For the Orthodox Believer who holds that everyone needs to join Mormonism in order to be be exalted by God, It is not that simple. Let’s explore.
We often refer to our Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as
“The Only True and Living Church with Which the Lord is Well Pleased”
We also speak at great Length about being the only place God has Authorized its children to “hold” Priesthood and to administer saving ordinances. Below are some ways God has given us to see these things.
1.) Church – And how God defines that word.
D&C 10 has God saying several things – one of which is
Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.
There is this idea that no matter what God promises, whosoever is in his Church shall inherit his kingdom or exaltation….. hmmm. Do we currently believe all members of the Earthly institution called “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will inherit God’s kingdom? Is there another way that God defines Church that we are missing? Consider just a few verses later God says
Behold, this is my doctrine, whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
Now consider that. Also consider that this revelation was given before out Church was organized in 1830, before there even was a earthly institution. God seems to be defining Church another way…. That in essence who ever is making positive changes in their life and pressing forward towards a more Christlike life is of his Church.
2.) That God wishes for us, as member missionaries, to convert all nonmembers to his earthly organized Church in order to save them and bring them into his plan and set them on the path. Otherwise what is all this Missionary work about right?
Except that members of the Church only make up “point two percent” of the current world population. And this doesn’t even take into account that 65% of that “point two percent” that are inactive members. Or that when one considers all who have lived, are living, and will live versus all the members of the Church there has been makes the number even exponentially smaller than that. If one need be Mormon the plan is actually very ineffective at the surface. I know what your thinking…. Yeah but we do work for the dead and so we provide a way for all those folks. I hear you and I validate that. But I am asking a different sort of question that progressive Mormons like myself dare to ask. Does being a member of the LDS faith in mortality increase my chance of receiving exaltation? Think about that. Are my non member friends and family at a spiritual disadvantage because they are not in the Church? As you let that question just sit there lets see a quote from Elder Orson F. Whitney regarding non-members.
Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of his Church, to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else.
Consider that. That God may consider non-members as auxiliary members of his Church. That they do more good for administering his plan outside the Church than in. He continues
Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the Truth; while others remain unconverted—for the present; the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in his own due time.
That their not being placed into the Church is for a Wise Purpose of God’s and that he will in his own due time open their eyes to the fullness of the gospel. This brings in another point.
3.) The Church is his official organization that is called to carry out his plan right? This is where those who are called and authorized to do his work are found correct?
Elder Orson F Whitney also said
God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of his great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous, for any one people.
Consider that. God is not just using our Church to carry out his work. What is his work?
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
This work is to vast, too arduous. why? The only explanation is that God is working to bring every single child of his home and The earthly institution is too small and too ineffective to accomplish it on its own. But hasn’t God already told us 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.
In this way are not inspired men like Mohammed and Confucius “Called” and “Authorized” to carry out God’s work. Don’t we already in our faith make the assertion that men like the reformers such as Luther, Tyndale, Wesley and others were called and authorized by God to carry out parts of his plan? Don’t we already assert that Christopher Columbus and the George Washington and a whole host of others were “called” and “authorized” by God to carry out parts of his plan?
Elder Whitney finished by saying
Again I say, the Lord’s Work has need of auxiliaries outside as well as inside, to help it along.
And I argue he is absolutely right.
So why can’t a Latter-day Saint hold the belief that Pope Francis, the Catholic leader, is “called” and “Authorized” by God to be assisting this work? And Once we come to grips that Mormon theology permits individuals who are “called” and Authorized” and “inspired” to be moving God’s work forward we are left with a very inclusive, expansive view of Mormonism.
4.) But we as members of the Church have the Priesthood and the Saving ordinances by which all must enter, right?
Yes and No. We have the only earthly institution in this dispensation that has “offices” within the priesthood. But are we the only people using Priesthood on the earth? Elder Oaks already has acknowledged that our sisters have “Priesthood Power” and “Priesthood Authority” when he stated.
We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be?
that the Relief Society “[has] been given power and authority to do a great many things. The work which they do is done by divine authority.”… Thus, it is truly said that Relief Society is not just a class for women but something they belong to—a divinely established appendage to the priesthood.
Isn’t that what Priesthood is? The POWER and AUTHORITY of God given to his children to carry out his work.
We have already discussed how many outside the Church were “Authorized” by God to carry out parts of his plan. In other words we have already acknowledged the Church teaches these mean had “Authority” from God. Now the Question is if they operated under God’s power. Take Christopher Columbus for example. Here is what Nephi says about him
And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
And then consider what our faith teaches about how Columbus felt
The Lord was well disposed to my desire, and He bestowed upon me courage and understanding; knowledge of seafaring He gave me in abundance. …Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my [enterprise] called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?
Was he not operating with God’s power? We can ask the same about others. When God blesses those in other faiths to be healed in their acts of faith, for example a Catholic Guatemalan Mother Praying for her sick child calling down the powers of Heaven…. is that not Priesthood Power? When Martin Luther and John Wesley and William Tyndale worked to reform their faith and make room for the restoration were they not in effect operating under Priesthood Power to do what they did?
So yes, we as an organization have been blessed to be delegated by God to be guardians and administrators of the sacred and saving ordinances and have been blessed with offices within the Priesthood to administer those ordinances but consider this. Every person who has taken on a mortal tabernacle on this earth receives those ordinances and every male receives a priesthood office. Think about that every ordinance required will be given to every single son and daughter of God. And While Priesthood offices to males seem exclusive to males in the Church, every male who has ever lived will receive a priesthood office. Baptism may be the gate but all who have ever and will ever live pass through that gate. When one ponders on the straight and narrow path I am left wondering if that path began in the premortal life. That the only way we can step off the path for a time or forever is to stop trying and to personally choose to move away from God. That as long as we are facing him and willing to be better and trying to be better that we, as in all of God’s children, are on the path.
I hope as you ponder these thoughts you will see that God is working to bring all of his children home. His gospel is not exclusionary. Rather it is inclusive. He is working both within the Church but also through many other people, organizations, and faiths to influence his children and to encourage them onward. That God has provided a way for all of his children to come home. God is working directly in the lives, of not .2% of his children, but 100% of his children equally manifesting his Power, Inspiration, Encouragement, Mercy, and Grace.
Lastly may I revisit the question asked at the beginning. If my chance at salvation is not increased by being a member of the Church in mortality then why the push to join and to remain in the Church? I simply look at this questions from the perspective of a loving Father. In the lives of my children, I want them to be happy, I want them to be supported by others. I want them to be challenged and have opportunities to grow. I also want, when those challenges get to difficult, for them to have others around them who care for them and think of them as brothers and sisters and who they can depend on to strengthen their feeble knees and Lift their hands when they are hanging down. I can think of no organization on earth that does this as a whole better than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For that reason I am honored to stand with the Saints and to serve them and be served. I am honored to be a Mormon and ride out this mortal journey within this Church.