There are a lot of myths both inside and outside Mormondom about the LDS claim to be the “one true Church.” That claim is difficult for people of other faiths to accept for obvious reasons. But some Mormons may struggle with it as well because it may seem difficult to reconcile that claim with our belief in a just and merciful God who loves all his children equally.
I do not expect it will ever be “easy” to accept the “one true Church” claim. However, I think Church members can unfortunately make it more difficult to accept the “one true Church” claim than is necessary because they jump to some unnecessary conclusions about what the “one true Church” claim actually means.
In order to correctly understand what the “one true Church” claim truly means, we first need to be clear about what that claim does not mean. Although the LDS Church unapologetically claims to be the exclusive holder of priesthood keys, Mormons do not claim any monopoly on truth or communication with God. To the contrary, Mormons believe that God calls and guides leaders of all faiths to deliver truth to his children and accomplish his great work, and that God loves and guides all who sincerely seek him, regardless of what religion or church they belong to. The following is my attempt to bust some of the many myths about what the “one true Church” claim means by using the words of Church leaders and Church publications.
Myth: God stopped communicating with mankind for hundreds of years during “the Apostasy,” when the priesthood was not found upon the earth.
“The line of priesthood authority was broken. But mankind was not left in total darkness or completely without revelation or inspiration. The idea that with the Crucifixion of Christ the heavens were closed and that they opened in the First Vision is not true. The Light of Christ would be everywhere present to attend the children of God; the Holy Ghost would visit seeking souls. The prayers of the righteous would not go unanswered.” Elder Boyd K. Packer 
“All down the ages . . . good and great men, not bearing the Priesthood, but possessing profundity of thought, great wisdom, and a desire to uplift their fellows, have been sent by the Almighty into many nations, to give them, not the fulness of the Gospel, but that portion of truth that they were able to receive and wisely use.” Elder Orson F. Whitney, quoted by Elder Howard W. Hunter 
Myth: In Joseph Smith’s day, the Christian churches were completely corrupt and were an abomination to the Lord.
“Informed Latter-day Saints do not argue that historic Christianity lost all truth or became completely corrupt. The orthodox churches may have lost the ‘fullness’ of the gospel, but they did not lose all of it nor even most of it. . . . [T]he actual LDS view,  is that the orthodox churches are incomplete rather than corrupt. It is their postbiblical creeds that are identified in Joseph Smith’s first vision as an ‘abomination,’ but certainly not their individual members or their members’ biblical beliefs.” Stephen E. Robinson (as quoted on www.lds.org)
Myth: Because Mormons are the only people currently guided by true prophets with the priesthood authority, they are the only people eligible to receive God’s inspiration.
“[W]e claim that God’s inspiration is not limited to the Latter-day Saints.” Elder James E. Faust
“All men share an inheritance of divine light. God operates among his children in all nations, and those who seek God are entitled to further light and knowledge, regardless of their race, nationality, or cultural traditions.” Elder Howard W. Hunter
“[T]he Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have.” Book of Mormon
Myth: As God’s covenant people, Mormons are the people God has chosen to perform his great and marvelous work.
“God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people. … We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.” Elder Orson F. Whitney, quoted by Elder Ezra Taft Benson
Myth: Although well-intentioned, leaders of other religions and churches are unwitting servants of the devil who are deceiving and leading God’s children astray.
“We believe that most religious leaders and followers are sincere believers who love God and understand and serve him to the best of their abilities. We are indebted to the men and women who kept the light of faith and learning alive through the centuries to the present day. . . . We honor them as servants of God.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks
“The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals. … We believe that God has given and will give to all peoples sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation.” Elder James E. Faust
Myth: People belong to either the LDS church or the “Church of the Devil,” also known as the “great and abominable Church.”
“[I]ndividual orientation to the Church of the Lamb or to the great and abominable church is not by membership but by loyalty. Just as there Latter-day Saints who belong to the great and abominable church because of their loyalty to Satan and his life-style, so there are members of other churches who belong to the Lamb because of their loyalty to him and his life-style. Membership is based more on who has your heart than on who has your records.” Stephen E. Robinson (Ensign magazine)
“We must understand . . . that not everyone is going to accept our doctrine of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the most part, our neighbors not of our faith are good, honorable people-every bit as good and honorable as we strive to be. They care about their families, just like we do. They want to make the world a better place, just like we do. They are kind and loving and generous and faithful, just like we seek to be.” Elder M. Russell Ballard
Myth: If a person doesn’t join the Church after learning about it, that person must not be honest in heart.
“Perhaps the Lord needs  men on the outside of His Church to help it along. They . . . can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else. … Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the truth; while others remain unconverted . . . the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose.” Elder Orson F. Whitney, quoted by Elder Ezra Taft Benson
 Boyd K. Packer, “The Light of Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 2005, 11 (quoted on Church website at: http://www.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/).  Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, Apr. 1921, pp. 32-33 [quoted by Howard W. Hunter, “The Gospel-A Global Faith,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 18].  Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 61 (quoted on Church website at http://www.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/).  Elder James E. Faust, “Communion with the Holy Spirit,” Ensign, May 1980, 12 (emphasis added).  Howard W. Hunter, “The Gospel-A Global Faith,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 18 (emphasis added).  Alma 29:8 (emphasis added).  Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, April 1928, p. 59 [quoted by Ezra Taft Benson, “Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints,” Ensign, Jul 1972, 59].  Dallin H. Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign, May 1995, 84.  Elder James E. Faust, “Communion with the Holy Spirit,” Ensign, May 1980, 12 (emphasis added).  Stephen E. Robinson, “Warring against the Saints of God,” Ensign, Jan 1988, 34.  M. Russell Ballard, “Doctrine of Inclusion,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 35.  Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, April 1928, p. 59 [quoted by Ezra Taft Benson, “Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints,” Ensign, Jul 1972, 59].
Stephen Robinson is keeping awfully good company these days…
Good thoughts. Well done.
Incidentally, the notion of “one true church” itself does not match the concept expressed in D&C 1. “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth with which I the Lord, am well pleased…” I once presented at Sunstone on the topic of why this verse has 29 words instead of three or four. Two points: Biblical passages using “true” and “living” imagery, such as “the true vine,” “living waters,” “truth and life,” “the true God, the Living God,” “the living way,” “tree of life,” “living way,” etc. match the themes of D&C 1 verse for verse and point for point. The “and living” therefore is not a mere rhetorical flourish, but actually means something. Together, “true and living” is a merism, a succinct way of expressing the themes of D&C 1 as a whole. The Biblical images describe revelation, priesthood, sacraments and temple ordinances, which in fact are the things that set the LDS gathering apart.
Second, notice that the “only” is qualified by the phrase “which which I, the Lord, am well pleased…” which makes the distinction “well pleasingness,” relative to the “true and living” epithet. The rest of D&C 1 expressly, bluntly states that the LDS faith is incompletely, imperfect, and the leaders are subject to error, which shall be made manifest. In D&C 1, the LDS faith is expressly non-exclusive with respect to truth, virtue, and revelation. Which means that such things have nothing to do with the actual LDS distinctions as defined by the Lord in D&C 1.
The picture in D&C 1, if understood properly, is far more robust and tolerant than the non-scriptural common places or “one true church,” or “only true church,” or even “one and only true church.” I find D&C 1 quite astonishing and accurate in the ways it sets us apart, and and in the way it sets realistic expectations for what I should see in both the LDS, and non-LDS peoples.
Fantastic post. There’s nothing that bugs me more than hearing things like “mormons think that [name of church] is in apostosy and all of its members are abominable whore of the earth who will go to hell!”. In my experience the church has preached nothing but God’s love.
We had a great lesson that referenced “the whore of all the earth” yesterday. The word for church that was used just means a group or organization of like-minded individuals, not necessarily a church. Also, the two characteristics of this “church” were idolatry and immorality. It seems to me that idolatry is anytime you place what men think above what God thinks; therefore, many individuals within the LDS church also belong to the “church” described as the “whore of all the earth.” I like to think that most do not, but I think we’ve all attended a meeting or two in that “church.”
The real question about the “one true church” is the necessity of the ordinances being performed and whether or not authority to perform the ordinances is important. This was a problem that plagued many early US protestant churches because the Anglican church was too remote for them to pragmatically be able to ordain ministers in the US, so over time various churches dismissed the idea of authority in 2 ways: 1) you could “transfer” membership or even ordination from other faiths, or 2) some simply said that “believing” was enough to constitute ordination or that ordination was a “traditional” concept that could be applied without authority.
Excellent post. We have less to fear from other churches and more to fear from the growing secularism and atheism. Anything that draws people closer to God and the Savior is a good thing. And should be held in high esteem. So they don’t have it all correct.
Do we as individual members of the church have it all correct?
“God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people.”
That is a great quote. It is something I have believed for a long time. Now I have Orson F. Whitney and Ezra Taft Benson to back me up in Gospel Doctrine when I talk about why the world needs Buddhism or Islam, for example. : )
This is a nice collection of quotes, and a post worthy of inclusion in a SS or PH/RS manual. So I applaud your efforts here.
Having said that, it really doesn’t refute the “one true church” claim, does it? At best, it tempers the claim. But in the end, according to our doctrine, none of the other churches have the “fullness” of the gospel, nor the priesthood… so our church is still more true than your church. In short, according to Mormons, this is still the one true church.
Jeff Spector, not only should we not “fear” secularism and atheism, I think we have a lot to learn from secularism/atheism. The innumerable points of view that swirl around world today cannot be crudely separated into the camps of believers (in God/Jesus) and non-believers. Though I am not an Athiest, I’ve learned a lot from the Athiests I know (and/or have read). I’d like to think Mormons accept truth, come from whence it may.
I should clarify. I don’t really fear secularism because I beleive strongly in the separation of church and state. I want the government, for example to be secular. I want the schools to be secular. Where I have a problem with that concept is where secularism is preached as “anything goes.” I want my children to learn my moral beliefs from me and I don’t want them attacked and ridiculed in the school or by the government.
I do wonder what you can possibly learn from an atheist? Since it is the religion of nothing matters and we have no reason to be here. But I am open to learn about it.
Thanks for the clarification on Secularists. But it seems Mormon Matters needs a good post from an Athiest. It seems that this group of people are the most maligned and misunderstood of all groups on the believing-nonbelieving spectrum, even more than Mormons.
A lot of my current faith is crash-tested by Atheist arguments. Atheists offer up some of the most classic and important questions you need to think about in order to have a spiritual foundation. If you are afraid to think about “Why God lets bad things happen to good people”, then you have things to learn from an atheist. I feel like a God worthy of worship probably has answers to the great atheist questions, and those questions are useful in weeding out destructive notions.
Andrew,its interesting just how much the rhetoric has changed over the decades because when one reads statements from various leaders of the Brigham Young to Joseph Fielding Smith generation the general message is a very different one. Back then it was a ‘we are Saints, all others are sinners’ kind of discourse. This is especially so on the corrupt churches issue since JSH 1: 19 says that 1) they were all wrong 2) all their creeds were an ABOMINATION in his sight 3) those professors were all corrupt 4) may have a form of Godliness but deny the power thereof. This is all very strong language attacking those ‘other’ churches -baptists included! I can see why they would be offended still even if Elders Packer & Oaks are trying to reach out to them.
Maybe todays’ leaders, especially the Oaks/Fausts of this generation, realize that they need to ease up on the ‘they are bad’ talk.
(But I loved the Whitney quote: We have no quarrel with the Gentiles!
See, we can ignore the Jews too, since they are all corrupt, and claim our true role as Israelites and talk down to those ‘Gentiles’ -just being cynical. )
I think we have an answer to “why God lets bad things happen to good people.” I am not sure we have a good answer to “Why God lets good things happen to bad people.”
I think that atheism is a relatively new movement. It seems throughout history, man has sought to beleive in a higher power than himself. Some were oriented toward the natural elements, some toward a more divine overseer and some toward an earthly figurehead.
The problem I have with atheism is the inability to understand where their morals come from if not from religion.
If we have no reason to be here on earth, then why follow any rules? If it is all happenstance, what is the final outcome?
Personally, I agree that atheists are more friends than enemies to the church (perhaps to any church). Why? I don’t buy that I got my morals from religion. When I questioned God’s existence, I still believed in being honest, not harming other people, living a good life for its own sake, and serving others because it’s enjoyable and relationships are important. Religion isn’t like the superego, holding us back from torturing animals, looting, or cheating on spouses. Principles like chastity can still hold appeal because it’s a way to be disease free, not complicate your life and others’ needlessly with pregnancy, etc.
In fact, atheists, unlike religionists, really have to answer the question about the nature of human beings. Religionists are often concerned with the nature of God and may not emphasize what the “natural man” is like.
Jeff – I think the answer to why God lets good things happen to bad people is the same as why God lets bad things happen to good people. Free agency, and its subsequent effects.
In response to:
”Personally, I agree that atheists are more friends than enemies to the church (perhaps to any church). Why? I don’t buy that I got my morals from religion.”
I completely agree with this. Religion thinks it holds the patent on all things good and it’s non-sense.
Religion is only one of many venues where values and morals are learned. And as we see from present and past, not all things taught in the house of religion are good and just.
“Religion is only one of many venues where values and morals are learned. And as we see from present and past, not all things taught in the house of religion are good and just.”
I think this is a complete fallacy made up by atheists to try to fit into society that is based on belief in God.
They say, ” But we have morals too.” And I don’t doubt that they do. But where is this moral code that they adhere to derived? Well, it is mostly derived from religion. Most modern governments and societies with the exception of communism were set up with a basic set of laws which came from their religion.
Those rules to live by are thousands of years old. While some are not always obeyed, it is beyond doubt from whence they came. It is certainly true of the US.
Certainly, it is acceptable for people to question the existance of God and to beleive whatever they want. But, let’s not be naive that their moral code comes from anywhere other than religious history.
To me atheism represents the following:
1. No higher power to answer to for behavior, so anything goes.
2. No need to obey rules because there are no consequences for actions.
3. No need to be charitable because there is no reason to.
4. Eat, drink and be merry, for tommorrow we die. Once you’re dead, you’re dead, so go for it.
Now, someone is going to tell me that atheists are not like the above. And I accept that. Which also tells me that they are not as much as atheists as they profess.
I think you and I met at your parents’ home on Friday night, if you’re the same Matt Thurston.
Regarding your statement: “But in the end, according to our doctrine, none of the other churches have the ‘fullness’ of the gospel, nor the priesthood… so our church is still more true than your church. In short, according to Mormons, this is still the one true church.”
I agree with your statement. However, I think we Mormons need to realize that although we may have more truth AVAILABLE to us, that does not mean we’ve individually ABSORBED more truth into our lives. I know Buddhists who I have sometimes considered to be better “Christians” than I because they have been so successful at absorbing the truths they have into their daily lives.
In the end, making use of the truth you have (whether inside or outside Mormonism) is what matters most. Patting ourselves on the back for having more truth available does us no good if we aren’t bothering to absorb it.
In response to:
I think this is a complete fallacy made up by atheists to try to fit into society that is based on belief in God.…and the rest of your post.
Hmmm….What to say other than quite frankly you are wrong on so many levels.
What are your thoughts on philosophy, much of which pre-dates Christ?
Jeff – I don’t agree, although I find your point about religion through history interesting. However, I think the real thing is that we are born into this world with the Light of Christ (which comes from God, not from religion either current or historical), and in addition to that, there are natural laws – normal consequences that follow behaviors. There was also a recent study that showed that all human beings have ethics hard-wired into us, regardless of religion or culture. For example, people feel differently about putting a pin into their own hand for money than into the hand of a child for money. We shrink from hurting others. Several of those hard-wired ethics would also lead people to behave differently than your list of 4 things atheism represents to you. I can think of several non-religious reasons to behave nicely in society:
1. experience teaches you that others behave nicer to you when you are nicer to them (empirically this is true – even apes learn to cooperate)
2. human relationships can be pleasurable
3. your own quality of life is better (the Pascale argument)
Your argument for being a decent human being seems to rely on fear of retribution, either divine or perhaps being found out by others in the religion. That’s not a very high level motivation, and if that’s the only thing keeping someone from going off the deep end, seems like it’s only a matter of time to me.
I like your response. I think the church today has tempered itself greatly relative to early leaders. JS’s claim that Jesus told him that “the leaders of all (other churches) are corrupt and that they draw near to him with their mouths but their hearts are far from him” is a far cry from what we teach today. Nevertheless it is the foundational claim of the church. I find it very hard to reconcile what we teach today with what JS says was told to him.
It can be a struggle at times.
Darrell – JS himself said that any one who wanted to call himself a Mormon needed to acknowledge the good in other churches.
Also, I think it’s significant that the quote was that “those professors” were all corrupt. That doesn’t necessarily mean “the leaders of all (other churches)” were corrupt. I wondered if JS’s understanding was that this referred to specific individuals vs. all other church’s leaders, people who were totally unknown to JS. JS was familiar with a handful of preachers in the Manchester area only, and it was their claims he was asking about. Given their subsequent behavior to JS and family, the statement seems to have been somewhat justified since he found their good will to have been basically a lie, and that Rev. Lane, who recommended he pray to know which church to join treated his vision with contempt.
I have also wondered if this was a direct quote or a paraphrase of what was said, since JSH was recorded 18 years after the fact and the earliest version of the First Vision was recorded 12 years after the fact.
Intersting post. I tend to agree with your line of thought, but it (again) raises an issue at the core of any disccusion of Mormon beliefs: what is doctrine and what is opinion? For example, according to Joseph Smith, God himself said that all other churches on the earth are “all wrong,” “their creeds were an abomination in his sight” and their leaders “were all corrupt.” (JS-H 1:19) Pretty strong language withour much in the way of ecumenical outreach. Moreover, for each of your points, I’m sure there are an equal number of General Authority quotes aupporting the myth. Heck, a quick run through McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine” might hit them all. I think we are seeing a definite shift away from such thinking under Pres. Hinckley’s leadership. But it is undeniable that at least some of our leaders have taught these “myths” as doctrine.
I agree that “at least some of our leaders have taught these ‘myths’ as doctrine” in the past. I call them “myths” because, as I understand our belief in continuing revelation, the more recent words of today’s prophets and apostles trump what previous ones have said (e.g., Elder Packer trumps Elder McConkie). So in my view, something that was taught in the past as by McConkie as “doctrine” is demoted to “myth” status when the current prophets and apostles debunk it. A debunked “doctrine” of the past is perpetuated as a “myth” when Church members keep repeating what they read in Mormon Doctrine 30 years ago instead of paying attention to what has been said in General Conference more recently.
Thanks for giving me a reason to clarify the thinking behind my choice of words, which I probably shouldn’t have assumed all readers would figure out.
As for the JSH quote, I agree with hawkgrrrl’s comment above about the need to examine Joseph Smith’s statements in verse 19 in the context of the specific question he asked in verse 18, keeping in mind the specific and limited scope of his question.
Also, we should not forget Joseph Smith did make plenty of Universalist, ecumenical-sounding statements, such as this one:
“The inquiry is frequently made of me, ‘Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?’ In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (Joseph Smith, quoted in History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1949), 5:499 (quoted on Church website).
So I don’t see us as reversing course at all on what Joseph Smith taught.
How do we reconcile the Lord’s exclusive-sounding statement in JSH that the sects were “all wrong” with Joseph’s more Universalist language quoted above? When we consider that all the “sects” in Joseph’s day held exclusivist beliefs, then the statement that they were “all wrong” is, paradoxically, a statement of a greater principle of inclusion. Joseph wanted to replace the fragmented, exclusivist sects with an all-truth-encompassing Church led by a prophet of God who would have the final authority to avoid and settle doctrinal disputations and contentions (a big theme in the Book of Mormon) and achieve the “unity of faith” that Paul described in the New Testament.
“….we are born into this world with the Light of Christ (which comes from God, not from religion either current or historical)”
I do agree with your statement that we are born with the Light of Christ. But we, as LDS, acknowledge that it comes from God who created us.
The atheist refuses to accept that fact and shuns God. But, my point was that they cannot adequately explain where their morals are derived from.
As for the so-called “natural laws” that govern man’s behavior, those too come from God in the same manner that you have explained.
I happend to subscribe to the scripture, ” For the natural man is an enemy to God….” I think that hsitory tends to prove that out.
As for the fear of retribution, that is a good point. I was really thinking about that at all. I don’t base my actions on fear of retribution though I can see that many religions base their teachings on the fact that if you are not a good person, you will be punished. I tend to try to think of it the other way. And I think that our church teaches it that way. We don’t have much “fire and brimstone” type teachings over the pulpit. Though, the scriptures are full of it.
TJM, Thanks for pointing out that I am wrong on so many levels. It helps to keep my humble.
“The atheist refuses to accept that fact[that we’re born with the light of Christ] and shuns God.”
This kind of perspective is one of the bad things about religion. Religion wants to turn everyone into clear cut friends and enemies, and project either righteous or evil motivations on them.
I think most atheists do not actively refuse to accept anything, or shun God. They don’t find enough evidence to believe that there is even a God to shun. Frankly, religion has done such a poor job of representing God, who can blame them? Its a mass of confusion. This is what makes the concept of personal revelation and the witness of the Spirit so important. The problem with that is that you get religious leaders invalidating the personal spiritual experiences of anyone who does not agree with them. This effectively diffuses the level of trust you can even put in your own judgment in regards to your own spiritual experiences. In a sense, it seems like God doesn’t exist because religion is obscuring Him.
I think atheism is a condition that many people are beaten into by religion, and much less a Korihor-like state of active denial and pursuit of carnality.
“I think most atheists do not actively refuse to accept anything, or shun God. They don’t find enough evidence to believe that there is even a God to shun.”
I thought those were agnostics. I thought atheist do not beleive in God. I know a number of people who say they beleive in God, but not organized religion. Which I always find kind of odd, because it is religions, as imperfect vessels, that bring people to God.
Darrel – yes, it is a struggle at times especially when we see what the Baptists and Huckabee’s of this world think of us Mormons.
hawkgrrrl – “JS himself said that any one who wanted to call himself a Mormon needed to acknowledge the good in other churches.”
I think that’s true but he did say this whilst at the same time classifying them as in apostasy.
”Personally, I agree that atheists are more friends than enemies to the church (perhaps to any church). Why? I don’t buy that I got my morals from religion.”
Really? The atheists I know, Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher & Richard Dawkins, not only are enemy’s to our faith but they never let pass on an opportunity to ridicule just about everything mormon. But maybe I don’t know enough atheists, though.
Andrew A – I see you are a lawyer. Only lawyers can come up with this:
“..When we consider that all the “sects” in Joseph’s day held exclusivist beliefs, then the statement that they were “all wrong” is, paradoxically, a statement of a greater principle of inclusion..”
Not that I have anything against lawyers, since they are needed at times.
With regards to JSH 18 & 19, the kid was pretty clear. He asked which church was ‘right’ and hence which one to join. The answer was also clear: they were all ‘wrong’ and ‘don’t join’ any of them, that is separate yourself from those incorrect churches. I really can’t see a contradictory statement there which implies any inclusion since he was told not to go near them. It was an Us/Them statement made by Lord himself.
It would help if the phrase about “creeds” in the JS testimony were footnoted to Joseph Smith’s statements about creeds/ Such as “creeds set up stakes and bounds to the works of the almighty,” saying “Hitherto thou shalt come and no further.” It’s not the content of creeds, because he elsewhere talks about all faiths having some truth that LDS ought to seek out and embrace. The objection is to creeds as such.
Good post mate. Thank you for that information.
It is so true that we all have a purpose on this earth set out by the Lord…
My issue was with your use of the word “myth,” which connotes that the teachings always have been folklore.
I agree that JS made ecumenical statements at times. My point simply was that he taught, and we have believed in the past, that all other churches are wrong, period. I like your formulation of the JS-H quote, and I tend to think along those same lines, but I think its a stretch. Simply, although he may have believed it, Joseph never actually said it. There are certainly explanations for our current beliefs regarding other churches, but I don’t think “he never said it” works. (But hey, what do I know, I’m one of those darn lawyers as well!)
Agreed that “myth” was a questionable choice of words due to its ambiguity, as demonstrated by our current discussion about its meaning. You’ve broken me, and I confess that I wanted to use a catchy title for my post (”MythBusters”) and so I settled on the word “myth”. However, I do think it was an appropriate choice of words based on this dictionary definition for that word: “a belief or set of beliefs, often unproven or false, that have accrued around a person, phenomenon, or institution.” I’m not sure whether a myth always has to have been regarded as “folklore” in order to be a myth. I might be wrong, but I always thought the Greeks and Romans “back in the day” believed the stories we now regard as “myths” were actually true. However, I understand those formerly-believed stories are now widely regarded by the Greeks and Romans as fictional. So the fact those stories were once regarded as true does not prevent them from being referred to as “myths” today, as far as I understand. Similarly, the fact that many people may have once believed all other churches are part of the Church of the Devil does not prevent that belief from being considered a “myth” today because, as I see it, that notion has since been debunked.
As for the statement in JSH that the various sects were “all wrong,” in isolation that statement has multiple possible meanings. I think when we consider it in light of everything else JS said about other churches, I understand that statement to mean the other churches did not have Christ’s official sanction as they lacked priesthood authority. I do not believe for a minute that JS was saying all of the teachings of all other churches were wrong. JS made too many statements to the contrary, such as the one quoted above. I chose the JS statement above because I think it demonstrates how JS differentiated between a church’s beliefs and its authority (or lack thereof). JS recognized other churches had much truth (otherwise, he wouldn’t have advocated an approach of gathering all truth from its many sources). But he was strong in his stance that they lacked Christ’s official stamp of approval.
That’s one of the unfortunate things about language; its clumsiness. As I understand it, saying a church (as in institution) is not “true” is saying it is not “truly Christ’s church” because it lacks Christ’s official approval as an institution. But it does not mean we believe (or have ever believed) that all of the teachings of all other churches are wrong, or that all other churches are of no value whatsoever in God’s plan.
So I guess I am still saying “he never said it” if what is mean by “it” is that JS said all the teachings of all other churches are wrong.
I’m coming into this thread a little late, and I’m sure nothing I write here will persuade anyone; nevertheless, I endeavor to set the record straight on some level.
I’m sorry, Jeff Spector, but you seem rather ignorant of atheism. As a Mormon turned atheist-agnostic, I see your arguments as utterly lacking in any knowledge as to what “atheists” think and/or believe. First, atheism is simply a moniker that is often confused with a belief system or lack thereof. You have used in your four points negative stereotypes for someone who doesn’t believe in a god, which I find rather offensive. I am a secular-humanist and strongly hold views that we should help our fellow human beings, not because a god tells me to, but because it is what will keep our species alive and our children living in a better world. Altruism can easily be explained through evolutionary terms of tribal communities and cooperation. The tribe that cooperates has a better chance at survival. So, your charge that it is only a belief in a god or God himself makes us moral, is the fallacy.
You mention all these hedonistic ideals that apparently are ascribed to all atheists. Certainly, these things can be said of some, but the vast majority of atheists I know are critically thinking, moral, upstanding people who care about the future of humanity. I do believe that this is the one life we get, but living it to the fullest for me is being with my family, helping my students succeed, encourage positive policies that will help my country and speaking out against those I think harm it, teaching my children the beauties of this life, and so many other things that I feel are positive and productive.
So, some final notes to you: agnostics say that God is improvable and tend not to believe; atheist categorically state that there is no god; deists are those who believe in a higher power but don’t believe in any particular religion (most of our founding fathers were deist, contrary to popular opinion); while theists tend to be those who believe in a one true god. Let me also point out that all of us here are atheists or agnostic in one way or the other; how many believe in Zeus, Odin, Anansi, Shiva, Sun-Hou-Tzu, Ra, or any number of deities worshipped by other cultures? Furthermore, to say that morality is only god-given due to religion, what about Buddhists or Jains who are atheists by definition?
My Dear MN Tony:
“I’m sorry, Jeff Spector, but you seem rather ignorant of atheism. As a Mormon turned atheist-agnostic, I see your arguments as utterly lacking in any knowledge as to what “atheists” think and/or believe.”
Thanks for the compliment, I appreciate it. I mearly state the classic definition of Atheism: “The more common understanding of atheism among atheists is “not believing in any gods.”
Apparently, you didn’t fully read what I wrote. So I repeat it. “But, my point was that they (atheists) cannot adequately explain where their morals are derived from.”
So, you have offered an explanation based on secular-humanistic philosphy. but where, does that some from? I am just maintaining that it comes from God. You don’t have to agree with me or accept it. I was just stating my opinion.
“You mention all these hedonistic ideals that apparently are ascribed to all atheists”
Again, i just stated my opinion that for someone to truly be atheistic, then what is the point of life?
Andrew, yes, we met at Casa Thurston last Friday evening. Thought your picture looked familiar. Was that your first MESG, and will you be coming back?
Of course I understand and agree with your response, and your original post for that matter. I guess I was being a little sarcastic because I don’t think the majority of Mormons internalize your argument. Furthermore, I’m pretty heterodox in my beliefs and wish we’d jettison the whole “one true church” or “fullness” idea entirely, like the RLDS/COC. But I’m obviously in the minority.
BTW, John Dehlin, you need to number these comments.
In response to:
”In order to correctly understand what the “one true Church” claim truly means, we first need to understand what it does not mean.”
You may be safer by qualifying your statement with a “at the present time as I understand it”.
Something to note: These “myths” were not created by non-mormons. They were created by church leadership at one time or another via their beliefs.
It’s also interesting how excerpts from various publications or oratories are used if they are in favor of one’s point of view. However, if a quote of bad light is brought up it is quickly discounted as “not revelation” or “not doctrine”.
It’s good to see that the church is catching up to “itself”.
Although the majority of this is not coming from GA’s. It’s coming from folks like you and me, and what authority do we have?
“For someone to truly be atheistic, then what is the point of life?” As a practicing Mormon with an existential bent, I couldn’t resist responding to this. If you really think about it, what is the point of life for anyone? Even if one believes in God, there is no final answer to the “Why” question.
I would say that most mormons and many christians think they have an answer to that question. It is obviously based on faith and I am also sure you also know the answer.
For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. Alma 34:32.
So, if we are not doing that, then what are we doing here?
Don’t get me wrong. 🙂 I actually have that scripture written in Japanese calligraphy on a wall in my apartment. What I was getting at is I don’t think religious folk are necessarily more able to find meaning in their lives than atheists. For example, one could ask (referring to the scripture) “Why are we going to meet God?” And then to any answer to that, one could ask “why?” again. All of us–religious, atheist, or otherwise–probably stop at some level we are content with, and find meaning there. Personally, I have had to stop asking the why question, because ultimately there is no answer. Maybe I just get too caught up in words. If so, disregard this comment. 🙂
‘I mearly state the classic definition of Atheism: “The more common understanding of atheism among atheists is “not believing in any gods.”’
I didn’t question your definition but your characterization, which I obviously did not clearly state.
“you didn’t fully read what I wrote.”
Firstly, you didn’t seem to read what I wrote. I stated that we can adequately justify morality through evolutionary means. It is explained by the fact that those who cooperate have better chances to survive. By killing your neighbor or attacking the neighboring tribe/group naturally means that one will be attacked in turn thereby minimizing one’s/group safety, food gathering, sustainable shelter, and basic necessities. If the action adversely affects the group, it is a behavior that is punished or frowned upon. Furthermore, religious morality is completely subjective to the area of the world you belong. Yet, basic things such as murder, theft, lying, and adultery are universally abhorred because it damages the community/society/tribe. Ergo, some common thread, evolution, suggests that altruism is a good thing to have in the genetic line. Again, I don’t expect you to take my word for it, but don’t say that those who are atheist or agnostic don’t have an adequate explanation if you haven’t studied what science has to say about moral development.
Secondly, am I to take it that your opinion is the Bible and Book of Mormon are the epitome of morality? Books that glorify war and killing in the name of God? I find greater morality in the teachings of Buddha, Taoism, and Jainism. One can find nearly every moral teaching espoused in these two books in other more ancient texts.
Thirdly, if atheism is essentially amorality as you suggest, then there should be an inordinate amount of atheists in prison, right? Yet, statistics clearly show that the prison population is very close to what the general population is (except where atheism itself is a crime), which is that in the U.S. the majority of prisoners are Christian or some other religion.
Fourthly, countries like Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, in fact, most of Europe, should have huge crime rate due to the fact that they are pre-dominantly secular countries with high percentages of atheism and agnosticism. Yet, we see a lower crime rate in those countries than here in the States.
You’ve stated a couple of times that “I was just stating my opinion.” Fine, I accept that, but when your opinion states falsely that atheists have no meaning nor justification for what we see as truth, I will call you on it. Just because you are unable to see meaning without a god doesn’t mean that everybody holds to your standard of meaning. I gave you my meaning for life. You can say that it is because of deity and that’s fine, and I don’t care. I do care, however, about the stereotypes and the insensitive generalities you’ve advocated regarding the way atheists supposedly view life. That is why I have responded.
In response to:
”Again, i just stated my opinion that for someone to truly be atheistic, then what is the point of life?”
The point is simply to live my brother…..cherishing the opportunity of “life”.
You should know that there are many people who live virtuous lives of service and peace without the expectation of some reward, such as exaltation. And that there are many people who do not perform their good deeds because of a fear of damnation.
People who don’t have a need to rationalize things not understood with irrational theory.
I do not expect that my son should believe in me as so much that he finds and believes in himself and lives a wonderful life.
How many wars fought and lives lost in the name of some religion?
One should not fear the atheist.
Excellent post, Andrew
Matt, your post sounds like a Universal Unitarian belief. They have a great outlook that anyone seeking wisdom, truth, or spirituality is welcome and considered a member(including atheists), and no one need believe any specific set of doctrines. In any case, also interesting to note, UU are considered Christian by other churches, while LDS are often excluded. Being LDS, I find that amusing.
I like your post. I was in touch with a member of another faith online and it caused me to write a post recently called “The Church of Jesus Christ”. I would be interested to hear some of your comments of what I wrote. View it here:
Natural Laws, Whence And How They Come About
The term “natural laws” is still an enigma despite the continuous efforts of Science and Theology to define it and to give a meaning to it; even though we are embodiments of it and refer to it profusely we are still far from comprehending it.
Linguistically the “laws of nature” are empirical or scientific generalizations that describe empirically or scientifically observed and defined recurring facts or events or processes in nature.
The prime yet unanswered question about the laws of nature is “whence and how natural laws come about”.
I do not attempt to search/review/discuss/assess the many proposed conjectures-answers to the subject question. Just suggesting my own conjecture:
Singularity and D-Infinity, maximum cosmic space expansion since Big Bang, are the alternating cosmic start-and-end states. The cosmos alternates between expansion and impansion. The in-between state is a metastable state, which is an everyday commonsense experience, that the denser the compacting goal the more energy need be invested and, vice versa, the more thorough the disintegration the higher the amount of energy released. It seems that E=mC^2 is a specific case of the cosmic (and universal) process E=Total[m(1+D)] where D is the Distance from Big Bang point and the sum is of all spatial values of D from D=0 to D=selected value.
[BTW, (Nov 9 2006), following Newton (1) gravity is decreased when mass is decreased and (2) acceleration of a body is given by dividing the force acting upon it by its mass. By plain common sense the combination of those two ‘laws’ may explain the accelerating cosmic expansion of galaxy clusters, based on the above E/ m/ D suggested relationship.]
Since the Universe (including its sub-systems, also Life) is a continuously evolving fractal system, ergo energy is the base element of everything. Cosmic evolution is evolution of energy. At the beginning of the present cosmic cycle was the energy singularity. At its end there will be a small amount of mass and an infinite dispersion of the beginning energy. In-between, the universe undergoes continuous evolution, consisting of myriad energy-to-energy and energy-to-mass-to-energy transformations.
Cosmic impansion will come about to replace expansion and evolve towards singularity when gravity will begin to overcome expansion, when the strain of the stretching space-time matrix will no longer be overcome by the continuously diluting expansion forces.
So whence and how do natural laws come about?
The laws of nature are products of the cosmic evolution, the evolution of energy, that consists of myriad energy-to-energy and energy-to-mass-to-energy transformations.
And a relevant minor question is “who hijacks science”?, who claims-pretends to have the Scientific Answers that we do not have?
The answer to this question is that the hijackers are, broadly, of two general types:
– those who consider themselves, or are considered by others, to be scientists, but posit as scientific findings conjectures that involve some degree of bone fida scientific consideration, and
– those who consider themselves, or are considered by others, to be theologians, and posit that all scientific matters already discovered and yet to be discovered emanate from their deity that is the creator of the cosmos including whatever is brought to our comprehension via science.
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lds church is a cult the bible is the true and complete word of God. joseph smith is a false teacher. after 36 years in bondage to mormons i know, there only one way to heaven that is through Jesus Christ. not joseph smith and his 33 wives. God Bless you, and read your bible it all in there.
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I’m a college student studying a lot of biology, etc. The professor I do research for is an evolutionary biologist (my research is in the phylogeography of small mammals) and was explaining the concept of how love and charity ‘evolved’. I am not opposed to evolution – I think that in order to study biology it must be, as the quote goes, done in the light of evolution. Evolution makes sense and applying its principles work. I do not believe, however, that it was the means employed by our Father to create the different species or human race; love is a gift from God, not a response to evolution. Along with that, though I think it a scientifically sound principle, it has lead to the idea that mankind is descended from and thus a member of the animal kingdom – bound to follow his instinct; that we are more about chemicals and hormones than agency and reason. These theories helped make atheism commonplace. From no matter where you ‘receive’ your morals, the truth is that if you do not follow those morals guidelines given by God, you cannot be happy in the life to come.
Over recent days I have thought more and more about this subject. My working theory is that the Mormon Church are akin to the descendants of Aaron who were the only bloodline who were permitted the priesthood, outside this bloodline the rest of the Hebrews were still given sufficient access to the principles of Salvation and exaltation.
The descendants of Aaron possibly had the most stringent restrictions, had to work the hardest with temple rites and seen as the most peculiar.
My point is I can know this church is true, with out automatically damming everyone outside my faith with the brush of lesser in some way or another.
MrQandA: Your thoughts are right on, IMO.
When I study the Abrahamic Covenant, restored to LDS church members through authority, the idea that we are “the Lord’s Chosen people” does not mean we are chosen, per se. But means that we are called to bring the message to all the other children and through the authority restored, bless them. (see Bible Dictionary for better description than what I can say here).
Because of that, I like to view a loving God blessing and helping ALL his children, just like I want to help all my kids even though they are all different. I sometimes have one child help another child with chores or homework because it benefits the one helping in actually learning the principles they are helping the other child with by having to explain it, and it also helps create opportunities for relationships and bonds to make special experiences.
The idea that those in the church are “better” or will be saved, while those “outside” the church are disadvantaged to God’s love or blessings or exaltation, to me goes against the gospel taught by Jesus Christ.