the church
Week 10 is scheduled for study March 1-7, 2021. The church of Jesus Christ is established this week. Its tenets are listed, and the importance of following the prophet is taught.

Day 1

Doctrine and Covenants 20:1-36 – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is founded on true doctrine.

As you read Doctrine and Covenants 20-22, be open to the impressions of the Holy Ghost. Consider recording them so you can refer back to them.

The 36 verses covered in today’s lesson are deceptively simple, so I have an assignment for you – a challenge, if you will. Pull out your scriptures and read the verses as you read what I have listed below. I have divided them up into two sections. The first are the basic truths found in the first 16 verses, and the second are the basic teachings or beliefs at the core of our doctrine. Look carefully, and consider what I have written, for you may see other things here that I have missed. Feel free to pencil in or record your own observations.

Truths found in verses 1-16

The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the gospel of Christ, proving he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is a witness of Christ’s divinity.

God will judge all people who come to a knowledge of the Book of Mormon in the day of judgment. Those who accept the Book of Mormon and live in faith and righteous works will receive a crown of glory, and those who harden their hearts against it will be condemned by the Lord.

Twelve basic tenets/teachings of the church laid out in verses 17-36.

  1. God is an eternal and unchangeable being
  2. God is the framer of heaven and earth and all things in them
  3. Male and female were created in His image and likeness
  4. Commandments were given to Adam and Eve that they were to worship God, and Him only. It is the transgression of these laws that cause us all to become “sensual and devilish.” The transgression of His commandments is what caused the fall of man.
  5. Christ was given to man to redeem them from their fall. He was tempted in all things, but “gave no heed unto them.” He was crucified, died, and rose the third day. Christ has ascended to sit on the right hand of the Father to reign with power by the Father’s will.
  6. It is the Father’s will that “as many as would believe and be baptized in his holy name, and endure in faith to the end, should be saved.”
  7. The three members of the Godhead are considered as one God. (We interpret that to mean they are perfectly unified and act as one in all things.)
  8. To be saved in the kingdom of God, all men must repent, believe in Jesus Christ, worship the Father in Christ’s name, and endure in faith on Christ’s name to the end of their days.
  9. We become justified before God through the grace of Christ.
  10. “… To all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength” the grace of Christ will sanctify them. (To be sanctified means to become holy and pure before God.)
  11. It is possible for all men, even those who have become sanctified, to fall from grace, so we must “take heed and pray always” lest we fall into temptation.
  12. Revelation has come through ancient scripture, and it will continue to come through the gift and power of the Holy Ghost and by “the voice of God, and the ministering of angels.”

Based on your knowledge of other Christian churches, how alike are the items in these lists, and where do they differ? Where they differ ask yourself what difference the difference in doctrine might make in how we view God or how we live our lives.

Day 2

Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, 75-79 – Sacred ordinances are an essential part of the restored Church.

As you read Doctrine and Covenants 20-22, be open to the impressions of the Holy Ghost. Consider recording them so you can refer back to them.

It is important to remember that ordinances are only available because of covenants. That is a powerful truth. Without covenants made through priesthood power and authority, ordinances do not have any saving power. It is because the ordinances of all other churches have no saving power that the ordinances of Christ’s restored church are so important. Priesthood ordinances are the vehicle by which we begin to affect the changes in our lives that make us more like Christ.

Verse 37 outlines the requirements for baptism into Christ’s church.

… All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church. [emphasis added]

When we go to church each week to participate in the sacrament, do we ask ourselves if we have fulfilled this week the basic requirements for baptism by a new member of the church? I reworded the questions that follow from “we” to “I” to make them more personal to me when I ask them. These questions are pulled directly from the verse above.

  • Have I done anything to become more humble before God?
  • Do I still have a desire to agree to the covenants I have already taken upon myself?
  • Can I say that I have a broken heart and that my spirit is contrite before God?
  • How long has it been since I last bore my testimony to someone or expressed my renewed desire to follow Christ in all things?
  • Have I considered my commitment level to the gospel? Am I living it because it is convenient to do so, or do I fully intend to stay committed to all of its requirements as long as I live?
  • By my reflection of this week’s behavior, have I had the Spirit with me? Do I feel that I am either forgiven or still forgiven of my past sins?

Day 3

Doctrine and Covenants 20:38-60 – Priesthood service blesses Church members and their families.

As you read Doctrine and Covenants 20-22, be open to the impressions of the Holy Ghost. Consider recording them so you can refer back to them.

The verses in today’s lesson list the most basic of responsibilities required of those who have been called and ordained to a priesthood office. But I ask you this, is that all that is required of us? What about some of the weightier matters of priesthood responsibilities? Let’s take a look at a talk by Elder Dallin H. Oaks given in a Priesthood session in April of 2014.

Every act or ordinance performed in the Church is done under the direct or indirect authorization of one holding the keys for that function.

“Every act” That is about as broad a brush as you can paint with. All of us act in our church callings under the authority and direction of someone holding priesthood keys, whether that be the Bishop, Stake President, or quorum president. Every act we perform in our calling, whether it be in Primary, Young Women, Relief Society, etc. is performed under the auspices and authority of the priesthood. That is why we are called and set apart to that calling. That means that all of us, without exception, perform our duties in the kingdom under the direction and authority of the priesthood. The priesthood power that flows from righteous performance of our duties is the same for men and women alike. This is the power of covenants and ordinances.

Remember that both men and women act under the direct authority of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Some of us hold priesthood offices, and have responsibilities required of us by virtue of that office, but ALL of us perform everything we do in the church under the priesthood authority of someone who holds the keys of that priesthood. All eternal blessings come by way of those priesthood keys. Women who act in any church calling are acting using the priesthood authority for them to carry out their calling by the Church leader who presides over them, usually the Bishop or the Stake President. And ALL blessings of the priesthood are equally available to every member of the church without any respect for gender. Blessings are based on obedience and covenants, not on gender.

Elder Oaks quoted Elder Ballard in his talk.

As Elder M. Russell Ballard has explained, “Those who have priesthood keys … literally make it possible for all who serve faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power.”

Here is another quote from Elder Oaks.

In the controlling of the exercise of priesthood authority, the function of priesthood keys both enlarges and limits. It enlarges by making it possible for priesthood authority and blessings to be available for all of God’s children. It limits by directing who will be given the authority of the priesthood, who will hold its offices, and how its rights and powers will be conferred. For example, a person who holds the priesthood is not able to confer his office or authority on another unless authorized by one who holds the keys. Without that authorization, the ordination would be invalid. This explains why a priesthood holder—regardless of office—cannot ordain a member of his family or administer the sacrament in his own home without authorization from the one who holds the appropriate keys.

Finally, here is a long quote from Elder Oaks’ talk that explains how priesthood authority and priesthood power applies to women in the church.

I come now to the subject of priesthood authority. I begin with the three principles just discussed: (1) priesthood is the power of God delegated to man to act for the salvation of the human family, (2) priesthood authority is governed by priesthood holders who hold priesthood keys, and (3) since the scriptures state that “all other authorities [and] offices in the church are appendages to this [Melchizedek] priesthood” (D&C 107:5), all that is done under the direction of those priesthood keys is done with priesthood authority.

How does this apply to women? In an address to the Relief Society, President Joseph Fielding Smith, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said this: “While the sisters have not been given the Priesthood, it has not been conferred upon them, that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority. … A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the House of the Lord. They have authority given unto them to do some great and wonderful things, sacred unto the Lord, and binding just as thoroughly as are the blessings that are given by the men who hold the Priesthood.”

In that notable address, President Smith said again and again that women have been given authority. To the women he said, “You can speak with authority, because the Lord has placed authority upon you.” He also said that the Relief Society “[has] been given power and authority to do a great many things. The work which they do is done by divine authority.” And, of course, the Church work done by women or men, whether in the temple or in the wards or branches, is done under the direction of those who hold priesthood keys. Thus, speaking of the Relief Society, President Smith explained, “[The Lord] has given to them this great organization where they have authority to serve under the directions of the bishops of the wards … , looking after the interest of our people both spiritually and temporally.”

Thus, it is truly said that Relief Society is not just a class for women but something they belong to—a divinely established appendage to the priesthood.

The purpose in my including extensive quotes from Elder Oaks’ talk is to demonstrate that when the manual titled today’s lesson “Priesthood service blesses Church members and their families” we should not make the mistake that we are only talking about what the men in the church do. Priesthood service applies to all of us.

The link below will take you to his marvelous talk. It is powerful and will give you much to think about.

The Keys and the Authority of the Priesthood

Day 4

Doctrine and Covenants 21 – The Church of Jesus Christ is led by a living prophet

As you read Doctrine and Covenants 20-22, be open to the impressions of the Holy Ghost. Consider recording them so you can refer back to them.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a man on Facebook about the current prophet. He was trying to bait me into declaring something affirmative about the prophet so he could slam me with his opinion and perspective that he is not a prophet at all. He already had his evidence all laid out. He was just waiting for me to take that bait he offered so he could destroy, or at least shake my testimony of the living head of God’s church.

As I have pondered over my conversation with him, especially after reading today’s lesson, it occurred to me where the problem lay. Here are the words of Christ concerning his personal mouthpiece on earth.

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;

For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

The problem with this man was that he felt he knew better than God did about the worthiness of God’s own prophet. He had already judged him and found him lacking. The fact that the Lord has commanded us to receive the prophet’s words “as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith” must have escaped this brother’s notice somewhere along the line. His reasoning was that the prophet had been caught completely by surprise when the world was hit by a pandemic. He felt that all the church did in reaction to the pandemic was a knee-jerk reaction to try to compensate for something that took us all totally by surprise. This was his view.

As I contemplated this brother’s accusations against the prophet, it occurred to me that the Lord had been preparing the church for the last few years to handle this very kind of event. We may well have been surprised by the pandemic, but we were ready for it. Our church meetings had already been altered to accommodate an abbreviated schedule. We had the new Come, Follow Me lessons in our second year of publication, with years of trial preceding that publication. The focus of the church had already been shifted to a home-centered, church supported curriculum. We already had the technology to have distance meetings and the broadcast church meetings to members at home when limited meetings could begin again. All the counsel we have received over the last few years, if followed by the members, prepared us to continue to minister to one another, to teach our family and friends at home, and to do all things to grow and move forward in the kingdom, despite a pandemic. Yes, this was our first pandemic in the history of the church with all these items in place. I consider this a trial run for the judgments the Lord will pour out on the world in the future. When they come we will be less shocked, because we will have been through much of what is needed to continue being faithful from our homes, our own sacred places.

Verse six tells us that when we receive the prophet’s words, as if from Christ’s own mouth, “in all patience and faith,” the very gates of hell will not prevail against us.

For by doing these things the gates 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.

These verses are geared and directed specifically to Joseph Smith, Jr., but they apply to all of God’s prophets. When we follow the prophet and heed his counsel, no matter what it may be, the Lord will bless and prosper us, and “disperse the powers of darkness from before” us. May we never be found openly questioning the veracity of the Lord’s servants. When we are obedient to the Lord’s commandments we will always find that his servants will be proven correct eventually, even if we don’t understand their counsel in the present. They are wiser than we are, for they are taught and directed by Christ in how to move the work of His kingdom forward. Sometimes it does take real faith to follow the prophet, but that faith is always rewarded in the end.

FHE/Personal Study

Doctrine and Covenants 20:69 – Walking in Holiness

This is one of those million dollar questions; what does it mean to walk in holiness? As you read the verse of study, the “it” referred to is referring to the sacrament. Read verse 68 for that reference.

68 The duty of the members after they are received by baptism—The elders or priests are to have a sufficient time to expound all things concerning the church of Christ to their understanding, previous to their partaking of the sacrament and being confirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders, so that all things may be done in order.

69 And the members shall manifest before the church, and also before the elders, by a godly walk and conversation, that they are worthy of it, that there may be works and faith agreeable to the holy scriptures—walking in holiness before the Lord.

I apologise up front if I am about to sound simplistic and ignorant, but it seems to me that too often our internal definition of some words far exceed their actual meaning. In this case, I think my personal standard for what it means to walk in holiness, or to be holy, is a far harder thing to achieve than what the Lord has in mind for it. Look again at the verses above. I think His definition of walking in holiness may be found contained within them.

To qualify for baptism, the new member must demonstrate a change in behavior and speech that shows they have a determination to follow Christ and keep his commandments to the end of their days. They must repent of their sins and demonstrate works of righteousness. In other words, a new member needs to be living a life “agreeable” or in harmony with the teachings of the scriptures. This is what is meant by our “daily walk” or the “godly walk and conversation” referred to in the scriptures. Our lifestyle must show that we have become disciples of Christ. This is what the Lord refers to as “walking in holiness before the Lord.”

Note that the Lord doesn’t tell us we must be perfect. He doesn’t say we must be receiving grand visitations from heavenly beings or having earth-shattering revelations that will change mankind. All he appears to require of us to be considered to be walking in holiness before him is for us to be humbly living in obedience to his commandments, speaking and living in harmony with the teachings of the prophets and the scriptures. That isn’t nearly as difficult as how I once conjured up holiness to be in my own mind. All of us are already able to fulfill at least some of the requirements for walking in holiness. Now all we have to do is try a little harder to bring our lifestyle a little more in line with what we know to be expected of us by the Lord, and we will be more worthy of taking the sacrament each week. We will then be better able to say that we are doing all in our power to walk in holiness before the Lord.

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The Rise of the Church of Christ

Week 10