Building Unity Through Interfaith Understanding and Cooperation
In April 1998, at the 168th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, President Gordon B. Hinckley issued this edict to members of his church:
We can respect other religions, and must do so. We must recognize the great good they accomplish. We must teach our children to be tolerant and friendly toward those not of our faith. We can and do work with those of other religions in the defense of those values which have made our civilization great and our society distinctive. … We can and do work with those of other religions in various undertakings in the everlasting fight against social evils which threaten the treasured values which are so important to all of us. These people are not of our faith, but they are our friends, neighbors, and co-workers in a variety of causes. We are pleased to lend our strength to their efforts.
The LDS Church, long known the world over for its impressive welfare and humanitarian assistance programs, was joining its values of community service to those of interfaith cooperation.
With more than 47,000 members, the LDS Church in the Sacramento area has a long history of humanitarian service to the community—canning food for area food banks, volunteering at homeless and women’s shelters, assembling humanitarian and disaster-relief kits, building Habitat for Humanity homes, organizing community clean-up days and participating in literally thousands of other service activities over the years. As the LDS Church has embraced its interfaith service mission, Elder Richard Montgomery has been both an outstanding example of and a catalyst for these efforts in the Sacramento area. By action and through leadership, Montgomery has worked to expand cooperation and understanding among different religions.
Born in Utah and a life-long member of the LDS Church, Montgomery served 28 years in the Air Force, as both a pilot and a commander of the 66th Aerial Port Squadron, and received the Meritorious Service Medal twice. Montgomery also worked as an Operations Analyst at Aerojet General Corp., and an Assistant Executive Secretary to the California School Board Association. He has been an avid skier for many years, serving on Donner Ski Patrol, and certified as an Alpine Race Official. He was selected as a Downhill Race Official during the 2002 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Salt Lake City.
Throughout his life, Montgomery has been involved in his church, as have his wife and three children. He served as a Bishop for 12 years, Stake President for 10, Public Affairs Director for eight years, and in interfaith service for five years. As president of the Sacramento Interfaith Service Bureau for the past three years, Montgomery has encouraged members of the his church to reach out to others in the faith community through service and humanitarian assistance.
Dennis Holland, LDS Church member and Director of Public Affairs for the Sacramento area, said of these efforts: “Richard Montgomery has been a great ambassador for us to our brothers and sisters in the other faith communities. We seem to get so involved in our own religious activities trying to make a difference in our community that we are often perceived as isolating ourselves from those in other religions. Brother Montgomery, with his friendly and caring manner, is able to be the example to others that all of us, as members of the Church, would like to be. He is able to remind us that we, as members of our Church, need to be interested and take part in the activities of our other religious friends in the area. It’s great tohave someone like Richard who can remind us that in spite of differences in religious views, we are all children of a loving Supreme Being.”
In just the past year, members of the LDS Church have responded many times to this call to duty. The church hosted interfaith picnics this year, and an interfaith consortium in South Placer County. The LDS Cannery in Sacramento has been opened for interdenominational canning, often in support of community food banks. An LDS choir participates regularly in the Sacramento Interfaith Service Bureau Musicale, as well as the interfaith Valley Choral Society, and a children’s choir performed at the interfaith Call for Unity event in 2003. Members joined in united prayer with Loomis Interfaith Group and participated in the Woodland Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. The LDS Church organized an interfaith effort to collect trees to reforest an old grove in Jerusalem. Members served meals with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis, and helped repair the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in North Highlands after it was damaged by fire. The LDS Relief Society joined with the New Testament Baptist Church of North Highlands to assist with AIDS relief in South Africa, and members opened their homes for respite to South African pastors who desperately needed a break from their daily struggle with the AIDS epidemic.
Richard Montgomery’s extensive interfaith service work, as well as that of the LDS Church, will be recognized with the Building Unity Award at the third annual Call for Unity interfaith event on September 11th at the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. The award is given annually in recognition of a person’s efforts to bring the faith community of the Greater Sacramento area together in understanding and service to others. Montgomery was selected because he exemplifies the highest qualities of his faith tradition, as well as the shared interfaith goals of building a society marked by compassion, peace, justice and concern for a sustainable world.
Dr. Metwalli Amer, Imam of Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims (SALAM), and last year’s recipient of the Building Unity Award, said of Montgomery: “My friend, my brother, and my fellow in interfaith! Richard has been my role model in being a unifying force among diverse groups. With his big smile and shining face, we could not do anything except listen to his wisdom and experience. I am proud of being his associate in various interfaith activities for many years, working to make Sacramento a better place for everyone to live in.”