The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
The German Catholic theologian Hans Kung, in his book Theology for the Third Millennium: An Ecumenical View (Doubleday, 1988), applied that view to religions and denominations in his chapter on world religions. Here is what Kung says:
It would, of course, be a crude prejudice to identify the boundary between truth and untruth in advance with the boundary between one’s own and whatever other religion. If we stay sober about this, we shall have to grant that the boundaries between truth and untruth also pass through one’s own religion. How often are we not right and wrong at the same time. (p. 237-38)
Religious sectarians are always inclined to find the good, the true, and the beautiful within their own denomination or religion and to highlight the opposites — falsehoods, evil, and ugliness — in those other denominations and religions. But, following Solzhenitsyn and Kung, the reality of human nature and organizational dynamics suggests that every denomination and religion, even every congregation, will feature a mix of truth and error, of good and evil, of uplifting vision and discouraging failure. If this is so, then Mormon or not, Christian or not, believer or not, everyone is in more or less the same boat. We aren’t as blessed as we think we are. Compared to an ideal vision of the One True Church, this sounds like compromise or surrender. But as an eyes-wide-open view of how the world really works, this is a starting point for tolerance and humility. It is the foundation for an ecumenical rather than a sectarian approach to practicing one’s religion in a world of religious diversity.
I won’t belabor the point. It’s not a view that fits well with the LDS approach (see: religious sectarians, noted above). But perhaps it deserves some attention, some advocates, within the broad stream of LDS discourse and leadership preaching. I wonder if Dieter Uchtdorf reads Hans Kung?
It is unfortunate but true, “every congregation, will feature a mix of truth and error, of good and evil, of uplifting vision and discouraging failure.” I wish we were the exception but we’re not.
Appreciated your sharing these thoughts, Dave. I like the Lord’s definition of “church” found in D&C 10:67: “Behold, this is my doctrine–whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church”.
Reminds me of a quote that a friend is very fond of saying when someone is being a bit judging:
There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us. James Truslow Adams
This applies on an individual level and just as well at the level of religion. I heard a Jewish podcaster once support for Mormon beliefs by contrasting how some evangelical and catholic beliefs are just as “odd” from the outside.