were featured, including a veteran Navy admiral who sang the fourth verse. The crowd of attendees were then invited to stand together and sing, “The Star Spangled Banner.” The refrains of our National Anthem echoed in the halls of the state house, as children, leaders, and legislators alike sang together.
Dr. Don Sweeting, President of Colorado Christian University, gave the benediction. In solicitous tones of reverence and gratitude, he thanked God for the ability to be together, called on all for action, and prayed religious civility going forward.
All in all, the event was a smashing success and a wonderful sign of things to come. Next year’s Religious Freedom Day event will be Monday, April 13, 2020. For further information, see ColoradoReligiousFreedomDay.org
One of our favorite, most oft-repeated family stories goes back to the toddler days of the oldest grandchild. When Abby was 2 years old, my mom and dad (Grammy and Pops) were in Utah visiting my brothers and their families. Abby wanted McDonald’s for lunch. But it was Sunday. My mom reminded Abby that we don’t eat out on Sundays. She said that we follow the prophet, and keep the Sabbath day holy. Trying to keep it on Abby’s level, Grammy started singing the familiar primary song, “Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet, he knows the way!”
At this point Abby impatiently waved her hands, dismissive of any singing sermons. “I don’t need to follow the prophet. I know the way to McDonalds.”
She went on to describe how to get to her dream lunch. Yet the vision she had for her short-term fulfillment was not the vision the adults had for teaching her about the Sabbath day. Precocious Abby is now a beautiful, faithful young woman, and if we asked her why or how she follows the prophet, she would have a different answer. Not to mention, she could drive herself.
This weekend we get to sit at the virtual feet of God’s living prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. The 15 months since he’s become prophet have been filled with announcements, refinements, and exciting changes. While we may use the terms “prophet” and “president” most often in referring to President Nelson, we can also interchange his calling with the words “seer” and “revelator.” As Ammon explained to King Limhi, “a seer is greater than a prophet (Mosiah 8:15).” And in terms of our discussion of vision, a seer is just what we need.
On the afternoon and evening of January 15, 2019 representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Denver, Colorado met with the United Methodist Church’s Mountain Sky Conference cabinet at Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The visit was a wonderful opportunity to share common beliefs and introduce our friends of the Methodist faith to the Bishop’s Storehouse, Temple Square, The Conference Center, The Relief Society Building, and The Joseph Smith Building.
The Mountain Sky Cabinet was meeting together in Salt Lake City and this presented a perfect opportunity for Latter-day Saint leaders to connect with them and share of our common faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Bishop Oliveto said of this meeting:
[I want to thank] you and your faith, that [we] would be welcomed, with outstretched arms, and I do trust that this is going to be the start of some ministries that we share together as we all open our arms to share the love of Christ in the world. So I just want to thank each of you. You have given so much generous hospitality, and it’s been such an inspiration. We look forward to returning the favor, and the gift.
We too are very grateful for these opportunities to build relationships with other believers in Christ and, thereby, to strengthen our community!
Join selected speakers and representatives from the Colorado community as we come together to discuss religious freedom.
For the second year running, religious leaders will convene at the Colorado State Capitol this April to unite faith communities and engage in the political sphere. Faith leaders and religious freedom experts will share perspectives on the state of religious rights in America today. All are welcome to attend.
Last week Pope
Francis invited President Russell M. Nelson to meet at the Vatican for a
historic visit. The occasion marked the first meeting
between a pope and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Nelson stated the significance of the meeting
was to get to know Pope Francis and for His Holiness “to know us and finding we
have so many points in common.”
“The differences in doctrine are real,” he added. “They are important. But they are not nearly as important as things we have in common—our concern for human suffering, our desire for and the importance of religious liberty for all of society, and the importance of building bridges of friendship instead of building walls of segregation.”
The leaders of the two faiths demonstrated
the common ground they share and the strength of their relationship forged through
their collaboration in service and charity throughout the world. Right here in
Colorado the Latter-day Saints have a meaningful, fruitful relationship with
our friends of the Catholic faith.
On January 17th, 2019, Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy, met with Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila at the Archbishop’s office, for what Elder Priday characterized as “a warm one-on-one visit.” In that meeting, Elder Priday expressed appreciation for the partnership that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has with members of the Catholic Church.
Elder Priday highlighted recent events including Day at the Capitol, Faith in Action committee work (and related community service), and honoring of veterans in our community. He also made particular mention of a special jointly-planned religious freedom event, an August 2018 gathering at Holy Family High School where Latter-day Saints, Catholics and Muslims gathered to hear remarks from various leaders regarding ways to strengthen religious freedom in our community.
Describing the important relationship between local Latter-day Saints and Catholics, Heather Scott, Denver Area JustServe Director stated, “The spirit of collaboration and true Christian service demonstrated by our friends at Catholic Charities is a blessing to our community. In recent months, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have worked together with Catholic Charities to provide comfort, relief, and needed supplies to members of the Denver community who are experiencing homelessness. I have been amazed to witness Catholic Charities’ unwavering commitment to follow Jesus Christ’s admonition to clothe the naked and feed the hungry.”
Local Latter-day Saint congregations are also working with Catholic Charities. For example, members have served meals at the Samaritan House, the Parker Stake Relief Society sisters have gone in small groups to provide “spa nights” to Women of the Holy Rosary shelter, and the Denver Stake women’s conference collected feminine hygiene products and prepared handmade cards for women served by Catholic Charities.
Denver North Public Affairs Director stated, “As I have had
the opportunity to get to know and serve with our friends at Catholic
Charities, I have been most impressed by their efforts to live the gospel of
Jesus Christ, by truly serving those in need within our community. As but one
example, I was deeply moved during a recent visit to the Samaritan House to see
what this great facility (and those who serve there) can do to provide for the
needs of our homeless brothers and sisters, right here in Denver. While
prayers for those in need are always welcome, this group is using their hands
and means to provide tangible relief to those in need.
We are looking forward to even further
collaboration in 2019 and are so grateful for this association both locally,
and at a global level–and not only with our Catholic friends but with those of
all faiths who share in the common interest of extending God’s love and care to
those around us.”
The Colorado Mormon Chorale and Orchestra are pleased to present Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God. In partnership with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Cornerstone Productions, the oratorio is focused on the final days of the life of Jesus Christ and the events following His resurrection.
Told from the perspective of those closest to the Savior, it is a moving blend of music and testimony. The work is performed every year, all around the world, by thousands of musicians and singers across dozens of faiths. Most of these performances are multi-denominational. There will be six performances of the Lamb of God along the front range.
Pikes Peak Center
190 S. Cascade Ave., CO Springs 80903
2:00 & 7:00 PM
March 19, 20 & 21
DU Newman Center for Performing Arts
2344 E. Iliff Ave., Denver 80208
CU Macky Auditorium Concert Hall
1595 Pleasant St., Boulder 80309
Running time is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. In order to maintain a spirit of reverence, it is strongly recommend that those who attend be at least 8 years old.
Tickets are required for admittance. General admission seating is limited and available on a first come, first serve basis. Tickets will be sold for $10 each (plus any venue fees) and can be purchased online through the website www.cplimited.org.