For some reason, I landed on the forums at MormonApologetics.org the other day. Oh, I remember. I got there from FAIR, which I occasionally visit just to see what’s new. There are two major LDS forums which I like to visit: The LDS.net forums, part of the MoreGood Foundation and MormonApologetics. The latter is the more wild and woolly debate board. Be careful if you post there and are expecting to be treated with kid gloves. That won’t happen.
Now there are other discussion boards that are frequented by members and ex-members but I won’t link to them. I don’t know why I even mention them but hey, it’s a fact of life that if you are a member of the Church and you use the Internet then you have probably found them before. They are about as unavoidable as your basic anti-Momon site, of which there are hundreds. A popular one is The Foyer and another is PostMormon. There are many others.
The reason I brought this up is because I wanted to respond to one of the recent threads on MormonApologetics. So why don’t I post my comments there? Well, this is my blog and I write my essays here. That’s why. The entry that prompts today’s essay is from a recent convert who writes that he is struggling with the concept of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being the only true church. He wonders why we say that. He says that it feels arrogant.
The scriptural source of the doctrine
Section one of the Doctrine and Covenants is the Lord’s preface to the book. It was given in November of 1831 after 65 previous sections had been received. In verse thirty, the Lord declares that the Prophet Joseph Smith was given “…power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased…” (D&C 1:30)
Add to that scripture the testimony of Joseph Smith as he recorded what the Savior said to him in the First Vision received in 1820. He asked which church he should join. “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt.” That’s a fairly harsh condemnation of all other churches, isn’t it? Did the Lord really say that?
I believe he did. I have no reason to doubt the boy Prophet’s recollection and testimony of what happened on that beautiful Spring morning so long ago. True, he was but fourteen years of age when he received the visit. It is also true that this account in Joseph Smith History 1:19 was dictated to a scribe some eighteen years after the fact. We know that the Lord speaks to men according to their understanding and knowledge. Joseph was impressed to use those words.
What the other churches are missing
So in what way are other churches wrong? And don’t we teach that we invite others to join us bringing with them all that is good and right with their beliefs? Of course we do. But in what sense can we claim, and we do, that we are the only true church upon the face of the earth? In priesthood keys, my friends, in priesthood keys. Why this point escapes so many is beyond me. It is such a basic claim and such a fundamental tenant of our religion. How can you miss it?
I hope it doesn’t bother you when someone gets up in testimony meeting and says, “I know this church is true. I know it is the only true church.” What more can you say when you hear that? The person is sharing a witness borne of the spirit that they know for themselves that what Joseph claimed and taught was true. He did indeed receive the keys of the kingdom from John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elias and Elijah. This is what makes our church true.
We are not trying to be arrogant. We are not trying to say that we are better than anyone else. We are only saying that if you want to receive the ordinances of salvation from an authorized representative of Jesus Christ, then we offer them to you. If the Savior taught that we need to be baptized by one having his authority, and he did, then I would hope that a true follower of Jesus Christ would want to be sure that an authorized representative performs the ordinance.
Conclusion and why this matters
This is basic doctrine. It is not new. I cannot understand why someone would leave this church, no matter what the reason, when they know that this is true. It doesn’t matter who offends you. It doesn’t matter that the members aren’t perfect. It should not matter that the bishop or the Stake President or the General Authorities are not perfect. It should not matter that we are not perfect. All that matters is that we receive the ordinances and remain true and faithful.
Why is that so hard?
Update: Read what a modern prophet had to say about the subject. President Henry B. Eyring delivered a wonderful discourse on the subject of The True and Living Church at General Conference in April of 2008 just a few weeks after I wrote this essay. Note especially his discussion of keys, and ordinances and sealing power, all fundamental parts of the true church.