I haven’t heard it quite as much in the last couple years, but at least as recently as a 2000, President Hinckley often said things like “I say to those of other faiths: ‘You bring all the good that you have and let us see if we can add to it.’” (here’s one instance, about a third of the way down.) He may still say it for all I know, but whether he does or not I have no reason to believe that it doesn’t fairly accurately portray his views, and I’ve been thinking about the idea lately.
What “good” do you think Prez H means? What good do we add to that of other faiths? Maybe the answer is that we have the “truth” and that we can offer salvation. If so, my reply is: Salvation shmalvation.
Pithy attention-grabbers aside, I admit that salvation is, of course, wonderful. Still, I find it unsatisfying as a justification for the idea that we can add to the good of other faiths. For the purposes of this post I’d like to focus on more temporal measures, and it’s not obvious to me that we add to the good in other churches by those measures in every case. I know we provide a great deal of humanitarian aid, but I’m not convinced that we do more than, say, the Catholic Church. As far as facilitating spirituality and finding inner peace go, we’re way behind many Eastern religions. We’re dwarfed in how comfortable we are with questioning our faith by the chutzpah of Rabbis that say, in essence, Go, look wherever you want for the ‘truth’ — you’ll be back. (I admit this is a second-hand anecdote from a Jewish friend of mine, but I think it’s safe to say that our Church is less open than many others regarding the questioning of its tenets.)
Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places for “good.” But to me, saying that we can add to the good found in other religions suggests that we mean to increase the insight into the complexities of life and its struggles that people may have. Instead, it is my experience that we offer a whole bunch of largely arbitrary dos and don’ts.
An oversimplification? Enh, maybe. But if so, indulge me: what “good” do we offer people who join the Church?