Mormons don’t know everything, says Mette Harrison

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truthA guest post by Mette Ivie Harrison

One thing I loved about President Gordon B. Hinckley was his ability to connect with those outside of our church by finding similarities rather than differences. I loved listening to him talk plainly and without guile to people like Larry King about Mormonism. This was an important moment for Mormons who had been seen as a fringe religion. For many years, we Mormons carried an old persecution complex with us that kept us from seeing ourselves as part of a larger Christianity. We demanded entry into the club, but were quick to point out the many ways in which Mormonism was “better” than any other Christian faith.

I think that as a church, we are moving more in the direction of seeing our religion as part of a whole. We spend less time talking about the wounds of the past. We hear a lot less about Catholicism being the “whore of Babylon” spoken of in Nephi’s vision of the future Americas – and just last month saw high-ranking Mormon leaders visit the Vatican for a multifaith conference on traditional marriage.

But we still have improvements to make in this area. I, for one, would love to see Mormons stop referring to our church as the “only true church.”

It is one thing to believe that Mormonism is the right church for you. I love many doctrines of Mormonism. I love the Book of Mormon. I love the story of the pioneers’ trek west. I love the Word of Wisdom (though we do not fully act upon all its teachings). I love our understanding of the Garden of Eden. I love some of Joseph Smith’s retellings of the Bible teachings in his own translation and in the Pearl of Great Price. I love the ethic of service and paying a full tithe. I even love Food Storage. I believe Mormonism is the right church for me.

But I find it arrogant to say that this is the “one true church.” Even if I believe that the Book of Mormon is more “plain and precious” in its truths than the Bible, does that mean that it is better than the Bible, or that those who follow the teachings of the Bible faithfully are less likely to end up in heaven? Even if I believe that our temple rituals are necessary for exaltation and that the temple itself is a place where I can grow closer to God, does that mean that other rituals are invalid and that God only counsels the prophets and apostles of this church?

I’m not sure that I can go that far in my love of Mormonism.

I believe strongly that God guides the leaders of other churches to do good things, at least when they are earnestly seeking Him. I believe that the Bible contains many important truths and that other churches sometimes understand it better than we do. I believe that Mormons have things to learn from others — from scholars, from true humanitarians, and yes, even from atheists who live a good life.

I wish that we spent more time listening than we did preaching. I wish that we pointed fingers less and were a little less satisfied with ourselves and our religion. I wish that we spent less time defending every action of every prophet in the history of the church.

I also wish that we would stop congratulating ourselves on all the “answers” we have that others don’t. I may find the doctrine of Mormonism more satisfying than other religions, but that does not mean that it has more answers. It is actually pretty easy to poke holes in Mormonism and I believe we do a disservice to our youth, who will soon be going out into a world full of people who are perfectly capable of showing them those holes, by telling them that none exist.

My general attitude is that we Mormons might, in fact, have more knowledge than others about the truth, but that if that’s true, we have .000000015 knowledge of the truth versus others who have .00000001 knowledge of the truth. That leaves a lot left to be revealed, calling for us to show humility to the world rather than a defiant and sometimes ridiculous certainty.

We can be proud of Mormonism without insisting we know everything.

  • Jeremy Mumford

    But in “finding similarities rather than differences,” President Hinckley seemed to downplay or even hide one of the most important Mormon doctrines, that of eternal progression, as vividly put forth in the King Follett Discourse. He told the other King, Larry King: “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.” Some even characterized that comment as “guile.”

  • l

    This resonates with me. Just yesterday I was thinking about our need to resist the temptation to be unnecessarily critical of the doctrines and practices of other religions. When we want to talk about our own doctrines, we often “compare and contrast” in ways that can be a caricature. That tendency doesn’t send healthy signals. If we’re wondering about where that road leads, we have only to consider Christ’s attitude toward those who set themselves up as superior to others, qualified to pass judgment, etc.

  • Jannelle

    Egads!

    There is zero doubt in my mind that this is a brilliant post and a great idea. But I am doing the “eight-molar suck” at the thought of Thomas Monson admitting that he has no more “authority” than any other ecclesiastic leader, that the Quorum of the Twelve are NOT uniquely empowered to represent the one true church to all mankind, and that the notion that LDS temple rituals are the only way for people to enter into the highest level of what Mormons understand to be heaven.

    But a tip of the hat to you, Jana. You are speaking the truth.

  • Jeremy Mumford

    A quick follow-up: Many have defended Hinckley’s reply in the interview with Time Magazine (not Larry King as I said before) by pointing out that his evasive words referred to the “as Man is, God once was” part of the doctrine, rather than the “as God is, Many will become part,” and that the first part is, in fact, very little discussed or understood. Still, the doctrines of the Church do “teach” that God was once like Man, which President HInckley denied. His later comment to the 1997 General Conference can be read as a nudge-and-wink acknowledgement to fellow Mormons that his reply to Time was disingenuous: “None of you need worry because you read something that was incompletely reported. You need not worry that I do not understand some matters of doctrine. I think I understand them thoroughly.”

  • You are right, Mormons do not know everything, but god does. Our prophet and our apostles receive revelation from god. The LDS church is the one true church. And it is not arrogant if its true. This is what I believe, and I’m telling you, Mormons are not what the world thinks it is.

  • Candice

    Just yesterday I was reading in Luke 2:46 about Christ’s visit to the temple as a youth: “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.” It strikes me that hearing people and asking them questions is a great way both to learn and to lead. Given his age, it’s likely that the questions were more sincere than strategic, that he was at least as interested in learning as in teaching. We could use more of that approach in the world.

  • Heidi

    Right on.

  • Wayne Dequer

    I’d like to share a few opinions and conclusions that are my own on the interesting and complex topic you have raised. Isolating one strand of the gospel without considering others usually leads to misunderstanding.

    The Book of Mormon teaches: ” . . . we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth.” (Alma 26:37) Further, in 1978 the First Presidency stated: “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.” (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1988/01/i-have-a-question?lang=eng ) Finally, in 1965 while a member of the First Presidency, Hugh B. Brown wrote: “Let us not think because we feel and know we have the truth that we have all the truth for there is truth yet to be revealed. Let not our knowledge that we have the truth stifle our search for more truth. Let us build into our characters the kind of faith that will accept the truth when it comes and by its coming perhaps modify some of our ideas about the truth.” [The Abundant Life (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965), 221]

    I find the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be a wonderful and inspired organization. However, there is a fairly common misconception among a significant number of Mormons that the Church is perfect. Christ grew from grace to grace and is perfect in all ways including being sinless, fulfilling the measure of His creation, and becoming fully like our Heavenly Father. His gospel, in its fullness, is perfect. I find the apostles and prophets rarely refer to the Church as perfect. If the Church was perfect it would Not need to continue to develop. President Ucktdorf has reminded us that ” . . . the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now.” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/are-you-sleeping-through-the-restoration?lang=eng ).

    Meanwhile Doctrine and Covenants, speaking of “the only true and living church,” specifically says: ” . . . lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth . . .” (D&C 1:30) I believe “true and living” refers to at least 2 things. One is accurate doctrine on the most important of truths including the nature of God, the Savior, the atonement, and mankind. The second is ongoing revelation (in addition to inspiration) through divinely chosen apostles and prophets. Those revelations include vital covenants and ordinances of salvation that will eventually be provided in the temple for all mankind, and which they can choose to embrace or not.

    “Will those of other faiths and beliefs, in this life, receive their exaltation?” I certainly believe they will. If not, why do we joyously serve in the latter-day temples? “Will all temple recommend holding members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receive their exaltation?” Reading Matthew 25, I suspect not.

    Daniel Peterson wrote eloquently of something I had also noticed: “In the final volume of C. S. Lewis’s ‘Chronicles of Narnia,’ a Calormene soldier named Emeth (= Hebrew ‘truth’) has been a sincere worshiper of the false god Tash all of his life. When, at the end, he meets Aslan and recognizes the true God, he expects severe punishment. But Aslan graciously reassures him that ‘all the service thou hast done to Tash, I accept as service done to me,’ explaining that, although Emeth had been unaware of it, his honest devotion was actually to Aslan, rather than to Tash. ‘No service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.’ God’s sheep recognize his voice, even when it’s in a different language or imperfectly heard. They follow him as best they can, and, in the Latter-day Saint view, will not lose their reward.” (http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2011-fair-conference/2011-mormonism-islam-and-the-question-of-other-religions#enloc28 )

  • Wayne Dequer

    FYI – This article seems to be written by Mette Ivie Harrison and not Jana Riess. I suspect Jana has similar views. 😉

  • A Happy Hubby

    Mette – I loved this post and really agreed with it. I don’t think I have ever told anybody that I thought my church was the only true church. I never felt comfortable doing so. If I were not a member to me it would seem rather cocky and not very humble for someone to say that.

    And being an engineer, I have to correct your math at the end of the post. Your decimal is off by one place. 🙂

  • Tom Johnson

    Yes, to be accurate, we should say, “the only completely true church.”

  • Dane Bounds

    Sister Harrison, do you recall this passage from Joseph Smith–History 1:17-20? “. . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
    “My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
    “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.’
    “He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, ‘Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.’ I then said to my mother, ‘I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.’ It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?”

  • Lew Craig

    I like Daniel Peterson’s comment that the Lord is playing chess with the world and we are just one of the pieces. I differ just a bit from what Mette is saying. I sustain our leaders as prophets, seers and revelators, but agree with the fact that the Lord speaks and “plays chess” using all religious leaders. Sometimes he uses those with no religion. Of course we don’t have all the answers. Anyone who says we do does not understand that nature of revelation and that there are many things “yet to be revealed.” It is a principle of the Church taught from the beginning that we accept truth wherever we find it. I think many people would be better off as members of the Church, but some cannot fulfill their mission in life in the Church. The Lord needs them elsewhere, In the end, He has a grand plan that will be merciful to each person. Joseph Smith said the Lord is much more liberal in his mercy to us than we can imagine. That does not just apply to members of the Church.

  • Dane Bounds

    Well-said, Lew.

  • ilene

    To “12 year old Mormon girl”. You are absolutely right. If you really are only 12 you are a remarkable young woman. Hold fast to that testimony. As you can see, there is much wickedness in this world, and there are many “tares” among the “wheat” of the church. These people who claim to be believing members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints miss the entire point that the validity of this religion sits upon the foundation of priesthood authority RESTORED to the earth after a great apostasy, and that the prophets of the Latter-Days absolutely are agents of God and receive inspiration for the world regarding God’s will. It may not be politically correct, but try as they might, Jana and her friends will never change the truth simply by wishing it were different. You, young lady probably followed a link and ended up on this website of like-minded, luke warm members who will soon be “spewed out” by the Lord. Stay faithful and strong, you will do great things with the testimony you have.

  • ilene

    Thanks for pointing out that history Dane Bounds. To those who can’t accept the basics of the first vision, why are you even a member of the church? Do you think this is a social club, an organization that just provides a lot of good service, someone to call on when you need your roof fixed or meals for your family when you are ill. What Dana Bounds quoted is the very foundation of this church. If you can’t accept the basic truth that God told Joseph Smith that ALL the religions on the earth at that time were corrupted, then you are built on no foundation at all.

  • Suz

    It is interesting that thinking that God directs and works with atheists is always preceded by “even” as in “He even talks to atheists!” Can you imagine that? God loves His children the same? Even ones that don’t believe in Him? My atheist best friend has been directed by the spirit (she calls it “feeling good about it”), knew that loving others is more important than anything else which isn’t what I digested from going to church every sunday (but I believe now), and has been an answer to my prayers and questions that I’ve prayed over and then talked with her about them.

    While I think our church contains the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we still lack important focuses and can learn from other people’s beliefs and thoughts. But, I’m thinking the Savior called it the one true church in Doctrine and Covenants so I’m going to have to go with Him. But it doesn’t absolve us from learning from other people, although it often does do just that!

  • Brother French

    Good for you! You are right on. All churches teach a lot of truth, but there can only be one true church who’s leaders have been called as was Aaron – that is, called by revelation from God through a prophet of God, and ordained by someone with authority to bind their ordination both on earth and in heaven. See Heb. 5:1,3-5, Exodus 28:1, Matt. 16:16-18 and Eph. 4:4-6.

  • Brother French

    Great post!

  • Brother French

    Another great post!

  • willie

    it was the Lord who said this was the only true church upon which he was well pleased. he also said in section 1 that “what I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself” if you dont feel comfortable with what the Lord has said, you might want to examine yourself as to why. dont worry about making excuses for the Lord…he’s a big boy and can take csre of himself. he drew a line in the sand by saying the other creeds were an abomination…sorry you feel uncomfortable with his words…

  • Candice

    I find it unfortunate when honest discourse devolves into personal judgment and condemnation. It has a tone of fear about it. “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love,” so it can’t be coming from Him. My view is that people with an idea of truth different from mine can’t hurt the actual truth because the truth is the truth, irrespective of what anyone believes (including me). That means there is nothing to be afraid of and there is plenty to be learned in trying to understand where other people are coming from. We may be surprised at how God views us when mortal hindrances are removed and our understanding eventually becomes clear.

  • Fred M

    I don’t think Mette is the only one uncomfortable with those words. When’s the last time you heard a prophet or apostle say that all the other religions are wrong, or that all their creeds are abominations? Decades and decades. And you know why? Because they feel uncomfortable with those words! And if they don’t feel like saying those words, I don’t think we as members should say them either. We should follow the Prophet by following his example.

  • Eric Facer

    You have overlooked the qualifier: “… the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, WITH WHICH I, THE LORD, AM WELL PLEASED.” This verse can be read as saying that this was the only church that was pleasing to the Lord AT THAT TIME. Much may have changed since then. Also, the First Vision did not reference other churches; rather, it spoke of “creeds” that the Lord found objectionable. There is a difference.

    Consider also these passages from 2 Nephi 29:

    11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.

    12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.

    Are these passages now null and void simply because the Lord has seen fit to constitute a new church in the latter days for purposes of restoring additional elements of His gospel? Has the Lord ceased speaking directly to other peoples, faiths and nations, preferring only to communicate through LDS leaders in Salt Lake?

    Finally, consider this passage the 49th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants:

    8 Wherefore, I will that all men shall repent, for all are under sin, except those which I have reserved unto myself, holy men that ye know not of.

    Who are these holy men Christ is referring to? Do they walk among us? Are they leaders of other faiths? I do not know the answers to these questions, but there is one thing I am sure: the Savior speaks to them.

    Revelation and truth can come from multiple sources.

  • ron

    If anyone assumes that the phrase “one true church” means that the church is in its full celestial glory in this tellestial world is greatly mistaken as to what that term means.

    What the phrase in question means is that the church of jesus christ is the lords legal organization for housing and performing all the ordinances needed at this time for man to return to the presence of the father. As nice as other churches make people feel or change their natures for the better no church on earth other than the church of jesus christ of latter day saints on earth can perform this function.

    The church of jesus christ only has this claim to authority because jesus has made the assignment. I bear my testimony that the church of jesus christ of latter day saints is the lords one true church and I am thankful for the blessings this church has brought into my life. The fruit this tree grows is sweet to my soul so I believe the claims it makes as I have tested the claims and you can too. All are invited to taste the fruit but you have to hold to the rod as you pass thru the gulf before you get to the tree.

  • Wayne Dequer

    I agree with you in part, Fred, but you are lumping a lot of phrases together. For instance, see President Eyring’s talk, entitled “The True and Living Church” from 2008 at https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/the-true-and-living-church?lang=eng which was hardly “decades and decades” ago. There is a balance to be found!

  • Fred M

    I hear you, Wayne. I was specifically referring to the phrases saying all the other churches were wrong and that their creeds were an abomination. I think you’d be hard pressed to find an apostle or prophet in the last thirty years who said that from the pulpit! But I would assume most all of them have taught that the LDS church is the only true and living church. I do find it interesting that the title of Pres. Eyring’s talk eliminates the “only,” and that only once in his entire talk does he use the phrase “only true.” The rest of the time he simply says “true and living church.” Not sure what this means, but it definitely feels like a conscious choice to avoid the word “only.”

  • Sue

    I would say our teaching are childlike,obedience, and commandment centered but even that is not my main problem right now.
    I missed church by choice last Sunday for the first time in my life. It has become to painful for me. After a panic attack the previous Sunday and my bishop bearing his testimony, “Someone could give me 100% irrefutable evidence the church is NOT true and I will not deny my testimony.” That is not the kind of testimony I want. My husband feels the same regarding doctrine but makes it work for him to continue to take our 4 kids to church (1 off to college). I think I will not have any religion (I have pioneer ancestors on 3 sides), but many of the teaching of Buddhism appeal to my need for depth.

    Comments like my mother-in-law, “you have really hurt me” are not helpful. She really does not understand that this is not a path I chose.

    I would not trade having taken the path either. After the guilt and shame of trying to be “good enough”, 20 years of anxiety and depression, and being released from my calling and temple recommend because of my beliefs (not sin but the first few questions), it is just to painful to go anymore. My spirituality, happiness, peace, and joy are at a place I have never experienced and few are willing to even consider I am not an apostate (bishop included).

    So my adventure continues and I am so grateful for the oneness and love I feel with all of humanity. The “Kingdom of God is within.” I love all just as you are – those who stay correlated, those who make it work to stay, and those who decide a different path. These “faith crisis” are not going to change but member need to see it with new eyes. It is not as simple as you think. I was the last person on earth who I would have thought would be where I am today- it chose me. It has been an amazing spiritual journey. I recommend it for all. (but few will answer the call to go seek, knock, and find. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. When I opened my eyes to see and had ears to hear, the windows of heaven were opened. Love is the only answer. The greatest person (next to God) to love is the self (look at that scripture with new eyes and you will begin to see your neighbor is 3rd). We need to grow up in the church and see beyond obedience and commandment doctrine- Jesus taught a better way. Study Mindfulness as it help me find spiritual growth and peace within.

  • Mike Turvey

    Thanks for your comment Jannelle. You express exactly what I am thinking in a better way than I can!

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  • Fred (and Mette, and others), there is little need for the current prophets and apostles to keep repeating what the Lord has already said. That the Lord was displeased with all churches of the day (ref: First Vision), or that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the “only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which…the Lord [is] well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively” has already be spoken by the Lord, and is available for all to read. The prophets and apostles speak of concepts that are found throughout the Bible, Book of Mormon, D&C, and Pearl of Great Price without repeating them word for word. In the end, we need to take the same approach President Hinckley took when he invited those who are not members of the Church to bring what they have and see if we can add a little to it.

  • Sue, I would encourage you to remember why you go to Church. Is it not to partake in the Lord’s Sacrament? Is it not “that [we] may eat in remembrance of the body of [His] Son, and witness unto…God, the Eternal Father, that [we] are willing to take upon [us] the name of [His] Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given [us], that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us]? When we forget why we go to Church, I mean the real reason, and we begin to look at the words and actions of mortals and judge God by them, we begin to pull ourselves away from God and Jesus Christ. Can we afford this?

  • Dave

    While I will disagree with you on the Word of Wisdom (it’s clearly advice and not a commandment), I agree with you on the “only true church” idea. I don’t even think most Mormons even know what that means when we say it. I remember back in the late 90’s or early 2000 being asked to stop saying it to non-members because it doesn’t mean anything to them. When a Mormon says we have “the only true church” they may mean the only one with the priesthood, the only church for them, or the only church lead by a prophet and apostles – all of which I can mostly buy into. (While I know our leaders hold the calling, I don’t see them using the priesthood powers they were given, so the last one is moot.) But sadly there are some that mean the only way to get to heaven. To these poor souls, I’d like to know how they work that out with D&C 76 which clearly states there is a path to heaven for everyone and D&C 93, which clearly states that not everyone is on the same path and it is our eternal level of intelligence that puts us in the kingdom we earn as through our resurrection we will become that which we truly always have been. But to say that all are on the same path is true, we are all trying to hold to the rod. However, that rod is not the Church, it is the Word. If we are all true to Christ we will enter the kingdom we were promised in the premortal world and that is the truth, and the only truth. It is not exclusive to our church as all religions that lead men and women to the path back are in that sense “true.”

  • Fred M

    This is a perfect example of how someone like Sue needs understanding and compassion and instead gets preaching and judgment. Yeesh.

  • Fred M

    If there’s little need for them to repeat what the Lord has already said, then why do they do it so much? 🙂 Every General Conference talk is repeating what the Lord has already said–but they choose what to repeat based on inspiration. The fact that they haven’t chosen to repeat those concepts for decades must mean something.

  • maddy

    ““Someone could give me 100% irrefutable evidence the church is NOT true and I will not deny my testimony.”

    Wow.

    I didn’t go looking for confusion, disillusion and controversy. I simply read books by well-respected LDS (currently active) historians. But a larger part of my shift came too, as a result of actions of the current church. I have to ask, what (type of) leaders are we following? I was raised to believe as the majority of Mormons believe, that the LDS Church is the only way to back to Heavenly Father–that LDS leaders receive (true) guidance from God like no other religious leaders on earth. Why oh why are “inspired” leaders so “late to the game?” For example, why did it take so long after the passage of the Civil Rights Act to change the priesthood ban, and even longer to acknowledge it was a policy–not doctrine? (though some leaders declared it doctrine).
    Ultimately, (if one believes God exists) we will make that journey alone. I take to heart the first two commandments to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. The most powerful spiritual experience I had confirmed the importance of loving our neighbors as ourselves. Sometimes that isn’t what the current church reflects as when it embarked on a campaign demonizing and fear mongering in its fight against marriage equality. I can’t but help think it is the height of hypocrisy to use the term “traditional” marriage when, in our history, we varied far, far from the traditional (and continue to practice polygamy on an eternal basis).

    Dave, well stated.

  • jack Stickney

    ’12 year old Mormon Girl’ said it as succinctly as this 60 year old Mormon Boy could have. Very insightful.

  • Mette,

    I’m not going to join in the theological debate, but I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your post. I’ve always appreciated you willingness to hear about my faith and your willingness to share your own. If none of us are willing to engage in dialogue, then we’re just shouting at each other over the walls we’ve built. That doesn’t serve any of us.

    A priest friend who has shared in many religious traditions — including sharing in the prayers in a Mosque in Africa — likens religion to pizza. He says that all pizza is good in some way. Of course, as a Catholic priest, he says that the Catholic church is the “supreme pizza”, but he acknowledges that the truth found in all religions is worth celebrating and enjoying.

  • Rick

    I would like to thank all of you who have posted to this point, as reading and pondering your insightful and learned comments, has been about as enlightening as a year of gospel doctrine class. Mette’s message to me is simply to drop the arrogance when talking about the church. GBH was a great example in that regard.

    It never fails to amaze me from where and which mouths truth sometimes manifests. We have agency to accept or reject truth from whatever source it presents itself to us, be that both in and outside of the church. Buddhism has truth that speaks loudly to Sue, but it doesn’t need to be either or, but more a matter of seeking out of the best books, so to speak.

    Sue, I have known more than a few bishops and stake presidents in my day, including away from church and have even been related to some. They are not all created equal, but are often called into the position for what lessons it can beat into their thick skulls. I shudder to think of how this bishop that bothered you will be spiritually challenged, for this statement of his.

    Ditto for mother in laws.

    It also pains me to think of your 20 years of anxiety and depression, as well as your exceedingly intense current pain. Yes, love yourself because you always were and even today are “good enough”. Take as many Sundays off as you need for your personal well being and to attempt to heal, but you will never come close to my record and as an expert in the field, I’ll just tell you it’s not the complete cure. In regard to your children, please err to the path your husband is on. I don’t think in the long run you will regret that they were in church, but I can all but promise with the passage of time, you certainly will suffer pain you cannot yet understand, if they are not.

    I wish all love, spiritual growth and peace.

  • Steve

    Really tired of tiptoeing around other church’s in an effort to make nice. We are the most Christian of any church. We have more truth. Jesus is so nice that we believe he came twice! nuff said…

  • Susan

    I agree with Mette that we shouldn’t be arrogant. I’ve appreciated the counsel from the prophets and apostles against pride. I don’t think this necessitates, however, shying away from the truth claims of the church. This is the Savior’s church led by the prophet and apostles He has called who hold the keys for the administration of the ordinances necessary for exaltation.

    I’m humbled to be a member of this church and appreciate all the many good people in the world. I’m so thankful for the expansive message of the gospel that teaches that all will be given opportunity to accept, or not, baptism and all saving ordinances. Performing temple work for others is a humbling responsibility for us if we believe everyone is equally deserving of salvation.

  • Fred F.

    Assuming you’re serious, I think boasting that your group is the most Christian automatically invalidates that claim 🙂

  • Tim Bone

    The key doctrine is that there is no other name under heaven by which anyone can be saved than that of Jesus Christ. Period. And associated is this: Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and that it is his right to rule and reign and judge. These are absolute truths. Sorry, modern, sophisticated, pantheistic world that disdains absolute truths, but that’s the way it is. Of course truth is spread across the world and members of the Church are outnumbered by other good people 20 to 1. The invitation, spoken frequently by Neal Maxwell and others is this: “Keep all the good and truth you have and let us add to it.”

    But religion is not just a matter of doctrines, of the mental self-talk of individuals. Another fact is that baptism by an approved administrator is the gateway to becoming a full disciple of Jesus Christ, followed by the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Both of these don’t save anyone by themselves, of course, but both are necessary to return to the Father and the Son and live the same kind of live they live. You can do all the community service you want, but baptism is still required by the same Jesus Christ mentioned above in regards to “no other name” and “every knee shall bow”. And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the sole custodian on planet Earth of valid baptisms. Period. When Oliver Cowdery came out of the Susquehanna River in 1829, he was for a few moments (until he turned around and baptized Joseph) the sole mortal on the planet with a valid baptism. Sorry, rest of the religious world in 1829 (and since), but that’s the way it is. It’s true to the point that those who accept the gospel in the Spirit World still need to have these ordinances done by proxy here on mortal Earth. Know anyone else doing this work? Got anyone else whose authority was conferred by having the physical hands of John the Baptist, Peter, James and John laid on his head?

    Short and sweet from Elder Eyring: “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.” (April 2008 General Conference). This isn’t ambiguous.

    Here’s the bottom line: At some point the Church is going to be an offense to the world. It’s just going to happen and members have to pick a lane. Recently, after a high-profile excommunication, there were a slew of editorials with this sort of carrot-and-stick reproach: “O, Mormon Church, you were doing so well in leaving that nutty past of yours behind. Why are you backsliding? Become like us and we will receive you with smiles.”

    You’d think if anyone could preach a convincing sermon, it would be Jesus. You’d think that anyone listening to him for five minutes would say: “I’m following him!” But apparently not, per John 6:66. Again, in John 7:12 we read of Jesus: “And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.” If people can be 180 degrees off on Jesus Christ, they can be 180 degrees off on Joseph Smith and the Church.

    Here’s a final observation from Brigham Young on the attempt to accommodate both the Gospel and the world. It holds for the Church and the world as well: ““. . . the man or woman who tries to live according to the gospel of the Son of God, and at the same time clings to the spirit of the world, has trials and sorrows acute and keen, and that too, continually. This is the deciding point, the dividing line. They who love and serve God with all their hearts rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; but they who try to serve God and still cling to the spirit of the world have got on two yokes—the yoke of Jesus and the yoke of the devil, and they will have plenty to do. They will have a warfare inside and outside, and the labor will be very galling, for they are directly in opposition one to the other.” (BY, JD16.123 in Nibley, Approaching Zion p. 458)

  • Jack Stickney

    Well said.

  • As a Catholic, I can make the claim that the line of apostolic succession has been unbroken from Peter to Francis and that Christ explicitly said that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church (Matthew 16:18). My Baptist kin would say that all authority is vested in the local church and, therefore, there is no need for a hierarchy

    Both of these arguments miss the larger point here.

    Let me share my experience of living in Utah and why I appreciate Mette’s point of view.

    I’ve lived in Utah since 1978 and in that time many wonderful LDS folk have shared their faith with me and some few have tried aggressively to convert me. When someone shares, I delight in the exchange and feel as if they are saying, “I’ve found this wonderful belief that makes my life better and I want to tell you about it.” When someone is aggressive about trying to convert me by telling me that they have the lock on truth and I’d better see thing their way, it feels condescending and demeaning.

    I have never felt that the people in the first group have — in any way — compromised their faith of pandered. They’ve been fully honest about their beliefs, hopes, fears and dreams. That feels very authentic to me and leaves me grateful that they were willing to let me into their world for a while.

  • Tim Bone

    I agree wholeheartedly. My remarks were focused on not compromising the faith. Our message, the way we present it, is always one of invitation or explaining what we believe and why we believe it and how another might come to believe it as well. We shouldn’t (and ultimately can’t) argue anyone into submission. Our full time missionaries aren’t given intensive courses in Greek, Hebrew or Rhetoric. They share a message and testify of its truthfulness.

  • Jack Stickney

    Thanks for being one of our faithful Catholic brethren in Utah. The world would certainly be a terrible place if it didn’t have the diversity we enjoy. Thanks for your perspective.

  • A Happy Hubby

    In this context and in others as I try to stand back and look as objectively as I can (even while holding faith and belief in the gospel) I do get the impression that some/many LDS seem to love to take on the “it is us against the world.” Kind of a siege mentality where they feel the world is out to get them.

    I live in the bible belt and it is WONDERFUL. There are so many great Christians around me. Some do try to “convert me” (about as ardently as the missionaries try to convert others), but overall they have respect for me and I for them. I get along good with them and we enjoy each other’s company.

    It just feels odd to me when I read how others feel the world is just out to get them. It seems to me that we are all God’s children and we are all generally trying to do our best. I don’t feel that everyone is out to get me or even against my religion.

  • Fred M

    I’m not sure “Sorry, rest of the religious world…but that’s how it is” is a message of invitation. If you agree wholeheartedly with Kevin, which I do as well, the point is to not present our message in an offensive way–whether your message is directed at members of the church you think need to be corrected or others.

  • Tim Bone

    Well, I’m not sure the following is going to be up for many PR awards: “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…” But guess what? I agree with you, Fred. I should have phrased it differently or just left it out. My point was that the truth claims the Church makes as part of the restoration can’t be jettisoned to smooth things over; we shouldn’t be embarrassed by them. We may even need to defend them.

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  • Staunch Mormon in Michigan

    Maybe it IS different where Jana Riess lives, but it is VERY VERY seldom I hear ANY active Mormon say anything negative about another religion. I think there are many holes in her commentary- I have only heard a humble attitude from members how BLESSED we are and how we have a sacred responsibility to mankind to lead them to additional light and knowledge. I sense she is writing this just to start a buzz..