03 February 2005

Islam and the Church

I've been working on finding quotes about Islam and the LDS Church. There are many places to find them; a handy book is Abraham Divided by Dan Peterson. I read it for the first time probably 8 or 10 years ago. Dan Peterson is an Arabic professor at BYU (I never had him, but my husband did); he also oversees the Islamic Translation Series with FARMS.

The first statement that anyone should know about in relation to Islam, and world religions in general, is the First Presidency Statement from 1978:

The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God's light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals. (First Presidency message, 15 Feb 1978)

Many very positive statements about Islam came in the early days of the Church. In 1855 George A. Smith stated

...this Mahometan [Muslim] race, this dominant power of the 7th and 8th centuries, were the descendants of Abraham, which Mahometan records show in a straight-forward genealogy, from the family of Mahomet [Muhammad] direct to that of Abraham, through the loins of Ishmael, the son of Abraham; and in this dominion there certainly was a recognition of the dominion of the sons of Abraham. (Journal of Discourses 3:34)

It is also worth noting that in Genesis 21:13 Abraham was promised that Ishmael would also be made a great nation.

Howard W. Hunter said, "The Church has an interest in all of Abraham's descendants, and we should remember that the history of the Arabs goes back to Abraham through his son Ishmael." ("All Are Alike unto God," 1979 Devotional Speeches of the Year, Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1980, pp. 35-36).

George A. Smith also said

...there was nothing in [Muhammad's] religion to license iniquity or corruption; he preached the moral doctrines which the Savior taught; viz., to do as they would be done by; and not to do violence to any man, nor to render evil for evil; and to worship one God. (Journal of Discourses :31)

Parley P. Pratt stated in the same conference in 1855:

Though Mahometan institutions are corrupt enough, and need reforming by the gospel, I am inclined to think, upon the whole, leaving out the corruptions of men in high places among them, that they have better morals and better institutions than many Christian nations; and in many localities there have been high standards of morals. (Journal of Discourses 3:41)

There are many more statements about Islam and the Church. Of course we do not believe that Islam has the fulness of the gospel, but to believe that Islam is completely wrong is also a mistake. There are major doctrinal differences, but I think more tolerance and openness are in order- there are enough people criticizing Islam without us adding to the chorus.

If you are specifically interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict and LDS views on it, see this Ensign article.

4 comments:

  1. I think there are also some good quotes in this article by BYU professor James A. Toronto (August 2000 Ensign).

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  2. Thanks. We both enjoyed that article when it was published. Jim Toronto has spent a lot of time in the Middle East. And he's a nice guy to boot. :)

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  3. I wondered quite a bit about this myself several months ago. I read the same article, and had to ponder this line: "According to Islamic history, one night while Muhammad was engaged in prayer and meditation on Mount Hira near Mecca, the angel Gabriel appeared to him to deliver a message from God (Arabic, Allah)."

    I wondered how, from the dispensation point of view, how could it be that the Church teaches that there was a complete apostasy, if God still had a prophet on the earth, called by the angel Gabriel, so I wrote to Dr. Toronto the following email, and received a response from him, which is also listed below. I'm not sure it really got to the heart of my question, but perhaps it is something we just don't know yet....

    "Dear Brother Toronto,
    After reading an article you wrote on Mohammed, I am puzzled about something. Do you really believe that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mohommed? I am aware of the statements by George Q. Cannon and others about Mohommed being raised up by God to lead his people against the evil of that area and time, and can accept that, but the notion of Gabriel appearing to him bothers me. Why? Don't the prophets teach that the Great Apostasy was a complete removal of the priesthood from the earth? How is it if all the apostles and prophets were killed off, and the world was in darkness, that the Muslims somehow still managed to have a "prophet"? I know what President Hinckley has said about the Muslim religion, and all other religions, and agree whole-heartedly. But to believe that the Muslim religion is just as inspired by God as the Jewish, Christian, and Latter-day Saint religions seems to me to be a bit odd. I have always stated that Joseph Smith was either exactly what he claimed to be, or a raging liar. Either God appeared to him, and all that said was true, or he was seriously deranged. I happen to believe he was telling the truth. I think the same could be said of Mohommed. If he stated that the Angel Gabriel appeared to him, then either the Angel did in fact appear to him, or he was lying/crazy. Both cannot be true. If Mohommed was telling the truth, then does this not mean the Muslim religion is "true"? Yet they do not accept Christ crucified, resurrected, atoning for our sins, among other things.
    I would be interested in hearing your perspective.
    Thanks,
    Peggy Snow Cahill"

    "I don't know if the angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad, but I accept what the First Presidency and many other general authorities have said about Muhammad having received a portion of God's light and truth to guide his people. As an LDS Christian, I disagree with Muslim (and other) friends who do not accept Jesus as the son of God, but that does not--and should not--prevent me from recognizing and benefitting from the spiritual truth and virtue that I find among them. Adopting this attitude enhances my faith and humanity and allows me to be open to finding truth, wherever it may be found, as Joseph Smith admonished us.

    James A. Toronto
    Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages
    4070 JKHB
    Brigham Young University
    Provo, Utah 84602 USA"

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  4. Peggy,

    I am not inclined to think that Muhammad was lying about everything. But I cannot believe that he was a full prophet in the sense we understand it today. Many of the prophets in the Old Testament did not teach the fulness of the gospel. I think Muhammad can be more easily compared to some of those prophets than Joseph Smith and Abraham.

    I am not sure that Muhammad thought of himself as a prophet. The Arabic word "rasuul," which Muslims use to describe Muhammad, means messenger. It is the same word we use for "apostle" today and comes from the root word "to send."

    I am very comfortable with saying Muhammad was a messenger of God. It doesn't matter to me if Gabriel really appeared to him since I believe that Islam has brought increased understanding to many people throughout the world whether Gabriel was involved or not. Even if Gabriel did go to Muhammad, I don't think it means that Muhammad had to receive the priesthood or know the fulness of the gospel.

    You might want to read _Abraham Divided_. Dan Peterson discusses your concerns. I know many people share them.

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