living churchThe point of this lesson is to teach about the physical restoration of the church organization, and to help the class members “appreciate the blessings of Church membership, and to encourage them to show the Lord their gratitude for membership in His Church.” The point, in my opinion, is that this church is not like other churches. Ours is a living church. Its birth took 10 years of incubation and instruction in the heart of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Revelation from the start

The birth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the result of 10 years of revelations, heavenly visitations, angelic tutoring, and personal and spiritual growth of Joseph Smith. We have probably all seen how the Lord is able to jockey circumstances and people through personal choices and actions into the position they need to be in at the right moment. We can’t explain how He does it, but the Lord is flawless in His ability to have everything prepared so that when the time comes all is in readiness for what needs to happen.

We saw it in the preparation of Joseph for the first vision. There was the deeply religious nature of Joseph’s family that prepared him to be inquisitive and of a believing heart. We saw it again in the religious fervor of the surrounding countryside, and the fevered pitch to which it worked up the ministers in their efforts to win converts. Almost 2000 years before it was actually needed He put into place the verse that would be used to sink so deeply into Joseph’s heart to encourage him to go and ask God and be prepared for an answer. It makes you wonder if James had any idea when that thought was put into his heart that his writing about asking God with real intent would be one of the catalysts to open the dispensation of the fulness of times.

Each step along the way, from the First Vision through the translation of the Book of Mormon, all the way up to the day of the organization of the Church was preparing Joseph to take the reigns of leadership. It wasn’t enough for Joseph to know of the truthfulness of this work of the latter days. It wasn’t enough for those who saw the plates with their own eyes to just see the plates. The organization called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the living, breathing, tool in the Lord’s hands to teach us, provide experiences for us, and to help guide us back to our heavenly home.

Why a church?

Joseph had the teachings of the Lord. He had records and made many more records of visitations from angels from past dispensations. Couldn’t he have just written it all down and left us a collective body of writings for us to read and pray about? Why did we need to have an actual organization to join? What is it about having the Church that makes all the difference in our ability to find the exaltation in the hereafter we are seeking?
The Church provides its members with more than just an identity. The Lord uses the structure of the Church to teach us how to use the priesthood power He has made available to us. The Church is the vehicle through which the gift of the Holy Ghost is given. In section 21:9 the Lord promises that He will give the members of His Church a “mighty blessing.”
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.
Who are they He is referring to when the verse says “I will bless all those who labor in my vineyard?” He is referring to the members of the Church. Are we all not under covenant to labor tirelessly to stand in the place of Christ and do his work at all times and in all places? Our blessing is that we will be given a believing heart. This believing heart, through the influence of the Holy Ghost will lead us to believe in the atonement, and to live lives that will bring a remission of our sins.
How do you read that verse? That is what I get out of it. Is there any greater blessing our Father in Heaven could give us than to be forgiven for our sins that through Christ’s sacrifice we might be reconciled to our Father once again? The organization of the Church helps to facilitate that reconciliation.

An agent of change

The organization of the Church is headed by the Lord’s prophet, giving us a steady stream of heavenly instruction and direction. It is through our membership in the Church that we are given assignments and callings that challenge us and spur us on to greater personal growth. It is through the organization of the Church that we find most of our opportunities to serve one another, gain strength from one another, and learn to be more tolerant and supportive of the efforts of those around us.
The Church organization is highly structured and is constantly evolving to meet the new needs of God’s children. Just recently a whole new learning organization using the Internet was introduced, effectively creating an online university as part of the Church’s educational structure. This will be a tremendous blessing to countless thousands throughout the world in many lands and languages.
We need to remember that the restoration of the gospel of Christ did not occur on April 6th, 1830. That date only marks the beginning of all that needs to be restored before the Savior comes. If we watch closely we will see that the prophets are constantly adding new things to the Church to challenge us and help us grow in new ways so we are better prepared to meet the challenges of today’s and tomorrow’s society.
Many of us, I among them, thought that when the Proclamation on the Family was issued that it was a no brainer. Duh! Everyone knows that! The teachings were what we had been raised with. Yet within 15 years society had strayed so far off the beaten path that now the proclamation is a touchstone by which all other belief systems can be measured for correctness. The marvels of this living Church, God’s own kingdom on earth, never cease to prod and push us forward in our daily devotion.
The scriptures were notated, cross referenced, and reworked so studying God’s word became easier than it has been since the day Adam wrote down his first revelation. We take such marvels for granted now. We expect such things to just be there for us. How do we show our appreciation for such blessings? What do you think the Lord expects of us in the way of obedience and manifest gratitude for all these many blessings?

Final Thoughts

Sometimes the changes that take place in the Church are uncomfortable. Sometimes those changes need to make us uncomfortable so we feel a need to change and to grow. The Lord’s Church, His kingdom will not rest nor sit around waiting for us to catch up. We need to keep up with the Lord as He hastens His work. We will see both society and the Church changing in amazing ways in the next few decades. It is our responsibility to keep in sync with the prophet, to continue to pray and study the scriptures we have been given, and to learn to live more Christlike lives.
The Church was organized in a little backwoods cabin with just six members, and since 1830, when it was organized, it has grown to more than 15 million and counting. As we study the rest of the lessons this year you will see that the Church was constantly changing. It will be the same for us today and tomorrow. The Lord has no intention of resting and letting us have the opportunity to slide into inactivity. He has every intention that we sail gloriously into the future by becoming all that we can be through the instruction we receive through our association with His Spirit. He has great things planned for us.