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.
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