Almost 180 years ago, Joseph Smith outlined an ideal of tolerance that appears strikingly modern in retrospect. 

“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 denomination,” Smith declared. In other instances, he specifically endorsed Muslims enjoying the same respect and privileges.

As I travel to Utah this month for a historic ecumenical gathering between the Muslim World League and the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we see a world where these principles of interreligious fraternity and cooperation are under threat.

The manifestations of a new extremism abound. In Christchurch, New Zealand, we witnessed horrifying terrorist attacks on the Islamic community. In Sri Lanka, scores of innocent Christian worshippers were murdered on Easter Sunday. Jews from San Diego to Pittsburgh to Halle, Germany, have been slaughtered in their houses of worship. 

We have a global problem. But by working together across different faith-based communities, we can chart a course toward peaceful coexistence. Latter-day Saints and Muslims should be leaders in this campaign, for our communities and for everyone else.

Latter-day Saints and Muslims should be leaders in this campaign, for our communities and for everyone else.

Just as Joseph Smith instructed his followers to embrace the other, Islam compels Muslims to love our fellow brothers and sisters of all faiths, races, ethnicities and creeds. This effort is at the heart of my mission as head of the Muslim World League, a nongovernmental organization based in the Holy City of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that is committed to articulating the true and moderate Islam.

We are tackling the challenge of terrorism and its root causes at the source — by educating Muslim youth to reject extremist ideology, by demonstrating to non-Muslims our determination to build bridges of cooperation among the peoples, and by providing humanitarian aid to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. 

In May, I gathered with more than 1,200 Muslim leaders, scholars, academics and religious teachers in Mecca for the MWL’s Conference on Moderation. We represented more than 139 countries and 27 different Islamic sects. Our four days of discussions focused on combating the global rise in hate speech and political intolerance plaguing so many of our communities.

Our debate was eminently practical. Instead of focusing on theological interpretation or old divides among different schools of thought, we agreed on the groundbreaking Charter of Mecca. Its 30 points outline a concrete agenda for rebuilding partnerships among worshippers of all faiths, and members of every community.

I look forwarding to advancing the cause of coexistence in Salt Lake City when I meet with leaders equally committed to safeguarding our religious and cultural diversity.

While the centers of Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ sit on opposite sides of the world, the values that bring our communities together could not be closer.

While the centers of Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ sit on opposite sides of the world, the values that bring our communities together could not be closer.

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Muslims and Latter-day Saints each place great importance on daily prayer, on the spiritual power of fasting, and on the belief that faith alone does not secure salvation. We must translate our beliefs into good deeds for the betterment of our world as well. 

For each of us, family is the foundation of religious and cultural life. No priority supersedes the education of our future generations. And charity, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is equally emphasized by both our faiths. Just as the MWL provides millions of dollars in lifesaving relief to Christians in need from Ghana to Burundi, we deeply respect the the Church of Jesus Christ’s generous support for predominantly Muslim communities in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

From Mecca, the crossroads between East and West, and Salt Lake City, the crossroads of the American continent, we can do so much more together. Latter-day Saints and Muslims are two growing communities that play powerful roles in shaping the world. Our values of tolerance, faith, diversity and hope are as important today as ever. I look forward to visiting Utah and finding ways to expand the partnership between Latter-day Saints and Muslims as we work together to move forward in this sacred endeavor.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa is secretary-general of the Muslim World League and president of the International Organization of Muslim Scholars, based in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

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