A note on Latter-day Saint attitudes toward other religious faiths

A note on Latter-day Saint attitudes toward other religious faiths April 20, 2023


Oakland viaduct in 1989
The Cypress Street viaduct, in Oakland, California, following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


First, though, a thought about earthquakes and divine providence.  I submitted this column to Meridian way back on 27 February, and I had to re-read it this morning to see whether I still agreed with it.  (I do.)  I’m grateful that it has finally appeared:

“A Purpose in Life’s Earthquakes”

No other planet in our solar system has plate tectonics, which seems to be unique to Earth.  Other planets—exoplanets—revolving around other stars may possess similar geology but, if so, we haven’t found them. But why might plate tectonics, and specifically subduction, be vital for life on Earth?

I’m indebted to Bart Kowallis, whom I’ve known since we were on the same freshman dormitory floor at Brigham Young University prior to our missions, for his willingness to read the essay through before I submitted it.  He’s not to be blamed for any surviving errors in the column, of course, but I wanted to be sure that I had committed no egregious or crippling scientific errors.


Christy Constitutional Convention
“George Washington Presiding at the Constitutional Convention”
(Howard Chandler Christy, 1939)  (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


An important case with implications for religious liberty is currently before the Supreme Court of the United States.  Here are two links regarding the matter:

“What the Supreme Court said Tuesday about working on the Sabbath: In its Sabbath case, the Supreme Court can clarify a confusing ruling from 1977. But at what cost?”

“Another key test for religious liberty”

A large number of outside individuals and groups have filed separate amici curiae (“friends of the court”) briefs in this case.  If you would like to read the brief  in support of the petitioner, Gerald E. Groff,  that was jointly filed with the Supreme Court of the United States by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Anti-Defamation League, it is available here:  No. 22-174 In the Supreme Court of the United States   A quotation from the Prophet Joseph Smith is apropos here.  He uses the term priests, of course, simply to refer to clergy of other faiths:

Priests cry out concerning me and ask “why is it this babbler gains so many followers, and retains them”? I answer, it is because I possess the principle of love, all I can offer the world is a good heart and a good hand. The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. 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 other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics​ or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my Soul, civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race, love of liberty was diffused into my Soul by my grandfathers, while they dandled me on their knees; and shall I want friends? No.

(Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church 5:498, 9 July 1843, slightly less than a year before he and his brother Hyrum were assassinated by an anti-Mormon mob in Carthage, Illinois)

Which reminds me very much of this:

“A recent religious poll highlights a unique Latter-day Saint quality we can be proud of: A phenomenon highlighted in a recent Pew survey could be a sign that Latter-day Saints are trying to be kind and nonjudgmental to those around them.”

In a recent tweet, McKay Coppins, a Latter-day Saint writer at The Atlantic, commented as follows:A fascinating (and kind of hilarious) finding in this Pew survey: Mormons are among the least popular religious groups in America. They are also the only group that expresses a net favorable opinion of *every other group,* including Muslims and atheists. pewresearch.org/religion/2023/.  Or, as he summarizes it, “You probably don’t like us, but we like you!”


Pew chart
Fascinating data on several levels


A new entry has appeared on the unfortunately necessary Neville-Neville Land blog:

“Jonathan Neville tried to blackmail me”

I’m disappointed by the “personal” turn that things have now taken.  Of course, it’s always been “personal” in a sense.  As I’ve tried to say on multiple prior occasions, I’m quite unconcerned by “Heartland” geographical models for the Book of Mormon.  I’m not persuaded by them, but I’m not especially upset that not a few others are persuaded.  What concerns me is the tendency of some “Heartlanders” to regard Book of Mormon geography as a central doctrine of the Gospel and, accordingly, to cast public doubt on the loyalty to the Church, the Restoration, and the Gospel of those who publicly affirm views that differ from theirs.  That’s why, alas, I’ve found the Neville-Neville Land blog “necessary.”  It chronicles such poor and inappropriate behavior.  And now I’m further dismayed by the gleeful willingness of at least two zealous “Heartlander” advocates to make common cause with avowed, vocal critics the Church, the Restoration, and the Gospel against those whose views on Book of Mormon geography fail to toe the “Heartland” line.

This new kerfuffle strikes me as a tempest in the proverbial teapot.  As Gertrude Stein once wrote about Oakland, California, where she grew up, “there’s no there there.”  Especially bemusing to me is the central role in it that is now being assigned to me both by Mr. Jonathan Neville and by my Malevolent Stalker and his epigones.  I’m so peripheral to this story, as intrinsically insignificant as it is, that one would need a high-powered telescope even to see me from the periphery.

The operating principle over at the Peterson Obsession Board and in its suburbs, however, seems to taken from their revision of Amos 3:6:  “Shall there be evil in a city, and Daniel Peterson hath not done it?”


A 2011 eruption at Mt. Etna
The entrance to Hell? Or merely the Utah state line?
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photo)


But let’s end on a genuinely chilling note from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™:

“The Church and LifeMoves Help the Homeless in the San Francisco Bay Area: Latter-day Saints also donate time and labor to help prepare new “navigation center””



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