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For week ended March 26, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 05Apr00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Elders Oaks & Wickman Write Chapter For Ecumenical Book On Proselyting
(Mission as dialogue means both sides teach, both learn)
National Catholic Reporter pg15 24Mar00 A6
By Paul Knitter

NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Lance B. Wickman of the Second Quorum of the Seventy have written a chapter for the new book, "Sharing the Book: Religious Perspectives on the Rights and Wrongs of Proselytism" from ecumenical publisher Orbis Books. The book contains chapters from various religions on their histories and experience balancing proselyting with respecting the human rights of those that hear their messages.

The issue is many times controversial. Recently, the Pope was criticized when he visited India and renewed the Christian call to convert India, and all Asia, to Christ. Hindu and Buddist reaction was very negative, calling the pope's summons "a war against Hindus and Buddhists," "a spiritual crime," and an expression of "the Vatican's expansionist agenda."

LDS missionaries have often faced the same criticisms, as leaders from other faiths object to their parishoners joining the LDS Church. The premise behind these objections is that different faiths should simply leave each other alone -- that no faith should attempt to get converts from the others. But not only does this fly in the face of Christian scripture, it also flies in the face of religious freedom. The basic question comes down to a basic question, "When does my right to preach infringe on your right to be left alone?"

"Sharing the Book" makes a distinction between what it calls "Proselytism" and "Evangelism." It defines proselyting as cajoling or coercing people to join a faith, while calling evangelizing (or witnessing) sharing and inviting, while respecting the freedom of the other. Under this definition, most faiths would claim to evangelize instead of proselyte. And Knitter, who reviews this book for the National Catholic Reporter, says that the chapters in the book, written by scholars from a variety of faiths, document and endorse that position.

Knitter calls the essays on 'modern mission movements' (including Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman's chapter) provocative and engaging. Noting that the LDS Church has grown by 50% each decade since the 1950s, he says this clearly shows that "vigorous preaching, combined with firm resolve to avoid coercion can lead to impressive, often phenomenal, increase in membership."

Knitter goes on to say that the book can give members of any religion a valuable lesson. He describes this lesson as "the difference between mere tolerance and genuine openness, between just witnessing and also being witnessed to." According to Knitter, those engaged in proselyting should remember, "If I think I always have the final word, I'm not going to be a very good listener. And if I'm only tolerant and nice to you, it may be difficult to maintain that attitude when the power shifts to my side and I'm in control."

Among LDS missionaries, this lesson is clearly taught, but not in the same language. Instead, missionaries are simply taught to "love the people."


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Sharing the Book More about "Sharing the Book: Religious Perspectives on the Rights and Wrongs of Proselytism" at

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information