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.
From the quotes that you list it seems that “the only true church” is understood as “the only institution possessing authority to perform essential ordinances”. How does this claim differ from “new order” Mormon bloggers’?
The “new order” bloggers attempt to show that our authoritative claim is not as strong as it may seem from our fast and testimony meetings or General Conferences, that it is not necessarily right for us to solemnly declare that we believe that the Church is the only true church on the earth. They claim a watered-down version of the restored gospel’s singularity, that all faiths have an equal share at truth and revelation, and that it is perfectly ok if someone leaves the Church to follow another course, and that God will reward everyone according to their beliefs and not according to their obedience to the words of the living prophets of the true Church or the true gospel. This is the feeling I’ve been getting recently from some in the Bloggernacle. I don’t believe it for a minute. I can just imagine how Joseph Smith or Brigham Young would blast these specious perceptions.
Take for instance Andrew Ainsworth’s post at Mormon Matters. I do not disagree with the statements by the General Authorities, but I do disagree with the way Andrew states the case of the “myths” of the “one true church” claim. He lists the following as myths:
Was there a prophet found anywhere on the earth? A temple? A saving ordinance? An authorized blessing? Yes, God did stop communicating with mankind in large measure during the Apostasy. Was it a complete cessation? No. But that is not the point of the restored gospel.
Joseph Smith himself said: “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” (JS-H 1:19). Were they completely corrupt? No. But, again, that is not the point.
How would you compare the amount of revelation and inspiration that God gives to the prophets and apostles of His Church as a whole compared with others? Do others receive inspiration too? Of course. But that’s not the point of the restored Church of Christ. It is through modern revelation to God’s chosen servants that we are to know God’s will today and receive the saving ordinances of His gospel.
Almost every reference that I’ve read from the General Authorities with reference to the the “great and marvelous work” or the “marvelous work and a wonder” is in relationship to the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Are we doing all the work? No. But the redemption of the dead, for instance, can only take place in the temple of God.
I don’t think any well-intentioned member of the Church truly believes that all leaders of other churches are servants of the devil, only deceiving people. While there are many leaders of other faiths that teach people to do many good things, there are also a great number that take people captive by false doctrine such that they cannot see truth and light anymore.
This one has been worked over many times in the Church. Of course we don’t believe that anyone who is not a member of the Church is a member of the Church of the Devil. But we do believe that those who do not promote Christian values, moral standards, and goodness are not of God.
I don’t believe any member precisely knows at what point a person must learn about the restored gospel before they will be judged for not accepting it. There are many devout Christians in the world that would probably reject the Church the first hundred times of hearing it, and still be honest in heart. Our missionaries don’t dust their feet at every person they meet. This is an extreme view.
If I didn’t know better, I would think these statements came from our critics’ perception of LDS belief, not LDS perception of LDS belief. I do not hear the prophets declaring the ubiquity of God’s blessings to mankind. I hear the blessings of God being poured out without measure on God’s covenant people, that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, commissioned with preparing the Earth for the Second Coming of the Savior. If Andrew’s post is analyzing what the “one true church … does not mean,” then this post states what it does mean. And we are not ashamed of it.
In what I hope will be helpful and in addition to my own essay on the subject a while back, I offer the following observation. Being an old guy and having been reading Mormon blogs and LDS email lists back to the early 90’s, I long ago learned that we have in the LDS blogging community two very distinct groups, the Iron Rodders and the Liahonas.
The subject of the One True Church is one that clearly divides these two groups. On the one hand, the Iron Rodders will always agree with you and with the authorities y0u quote. By the way, I am an Iron Rodder and agree with the point of your essay. I love your blog. I read it every day and appreciate your strong testimony, eloquently expressed. On the other hand, a large portion of the Bloggernacle is made up of the Liahonas, who “walk by the light of their own conceit.”
This conflict is not new to the rise of the NOMs. It has been around for a long, long time. You can read more about it in President Lee’s April 1971 General Conference talk, The Iron Rod. In it, you can read this quote, attributed to the Apostle John A. Widstoe, “The self-called liberal [in the Church] is usually one who has broken with the fundamental principles or guiding philosophy of the group to which he belongs. … He claims membership in an organization but does not believe in its basic concepts; and sets out to reform it by changing its foundations.”
In other words, these people really do believe that they can and should endeavor to change the church by the things they write, by the attitudes they express and by the demands they make upon the leaders of the church. It is simply foreign to them to contemplate that the Brethren know what they are doing and do not need to be told how to run the church. They love to come up with their own theories and explanations for inspired changes in the church by saying, “See, I told you so. They changed that because we complained long and loud enough.”
If I know anything about the Bloggernacle, what I have shared could easily be ripped apart by any number of prominent bloggers, many of whom I respect and read. Just as they are amazed at how “conservative, intolerant, unempathetic and exclusionary” I am towards their doubting and questioning methods, I am equally amazed at how disrespectful and less than faithful their methods of picking apart, questioning, and even mocking are towards the church leaders.
I’ll stop now. I could go on and on. If this is off the mark of your post, just go ahead and delete it. I’ll pick it up on my blog sometime in the near future. It’s one I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. I hope I have not detracted from the wonderful uplifting message of your testimony and your clear love of the Lord, the Church, the leaders and especially of the Temples. We are indeed a part of the One True Church, the only one with the keys of the priesthood. Cheers!
Thank you for your comments Tim, also. I believe you are right on.
This is an appropriate post for this time. Wasn’t this the crux of the First Presidency message for July as well? Sustaining the priesthood means supporting even when you don’t understand or don’t agree. If you hold that body to be inspired, then you have to remain consistent or else you come to selective inspiration, which is never good when the storms of life come, and come they will.
In D&C 1:30, the Lord uses “only” to describe not just “true,” but “true and living.”
Do you think this is significant? Is there a difference between a “true church,” and a “true and living church?” If so, a more nuanced approach to this scripture may be appropriate.
I’ve always thought that “living” as describing a church, implies the presence of the Spirit…because spirit brings life. Joseph Smith taught that a distinguishing feature of the Church was the gift of the Holy Ghost, hence making the church “living.”
So do you think its possible for a church to be true and dead? To be false and living?
In any case, the Lord makes clear that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only “true and living” church, but somehow I think that means something different than what Latter-day saints mean when they toss around the phrase “only true church.”
The 10th Article of Faith makes clear that there is truth yet to be revealed, implying that the current church is at some level “truth-deficient.” Does this have any bearing on how we quantify “true” in reference to the Church? Or does it mean void of falsehoods? Later prophets have corrected, amended,or even discredited statements of past prophets, suggesting that even with revelation, the Church is on a journey and quest to obtain truth, but may be associated with falsehoods along the way.
Maybe I’m thinking too hard about this, but a cut-and-dry “one true church” vs. multitudes of “false churches” seems like a gross oversimplification and misrepresentation of the scriptures and the words of the prophets.
I do believe that Church is the only repository of legitimate priesthood authority, and as such, ordinances can only be divinely recognized if performed within the Church. However, as proxy temple work suggests, this is more of the Church’s universal responsibility to process the paper-work and validate the procedures for all of humanity, rather than a pronouncement that all other belief systems are little more than highways to hell.
I think the general notion is that those of other faiths will be taught in the spirit world and once their ordinance work is complete, they can join the Shepherd’s “one true” fold, but I think Latter-day saints will also be instructed and taught on very similar levels. The ordinance work will have already been done, but I wonder if the rift between the members and non-members will be as wide as we like to think….
Thank you for your comments Aha. I have always believed that “living” meant continual revelation to living prophets and apostles. I have heard some authorities say this as well. For this reason alone I don’t believe it is possible for a church to be true and dead, or false and living. I believe they go hand in hand.
Yes, we don’t have all truth. Yes, we have continual revelation that changes for our day and time. Yes, there is much good being done in the Christian world. But I believe that one God has sanctioned and organized one true faith, and one true baptism for a divine purpose. I don’t think it is appropriate to muddy those waters, which are quite living.
I’m not sure why you characterize Bloggernacle blogs as liberal or “new-order” blogs, and I disagree that they criticize the one true church claim. Sure, they downplay the harsher sectarian implications of the Great Apostasy as it was previously depicted in LDS talks and publications, but so have more recent remarks by LDS leaders, to the extent they address the topic. Read Elder Ballard’s remarks in his recent book Our Search for Happiness, for example. It’s a much softer line than was previously preached on the topic of the apostasy. So maybe the Mormon Matters take on the present LDS view deserves a hearing.
Dave, I don’t characterize all Bloggernacle blogs as liberal. But, yes, there are some that are.
I don’t think President Eyring’s remarks in our recent April General Conference downplayed the implications of the Great Apostasy. We are still the “only true church,” as he put it, and shouldn’t feel uncomfortable with saying it.
Curious about why that “and living” was so oddly interupting the flow of the “only true church” phrase I had been submerged in from my youth, I investigated what it is doing there. When I looked at all the uses of “true” and “living” in the Bible, I found that the passages in which those themes occurred correspond point for point with the themes of D&C 1. For example, Jer. 10:10 speaks of “the true God, the Living God” in a Voice of Warning passage. “True vine” occurs in discussions of priesthood. “Living waters” refers both to the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the ordinances of sacrament and baptism. Scripture is also “living water.” “Tree of Life” is a temple image, as is the context of the “living way” in Hebrews. There is more, but it all points the same direction, and accounts for every verse and theme in D&C 1.
So I think “true and living” functions as a merism, a succinct way of expressing the themes of D&C 1 overall. Notice that “only” is modified by “with which I the Lord am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually.” “Well pleasingness” relative to the themes encompassed by “true and living” is the distinction, not exclusiveness.
D&C 1 expressly states that the voice of the Lord us unto all men, that besides speaking to Joseph Smith, he also spoke to unspecified others, and that he is willing to reveal his word unto all flesh. In three places, the Lord expressly refutes the notion of exclusive truth and revelation.
D&C 1 states of LDS leaders that “inasmuch as they have erred, it shall be made manifest: and inasmuch as they sought wisdom, they might be instructed.” So he expressly refutes the notion of static, unchanging understanding and infallible leadership. It means that human imperfection is part of the package, and not a reason to reject the LDS message. It is going to grow and change as we do. The seed grows into a tree, not a giant seed.
D&C 1 does not contain the popular phrase “only true church.” Do those three words accurately convey what D&C 1: 30 takes 30 words to say? Are the extra words mere verbosity, mere rhetorical flourish, or do they have meaningful content. The “only true” phrase implies, “exclusive, perfect, correct.” Yet we are told expressly that that the leaders can make mistakes, and that truth and virtue are not exclusive to the LDS church. “I the Lord am no respecter of persons.” “Speaking to the church collectively, and not individually…” I think the context of D&C 1 expressly undercuts implications the common-place cliche, “only true church.” D&C 1 spells out distinctions that are expressly non-exclusive with respect to truth, virtue, and even revelation. We are not yet perfect as indivuals, which is a relief. We don’t have to be perfect to be gathered in. Just repentant and repenting.
And what does it mean by “church”? Only true body of doctrines? No. Only virtuous people. No. We are warned in D&C 1 against such thinking. The only people that God cares about? No. What then? A calling out, a gathering of people, who are given much and are accountable for what they have been given of what is “true and living” provided through the calling of Joseph Smith. Called and given commandments, given power to translate the Book of Mormon and proclaim the gospel, given priesthood which authorizes ordinances. The very things that distinguish the LDS faith in practice, claims to modern revelation, priesthood, and temples, are the very true and living themes that distinguish the LDS faith as “well pleasing” in D&C 1.
That is how I read it, FWIW. I gave a presentation at a Sunstone on the topic many years ago. The difference makes for more tolerant and robust reading, in my view. And the distinction of “only well pleasing, true and living church” is quite sufficient for me.
Would you disapprove of President Eyring saying that “this is the true Church, the only true Church“?
Let me see if I’m understanding you correctly.
The claim that we are “the only true church” to you means:
1) We are the sole institution possessing authority to perform necessary ordinances to allow people to gain salvation/exaltation.
2) We have more truth than other churches/religions do.
3) We have more communication from God than other churches/religions do.
If I’m following you correctly I don’t see how 2 & 3 follow from the claim about being the ‘only’ true church. Don’t these sound like they should fall under a claim of being ‘the most true’; rather than the ‘only’ true church? It seems that it would make more sense to say that, “I believe our church to be the only institution with the authority to perform essential ordinances to allow human beings to enjoy eternal life. I also believe that our church has the most ‘good’ when compared with other churches/religions in terms of ‘truth’, ‘inspiration’, and ‘direct access to God’.”
Is this essentially your position? If it is, it would seem that your disagreement with ‘new order’ Mormon bloggers would not be over the ‘only’ claim at all; but instead to what degree ‘most’ is an appropriate label for ‘goods’ such as ‘truth’, etc.
As I’ve shown above briefly, I’m not the first to use the term “only” to describe the “true Church.” Prophets and apostles have used the term. I’m not going start bearing my testimony that I believe the Church is the “most true” church. I have never heard that out of the mouths of the prophets. It seems to me like a compromise for the sake of inclusivity. The Church has never been “inclusive” in the sense of broadening our doctrinal belief to include those who believe differently. In fact, that was the problem with the early Christian church that caused it to fall into apostasy. The Church is, by definition, exclusive. We are a peculiar people, called, chosen, set apart, anointed, a royal priesthood, very different from the world around us.
Thank you for your post. I agree with your observation on comments made by some people on the bloggernacle that try to minimize the authority of the leaders.
Just as a child grows to adulthood and is taught precept on precept, so are the Church leaders and its members. Just as Christ grew and waxed strong in spirit, Luke 1:80, so does the Church have to grow and wax strong in preparation for the second coming of Christ.
Because the Church has not received all of the truth to be revealed, doesn’t diminish the truth that the Church does have, nor does it diminish the authority of the Church. There is no other Church on the earth that has been given this authority from God.
Article of Faith # 9, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
Aha, I would like to comment on a couple of your points.
“Maybe I’m thinking too hard about this, but a cut-and-dry “one true church” vs. multitudes of “false churches” seems like a gross oversimplification and misrepresentation of the scriptures and the words of the prophets.”
“…a gross oversimplification and misrepresentation of the scriptures…”. – I’m confused by your statement. Please show me in the scriptures where the Lord opens the door to many churches and a wide path to return to him. “The Old Testament is filled with stories and experiences to help the people understand there is one true God. “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Eph 4:5. Christ even warns the apostles in Matt 16:6, 12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod…”
Also your comment, ” However, as proxy temple work suggests, this is more of the Church’s universal responsibility to process the paper-work and validate the procedures for all of humanity, rather than a pronouncement that all other belief systems are little more than highways to hell.”
I guess I missed that part in the temple.
1. The plan of salvation is based on glory. All kingdoms will be a glory to the people who receive them. D&C 76:89 – 92; 1 Cor. 14:40 -41.
2. I know you know this, but we are among the few Christian churches that do NOT believe that people who are not of our faith will be condemned to hell. Many of these Christian churches even condemn innocent children to hell if there weren’t baptized.
Of course everyone will be learning in the next life including members, I don’t think anyone disagrees; that is what it’s all about.
The Church leaders have never claimed: we know everything, we don’t make mistakes, and we are perfect. Just the opposite, we are in this mire knee deep with the entire human race. We’re learning, we’re growing, and we are striving to give more , be more humble and be less selfish. By no means do members of the Church hold the corner on good works, charity or good people.
However, what the Church does hold is the authority to perform ordinances, teach with authority and receive revelation.
Aha, perhaps there is confusion between authority and perfection. The church has the first, it does not have the latter.
Bryce, I’m curious about your equation of “liberal” Mormons with “New Order Mormons.” Is there a difference between the two in your mind? Can one be a liberal Mormon but not be a NOM?
As I’ve shown above briefly, I’m not the first to use the term “only” to describe the “true Church.” Prophets and apostles have used the term. I’m not going start bearing my testimony that I believe the Church is the “most true” church. I have never heard that out of the mouths of the prophets. It seems to me like a compromise for the sake of inclusivity.
You’re missing my point. It’s ridiculous to say “we are the only true church” when you mean “we have more truth than other churches do”. This is equivalent to taking “John was the only graduate from BYU this year” to mean “John graduated summa cum laude from BYU this year”. In the quotes you employ above, prophets use the “only true” language to refer to authority, and not the #2 or 3 (incoherent) sense that I list above. I don’t see the bloggers you admonish using it any differently. In this light it seems that everyone involved agrees on the “only institution with authority” usage of “only true”.
In short, the disagreement you have with these bloggers is not over the “only true” language, but understanding our church as having “the most truth”, etc. IMO you should instead provide a way to argue for us having “the most truth” rather than trying (ineffectively) to lump it in with the discourse of “only true”.
I have not yet distinguished the difference between liberal and “new order” Mormons, if there is one. How would you define them? My father-in-law is a Democrat and more “liberal,” but I would not say he is a “new order” Mormon. I think the “new order” thing has been defined over the last 10-15 years probably, but I haven’t pinpointed it.
If the Church has the most truth of any denomination on Earth, then I don’t think it is ridiculous to say that it is “the only true church.” God didn’t restore the “mostly” true church. He restored the “only” true Church. It is the only true Church because it is the only church which holds the authority of God’s priesthood, His divine sanction and commission, with prophets and apostles called of Him. That alone qualifies it for the use of the term, since everything we do in the Church is by virtue of the priesthood. We believe that man must be called by prophecy, by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority, to preach the gospel and administer the ordinances thereof. It is all authority. The truths (2) of the restored gospel are taught through the priesthood, and revelation (3) for mankind is received through the priesthood. You can’t separate them. This isn’t a game here on Earth. Everything that God reveals from heaven is calculated to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. And the Church has exclusive rights to ultimately bestowing those blessings, through the priesthood. The Church has always been defined by the existence of keys of authority on the Earth, just as in every other dispensation throughout history. It is precisely the keys that make the Church the only true Church. No other church has any right to these keys. They are as exclusive as it gets.
That includes His Church which He organized expressly for the purpose of saving the children of men. There is no other way, nor means, hence the “one” and “only” true Church.
To be clear, I’m not saying that “the only true church” is an unclear designation, but that it is a claim about authority and not about “truth” amounts.
If the Church has the most truth of any denomination on Earth, then I don’t think it is ridiculous to say that it is “the only true church.” God didn’t restore the “mostly” true church. He restored the “only” true Church.
Personally I tend to take God’s word at face value. So when he says that A) This church is the only true church, and B) If there is anything lovely or of good report or praiseworthy we seek after it; I take it to mean that there are ‘truths’ outside of the church, and they are good. (A), therefore does not mean “truth only comes from the church”, but the church is exclusive in a different sense. This ‘sense’ seems to be understood by today’s prophets as authority.
Now, if your position is that “only” is close enough to “most”, then I would say that you are manipulating the language of the revelation and the quotes of the brethren to suit your needs.
The truths (2) of the restored gospel are taught through the priesthood, and revelation (3) for mankind is received through the priesthood.
How does this not contradict your initial admission that “there is much truth found in all religions of the world”?
I find it interesting that the concept of keys is absent from the ‘keystone’ of our religion, the Book of Mormon. As a counter-example, we have Alma the elder who was one of the priests that King Noah installed after he ousted the priests that his righteous father had put in place. After Alma fled and began teaching the words of Abinadi, he established a church of Christ. Where did he get his authority? Not from wicked King Noah. He got his authority from God. I see no substantiation for the idea of keys in the Book of Mormon.
Is this important? Considering that the Book of Mormon contains the ‘fulness of the Gospel,’ I think it does merit consideration of just what God intended for those who bear His ‘authority.’
I think it is a statement about truth amounts as well. I don’t believe there is any other church on the face of the earth that has nearly the same amount of truth that God has chosen to bestow on His own Church. In comparison with all other churches, the Lord’s Church is supreme in this regard.
Yes, there are truths outside of the Church, and they are good. But this does not diminish the Lord’s Church. It is still the only true Church, the only church with His sanction. God has deemed it proper to also give some truths to others, but they do not have a “fullness” to the extent that God has chosen to give to His Church. I don’t think there is another church on the earth today that the Lord would call a “true church” because of the truth and revelation that they have. On the contrary, He called them all false! That means that the LDS Church is His “only” true church.
“Only” is not close enough to “most.” Only means only. The LDS Church is the only church on the face of this earth with the authority of God’s priesthood, with living prophets and apostles, and with the saving ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m not sure how much more clear I can be than that. While others can receive truth and revelation, it is in small proportion to that which He has given and continues to give to His restored Church. In other words, no one is going to receive sufficient truth and revelation outside of the Lord’s Church to merit salvation and exaltation. That only comes by obedience to the restored ordinances and laws of the House of the Lord, either in mortality or in the spirit world.
The concept of keys is not absent from the Book of Mormon. Whenever God has chosen to give authority to man to perform ordinances in His name, it has been by ordination and a dispensation of keys.
Taking your example of Alma, where did he get his authority? President Joseph Fielding Smith said this:
Whenever anyone is ordained to the priesthood, there is a conferral of keys. One does not hold the priesthood without a priesthood office. Every office holds keys of authority, or else there is no priesthood. Whenever Alma received his authority, it was by ordination from an authorized servant of God, and it contained keys.
Consider these scriptures that contain the concept of keys of authority being used and conferred:
Just because the Book of Mormon does not mention “keys” by name does not mean that they weren’t in use extensively, and being conferred from generation to generation, throughout Book of Mormon history, because they were.
It is amazing to me that such a basic principle could be so controversial. Wasn’t Joseph Smith told to join “none” of the churches. Wasn’t the priesthood restored by heavenly messangers. If the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not the only true church then what is the point of belonging to it. Wouldn’t any church do? Anyone who has joined the church, as well as those who enter the temple are asked if they believe this is the only true church. You either believe it or you don’t and if you don’t I have a difficult time understanding how the church could be more than a social gathering place for you. Sounds to me like it’s the typical “buffet” gospel approach. Just choose the doctrines you like and pass over the others that are difficult for you to swallow.
“The only true church” doctrine is a basic core belief of the restored gospel. If not true Joseph Smith was not a true prophet and was a hoax. So is the issue really about the “only true church” or about Joseph Smith being a true prophet of God?? I testify that he was. This is the ONLY true church on the earth today.
I think it is a statement about truth amounts as well…. “Only” is not close enough to “most.” Only means only.
Do you see why these two statements cannot both hold? If “only” means “only” and we have truth but are not the only source of truth, then we are not the only “true church” in the sense of “truth amounts”.
My entire point has been that your disagreement with “new order” LDSs is about “truth amounts”. They do not disagree with you in the sense that the church is the only source of authority to perform necessary ordinances, but in the sense that the difference in “truth amounts” between our church and other churches/religions is not as large as you make it out to be. It seems that if you want to admonish them you should argue for a large gap in “truth amounts” between our church and others.
My hunch is that you incorporate the language of “the only true church” to make the argument because it is easier to find current church leadership using the phrase. However, current church leadership use “the only true church” in line with claims to authority and not truth amounts. Why don’t you find some quotes from the current prophet/apostles that talk about the “falseness” or “lack of truth” in other religions? Or how our church is superior in truth amounts than these other religions?
Saying that we are the “only true church” does not mean that we are the only church with truth. Those statements don’t go hand in hand. What it means is that God has a single chosen Church, one to which He gives much more truth than any other denomination, church, people, faith, person, or organization in the history of Earth. The truth God has bestowed on His restored Church is infinitely greater than that which He has given to all the world combined. To not believe this is to have a weak testimony of His restored gospel and His restored Church.
President Hinckley firmly warned the Saints:
In the same talk President Hinckley said:
Do you believe President Hinckley would call the Church “mostly true”? That it only contains “most” of the truth? It is absurd to even consider it.
Almost every talk in General Conference given by the Brethren and hymns sung by the choir and congregation is literally permeated with the knowledge, and testimony, and witness of the fact that this is the kingdom of God on earth, blessed with truths and revelations beyond measure in comparison with the rest of the world. That is why the gospel was restored. The day dawn is breaking! The world is awaking! The clouds of night’s darkness are fleeing away! The morning breaks! The shadows flee!
Or how about:
Elder Holland said in the last General Conference:
I don’t know how Elder Holland could have stated that a cessation of revelation or a closed canon was any more “false” in the other religions of the world than he did here.
Furthermore he said:
How could Elder Holland state the superiority of the truth of the restored Church of Jesus Christ compared with the totality of the entire Christian world more succinctly or strongly than this?
In the previous conference he said:
Elder Holland is unequivocally denouncing the modern use of the term Christian. Every single other religions’ belief in a fourth- or fifth-century view of the Godhead is utterly and totally false! What more does he have to say?
And this is just from one of the apostles.
The truth God has bestowed on His restored Church is infinitely greater than that which He has given to all the world combined.
NONE of the quotes you provide from ANY of the living apostles/prophets substantiate this position. I reaffirm, this is YOUR own position, and you have been unable to demonstrate that it is in congruence with current church teaching.
I’m sorry SmallAxe. We will have to disagree. I believe there is an abundance of evidence that is contrary to your position, but none of it will you be able to see.
Perhaps you can explain to me how any of the quotes you use demonstrate your point.
I take Pres. Hinkley to say, “If the historical or theological claims of the church are not true, then it is false.”
I take Elder Holland to mean, “All who claim that the canon is closed is wrong.”
I have no idea how you get to “The truth God has bestowed on His restored Church is infinitely greater than that which He has given to all the world combined,” from here.
Bryce asked “Would you disapprove of President Eyring saying that “this is the true Church, the only true Church“?”
President Eyring can say whatever he wants. I sustain him, and all the general authorities. I’ve even looked up “sustain” in the dictionary, so that I am fully aware of all the implications of what I do when I sustain them.
All I offered is how I read the D&C 1, which I understand to be the Lord’s formal setting out the reasons for Joseph Smith’s call and the distinctions of LDS church. When I first found that I was seeing something I did not expect to see, I checked all the D&C commentaries I could find. What I noticed is that not one of the commentaries offered a close reading of the key verse nor of the overall context provided by D&C 1. All merely substituted the three word cultural cliche for the actual revealed text. My reading is my own, not authoritative. But I am trying to account for all 30 words in the verse, and their context in the section, not boiling them down to the three that say what I expect to hear. Multiplying opinions and authorities has its place, but it is not the same thing as conducting or providing careful analysis of the text in question.
Others may read the text differently than I do. Fine. But in doing so, it would help to take seriously all thirty words in the verse. We could, I suppose edit actual text down to “only true church” deleting the source of potential disagreement, or, as I think, a source of potential enlightenment.
Does any other religion possess prophets of God? Does any other religion possess the authority of God? Does any other religion possess God’s holy temples? Does any other religion possess the truths of premortality, our purpose on earth, and the hereafter? Does any other religion possess men who may receive revelation and instruction from God that pertains to the entire Earth? Does any other religion possess the eternal covenants that God makes with us? Does any other religion have an authorized open canon? Does any other religion perform authorized healing blessings? Does any other religion have deacons, priests, teachers, elders, bishops, patriarchs, and apostles who have been called of God? Does any other religion know the true nature of God? Does any other religion know the mission of Elijah? Does any other religion have the gift of the Holy Ghost? Does any other religion know how the redemption of the dead occurs or are commissioned with it? Does any other religion know as much about Melchizedek as we do? Does any other religion have authorized patriarchal blessings? Does any other religion possess the gift of tongues, and prophecy, and revelation, and visions, and the interpretation of tongues? Does any other religion know why Adam fell? Does any other religion know our ultimate destiny to become like God? Does any other religion have the divine right to baptize or confirm? Does any other religion have the divine right to missionary work? Does any other religion understand the true relationship between grace and works? Does any other religion know the significance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ? Can any other religion exalt the children of God?
Name one. And please make sure they have all of the above. We don’t want to compare apples and oranges here.
Thank you for your followup comment. I appreciate your analysis and opinion. It is certainly imperative to understand the details of every verse of scripture.
However, I, personally, believe we must be careful not to just focus on a single scripture at the expense of everything the Lord has revealed through prophets and apostles throughout the whole of the restoration, even till today. I think sometimes we see the tree, even down to the individual seeds, at the expense of the mountain behind it. The seeds do not represent the mountain. They are an element, but not all. We must take a much more holistic view when trying to ultimately understand Church doctrine and belief, a perspective our critics are all to apt to fail at.
I have not yet distinguished the difference between liberal and “new order” Mormons, if there is one. How would you define them? My father-in-law is a Democrat and more “liberal,” but I would not say he is a “new order” Mormon. I think the “new order” thing has been defined over the last 10-15 years probably, but I haven’t pinpointed it.
New Order Mormons define themselves as “those who no longer believe some (or much) of the dogma or doctrines of the LDS Church, but who want to maintain membership for cultural, social, or even spiritual reasons.” I consider myself a moderately liberal Mormon (both religiously and politically), but definetely not a New Order Mormon, as I still believe all LDS doctrine. I may have a more expansive or different view of what constitutes LDS doctrine, but I remain a firm believer in Mormonism. While I know many liberal bloggers around the bloggernacle, I know significantly less New Order Mormons who participate regularly around the ‘nacle. So I’m a little confused by your conflation of the two groups.
Thanks for the explanation. I believe you are right. I think the vibes I’m getting from the Bloggernacle on this issue are primarily from the new order Mormons, which are probably also mostly liberal, hence my use of the term “liberal new order Mormon bloggers.” I have found a significant number of such bloggers at Mormon Matters, for instance.
Does any other religion possess prophets of God? Does any other religion possess the authority of God? Does any other religion possess God’s holy temples? etc.
Given that the answer to your set of questions is “yes” in nearly every case, perhaps you are not qualified to speak to the question of what other religions do or do not have. Perhaps you would say, “Oh, yes, of course others have prophets, temples, etc, but OURS are true prophets, true temples, etc.” Of course, this simply raises the question of authority that SmallAxe has posed.
No. The answer is an unequivocal, unabashed, and unforgiving, no. As I’ve said before, divine authority, sanction, approval, permission, license, lawfulness, consent, and approbation given from God only to His restored Church places it on a superlative plain above the religions of the world. We have the keys of the kingdom. No one else does. Not a single, solitary, one. And that means eternally more revelation and truth given to this Church than any other.
Can I encourage you to consider the possibility that by the “true church” we mean something more like the “authentic” church? This moves the issue onto grounds that more easily transition into the need for, and value of, claims of exclusiveness.
Ideas like “truth” really resist attempts to somehow quantify them. This is particularly important when we consider that the central ideas of Christianity, that God has saved us through the death and resurrection of Christ and that we please God by responding in love and obedience, are pretty much available to anyone who cares to open the NT. Were we to somehow measure “truth” we could not do so by simply totaling up doctrinal points on each side.
There are probably many ways in which we could compromise our statement of the truthfulness of the Church. We could say that it is “mostly true” or the most “authentic,” but the Brethren clearly have not made such a compromise of belief, and I will not either. Again, no truth or revelation in any other religion, however closely aligned with ours, will exalt man. It must come through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the restored gospel, and in no other way (Mosiah 3:17). Otherwise, why was the gospel restored? Can anyone take upon themselves the name of Christ except it be through His true Church? From my understanding of the temple, I would say no. As I’ve said above, I believe the truths that have been showered out upon the restored Church with regard to the purpose of life and the means to gain salvation and exaltation are incomparable to those that the world has received.
Does any other religion possess prophets of God?…
This is a different strategy to prove your argument. Instead of relying on quotes from general authorities you now compile a list of “truths” in an attempt to show that “our list is longer than yours”. It isn’t difficult to find living prophets testifying of these “truths”, but it is difficult to find them employing these truths in the manner that you are. Namely, to prove that the truths of our religion are “infinitely greater than that which He has given to all the world combined”.
We don’t want to compare apples and oranges here.
Exactly the reason your new strategy doesn’t work either.
If you must always have a quote from a general authority, here is one from Elder McConkie:
Again I say, no man or woman who is not a member of the LDS Church, not called and chosen by God as a prophet, seer, and revelator, has anywhere near the claim to truth and revelation as those who are. These are false prophets. They may teach much truth, but they are not the authorized conduit of the bounteous blessings of God’s saving truths. God doesn’t pour out his saving truths upon the false sectarian world!
I think I must resist your suggestion that I have somehow compromised of the claim of exclusiveness. Perhaps you misread. I did not say that the church was “mostly true” or that it was the “most authentic” as you have asserted. I believe I used the definite article in both cases, while you have disingenuously inserted other qualifiers and attributed them by implication to me.
When we talk about our church as “the true church” one way to unpack this claim is to say that it is “the authentic church.” Once again, note the definite articles, intact on both expressions. The latter expression, I believe, carries with it the idea that the church is unique in the sense that it is God’s church, designated by him as the means and manner by which we are organized to respond in love and obedience. Such truth as is necessary or natural to God’s own organization naturally follows, but there is really no need to try to tote them up for comparison.
Whoa! Nibley and BRM! I’m sure both would be horrified… 🙂
I did not attribute “mostly true” or “most authentic” to you. I believe I said:
Notice the quotation marks, and the previous discussion on this thread.
Also note that a search for the terms “the authentic church” or “authentic church” returns precisely zero results on LDS.org. See the link.
In fact, the only reference from an authority that used the term “authentic church,” that I can find, was President George Q. Cannon in which he was teaching the exclusiveness of the truth revealed in the restoration.
If your first person plural pronoun was not inclusive, I find it hard to understand in what sense your post was a response to mine. And although the results of your search for “authentic church” are interesting, they are also not a substantive response unless you wish to advocate that we must invariably express ourselves in precisely those words used by church leaders.
These things, however, are of no matter in the larger picture. Is there some sense in which referring to the true church as the authentic church is a compromise of the claim to exclusiveness?
If my searches are any indication of how we should testify of the Church, given the example by the Brethren who are called of God specifically to proclaim the gospel to the world, then the score comes out zero for “authentic church” to thousands for “true church.” I will follow the Brethren in testifying that this is the true church. No apologies. Clearly the Brethren prefer the latter term over the former when testifying, teaching, and preaching. The former term apparently doesn’t even enter their minds.
President Kimball taught:
May I suggest that being the only true church does not necessarily reflect what kind of condition it is currently in. As Verlan Anderson once said. Those who claim to be the Lords people can rest assured that it is not a matter of IF but WHEN they will go into apostasy.
After reading section 84 one might refer to it as the only true church which is under condemnation for taking the Book of Mormon and other scriptures lightly.
After reading section 112 one might refer to it as the only true church which along with the rest of the world has been overcome by gross darkness and now ALL FLESH is corrupt… including Mormon flesh.
After reading section 124 and acknowledging that the Saints were forced to flee the holy place and did not complete either the temple or the boarding house by the deadline given by the Lord, one might refer to it as the only true church that has been rejected by the Lord.
After reading the consequences of not living consecration after being commanded to live it as listed in multiple sections of the scriptures…. well you get my drift.
CRC, see President Kimball’s comments above. I don’t know how many times the Brethren, going back to Joseph Smith, have taught that the Church would never be taken from the Earth again, till the Son of God comes, but I’m sure it has been in the hundreds.
There may be many members of the Church who are in apostasy, but you can guarantee that it is not the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve.
I think we’ve beat this dead horse long enough. Thanks all for your comments.
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