Us & Them
In Relief Society on Sunday our lesson was the Wilford Woodruff Lesson “Proclaiming the Gospel.” I make a lot of comments – not just because I’m the Prez, but because I actually care about the topics and content. The teacher started leaning toward “setting a good example so others will be drawn to the Church”, and asked if the converts in the room had been positively influenced by the example of Church members as they made their decision to join. I couldn’t sit on my hands.
Trying for the delicate balance of tact and enlightenment (and squelching infuriated screams), my comments were something like this:
As a convert to the church from another faith tradition, I was brought up among wonderful examples of deep faith and Christ-centeredness… I had spiritual mentors all my life. Getting acquainted with Mormons was not a whole new world opening for me. God is generous with His Truth. Every faith has access to Divine Truth and some of them are far better at what they focus on than we are. That is one of the things that drew me to the Gospel in the first place. I remember reading quotes by Brigham Young: “…[We] believe in all good. If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrine. We believe it; it is ours; we claim it…. ‘Where is your code, your particular creed?’ says one. It fills eternity; it is all truth in heaven, on earth, or in hell. This is ‘Mormonism.’” Who doesn’t want a Gospel that is all truth? The more we celebrate and learn from others the truths that they know and live, the more we all grow in the Gospel.
Or something to that effect. And it wasn’t just the opportunity to say “hell” twice in Relief Society. One of the things most entrenched in Mormonism today — and therefore the most discouraging when it comes seeing change any time soon – is the attitude that “we” are the possessors of the fullness of the Gospel and “you ‘gentiles’” can’t really teach us anything we should give theological weight to. Back in the day when President Benson was preaching against pride, couldn’t that have been at least part of what he was getting at?
Of course it’s a tricky semantic issue, this truth seeking business. I always am curious to know what people mean when they say “I know the Church is true.” Each of those words, with the exception of “the”, is a meaty gem that could mean many things to many people and what some people may mean, I may not agree with at all. My friend, scholar and tres cool chick Jana Riess, told me she likes hearing the phrase in part because it DOES mean different things to different people. And no one is required to explain themselves.
I am not one to fall for the wishy-washy relativism that claims every path is as “true” as another. I honestly believe that Christ really is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that the priesthood authority in the Mormon Church has unique Divine power. But let’s go to the source, people, and see that it is God and the Gospel which gives the Church whatever good oomph it has, not the other way around.
Of course this is a difficult reality to hold on to when we have scriptures that say “whether by my voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same” and that Joseph Smith was told by God not to join any of the other churches of his time “because they are all wrong.” Semantic issues – and the theological stumbling blocks they create – will and have alienated many of “us” and “them” – whichever side you’re on. If we could let go of trying to interpret every jot and tittle of theology and rejoice and dance around in the incredible breadth of the Gospel, we would all be better off. Maybe this sounds wishy washy, too. But I like to think of it instead as sort of zen-like. There’s truth there, too, after all!