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Finding a balance between loyalty or commitment to one’s faith and sympathetic openness to other faiths is one of the biggest challenges Mormons face in an age of inclusiveness.
The classic “theology of religions” view of other faiths known as “Inclusivism” broadly fits what Dr. Mauro Properzi thinks this balance should look like in an LDS context. The idea is that one’s faith is unique, most effective, and overall preferential (or if you want to use the term “truest”) in leading to our eternal destination. Other religions, however, while being positive paths that move as a whole in the same direction, lack some elements that characterize the faith you embrace. Perhaps other paths take unnecessary detours, perhaps they have holes that cause slower progress, perhaps they are not as scenic. Still, these roads are going in the same general direction as your road, not in the opposite one. In short, if your road leads to God, the other roads don’t lead to Satan; they are also oriented toward God.
Inclusivism is the middle ground. Two other positions represent the ends of the spectrum. On one side is exclusivism, which in its bluntest form is the message that only my religion is good, true, divinely inspired, and salvific. At its opposite is pluralism with the message that all religions are true, divinely inspired, and salvific since it is believed that they teach the same message in different cultural contexts.
What is clear is that in our postmodern Western culture many people, whether religious or not, lean in the direction of pluralism and exclusivism is not very popular. Exclusivism, however, is an important component of Christianity, and of Mormonism in particular; in fact, in the pursuit of truth in general. It is not the whole of the answer but it is a significant part of it.
The challenge for us, and for any other person of faith who feels these tensions, is to be reflective about them and not succumb to pressures that aim to eliminate them. For us these pressures can come from social interactions both within the church and outside of it … pressures that want to obliterate one side or the other of the spectrum.
Join Laura Harris Hales as she interviews Mauro Properzi about false obstacle and rich opportunities that come from learning about other religions.
One interesting element of the current LDS perspective is that there is truth in most other religious traditions. Just what that truth is isn’t always understood but nonetheless, the Brethren seem to have made that clear. Catholics and Mormons have more in common than many Catholics would like, but given both denominations claims their roots are in the First Century Church, some sort of accommodation should be be sought by both. It isn’t clear how much commonality exists with other traditions given the ever-changing theological base of these groups. Mormon and Catholic practices seem solidly entrenched and not likely to change much and that is comforting to both, maybe.