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The Value of Respect for Diverse Views

19 April 2008 (updated 25 April 2009)

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I’d like to echo a sentiment expressed today in a press release from the LDS Church. Mormonism, at its best, respects the diversity of views, both religious and non-religious, held by good persons throughout the world. We are together working for a better world, and bitter sectarian division is counter-productive to such ends.

Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon faith, on several occasions expressed his respect for the diverse religious influences near him in his day. As recorded in Mormon scripture, Joseph wrote, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” Joseph stated, “Have the Presbyterians any truth? Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists, etc., any truth? Yes. They all have a little truth mixed with error. We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true ‘Mormons’” (History of the Church 5:517). He also stated, “The inquiry is frequently made of me, ‘Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?’ In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may” (History of the Church 5:499).

Some antagonists of Mormonism have focused on Joseph’s attacks on the Christian creeds, and interpreted those attacks as disdain for other religions. However, Joseph’s attacks on the creeds were not aimed at other faiths so much as at the dogmatism inherent in creeds. Clarifying this perspective, he stated, “I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth; I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things; but the creeds set up stakes, and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further;’ which I cannot subscribe to” (History of the Church 6:57). Of course, there is some irony in this, as Mormons often attach to Joseph’s words with degrees of dogmatism similar to those with which other religions attach to their creeds. I like to imagine that Joseph would be disappointed with such behavior, particularly when Mormons engage in it. Closed minds and arrogant certainty, although often manifest among us, are entirely inconsistent with Mormonism, which emphasizes faith in ongoing revelation, adapted to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Here is a portion of the LDS Church press release:

“The spiritual and physical needs of the world require goodwill and cooperation among different faiths. Each of them makes a valuable contribution to the larger community of believers. In the words of early Church apostle Orson F. Whitney, ‘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.’ Thus, members of the Church do not view fellow believers around the world as adversaries or competitors, but as partners in the many causes for good in the world.”

I count Transhumanists among the valuable contributors to the work of God. Although most of them do not share my faith in God, let alone my unusual Mormon perspective on God, I value our relationships, the many aspirations we share, the ways they’ve contributed toward improving my knowledge, and the work they do to advocate awareness of the risks and opportunities associated with the rapid technological change we’re now experiencing. The Mormon Transhumanist Association is honored to be affiliated with the World Transhumanist Association, which has, through our affiliation, made an admirable statement about the value of respecting diverse views.

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