Thank you all so much for your insightful comments on the question of inclusion vs. exclusion in Mormon theology, and your helpful references to sources and talks. I might have to come to this site for assistance every time I am asked to speak somewhere! As some of you know, this issue is very close to my heart.
As a convert to the church, I am the only Mormon in my family. In fact, Iâ€™m one of the few religious people in my family; my husband is an â€œactiveâ€? and believing Protestant, and we are raising our daughter in both traditions until she is of the age to choose for herself. My mom joined the Lutheran church about ten years ago. Other than that, we are the only churchgoers in our extended clan.
What this means is that I am extremely sensitive (perhaps over-sensitive) to the claims of exclusive truth within Mormonism. While there is clearly a doctrinal and historical tradition for the exclusive truth of the restoration â€“ one that I believe in, or I wouldnâ€™t have converted in the first place â€“ there is an equally powerful tradition of openness to revealed truth in many places.
What I often find, particularly among members who grew up in the faith, is that they donâ€™t think about the effect that their statements make on others who are not Mormon. For example, some months ago we had the missionaries over for a very nice dinner. After the meal, they asked if they could share a spiritual thought, which was fine with us. And out of the thousands of gospel topics they could have chosen, they decided to teach a mini-lesson on the Great Apostasy. Sitting next to my Methodist husband, the senior missionary outlined how all other churches but ours are in apostasy and are rife with error. It was an obvious tactic, calculated for Philâ€™s benefit.
Apart from the obvious Emily Post faux pas of this choice (what dinner guest would turn on his host and tell him, in effect, that he had deliberately repudiated God and the true church?) the narrow-mindedness of it infuriated me. After the missionaries had left (and after one of them had very sweetly tried to do damage control), Phil just chuckled and said, â€œHeâ€™s just a kid. Heâ€™s hardly met anyone outside his faith before. Of course he sees the world in black and white.â€? But Iâ€™ve met many Mormons who are long past adolescence who still see the world in this way. When pressed, they concede that good and righteous people exist in all faiths, but the language they use with one another does not express this. It makes me angry on behalf of my husband, his wonderful family, and all the other billions of terrific folks in the world who deserve better than to be dismissed as apostates.
Wow, Iâ€™m getting pretty riled up here. I told you I was over-sensitive on this issue! J Thanks again for your help. Iâ€™ll post on a new topic tomorrow, I promise.