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The One True Church

January 3, 2009

The following story is from an interview with LDS Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy as relayed in the Dec 2008 article of Friend (“Growing a Testimony,” 8-9)

When I was in third grade, my best friend’s name was Dave. He lived next door to me and was a member of the Church. One day I was playing in Dave’s yard with our friend Doug when my mother called out from next door that it was time for me to go to Primary. This was in the days when Primary was on a weekday.  Doug was not a member of the Church. He asked, “What’s Primary?”  I told him that this was something we did in our church and that it was kind of like a class.  “Well, we do something like that in our church too,” Doug said.  I whispered to Dave, “But our church is the true Church.”  Doug asked me, “What did you say?”  I didn’t respond at first. He asked me again, and I said, “I told Dave that our church is the true Church.”  Then Doug said something I had never before imagined in my eight-year-old mind. He said, “Well, I think that my church is the true church.”  I was stunned. I thought, “He thinks his church is the true church. What makes me right and him wrong? Or, what makes him right and me wrong?”  I walked across Dave’s yard and down his driveway. I turned left and walked along the street because we didn’t have sidewalks in our neighborhood. I watched the gravel between my feet as I walked—my head was down. I crossed the front of our fence and turned left. I remember every detail of that slow walk home. The whole time I was saying to myself, “He thinks his church is true. How do I know that my church is true?” I got to my front porch, sat down, and put my head in my hands. As I sat there thinking about my question, my thoughts turned into a prayer.  A voice came into my mind. It was a kind voice. It said, “Now, Marc, you know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, don’t you?”  I silently responded, “Yes.” I felt that I knew that to be true.  “Well you know the Church is true then, don’t you?” the voice whispered to my mind. I had never heard anyone tell me that before. It was like the clouds parted and suddenly I realized that I did know that, yes, the Church is true. I got up and went to Primary, comfortable in the knowledge that I had a testimony.

* * *

There are many groups claiming to be the one true church on the face of the earth including the Church of Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Fundamentalist Mormons, and the Catholic church to name a few (for comparisons between some of the “one true” churches see this link). The mainstream LDS church also makes this claim:

“The position that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church upon the face of the earth is fundamental… It is not merely an admission; it is a positive declaration. It is so fundamental that we cannot yield on this point” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Only True and Living Church,” Ensign, Dec 1971, p. 40)

“The restored Church gives to each home a priesthood holder with the power of God to bless… This is the only church upon the earth which offers such a blessing to families. I am a member of the only true Church upon the face of the earth, and I shall be eternally grateful for this” (Enrique R. Falabella,”Why Are We Members of the Only True Church?,” General Conference, Oct. 2007).

“To say that Satan sits in the place of God in Christianity after the time of the Apostles is not to say that all that is in it is satanic… Still, ‘the power of God unto salvation’ (Rom. 1:16) is absent from all but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which the Lord himself has proclaimed to be ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’ (D&C 1:30). Satan’s goal of hindering many of God’s children from returning to their Father’s glory is thus realized” (Kent P. Jackson, Early Signs of Apostasy, Ensign, Dec. 1984, p. 8).

Does the Bible say there will only be one true church?  Yes.  “There is one body…” (Ephesians 4:4).  Who are the members of this body?  “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (I Cor. 12:13). How is one baptized by the Spirit into the one body of Christ?  Believers are baptized with the Holy Spirit when they put their trust in Christ alone and His work on the cross (Eph. 1:13-14; Acts. 10:43-48; 11:16, 15:7-9, cf Luke 3:16).  He is the head of the church and walks in the midst of the churches (plural) according to Rev. 1:13.  He promised that whenever two or three are gathered together in His name He will be in the midst of them (Matt. 18:20).  Isn’t that the very essence of “church”?  Believers meeting together for fellowship, edification, teaching, breaking of bread, prayer, and experiencing the working of Christ in our midst?  If the “one true” church view is correct, Jesus must have broken this promise to meet with two or three whenever and wherever they have gathered in His name.

Further, where do we ever see the apostles exhorting people to join a church?  People were called to come unto Christ.  By being united with Christ a person automatically becomes part of the universal body of Christ, the One True Church.  Peter says believers are a “spiritual house, an holy priesthood” built upon Christ as our foundation (I Peter 2:5-7).  Christ is the one who holds the “keys” to the kingdom of heaven (Rev. 1:17-19) and He has made each justified believer a “priest” with access into the holiest of holies by the blood of Christ (Heb. 10:19-20).  Whoever is joined to Him is part of His universal Church – the Bride of Christ – and the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit, that we are the (adopted) children of God (Rom. 8:15-16) , brought from darkness to light by the glorious grace of Christ our Savior and God.

* * *

I have a couple of questions.  In the opening story, was this child’s question, “How do I know that my church is true?” a sincere question?  Did he really even want to know if the answer was “No”?  Rather, it sounds like a little child wanting to be reassured of a strongly held belief that was challenged for the very first time.  When the voice came into his mind he was asked to acknowledge whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.  He says he”felt” that he knew that to be true.  Forgive me, but how does an 8-yr-old who was raised in the LDS church “feel” whether or not Smith was a true prophet of God?  How could an 8-yr-old even know the kinds of historical information about Joseph Smith that might allow him to “test” him according to the Biblical tests for a prophet of God (Deut. 13:1-3, 18:22)?

Finally, I am curious whatever became of Elder Nash’s little friend Doug who attended the other “true church.”  I wonder if he went home after this encounter and prayed to know whether his church was true.  I wonder if he received confirmation that his church was the only true church on the face of the earth.  I’m not sure and the article doesn’t say.  I do know, however, that most of the members of the various “true” churches deeply believe theirs is the only true church.  And, as with many of the other “true” churches, the LDS are encouraged to remain convinced of the church’s truth by a subjective, personal, spiritual encounter.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. kittywaymo permalink
    January 5, 2009 6:20 pm

    http://ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com/

    The LDS Church is the realdeal. My husband, Dr. kittywaymo is a descendent of J.S. and we have had access to his personal history etc/journals, and those of the women in his life. As a retired CNN Headline News Journalist, and PrePharmD major, I love Science, Math and information/facts.

    The fact is: Joseph made alot of people uncomfortable with his prophecies and teachings, which I believe came from the Visions and visitations he received from Heavenly Messengers and Jesus Christ. The fruits are testable, but it takes YEARS of faith and devotion, many people want the “quick fix” and are not willing to keep the commandments and study etc and love/forgive etc.. do the things that are necessary to gain a testimony of the Gospel. Dr. K and I have and know beyond all doubt, this is the True Church. But this is something we cannot give to you, like Dr. K’s MD degree and my PharmD degree, we can’t give you those either. It takes YEARS of hard work study, labwork and practice to achieve such academic attainment. So it is with the Gospel.. If you will look, study and live.. you will LIVE! (spiritually in truth). There are millions of people just like us who are very bright etc. who have come to the same conclusion,, not by brainwashing but by similar process to achieving a medical degree: practice, study, theory and lab. God bless,

  2. January 6, 2009 3:15 am

    Hi Kitty, Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. Royalton permalink
    January 6, 2009 7:33 pm

    The most that can be expected of any person is to live according to their conscience. Millions of people feel they have the truth. But not everybody has the same amount of truth. It is possible to be living well in accordance with the amount of truth a person has found, yet not have all the truth. This, I believe, is the underlying reason that there can be such contradiction and so many people who differ in there beliefs, yet all claiming to have the truth. We are all exposed to different perspectives and understandings of truth.

    We are all responsible to learn as much as possible through study, effort, and seeking the Spirit. This approach led me to know that the LDS church is true. But it requires setting prejudices, pride, and grudges aside. That can be hard to do.

    You ask a good question about what will happen to so many people living different religions, all believing they are right. The LDS church is the only theology which accounts for this, or is structured to allow there to be just one truth, yet provide each person a real opportunity to understand and accept that truth. This of course is through the preaching of the gospel to those who are dead and never had the opportunity in this life, just as the New Testament says Christ taught in the interval betwen His death and resurrection. In this way, all people will have a chance to accept Him and His true gospel. All other theologies of which I am away ultimately make God a respector of persons, or unfair.

  4. January 7, 2009 3:37 am

    Hi Royalton,

    Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate your respectful tone. It was interesting to me that you said “We are all responsible to learn as much as possible through study, effort, and seeking the Spirit. This approach led me to know that the LDS church is true. But it requires setting prejudices, pride, and grudges aside.”

    Can I share the problem I see with that perspective? It assumes that everyone who doesn’t reach the same conclusion you have either hasn’t studied hard enough, or sought the Spirit enough, or wasn’t sincere enough, didn’t set their prejudices, pride, and grudges aside. Do you see where I’m going with this? What’s the standard here for discerning truth?

    To quote from the article in the post above, “what makes him right and me wrong? or me right and him wrong?”

    Divisions like this really shouldn’t exist in “real” Christianity. If our focus is on Christ there can be unity even if we do not agree on all the non-essentials. And, indeed, there is a much greater organic unity among born-again, Christ followers than LDS may be aware. We come from a plethora of different denominations, but are united in our belief that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. We are united together to defend the gospel that was set forth by the Apostles and Prophets (Eph. 2:20) which is a firm foundation (it doesn’t keep changing).

    Whenever someone founds a religion that they claim is “the only true” religion they are steering people away from Jesus Christ to a focus on a particular denomination that includes a particular set of requirements for salvation. This is directly opposed to the teaching of Scripture that says salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. Paul spoke against divisions within the body of Christ (I Cor. 3:4). He was even harsher when speaking about those who would add to the gospel of Christ. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).

    This comment is already quite long (one of my many faults) 🙂 so I will have to save my thoughts on the other part of your comment for another time. I might do a separate post on that sometime.

    Grace and peace~

  5. Tyler permalink
    January 7, 2009 5:41 pm

    Jessica,
    Hope you had a nice holiday season.
    Do you believe in baptism as necessary for salvation?

  6. January 7, 2009 7:17 pm

    Hi Tyler,
    I hope you had a nice holiday season as well. To answer your question, I do not believe baptism is necessary for salvation. I do believe it is very important for public testimony of our faith and in terms of our identification with Christ in His death, but I do not believe there is anything salvific in the water itself or in our action of choosing to be baptized. Of course our decision to be baptized says much about the condition of our hearts and so if someone were to refuse water baptism I would question whether they had really met Jesus Christ.

    However, the Bible says we are sealed with the Holy Spirit when we believe (Eph. 1:11-14; see also Acts 10:43-48 – filling of Holy Spirit is prior to water baptism). According to Ephesians, the Holy Spirit is “the earnest of our inheritance” until the redemption of our bodies. So, it appears from Scripture that the order is this: justification by faith is immediately followed by the sealing with the Holy Spirit (the baptism of the Spirit and fire that Christ promised He would bring) =salvation; sanctification (becoming like Christ) involves following His example of water baptism in addition to walking in the Spirit and putting off the filth of the flesh.

    I wrote a post on this topic here if you are interested in reading it.

  7. Tyler permalink
    January 8, 2009 12:04 am

    Believing that baptism is not necessary for salvation is illogical and unscriptural.

    John 3:5:
    “5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”

    Saying that water signifies the first birth of the human (literally from the womb) doesn’t make sense either. Otherwise, why was Jesus baptized? What other New Testament sacrament was followed that should not be considered mandatory? To assume that baptism is just a nice thing for believers or important for our identification with Christ and his death, but not a necessity simply doesn’t follow logic. And there is no definitive scriptural argument to be made here, so all you have is interpretation. If you were to believe that baptism is necessary for salvation (the logical conclusion based on the text), then you would be conceding that there are some essential works required to attain God’s grace. This would run counter to what you cling to as a basis for your theology.

    Just one more reason God sends Prophets in all dispensations.

  8. January 8, 2009 4:16 am

    Hi Tyler,

    That’s an interesting interpretation of John 3:5. Let me share what I see in the context of that verse as well as the larger context of Scripture as a whole.

    Jesus and Nicodemus are discussing natural birth vs spiritual birth. Jesus had just told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to enter the kingdom of God. Being “born again” was a new term for Nicodemus and he didn’t understand it. He asked Jesus how a man could be born when he is old. Then, in the verse directly before the one you quoted, Nicodemus had asked “can he enter the second time into the mother’s womb, and be born?” Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water AND of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” He goes on to add, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

    In this larger context where Jesus is comparing the natural, physical birth with the spiritual rebirth, I do not understand where water baptism is present in this discussion. To remove any doubt that this was Jesus’ message, however, at the end of His life He assured the convicted criminal on the cross of salvation simply because the man did what Jesus said was required for salvation (John 3:16). He believed. In the larger context of Scripture as a whole, the theme of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone is clear. I believe less clear passages such as the one you have suggested should be interpreted in light of the passages that are crystal clear and leave no room for doubt. I love the list of verses one Christian brother has put together that focus on this theme in the NT. Over 150 verses saying essentially the same thing. Justification is through faith alone, in Christ alone.

    Justification By Faith Alone Verses

  9. Michael W. Mattei permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:31 am

    This is not a vague or difficult passage, especially when taken in the context of the original narrative.

    John 3:1-7
    1Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews;
    2this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
    3Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
    4Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?”
    5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
    6″That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
    7″Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

    As a book John is very well laid out structurally and its language is not complex. It seems pretty clear in verse 4 that Nicodemus is talking about physical birth. Jesus answers this with verse 5. Are we supposed to read this as Jesus not addressing Nicodemus’s question? The thought is further clarified in verse 6. It’s about birth and life, physical and spiritual if we continue out the rest of the story through verse 21 we see no mention of baptism or baptism like concepts. (Yes, we move on to another story which starts with baptism immediately afterwards but verse 22 is a clear transition.) This is about the imbuing of spiritual life. It’s saying the physical life of the flesh we are born with is not enough to see God’s kingdom we must also be born again, and be filled with the spiritual life of God. Considering the reoccurring theme of John of the Jews expecting a Godly Kingdom and Christ pointing to a spiritual Kingdom, this is particularly clear.

    Also, it is interesting that your “proof text” is taken from John, the only Gospel in which Jesus is not described as being baptized. John was baptizing, Jesus came walking by but an actual baptism is not recorded. This is curious, if this same author is trying to put across the point that baptism is required for salvation.

    John 1:28-34
    28These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
    29The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
    30″This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’
    31″I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.”
    32John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him.
    33″I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’
    34″I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

    We Protestants see the sacraments (most Protestants hold two, baptism and communion but a few sects also participate foot washing) as a privilege, not a requirement of salvation. In participating in the sacraments we participate in Jesus’s life and in the historical church. There is of course a lot more to it but the sacraments have been subject to no small amount of theological debate and I’m heading to bed in a few minutes.

    God Bless,

    Michael W. Mattei

  10. Michael W. Mattei permalink
    January 8, 2009 4:34 am

    Jessica,

    Aw, you beat me to it. 🙂

    God Bless,

    Michael

  11. January 8, 2009 4:41 am

    Thanks, Michael! 🙂 You added some extra context and details to that. Thanks!

  12. Tyler permalink
    January 8, 2009 5:09 pm

    Thanks guys for explaining your beliefs. I have a strong feeling that any further discussion on the matter will lead to disagreement on both sides. I tend to find different anti-mormon blogs a couple of times a year and argue with them over their accusations. What I invariably find is that no amount of discussion will avail any difference in the way we both think. I end up wasting far too much time responding and asserting on blogs that have no consequence in anyone’s life. Therefore, I wish you all well in your quest to reveal the dark and false world of Mormonism (apply thick sarcasm here).

    God Bless!

  13. January 9, 2009 2:55 am

    Tyler,

    I will miss your comments. I’m sorry you feel that such efforts are a total waste of time. When eternity is at stake I cannot think of anything more worthwhile to be doing. If Mormonism is true, I want to know. I’m not afraid of the truth – it doesn’t scare me. Truth will always stand the test. I want the truth at all costs. I don’t care if my pride is injured in the process. Eternity is forever. I don’t believe Mormonism holds up to the light of Truth and I believe those who do not repudiate the false doctrines of Mormonism are in danger of hearing Jesus say to them, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:21-23). You are welcome to try to persuade me otherwise. I hope you won’t stay away permanently. You are always welcome to post here.

    In His Grace,

    Jessica

  14. David permalink
    January 12, 2009 4:36 am

    JessicaAshley,

    Thanks for your response. We are all responsible for ourselves in our search for truth. Just because we do not all reach the same conclusions does not mean we should not keep humbly searching.

    You said “Whenever someone founds a religion that they claim is “the only true” religion they are steering people away from Jesus Christ to a focus on a particular denomination that includes a particular set of requirements for salvation.” Would you include Christ Himself in your statement? Did he not claim to found the “only true religion?”

    And what of Paul’s “one faith, one baptism” statement.

    There is one truth. This does not necessarily mean that anybody has exclusively all truth. God gives knowledge to all seekers in measure.

    The Lord restored the Gospel in modern times in a way that would allow INDIVIDUALS to try it and learn for themselves of its truth. Knowing it goes against man’s nature to accept living prophets, God provided the Book of Mormon through miraculous means, thereby creating the mechanism for people to be convinced of the divinity of God’s call of His modern prophet, Joseph Smith. In other words, if that book is true, then the miracle points to that prophet and his revelations as truth.

    I am convinced that a person can learn of the “only true church” if they are sincere and desirous enough. But this requires exposure to that church, which explains our missionary efforst. I am also convinced that any person, when introduced to it, can know for themselves, independent of all others, that the Book of Mormon is true. But again, it requires one to put aside prejudices and grudges. The vast majority of critics, sadly, have never really ventured to try. Few have even read the book cover to cover!

  15. January 27, 2009 8:36 am

    For those interested in a WIDE variety of orthodox christiian responses to the “one true church” question, I’d recommend Inernetmonks’ (Mike Spencer) entry on that topic entitled “Theological Depression and the One True Church”; the commenters are as good as the article itself, I know sometimes the LDS wonder, as the RCC (Roman Catholics) wonder how the Protestants answer this important question.

    The organic nature of the one true faith and truth and baptism is tough to get our minds around. IT just isn’t a package that we would have thought of ourselves, at least not most of us. It strikes many as just too undefined and open ended…..way too much freedom and flexibility……God should just know what HE wants and go out and get it….like a veteran QVC shopper….

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