It is My Church

It is important to consider the relationship between the gospel and the church. When Christ preached to the Nephites during His visit, He established three criteria for an entity to be called His church. We find the first two in 3rd Nephi, Chapter 27:

"8 And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses' name then it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel."

First, the church should be called in the name of Jesus Christ. This one is straightforward. The Church of Jesus Christ should be the name of His Church.

Second, the church must be built upon the gospel of Christ. If a church called by the name of Christ teaches a gospel different form that gospel defined by Christ, it is not His church. Later in Chapter 27 of 3rd Nephi, Christ speaks of his gospel. It is this gospel, as was discussed earlier, that must be presented in His Church. This same need to preserve the gospel of Christ is echoed in the words of Paul to the Galatians found in Galatians, Chapter 1:

"6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."

Any church that preaches another gospel is cursed? What significance is it if the gospel is defined differently than what is found in 3rd Nephi? You must seek your own answers to that question.

Going back to 3rd Nephi, Chapter 27, the third criterion is found in the following verses:

"10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.
12 For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you."

In addition to its name and its basis on the gospel, the church of Jesus Christ must have the works of God shown in it. What are the works of God? Following the exposition on the Gospel found in 3rd Nephi, Chapter 27, the Lord states:

"20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;"

The works of God are demonstrated by the works that were performed by Christ in His visit described in 3rd Nephi. While His visit and the works performed are covered in 3rd Nephi, the following verses provide a summary:

"13 Therefore, I would that ye should behold that the Lord truly did teach the people, for the space of three days; and after that he did show himself unto them oft, and did break bread oft, and bless it, and give it unto them.
14 And it came to pass that he did teach and minister unto the children of the multitude of whom hath been spoken, and he did loose their tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things, even greater than he had revealed unto the people; and he loosed their tongues that they could utter.
15 And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven—the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father—"

If we measure the works of the church of Jesus Christ, we would measure it by the works of God; healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. These miracles are the examples of works that should be found in the church of Jesus Christ.

As we read above in the citation from Chapter 27 verse 11, if the church is not built on His Gospel but is built on the works of men, what kinds of things would be used to assess the condition of the church? Would it be the number of temples built? Would it be in the amount of tithing collected? Would it be in the number of temple sessions attended? Would it be in the beautification projects taken on? Would it be in the relief efforts sponsored? Would it be in the works that a man can do of himself? These things will clearly differentiate a church built on the gospel of Christ and one built on the works of man.

Christ also defined His Church in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 10 as follows:

"67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church."

I would suggest that this citation is a reaffirmation of the gospel - 'repent and come unto me" for it is from Christ that we receive the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost which sanctifies us. This allows us to be in His presence. Also note that verse 68 clearly defines what is and is not acceptable in the definition of His Church. Anything more or less than the simple statement - repent and come unto me - is not of Christ.

The Book of Moroni gives us additional criteria pertaining to being numbered with the church of Christ in the following verses found in Chapter 6;

"1 AND now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.
2 Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.
4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith."

What are the steps we must take before we can be 'numbered with the people of the church of Christ?' Here is the information in bullet format:

How is one wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost? Is this being told in a blessing that we are to 'receive the Holy Ghost?' No, this is the baptism of fire that sanctifies us and purifies us. This last step is a condition for membership in the church of Christ. It is the application of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our individual lives. It is the gateway to the strait and narrow way to eternal life. Have you found it?

The Jews at the time of Christ believed that they were God's chosen people. They had developed a rigorous set of laws and performances that left them as 'whited sepulchers.' How easy is that to occur in this dispensation? How much has pride and materialism infected the LDS culture? We cannot sit back and assume that God approves of our worldly focus because we are sending tons of supplies to Africa. He expects us to prepare ourselves to receive all the mysteries that He has. He expects us to purify our hearts and sanctify our souls. Otherwise, we have no place in his kingdom.

Lastly, on this topic, one must consider whether there is a difference between the corporate church that exists as a legal entity in today's world and the spiritual church defined above. Over one hundred and fifty years ago, the Church was given custodial rights over the fulness of the gospel. It was charged with building a Zion community consisting of the 'pure of heart.' Are we moving closer for further away from that admonition?