Organized Religion: God’s Church Is Organized for His Children

1977
mormon meetinghouse

In his bold testimony about The Church of Jesus Christ before King Agrippa, the apostle Paul told his audience: “This thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). The early Church of Jesus Christ was organized openly, and the gospel was preached boldly. The Church of Jesus Christ exists today. It is well organized, and the gospel is preached boldly. It is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church).

God is at the helm. Never doubt it - Gordon B. Hinckley

Joseph Smith, the first president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, declared: “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth” (Article of Faith 6). James E. Talmage, one of the former members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ, expounded on this Article of Faith: “Jesus Christ established His Church upon the earth, appointing therein the officers necessary for the carrying out of the Father’s purposes.”1

Heavenly Father’s Purposes

God, our Heavenly Father, has stated clearly His purposes for His children. God the Son Jesus Christ and God the Holy Ghost are one with Him in His work. Moses had an opportunity to ask the Lord about this earth and was told that it is connected to God’s purpose:

Tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content. And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: . . . For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

In order for God’s purpose of bringing about immortality and eternal life to happen, God’s plan needed to be taught to His children. One only need look at His organized creation of this earth (described in the scriptures) to know that He would also employ organization in teaching His children about His plan for their eternal happiness. At the center of God’s plan of salvation is the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, which redeems His children from the effects of the Fall of Adam.

The Purpose of the Church

The leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has stated: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized by God to assist in His work to bring to pass the salvation and exaltation of His children. The church invites all to ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him’ (Moroni 10:32; see also Doctrine and Covenants 20:59). The invitation to come unto Christ pertains to all who have lived, or will ever live, on the earth.”2

Connected to the purpose of the organized Church is the role that the Church plays in fulfilling God’s purpose or objective.

The Role of the Church

“The Church provides the organization and means for teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to all of God’s children. It provides the priesthood authority to administer the ordinances of salvation and exaltation to all who are worthy and willing to accept them.”3

Priesthood is the power and authority of God by which all things are created and governed. It is delegated to man on earth. The priesthood is used to govern The Church of Jesus Christ.

It is by these [priesthood] keys, this authority, and this power that the Church of Jesus Christ is organized today, with Christ at the head directing His living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and assisted by duly called and ordained Apostles.4

The doctrine of the priesthood as understood by members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ is different from other churches. “Priesthood is not vocational or professional. It is not hereditary. . . . It is not offered for money. It is not held by a group of specialists. . . . All worthy Latter-day Saint men are eligible to be ordained to the priesthood.”5 All women have access to the blessings and power of the priesthood.

The Church Organization

In the Church, the First Presidency presides over the whole organization, including all its functions and programs. The Twelve Apostles, Quorums of the Seventies, and the Presiding Bishopric act under the direction of the First Presidency. The Relief Society (women’s organization), the Sunday School, the Young Men, the Young Women, and the Primary (for children) are all auxiliaries of the priesthood. “Priesthood and auxiliary leaders and teachers strive to help others become true followers of Jesus Christ.”6

The Church organization serves the temporal needs and eternal salvation of the people.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ are organized into congregations called wards and branches, where the programs of the Church are administered. Normally, a ward is comprised of 300–600 people and a branch is less than 200. About five to ten wards are part of larger units called stakes. Districts are similar in function to a stake and are found in developing areas of the Church. Priesthood holders preside over each of these units.

With over 14 million members of the Church worldwide, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ traverse the globe to meet with members, train local Church leaders, and administer the affairs of the Church. Like the apostle Paul in the early church, they proclaim the gospel, bear testimony, and strengthen the members of the church.  Their calling is to witness that Jesus is the Christ (born of a virgin, crucified, and resurrected), and they are gifted with a sure knowledge that this is so.

Purposes Direct Responsibilities

When individuals receive the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, they become members of the Church. The Church provides its members opportunities for service, blessing, and spiritual growth. The programs and activities of the Church support and strengthen individuals and families.

In fulfilling its purpose to help individuals and families qualify for exaltation, the Church focuses on divinely appointed responsibilities. These include helping members live the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathering Israel through missionary work, caring for the poor and needy, and enabling the salvation of the dead by building temples and performing vicarious ordinances.7

Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ in Any Age

God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, is consistent, orderly, and organized. His church, then, would be a house of order. (See Hebrews 13:8; Mormon 9:9; and Doctrine and Covenants 132:8.)

The existence of these officers, and particularly their operation with accompaniments of divine assistance and power, may be taken as a distinguishing characteristic of the Church in any age of the world—a crucial test, whereby the validity or falsity of any claim to divine authority may be determined. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the everlasting Gospel; its principles, law and ordinances, and the Church organization founded thereon, must be ever the same. In searching for the true Church, therefore, one must look for an organization comprising the offices established of old, the callings of apostles, prophets, evangelists, high priests, seventies, pastors, bishops, elders, priest, teachers, deacons—not men bearing these names merely, but ministers able to vindicate their claim to position as officers in the Lord’s service, through the evidences of power and authority accompanying their ministry.

The leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ regularly testify that God is directing His Church through revelation. “Jesus Christ stands at the head of this church which bears His sacred name. He is watching over it. He is guiding it. Standing at the right hand of His Father, He directs this work. . . . God is at the helm. Never doubt it.”9

Notes:

  1. James E. Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1890), 199.
  2. Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 2.2. http://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church
  3. Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 1.1.5. http://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church
  4. M. Russell Ballard, “ ‘This Is My Work and Glory,’” Ensign, May 2013, http://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/05/this-is-my-work-and-glory?lang=eng
  5. http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Priesthood
  6. Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 1.2.2. http://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church
  7. Handbook 2: Administering the Church. 2.2. http://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church
  8. James E. Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1890), 199.
  9. Gordon B. Hinckley, http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1994/04/god-is-at-the-helm?lang=eng