Monday, September 27, 2010

Respectful Gems from Several Faiths

 A Guest Post by Jonathon

"Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men. Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated. Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; and whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom; and whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. Therefore it is not needful that it should be translated. Amen."
                –Doctrine & Covenants 91 (A book of sacred text, a holy text particular to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
"Many years ago in the Orient, there lived a man who owned a ring of inestimable worth, which had been given to him by a cherished hand. The stone was an opal in which a hundred colors sparkled and which had the mysterious quality of rendering pleasing to both God and man the bearer who was confident of its power. Small wonder, then, that this man in the Orient never removed it from his finger and arranged to keep it in his family forever in the following manner.

"He bequeathed the ring to the most beloved of his sons and specified that that son in turn bequeath it to the son dearest to him and that always the most cherished son, regardless of his birth rank, would be the head, the master of the house, thanks alone to the power of the ring.

"Thus this ring was passed from son to son and eventually to a father of three sons, all equal in their obedience to him, whom he, therefore, could not but love equally. Only from time to time, it seemed to him that the first, then the second, and finally the third son seemed most deserving of the ring-whenever one or the other found himself alone with the father and the other two did not share the outpouring of his heart; and he even had, in moments of benevolent weakness, promised the ring to each of them. This continued as long as it was possible.

"When the time came for him to die, the good father found himself in difficulties. It hurt him to offend two of his sons who trusted his word. What was he to do? He secretly sent for an artist, whom he ordered to make the two most precise replicas possible of the ring, without regard to labor or cost.

"That artist was successful. Upon receiving the rings, even the father could not discern the true ring. With relief and joy, be called each son individually, gave his blessing to each, bequeathed his ring, and died.
"No sooner had the father died, than each son came with his ring, wanting to be master of the house. There were interrogations, quarrels, complaints, all for naught. The identity of the true ring was not to be proven, in just the same way as the identity of the true faith is concealed from us."
“Be respectful of the opinions and feelings of other people. Recognize their virtues; don’t look for their faults. Look for their strengths and their virtues, and you will find strength and virtues that will be helpful in your own life.”
– Gordon B. Hinkley (Former religious leader and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
"Islamic life revolves around five basic principles that are outlined in general terms in the Qur’an and expounded in the teachings and customs (Arabic, sunna) of Muhammad. These five pillars are the witness of faith, prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca. Some examples of Muhammad’s teachings on charitable giving and fasting will illustrate his manner of teaching and his central role in Muslim life.
The principle of almsgiving is designed to care for the poor and to foster empathy in the community of believers. The Qur’an states that charity and compassion, not mechanical observance of rituals, define one’s worthiness in God’s sight (2:177). Muhammad’s sayings clearly teach the practice of charity:

'None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.'

'Each person’s every joint must perform a charity every day the sun comes up: to act justly between two people is a charity; to help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it is a charity; a good word is a charity; every step you take to prayers is a charity; and removing a harmful thing from the road is charity.'

'Charity extinguishes sin as water extinguishes fire.'

'Smiling to another person is an act of charity.'

'He who sleeps with a full stomach knowing that his neighbor is hungry [is not a believer].'

"Muslims view fasting as having a dual purpose: to bring about a state of humility and surrender of one’s soul to God, and to foster compassion and care for the poor in the community. Thus, fasting and almsgiving go hand in hand: denying of oneself cannot be complete without giving of oneself.

"I was reminded of this principle among Muslims, and the profound influence of Muhammad’s example in their lives, while living in Cairo, Egypt, during the holy month of fasting, Ramadan. 21 My family and I were invited by a Muslim friend, Nabil, to participate in his family’s evening meal in which they broke their fast. As we entered their modest apartment in one of the most impoverished quarters of Cairo, I noticed that one of the rooms was occupied by numerous peasant women (distinguishable by their black clothing) and their children. They were all sitting on the floor with food spread out before them on a cloth, quietly waiting for the call to prayer that marks the end of fasting each day. When I asked if they were his relatives, he replied: 'No, I don’t know any of them. It is our habit to invite strangers off the street who cannot afford good food to share our Ramadan meal. We do this because it was one of the customs of our prophet, Muhammad.'

"I was deeply moved by my Muslim friend’s unselfishness and compassion for the poor, and humbled by his good example in practicing a principle that I had learned from the Bible years before but had rarely observed: 'When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; … but when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee'"
- J.A. Toronto 
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
               - Mother Teresa
There is very little that I can say that would add to the words of these wise and dear women and men. As I was discussing religious intolerance with a friend, I suddenly became aware of how blessed I was to have grown up in a family environment that cherished truth and taught the truth. It was not so important where that truth came from, although my parents were well aware of the knowledge the gospel of Christ provided, rather it was simply important that the truth encouraged myself and my siblings to love one another and to serve one another. While I was on my mission, I came in contact with Jehovah Witness material and I realized that my mom taught us and read to us from some of those books. She also read to us from illustrated bibles that were written by other christian faiths. The best book I remember as a child was a book about virtues as taught by religious and uplifting stories throughout history. When I was old enough to learn about Buddhism and other eastern customs, my mom took time to answer my questions with a very simple response that encouraged me to seek for truth and trust in the Spirit of Christ to guide me.

Because of that teaching, my life has been blessed with many wonderful experiences that I would not have had if I had been biased. Even during the September 11 attacks, both my parents were quick to follow the council of our late Prophet Gordon B. Hinkley and draw a clear line between the religion of Islam and the extremist groups that were responsible for the attacks. That teaching blessed my mind and heart while I was on my LDS Mission to Germany. I was blessed to meet with many Muslims and learn from them the truths that we shared. I was encouraged by their pious and humble attitude towards prayer to again humble myself and attempt to strip my pride away–still an ongoing battle for me. I don't understand why we can look at others and see their good and bad without seeing in them a mirror of our own strengths and weaknesses and realize that we are kinsmen on this journey towards perfection. We are truly brothers and sisters. How can I love my brothers and sisters while I make a mockery of their journey? How can I see them as my beloveds without understanding that regardless of religions or beliefs or values we are all on the same journey. We are walking the same path and as the Pilgrim's Promise teaches, we are all at different stages along that path. We should not envy those ahead nor despise those behind but look to our God and be saved.

Jonathan is not a writer nor a outspoken leader of his community. He hasn't earned the distinction of changing the fabric of his citizenry or turning heads with his wild antics. Jonathan is self-serving and soft-spirited. He enjoys the fine things in life and is an advocate of right–that is as far as he has been able to define it himself. If you want to learn more about this gentle fellow and his self-proclaimed depthful thoughts visit one of his blogs. Depthful Thoughts or The Golf Instructor.

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