LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley is gracious toward people of other faiths. In his October First Presidency Message, written primarily to new members of the LDS Church, President Hinckley wrote:
…there are many good people in other churches. There is much of good in them. Your family and your prior religious traditions may have taught you many good things and established many good habits…Bring the good things with you, keep them, and use them in the Lord’s service. (Ensign, October 2006, page 5)
On another occasion President Hinckley said to non-Mormons,
To these we say in a spirit of love, bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it. (Ensign, November 2002, page 78)
I have a friend who, when reading statements like these from President Hinckley, asks, “What ‘good’ could there possibly be in any organization that is classified as an ‘abomination’ before God that was ‘hatched in hell’ and is as ‘corrupt as hell’?”
At these times my friend is thinking of (and quoting) statements about Christianity made by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor (respectively), the first three presidents of the LDS Church. My friend has a good point; just what “religious traditions” from these “corrupt” churches would President Hinckley like to see incorporated into the LDS Church?
Shall I bring my understanding of God as Trinity? Or my church’s teaching that we are saved by grace apart from all we can do? Or my knowledge that God hates polytheism — even the very idea of other Gods?
May I bring to the LDS Church the teaching that God created me in my mother’s womb–created me out of nothing–and that the natural always comes before the spiritual? Or that Jesus was God from the very beginning? Or that Christ’s blood is able to cleanse us from all sin?
Would I be welcome to bring with me the firm belief that the Bible is entirely trustworthy and is all I need in matters of faith and salvation? Or the certainty that the need for the temple was done away through the all-sufficient atonement of Christ? Or my conviction that God the Father has been the only true God for all eternity?
It is not possible to dovetail these biblical Christian teachings — these truths that have captured the hearts and souls of God’s people — with the teachings of Mormonism. And President Hinckley knows it. So what does he mean when he invites people to come to the LDS Church and bring all the good that they have? Of what good does he speak?
Maybe President Hinckley is thinking of behaviors rather than truths. Maybe he’s thinking of things like giving to the poor or helping the elderly or caring for children. The Mormon Church would certainly welcome new members with these values.
But there’s a problem with this. The prophet Isaiah said,
You [God] are indeed angry, for we have sinned — In these ways we continue; and we need to be saved. But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses [righteous deeds] are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:5-6)
If Isaiah spoke the truth, people who embrace corrupt and abominable spiritual teachings are incapable of doing anything pleasing to God. Everything they do is tainted by their sin and is therefore unacceptable to Him, even things that appear good and righteous. The apostle Paul said,
There is none righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:10, quoting Psalm 14)
Surely President Hinckley is not engaging in a ruse in order to make people comfortable with the prospect of embracing a new faith, but I can’t seem to reconcile his attitude and invitation with the Bible, which says,
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;… put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt… (Ephesians 4:17-22)
The apostle Paul wrote,
One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
So while I appreciate President Hinckley’s kindness toward those of other faiths, I keep thinking a true prophet of God would sound more like the biblical prophets, calling people to forsake all for Christ. President Hinckley’s invitation to hold on to favorite traditions and see if the LDS Church can add a few more just doesn’t ring true.