Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Only True and Living Church

To start off this week's lesson, I asked everyone to think about what specific blessings they had because of their membership in the church. Not general Sunday School answers like, "I would just be a different person" and such, that is true of a lot of things; if the nurse at the hospital had dropped you on your head you would be a completely different person too. What specific things happen in your life because on April 6, 1830 Joseph Smith and five others organized the Church of Christ, which became the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?
When speaking of the founding of the church, we naturally turn to Section 20 of the D&C. Verse 1 had a section that caught my interest,
1 The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April—
Did you see it? "agreeable to the laws of our country." Why did they think it was so important to establish Christ's church according to the laws of the state of New York? The answer is found in the 12th article of faith, 12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. Not only that, but in the persecution that followed, at least they had the legal recourse that they had followed the law in establishing their religion.
The structure of this section is interesting, it has many sections, each ending with the word amen. Each of these sections tells something the Lord wanted the people to know as the church was established. There is a section on the preparation and development of the Book of Mormon, 6-12; a section summarizing gospel and life of Christ, 13-28; as well as sections on the role of the different offices of the priesthood and baptism. You can easily tell each section because of this pattern. When the Lord really wants us to understand things, he is very clear. This is one of the reasons I love the Doctrine & Covenants.
After knowing the structure and precedents for the church, Section 21 prepares the members of the church for the changes that were to come. The relevant verses are 4-5,
4 Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
A church which kept the same organization when it has a thousand members as when it had six would crumble from chaos, not to mention when it gains a million or more. The church has changed repeatedly just in my lifetime. If our testimony and faith rest on the structures of the church, we will not be able to stand as changes come. These verses explain where to look for stability, even in a church that changes: the prophet speaks as if Christ himself were speaking to us. When we follow the prophet, we are on firm ground, always. In fact these are the promises made when we follow with "patience and faith" 6 For by doing these things the agates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory. Those are some powerful promises, ones I need to apply more fully in my life. It makes me grateful I will be able to hear his words again in a month.
Then we come sort of full circle, at least in my lesson, with Section 21:9:
For, behold, I will bless all those who labor in my vineyard with a mighty blessing, and they shall believe on his words, which are given him through me by the Comforter, which manifesteth that Jesus was crucified by sinful men for the sins of the world, yea, for the remission of sins unto the contrite heart.
Many of the blessings I have received through the church have come from my callings and service in the church. While many people serve quite faithfully without needing a structure or outside motivation, many of us, myself most of all, need more impetus than pure good will. Without the church I would hide among my books and rarely interact with real people. I do not do social very well and I struggle to meet people and to help them. I have a lot of good intentions, but having the courage to go out and do stuff is very difficult for me. The church, by granting me a framework, helps me overcome my reluctance and get off my butt. It also encourages me to continue what I have begun. By "laboring in the vineyard" I gain the ability to increase my abilities and labor even more effectively. I also gain a testimony of service, of Christ and can more fully receive the Holy Ghost. It is by working in the Lord's vineyard we are able to gain charity, which we all need to have.
I left a challenge for the class, a trick I learned as a missionary and still use quite often. Get your journal and write down these specific blessings you have received because of the church. Write what you receive from your membership, let your children and grandchildren know why you are a member of this church. What benefits have you gained from it? It is a good thing to think about once in a while.

1 comment:

jendoop said...

My thoughts on the blessings I've received change all the time. Especially as I realize what are blessings from the gospel and what are blessings from our family, our community, or a certain person. They are all intertwined so it's hard to separate. The knowledge that I am a daughter of God might have had the biggest impact on my life. The more I truly understand that concept the more I exhibit the qualities associated with being a child of God.
Thank you.