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Why The Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints is
the only true church
What is a church?
True (or real) religion implies revelation. Without revelation, it is just philosophy. Only those churches that claim new revelation can claim to be real (or true) churches.
A church is a group of people who believe or act together. Any divisions mean they do not do this, and so they are less of a church.
A church is an organization that teaches clear truths about God, life after death, etc. If there are different versions of these teachings, they will either contradict, each other, or be so vague as to be useless.
A church is the kingdom of God on earth. If a kingdom has two different contradictory systems of government, it falls into chaos.
Mormonism, compared with other churches
I recently attended a Roman Catholic mass - the First Communion of my son's best friend. It was an excellent service, but it got me thinking. The emphasis on tradition was strong, but not at the expense of the elements that would appeal to modern people. Just before that I had ben told by a well educated Catholic that the idea of the church losing its authority was unthinkable. Suddenly I realized what he meant. To him, worship is not a matter of obedience to new commands. Worship was a matter of the group's response to existing commands. So, as long as the group and the scriptures existed, authentic worship was possible.
This is a fundamental difference in how we perceive what a church should be, and it led me to sketch the following chart on a scrap of paper:
What the churches are all about:
|There can be only one true Church|
Do you believe in one true church?
Recently I was listening to a tribute to Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, who had just died. Old interviews were played, and in one he discussed his religious views. As a young man he had been very missionary minded, but as he got older he disliked the idea that any church could claim to be "the one true church." I think a lot of people share his views. But his reasons did not make sense.
Why there can only be one true church
A church exists to unite the people (the original meaning of the word "church" is just "congregation")
Religion exists in order to teach people (a) a better way to live, and (b) truths about life after death and other big questions.
A divided church can do neither of these things. Division is the opposite of unity. Conflicting ideas imply that either most or all of the ideas are wrong.
Some common fallacies will illustrate this:
"All churches are true as long as they teach Christ"?
But without a single spokesman, they either disagree and contradict each other, or water down and allegorize their beliefs so much as to be meaningless. Just look at the differences between liberal and evangelical Christians. Or even look at the similarities - a bland "lowest common denominator." Such contradictory or weak beliefs have no power to motivate, to explain, or to organize.
This approach also does not answer the question "why Christ?" because when we start to distinguish Christ from other teachers (Buddha, a Shaman, David Hume, etc.) we have to get specific. The more specific we become, the more we must appeal to a single authority. (Sadly, that authority is usually democracy or tradition - and both are shifting sands.)
"A church is acceptable as long as it teaches us to do good."
But this begs the question "what is good?" Every person in the whole world thinks that what they d is essentially good (or at least unavoidable, or in some way "right" when taking the circumstances into account). Also, one person's "good" is another person's "bad." Like the vague idea of "teach Christ," this soon becomes meaningless. At best, such a religion becomes just a hobby, something that makes you feel vaguely "good," but has no claim to being better than anything else.
In conclusion, if a church is to mean anything at all, it has to claim authority. Where does that authority come from? It can only come through a prophet. The other alternatives (bible, tradition, etc.) are examined here.
The great issue: WHO IS THE PROPHET?
To hold consistent beliefs, we need one person who can give authoritative answers to new questions. The real question is over "who is the prophet?" Most churches or philosophies cannot answer this most basic question.
Philosophically, most churches or philosophies are fundamentally disorganized and thus (by definition) confused. There is no clear leader. Nobody has the authority to state the correct interpretation of a Bible passage, or response to a political question. Everyone has their own ideas. The vacuum in leadership is filled, as in ancient times, by denial of differences, or tradition, or intellectual fashions.
Organizationally, the churches are divided. But even if all churches could agree (e.g. through the ecumenical movement), they are still leaderless. Who has the authority to rebuke the churches? Would they accept it? If God wants his people to all do a certain thing, he has no way to tell them. Yes, every church has its leaders and its structure (some are led by local committees, some have a hierarchy), but none has the power to say "thus saith the Lord !"
Biblically, most churches or philosophies are fundamentally different from the church in the Bible. The New Testament church produced new scripture. Most churches today do not.
So the Mormon church does not have to argue its case. No other body even passes the first hurdle - the need for a living prophet!
|Implications of being The One True Church|
Is this arrogant?
In this web site I have laid great stress on being one of the saints in the last days in order to be saved. I do not mean this is all you need to do to be saved. I am simply repeating what the scriptures say, that the saints will inherit the earth, while the followers of the beast will be burned. If that sounds arrogant, take it up with the authors of the Bible. Don't blame the messenger!
This offends other churches
What seems to anger other churches more than anything else is the claim to exclusivity - "the only true church". But what can we do? The Lord said it, and we are bound to believe him. Even if the Lord had not stated it, just look at the evidence. There is only one church today that fulfills all the patterns and prophecies of the New Testament. In fact, there is only one church that is even creating new scripture! When looking for the true church, the choice is a simple one.
In New Testament times, some established churches attacked the new church of Jesus Christ. They considered it unscriptural, blasphemous, and a danger to true believers. It is the same today. It always interests me how many people who call themselves "Christians" are offended by the LDS church:
For more about Bible prophecies fulfilled by the Mormon church, click here.
Being a member of the church will get you to heaven?
Simply being a member of the church does not guarantee a place in heaven. All that matters is that people follow Jesus' example. That example means loving neighbors, trusting God, and doing what Jesus did. So where does a church organization fit into this?
|Who are the Christians?
Can the 'Mormon' church claim to be the authentic voice of Christianity?
'Christian' is a very broad term
In a general sense, a "Christian" is anyone from a "Christian" culture. Hence we have political parties called "Christian Democrats", we hear of "Christian Militias", and we read that over a billion people are "Christian". My old boss, for example, was called Alistair, or "Ali" for short. When he went on business trips to Arab countries, they referred to him as "Ali the Christian." Yet my boss was most definitely not a church goer. So the term "Christian" is really a very broad description. But on this page I want to get more specific.
Which churches can call themselves Christian?
The answer has to be "all of them - if they wish." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims to be the only true church on the face of the whole earth. But we do not object to others making the same claim. It is good to have choices.
But some people try to define Christian so narrowly that only their brand of religion is allowed to use the name. That is not healthy. It seeks to stop people from even looking at another church in the first place. It is bad. Instead, I say, let everyone claim to be Christian, and let each person see for themselves who is telling the truth.
There is a joke about St Peter showing people around heaven. When he comes to where the Mormons stay, he says "Sssh! Quiet! They think they are the only ones here!" Fundamentalist Protestants are worse - they not only think that only they will go to heaven, but that they can define the standard for who can even be called a Christian. On this page I will show that, not only do the Mormons have as much right to be called Christian as anybody, but ONLY the Mormons can present a coherent voice for what Christians believe.
Only God can judge
Some people say "very Christian" when they mean "very moral". I remember a local Moslem who did a good deed, and our local paper referred to his "Christian act". He was rightly indignant. Most religions and philosophies have codes of ethics. Christianity does not just mean ethics. Even if it did, it is dangerous to say "you are not a Christian" just because it does not seem to us that they follow Christ very well. As C. S. Lewis put it, the church is not a club for perfect people, it is a hospital for sinners. Only one man was ever a perfect Christian - and that was Jesus himself.
Probably the safest definition of being a Christian is calling yourself a Christian. At least that is least likely to lead to one person attacking another. If my neighbor says he is a Christian, then who am I to argue? He may be just a Sunday believer, he may not even go to church at all, but if he wants to group himself with other professing believers, who am I to condemn him? Of course, we are entitled to our opinions (hence I have a page on why I think that Catholics are good Christians), but Jesus has told us to "Judge not, that ye be not judged".
So in conclusion, I do not think it is helpful to worry about who is a good Christian. Let God do the worrying. If you say you are a Christian - that is fine by me. I hope you will allow me the same privilege.
Some people try to be exclusive
In my experience, most mainstream churches are happy to tolerate others calling themselves Christians even if they disagree. Hence Catholics seem quite happy with Protestants calling themselves "Christian", and Anglicans and Episcopalians seem quite happy with Catholics as "Christians". But the problem arises with the fundamentalist Protestants.
|Is Christianity as a whole "one church"?|
Do the Christian churches all teach the same?
The closer you look, the more division there is to see. For example, a Fundamentalist Protestant recently criticized the LDS church for being apostate. But in the course of discussion, it appeared that he also considered all Catholic, Liberal Protestant, Charismatic Protestant, Presbyterian and who knows how many other churches to also be apostate. I suspect that many of these churches would see things a little differently. Many people see the fundamentalists as doing great damage to Christianity by promoting blind faith and attacking science and scholarship.
Which of these churches teach the truth?
- Billy Graham considers that there are many true and sincere Christians in the Catholic church, and he does not encourage them to leave. Yet according to many (most?) "evangelicals," the Catholic church is Satanic.
- The vast majority of Christians are not hard-line evangelicals, and their ministers do not urge them to become so. Are these ministers leading their people to hell?
- What about Charismatic sects? Why do they show such daily evidence of the Holy Spirit? Are they more spirit-filled? Or confused by Satan?
- What about good people who never had a "born again" experience? What about the Victorian reformers? What about Gandhi? Are they going to hell?
Do they work together?
If the church is basically united, why is there the need for an ecumenical movement? Why do they meet in different buildings and call themselves by different names? It is sometimes said that God has called people to different parts of the same church. Then why don't they work together?
For example, I was once told by a Protestant that Protestantism does have apostles, and he pointed to a sect called "The Apostolic Church." I asked him whether his own denomination received instructions from these "apostles?" Did they even know what these "apostles" were saying? They did not. They were entirely divided.
The world must be able to see the unity of the church.
That is the test of truth.
All the quotes in this section are from "The Disunity of the Church and the Credibility of the Gospel" at the Theology Today web site, http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/search/index-themes.htm. Please refer to that article for a more complete argument and further references.
The article begins:
"Of the many problems Christianity and Christian theology now face, the division of the church is likely the most pressing."
The primary text is John 17:20-26:
"It is by the oneness of the church (of the apostles together with "those who believe in me through their word" [17:20]) "that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:21; cf. 17:23, where "know" [ginoske] takes the place of "believe" [pisteue]). The world, so this passage suggests, can see the unity of the church; since it is the church's unity that leads the otherwise unbelieving world to believe in Jesus's saving mission from the Father-that is, to believe the gospel-the church's unity cannot itself be accessible only to believers (as, for example, the invisible and perhaps not yet extant object of their faith and hope) but must lie open to the apprehension of all, outside the church as well as within."
I hardly need to remind the reader that one of the common criticisms of the Mormons is "you are all the same"
The author identifies four ways in particular that the scriptures say the church must be one:
- Common beliefs
(E.g. Are we predestined to be saved? Will the majority of Anglicans be saved?)
- Mutual love and service of the church's members for one another and for the world.
(E.g. Does the church look after its members financially? Does it have a single spokesman?)
- Common baptism.
(E.g. By immersion? As a child? Is it considered essential?)
- Shared participation in the Eucharist.
(E.g. do the churches meet together, or in separate buildings?)
The author shows why, according to John 17, the credibility of the gospel (e.g. whether the church is true) depends upon whether it appears to be "one" when seen from the outside. He thus rejects the usual excuses:
How some Christians try to explain away the divided church
1. The "invisible church" theory.
This is nonsense. While it is true that some aspects of the church cannot be seen (e.g. we cannot tell by looking at someone if they are going to heaven or not), the fact remains, from John 17, that the unity has to be seen by the world. Though there is an "invisible" side to the church, there must also be a "visible" side. "The church is not a community of inscrutable faith alone; indeed, it seems impossible that any community could be united only by invisible bonds-even its members would not know where to look for it."
2. "The visible church is just an imperfect reflection of the invisible church."
This theory must also be rejected, as it suggests two churches (one visible, one invisible). But the scriptures teach of just one church. Certainly it does has an invisible side (e.g. which members are truly saved), but it is the same church. If one side is divided, the other side must also be divided.
3. "The church is just the goal we are working towards"
But if the gospel still has not produced any visible fruits (e.g. unity) after 2000 years, it must not be a very good gospel.
4. "God allows sin and weakness - hence divisions"
But the whole purpose of the church is to bring sinners together with Christ! "It is precisely sinners whom Christ invites to his eucharistic table, there to be joined by the Spirit-despite whatever sin may remain in them- ... The unity of the church is a unity among sinners; the continuing reality of sin in the lives of all the church's members has no bearing on the church's unity."
5. We only seem to disagree - really we do agree
This is the last line of defense, but it is not backed up by research. Some scholars have attempted to reconcile the less important differences. By agreeing on similar sounding definitions for the secondary issues, they are left with just the "fundamental differences" between (for example) Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, etc. These "fundamental differences" turn out to be the most basic doctrines on which everything else rests:
"This putative difference is variously located, but usually claimed to lie in the topics of the church, christology, or the Trinity, and so, in large measure, in areas where the divided communities always thought they were in basic accord. Indeed, when taken as an explanation and warrant for the division of the churches, the concept of a "fundamental difference" seems to preclude the possibility of agreement between them. Even when they think they agree, they really fail to, since even at apparent points of agreement each community's commitments are shaped decisively by fundamental principles that cannot be reconciled with one another."
"If, as the notion of a church-dividing doctrinal fundamental difference suggests, much of the church in much of its history has been and continues to be wrong about matters absolutely basic to the gospel and to faith in the gospel's God (such as who Christ is and who God is), then the gospel's own claim that the missions of Christ and the Spirit have created a visible eucharistic community united in faith, hope, and love through the gift of God's own life-from Pentecost to the parousia and from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth-cannot be true (unless, perhaps, the advocate of fundamental difference is willing to identify one denomination with that community)."
Or, put simply (this is the last line of the article, my emphasis):
"If there is no such consensus [regarding communion, meeting together, baptism, etc.] then the gospel is false, and all other theological projects are, in the nature of the case, quite useless.
The bottom line:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Church of the Saints of Jesus Christ in the Last Days.