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  1. As another followup, Elder Neal A. Maxwell once wrote this, which I think applies nicely:

    We possess some absolute truths that have, where we have applied them, placed us on the “strait and narrow way,” and we are further told that there is “none other way” for salvation. All of this suggests an ecclesiastical exclusivity that seems to embarrass some in the Church, for implied is not just an institutional exclusivity, but also a conceptual superiority with regard to salvational things.

    But Joseph Smith did not go into the grove seeking to become a prophet or to found a church! His operating assumption in the spring of 1820 was that one of the contending sects was probably right and it was his task to find out which one he should join. God’s reply may seem to some harsh in its indictment. (Parenthetically, this should remind us that in a sense, God cares little for cosmetic “public relations” and everything for human relations!) The theophany at Palmyra displayed God’s perfection in the attributes of truth and love. He loved us enough to appear, and having appeared, to tell the truth. Joseph Smith was equally truthful in faithfully reporting that episode; he could do nothing else since, as he said, he knew he had had a vision and God knew that he knew. Inasmuch as we “know” on our own scale of action, we cannot deny, by our silence, what must be shared with others as our personal Palmyra, our tiny theophany.

    We cannot shrink from the fact of the Church’s ecclesiastical exclusivity merely because this makes us uncomfortable with nonmembers, for our special mission is not a measure of the worth of others, but really a measure of our vital and demanding role in relating to and serving all others. Paul’s counsel still applies: “Take heed to thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim. 4:16.) (“Talk of the Month,” New Era, May, 1971, 28.)

  2. Andrew Ainsworthe


    I’ve been on vacation so I’m several days behind on my emails, but a friend just sent me a link to this post and expressed surprise that you were speaking negatively about my previous Mythbusters post that has been sitting in the MM archives for several months now. I am not concerned with people disagreeing with me. I am concerned, however, when it appears that someone has completely misunderstood something I have written, as well as my intentions for writing it.

    You and I have never met, and I suppose that is the reason you may have mislabeled me and/or my post as being representative of “New Order Mormons” or “liberal” thinking. While I certainly aim to be open-minded, I don’t think either of those labels apply to me. Although you cite my Mythbusters post as an example of New Order Mormon thinking, you might be surprised to know that I’ve never visited the New Order Mormon website, although I’ve heard one exists.

    I was also surprised that my Mythbusters post was singled out as representative of “liberal” thinking because a number of self-described “conservative” Mormons commented favorably on that post when I originally posted it. I think they reason they did so is that they understood my message correctly. It appears, however, that you have greatly misunderstood it.

    The great irony to me in all of this is that my Mythbusters post is actually a apologetic work, or at least that’s how I intended it. And so it is greatly disappointing to me for it to be singled out as an example of a “liberal” or “New Order Mormon” attempt to “dilute” the Church’s “one true Church” claim. If you look at my archive on Mormon Matters, you’ll notice my first two forays into the blogging world were apologetic in nature, i.e., in defense of the Church and its claims. My first post at MM, “10 Things Every Mormon Should Know,” received a favorable review in the FAIR Newsletter the month after it was posted. I was greatly pleased that the LDS apologists at FAIR looked favorably upon my work in defense of the Church.

    My “Mythbusters” post was done in that same spirit. I have a few friends who are very uncomfortable with the “one true Church” claim because they think it sounds so exclusive, narrow-minded, and ignorant of the many wonderful contributions of the other divinely-inspired servants of God through whom God has worked throughout man’s history, many of whom have been leaders or members of other religions. My Mythbusters post was aimed at busting the myth that the “one true Church” claim requires Mormons to believe a host of negative things about churches or religions, or that it requires us to ignore or turn a blind eye to the inspiration that exists outside the Church.

    As I explained in my introductory paragraphs of the Mythbusters post, too many of us Mormons go too far in the implications we draw from the “one true Church” claim, particularly as it relates to disclaiming or failing to acknowledge the divine inspiration that is abundantly present outside the Church. In short, I was trying to focus readers on the main point Elder James E. Faust made when he succinctly stated: “We do not claim that inspiration is limited to the Latter-day Saints.”

    Of course, our belief that the LDS Church is the “one true Church” means, as Elder Eyring recently reminded us, that it is the only Church where the priesthood keys reside. That is not a point that I took issue with in my post.

    What I did address was Elder Faust’s point that being the “one true Church” does not mean we believe we have a monopoly on inspiration and truth. That statement is a “no brainer” to well-informed Mormons, but sadly, it seems too many Mormons have mistakenly believe our exclusive claim to priesthood keys equates to an exclusive claim to truth, inspiration, goodness, divine guidance and communication, etc. That misinterpretation of the “one true Church” claim then becomes an unnecessary stumblingblock to their faith.

    I was hoping my Mythbusters post could help remove that unnecessary stumblingblock by showing Mormons, by using the words of modern Prophets, that a Mormon can believe both that the LDS Church is the one true Church, and yet believe that Mohammned, Buddha, Mother Theresa, the Wesley Brothers, Gandhi, etc. were all servants of God (Elders Oaks’ words, not mine). Again, that’s a “no brainer” statement to well-informed Mormons, but I had noticed a number of Bloggernacle participants had failed to apprehend that important point.

    Bruce, I am grateful there are people like you who are out there defending the Church and the faith. However, I am saddened and disappointed when I or something I have written is misidentified as a subtle attempt to dilute or undermine faith in the Church’s claims. As explained above, that is precisely the opposite of what I intended to do, which makes it all the more ironic. I admire your zeal and forgive your misunderstanding of my Mythbusters post, as well as your assumptions about my intentions in writing it, as well as your implied assumptions about what kind of Mormon I am. This experience has shown me once again that words are inherently ambiguous and susceptible to multiple interpretations and, therefore, readers can often misunderstand the author, and that authors must not only write to be understood, but also write such that they cannot be misunderstood.

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