Over the Holidays there are often several moments that tend to direct attention toward the differences in beliefs among people. I had an enlightening and somewhat disturbing experience that I feel has some relation to this blog.
While speaking at the dinner table with another diner, the topic of Judaism came up briefly, regarding the faith's most basic premises. I was shocked to learn that one of the most devout LDSs present had no idea what we were talking about. She made it clear that she lacked even the most elementary knowledge of what Jews believe.
The conversation quickly moved on to other things, but I pondered what had transpired for several minutes afterwards. What I found most interesting from those few minutes is that this person is absolutely convinced that her chosen religion is the one and only true one, without having the slightest clue about what else is out there, even relating to a religion that has been as prominent throughout history as Judaism. This disturbs me because I feel it is irresponsible to call something an absolute without at least some consideration of alternatives. An analogy may be helpful here:
Suppose a new resident of a city goes out in search of the best restaurant. A coworker recommends an Italian restaurant a few blocks away, so he goes there to try it out. He orders the spaghetti and it tastes excellent. Thus, he declares that the Italian restaurant is the best in the city.
Naturally, the problem here is that the diner cannot, with a surety, claim that the restaurant is the best after trying only one meal. Equally true is that this person could not make that claim after trying several meals at the restaurant, nor could he claim it after trying everything on the menu. What he could reasonably say is that it is a spectacular restaurant, but he cannot claim that it is better than any other restaurant without first trying every other one. It may, in fact, be the best restaurant in the city, but that claim cannot be made without first trying each candidate.
This is why I find it so disturbing that members of the LDS faith so loudly proclaim that theirs is the one and only true (thus inherently "best") belief system. I have an easier time understanding this statement from converts, as they have likely sampled from other belief systems (analogous to an Asian or Mexican restaurant for the comparison), but again, unless a person has seen all systems, he or she cannot claim that the one he or she has experienced is better than all others.
Thus, an LDS could accurately say, "I get everything I need from the LDS faith. I am not looking for anything more," just as the diner could say, "I had a fantastic meal at the Italian restaurant, so I see no reason to look any further." In both instances, however, it is unreasonable to say that the LDS church (or the Italian Restaurant) is superior to all others, because the person in question has not tried each of them. Who can say that the faithful LDS member would not feel just as strongly about Islam had he or she been more exposed to it than to LDS doctrine? Who is to say that the diner would not have been equally or more satisfied eating at the seafood place across the street from the Italian restaurant?
Most members of the Church I know were born into it, attended every Sunday, had Family Home Evening every Monday, went to mutual activities midweek, and attended seminary every morning throughout high school. After finally moving out on their own, most of them attended LDS universities, or served LDS missions. In this way, what little exposure they have to other belief systems is sheltered - viewed through LDS lenses. One might smell the scents of what others believe, but he dare not taste them for loyalty's sake.
To believe in something is admirable. But to simultaneously claim that others are ignorant because they do not believe that same way is folly.