Samuel Hislop is a journalist and public affairs professional. He is also featured in our new video series, Hope Works, as one of six presenters who share interesting insights about hope and faith and how it works in their lives. We asked him to tell us more about the truths that can be found across different cultures and religions.
In your presentation, you mentioned that God wants us to build bridges. How would you recommend we build bridges in daily life?
Learning from others is one of the graces of life. God has put many wonderful people on my path—including a wife, three daughters, parents, siblings, in-laws, colleagues at work, and great books—that expand my mind and teach me the dignity of difference.
I would encourage Latter-day Saints to do two things. First, expand your reading list beyond Mormon themes. The Church’s many published products are wonderful, no doubt, but we make a mistake when we limit ourselves to those materials. Second, be friendly and kind to those who think differently than you do—whether they are Mormon or not. What we sometimes think is a homogeneous membership in our own congregations is really quite heterogeneous when we get to know people.
Across many differing belief systems, having a relationship with God matters. What advice would you give to those wondering how to develop one?
In 2015, vice president of the United States Joe Biden described the comforting value of faith in his life in this way: “For me, my religion is an enormous sense of solace. … It’s just the place you can go.”
I like to look at a personal relationship with God in this way. I find great comfort and solace in my personal prayers, in the quiet time I spend alone with God and my thoughts. Even if nobody else “gets” me, I know He does. My relationship with God stands independent of any other thing in this world. He understands things about me that nobody else understands—even things even I don’t understand about me.
If you have struggled to develop this relationship, keep in mind it’s a relationship we can engage in at any time, in any place, for any reason or no reason at all. You’ll come to know Him as a loving Father who wants the best for you. A favorite book says it this way: “Don’t forget, God loves us exactly the way we are, and God loves us too much to let us stay like this” (Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies, 135).
How has what you’ve learned about the cultures and teachings of other faiths enriched your life?
Our evangelical Christian friends use the word “calling” in a different way than Mormons usually do. For us, a “calling” is the Church assignment we have at that moment. For them, it’s our calling in life to do what God created us to do (whether in a church setting or elsewhere).
Of course the service we do in the Church is valuable and essential, but there is also a broader meaning to the word.
For example, Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California (and author of The Purpose Driven Life) describes the importance of understanding your life calling: “The more you understand your call from God, the less you’ll be worried about what God has called other people to do. Any time spent envying other people is wasted time. Just be who God made you to be!"
Understanding who we are and what our individual contributions in this world are to be (both in and out of the Church) is one of the most liberating and joyous things we can learn in this life.