Filed under: Gospel Principles, Practices & Precepts
The Mormons have a new video explaining why Mormons build temples. This clip includes the late Krister Stendahl, a former Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm and Dean of Harvard Divinity School, speaking about Mormon temples. Stendahl was never a Mormon, but is often remembered for a speech he gave defending Mormons.
According to FAIRLDS, controversy built up around the Mormons’ desire to build a temple in Stockholm, Sweden in 1985. Stendahl contacted Truman G. Madsen and offered to hold a press conference in a Mormon church building endorsing the building of the temple and also suggesting the appropriate way to treat religions other than your own.
In this speech, he outlined three rules, now called, “Stendahl’s three rules of religious understanding. These are good rules for anyone to follow, regardless of their faith.
The first rule is that if you want to know about a religion, you should ask the faithful members, and not the enemies. Anyone who follows partisan politics knows that those who feel so strongly about something sometimes think it’s okay to lie as long as it helps you “win.” If someone is trying to learn about you, it’s likely you’d rather they ask you personally, rather than rounding up your enemies for a hearty bashing session. When Jesus was living on the earth, he taught that we should treat others as we want others to treat us, which makes responsible fact-gathering a Christian responsibility. When learning about another religion, stop to think how you want people to learn about your own religion. Go to the source.
The second rule is to not compare your best to their worst. This is a very basic principle of fairness. Imagine, for instance, a person were to say, “Well, I know this church is bad because last week, the newspaper had a story about someone from that church who got arrested. In the very same paper, there was a story about a person from my church who works for the poor.” While that’s a rather stark example, it does make a clear point. It’s very likely both churches have people who get arrested and people who serve the poor. To selectively point out the worst person, and compare that person to another congregation’s best is hardly a balanced way to evaluate a faith. A fairer way to do this is to look at Congregation A’s work with the poor and compare it to Congregation B’s work for the poor. Of course, poverty relief is only one aspect of Christianity, but we have to compare things on an equal basis-as the old saying goes, don’t compare apples with oranges.
The third rule is to leave room for “holy envy.” Stendahl suggests it’s perfectly okay to admire something in a church you don’t actually want to join. Every church has it’s good and it’s not necessary to trample it just to make your own church look better. It’s even okay to admit that another church does one particular thing better than yours, or maybe just differently than yours but in a way you like. Stendahl was able to picture himself going through the temple ceremonies, even though he didn’t want to become a Mormon. He didn’t have to think we had it all right to admire that aspect of the Mormon faith. He wasn’t threatened by the fact that we had something he personally admired.
These rules reflect basic Christian principles, but they also demonstrate Stendahl’s comfort in his own religion. His testimony of his Lutheran faith was strong enough that he didn’t need to trample another religion in order to feel okay about his own, nor did he feel the need to eliminate or blockade another religion to keep his safe.
If you are sure your own faith is true, you won’t be worried about what other religions are doing. You’ll be too busy sharing the wonders of your own faith to devote your life to trampling the beliefs of others.
While we might not agree with everything Stendahl did in his religious life, we can find wisdom in these three rules that are right for any religion.
Watch the video on why Mormons build temples.