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Sandy Bentz was up against a daunting task. She’s the minister of Hope Lutheran Church in Temecula, California, and has been waiting for years, with her congregation of 225 members, for a permanent church building. Permits, delays, and red tape have elongated the process. Many other local faiths hosted Easter and Christmas services and summer Bible school for them, and the Latter-day Saints opened their doors so Hope Lutheran could provide a funeral and luncheon to honor a prominent member.
But now they were stuck. Their building was finally completed, but the landscaping was far from done. Irrigation lines and more than 1,600 plants needed to go into the ground, and a handful of volunteers wasn’t nearly enough. And then Bentz got the email announcing, “The Mormons are coming!”
Around 100 Latter-day Saints showed up over two days to help with the overwhelming task. Working alongside them were members of the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley. No wonder the local Interfaith Council hosted a night of gratitude.
From the natural disasters we’ve seen around the globe, in which Mormon Helping Hands arrive in their yellow T-Shirts to rescue, shovel out, deliver supplies, dig, haul, and build, to my own community in northern California where LDS singers were invited to join with Methodists in Christmas and Easter choirs, we see interfaith bridges being extended to us as never before.
This unity not only elicits neighborly feelings of love and caring, it builds strength as we join together with common goals such as protecting religious freedom. By joining with members of other faiths, we become better able to protect our rights and even our safety. For years faithful citizens were fragmented, almost pitted against one another. And this is exactly where Satan wanted us—tiny, unorganized, fearful, and weak. But by reaching out as the Savior would, our ranks grow. We can love and support one another, focusing upon our commonality instead of our differences.
This is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City has an entire wall of tribute to those of ten other faiths who helped settle the Salt Lake Valley. Bells rang from Catholic towers during President Monson’s recent funeral. Years of suspicion and intolerance all over the globe are being replaced with warmth and inclusion.
Yes, Satan is busy sowing seeds of discord. And there are still detractors and enemies who spread falsehoods. Perhaps there always will be. But as the saying goes, “Live to prove them wrong.” By rolling up our sleeves and serving, we make friends and spread truth. Public opinion softens, even to the point that a shout of “The Mormons are Coming!” is clearly great news.
It warms our hearts to hear of interfaith projects, especially at a time when the world seems to swirl with hostility and division. And each one of us can contribute to the swelling tide of truth, one drop of sweat at a time
Thanks to Carl Love, contributing columnist for the Temecula Press Enterprise.