In general conference last October, I said there were two principal reasons The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is accused, erroneously, of not being Christian. At that time I addressed one of those doctrinal issues—our scripturally based view of the Godhead. Today I would like to address the other major doctrine which characterizes our faith but which causes concern to some, namely the bold assertion that God continues to speak His word and reveal His truth, revelations which mandate an open canon of scripture. Some Christians, in large measure because of their genuine love for the Bible, have declared that there can be no more authorized scripture beyond the Bible. In thus pronouncing the canon of revelation closed, our friends in some other faiths shut the door on divine expression that we in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold dear: the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the ongoing guidance received by God’s anointed prophets and apostles. Imputing no ill will to those who take such a position, nevertheless we respectfully but resolutely reject such an unscriptural characterization of true Christianity. . . “Scripture itself points away from itself and to the fact that final and true authority belongs to God himself.” So the scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge for Latter-day Saints. They are manifestations of the ultimate source. The ultimate source of knowledge and authority for a Latter-day Saint is the living God. The communication of those gifts comes from God as living, vibrant, divine revelation. This doctrine lies at the very heart of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of our message to the world.
By and large any controversy in this matter has swirled around two doctrinal issues—our view of the Godhead and our belief in the principle of continuing revelation leading to an open scriptural canon. In addressing this we do not need to be apologists for our faith, but we would like not to be misunderstood. So with a desire to increase understanding and unequivocally declare our Christianity, I speak today on the first of those two doctrinal issues just mentioned.Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true. . . So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post–New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself. . . We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we care about all of God’s children who now live or who have ever lived upon the earth. “Our message,” as stated by the First Presidency in 1978, “is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father.” As Elder Dallin H. Oaks stated a few years ago: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has many beliefs in common with other Christian churches. But we have differences, and those differences explain why we send missionaries to other Christians, why we build temples in addition to churches, and why our beliefs bring us such happiness and strength to deal with the challenges of life and death.” I wish to testify today of the fulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which adds to the religious beliefs of other denominations, both Christian and non-Christian.
I want to state temperately and accurately the doctrinal principles involved and to say them in a way that will not leave room for doubt or question. I shall speak on some matters that some may consider to be controversial, though they ought not to be. They are things on which we ought to be united, and to the extent we are all guided and enlightened from on high we will be. If we are so united—and there will be no disagreement among those who believe and understand the revealed word—we will progress and advance and grow in the things of the Spirit; we will prepare ourselves for a life of peace and happiness and joy here and now, and for an eventual eternal reward in the kingdom of our Father. There is a song or a saying or a proverb or a legend or a tradition or something that speaks of seven deadly sins. I know nothing whatever about these and hope you do not. My subject is one about which some few of you, unfortunately, do know a little. It is “The Seven Deadly Heresies”—not the great heresies of a lost and fallen Christendom, but some that have crept in among us.
Founded on the truth of Christian principles, this nation has become the world’s greatest power. Whence have come our blessings of influence and success, and what assurance do we have that these blessings may be continued? Have they not come as a result of a humble and devout recognition of the overruling power of Almighty God in the establishment of this nation, and the willingness of the founding fathers to conform their actions to divine law? Our earliest American fathers came here with a common objective–freedom of worship and liberty of conscience. . . all came seeking God and the enjoyment of God-given, self-evident rights based on eternal principles. Familiar with the sacred scriptures, they believed that liberty is a gift of heaven. To them, man as a child of God, emphasized the sacredness of the individual and the interest of a kind Providence in the affairs of men and nations. They acknowledged their dependence upon God as they exhibited their humble faith in, and devotion to, Christian principles.
Today, throughout the world, the people of the various Christian denominations are assembling in their churches because it is Easter Sunday. They have not assembled there because they have faith in the literal resurrection of the Lord; they have not assembled there because they believe in the literal resurrection of all mankind through the atonement of our Lord, and they have not assembled because they accept him as the Son of God. I want to make honorable exceptions, because there are some who have done so, but I speak generally. They have assembled there for a very different purpose–because it is the custom, because in many cases among the sisters they want to show their millinery and the styles of their clothing, their dress. They are there more in the nature of a social function and fashion show than to worship the Lord, and I say this notwithstanding the expression that appears in one of our morning papers to the effect that anybody who expresses this kind of an idea is cynical and expresses a perverted opinion. The people of the various nations, who call themselves Christian, today do not worship the Lord Jesus Christ as the Redeemer of the world to the extent that they did even in the day of the organization of the Church. The doctrines today that prevail are in opposition to that truth, and ministers stand before their people denying the atonement of Christ, and hence showing their lack of faith in and understanding of the resurrection of the Son of God, and denying the universal resurrection which the scriptures promise shall come to all mankind.