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We stand with Mormons as Christ's witnesses, says Utah's Catholic bishop

Published September 21, 2012 5:59 pm

Religion • Wester's speech at UVU spells out similarities, differences between the two faiths.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Orem • Mormons and Catholics don't see eye to eye on theology, but they stand "shoulder to shoulder as witnesses of Jesus Christ" in the public square, Utah's Catholic bishop told nearly 2,000 mostly LDS students Tuesday.

The Rev. John C. Wester, speaking at an LDS Institute of Religion devotional at Utah Valley University, pointed to his presence on the Orem campus as a "wonderful sign of the ongoing collaboration between our faiths" and another "important step in interfaith relations."

In a half-hour speech punctuated by humorous and poignant personal experiences with Latter-day Saints, Wester detailed Catholic foundational beliefs as well as aspects that dovetailed or diverged from Mormon teachings.

Catholics believe that humans "are created to be one with God forever," he said, that they are capable of sinning, and that God restored humanity to a "right relationship with him" by sending his son Jesus Christ to suffer, die and be resurrected.

As part of the church's teachings, Wester said, Catholics maintain that marriage is between a man and a woman, a belief that the church has a "right to say so" publicly.

Mormons have a different understanding, he said, of human nature, the nature of God and scripture.

But Latter-day Saints and Catholics share a belief in the centrality of Christ and the efficacy of prayer, that humans are expected to be good stewards of the Earth, and, Wester said, that family life and Christian marriage are "not open to fads or new conventions."

Both faiths have been at the forefront in the fight against same-sex marriage.

Together, they also heed the call to help the poor and needy.

Wester noted that before Thomas S. Monson became LDS Church president in 2008, he attended every fundraising dinner for Catholic Community Services. Monson even did so, the bishop said, the week he ascended to the helm of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The way the two churches come together, Wester said, "could be a model [for the rest of the nation] of working for the common good."

Debra Hernandez, a Catholic student, liked hearing her bishop spell out her faith for Mormons.

Michelle Gifford, a Mormon student, "felt [Wester's] spirit and love for the LDS community."

Later, UVU President Matthew Holland said the Catholic leader's address was part of the school's effort to be "an inclusive institution." He also announced the creation of an "ecumenical reflection center" in the new student life building going up on campus.

pstack@sltrib.com