On Tuesday, May 22, 2018, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) attended a beautiful Iftar dinner hosted by Multicultural Mosaic Foundation (“Mosaic”), and its President, Ismail Akbulut. The purpose of the event was to deepen friendships while increasing mutual understanding, among local Latter-day Saints and Muslims.
In the tradition of Islam, an Iftar is the evening meal in which Muslims complete their daily fast as part of their holy month of Ramadan. Throughout this special month, Muslims strive to more fully observe the principles of virtuous and generous living that are central to their beliefs. For example, in his highly informative opening presentation (following a welcome given by Brother Akbulut), Mosaic’s Interfaith Director, Dr. Ismail Demirkan, explained that for devout Muslims the Ramadan fast is about abstaining from more than just from food and water, but from other more worldly activities and sin–indicating that one’s words, thoughts, and treatment of others receive greater attention during Ramadan.
In addition to fasting, another of the five pillars of Islam consists of almsgiving, which is the subject of particularly heightened attention during Ramadan, according to Dr. Demirkan. In fact, citing the Prophet Muhammad, he explained: “ you will never be a true believer if your neighbor goes to bed hungry and you go to bed with a full stomach.” In his overview of the Muslim faith, Dr. Demerkin also made reference to the other three pillars of Islam, e.g., declaration of faith, prayer, and pilgrimage (to Mecca).
Following Dr. Dermirkin’s remarks, Elder Thomas T. Priday, one of two Colorado-based Area Seventies for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shared some of his own thoughts regarding fasting in the Latter-day Saint tradition and made reference to many other areas of common belief between Muslims and Latter-day Saints. Citing recent remarks by LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson, Elder Priday affirmed “that all people are God’s precious children and therefore our brothers and sisters” and that “all people, organizations and governmental units [must] work with greater civility, eliminating prejudice of all kinds and focusing more on the many areas and interests that we all have in common.” Noting the blessings that enter our lives as we practice fasting and prayer, Elder Priday closed with a story of an extended family member who overcame the great challenge of quitting smoking only after the power of heartfelt fasting and prayer were offered by family members on his behalf.
At about a quarter past 8 p.m., just as the sun was setting, a Muslim brother went to the front of the room and offered a stirring call to prayer, which was effectively the combination of a pleasant song and chant expressing praise for and the greatness of God. Thereafter, all guests were invited to enjoy the evening meal, which began with enjoying fresh dates, followed by the main dinner courses and dessert. All the while, local Latter-day Saints–including many members of local stake presidencies and public affairs leaders across the Denver metropolitan area–enjoyed the sweet conversation and fellowship of their gracious Muslim hosts.
Of the event, President William Thunell, First Counselor in the Arvada Stake Presidency, expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to hear the insightful presentations that were provided and to learn of the many similarities between our two faiths, rather than focusing on differences as can often be the case in the world today. President Thunell added, “the highlight for me was to visit with our hosts at our table and to ask them questions about their faith, and how it operates in their lives, and in particular to hear how they practice repentance and seek forgiveness.”
Denver North Director of Public Affairs for the LDS Church, Jonathan Toronto, added: “We are so grateful for this special invitation extended by our remarkable brothers and sisters of the Muslim faith, for the opportunity to feel of their love and fellowship in such a personal setting, and we look forward to additional opportunities to engage in these sorts of deeply meaningful and enriching interfaith events with our friends of other faiths.”