On the evening of January 12th, forty eight people linked up by zoom to hear Professor James Holt, Associate Professor of Religious Education at the University of Chester, talk on “Sitting as a Latter-day Saint at the Interfaith Table: a Personal and Theological Reflection.”
This was a most interesting and stimulating address and stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue in a very positive manner. He started off by explaining that when he first went to University to study Theology his family was worried that exposure to other faiths might turn his head; that he might get “contaminated” and that people of different faiths should not meet. The main thrust of his talk, however, was spent showing how very rewarding and fulfilling interfaith engagement can be. People are not that different, he said, and can build positive relationships. Many faiths have a lot in common and share, for instance, the Golden Rule, but it is also important to recognize differences as these are important, and to be respectful of them. We can be changed by discussions with other people and should look for the strengths of other religions, not pick holes in them, and see what we can learn. We are ALL children of God, and we should not judge but love others – a message that often gets missed in our society.
Engaging with others can be transformative, and Professor Holt showed how people of other faiths have changed him and given him greater insight into various religious practices while he remained rooted in his own faith. He urged us to receive truth whatever its source, and that his truth has come through the people he has met. He also stressed that interfaith is not just about talking about things but also doing things together, and working together for the common good which is the best way to break down barriers.
There was a very lively question and answer session which involved topics such as whether it is possible to love a criminal, how the Church reaches out to the community at large, the nature of the Sunday services, the hierarchical structure of his Church, and many more. Ruth Neal, Chair of AIG, then thanked Professor Holt for explaining about his beliefs and the Church of Latter-day Saints as few of us knew much about it, and also for encouraging us in talking about his faith.