As I mentioned in a previous post, LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley is fond of inviting people of other faiths to come to the Mormon Church. He often suggests something like this:
“We recognize the good in all churches. We recognize the value of religion generally. We say to everyone: live the teachings which you have received from your church. We invite you to come and learn from us, to see if we can add to those teachings and enhance your life and your understanding of things sacred and divine.” (London News Service 8/28/1995. Also see Ensign, November 2002, page 78 and Ensign, October 2006, page 5 for similar invitations)
Last week I talked about President Hinckley’s invitation for people to come to the LDS Church and bring along with them all the “good” they have received from their non-Mormon churches. But in these invitations issued by President Hinckley there is something else that captures my attention. That is, his suggestion that the Mormon Church can add to the teachings people have received from their own churches.
The idea got me thinking. What sorts of things does the LDS Church have to add? Using the example of someone coming from a traditional Christian church, let’s look at a few possibilities.
- The Christian church teaches there is one book of sacred Scripture: the Bible. The LDS Church can add to that; it has four books it considers sacred Scripture: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
- The Christian church teaches there is but one true God. The LDS Church can add to that; it has three true gods for this world and an unknowable number of true gods beyond this world.
- The Christian church teaches two possible eternal destinations: Heaven and Hell. The LDS Church can add to that; it has four eternal possibilities: the Celestial kingdom, the Terrestrial kingdom, the Telestial kingdom, and Outer Darkness.
- The Christian church teaches there is one salvation, given freely by God’s grace through faith, based on the sufficiency of Christ. The LDS Church can add to that; it has two salvations, one unconditional (i.e., resurrection from the dead) and one conditioned upon obedience (resulting in an eternal home in one of the four previously mentioned destinations).
Are these the sorts of things to which President Hinckley was referring? Or might he have been thinking of something more along the lines of adding to revelation?
- The Christian church teaches Exodus 33:20 is complete as it stands in the Bible:
“But He said, ‘You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me and live.'”
The LDS Church can add to that. The LDS edition of the King James Bible includes an appendix with changes Joseph Smith made to the biblical text. The LDS version of Exodus 33:20 is:
“And he said unto Moses, Thou canst not see my face at this time, lest mine anger be kindled against thee, and thy people; for there shall no man among them see me at this time, and live, for they are exceedingly sinful. And no sinful man hath at any time, neither shall there be any sinful man at any time, that shall see my face and live.”
- The Christian church teaches John 1, verses 1 and 4, are complete as they stand in the Bible:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
The LDS Church can add to that. The LDS version of these verses according to Joseph Smith’s corrections read:
“In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God… In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men.”
- The Christian church teaches Ephesians 2:8 is complete as it stands in the Bible:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”
The LDS Church can add to that. It’s Book of Mormon says,
“…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)
In these few examples I guess we find that the LDS Church has plenty it can add to the beliefs of one who has been nurtured in a Christian church. But more is not necessarily better.
In reality, when someone with a Christian faith background chooses to join the LDS Church she cannot hold on to her previous faith and simply “add to it.” She cannot believe the Bible is God’s only complete and wholly trustworthy written revelation to mankind, and at the same time believe it is incomplete and corrupt as the LDS Church teaches. She cannot believe there is one true God over all, and at the same time believe God is but one of many true Gods. She cannot believe salvation is by grace alone, not of works, and at the same time believe that the grace of salvation kicks in only after all she can do. She is required to abandon the faith of her fathers in order to embrace Mormonism.
I wish President Hinckley would be more straightforward in his invitations to non-Mormons; tell people up front that Mormonism is an entirely different belief system than found in the “teachings they have received” from their churches. President Hinckley entices people with an offer of “more;” but what they actually get is a complete doctrinal make-over.