Muslims and Mormons: Howard R. Driggs Memorial Lecture

SUU Provost Bradley J. Cook gave the Howard R. Driggs Memorial Lecture as part of Founders Week on March 20, 2019 in the Hunter Conference Center.

“It is truly a privilege and an honor to be a part of Founder’s Week,” Cook said. “I love our founding story.”

This was also Cook’s final lecture as SUU Provost, as he will be taking the job of President of Snow College this coming fall.

Having been the Provost of SUU for over 10 years, Cook titled his remarks, “Mormons and Muslims: A Kinship of Two Traditions.” He addressed the similarities between Islamic beliefs and those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also widely known as the Mormon Church.

Cook is an expert on the similarities between Islamic and Mormon ideologies, having grown up in Saudi Arabia and serving as President of the Abu Dhabi Women’s College in the United Arab Emirates. Cook also graduated from Snow College and has lived in Utah, a state known for its Mormon communities, for several years.

He began his lecture by referencing the massacre in New Zealand on March 15.

“This is happening more and more with people being identified because of their religious affiliation and being killed,” he said. “This [should] be personal for most of you. This history is our history.”

Cook compared the persecution that both faiths have endured both in modern times and in the 1800s. He referred to his ancestors who were religious refugees and joined the Mormon faith during their persecution after its founding.

Ancestors of Cook wrote, “What did we do? Why us? We’re just trying to live our lives.” Cook also responded with his own comments saying, “Mormons know only too well what it means to be intimidated, to be despised, to be a threat to the republic.”

While serving as the President at Abu Dhabi, Cook was a religious minority himself, just as the Islamic and Mormon faiths are in the United States. Being raised Christian, Cook said that he never had a sense of Islamophobia during his time in the Middle East.

“[Muslims] had not problem telling me ‘Merry Christmas.’ They had no problem honoring my religious tradition. They allowed me to worship freely… Of the 12 or 13 years that I lived there, I have never once felt threatened. I never once felt fearful because I was a non-Muslim.”

A major point Cook emphasized was the similarity of the beliefs between the two traditions, as well as how leaders of the Mormon faith have respected Muhammad, the founding prophet of the Islamic faith.

Cook pointed out that several verses in the Quran, the Islamic holy scriptures, and the Book of Mormon, the churches main scripture, point toward the same idea of having a messenger or warner for people, much like a prophet.

It was also noted that many leaders within the Mormon faith have regarded Muhammad as “an inspired man,” as Joseph Fielding Smith, the Mormon faiths tenth prophet since its founding, put it.

The lecture was finished with a question and answer session, where he was asked what the greatest gift the Mormon community can give to the Islamic community was.

“[The Islamic people] are a gift. They are a great people. I think the greatest gift is to allow them to show us their humanity in all of the complexity that we expect others to show to us. The greatest gift that they gave me as a non-Muslim was respect… They deserve the same.”

Those who wish to listen to Cook’s full remarks can find them here.


Story by Kurt Meacham 
Photo Courtesy of Kurt Meacham