Sunday, June 8, 2008

Organized Religion

I have recently run across a group of bloggers who are all questioning the need for an organized church. I admire their desire to focus more on their personal relationship with God than on an organization. I think if I had been part of some of the experiences they have had in attending church, I would probably feel the same way. These, my spiritual brothers and sisters, strive to communicate with God in a personal way, rather than as part of a group. I understand their hesitance to join any church, and I understand their concern that sometimes in the midst of formally organized churches, God can be lost. But recently, as I have thought about this issue, and have thought about my own church membership, I have come more fully to see why the church organization is important for me. I would like to outline the blessings that come to me because of that membership.

1. Mutual Nourishment:

"And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith." Moroni 6:4
By being "fellow citizens" of the church, we enter a new sort of family unit where we all help and encourage each other. In our church we have a program of monthly visiting. Each of us has a group of other members that we visit so that we can be in a position to see needs, and to share the gospel so that we can be a strength to those people. The organization of the church allows us the foundation so that we can respond quickly in organizing when others need help. It is very common that when there is a natural disaster, our church is one of the few groups allowed to help immediately because we are already organized to respond.

2. Protection:
As I thought upon this subject today, I was also reminded of the analogy of a shepherd leading his sheep. The Savior used this symbolism much in His teaching. For any animal that is exposed to predators, there is safety in numbers. It is the lone sheep that goes off on it's own, that is in most danger from it's enemy. When the sheep are gathered together, the shepherd is more able to keep track and protect the herd from wolves. The Savior often likened Himself to a shepherd, and was called the "Good Shepherd". But we also have other "shepherds" in our lives that watch over us. In our church, one of those shepherds is our Bishop who is given responsibility over our congregation. He is not paid for his service. He serves out of love for the Savior, and for us his brothers and sisters. When one goes astray, he does what he can to bring them back in to the fold.

3. Baptism
The Savior went to John the Baptist to receive the ordinance of baptism. The word Baptism is from a Greek word meaning to dip or immerse. Baptism is symbolic of washing, and of rebirth. When we are baptized, we are washed from our sins. The Savior was without sin, but he still was baptized. "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him." John 3:13-15 Why did Jesus go to John the Baptist? John was of the tribe of Levi which held the Levitical Priesthood by birthright. John was the one who had the authority to baptize. Today there are many churches that baptize, but the question should be asked whether or not they have the authority to do so. We believe that the Priesthood was lost after the death of the original twelve apostles, and that an apostasy occurred. That Priesthood power was restored again to the Earth through Joseph Smith. Baptism is an essential ordinance wherein we covenant with God. In addition, through baptism, we become members of His church.

If you have had a bad experience with organized religion before, I invite you to come to our church. Come and see why it is different, and why I feel blessed to be a member.


Nate said...

"Moroni 6:4" Not in my bible, so, I can't process that one. But I have grown more outside of the church, doing my own studying, than I did in 36 years in a church waiting to be taught. Plus I am able to share with the people here, who are my church. Even you are part of my church.

Protection, God is my protector.

Baptism-Still processing that one. Baptism was done during the old covenant, and I haven't done the study on it to see if it is part of the new covenant.

Not knocking you at all. Also not knocking people that for them, organized religion is a good thing. Many people thrive in that environment. Many do not.

I believe that alot of it has come from the quantitaive shift of evaluating spiritual success, versus the qualitative. There is some church outside of Chicago that created a model for bringing large numbers of people to church. Voila! Many many mega churches are born. God must be there, look at how they are being blessed. Blessed meaning, lot of money coming in for fancy everything. Chruch in the US is now consumerized, not spiritualized. This is what many people are seeing, and not liking.

Many people that are out here, would love to attend a church, but have a hard time finding one that does not ascribe to that theory of success. Numbers of people, and numbers of dollars given. That is the major problem.

For your personal religion, it has been much more successful on a larger scale because of the comunity model built into the doctrine. It tells exactly how to live, and it works extrememly well. I will never fault you or judge you for finding a great way to serve God. (I do not subscribe to the "you have to be of the correct belief to get into the kingdom" theory. I believe that if you ascribe to all of the things that you have talked to me about, and continue to serve God, you are in. Plus you understand them much better than most people do.)

Looney said...

I take my primary lecture on this subject from 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 -

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."

God gives spiritual gifts to people to help build the church up, but he only gives each one of us one or two gifts. We really need each other to make this work. I am probably a natural hermit in that I really like to be away from everyone. At the same time, it is the recognition that Jesus died and was raised again to establish a church, and the church is a group of people who work together. This is the design.

Delirious said...

Yes, you are right, Moroni 6:4 is from the Book of Mormon. Just as the Bible is a record of God's dealings with people in the Middle East, the Book of Mormon is the record of God's dealings with the people in the Ancient Americas. We believe the Bible to be the word of God, but we believe the Book of Mormon is also the word of God, and stands as a witness that Jesus is the Christ. If you haven't read it before, you can do so by going to:

God does care about us and answers our prayers, but it is usually through another person here that he meets our needs. He does this so that we are both blessed; both the person serving, and the person served. We need each other.

I do identify with the learning and growth you have made since leaving the church. But i would invite you to bring what you have learned and see if we can add to it.

I totally agree with you about numbers. Churches should not be built up just to get numbers or money. We seek for people who are searching, not because we want to have the most members, or that we want their money, but because we believe in what we teach, and want to share that with others. It is interesting to watch how other churches grow. Those that require no commitment or effort on the part of the member, only belief, are able to join thousands. But religions such as ours, that believe in obeying commandments, and covenanting to serve God, and have a higher commitment level, are only able to find one of a city, or two of a country. But we send out missionaries throughout the world because we believe that the Gospel is true, and we want others to have the same joy that we have.
I know I may not always sound like it, but I really do feel like I understand where you are coming from. And I really feel that if I were in your place, and had never learned about my religion, I would probably follow the same course as you.

Delirious said...

Looney, this is a great scripture..I wish I would have thought to use it. lol

It's really true that all of the members make up one body. I like the verses that follow the one you quoted.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

As you said, we all have spiritual gifts, but we don't have them all. We need each other to share those gifts so that we can all benefit together. There really is strength in union.

Nate said...

The other challenge that comes from organized church in the USA, is that it is no longer the church is which you are in. At one point in time, serving God and one another were the main focus. Now it is much more on the running of the programs of the church. Who is in the hierarchy, who knows more than the others, who is quickest to condemn a fallen brother or sister, whether or not you conform to beliefs that you think are wrong.... Do you see where I am going with this. I envy the Mormons, for you have been left alone and outside of the evangelical mainstream. Thus able to maintain your original intent. With out the intermingling and sharing of "best practices" to make churches grow. These best practice sharings are destroying the church in the world, not just the USA. Because instead of following God and trying to become what God would have them become, they are always trying to become the more successful church, which is not what God wants.

I really love your viewpoints, and enjoy talking with you.

Delirious said...

I've never heard of "best practice sharing" before. I'm still not sure I understand what it is. lol

I"m not sure if this makes sense in the context of what you have said, but what you said made me think about our church and one of the great aspects of it. We are very organized, so that worldwide, no matter where you go, the individual congregations all teach the same doctrine. We have our own church curriculum, and every unit of the church receives that same curriculum. I can teach my Sunday school class, then go to the other side of the world the next week and still be on schedule with the same lessons. I will hear the same lesson in Taiwan that I would have heard had I stayed in California. I will find the Sacrament prepared and blessed in the same way, and the meetings conducted, and the congregations organized in the same way. Throughout my life, I have moved many times, but I understand the organization of the church, so no matter where I go, I know what to expect, and I know what will be taught.

It's enlightening to hear your perspective. I think I've been a little sheltered, having been raised Mormon, and having not really attended other churches. I understand what they believe, but I haven't really encountered the environments that you have. So I thank you for sharing that with me.

jON said...

"But i would invite you to bring what you have learned and see if we can add to it."

i cannot speak for nate, but i know that for myself, and several others here in this "blogosphere" that your above quote was the route that we took while we were still attending a church body. and it was that very same approach that lead to our no longer being welcomed in our congregations. the churches were not interested in what we had learned or what our new revelations could add to the body. they were only interested in us not speaking of such things any longer and returning to the "status quo."

but after what we had seen and heard, we just couldn't in good cnoscience do such a thing.

and for me, i'm simply not inetersted in having to repeat such a painful ordeal. that is why i don't try to find another.

Delirious said...

Thanks for your comment Jon. I know this might be hard to believe, but I really feel like I agree with you. I know that when I talk about commandments and stuff, my church sounds like every other church. But trust me when I say that our religion is vastly different than most Christian religions, and if I were not a member of this one, I honestly think I wouldn't join any other. Many other churches can't accept truth when they hear it because it shakes their faith to the very core. But in our religion where we believe that on going revelation is possible, and additional scripture is possible, we can accept truth in whatever form. The spirit is the guide to help us preceive what really is true, and what is just man made logic. It takes an open minded person to listen without prejudging, and then evaluate whether something is true or not.