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Only One True Church?

Some of Joseph Smith's earliest revelations seem to envision not a new denomination but the union of all Christians in a pared-down confession of faith (3 Ne. 11:38-40; D&C 10:52, 62-68). Another restorationist of Joseph Smith's day, Alexander Campbell, had a similar vision. Soon, however, Joseph made bold, exclusivist claims for his church: God had told him that it was "the only true and living church" on earth, that the creeds of other churches were "an abomination," and that their "professors were all corrupt" (D&C 1:30; JS-H 1:19).

Today, even many conservative Saints are uncomfortable with the parochial or judgmental attitudes to which these exclusivist claims can lead. Latter-day Saints have a long tradition of softening exclusivist teachings by acknowledging that goodness and truth have many sources and that God works through religions besides their own.

Deciding if the LDS Church is uniquely true will be important for someone concerned about religious authority. However, for people seeking to enrich their spirituality, what matters is simply that the Spirit works through Mormon tradition. Perhaps you believe that Mormonism has an indispensible something which, ultimately, all other religions lack. Or, conversely, perhaps you believe that exclusivist religious claims simply reflect a human need for superiority or certainty. In either case, if you love Mormon spiritual practices, you can commit to them whether or not you believe Mormonism is the only true religion—much as you can commit to a spouse whether or not you happen to believe that person is your one and only soulmate.

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The Church of Christ Embracing All Truth  

Joseph Smith: The inquiry is frequently made of me, "Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?" In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of "Mormonism" is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may. . . . Christians should cease wrangling and contending with each other, and cultivate the principles of union and friendship in their midst; and they will do it before the millennium can be ushered in and Christ takes possession of His kingdom.

History of the Church (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951), 5:499

John Taylor: I was going to say I am not a Universalist, but I am, and I am also a Presbyterian, and a Roman Catholic, and a Methodist, in short, I believe in every true principle that is imbibed by any person or sect, and reject the false. If there is any truth in heaven, earth, or hell, I want to embrace it, I care not what shape it comes in to me, who brings it, or who believes in it, whether it is popular or unpopular.

Journal of Discourses 1:155

B. H. Roberts: While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is established for the instruction of men; and is one of God's instrumentalities for making known the truth yet he is not limited to that institution . . . [T]here is but one man at a time who is entitled to receive revelations for the government and guidance of the Church—and this in order to prevent confusion and conflict—still it is nowhere held that this man is the only instrumentality through which God may communicate his mind and will to the world. It is merely a law operative within the Church itself and does not at all concern the world outside the Church organization.

Defense of the Faith and the Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1907), 1:512-14

Orson F. Whitney: [God] is using not only his covenant people, but other peoples as well, to consummate a work, stupendous, magnificent, and altogether too arduous for this little handful of Saints to accomplish by and of themselves.

Conference Report, April 1921, 32-33

Spencer W. Kimball, Marion G. Romney, and N. Eldon Tanner: 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. . . . God has given and will give to all peoples sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come.

First Presidency Statement on God's Love for All Mankind (reproduced in Ensign, January 1988, 48)

Chieko N. Okazaki: As you probably know, much of the practice of Buddhism takes place in the home with daily prayers and small offerings of food and flowers before a household shrine. . . . [C]an I pray with my mother at her household shrine when I visit her? Of course I can. My prayers are addressed to my Father in Heaven, not to Buddha, and I understand that the sealing ordinances of the temple link families together eternally, but it seems to me that both rituals turn the hearts of the children toward their parents in a beautiful way, and I believe that God has found a way to teach this principle in at least three different cultures: in the Old Testament culture of Malachi, the prophet who tells us about turning the hearts; in the culture of Buddhism; and in the modern Latter-day Saint culture.

Disciples (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998), 147-48

This website is an independent effort to discern the Spirit's voice in LDS teaching. The site is not sponsored by the LDS Church. Quotations from the teachings of any individual should not be taken to imply that the individual does or would endorse this website or other statements made here.