The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living church on the face of the earth because it is the only church that has the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, along with the laws and priesthood authority to govern it and perform ordinances in His name. It is His church as He organized it Himself while on the earth, restored in the latter-days with prophets and apostles to lead and guide it. But does that mean we have exclusive ownership or a monopoly on truth?
No. From apostolic and prophetic teaching, we know that all religions hold significant truths. And saying that the LDS church is the only true and living church does not mean that it has all truth that exists. We only have the truths that God has seen fit to give us.
We know for example that we have all the necessary saving ordinances, temple ordinances and the priesthood power to perform them. On the other hand, we also know that there is more scripture, more ancient records that have yet to come forth. We know from the scriptures we do have, that sometimes God revealed things to His prophets that He told them not to write. There were truths revealed to His servants that were “sealed up”; truths not meant for the world to know, at least not yet. In fact, it’s pretty well understood that there are things we may never know while in this mortal span of our existence. Knowing that, it’s possible that our prophets today have had truths revealed to them that they have not yet revealed to us.
All this being the case, we can see how having the “fullness of the gospel” does not mean the same thing as having “every single solitary piece of truth there is and ever will be”. We know that our Heavenly Father has much more to reveal to us as stated in the ninth Article of Faith.
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. Articles of Faith 1:9
A question to consider then, is this:
If we know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord’s true church containing the “the fullness of the everlasting gospel” with continuing revelation through God’s chosen prophets, is it possible that other religions have truths or divine practices that we don’t have?
For example, is it possible that the practice of praying to God and accessing His blessings through “Saints” is actually a true practice of God’s people and it just hasn’t been revealed to us yet?
Could the doctrine and practice in New Age and Eastern religions of reaching enlightenment and a higher communication with the Divine through the recitation of mantras or chants or trying to acheive outer-body experiences be godly forms of worship and prayer, that simply have yet to be revealed to modern-day prophets and practiced by true followers?
What about the practice so prevelant in some African religions, where people call upon the collective powers of their dead ancestors for healing or guidance?
N. Adu Kwabena-Essem, a journalist in Accra, Ghana wrote,
“African belief in spirits and juju is just like taking the universal belief in the supernatural to the next logical step. Universal belief in the supernatural and spiritism rests on a conviction of the existence of unseen beings with magical powers that can be harnessed to help the human race in their everyday existence./
As members of the Church, we believe strongly in geneaology and work for the dead, especially for our own ancestors. So is it possible then that they can also do work for us? Heal us from illness or disease? Is it conceivable that that since we can sometimes sense their presence in the temple, that God would have us conjure their presence and tap into their knowledge and resources as spirits in another plane of existence and find supernatural power or healing through them the way that those who believe in JuJu do?
The use of elephant heads and monkey hands in Juju may seem so out of the norm to us that it’s completely unimaginable. But what if we did it without the animal parts? Does that make it more palatable? Could there be truth in the simple practice of seeking healing by conjuring the spirits of our dead? Is it “the next logical step” as Mr. Kwabena-Essem claimed? Is it a “truth” that we as members of the Lord’s true church are simply unaware of because God chose to reveal it to some other spiritual leader, and not to His chosen prophets?
Should we consider that maybe we’re just not ready yet for such a “truth” to be revealed to us and are currently too closed-minded in our traditional Mormonism, or even in our traditional western Christianity to accept such an idea?
If some Zen Master in Asia has a wealth of spiritual knowledge and knows of ritualistic practices sanctioned by God that could help us reach earthly success and wealth, is his knowledge something that our own church leaders are ignorant about?
In short, even though we know that all religions bear truth, is there somekind of spiritual power or knowledge in another religion or held by a religious leader of another faith, that we can’t find in our own church, or that our own prophets don’t already know?
To all these questions comes a resounding “NO!” pounding in my mind and heart.
“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” [Amos 3:7]
Let’s assume for conversation’s sake, that there is a higher form of communication with God, another conduit through which we can receive information, power, healing or guidance from our Creator, (other than through the methods currently practiced in His own church, namely prayer, priesthood and revelation), and that method or conduit was made known to someone on earth. Surely then, that method would be revealed to His prophets, though we recognize that such a method, if it was revealed to His prophet, may or may not be made known to the body of the church.
But if there is a practice for communing with the dead where we can conjure their presence and God WANTED the members of His church to participate in such a ritual to find healing, find names for genealogical work and more fully turn our hearts to our fathers, wouldn’t that practice be revealed to us through His prophet?
If there is a higher way to commune with God on a more spiritual plane by reaching a higher level of consciousness, another way to access His power and blessings, to open our minds to knowledge and/or visions from heaven, such as the recitation of chants, smoking peyote, etc, and if that practice was meant for members of the Church to practice, wouldn’t it be made known to the body of the church through His prophet? Wouldn’t it at least be made known in the temple, to those who are worthy to enter?
Surely, those of another faith would not have these things made known to them while we who are members of His true and living church, who have been entrusted with His holy priesthood, and have been endowed in His holy temples and taught the true order of prayer, are left in the dark. Nor would we be left to find it on our own by stumbling upon it, or by searching through or experimenting with the doctrines and practices of another religion or philosophy.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:…
… 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; [Ephesians 4:11, 12, 14, empahsis added]
In our quest to dig deeper, to become more Christ-like, more devoted in our efforts toward a closer connection with Him and understand Him more fully, we may be tempted to search for truth outside of the gospel and in the doctrines and practices of other religions and philosophies.
Though our intent may be one of honest seeking and hungering for “more”, nonetheless our sincerest intentions could lead us to something sincerely wrong.
Elder Lance B. Wickman of the Seventy said:
“We are susceptible to being victimized by what could be called ersatz ? religion a kind of inferior substitute or imitation for the real thing. Jesus warned of such as a defining characteristic of the latter days:
“Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” [Matthew 24:23 ?24]
Such pretenders have many faces, their ersatz doctrines many names. Some appear on stage in a doctrinal masquerade of sorts, costuming contemporary sociology in a kind of philosophical cheesecloth labeled theology. ? … Some take the form of pricey seminars, conferences, and touchy-feely ? sensitivity sessions…..And so it goes. All of them carry a singular label: the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.
To my mind… they represent a kind of jungle or swamp where men and women good people become lost. To such, ersatz religion becomes an entanglement of false notions an immersing slough of counterfeit and fraudulent doctrines and ideas like venomous snakes poison and distort true gospel principles.
But a compass is available with a true azimuth back to firm ground! The Man in the white robe is still there to guide across the dark and dreary wastes to the eternal tree of life. Following the compass the Man in the white robe that is wisdom. For wisdom is knowing what we worship and how we worship. ”
(emphasis was NOT added, it was in the original text)
It is a dangerous road we walk when we search for spiritual truth outside the fullness of the gospel, which fullness is only found in the Lord’s Church. Not that truth doesn’t exist outside of the Church, but that the Church already holds the real and eternal truths that other religions and philosophies embrace, as well as the additional truths that our Father in Heaven wants us to know for now, as revealed through his prophets.
Even though there are truths in other religions and philosophies, it seems impossible that they could have doctrines that we should already know, or any practices that we should be engaged in, but aren’t.
Though the philosophies of men and doctrines or practices of other faiths may seem to be plausible truths and therefore enticing, we would do well to err on the side of simple faith in the teachings of the Lord through His chosen servants. Anything outside of that is superfluous, and could lead us away from the eternal truth that we were so sincerely seeking in the first place.