That’s the big question isn’t it? It’s the source of so much conflict in the world. The Arabs, the Christians, and the Jews have wasted countless lives warring over religion. Protestants and Catholics killed one another over it. Anglicans persecuted Puritans and Quakers. When the Puritans and Quakers came to America, the Puritans persecuted the Quakers. Who is to say who is right and who is wrong? Only God can.
All Christians claim the Bible as their source of doctrine, yet there are thousands of Christian sects and denominations whose doctrines cannot be harmonized using the Bible. (The UN says there are approximately 23,000 Christian sects and denominations!) Just take one simple teaching like baptism. Among Protestants alone, some denominations baptize infants by sprinkling and other say that baptism has to be done by complete immersion. Some say that baptism is essential for salvation. Others say that it’s a nice gesture, but not essential. Some say that only an ordained minister can perform baptisms, while others allow deacons, or even laymen to perform the ordinance. There are even some Baptist denominations that don’t accept the baptisms performed by other Baptist denominations! And all of these Christian sects base their practices regarding baptism on the Bible and say the others are wrong.
Of course, it is a common rationalization that all churches are true so long as they teach Christ. However, this platitude doesn’t hold water, because these Christian churches are bent on condemning their fellow Christians. The web site of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) had this to say about whether Roman Catholics are saved:
“Are Roman Catholics Christians? They are if they have trusted in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of their sins. However, if they believe that they are saved by God’s grace and their works, then they are not saved — even if they believe their works are done by God’s grace — since they then deny the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.”
The Protestant Evangelicals at CARM say that Catholics are saved so long as they don’t believe Catholic teachings. Meanwhile, the Vatican Council said in 1964:
“It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.
“Nevertheless, our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body, and with Him quickened to newness of life-that unity which the Holy Scriptures and the ancient Tradition of the Church proclaim. For it is only through Christ’s Catholic Church, which is “the all-embracing means of salvation,” that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation.”
The Catholics say that Protestants have to become Catholic if they really want to “benefit fully from the means of salvation.”
And so it goes, on and on and on. Not all of the world’s churches can be true. Either one church is right or none of them are. As long as there are many contending churches, denominations, and sects, there will be no end to the confusion. So how is the believer ever to come to the knowledge of which one is right? Many good, sincere seekers of spiritual truth simply give up or settle for a religion in which they either feel welcome or where they can most easily ignore the precepts with which they disagree.
Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints keenly felt this struggle to find the truth. He went to the various churches of his day, and though he found much admirable in them, he also could not help but see the contradictions among the competing sects. How would anyone ever be able to find the truth? He found his answer in the Bible, in an invitation found in James 1:5 that told him that God gives wisdom to them that ask him for it in faith.
The Bible can be a springboard for personal revelation. It certainly was for Joseph Smith. He exercised faith in this promise and went to the woods to pray privately. To his amazement, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. They taught him that the fullness of the gospel was not on the earth and that men taught the scriptures mingled with their own philosophies and interpretations. (That’s why there is such confusion!) The Lord commanded Joseph to wait, be faithful, and promised that they would reveal to him the truth that he sought. Over the next ten years, from 1820 to 1830, Joseph received the necessary understanding by revelation and restored keys of sacred authority to re-establish the ancient Church of Jesus Christ as it existed in biblical times. Mormonism didn’t emerge from some new interpretation of the scriptures or as a break-away sect from another Christian denomination. It was a new dispensation of the gospel in its purity.
Of course, the religionists of Joseph Smith’s time didn’t take kindly to a 14-year old boy telling everyone that he had seen a vision from God and that the Lord told him that all the churches were wrong. Persecution arose immediately. At every step of Joseph’s prophetic ministry, opponents and critics reviled and opposed the work he had been commissioned to perform. For over 180 years, each step of our progression has met with opposition. We take it in stride.
Most of the time, the criticisms arise simply because we have different doctrines than those of mainstream sectarian Christians—the same ones who can’t agree on what the Bible teaches. Those same Protestants who say that Catholics are wrong, and the same Catholics who say the Protestants are wrong, somehow find one thing they can agree on—that Mormons aren’t the true Church. To that, all I can say is, which one of them is the true Church? When they get that settled, let us know.
The topic for this article came to mind after reading a reply to an article on another web site about Mitt Romney’s candidacy. One commenter wrote:
“Mormons have always been considered a cult by the Christian church. Mormons have never considered themselves Christians except in the last 25 years. Their founder considered all Christians heretics, and said the Mormon church [sic] was the only true church. The pastor who called them a theological cult was right. They have a different God.
“They have a different Jesus, a different Father, a different Holy Spirit, they have a different heaven, no hell, they have a different Gospel, they have a different way to be saved, other than that we are the same.”
Every day, on literally hundreds of blogs, articles, and web sites, this same stew of misrepresentations and falsehoods about Mormonism is rehashed and repeated by sectarian Christians who harbor intolerance for Mormons. Just take a moment and re-read this man’s objection. He says Mormons are wrong because we disagree with the tenets of his preferred flavor of Christianity. He oversimplifies and intentionally parrots the misrepresentations of Mormon beliefs that anti-Mormons have used for nearly two centuries, without providing any proof that his own religion is the true one. Who says his church is true? Would a Catholic agree that his religion is true? Would a Seventh-day Adventist? A Christian Scientist? A Quaker?
Having a difference of opinion about religion is nothing new. Mormons are grateful that other Christian believers stopped tarring and feathering us in the 19th century and that, aside from a recent spike since 2007, nobody is burning our churches down. We still manage to prevail when intolerant bigots try to block the construction of our temples and meetinghouses because America’s laws are very good about protecting religious freedom. We are grateful for the influence of civil libertarians in modern America.
Religion is necessarily subjective. We challenge our critics to bring forth the evidence that they demand from us—prove to us that their denomination is God’s true Church—that it is the only one and that all the rest are in error—and we’ll gladly embrace their teachings. While they remain divided on the issue, we will continue to rely on the guidance in James 1:5, which tells us to “ask of God.”
The power of Mormonism is this—that God bears witness of its teachings. He tells sincere seekers who come to him in humble prayer that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is his Church. Literally hundreds of thousands of people receive that personal revelation every year and convert to what the world has come to call Mormonism. That is our proof. We simply ask people to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Those who sincerely want to know get this answer. God’s personal revelation to the individual is the greatest proof that be offered. Once it has been received, the individual believer knows for himself independently of any other person.
If your “proof” of the truthfulness of your religion is the Bible, then we’re content for you to enjoy your religion unmolested. We believe in the Bible, too. We have no disagreement with it. We’ll leave the Protestants and Catholics, the Baptists and the Presbyterians, the Methodists and the Lutherans, and all the rest of those 23,000 denominations to figure out their own answers using the Bible. When they decide which one among them speaks for all the rest, then come knock on the door. Tell us that you’ve settled your disagreements and that you’re now ready to discuss which Church is true. Until then, it does little good to post uninformed comments on blogs and news web sites stating that Mormons have it all wrong. That’s just an exercise in bigotry and intolerance. Until the beam is out of your eye, don’t bother with whatever mote you might think you see in ours.