Why does Christ need an organization to save his children?
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“Why does Christ need an organization to save his children?” Ensign, Feb. 1980, 67

I believe that this is truly Christ’s church, but why does he need an organization to save his children?

Melvin J. Petersen, professor of Church history and doctrine, Brigham Young University, and bishop, Orem Thirty-seventh Ward, Orem Utah South Central Stake This question is a very good one, and in preparing an answer it must be stated at the beginning that membership in the Church cannot save an individual independent of other gospel commitments, as indicated by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord commanded Joseph Smith “to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30). Why is it important that the Church be made known as “the only true and living church” upon the earth? What does the Church do for us?

1. It provides saving ordinances, performed by the authority of the holy priesthood. Part of the ordinance of baptism, for instance, is to confirm one a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But baptism also provides for the remission of sins, and thus sets one in the pathway toward salvation.

2. Within the Church are prophets and apostles whose instruction, according to Paul, is needed “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

“That we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Eph. 4:12–14.)

In a modern revelation the Lord stated that “the Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews” (D&C 107:33). It is so important that we have these leaders for instruction that the Lord has revealed that those who hear them not “shall be cut off from among the people” (D&C 1:14).

3. The Lord has promised that gifts of the Spirit will follow the believers, for their profit and salvation (see D&C 84:65–73). And inasmuch as no one person receives every gift (see D&C 46:11), the gifts distributed among the members at large profit one another, (see D&C 46:12). Paul makes the Church analogous to a body having many members and requiring the united effort of all to become like Christ (see 1 Cor. 12:12–31).

4. The Church is a refuge to prepare the members to stand together when the storms come (see D&C 115:6) and to help one another in times of individual stress. Alma taught that individuals who enter into the fold of God covenant “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” and “to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–9). Would anyone want to exempt himself from such benefits?

5. The Church offers its members an opportunity to express true love. At the Last Supper Jesus said to his apostles, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). The Church does not have a professional clergy, but rather has all assignments filled by the members themselves. Although growth and development come to those who participate with full purpose of heart, the great value of a lay church is to allow the members to show their true love through service (see D&C 42:29; D&C 20:31).

6. Finally, the Lord wants his church to be a living church, identifiable to others (see D&C 1:30). As Alma so aptly wrote, we covenant “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places … even until death” (Mosiah 18:9). A great, pulsating church draws the interest and attention of others, through its many members who radiate its message. The Church is to be like an ensign and a judge unto all nations, declaring and clarifying goals and objectives pertaining to Zion (D&C 64:37–38).