Before I get into some of the other areas of discussion I feel it is important to establish some basic concepts. These center around understanding what exactly the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is.
So let’s dive right in. We’ll start by turning to(if you still use old fashioned paper books) or clicking on(if your into hip, modern, digital books) Doctrine and Covenants 10:67:
67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
As a natural extension of Christ’s doctrine, the Gospel(which consists only of Faith, Repentance, Baptism of Water, and Baptism of Fire and the Spirit), those who repent and come unto Christ are Christ’s church. Notice how it says that “the same IS my church.” Not “the same is in(or part of) my church.” This is an important distinction. Christ’s church is the members. It is not an organization or club that people join. Rather when they live the Gospel they become the church. The church is the people not the structure.
This is a really difficult concept for some to understand. Members of the Corporate Church are used to thinking of the Church as the organization or hierarchy. We ask, “What is the Church’s stand on this issue?” When someone says something like this I always get an image in my mind of Salt Lake City or Temple Square. It is as if we think(or at least I did) that “the Church” is the officials and the leaders. But in reality if we ask that question we are asking what the view of every repentant person, who has come unto Christ, is.
Other times we may view the Church as the building we meet in or the meetings we attend. We can see this as, “Let’s clean the Church,” or “I’m attending Church.” These are all gross misconceptions and undermine the true definition of the church. I have an assignment for you. If you have repented(meaning in the process of repentance) and come unto Christ as stated in section 10 I want you to find a mirror. Now go stand in front of that mirror. Take a good long look at the image you see there. That is the church. YOU…ARE…the church. The church is the people. When people who have repented and come unto Christ meet together that is the church meeting together.
Meetings and Gatherings
20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
This is the church in action. There is no geographical limit to who is in the church. If you gather with others in your home that is a meeting of the church. If you gather with thousands of others, that is a meeting of the church. You don’t have to meet with the permission of anyone else.
If you’ve ever visited LDSAnarchy’s blog you have probably heard about tribal church meetings. This is something that is frequently discussed there. Now I’m not sure if I understand it completely. But let my try to explain what I understand about it.
Basically instead of meeting together under the authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(TM) people can meet under the authority of the family. Ordinances can be performed for the family. For example and person could be baptized into the tribe this would gain them entrance into the tribe but not the corporate Church.
As I’ve thought about it more and more this is essentially how the church should actually be operating. The church is not the corporation but the people. The priesthood authority to perform valid ordinances resides not in how the Corporate Church dictates how they should be used, but how the scriptures, revelations, and Holy Spirit say they should be used.
I’ll expound on this in later posts, but one example is the Elder’s duty to administer the sacrament. Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants says that one of the duties of an Elder is to administer the sacrament. The scriptures do not give additional qualifiers that and Elder must get permission from a Bishop to administer this ordinance. So while the corporate Church may require this permission, an Elder can still perform a valid sacrament ordinance without Church(TM) permission. This is because it is one of his authorized duties.
As I mentioned, in the LDSA model of tribal church meetings people can be baptized into the tribe but not the corporate church. However the scriptures give the duties for priesthood officers. One of them is to baptize, given to elders and priests. But the scriptures do not require that a person have permission from “higher ups” to baptize. But according to Church policy if a priesthood officer is not baptizing with their permission then it is not valid for entrance into the Church(TM). However, I believe that a Priesthood officer, even without permission from corporate Church authority, CAN baptize someone into the church. Why? Because that is what the scriptures say.
Likewise, gatherings of the church(remember that’s the people) may be conducted without the permission of the corporate L-DS Church. The scriptures, revelations, and Spirit give guidance on how such meetings should be conducted.
Congregations and Organization
The scriptures give no geographical or social qualifications for the gathering of congregations. This is unlike the corporate Church. The Church’s leadership defines the boundaries by which wards and branches are determined. This is a top down hierarchical pattern. All elements, branches, districts, wards, stakes, etc. are conglomerated into one large Churchy machine.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The Church is the same everywhere you go.” What sets the Church corporation apart from the McDonald’s corporation? In both you can visit their convenient location near you, take part in a meal of little nutritional value, and have it be the exact same experience anywhere around the globe(You know, actually in the Philippines you can get McSpeghetti, and Chicken McDo.).
The scriptures however teach something completely different. In the scriptures congregations themselves are churches.
In section 31 Thomas Marsh is commanded to establish a church.
7 Yea, I will open the hearts of the people, and they will receive you. And I will establish a church by your hand;
What? Thomas is to establish another church organization separate from the one Joseph Smith established? Just like those apostate Strangites or Reorgs. That can’t be!
This demonstrates the true meaning of the church. The true church of Christ is not viewed as one homogenous organization. Rather is it a collective of many individual congregations or churches. Like the seven churches in the New Testament. Christ hadn’t established seven separate church organizations. Instead there were seven independent churches(congregations).
The corporate Church functions on a hierarchy with the ward being subordinate to the stake. The stake is subordinate to an area. An area is subordinate to the Twelve. The Twelve are subordinate to the First Presidency.
However the scriptures, again, give us a completely different picture. Rather all congregations stand on equal footing. They are above the leadership. They are independent in their function and operation. What keeps all these independent churches functioning the same? Why the scriptures of course, and the Holy Spirit. With the Spirit guiding the actions of congregations, huge hundred page Handbooks of Instruction are not needed.
So what determines a congregation? In my opinion a congregation should be determined by whoever wants to attend. In the true church of Christ there is not competition between churches. Money is not distributed based on sacrament meeting attendance. If farmer Joe wants to leave Mr James’ congregation and form his own, why not? As long as the Spirit is guiding his choice. After all, even just two people are enough to make a congregation.
As I sit here pondering this blend of unity and independence I just get this amazing feeling of peace and excitement. And this is part of my solution to the problem that currently plagues the L-DS Church. If you have a desire to continue to attend L-DS church services then that is up to you. I have my own reasons for continuing to attend for the time being. But we must all work to establish our own congregations where the Spirit can manifest itself among us. In Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord tells us that Elders are to lead take the lead of meetings by the Spirit. If an Elder is unavailable then a Priest may do so. If a Priest is unavailable then a Teacher may do so. So gather together and have a nice spiritual discussion. If you have an Elder, Priest, or Teacher then let them take the lead of the meeting. It doesn’t even have to be on Sunday. It doesn’t even have to be limited to once a week.
These are just some thoughts for you to consider. I will be addressing this topic again in much more detail in the future. In the meantime your homework assignment is to read Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Take some notes and we’ll compare them at a later date. What really helps me is to write a one or two line summary of each verse in the Section. It helps me focus on what is being discussed rather than letting my mind wander.
That’s all I have in mind for this post. I just sort of wrote as I went along and it probably shows. But I hope you got something out of it. There are things we can do to function as the church, while the corporate L-DS version of the Church is going off the deep end.
So stay tuned for more information about how we can function as the church.
P.S. I’m hereby declaring a standard when referring to the corporate Church. I will be using either:
to refer to the corporation that is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I will use:
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,
to refer to the church as defined in section 10 verse 67.