LDS Appreciation of Reformers, Philosophers, Founders

During the April 2006 Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, two General Authorities spoke about our appreciation of founders of religions and religious reformers, as well as philosophers. Here are excepts from their talks, as well as links to the full texts on the LDS website.

Love & Thanks,
Steve St. Clair

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The Restoration of All Things
President James E. Faust, Counselor in the First Presidency
General Conference, April 2006

We believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of the original Church established by Jesus Christ.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we care about all of God’s children who now live or who have ever lived upon the earth. “Our message,” as stated by the First Presidency in 1978, “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.” As Elder Dallin H. Oaks stated a few years ago:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has many beliefs in common with other Christian churches. But we have differences, and those differences explain why we send missionaries to other Christians, why we build temples in addition to churches, and why our beliefs bring us such happiness and strength to deal with the challenges of life and death.”

I wish to testify today of the fulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which adds to the religious beliefs of other denominations, both Christian and non-Christian. This fulness was originally established by the Savior in His earthly ministry. But then there was a falling away
…….
In the centuries that followed, religious men came to recognize that there had been a gradual falling away from the Church organized by Jesus Christ. Some of them suffered greatly for their beliefs, in what came to be called the Reformation, a sixteenth-century movement that aimed at reforming Western Christianity. This resulted in the separation of the Protestant churches from the main Christian church.

Among these reformers was the Reverend John Lathrop, vicar of the Egerton Church in Kent, England. Incidentally, the Prophet Joseph Smith was descended from John Lathrop. In 1623 the Reverend Lathrop resigned his position because he questioned the authority of the Anglican church to act in the name of God. As he read the Bible, he recognized that apostolic keys were not on the earth. In 1632 he became the minister of an illegal independent church and was put in prison. His wife died while he was in prison, and his orphaned children pleaded with the bishop for his release. The bishop agreed to release Lathrop on condition that he leave the country. This he did, and with 32 members of his congregation he sailed to America.

Roger Williams, a seventeenth-century pastor who founded Rhode Island, refused to continue as pastor in Providence on the grounds that there was “no regularly-constituted Church on earth, nor any person authorized to administer any Church ordinance; nor could there be, until new apostles were sent by the great Head of the Church, for whose coming he was seeking.”
…..
We believe that the fulness of the gospel of Christ has been restored, but this is no reason for anyone to feel superior in any way toward others of God’s children. Rather, it requires a greater obligation to invoke the essence of the gospel of Christ in our lives—to love, serve, and bless others. Indeed, as the First Presidency stated in 1978, we believe that “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.”25 Thus, we have respect for the sincere religious beliefs of others and appreciate others extending the same courtesy and respect for the tenets we hold dear.

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Instruments of the Lord’s Peace
Elder Robert S. Wood
Of the Seventy

April 2006 General Conference

Have we who have taken upon us the name of Christ slipped unknowingly into patterns of slander, evil speaking, and bitter stereotyping? Have personal or partisan or business or religious differences been translated into a kind of demonizing of those of different views? Do we pause to understand the seemingly different positions of others and seek, where possible, common ground?

I recall that as a graduate student I wrote a critique of an important political philosopher. It was clear that I disagreed with him. My professor told me that my paper was good, but not good enough. Before you launch into your criticism, she said, you must first present the strongest case for the position you are opposing, one that the philosopher himself could accept. I redid the paper. I still had important differences with the philosopher, but I understood him better, and I saw the strengths and virtues, as well as limitations, of his belief. I learned a lesson that I’ve applied across the spectrum of my life.

We should avoid caricaturing the positions of others, constructing “straw men,” if you will, and casting unwarranted aspersions on their motivations and character. We need, as the Lord counseled, to uphold honest, wise, and good men and women wherever they are found and to recognize that there are “among all sects, parties, and denominations” those who are “kept from the truth [of the gospel] because they know not where to find it.” Would we hide that light because we have entered into the culture of slander, of stereotyping, of giving and seeking offense?

Closely related to mockery is a spirit of cynicism. Cynics are disposed to find and to catch at fault. Implicitly or explicitly, they display a sneering disbelief in sincerity and rectitude. Isaiah spoke of those who “watch for iniquity” and “make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.” In this regard, the Lord has counseled in latter days that we “cease to find fault one with another” and “above all things, clothe [ourselves] with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.”

President George Albert Smith observed, “There is nothing in the world more deleterious or harmful to the human family than hatred, prejudice, suspicion, and the attitude that some people have toward their fellows, of unkindness.” … But it is our privilege, in kindness and love, to go among them and divide with them the truth that the Lord has revealed in this latter day.”

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