Many would consider Rexburg a “Mormon town.” The town was first settled by Mormon pioneers, in 1883 and has since flourished, becoming home to an LDS university, a temple, and several LDS stakes.
But there is another side to the story. In the shadow of a large LDS majority, there those of other faiths with there own unique challenges, perspectives, and a love for this community. I spoke with several religious leaders and BYU-Idaho students of other faiths, and got their perspective on what it’s like to be in Rexburg, and be of another faith.
Schada Alkamari is a BYU-I student from Morocco. She is also a Muslim. She fell in love with BYU-Idaho because she felt it promoted values very much like her own. But it hasn’t always been without struggle.
Schada relates, “I was kind of shocked at how narrow-minded people can be sometimes and very judgmental. I would have thought people would understand what it is to be a minority, but they didn’t, because here they’re a majority. Sometimes they get caught in the idea that if it’s my true church, then if you’re from another church, that means that your church is false. Sometimes it’s subconsciously but sometimes it is consciously.”
Says Pastor Joe of Grace Baptist Church, “I think sometimes we just naturally, when someone is different, it’s easy for us not to try to just reach out and maybe learn a little better understanding. I spose that can really go both ways, don’t you think?”
Despite the challenges that those of non-LDS community sometimes face, most contribute positively to the community and create bonds of friendship with their LDS neighbors.
Says Father Camilo Garcia of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, “My invitation for them is to welcome them to come here to celebrate with us and to share with us what they have and what they celebrate as well. Each one of us and each one of them can contribute to the common good of our city of Rexburg.”
Says Pastor Joe, “I’m here to promote what I believe is the Gospel in Christ Jesus. So I think we can work together and live together and understand our differences, but still understand each other on an individual level.”
In the end, most agreed that it was most important to keep an open mind, learn about other beliefs, and be accepting of others.
Says Schada, “People have different parts of truth. So we just need to accept that idea. We need to not come across with the ‘You’re wrong, I’m right.’ Just accept the idea that there’s a different point of view and we have to learn from it. I can learn these things, and so can they, from other religions.”