“This is my church,” the voice was pretty clear. The meaning and intent? Not so much.
At about 3 a.m. Saturday morning, after the rain had stopped, I found myself walking around under a large moon, star filled sky in an LDS tent city set up in Marianna, FL. Volunteers would soon awaken to begin helping clean up the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. I was pondering various aspects of the greater scene that surrounded me. I wondered. I marveled. I prayed. After walking past the local chapel and taking in the damage to the roof, I pivoted to glance at the community of helpers camped on the grass of Chipola College on the opposite side of the street. It was precisely then that I heard and felt, “this is my church.”
The juxtaposition of the empty, damaged building to the randomly packed display of tents (and a few trailers) was stark. But, what did it mean? One was just an empty, damaged, if not dead building. The was other alive, albeit asleep. Did it mean that my protestant clerical friends were right that the church is the “body of Christ,” not some building, institution, or legal entity? Was this a warning that persecuting this body of the faithful would be like persecuting Christ himself? Was a distinction to be drawn between those who made the effort to be here, and those who did not? My wife was down there in that camp. She is not a member of the LDS community. Were all part of His church? How does Mosiah 26:20-32 apply? Is there a distinction that I am missing between the manifold number of churches and His church (see Mormon 8:36-37)? Have I been wrong these last 40-some years to consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to be His church and discount all others as the churches of men (polite way to put it — “there are save two churches only…”)? Does the following scripture mean simply what it says?
Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church. Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church. And now, behold, whosoever is of my church, and endureth of my church to the end, him will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. (Doctrine and Covenants 10:67–69)
If so, what is to be done with the many scriptural instances (especially in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants) where church appears to imply a formal organization with structure with manager/officers and property and membership and…? How can these be the same (not a dichotomy and not distinct definitions of the same word)?
I am so confused.
It isn’t the first time. It probably won’t be the last. 🙂
Why do we see no use of the word “church” in the English translations of the Old Testament (and yet we do in the Book of Mormon)? Why does it first appear in the book of Acts? Was there no church during the life of Christ? How? What? Certainly the New Testament church had no legal or political standing.
Could it be that His church is similar to His family (those who are the adopted daughters and sons of Christ)? A family is something very different than a corporation sole, or a 501(c)(3). Isn’t it? So, is the church more like a pre-family, comprising those who desire to be part of the family? But, wouldn’t that imply that those who have beheld, been adopted by, and received the name of Christ are no longer part of the “pre-family?” What of the “church of the firstborn?” What does that look like?
“This is my church.”