Organize a Church


I have provided scriptural understanding for what the church is. I have also provided some basic scriptural backing for the acceptability of establishing individual congregations without requiring permission from other leaders. What I would like to do know is provide a guide for beginning to establish a church in your area.

Before this though I need to talk a bit about how the church is established overall. The church organization given in the scriptures is much more egalitarian than what is practiced by the L-DS corporation. Also it is much more diverse and interesting. The modern organization of the Church typifies a Babylonian pyramidal hierarchical organization. But the scriptural organization of the church is a progressive, yet humble organization, which is designed to bring forth God’s kingdom on the earth.

Just for example here is a diagram of the Church organization.

Pretty straight forward Leaders at the top members at the bottom. And if you insist the leaders of the Church are servants then you can flip the pyramid upside down, but you still get the same organization, just upside down.

However I’m going to refer to some scriptures in Doctrine and Covenants that help us understand the true organization of the church.

Lets start with the world. There are two major areas of division in the scriptural church. These are the world, and the Land of Zion. The Land of Zion consists of North and South America. The world is everywhere else.

But for matters of jurisdiction Zion consists only of those stakes of Zion organized in the Land of Zion and around the world. The world then consists of all lands that are not part of a stake of Zion. The exception being the stakes scattered abroad which are not considered stakes of Zion.

Jerusalem and the land of Israel are also important. Jerusalem and Zion(New Jerusalem) are parallel cities. With the gentiles being gathered to Zion and the Jews to Jerusalem one can imagine cities patterned after Jerusalem being built in the land of Israel as described by Ezekiel.

The Stakes of Zion(except for the stakes scattered abroad) are self sufficient cities. Each having their own United Order. There are three types of Stakes of Zion. This first is the center stake meanings Zion itself.

The second are the Twelve Stakes of Zion. Section 101 describes a parable of Twelve Olive Trees. Joseph Smith stated that these Twelve Olive Trees were symbols of Twelve Stakes of Zion that would be built before Zion herself is built. I have been able to identify eight possible locations for these twelve Stakes. I’m sure some searching through the Joseph Smith papers or some other historical archives would reveal the location of the others. But I have neither the time nor resources to do that at this moment. Perhaps when the movement is a little further underway this information can be discovered/revealed. (For my frequent readers you may have noticed I dropped Voree from the list. I am now inclined to believe Voree is a “place appointed for refuge” rather than an intended Stake of Zion. But I’m open to being wrong.)

1. Kirtland
2. Far West
3. Seth
4. Adam-ondi-Ahman
5. Nauvoo
6. Zarahemla
7. Macedonia
8. Nashville
9. (Unknown to me)
10. (Unknown to me)
11. (Unknown to me)
12. (Unknown to me)

The third type of Stake of Zion are Stakes patterned after Zion that are to fill the world. On the first plat of Zion there was a command that “When this square is thus laid off and supplied, lay off another in the same way, and so fill up the world.” We can assume that this command was carried through for the revised second Plat of Zion. So after the Twelve Stakes have been built and filled, then Zion can be built and filled. Only then, can we start building Cities and Stakes around the world. This also answers the question about temples around the world. Yes, temples around the world are acceptable, but only if they are build in cities of Zion after Zion itself has been completed.

So you ask, where will my branch of the church fit in? Most likely your church will be part of one of the stakes scattered aboard. A stake is just a collection of congregations/churches. You shouldn’t have to worry about the United Order in outlying stakes nor temple/city building. Your focus should be on bringing souls to Christ through the Gospel. Then meeting together as a church. I’ll discuss the move to Zion in later posts.

Priesthoods and Councils

The church has two divisions the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood. The Melchizedek Priesthood, which is in charge of Spiritual things, is overseen by a President and two councilors. These three, form the “Presidency of the High Priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek”. Also these three must be High Priests chosen by the body(the church). Now I’m not necessarily advocating we all start electing our own first presidency or anything. While that time may come in the future lets just focus on organizing a local church. This stuff is just for review.

The Twelve Traveling Councilors, or Twelve Apostles, or to be special witnesses of Christ in all the world. They do their work as missionaries first to the gentiles and then to the Jews. They as a quorum are equal in authority to the three presiding High priests. However they have no jurisdiction in Stakes of Zion. Only in the world and stakes scattered abroad. They are to officiate under the direction of the Presidency of the church. The twelve are to call upon the Seventy to help them in their duties. They twelve may ordain evangelical ministers in the large branches of the church in the world.

The Seventy or also special witnesses to the world. They do their work as missionaries first to the gentiles then to the Jews. The Quorums of the Seventy have equal authority to the Travling High Council(Quorum of the Twelve) and the Three presiding High Priests. Like the Twelve they only have authority in the world and outlying stakes. the Seventy act under the direction of the Twelve. Eventually there will be one hundred forty-four thousand of these Seventy, twelve thousand from each tribe, who will preach the gospel to the world.

Each Stake of Zion both in the Land of Zion and around the world has a High Council. All together these High councils form a Quorum. This Quorum is equal in authority to the Presidency, the Traveling High Council, and the Seventy.

Zion, the center place, has a High Council. this High Council is equal in authority to the Presidency, the Traveling High Council, the Seventy, and the quorum of the High Councils.

If any decision of any of these quorums is made in unrighteousness it may be brought before an assembly of the other quorums.

In regards to the Aaronic Priesthood it is overseen by a Presiding Bishop or Bishopric. The right to the office of Bishop belongs to a literal descendant of Aaron. He does not need to have councilors. But in cases where there is no literal descendant a High Priest of the order of Melchizedek may be ordained to the office of Bishop. In this case he is to be assisted by two councilors.

According to D&C 107:74-75 Bishops which are under the Presiding Bishop are to be ordained as needed.

Baptism

Ok, there you have the grand scheme. Now lets look at the local stuff. A church begins when two or more people who have repented and come unto Christ meet together. This church is formed by the social bonds between those meeting. The purpose of meeting as a church is to strengthen each other. This includes socially, spiritually, temporally, etc.

Entry into the church begins with baptism, which includes rebaptism. The guidelines for determine who should be baptized is given in 20:37. Those who:

  1. Humble themselves before God,
  2. Desire to be baptized,
  3. Come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits,
  4. 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,
  5. Truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins,

Are they who should be baptized. There is nothing about having a solid understanding of every little thing taught by Joseph Smith. No, it is simply about the gospel.

A person may be baptized by an Elder or a Priest. If you have an Elder or Priest in your church that’s great. If not, I’ll talk later about how to get one.

D&C 20:68 After being baptized but before being confirmed or partaking of the sacrament a new member must have all things concerning the church of Christ expounded to their understanding by the elders or priests.

If you don’t have a steady supply of people are already members coming to you church then missionary work and baptism is the best way to increase your church.

Meeting As The Church

Since the purpose of the church is to support each other it is vital that you meet together often20:75. You can meet for a variety of reasons, even if it is just to get together and chit-chat. Other meetings you may want to consider having are:

General meeting – Gather to listen from speakers as inspired by the spirit. Healings, gift of tongues, prophecy, etc.
Sacrament – Gather to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Partake of bread and wine as symbols of Christ until full, both physically and Spiritually.
Confirmation – D&C 46:6
School of the Prophets – D&C 88:127-141
Anointed Quorum – For saints who have participated in the Nauvoo Endowment. Discuss the mysteries.
Female Relief Society of Nauvoo – Click here for more study.

Many of these other meetings require some sort of officer to administer the meeting. So lets look at what officers you should have in you church.(I’ll discuss these meetings more in depth at a later date.)

Priesthood

I have to make sure that we recognize that there is generally no requirement in the scriptures for an officer of the Church to request permission from a “superior” in order to fulfill their duties. These duties are simply what each officer must do. God gives you permission to fulfill these duties. JUST DO THEM.

Elders

    • Baptize
    • Ordain elders, priests, teachers, deacons
    • Administer bread and wine
    • Confirm those who are baptized
    • Teach
    • Expound
    • Exhort
    • Watch over the church
    • Take the lead of all meetings
    • Conduct meetings as led by the Holy Ghost
    • Officiate in absence of a High Priest.
    • Officiate in all of these offices in the church when no higher authority is present.
    • Ordain where there is no branch of the church
    • Travel
    • Sign letters certifying memberships of members(if they are personally acquainted with the member)

Priests

    • Preach
    • Teach
    • Expounding
    • Exhort
    • Baptize
    • Visit the house of each member
    • Exhort members to pray vocally and in secret and attend to family duties
    • Ordain priests, teachers, deacons
    • Assist elders in the above duties
    • Take the lead of Meetings(When no Elder is present)
    • Administer Sacrament(When no Elder is present)
    • Travel
    • Sign letters certifying memberships of members(if they are personally acquainted with the member)

Teachers

    • Watch over the church
    • Be with and strengthen the church
    • See that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking.
    • See that the church meets together often
    • See that members do their duty
    • Take the lead(When no Elder and Priest are present)
    • Warn
    • Expounding
    • Exhort
    • Teach
    • Invite all to come unto Christ
    • Sign letters certifying memberships of members

Deacons

    • To assist Teachers in their duties
    • Sign letters certifying memberships of members

High priests

    • Officiate in administering spiritual things
    • Officiate in office of elder, priest, teacher, deacon, and member.
    • Officiate in all of these offices in the church when no higher authority is present.
    • Ordain where there is no branch of the church
    • Travel

Bishop

    • Administer all temporal things
    • Be a judge in Israel
    • Do the business of the church
    • Ordaining where there is no branch of the church
    • Receive the substance of the members to impart unto the poor
    • Keep the storehouse
    • Discern the gifts of the members of the church
    • Appoint unto members where to lay the foundation of the City of Zion
    • Receive payment of money that was given from this church unto another
    • Make preparations for those families who have been commanded to come to the land Zion
    • Determine privileges of the lands in Zion.
    • Receive accounting of stewardships
    • receive the funds of the church
    • Take an account of the elders to administer to their wants and pay for that which they receive
    • Pay the debts of those elders who have no means to pay
    • Issue certificates that render elders and acceptable to receive an inheritance
    • Manage the affiars of the poor
    • Travel, searching after the poor and administer to their wants by humbling the rich and proud(Traveling Bishop)
    • Administer inheritances

Ordaining Officers

I highly recommend reading the post by LDSAnarchist: “Every elder, priest, teacher or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts…of God unto him.”

D&C 20:65-66

65 No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church;

66 But the presiding elders, traveling bishops, high councilors, high priests, and elders, may have the privilege of ordaining, where there is no branch of the church that a vote may be called.

If there are already members in your church then the consenting vote of the members of that church are required before officers can be ordained. But in places where there are no churches(branch of the church), then officers may be ordained without a vote of the non existent church. For example if you go on a mission to some remote area.

After being ordained an elder must receive a license to be able to fulfill his duties. This license is given by the consenting vote of the church to which they belong or at a conference of the church.

If an priest, teacher, or deacon is ordained by a priest then they should receive a certificate from that priest. The priest, teacher, or deacon should then present that certificate to an elder. The Elder will then give him a license. Or the license may be given at a conference.

If there is a priest in your church then he may ordain other priests, teacher, or deacons. If you have an elder then he may ordain elders, priests, teachers, and/or deacons.

However Presidents of the High Priesthood(or presiding elders), bishops, high councilors, and high priests, may only be ordained at the direction of a high council, or a conference of the church.

Here is a License template that could be used. I just copied it from those issued during Joseph Smith’s time:

Licenses

The scriptures have given us the guidelines for operating branches of the church in our own locations. Please reread sections 20 and 107. Also what helps me is just to do a search one scriptures.lds.org for a term then read all the entries. For example I just searched bishop in the Doctrine and Covenants and then read every entry. Those duties I found are what I wrote on my list.

Members Moving Around

Members who are moving to another area and hence another branch of the church, or who are visiting another branch, should take with them a letter. The church that they are leaving must give the member a letter certifying that they are regular members in good standing. This letter may be signed by any elder or priest if the member personally knows the elder or priest. If not then the letter may be signed by any teacher or deacon.

Conclusion

There you go. You have your very own how to guide for establishing a branch of the church in your area. Not that you didn’t already have it in your D&C but whatever. I hope this will motivate some people to start holding their own meetings as the church. On Rock’s posts I heard a lot of people wondering what alternatives we have to L-DS sacrament meetings. Well here is your alternative. Meet in your homes as the church as directed by the scriptures and the Spirit.

P.S. I haven’t been able to find any historic texts for the Priest/teacher/deacon certificate that they take to an elder to get their license. Likewise I haven’t been able to find historic text for the D&C 20:84 letter of membership. If any of you know of any historic text I would love to see it.

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4 Responses to Organize a Church

  1. Justin says:

    Found this at the Joseph Smith Papers website. Here is the text:

    THIS Certifies that Parley P. Pratt, has been received into the church of the Latter Day Saints, organized on the sixth of April, in the year of our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred, and thirty, and has been ordained an elder according to the rules and regulations of said church, and is duly authorized to preach the gospel, agreeably to the authority of that office.

    From the satisfactory evidence which we have of his good moral character, and his zeal for the cause of right eousness, and diligent desire to persuade men to forsake evil and embrace truth, we confidently recommend him to all candid and upright people, as a worthy member of society.

    We, therefore, in the name, and by the authority of this church, grant unto this, our worthy brother in the Lord, this letter of commendation as a proof of our fellowship and esteem: praying for his success and prosperity in our Redeemer’s cause.

    Given by the direction of a conference of the elders of said church, assembled in Kirtland, Geauga county, Ohio, this 26th day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand, eight hundred, and thirty-five.

    Joseph Smith Jr Chairman.

    Essentially, the licenses were used to verify to other churches that the a person’s priesthood keys had been properly authorized by the church to which the priesthood holder belonged.

    Remember, priesthood keys are not authorized by virtue of ordination and righteousness alone — to be used in a congregation, priesthood keys require the authorization by common consent of that congregation.

  2. JMW says:

    I’d revise your list on Elder’s and High Priests. High Priests are a quorum that stay and officiate with-in the stakes of Zion, they have no jurisdiction outside of the stakes. The Elder’s quorum is the quorum set up like an army of preachers, inside the stakes it’s their job to preach the gospel, outside the stakes they’re like an army reserve. When the apostles go outside the stakes of Zion to preach the gospel and need help, they are to call upon the 70’s, the 70’s are to be called from the quorum of Elder and are NOT to be High Priests. They have authority to create stakes and wards and preside until High Priests are ordained and a stake is organized, then they move on. (see teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith and HotC 2:477)

    The 12 are a traveling high counsel, their courts/jurisdiction is outside of the stakes of Zion not in them as they now govern.

    Your pyramid should be divided in 2.

    First pyramid (jurisdiction inside the stakes of Zion) hierarchy. Top down: First Presidency/Presiding Bishopric/Church Patriarch (High Priests) > Stake Presidents/High Counsels(High Priests) > Bishops(High Priests)
    Second Pyramid (jurisdiction outside the stakes of Zion) hierarchy: Top down: The Twelve (Apostles, Traveling High Counsel) > The Seventy (7 presidents/ 7 quorums of 70 totaling 490 Apostles) > Elders Quorum (Melchizedek or holders of the high priesthood as in highER of the 2 preisthoods NOT the lower priesthood of Aaron)

    Proofs to back up my talking points:

    Order of Ordination for General authorities

    Seventy are to be chosen from the Elders quorum, The Twelve are to chosen from the Seventy. This is why we call members of the twelve Elders. They are to have ultimately have come straight from the Elder’s quorum not the high priests. (“The Seventy are to be taken from the quorum of the Elders, and are not to be High Priests.”
    TPJS p. 112.)

    Presidents of the Seventy to be called from the Seventy and not high priests: D&C 107:93

    President of the Church: Can be any high priest, doesn’t even need to be an apostle. The Twelve have the authority to nominate either an Apostle(who holds all the keys of the priesthood) or a High Priest. (Brigham Young’s discourse on Priesthood JoD vol 1, John A Widstoe: Discourses of Brigham Young chapter on Priesthood, Reed Smoot hearings, testimony of JFS when asked how he became the President of the Church, said he was nominated by the twelve and voted on by the members) Now the Articles of incorporation of the Corp of the Pres of the Church does the choosing for us, everyone else is left out…

    Scriptural references: Book of Samuel (Samuel (Lord’s Annointed), Eli = President of the Church (High Priest), Saul/David (King of the Kingdom of God)

    High Priests NOT to be Seventies (History of the Church 1837/Joseph Smith, TPJS p. 111), Joseph finds out that 5 out of his 7 presidents of the Seventy were previously ordained High Priests. He releases them on the spot because a High Priest cannot be a Seventy or a President of the Seventy, Joseph’s own words were “this was declared to be wrong, and not according to the order of heaven.” We don’t have a leg to stand on, all our seventies are high priests. Area authorities aren’t even an office, just something the brethren invented back in the 50’s, might as well call them cardinals because there is not precedence for them in scripture.

    The Seventy are to be Apostles: “The Seventies are not called to be a local body, but are ordained Seventy Apostles, to travel, ordain local officers, and build up and set in order the whole Kingdom of God upon the earth, wherever it is necessary.”
    Brigham Young: Seventies Council Hall, April 27, 1861.

    Brigham Young, Deseret News, June 6, 1877, p. 274:
    “The Seventies are Apostles; and they stand next in authority to the Twelve … If through the providence of God the First Presidency and the Twelve were taken away, then it would be the duty of the Seventies to preach the Gospel, build up the Church, and ordain every officer requisite in order to establish the Church, and ordain High Priests, Bishops, High Counsellors, Patriarchs, and set in order the whole church in all the world. This is according to the revelations given to us … I suppose I ordained hundreds of Seventies in early days. Brother Joseph Smith has come to us many times, saying, ‘Brethren, you are going to ordain Seventies. Do not forget to confer the high priesthood (Melchizedek priesthood the higher of the two priesthoods) upon them. Ordain each of them to the High Priesthood, and to be one of the Seventy Apostles.’ This was my language in the ordination of the Seventies, and that is the way I ordain them now.”

    Summary of BY: You make sure you 1. Ordain the new seventy to the Melchizedek priesthood, then you set them apart to be an Apostle in the quorum of the Seventies.

    You can boil down the priesthood to PRE and POST Heber J Grant.

    Pre HJG
    President: was nominated and voted on (inline with Article of Faith 5) to be a presiding high priest to the church.
    Twelve: were a traveling high counsel upon them was the charge to build up the kingdom, jurisdiction was outside the stakes of Zion (Pres Snow used to complain that the new apostles thought their jobs were to sit around and write books, taking a stab at Talmage/Widstoe, he said in his day the presidents of the church didn’t need to constantly remind the twelve of their duties)
    Seventy: a quorum of apostles that acted like an army reserve, called upon by the twelve to fill vacancies in their quorum and called upon by the twelve to assist in the labor.
    High Priests: A stay at home priest that governed inside the stakes of Zion

    POST HJG
    President was selected automatically according to the first amendment to the articles of incorporation of the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, independent of any voice including God, outgoing president or the twelve. Nomination and voting changed to sustaining this non revealed selection. (out of line with Article of Faith 5)

    Twelve: Generally stays at home and oversees the work, shifted the responsibility of preaching and building not to the Seventy but to the Elders quorums of the Church. (Scriptural precedence? crickets crickets)

    Seventy: Shifted to a stake quorum, back to a general quorum, made high priests so they can ordain high priests under McKay (they should have been apostles which is higher than a high priest), back to a stake quorum under Kimball, could be ordained by Stake presidents (Stake presidents ordaining seventies??? That’s like deacons ordaining Bishops so they can pass the sacrament) now back to a General Quorum but they’re all high priests not from the elders and none of them are ordained Apostles. Joseph Smith restored them so well the quorum fit the descriptions of ante nicene fathers/historians like Eusubius, they’ve been fumbled around and demoted so badly that enemies of the church don’t use them as an example against us, because in doing so they’d have to admit that Joseph correctly restored the office. So they stay silent.

    Elders: Called upon to do the work of the Apostle, yet not holding any apostolic powers at all. Work of building up the kingdom is put on their shoulders when it was rolled off on to the twelves. Since it is for the Elders to preach inside the stakes of Zion I have no problem with the church sending Elders to other stakes to be missionaries, it’s in countries that or areas where there are only districts and no Stakes that should be directly presided over and proselyted by a Seventy or an Apostle until a stake is able to be formed.

    As you can see we’re very much out of order in the priesthood. Thus qualifying us for the need of a “One Mighty and Strong” to set the house of God in order as promised in Section 85.

  3. JMW wrote:

    Area authorities aren’t even an office, just something the brethren invented back in the 50′s, might as well call them cardinals because there is not precedence for them in scripture.

    On April 1st, 1995, in the Priesthood Session of General Conference, in an address which was later entitled and printed in the Ensign magazine, This Work Is Concerned with People, President Hinckley made the announcement that all Regional Representatives were to be released and a new office was to be created, called an Area Authority.

    His scriptural justification was based on D&C 107: 98:

    Whereas other officers of the church, who belong not unto the Twelve, neither to the Seventy, are not under the responsibility to travel among all nations, but are to travel as their circumstances shall allow, notwithstanding they may hold as high and responsible offices in the church.

    • JMW says:

      Yes but those “high and responsible offices” are already defined, not made up spur of the moment. It’s like Oliver Cowdery for example was an ordained apostle, neither in the quorum of the 70 or 12. Yet his high office he held was associate president of the church along side Joseph. Same with the Wittmers or Martin Harris who were also Apostles that were not in an apostolic quorum, they served on the high counsels or in high priests quorums.

      The Regional Reps were invented in the 50’s under McKay, then they evolved into Area Authority Seventy. Well first of all if they’re 70’s they should be apostles, and second of all, all quorums of the seventy (all seven of them) are general quorums. B.H Roberts fought tooth and nail against the demotion of the Seventies. He left a bunch of letters to the twelve and first presidency behind explaining their folly.

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