Was it just me, or did this make anyone else cringe a little when we read this to investigators? I mean, much of the time we barely knew the investigator, and then we essentially denounce their religion as false by referring to a scripture unique to our faith. It’s akin to a Jehovah’s Witness declaring Charles Taze Russell as a prophet of God by quoting one of Mr. Russell’s numerous written works.
While I agree entirely with the text of D&C 1:30, and there are no doubt occasions where this scripture could be effectively used in a missionary setting, I always thought background details, history, and common sense reasoning could have proffered a more tactful and gentle approach. Such an approach can be found in “Revelations of the Restoration,” by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler. In the following text, the authors delineate a glaring salvific disconnect between Catholicism and Protestantism. I took the liberty of highlighting a few of the points I thought to be of most interest:
“Catholicism is founded on the idea that authority is necessary to represent God and that certain ordinances are essential to salvation. Those principles in turn dictate that there can be but one true church, meaning one church that has the right to speak for God and perform the ordinances of salvation. Protestantism, on the other hand, in breaking with the mother church, takes the only remaining position–rejecting the need for authority and ordinances. Having done so, Protestantism must of necessity argue that neither ordinances nor church membership is a tenet of salvation and that ‘the one true church doctrine’ is narrow minded, bigoted, and even unchristian. This, of course, is what Protestantism does. Out of this chain of thought grows the popularized notion that it is not what you believe but how you believe that counts and the attendant idea that somehow all churches, even though they teach contradictory doctrines, are true–assuming, of course, that they are Protestant Churches.
“The idea that all churches are true, though satisfying to those who seek salvation on their own terms, defies every principle of truth and logic known to humankind. Let us briefly consider some of the ways it does so.
“First, the essence of Christianity centers on the idea that salvation is in Christ. That being the case, everyone who truly embraces the Christian faith must at the same time embrace the idea that it is only in and through Christ that salvation comes. Christ himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). The doctrine of all the holy prophets has been that there is “none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12; see also D&C 18:23; 2 Nephi 25:20; 31:21). Within the ranks of those professing to be Christians may be differences on the requirements of salvation, but all must agree on the acceptance of Christ as the source of salvation. At issue here is not whether a line must be drawn between the believer and the nonbeliever but simply where that line should be drawn. Historically Protestants do not hesitate to draw that line in such a manner as to exclude Catholics, Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, and Jehovah Witnesses. In practice, then, it becomes a Christian duty for Protestants to draw that line, doing so in such a manner as to exclude all who dare disagree with them. It only becomes an unchristian practice when someone suggests that they are on the wrong side of the line.
“Second, to argue that the power of salvation rests in the Protestant world is to argue that a live branch can be cut from a dead tree…. Protestants claim to have rejected corrupt Catholic traditions in a return to Bible religion. This argument raises two great difficulties. The first is that they simply do not do it. They have retained as foundational to their faith the most corrupting traditions of the old mother church, namely her creeds. The second great difficulty is that Bible religion is itself unbiblical because no one within the covers of the Bible ever had a Bible. Their religion was one of prophets, apostles, and continuous revelation. Never in Bible times was the Church and kingdom of God governed by a book. Now it is important to get our history straight. Christian existence predates the Bible by more than three centuries. The great Christian creeds, the very foundation upon which Protestantism’s whole concept of Deity rests, are Bible free. Their creation predates that of the Bible. Protestantism holds fast to these creeds, refusing to acknowledge that they are part of the Catholic tradition that they claim to have rejected. It is allegiance to these creeds that predetermines the manner in which they interpret the Bible. At the same time they claim the Bible to be the last word on all things. Thus traditions rooted in historical creeds rather than the Bible have been retained as the guiding revelations of the Protestant faith.
“Third, the notion that salvation can be found in any of a host of contradictory doctrines defies reason and argues that God’s kingdom is one of chaos and disorder. We are being asked to believe that if a dozen people add a column of figures and each arrives at a different sum, we must accept each of them as right. It is not the sum that you come to that matters but the zeal with which you add the figures that counts. Similarly, this notion argues that all men, women, and children who receive a prescription from a doctor are entitled to go to the pharmacists and concoct their own mixture of drugs….
“To maintain that all churches are true—meaning that they possess the power of salvation and the authority to act as the agent of God—may have some resemblance to Christian tolerance. But upon examination such a notion reveals itself to be a deceptive ploy lulling people into the belief that it is for them to dictate the terms of salvation and to determine the nature and character of God. In such a god we have no interest” (pp. 53-55) (emphasis added).