“What is the relationship of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the non-Christian religions of the world?” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 47–48
R. Lanier Britsch, vice-president for academics, Brigham Young University—Hawaii Campus. In 1975, I received a letter from a young man who was investigating the Church. He was involved with a popular Hindu group in America and felt that he had found considerable truth in Hinduism. He told me that he was having trouble gaining a testimony of the restored gospel because of the problem of “diluted truth.”
In answer, I wrote, “By ‘diluted truth,’ I suppose you mean that it seems strange to you that elements of truth can be found in more than one church or religious movement. … Why, then, if [the Latter-day Saints] claim to have the only true church, is it so easy to see that other religious movements also have truth in them?”
Continuing, I wrote, “We should never be surprised to find truth anywhere. … The Light of Christ is in and upon all men, and all men who are honest have the right to enjoy the rewards of their goodness.”
I quoted Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
“And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
I then told him that “if anyone obeys any eternal principle he will automatically reap the reward for living that law. God will give any and all men his or their reward.” We as Latter-day Saints do indeed believe that there is truth in many religions and philosophies. Many good and great religious leaders have walked the earth. Through their teachings, they have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people.
When we speak of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the only true church, we mean that it is the only organization authorized to administer the ordinances of salvation. We mean that it is the only organization led by Jesus Christ, through the earthly ministries of prophets and Apostles. Although the Church teaches the true doctrines of salvation, we do not mean that it is the only teacher of truth.
Ever since the early days of the Church, various General Authorities have expressed the Church’s position toward non-Christian religions: we should not only be tolerant of their beliefs, but we should also respect them. On 15 February 1978, for example, the First Presidency, consisting of President Spencer W. Kimball and his counselors, President Marion G. Romney and President N. Eldon Tanner, issued an official statement regarding the Church’s position toward other religions. The statement reads:
“Based upon ancient and modern revelation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gladly teaches and declares the Christian doctrine that all men and women are brothers and sisters, not only by blood relationship from mortal progenitors, but also as literal spirit children of an Eternal Father.
“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.
“The Hebrew prophets prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, who should provide salvation for all mankind who believe in the gospel.
“Consistent with these truths, we believe that God has given and will give to all people sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come.
“We also declare that the gospel of Jesus Christ, restored to his Church in our day, provides the only way to a mortal life of happiness and a fullness of joy forever. For those who have not received this gospel, the opportunity will come to them in the life hereafter if not in this life.
“Our message therefore is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are the sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father.”
This statement declares that (1) all human beings are children of God and therefore brothers and sisters, (2) the only way to obtain a fulness of joy is through the gospel as restored to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (3) everyone will have the opportunity to accept the gospel, if not in mortality, then in the life to come, and (4) “great religious leaders of the world” (those specifically listed in the statement, as well as many others), have received “a portion of God’s light.” Certainly, Mohammed raised the religious consciousness and ethical awareness of his nation as well as that of many beyond its borders. Confucius gave the people of East Asia a higher ethical standard than existed throughout most of the world.
Of course, there is much in other religions that we cannot accept or condone. In them, truths are frequently found side by side with superstition, sorcery, and error. Within many religions, one may find ethics, doctrines, or beliefs that are clearly of worth and that contain eternal truths. At the same time, one may find incorrect doctrines and possibly even practices inspired by the powers of darkness. The phrase “buyer beware” is certainly appropriate in the study of religions.
Simply put, the world is better because good people of all races, nations, kindreds, and tongues have recognized truth and appropriate ways of living and have endeavored to share those truths. Those truths, in turn, have helped to prepare the way for the restored gospel. With regard, then, to the religions of the world—Christian or not—we as Latter-day Saints need to cultivate an attitude of friendship and goodwill toward all people of all religions. “Our message,” as the First Presidency stated, “is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women.”