|The Oxford English Dictionary defines ecumenical as follows:|
Belonging to or representing the whole (Christian) world, or the universal church; general, universal, catholic; spec. applied to the general councils of the early church, and (in mod. use) of the Roman Catholic Church (and hence occas. to a general assembly of some other ecclesiastical body); also assumed as a title by the Patriarch of Constantinople; formerly sometimes applied to the Pope of Rome.
Many open-minded people, including Latter-day Saints, see e.g. here and here, are enamored with the idea of ecumenicalism, a movement in which various denominations of the modern splintered Christianity attempt to reach over schism and accept each other back into this "whole (Christian) world, or the universal church" as defined by the OED. But this universal church is not the Catholic Church; rather, it is an invisible, far-reaching Christian church united by the lowest common denominators of Christian faith, i.e. authority from God is necessarily side-lined in the interest of unity or redefined to include anyone who has accepted Christ.
Is this an appropriate endeavor for Latter-day Saints? What makes Latter-day Saints "a peculiar people"? Does a rejection of ecumenicalism per se, as advocated by ecumenical enthusiasts and some Latter-day Saints, contain any implications for a commitment to religious pluralism, choice, and acceptance (i.e. maintaining all of those but rejecting ecumenicalism as currently pursued)?
Personally, I am of the opinion that ecumenicalism is not something that Latter-day Saints can participate in: LDS claims to authority and prophetic guidance are mutually exclusive to the ecumenical platform of erasing schism. That does not, in my opinion, lessen Latter-day Saints' obligation to treat everyone in a Christ-like manner and love their neighbors. It just means that Latter-day Saints don't need to make themselves any less peculiar in the interest of good feelings with other denominations.
At any rate, Latter-day Saints have a little known duty that works against ecumenicalism as currently known. The Doctrine and Covenants speaks of this duty in no uncertain terms in Section 123, verse 7:
It is an imperative duty that we owe to God, to angels, with whom we shall be brought to stand, and also to ourselves, to our wives and children, who have been made to bow down with grief, sorrow, and care, under the most damning hand of murder, tyranny, and oppression, supported and urged on and upheld by the influence of that spirit which hath so strongly riveted the creeds of the fathers, who have inherited lies, upon the hearts of the children, and filled the world with confusion, and has been growing stronger and stronger, and is now the very mainspring of all corruption, and the whole earth groans under the weight of its iniquity. (emphasis added)
So what is this duty that the D&C speaks of so forcefully? It is a duty to keep a record of the abuses suffered by the saints at the hands of adherents of these other Christian denominations. Section 123 explains in the first six verses:
1 AND again, we would suggest for your consideration the propriety of all the saints gathering up a knowledge of all the facts, and sufferings and abuses put upon them by the people of this State;
Verses 7-11 reinforce the notion that this is "an imperative duty" and not a mere suggestion. These verses necessarily highlight the emnity between the other Christian denominations and the Latter-day Saints. Verse 12 further works against the spirit of modern ecumenicalism:
For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—
To my mind, particularly this verse seriously contradicts the mission of ecumenicalism. Implicit in this verse is (1) a necessarily exclusive claim to Truth (though it neither says that others might not have portions of the Truth nor that the Latter-day Saints already have the "whole Truth"), and (2) an indictment on the rise and subsequent corruption of the multidude of teachings that has resulted in the myriad contending sects and denominations. These two implicit premises are incompatible with ecumenicalism. To pursue ecumenicalism together with other Christian denominations would require a rejection of the language in this section of the Doctrine and Covenants. That is not a problem for some Latter-day Saints, I am sure. The problem for me, however, is that I believe that this is scripture and not so easily dismissed.