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‘If we can’t get along, it’s downright sinful’: The partnership between Catholics and Latter-day Saints

Sister Mary Cook and husband Elder Quentin L. Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, walk near the Notre Dame Golden Dome during the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Monday, June 28, 2021. The annual gathering involves thought leaders of religious liberty.
Sister Mary Cook and husband Elder Quentin L. Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, walk near the Notre Dame Golden Dome during the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Monday, June 28, 2021. The annual gathering involves thought leaders of religious liberty.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
This article was first published as the ChurchBeat newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox weekly.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan had Elder Quentin L. Cook in stitches Monday while the two sat shoulder to shoulder for a videotaped interview in a room on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

“When you talk about the essential, essential beliefs, you’re talking about we’re children of the one true God who has made us in his image and likeness, who loves us passionately, who wants us to love him back, and to love one another as brothers and sisters,” said Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York. “That’s doctrine. That’s God’s revelation. And if we can’t get along, it’s downright sinful and scandalous right? Don’t you think?”

“Absolutely, absolutely,” said Elder Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “You said it perfectly.”

Then came the hook.

“And that applies to everybody,” Cardinal Dolan finished, “except Red Sox fans. You have to have some boundaries.”

A photo from the interview showed Elder Cook laughing hard at another of Cardinal Dolan’s jokes, and when he saw it Elder Cook said he rarely laughs so hard that he closes his eyes like that.

The two have become fast friends. Each was happy to learn that the other was going to attend the inaugural Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit on Monday and Tuesday, almost exactly two years since they appeared together during an America’s Freedom Festival event at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah.

The growing Catholic/Latter-day Saint relationship has been fruitful for decades now. Elder Cook shared a slide during his presentation to the Religious Liberty Summit on Monday that showed the extent of the highest-level collaborations on humanitarian aid between Catholic organizations and Latter-day Saint Charities since 1985:

  • Catholic Relief Services, 210 projects in 59 countries.
  • Caritas, 142 projects in 33 countries.
  • Catholic Charities, 99 projects in three countries.
  • Catholic Community Services, 289 projects in the United States.

It reminded me of what President M. Russell Ballard said outside the Vatican when he and President Russell M. Nelson met with Pope Francis in 2019: “We’ve been shoulder to shoulder as partners, and try to relieve suffering, trying to help people that are struggling.”

Cardinal Dolan shared three reasons he has found friendship with Latter-day Saint leaders.

“First of all, you’ve got to know this, as I’ve shared with you before,” he said to Elder Cook. “I’m a student of American religious history, OK? I had the privilege of being able to do graduate work in American religious history, and the Latter-day Saints are such an essential part of the whole religious fervor, and the whole religious movement in the United States, and maybe the only example we have of a church that has arisen in the United States. So I was always fascinated by it.”

Second, he said the two faiths have become “allies in so many sacred causes,” such as the humanitarian aid projects listed by Elder Cook and the cause of religious liberty.

Third, the cardinal said personal contacts are important. He first became friends with the late Elder L. Tom Perry. He has met with the First Presidency and many others in the Twelve.

“We’re both into the Rolodex theory,” he told Elder Cook. “So, the more names you have with whom you feel comfortable, whom you trust, about whom you would not be afraid to pick up the phone and say, ‘Can I talk to you about something?’ the more you got that, the better off we are right? So that’s my affection and appreciation for you all.”

To read more about the decadeslong effort to build a relationship by both Catholic and Latter-day Saint leaders, read my 2019 story that included clandestine visits by a Latter-day Saint prophet to a Catholic hospital in Salt Lake City.

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