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.
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.
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.