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Mormonism as Most True Church

Mormonism as Most True Church

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Published by Jared Anderson

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Published by: Jared Anderson on Oct 26, 2011
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Mormonism as the ‘Most True’ Church
 Jared Anderson© 2011  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ claim that it is the “only true andliving Church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30) evokes strong responseboth from insiders and outsiders. Believers presuppose the validity of this special,chosen status with appreciation and sometimes smugness; non-believers balk at theaudacity and absurdity of the assertion that a tiny minority of the human populationstands as the only fully valid religion.Here is the thing though... by using as lens certain elements of Mormon tradition,I think a strong case can be made that Mormonism has the potential to be, if notthe “only true” Church, the
true Church. The question is, how similar would this “Most true Mormonism” look to the currentLDS Church? My present answer would be “Not very”. But I have hope that currentsocial shifts will impel that gap to lessen.  A quote from Joseph Smith drives home my thesis that the LDS Church has thepotential to be the “Most true Church”:“Mormonism is truth. . . . The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is,that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, withoutlimitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitiousnotions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.“Have the Presbyterians any truth? Embrace that. Have the Baptists, Methodists, andso forth? Embrace that. Get all the good in the world, and you will come out a pureMormon.“One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let itcome from whence it may.”
 He expressed the same ideal on another occasion: “We should gather all the goodand true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out trueMormons.”
 Take a moment to digest the meaning and power of these quotes. It may seem
 Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith
, p. 199
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
, p. 316
tautological to say that a religion that incorporates the best of every religion endsup as the best of religions, that a religion that incorporates everything good andeverything true becomes most good and the most true. But wouldn’t it WORK? I seein this flexibility part of the genius of Mormonism.  The ideas of continuing revelation, open canon, and revered leaders who speak forGod result in the ability to make significant shifts quickly when needed. We shouldnot take for granted or underestimate the significance of this ability to make dramaticchanges when called for. Mormonism is a large ship that can make very sharp turns.Other sources confirm this idealized view of the Mormon perspective on truth.One of Brigham Young’s sons attending West Point asked about visiting anEpiscopal service. Young answered, “With regard to your attending ProtestantEpiscopal service, I have no objections whatever. On the contrary, I would like tohave you attend, and see what they can teach you about God and Godliness morethan you have already been taught.”
 In addition to the idea that Mormonism claims all things good and true, leaders havetaught that God gives truth to all people everywhere. The prophet Alma states in theBook of Mormon, “For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their ownnation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according tothat which is just and true.” (Alma 29:8)  A First Presidency Message to the Church in 1978 stated, “ The great religiousleaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well asphilosophers 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 ahigher level of understanding to individuals... Consistent with these truths, we believethat God has given and will give to all peoples sufficient knowledge to help them ontheir way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come”.
 More recently, President Gordon B. Hinckley framed LDS missionary work this way:“Let me say that we appreciate the truth in all churches and the good which they do. We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, andthen let us see if we can add to it. That is the spirit of this work. That is the essenceof our missionary service.”
Cited in Leonard Arrington, Adventures of a Church Historian, p. 117.
“God’s Love for all Mankind”
Message spoken at a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya in 1998.http://lds.org/liahona/1999/04/words-of-the-living-prophet?lang=eng
 Finally, is worth mentioning that the 13th Article of Faith states that “If there isanything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after thesethings,” not “If there is anything good we seek after these things...as long as they arealready in our correlated Church manuals.” So this view of Mormonism as a religion that incorporates every good and true ideaand principle is certainly present in its foundation. The question is, do we live up tothis vision? The answer is clearly no.Converts can bring “all the good that [they] have” intheory, but if a belief or practice does not fit the status quo of the LDS Church, it isrejected. Even very simple and beneficial practices such as having a broader rangeof instruments at Church, or clapping during services, or superior dietary practicesof other cultures are rejected. Conformity to cultural, American-rooted, Protestant-influenced norms of spirituality and reverence trump goodness or benefit.Not only does a “most true” rather than “only true” approach fit within Mormonauthoritative tradition, I believe it to be superior logically, theologically, and ethically.Isn’t it preposterous to assume that a loving God would wait tens of thousands of years of human history to reveal the one true religion?
Plus, with roughly 100 billionhumans having lived on the earth,
how is it that a group of of several million or soclaims to have the only door to God’s favor and a beneficial afterlife? In our worldof instant information, globalization, pluralism, and tolerance, a tiny group claiming to have exclusive rights to truth comes across as insular, cultish, backwards, andsnobbish. To me, it makes far more sense that any God worth worshiping would give allpeople as much truth and saving principles as possible. Then those people wouldaccept those truths according to their cultural understandings, presuppositions, andlimitations. Imagine that an accomplished artist assigns her students to replicate theSistine Chapel.
Obviously literal belief in the doctrine of dispensationalism solves this problem, but I view this approachas standard Restorationist legitimization rather than reflecting history.

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