Interfaith Panel Discussion


This past Monday night I had the most wonderful opportunity.  Our church received an invitation for a woman of our faith to participate in an interfaith panel discussion being held at the Women’s Resource Center on the University of Illinois’ campus.  My Stake President asked if I would sit on the panel and represent the church, and I accepted.

The topic of discussion was gender roles within our faith tradition.  They provided me with a list of questions ahead of time, but told us they would also be letting the conversation grow naturally.  The audience was encouraged to come ready to ask questions and the majority of our time was spent answering their inquiries.  We ended up discussing dating, engagement, sex, women and education, birth, the role that family plays in marriage and dating, modesty, homosexuality, chastity, family time, sex education, interfaith and interracial marriages, divorce, our sacred texts and their role within families and marriage, doubt, marriage traditions and practices and many other important things!

Want to hear something surprising though?  The discussion was about gender roles in our faith/church and not one person asked me about being an oppressed Mormon Woman or about Women and the Priesthood!  Can you believe that?!?  I was rather disappointed.  I would have really loved to answer that one!

When I first accepted the assignment I was nervous.  The U of I is a liberal campus and the topics were sensitive ones.  I knew it was likely that there would be lesbian couples in the audience (there were) and that my views on most moral issues would seem antiquated and even offensive to some.  However, most of my feelings of apprehension left as I prepared by study and by talking to friends in advance about the subject.  General conference also filled me with all kinds of COURAGE and even a willingness to be MOCKED or PERSECUTED if necessary (It totally wasn’t!  Everyone was very respectful!).  And at the end of the day Corey promised that if things went south he’d start a fire in the bathroom, so there you go!  I knew I’d be fine!  🙂

By the time the panel actually arrived I was filled with a good kind of nervous energy.  I was excited to learn about other faiths and see what we had in common.  I was thrilled to have an opportunity to bear testimony of the principles of the gospel that have brought me so much light and happiness!

Joining me on the panel was a Jew, 2 Sikhs, and a Unitarian Universalist.  It was wonderful to become more acquainted with their faiths!  As I suspected we would, we had much in common with the Jewish and Sikh traditions. Unfortunately we had almost nothing in common with the Unitarian Universalists. It is mind blowing to me to know that there are members of the LDS faith that leave and end up landing with them.  As their representative spoke verses of 2 Nephi 28 and the teachings of Korihor (specifically that whole “whatsoever a man did was no crime,” business) kept coming to mind.

Anyway.  I walked away from the experience with renewed gratitude for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  Despite how neat it was to see the commonalities between us, there were also some key, key differences.  How grateful I am for clear, meaningful, protective, happiness-producing commandments and standards!  For prophetic and personal revelation!  For a knowledge of the true nature of the Godhead!

It really was such an uplifting experience.  I felt the spirit guiding my words, and I am grateful I was able to share my testimony of eternal families, the atonement, the sacredness of sexuality and birth, the nature of God as forgiving and fair, our divine identities as His children etc.

I know not everything I said was well-received, but I did my best to clearly, compassionately and succinctly articulate and explain our beliefs.  It’s a tough thing to do when time is limited and the issues are complex! (Especially for someone as verbose as myself!) Anyway, I would hope that even if people didn’t agree with me they were still able to understand what I said and have a respect our high moral standards.

And you know what?  I could tell some things were very well received! I got the feeling that people thought Family Home Evening was a very sweet idea indeed!  (It got a few “awwww’s.”) And as I explained why modesty had been so empowering to me, I got quite a few “I never thought about it that way before,” head-nods, so I thought that was great too.

After the discussion ended a pregnant woman from the audience came over to talk to me more about birth.  She said that the idea of birth being sacred rang very true to her, so we (and my dear Rachel who came!!!) talked a little bit more.  And yesterday I got an email from an audience member with an amazing story who wants to meet with me and is interested in learning more about our faith.  We have a phone chat set up for this evening and I’m excited to see where that story goes!

For a girl who never got to go on a mission, getting to officially represent the church, even in this small way, was an honor.  If I ever get the opportunity to do something like this again, I will certainly take it!

10 thoughts on “Interfaith Panel Discussion

  1. How exciting! I am so glad you got to have the opportunity. I think you would be a fabulous representative for such an occasion. Wish I could have attended.

  2. OH Ash… YOU EMPOWER ME TO BE BOLDER!!!! with in David’s and my own family… YOU ARE THE WOMAN OF THE HOUR….love aunt deedee

    • For the record Auntie, I think it’s actually much harder to be bold with the loved ones in your life than it is to strangers!

  3. Of the members of the church I’ve known who have left the church for good who have stayed religious the majority have gone the Unitarian church. I should point out the the majority just go non religious completely but I have known quite a few who go Unitarian. I’ve contemplated on this issue a lot. I think partially it is because the majority of people I know who want to stay religious but leave come from a more scientific background and they find some comfort in the fact that Unitarians sort of go with a lets study all truths mentality. I also think being a member of this church makes is exceptionally hard to move to most of the more traditional religions. Even if you find yourself dissatisfied with LDS church the doctrine that we are the only true church and that other religions are inherently flawed just runs deep within us. We hear it from a young age and we hear it often. It makes it hard to seriously consider switching to another church although I do have one uncle who went Seventh Day Adventist. It was sort of a shocker for everyone. Anyway I think you are amazingly brave to have done this! I get nervous when I tell my evangelical friends that I’m LDS. I guess I keep waiting for one of them to say they don’t want to be friends with me anymore…which is so ridiculous because this has yet to happen although inevitably after I tell them I belong to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints they give me a blank look and I have to clarify I’m Mormon. Which they all recognize 🙂

  4. How amazing Ash! I am sure it was a wonderful occasion and you represented beautifully! I’m excited to hear about your phone chat. Also, I am sure many others have things stirring within them that you will never hear about. 2 nights ago I received an email from a 13 year old girl that wanted to know if it is possible for her to be baptized even though her family is catholic….I think so many are ready and so many are waiting and wow what an experience you had. I wish I could’ve been there to see it. I would’ve been a nervous wreck. I am not so great with words, especially not on the spot. You are amazing!

  5. Jeff told me you were doing this! It sounds like it was a great evening. I wish I could have been there to silently cheer you on. What a great opportunity!

  6. I am completely amazed and of course you were a perfect choice for this. I hope we can ever arrange a chat to discuss some of the many things we always want to talk about. How I miss you and your beautiful family! Even Corey haha (jk we love Corey very much!)

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