BYU Professors Promote Mormonism as Distinct From Christianity

Foundation announces new Mormon chapter

BYU University
By Kristine Lewis - 7 May 2009

With the help of BYU professors, the Foundation of Interreligious Diplomacy announced the newly formed Mormon chapter, which is the first organized chapter within the foundation.

The foundation provides a place for people of many religions or belief systems to have in-depth discussions with others in an effort to help build trust within religious categories that have a difference of opinion.

The Mormon chapter was created because leaders of the foundation felt The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique enough to have its own category, rather than grouping it in a generic Christian category. The addition of the Mormon chapter should help the foundation to expand and start a change in the way the foundation is currently organized.

“We don’t always want to have large categories,” said Charles Randall Paul, president of the Foundation of Interreligious Diplomacy. “The addition of the Mormon chapter will help establish more individual categories.”

The Mormon chapter is the first of several that the foundation will be announcing in coming months. During discussions, representatives from different religions come together to discuss what they believe in and why they believe in it. This helps to improve interreligious relations without any anger and with a great amount of respect.

“The two goals of the foundation are to create goodwill instead of mistrust between religions and to get a clear and deep understanding of other religions,” Paul said.

The establishment of the Mormon chapter came with the help of many Latter-day Saints, including a few BYU professors.

“With BYU professor Daniel Peterson on the board of the foundation, BYU has played a role from the beginning,” said Brian Birch, president of the Mormon chapter, in an e-mail. “Other BYU professors have been a natural fit for the Mormon chapter given their work in interfaith dialogue.”

The Mormon chapter will explore other religions or belief systems such as secular humanists, Catholics and Muslims. Because of experience with these other communities, other BYU professors will be invited to join the chapter as they continue to build their base of support.

“I got involved because of my scholarly interest in other faith traditions and also because of my concern for how we Latter-day Saints present our faith to others,” said Spencer Fluhman, an assistant professor of religious history. “I’ve long been convinced that we make better neighbors and citizens when we know something of others’ faiths, and the foundation provides a forum in which to engage in respectful interreligious conversations.”