About All Men Everywhere
Last weekend I was listening to the General Conference of the Mormon Church and I was touched by many of the talks.
One specific talk by Elder Oaks, however, was particularly significant for me, especially because it came the day after a comment by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the priesthood session of the Conference. In that occasion the Prophet said:
“Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of the Lord.
“Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?
“Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.
“Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.
“Brethren, there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such” (Gordon B. Hinckley, The Need for Greater Kindness).
I have friends who said they wanted to stand up and applaud the prophet when their heard that (and they are not black, they simply are from another country, but they have experienced some form of discrimination). It is refreshing to hear that our prophet is aware of it. Fortunately the great majority of members of the Mormon Church understand these principles, and they don’t discriminate against others because of their race or culture. Once in a while, though, we all need to be reminded of it, since we may discriminate against others even without malice, just because of our ignorance.
When I heard Elder Oaks’s talk the next day I couldn’t avoid making a connection between the two messages. I can’t speak for Elder Oaks obviously, and therefore my taking of his talk may be partial, and probably it is, but while I was listening to him I couldn’t avoid noticing how many times he stressed that the gospel is for every person in this world, and not only for some special group or nation. During history we had many examples of the “last becoming first and of the first becoming last…” However, sometimes it’s hard for people in the “first” category to realize that times are changing and that their slot may be soon occupied by others, or that at least they will have to “include” others in their group. (See Doctrine of Inclusion by Elder Ballard.)
In the Mormon Church we don’t believe in blind election. We don’t believe that God chose some to be saved and some to be damned because of some unknown reason. We believe that “it is by grace that we are saved, after all that we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23). This is an egalitarian principle…no groups are entitled to special privileges because of race or nationality.
This is what Elder Oaks had to say about this (in better words than mine):
The Bible tells us how God made a covenant with Abraham and promised him that through him all “families” or “nations” of the earth would be blessed (see Genesis 12:3; 22:18). What we call the Abrahamic covenant opens the door for God’s choicest blessings to all of His children everywhere. The Bible teaches that “if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29; see also Abraham 2:10). The Book of Mormon promises that all who receive and act upon the Lord’s invitation to “repent and believe in his Son” become “the covenant people of the Lord” (2 Nephi 30:2). This is a potent reminder that neither riches nor lineage nor any other privileges of birth should cause us to believe that we are “better one than another” (emphasis added) (Alma 5:54; see also Jacob 3:9). Indeed, the Book of Mormon commands, “Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another” (Mosiah 23:7).
The blessings of Abraham are extended to all people. Even if we believe that lineage is important, we need to remember that descendants of Abraham are basically spread among all nations and races. So, no group can claim to be better than any other even by lineage. More important than this, as Jesus remembered the Jews a long time ago, “God is able of …stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matt. 3:9)
Elder Oaks didn’t explain why he was so concerned in showing that the gospel is for every person and that God doesn’t make exceptions among people, but this is my interpretation: we are in a time of change, and some people in the world and some even among the members of the Mormon Church are wrongly supposing that certain blessings are limited to certain groups.
I still remember when I was ten years old and I was still a Roman Catholic. In my sincere ignorance I was one day reasoning in my mind: “How can people not be Catholic? Don’t they know that they will all go to hell?” That idea had been taught to me by devoted and probably sincere Catholic nuns. However, it was and it is wrong. Not necessarily because the Catholic Church is not the true Church of Jesus Christ, but because no group membership gives anybody the assurance that he will go to heaven or that he will not go. We all need to work hard and do our best with what we know to be true and then wait for the salvation of our God.
What we do with what we have received will really make the difference. All who read the Bible know that “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48) . The same idea is repeated in the Doctrine and Covenants: “For of him unto whom much is given much is required (empahsis added); and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation” (D&C 82:3)
If we really think that we have the right to some kind of “heavenly group privilege”, we need to be careful that we don’t lose our privileges; and one of the best way to lose them, is not to have charity and to oppose directly or indirectly the entrance of other worthy members in our group.
Several weeks ago I was with a returned missionary from Argentina who made this comment: “everybody knows that this is an American church”. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I was not in the presence of a ninety-year-old man who lived all his life in a small rural village, but I was with a young returned missionary that should know better, since he had at least been exposed to another country during his mission (by the way, ninety-year-old people from rural areas may be great people–for more information read about Ezra Taft Benson). Probably the mission for this good man hadn’t been enough to open his vision about the future of this Church.
Joseph Smith can help us “see the end from the beginning.” In the early days of the Church when there were just a few members, the Prophet Joseph Smith said to a group of men: “You know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. … It is only a little handfull of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world” (as quoted by Wilford Woodruff, in Conference Report, April 1898, 57).
More from Joseph Smith: “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; … the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:540).
I am glad that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are really “prophets, seers, and revelators”…
So, what’s my point in relation to the More Good Foundation? Well, I loved Elder Oaks’s talk and that would be enough. However, if I think of a practical application for the More Good Foundation I would say that we need to work harder and faster to extend the privileges of good information about the LDS Church to people who don’t speak English because this is not only an American Church. It only happened to be restored here for specific reasons, but it’s a Church for all mankind, and privileged English speakers should use their talents and resources to foster its growth among the people of all nations and languages and in this way keep their privileges forever, not only for a brief period.