Is there a True Church?
Thursday, 24 January 2013
To address this, I will use the analogy of the classroom. There’s only one textbook written by the Lord himself, and it’s called the gospel. Just to prevent confusion, the gospel, is not the church, or any church. The gospel is the ultimate embodiment of all truth. It’s a perfectly accurate but infinitely dense textbook, written in the language of the Spirit, and can only be understood and communicated to students by the Spirit. Many students are still struggling to learn the language, and therefore constantly struggle to understand the textbook.
Because of this, the Lord organized a school to help us practice the language, discuss the textbook, learn it’s instructions, and make goals (covenants) to apply those lessons. He’s instructed certain students to write scriptures in their own language that can be utilized as a reference guide, and to this day is providing more reference materials as needed. He’s enlisted a few of his students as teachers assistants to not only write the reference materials, but to also help teach various sections of the classroom. He calls them prophets, and though they are still figuring out how eternity works themselves, the Lord endows them with a power that allows them to help guide the group while teaching what they know thus far. Other students are called on to lead, support, and serve smaller groups of peers, so that the curriculum can be effectively assimilated across the large classroom. Of course, because these peers are still learning, the Lord encourages all of his students to come to him so he can answer any questions or help clarify any difficult problems. Though filled with imperfect and fallible human beings, the organization continues to improve, and though it’s members still struggle with some rather debilitating aspects of humanity, the school as a whole is still moving forward and teaching/learning more and more truth.
That progression towards truth is why I choose to attend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It constantly encourages the use of these TA’s, reference materials, my own prayers/studies, and ultimately, the textbook. I know the gospel is true, just like I know that I exist, and nobody could ever convince me otherwise. When I say I believe my church to be true, I’m saying it harbors, seeks, and teaches truth, not that it has a monopoly on truth. Rather, there is a lot of truth that can be learned from other sources—including other churches. That’s why members of the LDS Church are taught to learn from “the best books,” (D&C 88:118). That could be the Bible, Locke’s Two Treatises, or the Baghavad Gita—basically, we should be studying books that teach truth and ultimately enhances our understanding of the gospel. God has been revealing the gospel to men since they first lived on Earth, and considering the infinite size of the gospel and therefore truth, I think it would be arrogant and silly to claim any one church has a perfect understanding or claim on it.
I think different churches have different strengths, and that God uses these to teach his immeasurably diverse classroom. Their doctrines emphasize things differently, and because we each have our own learning styles, I don’t doubt that some people will learn truth better in, say, a Baptist church, or perhaps just doing self-study. The great thing is, the Lord knows where each of those individuals are in their understanding and just how much they can learn/teach in each group. The important thing is for us, as individuals, to work and progress in what we find to be true, so that God can direct us toward whatever path teaches us (and others) the most truth.
For instance, I once heard a devout man proclaim that he knew God wanted him to be Jewish. I felt a confirmation that he was right. And likewise, I felt the confirmation that God wanted me to be Mormon. I personally have no doubt that having that kind of relationship with God is going to be more fruitful than joining any particular church for any other reason. This is why people who investigate the LDS faith are told to study it out, pray about it, and decide if they feel like it’s the right place for them to be. Those prayers may not always be in the affirmative, but for many they are. Just like in the case of that Jewish man, I do think certain people are better placed in certain faiths. I’m pretty sure Mother Theresa was put on a Catholic path on purpose, or that C. S. Lewis would be better utilized in an Anglican group (though his writings do unwittingly support/promote a lot of Mormon doctrine). I have no doubt that both of those individuals had (and have) a fantastic understanding of the gospel because they searched, studied, worked, and prayed earnestly for that truth.
When I say the LDS Church is true, I’m not saying other churches are false. I’m saying that the whole purpose of our church is to teach eternal truths. I see the LDS Church as a school organized by God, meant to teach and distribute whatever degree of truth we are ready to learn. Because of our doctrine on personal and continuing revelation, every student is charged to search, ponder, and pray for truth themselves, and then teach it to others. After all, if you learned something about how eternity worked, wouldn’t you want to share it with others? That’s why Mormon’s are so gung-ho about missionary work. Ultimately, more and more truth will come to light as more people work to understand and obey eternal laws. And since all truth is good, the more truth we understand, the better off we are (and the more truth we want to learn).
I think this is why the more you learn about any science, art, or religion, the more you’ll understand the language of the Spirit, and therefore the gospel it teaches. The better you understand the gospel, the more you’ll love and understand others. The better you love and understand others, the more you’ll learn about the gospel. The more you learn about the gospel, the more enthusiastic you’ll be to learn more about science, art, and religion. All truth adds to, supports, and encourages other truth.
I would also like to mention that all truth supports and promotes faith, so make sure that whatever you believe to be true builds faith. If your beliefs create more doubt, fear, or anxiety (in yourself or others) than faith, I would take a step back and perhaps reassess those understandings. It’s a good way to gauge if what you’re learning (or what you’re teaching) is actually truth or just something you want to believe is truth. It’s a gauge I like to use and have had lots of positive experiences with.
I’ve also found that the more truth you have, the more peace you have. If you haven’t noticed, our modern world is obsessed with creating fear, controversy, and contradiction. The more truth I learn, the less I find myself troubled by any of those things. As you learn by faith, you start to see how science is not at odds with God, how two seemingly contradictory things can actually be complimentary, or how most religions are essentially saying the same thing, just in a different way. If you ask me, it adds richness to my testimony that God really knows what he’s doing. That no matter how good we are at mucking things up, he’s even better at recycling the muck into purposes that can lead to learning and progression.
So while you’re trying to figure out who God is to you, what path you pursue, or perhaps how you feel about all of this, remember, we’re in school to learn, so the more we invest in that task the better off we’ll be. Life is practice, not a performance. Certain lessons may be disasters and involve some painful experiences, but I have faith in Jesus Christ. With that faith I know that we can be healed, our mistakes can be fixed, hard lessons can be learned, and everlasting joy can be found.