David Peck—“Teaching about virtues in other faiths and cultures”

07.13.2017 | Blair Hodges

The Maxwell Institute is delighted to welcome Dr. David D. Peck from Brigham Young University–Idaho as one of our 2017 visiting scholars.

2017 Visiting Fellow David D. Peck

David D. Peck is a Latter-day Saint scholar who loves learning and teaching about Islam at BYU-Idaho. Hence his dismay when he heard about another instructor at the school who showed a YouTube video purporting to depict a Muslim suicide bombing. Peck described the video as “gratuitous and unrelated to content or course objectives,” adding that it seemed “designed to promote hatred, to increase fear, to denigrate Islam and Muslims.” ((David D. Peck, “Cultivating Tolerance, Appreciation, and Respect for Others: Bringing the Gospel into Classroom Discussion,” Perspective 17/2 (Spring 2017): 17–20.)) Although Peck believes it was an extreme and perhaps rare example, he also knows that classrooms sometimes reinforce, rather than intelligently dissect, stereotypes. That’s why he recently published an article on classroom discussion of other faiths in BYU-Idaho’s Perspective magazine. Peck suggests not only should teachers avoid being inaccurate about other religions, they should actively cultivate goodwill and find common ground:
We can teach about virtues in other faiths and cultures, following the instructional example of Jesus: teaching about good Samaritans, about Roman centurions with faith greater than all Israel, about Publicans who were justified in their prayers, and prostitutes who loved and worshiped Jesus, washing his feet with sincere kisses and tears while anointing them with precious ointments. In our modern environment, might not Jesus have substituted virtuous Muslims for virtuous Samaritans? Might we not likewise find examples of faith, steadfastness, generosity, love, and honesty in the other, and bring those gospel-based teachings into our classroom instruction?” ((Ibid., 20.))
Throughout his article, Peck reminds BYU-Idaho educators that they are charged to “bring the gospel into the classroom.” With that charge in mind, Peck offers another Golden Rule: “Howsoever you would that others speak of your religion, speak even so of theirs.” Not that difficulties should simply be avoided—Peck observes that “Jesus critiqued, criticized, sought for and praised the virtues found in persons of other cultures…We should do no less in our courses and in our personal lives.” By doing so, Peck says instructors and students can better live up to what Joseph Smith called “one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’…Friendship.” ((Ibid., 18, 20.)) Peck’s research at the Maxwell Institute focuses on comparative theology—particularly, shared concepts of pre-mortal existence and ontological progression found in Mormonism and Sufism, basing his work on over five years of extensive conversations and interviews with Sufis of the South Asian-based Chishtiyya Sufi Order. You can read David D. Peck’s article, “Cultivating Tolerance, Appreciation, and Respect for Others: Bringing the Gospel into Classroom Discussion,” here. To learn more about Peck’s research at the Maxwell Institute, follow us here on the MI Blog, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. He’ll also be joining us soon on the Maxwell Institute Podcast.