Toronto, recalling her exposure to Islam during past travels to Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other Muslim countries, found support for hosting an iftar.
These communal meals break the daily fast at sundown during Islam's observance of Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer, scripture study and charity (May 26-June 24 this year) for all devout Muslims. Figs, fruit and water initially are used to break the day's fast, followed by a time of prayer before the main meal.
The Yale Ward found enthusiastic acceptance when it approached several area mosques — the Utah Islamic Center, the Islamic Society of Bosniaks and the Muslim Community Center — about the interfaith event.
Those mosques plan to bring such iftar dishes as "biryani," a spicy concoction of rice, meats, dried fruits, eggs and yogurt, as well as myriad traditional foods from a range of Muslim ethnicities.
Mormon participants will share side dishes, salads and, Toronto expects, open minds and hearts, blended with a willingness to make new friends.
Imam Shuaib Din, of the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy, sees sharing iftar with his Mormon neighbors for the first time as an important milestone.
"There are many interfaith opportunities throughout the year — the Interfaith Roundtable, 'Meet the Muslims' open houses by local mosques, and monthly interfaith prayer services — but this is the only interfaith event I know of pertaining to non-Muslims hosting Muslims for an iftar breaking of the fast," says the imam, who has served in Utah for 17 years.
Toronto agrees that the two religions have much in common, including "an incredible number of similarities" — among them strong family values, a founding prophet, avoidance of alcohol, clergy largely drawn from the laity, charitable outreaches and, of course, fasting — "in our devotion to faith and the values we hold. This [iftar] is very fertile ground to understand each other better."
Adds Din: "Muslims, in general, feel very comfortable living in Utah, [and] we as a community would like to reciprocate and hopefully be hosts as gracious as they are to us."
For Kristen Hodges, of the Gregson Ward, organizing an iftar dinner grew out of preparation nearly two years ago for a lesson she gave to women in her ward's Relief Society on the subject of fasting.
"I did some research on other religious traditions that incorporate fasting," she recalls, "so that we could reimagine our own [LDS] fast — how they do it and what it means to other faiths."
Hodges came across a newspaper account of some Southern California Mormon congregations that had staged iftar events. She shared that with her listeners, and the notion may have ended there.
Then, this January, Hodges, her husband and a group of other non-Muslims attended a Somali mosque's Friday evening services. "It was an attempt to let them know they were welcome in our community," she says.
In the months that followed, Hodges thought more about the iftar dinners she had read about.
"I decided to try to get one started here," she says. "My bishop thought it was a great idea; he had attended one years ago . . . and he loved the experience."