Mormonism & Islam, part 1
This study is a result of over 40 years involvement with Middle Eastern culture including 7 years residence in Iran beginning with a Fullbright scholarship to complete PhD work in Persian music which became a book entitled Music and Song in Persia published by Curzon Press in London in 1999. This study on Mormonism and Islam was originally published in the 1960s when the author was studying at Brigham Young University. Dr. Miller was influenced by teachings of Dr. Hugh Nibley and Dr. Spencer Palmer the latter of whom later adopted some of Miller's information for a book of his own called "Mormons and Moslems."
Although many of the comparisons and concepts in this study appear logical and true, Miller does not claim to necessarily have decisive answers but rather pertinent questions; he poses postulations rather than offering set conclusions. There is much more to be studied concerning the similarities and differences in regards to these two religions and other world religions. If one feels that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, the common truths should appear in the many religions who claim to follow Him.
If adherents to either Mormonism or Islam are offended by any statements or ideas in this study, Mr. Miller wishes to apologize since his main goal is to build bonds of mutual understanding and friendship among those of varying beliefs who love God and wish to serve Him.
One might wonder why Mormons, who seem to indicate that they have the true religion, would be interested in Islam or any other world religion. The answer might be found in the Book of Mormon, II Nephi 29:7-12 which states:
Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all nations of the earth?
Wherefore murmur ye, because that you shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither from that time henceforth and forever.
Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words: neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge all the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.
These verses indicate a universal outlook in accepting holy texts of all world religions and the good teachings found in those writings. Islam is also accepting of the "people of the book" or ahl il-kitab. Historically adherents of other monotheistic faiths, mainly Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, were treated with respect under Islam and allowed to practice their religions. The Quran also accepts the existance of other unknown prophets or prophets not mentioned in the Bible such as Hud and Salih. "And Messengers whom We have already mentioned to thee and Messengers whom We have not mentioned to thee." (Quran 4:165)
The affirmation that God can and will speak and reveal to various nations is also supported in the Quran Sura 14:5 which states:
And we have not sent any Messenger except with the language of his people in order that he might make things clear to them. (14:15)
Also in Sura 10:47 "For every nation there is a messenger,"
In 16:37 "We have sent to every nation a messenger" and 16:85 "We shall raise up a witness from every people."
The Quran affirms that God (or Allah) can reveal and instruct whenever he wishes:
And the Jews say, 'The hand of Allah is tied up.' Their own hands shall be tied up and they shall be cursed for what they say. Nay, both His hands are wide open; He spends how He pleases. And what has been sent down to thee from thy Lord will most surely increase many of them in rebellion and disbelief. (5:65)
Some Mormon scholars are of the opinion that other world religions have been given to mankind by God in accordance with the times and the various geographic regions of the world. Noted LDS authority in world religions, Professor Spencer Palmer, stated in his book Mormonism-- a Message for All Nations on page 7:
These passages imply that the sacred texts of such religions as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Shinto contain heavenly principles, and that the people of these lands will be judged by God in accordance with their willingness to abide by them . . . In this connection we should recall the words of Moroni that "all things which are good cometh of God, and that which is evil cometh of the devil." No one can long be exposed to the Bhagavad Gita, so beloved of Gandhi and the Indian people, the Dharmapada of Buddha, and the goodly counsel of the Taoteching or the Lunyu of Laotzu and Confucius respectively without recognizing teachings of inspiration and truth.
In the pamphlet entitled Strength of the Mormon Position by LDS author Orson F. Whitney, the same message is reiterated on page 27 in the lines " . . . wise and worthy teachers have been raised up in various nations to give them that measure of truth which they were able to receive." Then Whitney mentions "Confucius the Chinese sage; Zoroaster, the Persian; and Gautama of the Hindus" as being men who were "endowed with wisdom, with profundity of thought and learning, to deliver, each to his own people, that portion of truth which the all-wise Dispenser sees fit that they should have."
The idea of God revealing truths through a member of a community is supported in the Quran:
Do you wonder that an exhortation has come to you from your Lord through a man from among yourselves that he may warn you? (7:70)
Even as We have sent to you a Messenger from among yourselves (7:64)
The fact that the believers should accept all true messengers is mentioned in the Quran 2:286:
This messenger believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord, and so do the believers: all believe in Allah, and His angels, and His books and His Messengers, saying 'We make no distinction between any of His Messengers.'
Again, Mormon writers reaffirm the belief that there are messengers for various peoples and times as seen in a quote by LDS historian B.H. Roberts as cited by Palmer:
While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is established for the instruction of men, it is one of God's instrumentalities for making known the truth; yet God is not limited to that institution for such purposes, neither in time nor place. He raises up wise men and prophets here and there among all the children of men, of their own tongue and nationality, speaking to them through means that they can comprehend . . . Mormonism holds, then, that all the great teachers are servants of God among all nations and in all ages. They are inspired men, appointed to instruct God's children according to the conditions in the midst of which he finds them. Hence it is not obnoxious to Mormonism to regard Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher and moralist, as a servant of God, inspired to a certain degree by him to teach those great moral maxims which have governed those millions of God's children for lo! these many centuries. It is willing to regard Gautama Buddha, as an inspired servant of God, teaching a measure of the truth, at least giving to these people that twilight of truth by which they may somewhat see their way. So the Arabian prophet, that wild spirit that turned the Arabians from worshiping idols to a conception of the Creator of heaven and earth that was more excellent than their previous conception of Deity . . . Wherever God finds a soul sufficiently enlightened and pure; one with whom his Spirit can communicate, lo! he makes him a teacher of men. (Palmer 1965:8)
This concept is also reflected in Acts 10:34-35 when Peter said "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but every nation that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Mormons believe this basic premise.
In Whitney's pamphlet, Islam and Mohammed are discussed under the heading "The Case of Islam:"
Carlyle, in splendid phrasing, presents this view most strikingly, in his vivid portrayal of the coming of Mohamet to the Arabs, who were thus converted from idolatry, the worship of "sticks and stones," to the worship of one god-Allah, with Mohamet as his prophet:
To the Arab Nation it was as a birth from darkness into light; Arabia first became alive by means of it. A poor shepherd people, roaming unnoticed in its deserts since the creation of the world: A Hero-Prophet was sent down to them with a word they could believe: see, the unnoticed becomes world-notable, the small has grown world great; within one century afterwards, Arabia is at Grenada on this hand, at Delhi on that; -glancing in valor and splendor and the light of genius, Arabia shines through long ages over a great section of the world. Belief is great, life-giving. The history of a Nation becomes fruitful, soul-elevating, great, so soon as it believes. These Arabs, the man Mahomet, and that one century, -is it not as if a spark had fallen, one spark, on a world of what seemed black unnoticeable sand; but lo, the sand proves explosive powder, blazes heaven-high from Delhi to Grenada! I said, the Great Man was always as lightening out of heaven; the rest of men waited for him like fuel, and then they too would flame." (Whitney 1917:28-29)
In reference to this passage on Mohammad, Palmer continues:
It is emphasized that Mohammed descended in a direct line from Ishmael, the son of Abraham. Early Church leaders looked upon the efflorescence of this faith, and its rise to power in the seventh and eighth centuries as "recognition of the dominion of the sons of Abraham. according to blessings recorded in the Old Testament." (Palmer 1965:8-9)
Goerge A. Smith is also quoted by Palmer:
This man (Mohammad) was not doubt raised up by God on purpose to scourge the world for their idolatry. (Palmer 1965:9)
One of the strongest endorsements of Islam by a Mormon seems to come from Parley P. Pratt who is quoted by Palmer as follows:
I am aware it is not without a great deal of prejudice that we, as Europeans, and Americans, and Christians in religion and in our education, so-called, have looked upon the history of Mahomed, or even the name; and even now we may think that Mahometanism, compared with Christianity as it exists in the World, is a kind of heathenism, or something dreadful, and the other we look upon as something very pretty, only a little crippled; and for my part, I hardly know which to call the idolatrous side of the question, unless we consider Mahometanism Christianity, in one sense, and that which has been called Christianity, heathenism.
The Greek and Roman churches, which have been called Christian, and which have taken the name of Christianity as a cloak, have worshiped innumerable idols. On this account, on the simple subject of the Deity and His worship, if nothing more, I should rather incline, of the two, after all my early traditions, education, and prejudices, to the side of Mahomet for on this point he is on the side of truth and the Christian world on the side of idolatry and heathenism. . .
Therefore, in that sense, in the very foundation of their creeds they are idolaters; and instead of saying that Mahomatanism prevailed against Christianity, and that Christianity was in danger of being done away by its prevalence, we would rather say, that where Mahometanism prevailed, it taught and established one truth at least, viz., the true and living God, and so far as this went, it did preserve people from worshiping idols. And had the crescent waved on the tower of London, or on the Church of St. Paul, instead of the cross, and had Roman religion that was enforced for a series of generations, and had tradition riveted what the sword enforced, then that nation and the surrounding nations would have been worshipers of one true God instead of idols; they would have been recognized in theory, at least, whether they worshiped Him in spirit and in truth or not.
. . . with all my education in favor of Christian nations and Christian powers, and Christian institutions, so-called, with all my prejudices of early youth, and habits of thought and reading, my rational faculties would compel me to admit that the Mahometan history and Mahometan doctrine was a standard raised against the most corrupt and abominable idolatry that ever perverted our earth, found in the creeds and worship of Christians, falsely so named. (Palmer 1956:9-10)
In the other direction, Moslems have often expressed admiration for Mormons and their beliefs. One such case was a visit to the shrine in Mashhad by a Mormon sympathetic to Islam who was fluent in Persian. A few hundred Shia Mullahs gathered in one of the patios to hear the "Mormon Moslem" explain how a group in Utah shared many common beliefs. The mullahs were interested and many remarked that such a group which believed in so many shared principles must be good people. One only needed to listen to the broadcasts of speeches by Islamic leaders during Moharram and then fly to Salt Lake and listen to the LDS conference speeches to be reassured of the striking similarities of many concepts held in common by both.(Miller, personal witness, 1970-77)
When Bruce Kinney wrote about the Mormons in 1912, he titled his book "Mormonism, the Islam of America" and, although he did not emphasize the many similarities, the title itself expresses a feeling common to American and European writers.(Kinney, 1912)
(continued in Mormonism and Islam, Part 2)