Feast upon the Word Blog

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RS/MP Chapter 8: The Church and Kingdom of God (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)

Posted by kirkcaudle on April 17, 2014

I will take this lesson section by section. The entire lesson can be found here.

After centuries of spiritual darkness and apostasy, the Lord has restored His gospel and organized His Church on the earth.

The Lord [has] restored the gospel and organized again his Church upon the earth. The reason for such organization and restoration is the fact that for centuries the world had been in spiritual darkness, without the authority, and without the understanding; they knew not how to worship the living God -Joseph Fielding Smith

The key to correct worship comes from the correct understanding of authority. Popular Mormon thought often espouses the view that those living during the apostasy were living in “darkness.” I agree, if darkness equals lack of authority. However, if darkness equals lack of knowledge than I would disagree. The Apostasy gave us the great minds of people such as Thomas Aquinas, Galileo, and Augustine. The apostasy produced great men and women who did the best with what they had to work with. I believe that God accepts the faith of such individuals. Currently, the authority of the Priesthood has been restored to the earth and that authority helps enhance our current understanding of God and his dealings with his people. The Book of Mormon shows that whenever God’s church has been established on the earth there was the necessarily authority to go with it, “And it came to pass that Alma, having authority from God, ordained priests; even one priest to every fifty of their number did he ordain to preach unto them, and to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (italics added, Mosiah 18:18).

The Lord Himself directs the work of the Church, and it is our privilege to have membership in it.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in literal reality the kingdom of God on earth. -Joseph Fielding Smith

This was the vision of Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith wanted to literally bring the kingdom of God down to earth. During the end of his life, in March 1844, he took steps to create a government that could do such a thing. On this subject, historian Richard Bushman remarks, “It would be typical of the literal-minded Joseph Smith to bring such a kingdom into being. While most millenarians waited for God to establish millennial rule, Joseph formed an actual government, just as he constructed an actual city rather than waiting for the new Jerusalem to descend from heaven” (Rough Stone Rolling, 521). The church is meant to echo the heavens and is meant to bless the lives of all those who come into contact with it, “Call upon the Lord, that his kingdom may go forth upon the earth, that the inhabitants thereof may receive it, and be prepared for the days to come, in the which the Son of Man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth” (D&C 65:5).

The Church is organized to help members find joy and happiness in this life and eternal life in the life to come.

“The Lord has set up in his church a priesthood organization headed by apostles and prophets. And he has also given other organizations … to aid and assist in the priesthood. -Joseph Fielding Smith

In 1981 President Spencer W. Kimball presented three ideas that would become known as the “threefold mission of the church.” They are as follows: (1) To Proclaim the Gospel, (2) To Perfect the Saints, and (3) To Redeem the dead. Each of these missions are run through the authority of the priesthood.  Each of these three elements are meant to bless the lives of the people in the world and beyond. In 2009 a fourth element was added, To Care for the Poor and Needy. Which brings me to the next section.

Our service in the Church expresses love for others and appreciation for the Lord’s infinite service.

The man who does only those things in the Church which concern himself alone will never reach exaltation. For instance, the man who is willing to pray, to pay his tithes and offerings, and to attend to the ordinary duties which concern his own personal life, and nothing more, will never reach the goal of perfection. -Joseph Fielding Smith

This quote reminds me of one of my favorite scriptures, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). The gospel is not about us, it is about everyone else. Just as every organization in the church is to aid and assist the priesthood, every commandment given by God is to help us ultimately benefit the lives of other people. If our spiritual growth does not effect the lives of others in a positive way than we have truly missed the mark. The purpose of finding your life is only to lose that life in the service of others. After baptism, a true disciple of Christ gives all that he or she has to those in need, “And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given” (Mosiah 18:27).

In this dispensation, the kingdom of God and the work of the Lord will spread throughout the world.

The gospel itself has been the same in all dispensations; the plan of salvation is the same for all our Father’s children in every age. -Joseph Fielding Smith

The gospel has always been the same, but the church has not always been the same. The way that the church has understood the gospel has changed (and will continue to change) throughout time. However, the gospel of Jesus Christ itself is unchanging. Joseph Smith taught exactly what the gospel is, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (History of the Church, 3:30). In other words, don’t sweat the appendages…which just happens to be everything other than your testimony of Jesus Christ. The gospel is the atonement of Jesus Christ and the atonement of Jesus Christ is love and charity for all creation. I find it curious that as members of the church we so often focus on these appendages and at times we seem to forget Christ altogether. Jesus Christ unites us while the appendages too often divide us. This gospel is the gospel that the world needs.

4 Responses to “RS/MP Chapter 8: The Church and Kingdom of God (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)”

  1. Steve Warren said

    I hope that in our lessons we will avoid the temptation to say the Lord is “hastening” his work in a way that suggests this is a new or current thing. Throughout my lifetime, the Lord has always been “hastening” his work, whether it was during President McKay’s “every member a missionary” era or President Kimball’s “lengthen our stride,” etc.

    In fact, Church membership growth in 2013 was just 1.99 percent, the lowest since 1947, which suggests the Lord may be slackening his work rather than hastening.

    • Destiny Anderson said

      People–especially millennials–just aren’t attending church the way their counterparts did fifty years ago. But one church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does continue to add members to its ranks. I think we have to look at the overall picture also, not just membership, but number of missionaries in the field, temples built, genealogy work completed, and work done for those beyond the veil in determining if the Lord is hastening his work.

      • Steve Warren said

        You make a good point in saying that “hastening the work” may be accurate when it is applied to the overall picture instead of only missionary work.

        However, nearly every time I hear the term used, it has been in the context of missionaries numbering more than 80,000. In fact, as far as I can tell, the “hastening” word sort of popped up after the ages to serve were changed in the October 2012 conference. As long as it is used in context of missionary numbers, I see it as a catchphrase with little validity (sort of like “the threefold mission of the Church”).

        I think it is also useful to note that even with the artificially high number of full-time missionaries today, the proportion of total missionaries in the field is actually slightly lower than it was 20 years ago. It is also interesting to note that missionaries averaged 6.26 baptisms annually in 1993 compared with 3.41 in 2013.

        Additionally, the proportion of young males serving missions is considerably lower today than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

  2. Thanks Kirk for the time and effort you and others here have taken to share doctrinal truths with your own flavors and tastes for it.

    I found it especially pleasing and assuring that right off the top, Joseph Fielding Smith,

    “Let all men know assuredly that this is the Lord’s Church and he is directing its affairs. What a privilege it is to have membership in such a divine institution!”

    I was moved that he was a simple and unassuming man that never sought for positions, but when called he willingly and enthusiastically obeyed, and gave it his all. Being the son of Joseph F. Smith and although he himself never met his grandfather Hyrum Smith, he certainly felt the privilege of being born of such a lineage, and certainly he himself lived up too such honor and nobility of his namesake. He shared examples of his callings and service and although jokingly about his first assignment as a baby of only 9 months of age, when he attended with his father and Brigham Young the dedication of the St. George Temple, I admired his having had such an incredibly early start in such service in the kingdom!

    While I agree with you on your assessment on how we Mormons may espouse what it means living during the apostasy and in ‘darkness’ I believe that the full measure of light they possessed could not be fully realized until the gospel in its fullness had been restored. Not that they were not enlightened or smart people with knowledge, and certainly not because we are any better than those that lived previously. I believe it to be as you say… “The apostasy produced great men and women who did the best with what they had to work with. I believe that God accepts the faith of such individuals.” Life and all those achievements would not be fully illuminated or realized, at the rate and speed since the gospel had been restored. Look at the progression and where it all started from, since the restoration and the advances mankind has achieved since, is nothing short of astounding. The future continues in that same light, pathway, and progression. This ought to give cause to all of us and those that investigate the gospel to marvel. (Teachings of The Presidents of The Church, Joseph Fielding Smith see last paragraph pg.124 for added emphasis).

    After centuries behind the vast cathedral doors of gloomy darkness down through the ages, since the death of Jesus crucified, and the apostles gone, this fallen world had entered into a period of apostasy, when the authority of God was gone, the doctrines once pure and pristine were no more to be found, and were replaced by man’s interpretations, removed, or otherwise altered or lost and even mingled or replaced with the philosophies of man.
    Back in or around 2006-7, I took the liberty of tailoring Joseph Fielding McConkie’s words to suit my own needs and testimony, with some minor alterations and new punctuations. I wonder if his name has a copy right. Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie are some great names to be named after. At least I think so. Smile!

    I believe people in our day may ask…WHY TODAY WOULD A WORLD WITH SUCH strongly established Christian traditions, a world that has in its possession the Holy Bible, need a Joseph Smith?

    1. Because there was not a man upon the earth who knew God other than by hearsay!
    2. Because the kingdom of God cannot be ruled by a book! (God sent Moses, not the Ten Commandments, to lead Israel.)
    3. Because the Church organized by the Son of Man was not to be found anywhere upon the earth!
    4. Because the doctrines of salvation as taught by Christ and the ancient prophets and apostles had been lost or polluted with the philosophies of men!
    5. Because the authority of heaven, the holy priesthood, had been taken from men!
    6. Because the covenant or promise made by God to the ancient prophets and his chosen people about their posterity in the last days required fulfillment!
    7. Because the time had come to prepare the earth for the return of Christ and his millennial reign!

    And so as far as I know the Christian churches of the world have gotten there churches from the bible. The message Latter-day Saints share come from direct revelation from the Most High God. We then go about teaching with the Bible, the Book of Mormon, modern day scriptures, the words of the living prophets, and our testimonies, declaring and showing unto the world, “The great things which God hath revealed.”

    This is the message we extend to all people, we actively go out and seek the elect of God; those who once they here the message of the restoration recognize it, accept it, and willingly enter into the strait and narrow gate of baptism.

    We now have restored to the earth that which was once upon it before the night of darkness and apostasy, the kingdom of God on the earth, with the Lord at the helm of his church, with a living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, the apostles, and the priesthood with the authority to act in His name.
    In his day, Alma and the people that established the order of the church in Zarahemla. Alma knew he couldn’t do the work alone. Too many needed the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. All they who were converted were to accept some of the responsibility for those who were not.
    Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God. (Alma 6:6)

    [Al. 31:5] And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.
    It seems that revelation and prophecy are the outcome for much prayer, study, and fasting. For Latter-Day Saints, we fast as a Church once per month, in order to provide for the poor and needy. However, it seems that Ammon and his brethren fasted much more often. They seemed to have fasted (almost to starvation), in order to gain a better understanding of the scriptures and truth all for the welfare of souls and their devotion to our Great GOD! Fasting and prayer seemed to have opened their minds to the mysteries of godliness.
    Yet, if we have a tongue of silver but, do not have LOVE, than we have nothing and we are bankrupt and devoid of the love of God unto others and of godliness. For LOVE is who He was and as we ought to BECOME!

    But when we his children are filled with a greater measure of LOVE and are about heavenly fathers work, and filled with His word and His spirit, we will find no greater power and we will be able to see Him moving in all His Glory and Majesty, and the mysteries of His kingdom will be opened, even unto you and me. Our lives become proof of HIS LOVE, and He promises as we fill ourselves with His words our tongues will be loosed and His thoughts will become our thoughts and we will be able to speak as the Angels!
    Jesus taught his disciples, even us in our day that their ways of discipleship (good works and examples) should be different from the ways of the world and the things that they place and worship as their gods. “Ye are the salt (that which keeps good and preserves) of the earth,” he told them and tells us. “Ye are the light (shining example of righteousness and discipleship) of the world.” (Matt. 5:13-14.) Again and again he taught that his followers ought to be different than the world. And that we should BEE all that we can BECOME and FEARLESS, and do all the GOOD that we possibly can do, with our whole heart, might, mind, and strength with an eye singled to HIS GLORY & HIS PURPOSES!

    I really like this and the scripture you quoted: “The purpose of finding your life is only to lose that life in the service of others. After baptism, a true disciple of Christ gives all that he or she has to those in need, “And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given” (Mosiah 18:27).”

    Knowing and loving God is our greatest privilege, and being known and loved is God’s greatest pleasure [Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life]. Let us therefore arise to the Lord’s expectations; and through his providing we ought to become distinguished and unlike the world, even a peculiar people.

    That one day we can dwell in the Father’s presence forever and ever. By so living now, our confidence will “wax strong in the presence of God” then (D&C 121:45). And confirmingly, the Prophet Joseph declared, “If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 216).

    While “The gospel itself has been the same in all dispensations; the plan of salvation is the same for all our Father’s children in every age.” We in our day, while the gathering of the wheat and separating it from the tares are going on, have the assurance, according to Joseph Fielding Smith, “that the Lord has decreed that the church shall never again be led astray; … and the Lord comes to usher in the millennial era of peace and righteousness;“ just as he hitherto done before, through, the instrumentality of the prophet Joseph Smith, in the last and final dispensation of the fullness of times to help prepare the earth for that day.

    For this cause I have sent you-that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come; (Revelation for the elders of the Church, Aug. 1, 1831; D&C 58:6)

    “Because the Lord knew the calamities which were to come upon the world, and it was his will that a proper warning, and the opportunity to receive the gospel be given unto all men that they might repent and turn from their evil ways and serve the Lord [see D &C 1:17-23].”

    The time is now and while the voices of warning and the sure signs and knowingness of our times, has been going out among the children of men from holy prophets even and especially in our day, mainly, people are largely going about their business as usual, eating, drinking, and being merry, believing all is well. And yet the few and faithful are preparing for the second coming of our Lord and Savior, even Jesus Christ. The world and many Saints will not be ready at his coming and will be caught off guard, being utterly surprised and astonished and it will then be too late.

    Let us remember to become quick to observe and give heed to the warning and prepare while it is still called today! Yet many do procrastinate. A prophet warns us: “Ye cannot say . . . that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will . . . possess your body in that eternal world.” Another prophet adds, “He that is filthy shall be filthy still; and he that is righteous shall be righteous still [Russell M. Nelson].”

    Remember the Lord beckons us to keep all His words and says if we fail to keep his word, if we walk in the ways of the world, they will not pass us by, but we shall be visited with floods and with fire, with sword and with plague and destruction. We may escape these things through faithfulness. Israel of old might have escaped through faithfulness. – President Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:34

    Because this gospel has been rolling out as prophesied by Daniel as the stone cut out of the mountain without hands and that would become a great mountain and would fill the whole earth, we are encouraged as members of Zion to bloom where we are planted as Peaceable Followers of Christ.

    All of this is help us to become prepared for eternal life with God. The Lord revealed the value of this celestial goal when he spoke through the Prophet Joseph Smith to us Latter-day Saints, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7.)

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