Michael Otterson, director of public affairs for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, writes regularly for the On Faith Blog of The Washington Post and has determined to spend his columns helping people to better understand the central ideas of our faith. In a recent column, he said that he was going to begin explaining what Latter-day Saints believe, but he wanted to make two things clear. First, the LDS Church has never been comfortable with the word “ecumenical” which connotes “a sense of doctrinal negotiation and compromise”, therefore he would not be writing to seek to find “some amorphous middle ground that we can all embrace.” At the same time, he noted that “accusations of heresy on either side make for poor dialogue.”
As he began in this column to talk about he trinity, he wanted to make this clear. Here is an excerpt from his article:
For those comfortable in their own religious skin, it isn’t difficult to embrace each other’s goodness and recognize the values we all contribute without diminishing the passion or commitment we feel for our own faith. This may be especially important at a time when religious people face vocal secular critics who would marginalize religion and ignore the increasingly visible consequences of eroding religious values. (On that point, the past weekend’s Wall Street Journal column by Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, is a must-read).
So, if this really is a “Mormon moment” when people are asking for clarity about similarities and differences between our faith and other Christians, we are obligated to explain them. But in this space at least, the discussion will be about understanding and accepting each other’s differences for what they are, rather than trying to define some amorphous middle ground that we can all embrace. So, too, accusations of heresy on either side make for poor dialogue. Serious attempts at mutual understanding require the removal of negative labels and a major dose of goodwill in the best tradition of our pluralistic society.