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BYU Education Week: Similarities and basic truths among religions

  1. PROVO, Utah — Mormons don't have a monopoly on truth, and it would behoove members of the church to seek out ways it's manifest in other religions and philosophies, professor Michael Wilcox said in a session of Campus Education Week at BYU on Tuesday, Aug. 18.Wilcox will teach four classes this week titled \"Enlightening whole nations: Discovering great truths and people from around the world.\" He introduced the topic by relating it to this year's conference theme, \"In thy light shall we see light,\" from Psalms 36:9.He said that when Mormons shine the light they gain from their faith onto other sources of knowledge, truths become more evident, and those truths can come from a variety of places.\"The light that we are invited to see might come from a lot of different areas,\" he said.Mormons tend to get \"peeved\" when people of other faiths reject the Book of Mormon, but they need to be careful to not turn against truth just because it's from a different source, or else they'll be no better than the Gentiles quoted in 2 Nephi who believe their Bible to be sufficient.\"If we're not careful we might say, 'A Book of Mormon, a Book of Mormon, we have a Book of Mormon,\" he said, putting a spin on 2 Nephi 29.The scriptures say multiple times that the Lord will speak to all nations, and while members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe their church is true, that doesn't mean they should think all other churches or philosophies are false.\"I think I grew up believing that ... there would be one true church, and the implication seemed to me that all the others were false churches,\" he said. But Wilcox has changed his perspective and believes that while he finds the most mature truth in the restored gospel, \"There is still great truth out there,\" he said.God is able to speak through many different mediums and languages, and people are misguided to think he only talks to and guides them.\"Some people can't hear the words of a prophet, for whatever reason. But they might hear the words of a poet or a playwright, or a philosopher or a sage,\" he said. \"I believe God wants to be heard, and he has many different voices which he will try to teach us through,\" he said.Wilcox compared the process of finding truth to a mathematics compass used to draw circles. He called the part of the compass that remains stationary a \"fixed foot.\" He plants the \"fixed foot\" on his compass firmly in the teachings of Jesus Christ. The other \"foot\" is called the \"searching foot,\" and goes out looking for other truths.People who are devoted to the gospel sometimes make the mistake of placing the \"searching foot\" directly next to the faith they found their lives upon, and consequently go about their lives drawing tiny circles.\"That's all they think there is,\" he said. \"But we are invited to do something else. We could go through verse after verse of LDS literature that invites us to take that foot and reach it out and grab all the truth we can within the swing of that arc.\"The biggest mistake people make when studying other faiths or philosophies is to look only for fault.\"Never compare your best to their worst. That's not fair,\" he said. \"I cannot compare Osama Bin Laden to Mother Teresa, and therefore condemn Islam. That would not be fair. I would not want my faith, Mormonism, to be characterized by the Mountain Meadows Massacre. That is us at our worst. We want to compare the best with the best.\"Wilcox said that as people study world history and religions, they will find a \"perennial philosophy,\" or recurring insights found across all cultures and faiths. That \"perennial philosophy\" is likely to include:A belief in a \"divine ground,\" which for various peoples is called God, Allah, Krishna, etc.
  2. The \"divine ground\" can be communed with through prayer, meditation, mantra, etc.
  3. Man is dual in nature. He is part carnal, but part divine, possessing some of the attributes of the \"divine ground.\"
  4. Man's singular purpose is to unite permanently with the \"divine ground.\"
  5. Man can only reach that purpose by being worthy, moral or ethical.
  6. Man needs help in communing with the \"divine ground\" so holy men, prophets, sages, apostles, are sent.
  7. The major obstacle to reaching his purpose is himself in the form of pride, desires, selfishness.
  8. Compassion, charity, benevolence and seeing their neighbor as themselves are the greatest things that bring man into the presence of the divine.