Can it be true that many paths lead to Exaltation? If it were, then all paths would be equal and equally true. This can’t be because many belief systems are contradictory; resurrection and reincarnation are fundamental yet mutually exclusive doctrines. But what if all belief systems have some truth? I know this to be true because I felt it deeply as an eager teenager devouring the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, and other exquisite, primary sources.
All religions contain doctrines and principles that are true and can lead from enlightenment to enlightenment. Mormons are perhaps more sympathetic to such a notion because we believe in the idea of revelation upon revelation, receiving line upon line, and as I’ve discussed earlier, we believe in an open canon.
We also believe that God has spoken to all nations at various times. Sometimes undefiled records were kept and hid up to come forth as a voice from the dust as happened with the Book of Mormon. But even without such a tangible first-hand account much truth, while corrupted by false traditions, endures among all peoples.
We also believe that the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of all things to those who honestly seek it, and that this is not an exclusive right limited to Latter-day Saints. We will not receive a complete knowledge of all things all at once, but we can come to know truth when we hear it.
Organizations as well as individuals grow line by line. The Lord did not reveal to Joseph Smith a perfect, complete organization, nor did He reveal such to Moses or Peter. In fact, the Lord commanded Peter to preach the Gospel to all the earth. To Peter that apparently meant all the Jews in all the earth. It wasn’t until some time after the Ascension that Peter required and received a poignant revelation about preaching to the Gentiles (Acts 11). Then even later, confusion arose about whether or not non-Jewish converts to Christianity ought to obey the parts of the Mosaic tradition still in force. The Twelve met in council and received another revelation about which parts of the law were applicable to gentile converts (Acts 15).
Receiving enlightenment line upon line is a feature, not a flaw of how the Lord deals with His children and builds His kingdom. So we should not be surprised when things change; we should expect it! There are, of course, unalterable truths. But there is nothing to indicate that institutions, organizations, or cultures are immutable. Covenants are eternal, but the method of administration might change with no loss of generality.
Just because things change, however, doesn’t mean that many roads lead to a fulness of Salvation. It means there are authorized servants of the Master who can navigate us through new terrain or provide a more perfect set of guidelines that suit current needs.
The challenge, then is to discover how to recognize truth and recognize who is authorized to make such alterations to the true path. That will be left for another post.