The Only True Church: Why Are We So Intolerant of Other Religions?

It makes sense that if God has a plan for his children to become like him, he would have a particular way for them to accomplish the task.  It makes sense that such a plan would include one true church.  Unfortunately, over the centuries, a myriad of organizations have referred to themselves as the one true church.  Even more unfortunate, nearly every organization that has proclaimed itself the one true faith has also practiced seething intolerance for other religions--especially those who have made the same claim to uniqueness.


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Like most other religions, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes a not-so-unique claim to uniqueness--the only religion that provides the true path back to God.  In doing so, however, hopefully the LDS Church can rise above the intolerance practiced by other religions who make such claims.

If a certain Church is the only true church, will those people who know about it but don't join it burn in hell?  Absolutely not.  But members of many faiths, perhaps including some Bible-bashing Mormons, seem to think (and almost revel in the belief) that anyone who does not belong to their religion will suffer some sort of hell fire.

Where does such intolerance come from? Some LDS scriptures, incorrectly interpreted, can give Latter-day Saints the wrong impression that individuals only get one chance to accept the true gospel.  For example, Alma chapter 34 in the Book of Mormon states that
I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate  the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
This verse of scripture says nothing about joining the only true church, mind you, but it's tempting to think that it does.  The only requirement stated at all in the verse from Alma is that we improve our time (or become better people) while in this life.  Most people--of any religion, or no religion at all--do a rather good job at that.

The real temptation to not tolerate other faiths comes from fear.  The Nazis had this fear.  The Communists had it with gusto.  And so do many religions.  Such fear comes from a deep-seated realization that what one believes is actually not the truth.  Based on that fact alone, Latter-day Saints, of all people, should be the most tolerant of other religions.

A variety of falsehoods have leaked their way into Mormonism since the earliest forms of apostate Christianity.  The most unfortunate of these untruths is intolerance, manifested most commonly by the belief that those who disagree with us are somehow not as good as us.

Joseph Smith explained his abhorrence of such 'religious fervor' during his boyhood years
...there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It...soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. ...great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!”

For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling...when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.
But it didn't start there.  Such intolerance, if it didn't start sooner, made its debut in conjunction with the kicking of apostate Christendom into high gear.

After being recognized as the official religion of the Roman empire, Christianity quickly came to evince much less tolerance for other faiths than Rome's pagan religions had done.  Christians, now in the ascendancy, brooked very little disagreement with their religion.  Their most vile hatred was reserved for the Jews, whom Christians took to calling "the murderers of Christ".  Prefiguring Adolf Hitler and other monsters in the flesh, Christians of the third century (and afterward) constantly fostered hatred for everything Jewish. Reasoning quite irrationally that, because all Jews were guilty of being Christ killers, Christians styled themselves as the new Israel. Using this flimsy justification, the Christians occupied the Holy Land, taking down the unbelievers in great swathes. 

Over the intervening centuries, Christians, Muslims, and Jews have attempted to perfect their various arts of intolerance, ironically all in the name of God, the most tolerant of all.

Intolerance of other religions is a distinctively apostate activity, born of a subliminal fear that one no longer has the truth.  This not being a good reason for intolerance, we can discover no reason at all for the adherents of any faith to show a lack of tolerance for the members of any other.  Hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saints stand before their congregations on Sunday and state that they "know that the Church is true".  I can think of no better basis than this for complete tolerance of the beliefs of others.

Is it important for everyone who wants to make the most of their eternities to accept God's true church? Sure.  I think so.   Eventually.  But we shouldn't promulgate the decidedly non-doctrinal claims that non-believers are less of persons than we are, or that someone will burn in the fires of hell if they don't join our church. 

God loves all of His children.  He has tolerance for them.  So should we.  For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the best manifestations that we really "know the Church is true" is to follow the example of our Father in Heaven by celebrating the choice of others to belong to a church or religion different than our own.

Comments

  1. I find it hard to accept that most other religions claim to be one true church as does the LDS faith. Perhaps you could share the names of some of the other Christian denominations who also claim to be God's only true church on earth.

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  2. As a "recovering" Mormon, I can tell you that even when I was an active member I always found the arrogance of the statement "the only true church" to irritate me. I felt it to be not only intolerant of others but also not based on any fact. I respect Mormons who believe they have the only way back to God, but find it arrogant to exclaim it to the world, as it offends those who are just as stringent in their own beliefs.

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  3. When we read "...the only Church upon the face of the whole earth with which I the Lord am well pleased, speaking to the Church collectively and not individually" We immediately, habitually and currently interpret it as though he was speaking individually. He is not referring to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's referring to His Church.

    The same one he refers to in D&C 10: 52 And now, behold, according to their faith in their prayers will I bring this part of my gospel to the knowledge of my people. Behold, I do not bring it to destroy that which they have received, but to build it up.
    53 And for this cause have I said: If this generation harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them.
    54 Now I do not say this to destroy my church, but I say this to build up my church;... See More
    55 Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.

    This revelation was given before there was an LDS Church. What true church existed prior to that? HIS Church.

    Joseph

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  4. jbstax: Good point. I may be wrong in my claim that many other churches claim themselves to be the only true church. It seems at some point that Catholicism did. And I know today that Islam is often promulgated that way by its adherents. Other than that, I'm actually not sure. Here's a short list (someone else's research) of some churches that have made the claim to be the only true church: http://www.letusreason.org/cult12.htm

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  5. Once again Frank you have posted information on your blog stated as though it were fact that turns out to be nothing more than your misinformed opinion. Arrogance is thinking you know more than you know. Ignorance is not knowing what you don't know.

    The fact is that the LDS church is on a very short list of established Christian Denominations that proclaim themselves to be "God's only true church".

    The whole tone of your piece is that those who are LDS should be more tolerant of those whose religions are inferior to their own. That's mighty big of you to espouse that Frank. How about taking that to the next level and preaching acceptance and unconditional love for all of God's children---including Gays and others whose lifestyles and beliefs are different from your own. That acceptance would have to include the rights of those people to marry the person they love and to raise children in their loving homes.

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  6. It is certainly common for a religion to claim that it is the one true religion. If I believe that my faith is the best/only path to God/salvation, then it stands to reason that other faiths are poorer paths, if not wrong altogether. The more supernatural power I ascribe to the holy book(s) of my faith, whether the Book of Mormon, the Bible or the Koran, then the more likely I am to believe that those who feel differently about them are either lost or damned or both. If I believe so strongly in the rightness of my faith that I believe it is my duty to convince others through missionary efforts, then how can I acknowledge that other paths to God are equally effective?

    While believers in these more conservative religions may well be courteous and tolerant of those of other faiths, it is difficult to come to the place where one can accept them as equals, or acknowledge that their faith, or lack thereof, is as good for them as your faith is for you.

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  7. Frank,
    Why don't you post these criticism on your FB post? That is very cynical and ambitious. Hard to take this simpleness other than just simpleness.

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  8. Why play "church"?

    Much prefer being a member in particular of The Body of The Messiah, a son of The ONE and Only True Living G-D, Father(Creator) of ALL.......

    Yet, thankfully "poor and needy" am i.

    Father Help! and HE does.......

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this wicked world and it's systems of theo'ry'locial religion....... francis

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  9. The only comment I wish to make is that the church membership should "Beware of pride, lest we become like the Pharisees of old." I'm already seeing it happen in Happy Valley.

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  10. Frank, the only thing I can say about this post is that I wish I had written it myself.

    As for whether or not there are still an appreciable number of religions that officially declare themselves to be the only true church, it's certainly true that the individual members of most churches do believe that their way is the best way.

    JBT, for someone advocating tolerance and unconditional love for all of God's children, you may want to check the tone of you comment. You came off as strident and lacking anything resembling love toward your target.

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  11. There is hope that there would be those reading this who have "seen" organized 'religion' for what it is, and not what it pretends to be, and have realized, not just read, that "the natural man does not receive the things that are of The Spirit of G-D, for they are foolishness unto him and he can not know them, for the things that are of The Spirit of G-D need to be Spiritually discerned".......

    As for "Pure And Undefiled Religion".......

    "Pure religion and undefiled before G-D The Father is this, to visit the fatherless (those children who know not their Father, HE WHO is The Only True G-D, Father{Creator} of ALL) and widows(those who are not joined together as One with The Messiah, His Brethren and Our Father) in their affliction and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the world."(James1:27)

    Simply, all other religion is impure and defiled.......

    And notice that "pure and undefiled" religion is "oneself(individual)", The Brethren of The Messiah doing The Will of Our Father, as they are led by The Holy, Set Apart, Spirit.......

    Simply, corporate "religion" is pagan and of this wicked world ;-(

    "Brethren" is not "religion", for what are The Brethren of The Messiah and sons of Our Father if not Family?

    And would not The Family of The Only True G-D, Father(Creator) of ALL, "The Body of The Messiah", be much closer than a natural, fleshly family?

    And so it is that most of those who have chosen to follow The Messiah on "The Narrow Way" have had to "forsake their natural father, mother, brothers, sisters" and all others who will not follow The Messiah because they "love this wicked world and their own life in and of it".......

    The Brethren of The Messiah have "forsaken all for The Kingdom of Heaven's sake".......

    They are truly "strangers and pilgrims while on the earth".......

    Father Help! and HE does.......

    What is declared to be "religion" today is the 'd'evil's playground indeed.......

    Simply, Faith will not create a system of religion.......

    Hope is there would be those who take heed unto The Call of The Only True G-D to "Come Out of her, MY people"!

    For they will "Come Out" of this wicked world(babylon) and it's systems of religion, and enter into "the glorious Liberty of The Children of The Only True G-D".

    And so it is that they will no longer be of those who are destroying the earth(air, water, land, vegetation, creatures) and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Truth, Life, Love, Peace, Hope, Faith, Mercy, Grace, Miracles,,, All that is Truly Good).......

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it's systems of religion, for "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" (1John5:19) indeed and Truth.......

    Truth IS, a lie is not.......

    Abide in The Truth....... francis

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