Their Creeds are an Abomination

I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and have been for some years now. As an entity, the church is much maligned and misunderstood. It does have some unique beliefs - premortal life, modern-day prophets and baptism for the dead - but not as many as you might suppose.

I "church hopped" for many years before joining this church, and some of its distinctive beliefs are what eventually drew me to it despite my best efforts to put up objections to them. In particular I might cite the LDS view of the trinity as three separate and distinct individuals who are one in purpose, rather than the traditional view of a single, formless deity who can divide into three parts at will and is given to talking to himself. I always struggled the traditional trinity doctrine - largely because I couldn't understand it or find in anywhere in the Bible - and I was more than happy eventually to abandon it.

For the most part I fully endorse and support the doctrines, practices and values of my church, but there is one I have had difficulty with, and that is the often-stated (in testimony meetings) claim that the LDS Church is "the only true and living church on the face of the earth". I have belonged to several other churches, you see, which I can see are living, and which teach true doctrines, and this claim seems to me to smack of arrogance and to invite hostility from other churches - as though we needed more of that.

It was brought home to me in particular recently when a friend from another church visited my ward one fast and testimony meeting. One sister stood up and expressed her distress that her daughter had joined another church. Naturally enough, my friend questioned this. Do Latter-day Saints truly believe that there is no salvation or hope outside the LDS church?

In 1820 a fourteen-year-old boy found himself confused by the number of conflicting messages he was hearing from preachers during a revival in his area, and decided to take the advice he found in James 1:5. He went to a quiet place and prayed out loud, asking God which church he should join. In a dramatic vision God and Jesus Christ appeared before him, and this is his account of what transpired next:

"I asked ... which of all the sects was right ... and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong ... their creeds were an abomination.”

Pretty strong stuff. Ten years later Joseph Smith established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints based on further revelations, and almost two hundred years later it is one of the fastest growing churches in the world.

Doubtless some members really do believe that all other churches are wrong and their creeds are an abomination. The sister who despaired at her daughter joined one of them may be among them (although I suspect she was probably more concerned that her sealing to her daughter would be invalidated). But I'm not and, I believe, neither are the majority of my fellow saints. In fact, many of them have spoken warmly of the spiritual experiences they have had worshipping in other churches, and the common ground they have found with Christians of many other denominations. After all, our core belief - that we are sinners who need salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as our saviour - is the same.

But does that mean I doubt the validity of Joseph Smith's vision? Not at all. The young Joseph Smith was a bit of a rascal, and I think the Lord used particularly strong words with him because he had such a special calling ahead. Maybe not strong enough, in fact, because despite the emphatic declaration, Joseph joined the Methodist church with several members of his family a few months later. I don't know enough of the history to state for certain whether that harmed or delayed his work in setting up the Church, but common sense would seem to suggest that it did.

And what about that claim "their creeds were an abomination?" I take that statement entirely at face value as referring specifically to the Creeds. I know the Nicene Creed and parts of the Apostles' Creed by heart (in English and Welsh) and even as a faithful Anglican (and a Vicar's wife to boot) there were parts I objected to. In particular I never said the line "For us men and for our salvation" because I'm a woman. Now I would also have to leave out the line which says that Jesus is "of one substance with the Father." (I'm not a great fan of the creeds, which officially makes me a heretic.)

To get back to the question, do I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ really is the only true and living church on the face of the Earth? I believe that it is the church (organised body of believers) Jesus Christ established. I believe it holds the priesthood authority, and I believe it has more of the truths than any other church, but that's not the same thing at all as saying that it is the only true church. I can state with some certainty (because I have prayed about it and received a clear answer) that Christians who are members of other churches do have the forgiveness and salvation they seek, and are assured a glorious heavenly home in the life to come.

They do have the truth. But they don't have the further light and knowledge which comes with having ongoing revelation and further scriptures, for example. Neither do they have access to the additional blessings which members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enjoy, such as the sealing ordinances which enable us to be united as families forever.

I'd like to apologise to my friend, and any other Christians who may have heard what appears to be the arrogant declaration the the LDS church is "the true church" and maybe even the implication that all other churches are valueless or somehow wrong. For my part (and despite apparently apologising for others I can't, in fact, speak for them) I do not subscribe to this view. Anyone going to a church, or indeed belonging to any religion, has to believe that theirs is somehow more right (or right for them) than everyone else's, or they are going to be very conflicted. If I didn't firmly believe the LDS Church to be true and right, then I wouldn't belong to it. But that doesn't mean that I believe your church isn't, and I would hope that is true for all fourteen million of my LDS brothers and sisters.

Comments

  1. My policy is any believing in Christ is better than no believing in Christ. I do believe the latter-day saint faith to have the Most complete and restored gospel but many other faiths practice good deeds and should not be discounted for it. It's kind of like the joke about the tour through heaven, st. peter cautions the group to be quiet as they enter a certain section. The group questions why? and he says ...because those are the mormons over there, they think they are alone.

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