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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

All Paths Lead to God

by Shawn Tucker (bio)

During my mission I often heard investigators say that all paths lead to God. This drove me crazy. People would normally say this when we discussed the need to be baptized or to go to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints specifically. They would say, "Well, it doesn't really matter if I believe in your book or join your church because, in the end, all paths go back to God (or to heaven, or some version of that)."

As a missionary, for the most part, I handled this poorly. Here are some bad ideas of how to respond:
  • Bad Idea #1: "The scriptures say that only the straight and narrow road leads to God and that few find it, while the broad road is common and leads to hell." So why is saying that a bad idea? Well, this tells others that they are wrong, you are right, and that everyone not on your version of the straight and narrow is going to hell. I would also argue that it uses (or abuses) the Bible to make your point in a potentially manipulative manner. Others are forced to either agree with you, disagree with you, or disbelieve the Bible, at least disbelieve your use of the Bible. Oh, and it just might be prooftexting. (If you don't know what prooftexting is, follow the link—it just might change your life!)
  • Bad Idea #2: "The scriptures say that there is one faith, one baptism." So why is saying this a bad idea? This has the same issues as the above bad idea. It also turns a discussion into a showdown at the OK Jesus Corral for whose version of Jesus and faith and baptism is right.
  • Bad Idea #3: Make some flippant or cute transportation remark about how not all roads lead to one place. This is a bad idea because it is mocking and belittling. Oh, and it does no good whatsoever.

So what might be a good approach? First, a "good approach" is one that doesn't use the Bible as a weapon, as a baseball bat to hit people over the head and to prove a point. A "good approach" should also be respectful and loving. It should make people free—free to accept or reject, to embrace, to think about, to ponder, or to easily dismiss what you propose. People must be free. (For an absolutely wonderful discussion of why this freedom is so important, see here.) The Holy Ghost only testifies when people choose freely to listen to it, to open themselves up to it, to let it speak with a still, small voice to them.

So, with this in mind as a good approach, what could one say?

First, you could ask what they mean by that. Do they mean that it doesn't matter what someone does or believes, that in the end God will save everyone, will bless everyone with exactly the same eternal reward? (Most people don't really believe that.) Do they mean that God loves all of His children, is active in everyone's life, and is doing everything possible to help them return to live with Him? (Pretty much everyone believes that.) Note that saying something like that taps into a common belief. And I think that the Holy Ghost can testify to that.

You could then bear a strong witness that this is true. You could say that, indeed, God is doing everything possible to bless the lives of His children, and that you feel that He has given you something that has blessed your life. That blessing is ... whatever you are discussing—the Book of Mormon, going to church, baptism by one with authority, etc. You can then talk about how it has blessed you. Furthermore, you can talk about how God has blessings for everyone, and that this could be the next blessing that He has for them. You could follow this up by asking questions to see if they have felt a witness from the Holy Ghost testify that what you are saying might be true. If not, then that is fine; that is not what they feel the Holy Ghost telling them. If so, then you can easily invite and promise blessings.

This does seem like one possible "good approach," and one that could save a tremendous amount of frustration on everyone's part. What are some other approaches?

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