« PreviousContinue »
FOR TIME ONLY OR FOR ETERNITY
Human Institutions and Divine Authority.
RGANIZATION is essential to human advancement. The Divine affirmation that it is not good for man to be alone may be applied not only to the union of the sexes in honorable marriage, upon which the perpetuity of the race depends, but also to the association of humankind in community life, without which cooperation is impossible and the achievements of united purpose would be unknown.
It is natural and necessary that men shall establish and maintain institutions for community betterment. The constitution of every liberal government recognizes the right of individuals to associate themselves in any organization having worthy purpose, in harmony with the spirit of law and order, and not interfering with the rights and privileges of non-members.
Thus, men may institute societies, associations, and clubs, guilds, fraternities, and orders. They may designate their organization as a church if they choose, and may enact rules prescribing conditions of admission, and providing for the administration of the institution's affairs. They may go so far as to say that no man shall be admitted to the church thus created except he be baptized by immersion in water by one of the officials, and that the seal of membership shall be the pronouncing of a formula accompanied by the laying on of hands.
But who of us would hazard his reputation as a rational being by asserting or even believing that such baptism, administered by an authority created by man, can be of effect
in assuring remission of sins, or that it shall be recognized as efficacious by the powers of Heaven?
Churches, societies, or other associations, established on purely human initiative are institutions of men; they can never be aught else. It is in line with consistency that such organizations bear the names of men, or that they be known by some appellation expressive of their origin, their constitution, their peculiarities of government, their location, or some other distinguishing feature. Could it be counted less than sacrilege to attach the name of Deity to a church called into being in the manner we have assumed?
The Church of the apostolic epoch was the organization that Christ had established. He very expressively called it My Church (Matt. 16:18); and after His departure, every ordinance therein was administered in the name of Jesus Christ. By Divine assurance those ordinances were of effect, not only on earth but in Heaven, not alone for time, but for eternity. Of man-made institutions, of artificial growths though bearing the titles of churchly cults, the Lord emphatically declared: "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." (Matt. 15:13).
In the course of His ministrations on the Western Continent, Jesus Christ established His Church, and thus answered certain inquiries as to the name by which that Church should be called:
"Whatsoever ye shall do, ye shall do it in my name; therefore ye shall call the church in my name; and ye shall call upon the Father in my name, that he will bless the church for my sake. 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." (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 27:7, 8.)
The acts of a public official, whether of local or national status, are effective only within the limits of the jurisdiction he represents. City ordinances can be enforced within the boundaries of the municipality, but not beyond. State legislatures are powerless to enact laws for interstate regulation. Congress is limited in specific jurisdiction to the national domain. Yet, in the face of these fundamental facts, there are men who assume that it is within their province to legislate in spiritual affairs, and to alter, annul, or supersede by their own enactments, the laws established by Divine authority relating to membership in the Kingdom of God.
In the current age the Lord has established His Church upon the earth, and has made plain the portentous fact that while honorable obligations, agreements, and contracts among men may be valid under human laws, He is in no way bound by such exercise of mortal agency as conditioning the future of the soul after death. Ponder these declarations of Jesus Christ, given to His Church in 1843:
"All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made, and entered into, and sealed, by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, are of no efficacy, virtue or force, in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end, have an end when men are dead. . . . . And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me, or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after
men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God." (Doctrine & Covenants 132:5-13).
The Primitive Church and the Church of Latter Days
E believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, viz.: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc. (Articles of Faith, No. 6).
Most people who profess belief in Christianity accept as a scriptural fact the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ, through the Lord's personal ministry, in the early days of what we call the Christian Era, the period that has been expressively designated the meridian of time. During the many centuries between the days of Moses and the advent of Christ in the flesh, Israel had lived under the Law, between which and the Gospel a clear distinction is drawn in Scripture. Paul's explicit segregation of the two is cogent, and ample for illustration:
"But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:23-26).
The Law of Moses, the schoolmaster's administration which was constituted for the discipline of a people unprepared to receive the higher tutoring of the Gospel, was fulfilled and therefore abrogated as a formal and obligatory
system through the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. While this fulfilment is evidenced by the whole tenor of New Testament Scripture, a most direct and concise declaration may be quoted with profit from the Nephite Scriptures, recorded by holy men who officiated under Divine commission on the American continent throughout a period of approximately six centuries before and four centuries after the birth of Christ. The prophet Nephi who was living at the time of our Lord's death, resurrection, and ascension, incorporates in his record the words of the Resurrected Savior as follows:
"Behold I say unto you, that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses. Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel: therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end. Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled." (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 15:4-6).
A studious reading of the four Gospels demonstrates that while our Lord recognized the Jewish hierarchy as administrators of an existing system of government, and complied with all lawful requirements thereof as such applied to Himself, He proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom in place of the Mosaic Law, and ordained men to a higher Priesthood than that of Aaron under which the priests of the Jews claimed to operate. He commissioned the Twelve Apostles (Matt. 10:1; Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13), and afterward the Seventy (Luke 10:1). Unto the eleven Apostles who had remained faithful the Lord gave the parting instruction, shortly before His ascension: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." The Apostles labored with devoted energy, "And they went forth, and