Truth Claims

This post originally began as a comment on Natalie’s excellent thread, but I decided that a statement from the First Presidency deserves more than a blog comment.

On February 15, 1978, The First Presidency issued this statement:

STATEMENT OF THE FIRST PRESIDENCY REGARDING GOD’S LOVE FOR ALL MANKIND

February 15,1978

Based upon ancient and modern revelation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gladly teaches and declares the Christian doctrine that all men and women are brothers and sisters, not only by blood relationship from mortal progenitors, but also as literal spirit children of an Eternal Father.

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.

The Hebrew prophets prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, who should provide salvation for all mankind who believe in the gospel.

Consistent with these truths, we believe that God has given and will give to all people sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come.

We also declare that the gospel of Jesus Christ, restored to his Church in our day, provides the only way to a mortal life of happiness and a fullness of joy forever. For those who have not received this gospel, the opportunity will come to them in the life hereafter if not in this life.

Our message therefore is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are the sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father.

Spencer W. Kimball
N. Eldon Tanner
Marion G. Romney 

 

This statement doesn’t get much attention among us, maybe because it was completely overshadowed by the revelation which took place a few months later.  But I think it has much to teach us.  The ideas that God grants light to all, that many religions have at least a portion of the truth, and that individuals were called and commissioned to act without formal bestowal of the priesthood to bring enlightenment to God’s children are found in our scriptures, but often overlooked in our discourse.

It is also worth noting that as long as we believe in Article of Faith # 9, we LDS people also believe that we have only a portion of God’s light.  How do we reconcile the ninth Article of Faith with the claim to have the fullness of the gospel?

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Comments

  1. How do we reconcile the ninth Article of Faith with the claim to have the fullness of the gospel?

    Easy. Even though we already know everything we need to know to get salvation, the 9th AoF reminds us that we might at any time learn that we also need to support or oppose certain social trends to get salvation. See?

  2. Mephibosheth says:

    Less snarky answer:

    Check out 3rd Nephi 27:13. It starts out “Behold, I have given unto you my gospel…” Now look at verse 21: Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel… So now you know that between verses 13 and 21 the term “gospel” is scripturally defined. And what does it talk about in 13-21?

    – Atonement
    – Resurrection
    – Judgement
    – Faith
    – Repentance
    – Baptism
    – Holy Ghost
    – Enduring to the End

    If this is what constitutes the gospel, can it be said that the Book of Mormon contains a fullness of the gospel? It treats these topics more fully than any other book I know. Do we have the Book of Mormon? Yes. Therefore, we have the fullness of the gospel. QED.

  3. Brad and Mephibosheth: by your reasoning, then, other faiths also have the fulness of the gospel, too, and they don’t even need the Book of Mormon or any latter-day revelation to teach it to them.

    The fullness of the gospel is about more than “knowing” everything needed for salvation. Its about authority to put it into practice. And, to make a distinction JS made, it probably includes not just principles of salvation, but exaltation as well.

  4. Thomas Parkin says:

    The gospel is a means of obtaining knowledge, it isn’t knowledge itself. Though I suppose you could say “I have a knowledge of the gospel.” Saying I have a ‘fullness of the gospel’ is more like saying ‘I have all the tools in needed in my toolbox’ than saying ‘I’ve completed the superstructure. ‘

    The end result of living the gospel – very well expressed in #2 – is to have Eternal Life, which means to know God. We gain our knowledge of God in steps, in bits and pieces. That knowledge consists of knowing true facts about God and our true relationship to Him,- but also in understanding those facts in a personal way, in such a way that can only be had by direct personal experience. This happens on a individual basis to those who are truly living the ‘fullness’ of the gospel. If it isn’t happening to us individually, it is because we are not living the gospel – quite possibly because we don’t know what the gospel is. The church hasn’t got, either collectively or individually, a fullness of anything _but_ the gospel. Instead by gospel works in individual lives and the church itself works until, as Paul had it, “we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ …” Individually this means we become more like Jesus, collectively it means we become Zion – a place where the pure in heart can dwell with God.

    These are the basics, as I understand them. ;) ~

  5. God has given and will give to all people sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come

    The fullness of the gospel is about more than “knowing” everything needed for salvation.

    If it isn’t happening to us individually, it is because we are not living the gospel – quite possibly because we don’t know what the gospel is.

    Hmmmm. I’ve got a question now. Do you guys think the LDS concept of salvation is more wrapped up in knowledge than, say, grace or works?

  6. Or in other words, that knowledge is more important and/or fundamental to salvation than grace or works under the LDS paradigm?

  7. Thomas Parkin says:

    “Do you guys think the LDS concept of salvation is more wrapped up in knowledge than, say, grace or works?”

    It seems to me that they are not separable from one another.

    Knowledge comes by Grace, in that it is a gift. Everything comes by Grace, including the ability to do works that can please God. Yet works precede as well as follow Grace. Knowledge of God _is_ the end of our salvation. Faith, also, is a means of obtaining knowledge, not an end in itself. (Paul says that in heaven we will ‘see as we are seen and know as we are known.’) The whole process can be summed up as believing in Christ. There are many ways of saying the same things, and many true perspectives which might, in the language we use to describe them, seem to privilege one aspect over another. But its all one big ball of wax. ~

  8. It seems that the 1978 statement can be read a few different ways. For instance it could say that other religious traditions have a “portion of God’s light”, and we have much more. Or, it could be saying that other religious traditions have portions of God’s light that we don’t have. I’m wondering about people’s thoughts on either of these interpretations. To put it perhaps more bluntly, is this an affirmation that all religious (and philosophical) traditions are good, but just not as good as us; or a claim that other traditions have unique portions of God’s light that we should seek after?

  9. I have always understood that the restored gospel took good that existed elsewhere and added to it.

    That said, I have had many experiences where people of other faiths, past and present, have helped cast light on what we learn in the gospel of Jesus Christ — not because it isn’t there, but because sometimes different ways of talking about truth can make them click for me more fully.

    I love this quote, btw, and appreciate you giving it some attention.

  10. To put it perhaps more bluntly, is this an affirmation that all religious (and philosophical) traditions are good, but just not as good as us; or a claim that other traditions have unique portions of God’s light that we should seek after?

    This is the first time I’ve seen this question approached from this angle. I love the idea. Upon thinking about it, I choose the latter.

  11. the gospel of Jesus Christ, restored to his Church in our day, provides the only way to a mortal life of happiness…

    I don’t know what to make of statements like this. I know lots of non-religious people who seem just as happy as the happy Mormons I know. There are people all over the world who appear happy without any belief in Christ at all, let alone any knowledge about the church.

  12. I think, that the main question here is, do we have the Priesthood keys?

    As mentioned in the FP statement, the Reformers were certainly enlightened by the Spirit, but they weren’t given the fullness – or the authority to administer salvation as agents of God.

    It’s one thing to have a right idea of some things, and another to be called of God to do some things.

    As it is, I don’t think we have everything. We still hold on the AofF that states, that “God will yet reveal many … things…”.

  13. #8: Small Axe, the discussion is convoluted enough without adding a new term/idea like ” affirmation”, to work on.

  14. If the Church is True, then God should be inspiring people to do two things, and two things only:

    1. Find the nearest LDS Church.
    2. Join it!

    If he is inspiring people to attend another church, even start another Church, or do anything other than finding and joining the LDS Church, then He is making a mockery of the efforts of hundreds of thousands of LDS missionaries, and we would need to seriously reexamine our claims regarding how important it is to God for people to join our Church.

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