On dwelling together in unity

On dwelling together in unity April 24, 2024


It's hard to miss from I-215
The Taylorsville Utah Temple, which is scheduled to be dedicated on 2 June 2024 by Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I would have found this remarkable at any time.  But it pleases me especially now, as open and unashamed anti-Semitism erupts on the campuses of several of my country’s elite universities:  “Jewish, Latter-day Saint friends found themselves singing together in the Taylorsville Utah Temple: ‘Chills were rising on our skin and tears were forming in our eyes,’ a Jewish leader says after a temple open house tour spontaneously ended with people of both faiths singing together a scripture about brotherhood in Hebrew'”

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.  (Psalm 133)

Half a lifetime ago, I heard or read a story that I cannot now recall in detail.  It took place in a university town in northern Germany — I’m pretty sure that it was Göttingen — in the latter half of the nineteen thirties, prior to the outbreak of the Second World War but after the Nazis had assumed fateful control of the nation.  A prominent physicist, a Nobel laureate or a future Nobel laureate (I simply can’t remember which one; Göttingen was swarming with them in those days), was walking in the city when he saw a group of Nazi brownshirts smashing Jewish shop windows and harrassing Jews on the street.  As the famous physicist approached the Nazis, one of them — as it turned out, a student of his — turned to meet him, evidently quite proud of what they were doing and expecting his professor’s Aryan approval.  Instead, the professor spat in his face, turned, and walked away.  It was a crude gesture, of course, and not nearly as heart-warming as the spontaneous  interfaith singing of Psalm 133 in a temple.  But then, violent anti-Semitism isn’t exactly a refined activity that invites respect or solicits civil dialogue.

An anti-Mormon cartoon from 1884
An important educational illustration first published in 1884. (Wikimedia Commons public domain image). Documents like this contribute mightily to increased understanding between religions and cultures.

I myself noticed this egregious story, and I’m glad that it has drawn comment from others:

“Associated Press Embarrasses Itself in Conference Coverage: AP’s coverage of the Latter-day Saints misses the mark, showcasing bias and a lack of religious literacy”

“The Associated Press’s general conference coverage is a cautionary tale for people of faith: Church leaders speak the language of a global population united by faith in Jesus Christ to millions at general conference”

And, relating to a separate case:  “The New York Post gave a tutorial on how not to write about Latter-day Saints: When held up to scrutiny, the article about Latter-day Saints looking alike starts to unravel”

This latter article, by Alyssa Grenfell, reminds me of some in the nineteenth century who actually claimed that Latter-day Saints represented a distinct and subhuman “race.”  U.S. Army surgeon Roberts Bartholow, for instance, listed some of the features characteristic of members of the Church, which included “The yellow, sunken, cadaverous visage; the greenish-colored eyes; the thick, protuberant lips; the low forehead.”  And the idea persisted:  “They ain’t whites,” says one of the characters in Jack London’s 1915 novel The Star Rover.  “They’re Mormons.”

Last night, I received an email from someone who lives in the area of the proposed Las Vegas Nevada Lone Mountain Temple.  He asks that I call attention here on this blog to a petition in support of the construction of that temple.  I am much more than happy to do so:  Please go to the petition site  Support the Lone Mountain Temple.  (Incidentally, I found Matt Schriever’s comment on the petition, posted four weeks ago, to be particularly helpful.)

I strongly encourage people — and most especially people who live in the general vicinity of Las Vegas — to look at the petition and to sign it.  We must not allow the temple to be made to seem something foreign that is being imposed upon area residents by a soulless corporation headquartered in a distant city.

“To accomplish this work,” said Brigham Young, “there will have to be not only one temple, but thousands of them, and thousands and tens of thousands of men and women who will go into those temples and officiate for people who have lived as far back as the Lord shall reveal” (Journal of Discourses 3:372).  But he knew that there would be opposition:  “For we never began to build a temple without the bells of hell beginning to ring. I want to hear them ring again!” (Journal of Discourses 8:355-356).

I visited the proposed temple site several months ago during a visit to Las Vegas.  One image that I’ve seen (an image that is being circulated by opponents of the temple) shows a balloon floating high above suburban Vegas to indicate the height of the temple spire, but I recall the site as being pretty much on the outskirts of the metropolitan area, more or less up against the desert hills and, in fact, somewhat up the hillside. (You can see aerial photographs of the site here.) So, of course, if you take a picture from the right angle you can well imagine the temple standing amidst residential neighborhoods and towering over the development lower in the valley.  That strikes me as more than a little disingenu0us.
What a deep loss! sifjhuij
Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye (1979-2024)

I was profoundly saddened to learn just this morning of the death of Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye.  I first met her a number of years ago at a small discussion-retreat in a cabin above Salt Lake City.  I puzzled throughout much of that day over who this diminutive, bald, kind, gentle, very bright Asian Latter-day Saint woman might be — but I soon began to find out.  The Maxwell Institute’s tribute (“In Memoriam: Melissa Wei-Tsing Inouye”) and Peggy Fletcher Stack’s article in the Salt Lake Tribune (“Courageous LDS scholar whose life and writings exemplified — and expounded on — earthly struggles dies at 44: Aug. 13, 1979 — April 23, 2024: Melissa Inouye, the bald, marathon-running, mother of four, shined a light on global religions and cherished faith communities that gave her strength”) may provide you with at least some faint sense of Melissa.  As will the 2020 Easter message (“Christ and the Work of Suffering”) that she wrote for Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship.

Gone so soon!  With many, many others, I mourn her passing.  I regret the deep and lasting sorrow that it brings to her husband, her children, and her family.  I lament the irreparable loss of what she might yet have contributed to the Kingdom and to her fellow Latter-day Saints.  That loss is both profound and acute.  But I rejoice that she is free of pain and suffering, and I have as much confidence as any human can have in another, that she has gone on to the peace and joy of the Lord.  I pray that the Spirit will bring comfort to all those who feel her loss, and that, as Jews often say, her memory will be a blessing.



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