This morning, as is my custom, I staggered out of bed (having gotten home from work at midnight, dinked around until 1 am, and fallen asleep at around 2 am) into the living room where Bill always leaves the paper (Daily News, St. George, UT) on the coffee table for me. I’ve never asked, but I think this is some sort of service thing he and our therapist have agreed upon and now I take it for granted. He’s quite religious about it and it’s a sweet thing because he doesn’t read the paper that much, but even for him to acknowledge this is important to me is pretty big. So….

This morning there was an article about a newly re-vamped Catholic Church in St. George and its dedication, with Elder Russell M. Ballard listed as a keynote speaker. I’m so glad. So glad to read about this and know we’re coming a long way, baby, toward accepting and embracing the validity of other faiths. I don’t know if this happens regularly; I’ve never heard of it before, but that doesn’t mean anything.

I read somewhere that the Mormons and Catholics work together pretty well in giving aid to the starving peoples of Africa. That, too, heartens me. Years ago (sorry to those who’ve heard this before) I did a study for a class in college about near death experiences and how other religions approach the subject. I interviewed people of all religions and ministers as well. Catholics, hands down, had no problem with the reality of the experiences or of the reality of an after-life. “Of course!” was the standard response. I checked out over 30 books from the SUU (then SUSC) library on religions, many of them doctrinal publications by the religions themselves. Only Catholic publications approached the subject of the spirit world (they also have a pretty good idea what happened in Gethsemane).

My conversations with members of other faiths—Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, and several born again Christian religions were met with professed ignorance (“I don’t really know”) to apathy (“it doesn’t matter”) to condemnation (“it’s a sin to discuss it!”–this from a husband/wife, both on the phone, who were members of one of the born-again religions, can’t recall which one). All seemed almost fearful to discuss my question, there was a caution, a nervousness.

The Catholic priest I spoke to seemed almost impatient with me, like I was asking, is the sky blue? I also spoke to several Catholic acquaintances; they, also, had no problem with acknowledging the existence of the spirit world and its closeness to us. This was a revelation to me in many ways.

As I perused the books of doctrine (I didn’t read them cover to cover, just skimmed for the information I was seeking), I realized how close to our beliefs Catholicism really is—-and I was heartened. Some would say this is the great and terrible church, or 99 truths and one lie, which will lead people down to damnation. I think they, too, are God’s children. In the name of religion, many terrible things were done by Catholics. But many good things as well—and Mormons are not without sin.

Certainly, they started with a lot of truth, which has made its way into the modern world. I’m so glad to hear stories like Elder Ballard’s participation in the dedication of this new church. I wish we—Mormon people—and our leaders would embrace more events like this. I wish our attitudes showed more tolerance and inclusiveness. Thinking of Devyn’s post on David and Bathsheba, I believe there is a systemic problem in our church—the “true” church, after all, but not the “perfect” church. This problem is reflected in the chauvinism many (I sure do!) experience regularly, the shunning of those who detour from the cookie cutter mold, the self-righteous ignorance expressed each Sunday in our meetings. We need to be more open minded and tolerant. Jesus was. His exposure to those who detoured from the things he taught didn’t taint him. He lifted them. We can and must do that.

Someone in Devyn’s post said “where much is given, much is expected.” We are incredibly fortunate to have been exposed to the truth, as much as we have, to have an understanding of the way the universe works (to quote Todd Peterson, author of “Long After Dark” which I heartily recommend). We can sing “God’s true church” to the skies, but many of us have no idea of the blessing, the gift of knowledge we have in knowing where we came from, why we’re here and where we’re headed. This places the burden of true Christianity squarely on our shoulders. We cannot exemplify that without allowing that other Christian faiths—even the ones that hate us—-are doing a pretty good job of holding a moral standard for the world and urging people to come unto Christ. Elder Ballard, thank you for participating in this. I’m so glad.

****Thanks to Daniel for giving me a heads up on the ettiquette (law?) of copy and paste on subscriptions; here’s an excerpt from the Daily News article about the dedication of the church, by Linda Sappington

Patsy Lamb said the Lieto Choir will perform on Monday, Aug. 16. On Wednesday, Aug. 18, the choir from Shepherd of the Hills Methodist Church is scheduled to perform. Alex Boyé, a principal soloist from the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, will be on stage on Friday, Aug. 20. A concert by the Southern Utah Interfaith Choir will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, and the Heritage Choir has been invited to perform at the church on Friday, Aug. 27.

Two fundraising dinners will be held in conjunction with the dedication of the building. On Monday, Aug. 23, the community is invited to attend a dinner being planned at the Dixie Center, with featured speaker M. Russell Ballard, a member of the LDS Church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles. On Saturday, Aug. 28 at the Holiday Inn, patrons will enjoy a dinner and auction of art and artifacts.

On Sunday, Aug. 22, the dedication mass will be conducted under the direction of Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

“We hope everyone – of any denomination or no denomination – will come out and enjoy these exciting activities,” said Father Vidal. “Please join us in this history-making event. We are all brothers and sisters in the Lord, after all.”