Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Article of Faith #6

6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

(Pearl of Great Price Articles of Faith 1:6)

If you’re looking for Christ’s church on the earth today, it would do well to study what it looked like when He was on the earth, and then look for that.

As I pondered what to write for this posting, I remembered many years ago a story about the 17 Points of the True Church. Much of what follows comes from that treatise, with my comments added.

Seventeen Points of the True Church:
1. Christ organized the church. Eph. 4:11-14. This seems readily apparent, and I’m sure that most Christians believe that He organized their church as well.
2. The church must bear the name of Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:23. See also 3 Nephi 27:8. On the surface, this might seem obvious, until you stop to consider how many Christian churches do not carry His name. Just in case anyone is wondering. The official name of my church is NOT the Mormon Church. It is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We have been nicknamed Mormons, or the Mormon Church by others.
3. The church must have a foundation of Apostles & Prophets. Eph. 2:19-20. The view of needing apostles is not something created by our religion. Indeed, many of the ministers in what is referred to as the Reformation believed that Christ needed to send apostles to the earth again. In a talk to the church, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, “Roger Williams, my volatile and determined 10th great-grandfather, fled—not entirely of his own volition—from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and settled in what is now the state of Rhode Island. He called his headquarters Providence, the very name itself revealing his lifelong quest for divine interventions and heavenly manifestations. But he never found what he felt was the true New Testament church of earlier times. Of this disappointed seeker the legendary Cotton Mather said, “Mr. Williams [finally] told [his followers] ‘that being himself misled, he had [misled them,’ and] he was now satisfied that there was none upon earth that could administer baptism [or any of the ordinances of the gospel], … [so] he advised them therefore to forego all … and wait for the coming of new apostles.” (Magnalia Christi Americana (1853), 2:498.) Roger Williams did not live to see those longed-for new Apostles raised up, but in a future time I hope to be able to tell him personally that his posterity did live to see such.
Anxiety and expectation regarding the need for divine direction was not uncommon among those religious reformers who set the stage for the Restoration of the gospel. One of the most famous of the New England preachers, Jonathan Edwards, said, “It seems to me a[n] … unreasonable thing, to suppose that there should be a God … that has so much concern [for us], … and yet that he should never speak, … that there should be no word [from him].” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 18, The “Miscellanies” 501–832, ed. Ava Chamberlain (2000), 89–90.)
Later, the incomparable Ralph Waldo Emerson rocked the very foundations of New England ecclesiastical orthodoxy when he said to the Divinity School at Harvard: “It is my duty to say to you that the need was never greater [for] new revelation than now.” “The doctrine of inspiration is lost. … Miracles, prophecy, … the holy life, exist as ancient history [only]. … Men have come to speak of … revelation as somewhat long ago given and done, as if God were dead. … It is the office of a true teacher,” he warned, “to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake.” (The Complete Essays and Other Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Brooks Atkinson (1940), 75, 71, 80.) In essence, Mr. Emerson was saying, “If you persist in handing out stones when people ask for bread, they will eventually stop coming to the bakery.” (Louis Cassels, quoted in Howard W. Hunter, “Spiritual Famine,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 64.) For the entire discourse click here.

4. The church must have the same organization as Christ’s church. Eph. 4:11-14 In verse 13 we learn, that we need apostles and prophets, “Till we all come in the unity of faith…” With thousands of different “Christian” sects, not to mention how many other religions, with their sects exist, I think that it is safe to say we haven’t arrived at the unity of the faith mentioned in Ephesians. Hence, we still need apostles and prophets.
5. The church must claim divine authority. Heb. 5:4-10. How Aaron received the priesthood can be found in Exodus 28:1. Those that “claim” they act in Christ’s name, but lack His authority are described in Matthew 7:22-23.
6. The church must have no paid ministry. Isa. 45:13, 1 Peter 5:2 Nuff said.
7. The church must baptize by immersion. Matt 3:13-15 You and I get baptized to exercise our faith, show our willingness to repent of our sins, and to take upon us His name. However, why was He baptized? He didn’t need to be forgiven of any sins, since He didn’t commit any. Verse 15 from Matthew 3 gives an idea. Click here and read verses 5-7
8. The church must bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Acts 8:14-17 The blessings afforded mankind, because of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, can not be understated. The Savior’s thoughts on the Holy Ghost can be found in John 14:26, John 15:26, and John 16:13.
9. The church must practice divine healings. See Mark 3:14-15. I have seen the power of the Lord manifest through the administration of the priesthood on numerous occasions.
10. The church must teach Jesus Christ & God are separate and distinct beings. John 17:11 & 20:17 Please see my posting on Article of Faith #1.
11. The church must teach God & Jesus Christ have bodies of flesh and bone. Luke 24:36-39, Acts 1:9-11 After Jesus was resurrected He showed his body to His disciples. They touched Him, and felt His body. The only rational way for Him to have lost His body, would’ve been to die again, else why show His disciples His body of flesh and bone?
12. The officers must be called by God. Heb. 5:4, Exodus 28:1 & 40:13-16 Jesus told His apostles, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” See John 15:16.
13. The church must claim revelation from God. Amos 3:7 In an October 2006 Conference talk, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, “It is no trivial matter for this Church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it.” To read the entire talk click here. Think of it; what value would you place on being able to hear someone authoritatively state, “Thus saith the Lord?” There is a prophet of God on earth today, and he speaks the words that the Lord wants us to hear.
14. The church must be a missionary church. Matt. 28:19-20 We’ve all seen them. Those clean cut, bike riding, Book of Mormon toting, young men. The church currently has over 50,000 missionaries world wide, all trying to share a message of love and hope.
15. The church must be a restored church. Acts 3:19-20 There are plenty of scriptures that clearly state that there will be an apostasy. See 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3, and Acts 20:29.
16. The church must practice baptisms for the dead. 1 Cor. 15:29 Clearly, baptisms for the dead were practiced by the early church in Christ’s day. I only know of one church that still practices this. You guessed it, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. These sacred ordinances are performed in our temples. There are many scriptures that teach the necessity of baptism. John 3:5 is one of them. If baptism is necessary, what happens to all of the people that lived and died, without ever knowing about Jesus Christ? Obviously, they were never baptized. Would a loving God simply cast away some of His children, because they were unfortunate enough to live some place where the blessings of the gospel were not available? Go ask your Mormon friend or neighbor to give you a more in depth explanation of this important doctrine.
17. By their fruits ye shall know them. Matt. 7:20 I could go on and on, and discuss the fruits of the church, i.e. very low divorce rate compared to other groups, very high educational rates compared to other groups, tremendous acts of charity and selfless service given in time of need. If you're interested research the church’s response to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, and the Tsunami in Indonesia a few years back. But more than anything else, look at your LDS friends. We’re not perfect, at least I’m not. But as a group, the fruits of love, sincerity, and kindness are clearly manifest by the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

If you have been impressed with what you have read above, and would like to know more about the LDS church go here to find the closest LDS church where you live. Stop by on Sunday and see for yourself what you think.

If you have any specific questions, please let me know, and I’ll try to answer them as best I can.


Focus said...

As a member, I had never seen the 17 points before.....good to know. tfs.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Hi Dan and Wendy! Somehow I missed your comment on my blog from awhile back. It's nice to *meet* other LDS writers and artists out there so thanks for finding me! Your blog posting about the church and explaining doctrine and beliefs is a great thing - keep up the good work!

Dan and Wendy said...

There's a nice backstory to the 17 points of the True Church. Apparently, many years ago, 5 students, none of whom were LDS, started studying the scriptures with the intent to figure out which was the true church. They came up witht he 17 points. Over time, they all drifted away from each other, only to find out many years later that individually, they had each found and joined the LDS church.