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definiteness and certainty called and ordained to priestly functions by revelation through those in authority; and this order continued in the West until, through transgression, the people became apostate and succession in the priesthood no longer obtained. See Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 11
and later chapters.
There is but one church on the earth today claiming authority in the Holy Priesthood by direct succession from the Primitive Church; and surely none can consistently assert priestly powers by spontaneous origination. The rational interpretation of history reveals the literal fulfilment of ancient prophecy in the absolute loss of sacerdotal authority during the early centuries of the Christian Era; so that present-day claim to the Priesthood through unbroken succession from the Apostles of old rests upon arbitrary assertion only.
If a mother church be devoid of Divine commission in the Holy Priesthood, definitely and authoritatively vested, no sect springing from that parent institution can inherit the Priesthood.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints positively avers that it lays claim to no priestly authority through mortal succession reaching back to the Primitive Church of the East, nor by descent from the Nephite Church of Christ as established on the Western Continent.
To the contrary, this Church affirms the complete cessation of Divine commission in churchly organizations, and the consequent necessity of a restoration-a new dispensation from the heavens.
This Church disavows any and all derivation of appointment or commission, direct or implied, from other organizations, Catholic or Protestant, "established" or dissenting churches sects or parties. It defends the rights of all men,
whether church members or not, to worship as they severally choose to do, and to believe in and advocate the genuineness of any sect or church to which they elect to belong; and, by the same principle of liberty, it claims the right to set forth its own professions and doctrines, the while bespeaking for these a dispassionate and prayerful consideration.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints avows that the Holy Priesthood has been restored to earth in the present age, by means and manner strictly in accord with prophecy; and that through direct bestowal from the heavens the authority to administer the ordinances of the Gospel, which are indispensable to individual salvation, is operative today in preparation for the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is near, as hath been predicted by the mouths of holy prophets and by the coming Lord Himself.
The Church a Democracy
HE compound character of the name-title-The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-has elicited inquiries from many thoughtful readers. Does the organization profess to be The Church of Jesus Christ, or The Church of the Latter-day Saints?
The answer is-both.
As we have already seen, our Lord designated the Church established by Himself in the meridian of time as "My Church," that is to say, His Church-The Church of Jesus Christ. And, as also shown, when the Savior ministered in the resurrected state to the ancient inhabitants of
America, He established His Church amongst them, and particularly directed that the institution be called by His name as the only properly descriptive title. See Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 27.
When the Church was reestablished upon earth through the instrumentality of Joseph Smith the prophet, in 1830, it was provisionally called the Church of Jesus Christ, in harmony with the principle and practise established by the Savior among the Nephites, and to express the Lord's specific designation of the latter-day body as "My Church.”
The early revelations given to the Church contain frequent mention of common consent or the voice of the members, as essential in matters of administration. The following excerpts are illustrative:
"No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church."
"And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith. Amen." (Doctrine & Covenants 20 and 26.)
After the people had been trained through the revealed word and by actual experience in the affairs of Church government, when they had learned the basal lesson that upon every member rests a measure of responsibility, and that in consistency and justice each is entitled to part and voice in the activities of the organized body, the Lord specified in the following manner the expanded and complete name by which the institution was to be known. He spoke by revelation directed to the High Council and "unto all the elders and people of my Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, scattered abroad in all the world. For thus shall my Church be called in the last days, even The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" (115:3-4). The name thus conferred is a self-explanatory and exclusive title of distinction and authority. It is an epitome of the cardinal truths and of the philosophical basis of the system commonly called "Mormonism." Every prayer that is offered, every ordinance administered, every doctrine proclaimed by the Church, is voiced in the name of Him whose Church it is.
Nevertheless, as an association of human membership, as a working body having relation with the secular law, as a religious society claiming the rights of recognition and privilege common to all, it is the people's institution, for the operation of which, so far as such is dependent upon them, they are answerable to themselves, to the organization as a unit, and to God.
The plan of organization and government of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that of a theodemocracy, whose organic constitution has been revealed from heaven and is accepted by the members as their guide in faith, doctrine and practise.
The Church receives commandments through revelation, and when such are promulgated the assembled body takes action, voting to accept and to obey the same so far as the Divine direction calls for service.
Such a conception as that of the Church rejecting a Divine revelation is extreme, and suggests an improbable contingency. Nevertheless, individuals having membership in the Church may ignore or reject the commandments of God, and so exhibit the spirit of apostasy in a degree proportionate to their disaffection; but such declension by the Church in its entirety is neither to be supposed nor feared.
Adam had his agency, and chose to use it in disobeying
tive we read:
the Lord's injunction. Of the commandment and the alterna"And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; thou shalt not eat of it. Nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Pearl of Great Price, pp. 13-14.)
The same principle applies to persons and to the Church as a whole today. God has not established His Church to make of its members irresponsible automatons, nor to exact from them blind obedience. Albeit, blessed is the man who, while unable to fathom or comprehend in full the Divine purpose underlying commandment and law, has such faith as to obey. So did Adam in offering sacrifice, yet, when questioned as to the significance of his service, he answered with faith and assurance worthy the patriarch of the race: "I know not, save the Lord commanded me."
Unity of the Godhead
E believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His
WE Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."
So runs the first of the "Articles of Faith" of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A similar asseveration of belief has place in most creeds or churches called Christian. The Scriptures affirm the existence of the Supreme Trinity, constituting the Godhead, the governing Council of the heavens and the earth.