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
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?