It seems to me that there is an undercurrent among the more liberal “new order” Mormon bloggers in the Bloggernacle lately that try to refute or dilute the concept that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the “one true church.” While I do believe that there is much truth that is found in all religions of the world and that there are a great many people who do not belong to the Church who are doing many good things, I also am firm in the belief that this church is God’s only true church upon the Earth today, with a fulness of God’s blessings, revelation, truth, power, priesthood, direction, inspiration, doctrine, authority, and saving ordinances, to the extent which He has deemed us worthy to receive them.
My belief in this comes first because the Lord Jesus Christ has spoken it:
And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to 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, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually… (D&C 1:30)
But also consider the words of God’s prophets. President Joseph Fielding Smith once said:
This priesthood and these keys were conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by Peter, James, and John, and by Moses and Elijah and others of the ancient prophets. They have been given to each man who has been set apart as a member of the Council of the Twelve. But since they are the right of presidency, they can only be exercised in full by the senior apostle of God on earth, who is the president of the Church.
May I now say—very plainly and very emphatically—that we have the holy priesthood and that the keys of the kingdom of God are here. They are found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
By revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord said that these keys “belong always unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood” (D&C 81:2), and also, “Whosoever receiveth my word receiveth me, and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those, the First Presidency, whom I have sent” (D&C 112:20).
In this same connection the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “You must make yourselves acquainted with those men who like Daniel pray three times a day toward the House of the Lord. Look to the Presidency and receive instruction.”
Now, brethren, I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord. (President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside,” Ensign, July 1972, 87-88.)
In the most recent April 2008 General Conference President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency gave a talk on the subject entitled “The True and Living Church.” I have selected portions of his talk here:
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.
When the Prophet Joseph was murdered, the enemies of the Church thought that the Church would die. They thought it was the creation of a mortal man and therefore would perish with him. But their hopes were dashed. It was the true Church, and it also had the power to live on, even when those chosen for a time to lead it died.
We have seen today a demonstration that this is the true and living Church. The keys of the priesthood are held by mortals, but the way has been prepared by the Lord for the keys to remain functioning on the earth so long as the people exercise faith both that the keys are on the earth and that they have been passed on by the will of God to His chosen servants…
For us to sustain those who have been called today, we must examine our lives, repent as necessary, pledge to keep the Lord’s commandments, and follow His servants. The Lord warns us that if we do not do those things, the Holy Ghost will be withdrawn, we will lose the light which we have received, and we will not be able to keep the pledge we have made today to sustain the Lord’s servants in His true Church…
…we need to measure the depth of our gratitude for membership in the true Church of Jesus Christ…
We know from prophecy that not only will the true and living Church not be taken from the earth again, but it will become better. Our lives will be transformed for the better as we exercise faith unto repentance, always remember the Savior, and try ever harder to keep His commandments. The scriptures contain promises that when the Lord comes again to His Church, He will find it spiritually prepared for Him…
Additionally, it is through the Church and the ordinances which are in it that the blessings of the sealing power reach into the spirit world. This is a true and living Church, reaching even to those who are no longer living. As you have the faith to find the names of your ancestors, as you go to the house of the Lord to offer them vicarious ordinances, you sustain this great work, whose purpose is to offer salvation to all of Heavenly Father’s children who come into this world.
I would like to speak of some of the reasons I see for gratitude for a true and living Church… I will bear my testimony of how I have come to know that this is the true and living Church…
My testimony that this is the true and living Church began in my childhood. One of my earliest memories is of a conference meeting held not in some place like this but in a rented room of a hotel. A man was speaking whom I did not know, nor do I know his name today. I knew only that he was someone sent to our little district in the mission field by someone who held the priesthood. I do not know what he said. But I received a powerful, certain witness before I was eight, even before I was baptized, that I was hearing a servant of God in the true Church of Jesus Christ. It was not the rental room nor the size of the congregation, which was small, but it was a witness that I had been blessed at that moment to be in a meeting of the true Church…
I have seen the same miracle in the service of President Monson as he received the call to preside as the prophet and President of the Church and to exercise all the keys of the priesthood in the earth. Revelation and inspiration have come to him in my presence, which confirms to me that God is honoring those keys. I am an eyewitness. They are keys of a priesthood which is, in the Lord’s words, “without beginning or end.”
I bear you my solemn witness that this is the true and living Church of Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father will answer your fervent prayers to know that for yourself. You can have a witness that the calls which you sustained today were from God. Even more, you can know that within this Church, ordinances are performed which can cleanse souls and bind on earth and in heaven, as they were in the days of Peter, James, and John. Those keys and ordinances are now restored in their fulness through the Prophet Joseph Smith and have been passed on through his successors. Jesus is the Christ. He lives. I know that. I testify that Thomas S. Monson is His living prophet. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it lives on. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. ((President Henry B. Eyring, “The True and Living Church,” Ensign, May 2008, 20-24.))
It is also my testimony that this is the one true church of Jesus Christ, the only church upon the face of the earth which has the authority of the priesthood of God to perform the redeeming and saving ordinances for all of mankind in the House of the Lord, and the only church which has living prophets and apostles called of God to lead a covenant people today, by modern revelation, in preparation for the Second Coming of the Savior. I know this by my witness of the Spirit. Jesus Christ is at the head of this church, and no other. We must not lose sight of this supernal truth in our cooperative efforts of ecumenism.
As another followup, Elder Neal A. Maxwell once wrote this, which I think applies nicely:
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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