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Overview of World Religions (Non-Christian) and Mormonism
by Spencer J. Palmer
Latter-day Saints believe that God has inspired not only people of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, but other people as well, to carry out his purposes. Today God inspires not only Latter-day Saints but also founders, teachers, philosophers, and reformers of other Christian and non-Christian religions. Since LDS belief is grounded in a theistic biblical faith, it has been relatively easy for scholars and believers to perceive parallels between it and traditional Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Now that the Church has become a global movement extending into Asia, comparisons between the gospel of Jesus Christ and the principal religions of India, China, Korea, and Japan are increasingly significant.
The gospel does not hold an adversarial relationship with other religions. Leaders of the Church have said that intolerance is a sign of weakness (R. Lindsay, "A Mormon View of Religious Tolerance," Address to the Anti-defamation League of B'nai B'rith, San Francisco, February 6, 1984). The LDS perspective is that "we claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may" (A of F 11). The Church teaches that members must not only be kind and loving toward others but also respect their right to believe and worship as they choose.
George Albert Smith, eighth President of the Church, publicly advocated the official Church policy of friendship and tolerance: "We have come not to take away from you the truth and virtue you possess. We have come not to find fault with you nor to criticize you . We have come here as your brethren . Keep all the good that you have, and let us bring to you more good, in order that you may be happier and in order that you may be prepared to enter into the presence of our Heavenly Father" (pp. 12-13).
On February 15, 1978 the First Presidency of the Church issued the following declaration:
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 . Our message therefore is one of special love and concern for the eternal Welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father [Palmer, 1978].
In the words of Orson F. Whitney, an apostle, the gospel "embraces all truth, whether known or unknown. It incorporates all intelligence, both past and prospective. No righteous principle will ever be revealed, no truth can possibly be discovered, either in time or in eternity, that does not in some manner, directly or indirectly, pertain to the Gospel of Jesus Christ" (Elders' Journal 4, no. 2 [Oct. 15, 1906]:26). "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things" (A of F 13).
(See Daily Living home page; Interfaith Relationships home page; World Religions (Non-Christian) and Mormonism home page)
Palmer, Spencer J. The Expanding Church. Statement of the First Presidency, Feb. 15, 1978, frontispiece. Salt Lake City, 1978.
Palmer, Spencer J., and Roger R. Keller. Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View. Provo, Utah, 1989.
Smith, George Albert. Sharing the Gospel with Others, ed. Preston Nibley. Salt Lake City, 1948.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, World Religions
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
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