Notice, though, how the Evangelical anti-Mormons who’ve posted it — thus far, I’ve found no undoctored version of the video on the web — try to put a negative spin on it.
I wish the original broadcast had explained that covering the pictures of Christ on the wall is by no means an anti-Christian gesture, let alone an expression of disrespect for Jesus. Muslims allow no representations of people in their mosques or worship spaces at all, whether of Jesus or Moses or Muhammad. (They’re concerned, among other things, with the risk of idolatry.) Still, all devout Muslims must, if they’re orthodox, accept the prophethood of Jesus, his birth to a virgin, his miracles, his ascension into heaven, and his pending return to earth at the Last Judgment.
From the particular hardcore Evangelical point of view represented in the commentary on this video, though, I suppose it gets even worse:
I’m aware of at least one other case, in California, of Muslims being permitted to use a Latter-day Saint stake center for their Friday prayers over a period of several months. And they were permitted to use the LDS welfare cannery to can halal foods for their suffering fellow-Muslims during the wars in the Balkans. (How horrible!) I’m very pleased, too, that Latter-day Saint Charities has worked closely with Islamic Relief on major humanitarian aid projects. And I was delighted to hear, a few years ago, a story out of the Church’s massive response to the devastating 26 December 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean: After thousands of body bags had been supplied, and food and drinking water and medicines delivered, and schools rebuilt, Church representatives asked what else the people in Indonesia’s Aceh province needed. Most copies of the Qur’an had been destroyed or washed out to sea, came the reply, and the people were spiritually devastated, too, not just physically. In response, I’m told, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supplied either hundreds or thousands of copies of the Qur’an — I haven’t been able to nail a precise figure down — to the people of that sorely afflicted place.
I’m extremely proud of that. I couldn’t be more pleased.
I’ve seen reports, too, of Jewish congregations in northern and southern California being allowed to hold worship services in Latter-day Saint buildings. (In one case, the Jews, gathering to celebrate Yom Kippur, also covered the pictures of Jesus.) Brigham Young donated the land for the first Jewish synagogue in Salt Lake City.
I briefly discussed nineteenth-century Mormon hospitality to Catholics in a 2010 article for the Deseret News, and I know directly and personally that active Latter-day Saints contributed very generously to the relatively recent renovations of Salt Lake City’s Catholic Cathedral of the Madeleine:
The Church also donated to the construction of the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Hindu Temple in Spanish Fork, as another anti-Mormon site reveals (no doubt to the shuddering horror of most of its readers):
Photograph by Mark Esquerra
It would be fun and interesting, I think, to gather up stories of institutional and informal help given by Latter-day Saints to congregations of other faiths. I know of quite a few of them, including L. Tom Perry’s work — he’s now a member of the Council of the Twelve, but was then just an American soldier in the occupying army — to rebuild Christian churches in postwar Japan during his off hours, and I recall, though a quick search has failed to turn anything about it up on the internet, Latter-day Saints helping to rebuild a black Protestant church in northern Utah several decades ago. There are, I think, lots of similar accounts.
I can’t help but think how different they are from the reception that we often encounter when we try to build a chapel or a temple in an area dominated by Evangelicals. We’re picketed and protested, and, not infrequently, certain groups try to block construction. I think, too, of the attempt by Latter-day Saints to get some time in the interfaith chapel in Vail, Colorado, back in the early 1980s. Other denominations were permitted to meet in it, and local Jews were permitted to meet in it, but, in the end, we were not. “It’s an interfaith chapel,” explained the Rev. Stephen Hoekstra (whose name and infamy are etched into my memory), “not an intercult chapel.” I recall, as well, the petition of the little branch of the Church in Cairo, Egypt, during the late 1970s or early 1980s when my wife and I lived there, seeking to hold our meetings in the nondenominational Ma‘adi Community Church on Fridays, when it was otherwise unused. We were refused, because our theology was unacceptable to that church’s powerful Evangelical contingent.
Finally: This slightly modified video was, by the way, certainly an anti-Muslim effort. But it was also, almost certainly, an anti-Mormon one, given the identity of the group that did the modifying. In their usual propaganda, they claim that we’re not Christians. In this particular piece, they’re implicitly critical of us because we permit non-Christians to worship in our buildings and, while doing so, to cover up images of Christ. They don’t seem to realize that it’s at least slightly problematic for their efforts when this vido reveals that we have pictures of Christ in our meetinghouses. (Of course, one Evangelical told me a few years ago that, sure, there are pictures of Christ in our temples and meetinghouses. But, he insisted, when the temple open houses are finished and the visitors leave our chapels, we take those pictures down and replace them with images of Joseph Smith.)