Category Archives: Interfaith Dialogue

4th Watch 14: True Doctrine

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4thWatch SmallBrother Ned Scarisbrick and Nick Galieti discuss some of the core doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how we understand them from a general member perspective.

Future podcasts in this series will be geared toward the practical application of gospel principles based on truth and transparency of past and present Church teachings and leaders. Critics of the Church and those who have concerns about their faith may find this approach appealing from previous generations who may have had difficulty dealing with what some consider conflicting viewpoints of official Church doctrine.

The view and opinions expressed in this podcast may not represent those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or that of FairMormon.

FairMormon Frameworks 16: Blair Hodges

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hodgesMy interview with Blair Hodges.  He works in Public Affairs with the Neal A Maxwell institute.   We discuss the changes at the Maxwell institute, the general status of faith struggles in the Church, along with his working alongside Richard Bushman and Terryl Givens.  We discuss faith and how we each are different in how we implement faith in our lives.

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/

http://www.maxwellinstituteblog.org/

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast may not reflect those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Keeping The Faith 9: John Montgomery

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knotted-rope-760417-galleryJohn Montgomery is a faithful LDS man who encountered ridicule and persecution as a teenager and as a young adult causing him to spend some time out of the Church.

He tells of spending time in other churches, of his personal encounter with Hugh Nibley and FARMS, of defending his faith, and of his return to church with a greater appreciation for faith.

The opinions expressed in this podcast and in the referenced books, presentations, podcasts and articles do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FairMormon.

The Mormon Moment: A Religion News Service Guide – Review

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Much has been said in popular media about the so-called “Mormon Moment”. The accuracy and fairness of recent media coverage of Mormonism has been a mixed bag, to say the least. It is sad to admit that there are plenty of media personalities who know next to nothing about Mormonism, and yet feel unconstrained to opine on this or that subject relating to Mormon doctrine or history. Unsurprisingly, those who are the most ignorant of Mormonism usually choose to write about the most complex and controversial aspects of Mormonism, such as polygamy, Mormon racial history, and esoteric aspects of Mormon belief and practice best left untouched by non-Mormon novices of Mormon history and doctrine. (Andrew Sullivan, I’m looking at you.)

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Ben Witherington on Whether Mormons Are Christians

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So, over at Patheos Ben Witherington has a blog post titled “Why Mormonism Is Not Christianity–The Issue of Christology,” which you may read here. I’m familiar with Witherington from his articles in Biblical Archaeology Review (I’m a subscriber), which I generally enjoy. But I suppose it should come as no surprise that I thought this blog post was weak sauce.

In general I didn’t have too much of a problem with his catalog of differences between Evangelical and Mormon thought. It is true that Mormons reject an ontological Trinity (he poisons the well by characterizing this position as “polytheism”); it is true that Mormons believe in an embodied God (I wonder whether he realizes how many people historically he just kicked out of Christianity by making this a standard); guilty as charged on our rejection of biblical inerrancy.

But I was surprised at his lack of historical sense and sophistication. He portrays Mormonism as evolving, which is certainly true, but he is blind to the evolution of thought over the centuries in historical Christianity. He cites the historic policy of the priesthood ban, and while I personally think we deserve to take our lumps over that, he doesn’t seem to be aware that the original Mormon policy was an (unfortunate) importation of Protestant biblical thought into the Church (there is a case where if we had been a little less Christian in the 19th century we would have been better off!). He seems to think we are somehow dissembling by calling our meeting places “churches,” and he notes that we don’t have crosses gracing our buildings, apparently unaware of the largely Puritan, low church origins of our Church. As religious history, I was not impressed by his treatment.

He grants that many Catholics and Orthodox are Christian; I wonder how they feel about this supposed magnanimous judgment on his part. I can’t help but wonder whether Catholics and Orthodox might wonder who appointed him the arbiter of who qualifies to be reckoned a Christian. He also allows that many Mormons would pass the test of being decent and honest and loving human beings. Magnanimous indeed.

Here’s the thing. I know what he’s trying to say, and I actually agree with him. From his Evangelical perspective, being Christian is tantamount to being saved, and most Mormons are not saved according to Evangelical theology. I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is his throwing around the word “Christian” without bothering to define it, but just assuming his narrow Evangelical definition. Because out in the real world, that is not the way people understand the word “Christian.”

christianos is a partisan of Christ, just as a Herodian was a partisan of Herod or a Caesarian was a partisan of Caesar. And that is the way the word is understood outside of the Evangelical bubble from within which Witherington is writing. To the person on the street, a Christian is someone who believes in Christ, that he is the Son of God, he lived and died, atoned for the sins of the world, the third day arose again, and dwells in yonder heavens at the right hand of the Father. For most of the world, Christian is a broad generic category of history and culture and belief, not a narrow club for the saved per Evangelical dogma.

Elsewhere I have shared the following (true) story, which illustrates well why simply calling Latter-day Saints non-Christian is inherently misleading. A family with several young daughters used to live in my ward. This family was friendly with a neighbor woman, who would often babysit the girls. As Christmas was approaching, the woman gave each of the girls a Christmas gift, which turned out to be a coloring book featuring Jesus Christ. The girls enjoyed the gift and colored the pictures.

Some time later this woman came to the family’s home, ashen, and apologized profusely for having given their daughters such a gift. It turns out that the woman had just learned at her church that Mormons are not Christian, and therefore she of course assumed that she had committed a grievous faux pas in giving the girls coloring books featuring a deity their family did not believe in.

Now in this story the woman understood the claim that Latter-day Saints are not Christian the same way the vast majority of people would, as meaning that they do not believe in Christ. This is because she naturally applied the public definition of the word to her pastor’s words, not some narrow, undisclosed private definition.

We can see by this story the mischief that results from the semantic legerdemain of calling Latter-day Saints non-Christian. The fact is, they are Christians in the generic sense of the word, even if, from an Evangelical point of view, they are theologically in error and unsaved (i.e., being a Christian is not necessarily tantamount to being right). I personally would have no difficulty with certain shorthand distinctions that would make clear that Mormons neither are nor claim to be creedal or orthodox Christians. But to say they are not Christians at all without such a modifier is to fundamentally misrepresent the nature of their beliefs.

Cross-posted at BCC

Another Look at Baptism for the Dead

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THE topic of vicarious or “proxy” baptisms performed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has recently received a lot of attention, both positive and negative. (And both factual and lacking in accuracy, it’s fair to say.) I’m sure the topic will come up again, so even though it’s not at this moment a hot topic bouncing around the news, I’d like to share a few of my own thoughts about this issue and the way it’s been characterized as a horrible, disrespectful thing to do on behalf of the deceased. Continue reading

Sally Hemings and the Gods Themselves

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Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens

[Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain]

—     Friedrich Schiller, The Maid of Orléans

The vicarious temple ordinances performed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Mormons”) are back in the news.  This time, it is because someone has reportedly sealed Sally Hemings to Thomas Jefferson. (Hemings was a slave owned by Jefferson.  She bore children that have Jefferson DNA.  [1])

As usually happens with such things, the media and the blogosphere are a-bubble.  Some are well-intentioned expressions of concern, others are ill-informed, and some seem to just want to pile on and make the Church look bad, or use this as an opportunity to push their own reforming agenda on the Church.

The unspoken assumption seems to be that the Church can be “shamed” or at least “public-pressured” into “doing the right thing.”  In this case, the right thing would presumably be not performing vicarious sealing of slaves to former masters.  (The more hostile want temple work vastly curtailed or stopped altogether, but we’ll leave them to one side—it isn’t going to happen.)

This is not, however, simply one more case of “Mormon institutional insensitivity” to go with performing temple rites for Holocaust victims (despite what some have suggested).  LDS policy forbids performing Holocaust victims’ temple rites.  The people who did so had to circumvent fairly significant warnings and technological obstacles to do so.  (Those obstacles have since been increased even further.)

Likewise, it has never been LDS policy to seek out female slaves and seal them to their former masters and/or rapists.

Now, I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of not sealing slaves to masters.  The idea is obscene.  I don’t know any sensible person that would endorse it.  And that, unfortunately, is precisely the problem—I said sensible person.

Let me explain.

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Baptism for the Dead and the Jews

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There has been an outpouring of outrage over several Jewish names that have been entered into the Church’s family history database. The level of outrage is sometimes difficult for us as Mormons to comprehend. We believe this is an act of love and compassion. Asking us not to do baptisms is akin to being asked not to love someone.

But, upon deeper reflection, I have come to a better understanding of what they may be feeling. There is a long history of forced conversions of Jews. Especially during the time of Nazi Germany, many Jews turned to their Christian neighbors to help save their families. Their children were often baptized to hide their background. Try to imagine turning our children over to the Southern Baptists for baptism, knowing that they would be forced to turn away from our faith. It would be a very difficult event for us. Continue reading

Allah, Zeus, and Elohim: A Question of Religious Tolerance

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In his 2011 FAIR Conference presentation, Professor Daniel C. Peterson of Brigham Young University presented a paper on “Mormonism, Islam, and the Question of Other Religions”.[1] Professor Peterson is well qualified to speak on this subject, as he is a professor of Arabic and Islamic studies. A cursory glance of one biographical sketch online will quickly remind the reader that Professor Peterson is not only an authority on Islam, but religious studies in general.[2]

A few months before his presentation at the FAIR Conference, Professor Peterson published an article with the Mormon Times entitled “God’s sheep recognize his voice”.[3] It is something of a reader’s digest version of his FAIR presentation. In both the article and his FAIR Conference Presentation, Professor Peterson essentially argued that regardless of religious or cultural background, “God’s sheep recognize his voice, even when it’s in a different language or imperfectly heard. They follow him as best they can and will not lose their reward.” Thus, we as Latter-day Saints should follow the noble heritage of our predecessors (including Joseph Smith, Orson Hyde, and B. H. Roberts, to name only three) and extend tolerance and understanding towards those of other religious backgrounds in both word and deed. Our world is much too divisive, and religious strife only adds fuel to the fire. Although we should not compromise our uniquely cherished Latter-day Saints beliefs, we should not fall prey to religious dogmatism that can create contention amongst people of differing religious persuasions. Dr. Peterson’s ideas are noble and edifying, and I felt myself  strengthened after listening to his presentation at the FAIR Conference.

However, not everybody is as taken with Professor Peterson’s ideas as I am. One particularly vocal anti-Mormon named Rocky Hulse has made it clear that  Daniel C. Peterson is preaching nothing but rank blasphemy.[4]

Right off the bat Hulse makes it clear that “the first four paragraphs of this article set the stage of falsehood”. What are the shocking paragraphs which Mr. Hulse has in mind?

Trying to make their view seem merely a minor logical extension of my own, several atheistic acquaintances have assured me that there is little difference between us: They just happen to disbelieve in one more god than I do.

They seem to imagine that being a Latter-day Saint entails rejecting all non-Mormon religious experiences and disbelieving every doctrine of every other faith. This, however, is not true.

When Joseph Smith learned that the then-existing Christian churches were corrupt, that didn’t mean that they were totally wrong. To say that something is “corrupt” means that it has been damaged. We speak of “corrupted texts” or “corrupted files,” intending to say that they have been infected or tainted — not that their original content has been replaced by something completely different.

In fact, many mainstream Christian doctrines were and are substantially correct. There is indeed a God. He has a divine Son who came to earth, atoned for our sins, rose again on the third day and now sits at the right hand of his Father. Those who taught prayer, preached of the Savior and translated the New Testament during the centuries between the early apostles and the Restoration preserved and transmitted many central gospel truths.

Hulse continues to blast away at this heresy by asserting that “this attempt at revising the “First Vision” of Joseph Smith is grossly deceptive”. According to Hulse, Joseph Smith’s details of his First Vision disqualify Mormonism from any pretension to inter-faith ecumenicalism.

Here in the “First Vision,” Joseph Smith says the “Personage” who addressed him (later identified as Jesus) told him all churches were wrong and all of their creeds were an “abomination.” The Christian Creeds are Christian doctrine. The word “abomination” is defined as follows: “1: something abominable 2: extreme disgust and hatred: LOATHING.” It is quite clear from the text that, according to Joseph Smith, Jesus has “extreme disgust, hatred and loathing” of the Christian creeds and specifically defines all churches as wrong and teaching the doctrines of men. Yet, in the first four paragraphs of this article, Daniel Peterson very deceptively tries to gloss over Mormonism’s absolute attack against all churches, all Christian doctrine and all who profess Christianity.

Hulse then quote-mines the Journal of Discourses for a statement as equally un-ecumenical as Joseph Smith’s brazen assault on Christianity.[5] Notwithstanding, Husle’s arguments in this regard have been thoroughly refuted by Michael Ash, in his article “Does Mormonism Attack Christianity?”.[6] Furthermore, Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks have addressed this charge in their book Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints.[7]

I mention this only in passing, since I wish to address the more egregiously erroneous claims made by Hulse. He is totally beside himself because of the fact that “this BYU professor and Mormon Apologist goes on in this article teaching that the Allah of Islam is the God of the Bible”. Here is the quote from Dr. Peterson provided by Hulse:

But what about non-Christians? Do they worship false gods?
Jews certainly don’t. Believing Jews accept the Old Testament, venerating the God who brought Israel out of Egypt, spoke through the prophet Isaiah and was proclaimed by Jesus (a Palestinian Jew).
But what of Islam? Isn’t “Allah” a false god? No. According to the Qur’an, Allah created the earth in six days, placed Adam and Eve in Eden and then inspired prophets like Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Sound familiar?

To this incredible blasphemy Hulse replies with certitude:

 To draw the conclusion that “Allah” is the God of the Bible because a fictional book of scripture, the Qur’an, plagiarizes the characters and stories of the Bible is ludicrous, however, not without precedent. Mormonism does the same thing in our time. Mormonism draws from its fictional book of scripture, the Pearl of Great Price, claiming in creation that all human beings were born into a pre-existent world, having been sired by God the Father, who has a body of flesh and bones, and that Jesus was the first offspring of this Deity and that Lucifer was the second. This being foundational Mormon doctrine, Jesus and Lucifer are brothers, and these two procreated beings are our older brothers in this non-Biblical doctrine.

But that isn’t the worst of it. What does Hulse consider to be the premiere blasphemy of Daniel Peterson? The fact that he is equating the false Muslim God Allah with the Word of John 1:1. As Dr. Peterson maliciously slurs in the Mormon Times article:

“Allah” is simply the Arabic equivalent of English “God,” related to the Hebrew “Elohim.” Moreover, Allah is the God not only of Muslims but of all Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews. “In the beginning, (Allah) created the heavens and the earth,” reads Arabic Genesis. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with (Allah), and the Word was (Allah),” says the Arabic version of John 1:1. “We believe in (Allah), the Eternal Father,” says the first Article of Faith in Arabic, “and in his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Hulse is incensed at this heresy. Hulse screams: “Jesus was the Word that became flesh and then “dwelt  among us” (John 1:14), not Allah!” Unfortunately, though, the facts are not on his side. Perhaps Hulse is confused about how languages work, and how translations from one language to another works. Allow me a few moments to explain.

Here is the Greek text of John 1:1.

Ἐν  ἀρχῇ  ἦν  ὁ  λόγος,  καὶ  ὁ  λόγος  ἦν  πρὸς  τὸν  θεόν,  καὶ  θεὸς  ἦν  ὁ  λόγος.

The Greek word for “God” is  θεόν or θεὸς (theos).

What follows are three different translation of the Greek text in English, German, and French. Note the word used to translate the Greek θεὸς:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (New Revised Standard Version).

Im Anfang war das Wort, und das Wort war bei Gott, und das Wort war Gott. (Die Bibel: Einheitsübersetzung)

Au commencement était celui qui est la Parole de Dieu. Il était avec Dieu, il était lui-même Dieu. (La Bible du Semeur)

In these instances the Greek word θεὸς is translated into the English “God”, the German “Gott”, and the French “Dieu”. These are not differing unique English, German, and French deities but rather just the generic word in the respective language to express the Greek word. So it is with the Arabic word الله‎ (Allāh). Recall that Arabic is a Semitic language closely related to Hebrew.[8] It therefore should not come as a surprise to anyone that the Hebrew word for God אֱלהִים (elohim), is closely related to the Arabic الله‎. That is not to even mention the Aramaic (the spoken language of Jesus) word for God  (ʼĔlāhā), which is even more closely related to the Arabic. It is no different than the fact that the English word “God” is closely related to the German “Gott”. They are just two different words in two different languages being used to express the same idea.

Thus, in spite of Hulse’s protestations to the contrary, Professor Peterson is strictly correct. It is entirely appropriate to use the word Allah when translating the Bible into Arabic since Allah is the word in Arabic to denote “God”. Who would have ever guessed that Arabic speaking Muslims, Jews and Christians use the same Arabic word (Allah) to name the God they are worshiping? To illustrate by way of personal experience, when my family and I traveled to Israel in 2006 we sat in on a Roman Catholic mass attended by Palestinian Christians. Does anyone want to guess what word in Arabic we repeatedly and distinctly heard throughout this beautiful Christian liturgy?

Moving on. Hulse takes a swing at Professor Peterson, this time on the grounds that Dr. Peterson has grossly misrepresented Paul in Acts 17. Says Hulse: “In another grand deception, Daniel Peterson attempts to make the claim that Paul is actually equating the God of Israel with the Greek god Zeus.” Here is the relevant quote from Professor Peterson:

When the apostle Paul, preaching on Mars Hill, sought to connect with the pagan Athenians (Acts 17:24-28), he identified Zeus with Israel’s God: “For in him we live and move and have our being,” he taught, quoting the words about Zeus of a sixth-century B.C. Cretan philosopher. “As some of your own poets have said,” he continued, citing a third-century B.C. philosopher’s verse about Zeus, “‘we are his offspring.’”

Hulse bemoans this “truly deliberate deception” as “beyond the pale of deceit”. But, once again, Professor Peterson is correct. Paul is quoting two Greek poets, namely, Epimenides (or some would argue Posidonius) and Aratus.[9] Here is the section from Aratus’ Phaenomena that Paul was quoting:

Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.

For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.

Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity.

Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.

For we are indeed his offspring…

That Paul was approvingly quoting Aratus (while at the same reapplying the meaning) is seen in Paul’s conclusion in the next verse of Acts 17, where the Apostle declares: “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill” (New International Version). It makes little sense for Paul to quote a pagan Greek poet unless he was intending to reinforce his own theological point, viz., that we are God’s offspring (Greek, γένος, species, race, genus, etc.) and thus should not consider God as an idol made of man’s artifice.

At the end of his Mormon Times article, Professor Peterson concludes with the following offering:

In the final volume of C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia,” a Calormene soldier named Emeth (= Hebrew “truth”) has been a sincere worshiper of the false god Tash all of his life. When, at the end, he meets Aslan and recognizes the true God, he expects severe punishment. But Aslan graciously reassures him that “all the service thou hast done to Tash, I accept as service done to me,” explaining that, although Emeth had been unaware of it, his honest devotion was actually to Aslan, rather than to Tash. “No service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.”

In a concluding rebuttal (I use that word loosely here), Hulse ends his screed thusly:

This teaching by BYU Professor Peterson is absolute blasphemy. Trying to use the “Chronicles of Narnia” as scripture to rationalize that any worship given to any god will be accounted by the God of the Bible as valid, is the epitome of reaching for straws; it’s pathetic really. God will not be mocked. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life! There is none other and any devotion offered to false gods will not be accepted by the God of the Bible as worship to him. The Old Testament is clear that God is a jealous God and will not tolerate worship given to false gods; however, since Mormonism has incorporated polytheism (many gods) into their doctrine, the god of this world has blinded their eyes (II Cor 4:4).

Where exactly does Professor Peterson equate C. S. Lewis with scripture? I took it as an appropriate concluding reference to a respected Christian philosopher and theologian. Likewise, contrary to what Hulse maintains, I did not read this so much as Daniel Peterson granting license to worship any god willy-nilly, but rather that even those who serve “false” gods can still do good in the world and receive blessings from the Savior.

It is my hope that Rocky Hulse will take some time to calm down and read Professor Peterson’s more fully documented and expanded paper presented at the FAIR Conference. Likewise, I wish that anyone reading this blog post will take time to read Dr. Peterson’s remarks. Those who do will learn of the importance of religious tolerance and inter-faith dialogue, which, unfortunately, is bereft in any of Rocky Hulse’s comments.

We live in a divisive world. Religious differences are sometimes used as further justification for this divisiveness. Usually those who further drive the wedge between people of differing religious backgrounds do so out of ignorance and fear. I am afraid that Rocky Hulse has done such with his knee-jerk reaction to Dr. Peterson’s article.

Notes:

[1]: Available online: http://www.fairlds.org//FAIR_Conferences/2011_Mormonism_Islam_and_the_Question_of_Other_Religions.html

[2]: See his bio entry on Mormon Scholars Testify: http://mormonscholarstestify.org/151/daniel-c-peterson-2

[3]: Available at: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705387043/Gods-sheep-recognize-his-voice.html

[4]: “Zeus, Allah, and Jesus in Mormonism, They’re One and the Same!”. Online at: http://www.mormonoutreach.org/topics/Zeus%20Allah%20and%20Jesus%20in%20Mormonism%20Theyre%20One%20and%20the%20Same.html. All subsequent quotations of Hulse are taken from this article.

[5]: The statement quoted by Hulse is from Brigham Young. “Brother Taylor has just said that the religions of the day were hatched in hell. The eggs were laid in hell, hatched on its borders, and then kicked on to the earth.” Journal of Discourses, 6:176.

[6]: Available online: http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/LDSattack.pdf

[7]: Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1992), 158-172.

[8]: Thomas O. Lambdin, Introduction to Biblical Hebrew (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1971), xxii.

[9]: Michael D. Coogan, ed. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001), 219 [Acts 17:28f].

FAIR Questions 1: Truth in other religions

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FAIR Questions features a question that was submitted to FAIR volunteers through the FAIR website at fairlds.org. The answer in each episode is compiled from the various responses provided by the volunteers.

And now for the question:

I am a life-long member of the Church currently preparing to serve my mission. I have studied other religions, mostly those that originate in India, and as I have read many of their texts and learned about their beliefs, I felt what I think was the Spirit telling me that what they were saying was true. Now it wasn’t on everything, it was more on a line by line basis. Like when I was reading the Bahagavad Gita, there would be passages that I found spiritually uplifting. The Church states that we are God’s Church and that only we have the proper authority to fulfill His mission. So how do I rectify this? On one side I have my testimony of the restored gospel, but then I read other material and I feel many of the same things. Now I’m not saying that I have a testimony of reincarnation or something, just that a lot of what I see in other faiths is good and pure. And I guess kind of a sub question, what am I to think of people of other faiths talking about their spiritual experiences?

And now for the answer:

We accept truth where ever it is found. Others having truth is not a problem as we make no claim to be the sole repository or source of truth. What we do claim is that only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can you find priesthood keys through which you can properly covenant with Heavenly Father so as to affect your return to His presence as a joint heir with Christ. We also claim to have that portion of light and knowledge necessary to affect the same, but this is NOT an exclusionary claim. So, do not be surprised to feel spiritual confirmations of truth from sources outside the Church, such as the Bhagavad Gita, as such confirmations in no way diminish the power of the priesthood keys you can only find here. There is nothing that says that God cannot speak to and influence peoples of all cultures. Nephi knew this. In 2 Nephi 29:12, he quotes the Lord in saying:

“For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.”

On February 15, 1978, the First Presidency released a statement titled “God’s Love for All Mankind” that says “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.”

There is also an excellent article in the August 2000 Ensign that could give you insight on truth from other faiths, that is entitled, A Latter-day Saint Perspective on Muhammad.

God wants us all to have a rich existence. In order to accomplish His purposes he gives each of us gifts and it makes it so, in certain important senses, we need one another in order to be complete. He has given pieces of truth to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, and He has given to this people the keys of the priesthood and the responsibility to serve and bless the whole earth. But that is something that should fill us with humility rather than cause us to think that because we have been given such a weighty gift and responsibility we have no need of our brothers and sisters of other faiths and their insight and inspiration.

In short, God does not reveal his word to just a small minority. Remember what President Hinckley said a few years ago: “We, in effect, simply say to others, ‘Bring all the good that you have and let us see if we can add to it’” (“The BYU Experience,” BYU devotional address, 4 Nov. 1997). That would be your task as a missionary. Not to denigrate other people’s beliefs and cultures, but to add to the good that they already have.

Good luck on your mission preparation, and let us know if you have any other questions.

If there is an issue that you have been wondering about, you can often find the latest answers at the FAIR wiki, found at fairmormon.org. If you can’t find your answer there, feel free to pose your question to the FAIR apologists by visiting the FAIR contact page. Occasionally, such a question will be featured on FAIR Questions. Before questions are used for this podcast, permission is obtained from the questioner.

Questions or comments about this episode can be sent to podcast@fairlds.org, or join the conversation at fairblog.org.

Tell your friends about us and help increase the popularity of this podcast by subscribing in iTunes and by writing a review.

Music for this episode was provided courtesy of Lawrence Green.

The opinions expressed in this podcast are not necessarily the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FAIR.