Are Mormons becoming Protestants? Of course not. Even if they would accept us as one of them, we would betray the gospel of Jesus Christ and his prophets if we became Protestant. Yet I have heard some online who feel there is a spirit among some Latter-day Saints to become more Protestant-like. Whereas in past generations Latter-day Saints have celebrated our differences from the traditional Christian world, today it seems more common to dwell upon the common ground we both share. Is this a good thing? Is this a change in our doctrine? Is this trend from the rank and file membership, or is it being taught our prophet-leaders?
Thoughts on Interfaith Relations
President Gordon B. Hinckley has consistently advocated dialogue and mutual respect in interfaith relations. He has admonished members of the Church to cultivate “a spirit of affirmative” for those of differing religious, political, and philosophical persuasions, adding that “we do not in any way have to compromise our theology” in the process. He gave this counsel: “Be respectful of the opinions and feelings of other people. Recognize their virtues; don’t look for their faults. Look for their strengths and their virtues, and you will find strength and virtues that will be helpful in your own life.”
When members are not well grounded in the teachings of their own faith, how are they to resist being taught rather than teaching? I ask this question in the light of this passage from the Doctrine and Covenants:
Doctrine and Covenants 43:15
Again I say, hearken ye elders of my church, whom I have appointed: Ye are not sent forth to be taught, but to teach the children of men the things which I have put into your hands by the power of my Spirit;
When all about me are trying to find common ground with the Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, etc. I get an uneasy feeling. Can one always teach respect for another’s faith without putting himself into temptation? If we spend much time in highlighting the good in the faiths and beliefs of others, is there a chance we will imply to the unsophisticated that one faith is about as good as another? If the Methodist faith is so wonderful, why not be a Methodist? Surely God wouldn’t mind. He loves all of his children. And if I am a Methodist, I won’t have to quit smoking and keep the Law of Chastity. Suppose I wanted to marry. Suppose my future spouse is a Methodist. What is going to best persuade me to marry a Latter-day Saint instead? Will I do best by learning all the good things about Methodists and their teachings, or by learning what is false about their teachings?
This has puzzled me as long as I have been a Church member. If I accentuate the false teachings of the sects of apostate Christendom, I am encouraged to cling to the gospel as a drowning man clings to a life raft. If I do the opposite and look constantly for the good in their denominations and teachings, I will minimize the importance of the differences between us. In which case, I might as well be a Protestant.
Joseph Smith had almost nothing good to say about the Protestant denominations of his day. Just read his writings and sermons to confirm this. The gospel was restored because traditional Christianity had become rank with apostasy and false doctrine. Brigham Young and the other successors to Joseph Smith had this same negative and almost militant view of “the sectarians.” Yes, there is a lot of truth in all religions. Yes, there are good people in other churches and bad ones in the LDS faith. Are these wonderful people in other faiths wonderful because of their churches or in spite of their churches? I’ve also met wonderful atheists, agnostics, humanists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Muslims.
Whenever I hear someone complain that I express negative thoughts about this or that false teaching in another church, I am told that such negativity will cause us to lose new converts. Maybe so. But is there any danger that failing to emphasize the falseness of their teachings will cause some of our members to misunderstand and become confused about our own teachings? Many of our members are not particularly interested in doctrine and might decide various teachings of other denominations are superior. Why should we worry more about bringing others into the Church than we do about keeping those we already have?
For a number of reasons, the Church is true. The other churches are not. There is more to it than that, but that is most basic. The whole idea of a true church implies that the others are false. Baptists don’t ever talk about this or that denomination being “true.” I never heard that until I became a Latter-day Saint.
I think we need to love and respect people of other faiths. That does not mean that we need to love and respect their false churches. If we forget this, our ability to retain the members we already have will go down as the number of new members goes up.
Can we love the sinner and hate the sin? Yes, of course. Can we love the Baptist or Methodist without loving his false church? I think so. Is this distinction too fine for some to understand? I hope not.
When I became a Mormon it was because I knew the Baptist faith of my childhood was teaching nonsense about the Jesus Christ. Had the Church made an effort to underline the things we had in common, I would have seen no reason to become a Mormon. If just being a good person is all God requires, I can do that anywhere. I do not need to be a Mormon to do that.
Is the faith of the Latter-day Saints part of the ecumenical movement? I left the Protestants behind because I knew that philosophizing, voting, participating in conclaves and conventions, and learning about other faiths has no bearing upon what is true and what is false. Truth and falsehood need no excuses or explanations. If a thing is true, it is true regardless of what the “ecumenical” opinion is.
I think it is wrong to think well of the false doctrines promoted by the other churches. It is wrong and it is also spiritually dangerous. Please correct me if I am wrong.