Are you a religiously hyphenated Mormon? That is, are you a convert from a different background, a Catholic-Mormon or an Evangelical-Mormon? Or anther faith entirely, Buddhist or Muslim? Or are you in a mixed-faith marriage with a partner who is Episcopalian or Adventist or atheist? Do you have kids or parents who attend a different denomination or a different faith? Then you might be a religiously hyphenated Mormon, one with a serious connection to another faith.
Here’s a story about the Dalia Lama (who is, technically, the “foremost spiritual leader of the Gelug or ‘Yellow Hat’ school of Tibetan Buddhism,” according to Wikipedia) that will move this thought along a bit:
In a book called Acts of Faith, author and activist Eboo Patel tells a story about the time he and his friend Kevin were granted an audience with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. After His Holiness commented on a small empty bowl Kevin wore on a chain around his neck, Kevin told the Dalai Lama how many years he had spent studying the Buddhist concept of emptiness, which seemed to have a lot in common with the Jewish concept of ayin.
“You are a Jew?” the Dalai Lama asked him. When Kevin said yes, His Holiness said, “Judaism and Buddhism are very much alike. You should learn more about both and become a better Jew.”
The quotation is from page 58 of Barbara Brown Taylor’s Holy Envy (HarperOne, 2019). I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, the Dalai Lama really missed a missionary opportunity ….” Well, not all religions are as evangelistic as Mormonism. That’s part of the appeal of studying other religions. Learn more about them, you learn more about you. As Max Muller, a German scholar of religion, once stated, “he who knows only one religion, knows none.”
I think that, on the whole, Mormons follow the “knows only one” path. Most members are not that interested in LDS history or doctrine, much less the history or doctrine of Christianity writ large or of any other faith. Which makes the religiously hyphenated Mormons among us, who have lived experience in other denominations or faiths, such a valuable resource. If that is you, then in your wards and Sunday School classes make sure you share your knowledge and experience when the occasion arises.
What do you think? Does learning more about Catholicism or Methodism (which once attracted the interest of a young Joseph Smith) make you a better Mormon, particularly if you have family ties to that other denomination? Is it true that a Mormon who knows a lot about Mormonism but little about any other faith in fact knows little about Mormonism?