Sunday, May 25, 2014

Organized Religion

image from
I remember talking with a friend once who told me she does not like organized religion.  She said that she believes in God, but that she doesn't need a church or religion to worship him.  I tried to explain to her why belonging to the church is so important, but finally I just came right out and said, "You say that you can worship God anywhere, but when do you actually worship Him?"  Many people say they feel closer to God out in nature than they do in a church, but how often do they go out in to nature and actually commune with God?  In this age of political and societal tumult, religion is taking a bad rap.  Odds are that those who attack organized religion have never really partaken of the benefits of worshiping together with others of like-minded belief.

The Book of Mormon gives a good description of why an organized religion is beneficial to us:

"4 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.
 And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.
 And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus."  Moroni 6:4-6 
As mentioned in this scripture, there is great power in nourishing each other "by the good word of God".  As we "speak one with another concerning the welfare of (our) souls", we gain strength from each other's faith.  
In addition to the  nourishment we receive from shared testimonies, there is great spiritual power to be found in singing hymns together.  In Doctrine and Covenants 25:12 the Lord tells us, "12 For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads."  Truly, singing hymns is like a prayer.  I remember one time when I was the church organist, and the responsibility fell upon me to choose hymns for the  next 6 months.  I had been given a list of the topics that would be spoken about during each Sacrament meeting, so I carefully studied the hymns to find those that would best compliment each meeting theme.  After about an hour or so of reading through the lyrics, and humming each melody to myself, I suddenly realized that I was feeling a powerful manifestation of the Spirit.  Truly, the hymns of Zion carry the Spirit of God.  In Mark 14:26, we read that the Savior, before going to the Mount of Olives where He would suffer for the sins of the world, and bleed at every pore, first sang a hymn.  "26 ¶And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives."  I feel confident that this hymn was a comfort to Him.
One of the most important aspects of our worship is partaking of the sacrament.  For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this is the pinnacle moment of our worship.  This is the moment when we really focus on worshiping God.  This is the moment when we truly focus on our standing before God.  This moment of introspection cannot be as effective in any other way.  I love this account in 1 Corinthians 11:23-28: 
 "...That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
When I think about the sacrament, I like to think about each part of the Savior's sacrifice for us.  The bread represents His body, that he sacrificed, and then resurrected so that each of us can be resurrected some day.  That is such a priceless gift!  No one need fear death.  Because of Him, we all can live!
The water, (or as in some religions wine) represents the blood that He shed for us in the garden of Gethsemane when he suffered for the sins of the world.  Because of that sacrifice, we all have the chance to repent of sins that we have committed.  As we make use of His sacrifice through repentance, our sins will be forgiven.  He has paid a price that we could not pay alone.

I especially like the last verse which says, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup."  The sacrament ordinance is the time for us to really examine ourselves.
While admiring the beauties of nature can make us feel closer to God, it cannot supplant the opportunities for reflection that are found in Sabbath church worship.  We can pray anywhere, and we can sing hymns anywhere, but there is power in gathering together and remembering the Savior through the ordinance of the sacrament.
Another important blessing that comes from attending church services is that we are instructed more about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have joined online Christian groups that often discuss the Bible, but I have found that many of them who have rejected joining a formal church have developed incorrect beliefs about Jesus Christ's gospel, and have gone off on intellectual, or political tangents.  When we gather together and are instructed from the scriptures, and from gospel manuals, we are more likely to keep ourselves from deviating from the gospel Jesus Christ taught.
The prophet Alma, in the Book of Mormon, gives us some more thoughts about why we should join ourselves to the church of God:
 "And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
 10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?"  Mosiah 18:8-10
Alma reminds us that part of belonging to God's organized church is taking upon ourselves each other's burdens.  As we "mourn with those that mourn", and "comfort those that stand in need of comfort", we strengthen each other.  In the process of bearing one another's burdens, we become more Christlike.  
Perhaps one of the greatest reasons for joining the church of God is the act of entering in to that covenant with God.  When we are baptized, we are covenanting with God that we will keep His commandments, and take upon us His name.  In return, He promises to send His Spirit to be with us to guide and help us.  This is one of the great blessings of membership in the church.
I would like to issue the same invitation that the Savior issued in ancient times.  For those who question about our organized religion, I would say, "Come and see."  Come and attend church with us.  Come worship God with us.  Come sing with us, and pray with us, and feel the Spirit with us.  Come and see for yourself how attending church can bless you.  We welcome you.

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...



2 Corinthians 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.

If you are not performing signs, wonders and miracles, you might not be a true apostle.

Acts 9:36-41 ....Tabitha...37 And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died...40 But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, "Tabitha, arise."....41...he presented her alive.

If you cannot pray the dead back to life, you might not be a true apostle.

Romans 1:11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established;

If you do not possess the ability to impart spiritual gifts, you might not be a true apostle.

Acts 3:1-8 ...2 And a man who had been lame from his mother's womb....6 But Peter said, "I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene---walk!"......8 With a leap he stood upright and began to walk...

If perhaps, you do not have the power to heal men who have been crippled from birth, you might not be a true apostle.

Acts 5:3-10 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit...9 Then Peter said to her, "Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well." 10 And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last....

If you cannot predict the immediate death of someone who has lied to the Holy Spirit, you might not be a true apostle.

Acts 13:8-11.....9 But Saul, who was also know as Paul...10...said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? 11 Now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time....

If for some unknown reason you lack the ability to temporarily blind a sorcerer, you might not be a true apostle.

Acts 16:16-18 ...a slave-girl having a spirit of divination... 18 But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" And it came out at that very moment.

If you cannot cast out occult spirits, you might not be a true apostle.

Acts 2:43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe, and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

If you are not capable of performing many signs and wonders, you might not be a true apostle.