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  1. This was a great discussion that I’m glad we touch on, because I agree that it affects a lot of LDS members who question their membership based on this idea of exclusivity. In fact, I have a good friend who has recently left the Church, and posed the question at one time to me of “Mormons don’t make up even 1% of the world’s population. How could they be the only true church?” So, here is how I understand what is meant by us using the term of being the “One and only true and living church.”

    When we say that we are the only “true” church on this earth, it does not mean that we have a monopoly on truth, or that we know all truth, or that other churches or religions don’t have any truth. Brigham Young taught:

    “It is our duty and calling, as ministers of the same salvation and Gospel, to gather every item of truth and reject every error. Whether a truth be found with professed infidels, or with the Universalists, or the Church of Rome, or the Methodists, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Quakers, the Shakers, or any other of the various and numerous different sects and parties, all of whom have more or less truth, it is the business of the Elders of this Church (Jesus, their Elder Brother, being at their head) to gather up all the truths in the world pertaining to life and salvation, to the Gospel we preach, … to the sciences, and to philosophy, wherever it may be found in every nation, kindred, tongue, and people and bring it to Zion.”

    “‘Mormonism,’ so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to ‘Mormonism.’ The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods.”
    (https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-brigham-young/chapter-2?lang=eng)

    So, then what does it really mean when we say that we are the “only one true church”?

    Doctrine & Covenants 1:30 states: “…the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased…”

    We must consider the question that Joseph Smith asked God and Jesus Christ in the first vision about which church he should join, and even more so consider the answer that Jesus Christ, Himself, gave to the young boy – “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’”

    We might ask why we need a church in the first place. The apostle Paul taught the Ephesians the following:

    “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:11-14).

    From this scripture alone I can count 4 important reasons why Jesus established a church in New Testament times, and why we need that very church today: 1- It serves as a government consisting of individual offices or positions with their own respective authority and responsibilities, to manage the ministry of pure doctrine and saving ordinances, 2- The ministry of correct/true doctrine and saving ordinances is essential to the perfection of the saints, 3- This ministry was to go forth to all nations of the earth with the hope of bringing all to a unity of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and 4- To be a source of continuous divine revelation in order to protect its members from being led about by false prophets or false doctrine.

    In the conclusion His sermon on the mount, Jesus extends the commandment that we be perfect. In my last post I explain how this is possible to us. The path to our perfection begins by turning our hearts to God, and obeying God’s commandment to be baptized in the name of Christ by one who has been given authority to perform this ordinance. Of this authority Paul declares: “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebews 5:4). This power and authority, or Priesthood as referenced in the scriptures, is a portion of God’s power delegated to men whom He calls to be His servants to administer baptism and other ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who desire and are found worthy to take upon themselves the name of Christ. As we see in both the Old Testament during the days of Moses and Aaron, and also in New Testament in the time of Christ and the apostles, this authority was passed to other worthy men by method of the laying on of hands, by those who had already received the priesthood. In conjunction with priesthood authority, the Savior conferred “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” upon Peter, the senior apostle. With these keys the Lord instructed Peter that “whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19).

    Henry B. Eyring in his 2008 General Conference address more directly tells us that this is what is meant when we say that we are the “only true and living church”:

    “This is the true Church, the only true Church, because in it are the keys of the priesthood. Only in this Church has the Lord lodged the power to seal on earth and to seal in heaven as He did in the time of the Apostle Peter. Those keys were restored to Joseph Smith, who then was authorized to confer them upon the members of the Quorum of the Twelve.”
    (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/the-true-and-living-church?lang=eng)

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      Thanks for engaging here, Jordan! Appreciate all that you put forth here.

      Just because it is interesting, let me share that I actually removed about 10 minutes of our discussion in the podcast that centered on exclusivity being about restoration of priesthood authority rather than having all or the main “truths.” In consultation with Jennifer and Lisa, we saw that we hadn’t really given that a fair run during the conversation. We got sidetracked–or was it re-tracked?–into ideas and psychological reasons for holding to exclusivity and never gave enough time to what you highlight above. Perhaps another podcast should address that? I do remember an episode of MM addressing it years ago much more thoroughly. I’d love you to listen to that one and get back to me here, or personally, if you will. If you feel this angle needs to have a full day in the sun again, I’m absolutely open to it. Here is the episode link: https://www.mormonmatters.org/podcast-item/128-the-one-true-church/

      Thanks, brother! Talk soon!

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