What Is Scripture: Muslims and Mormons
Because of the alliterative relationship between the words "Mormon" and "Muslim" and because of widespread ignorance among Americans about both groups, it isn't at all unusual for people to confuse Mormons with Muslims. Given events of the last ten or fifteen years and the current political campaign, that ignorance is abating for both groups.
Most people know that Mormons are not Muslims. And, probably partly because of Mitt Romney's campaign, they fear Mormons less than Muslims. Sixty percent of those polled are comfortable or somewhat comfortable with a Mormon presidential candidate. Only 38 percent feel that way about a hypothetical Muslim candidate. So Mormons have less work to do explaining themselves than Muslims, but both share the need to do that explaining.
It isn't unusual to have Muslim visitors come to Brigham Young University, and because of my work at the university, I'm sometimes asked to help host them. When I first started doing this, I was a little nervous. I wasn't afraid of Muslims, but I was ignorant of them. As a result I was nervous about how to talk with them. Everything I knew about Islam was merely factual, stuff I learned in school and from books, and from reading the Quran about fifteen years ago. To my knowledge, I had visited and talked with a Muslim face-to-face only once in my life before four years ago.
I'm sure that many have a similar nervousness about Mormons. Even if they know something about our religious beliefs, perhaps they have never known a Mormon or talked with one of us. For many we qualify as exotic, at best.
Not surprisingly, meeting and talking with these Muslim visitors quickly dissolved my nervousness. I discovered what we almost always discover when we get to know others whom we think are quite different from us, namely that they are much more like us than we'd expected.
Mormon scripture offers Mormons an advantage in our relations with Muslims and others, though whether we take that advantage is another question. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus says:
Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. (2 Nephi 29:7-8; emphasis added)
Mormons are accustomed to understanding the Book of Mormon in these terms. It is the word of God to people in a place other than Palestine, and it "runs together" with the Bible as a witness of God and Christ.
That's an important meaning for those verses. But their meaning is broader than that. The verses speak to us not only of the Book of Mormon and the Bible, but also of other unnamed testimonies.
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.