Dr. Francesca Lawson teaches how we can look outward, build unity, and fulfill our roles as disciples of Christ.
In a time when unity is on everyone’s minds, Dr. Francesca Lawson (Comparative Arts & Letters) discussed religious and cultural connections we can make wherever we live that have implications around the world.
Lawson’s lecture at BYU Education Week 2021, “Finding Christ in Unexpected Places: Insights from Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism” showed how we can deepen our cultural awareness through finding commonalities with our brothers and sisters of other beliefs.
“Eternal truths are found in many of the world's cultures,” Lawson taught. “When we take the time to look for these truths prayerfully and humbly, they can inspire us to reach out to people from all backgrounds and discover our common divine connections.”
Lawson identified ways we can relate to our Buddhist neighbors by describing the life of Siddhartha Guatama, the founder of Buddhism. She explained that many of the defining events in Siddhartha’s life resemble events in Christ’s life. Like Christ, Siddhartha’s mission was prophesied at his birth. Also similar to Christ, Siddhartha sought inspiration for 40 days before the start of his ministry. During that time, both men were tempted with worldly desires, but both of them withstood temptation. Lawson also drew a comparison between Siddhartha’s mission and Christ’s mission. Siddhartha dedicated his life to searching for the reason behind human suffering, while Christ spent His life relieving human suffering.
“The more we look for Christ, the more we find Him; and the more we find Him, the stronger our testimonies will become,” Lawson said. We can look for Christ in Siddhartha’s actions, and as we do, our testimonies will be strengthened. Our similarities with our Buddhist neighbors show us how gospel truths can unify us and bring us closer to Christ.
Lawson also indicated how pondering can be a unifying principle between Latter-day Saints and those with non-religious backgrounds. Daoism, an Eastern philosophy, invites us to connect with nature and practice intentionally listening to the world around us. For Daoists, “intelligence comes from deep listening.” For Latter-day Saints, pondering is our way of deep listening. We listen deeply through prayer, and we receive intelligence in the form of promptings and answers from the Holy Ghost.
When we slow down, we can better connect with Heaven and truly listen. Lawson observed that when she practices deep listening, “the Spirit will tell [her] to do something [she] wouldn’t have otherwise done.” Daoism teaches us that listening leads to meaningful, intentional action.
When we study how eternal truths are shared between faiths, we build bridges between us and those of other faiths. “We need to understand our other brothers and sisters,” Lawson said. “We will become more loving Latter-day Saints as we do that.”
Dr. Lawson gave the second lecture in the BYU Education Week 2021 lecture series, Finding Christ in the Humanities. Professors Matthew Ancell (Comparative Arts & Letters) and Matthew Wickman (English) gave the other two lectures in the series.