Lesson 21: Jesus Christ Organized His Church

Hide Footnotes


“Lesson 21: Jesus Christ Organized His Church,” Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel Teacher Manual (2015)

“Lesson 21,” Teacher Manual

Lesson 21

Jesus Christ Organized His Church


During His three-year mortal ministry, Jesus Christ conferred priesthood keys on His Twelve Apostles. With these keys, the Church of Jesus Christ was “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20.) This lesson discusses how, after His Resurrection, the Savior continued to guide and direct His Apostles and His Church through the ministration of the Holy Ghost so they could help to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant to gather scattered Israel.

Background Reading

Suggestions for Teaching

Matthew 10:1–4; 16:19; 17:3–7; 18:18; Ephesians 2:19–20; 4:11–14

Jesus Christ organized His Church upon a foundation of apostles and prophets

Show students a key or a set of keys, and ask what we mean when we use the word keys in the context of the gospel. Invite several students to take turns reading aloud the passages in the following scripture chain. Ask the class to follow along and identify the main event each passage describes or alludes to.

  • Matthew 10:1–4 (Apostles called and commissioned)

  • Matthew 16:19 (Priesthood keys are promised to Peter [see Guide to the Scriptures, “Keys of the Priesthood”;].)

  • Matthew 17:3–7 (“The Savior, Moses, and Elias [Elijah], gave the keys to Peter, James, and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before him” [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 105].)

  • Matthew 18:18 (The reference to binding and loosing on earth and in heaven alludes to priesthood keys also being promised to the other Apostles.)

You may want to explain that the “keys” mentioned or alluded to in these passages are synonymous with the sealing power (see Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple [1980], 81–87).

Ask students:

  • What is meant by priesthood keys?

  • Why is it important that Apostles hold priesthood keys?

Ask a student to read the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Oaks, Dallin H.

“‘Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood [holders] to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth’ [Handbook 2: Administering the Church [2010], 2.1.1]. Every act or ordinance performed in the Church is done under the direct or indirect authorization of one holding the keys for that function. As Elder M. Russell Ballard has explained, ‘Those who have priesthood keys … literally make it possible for all who serve faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power’ [M. Russell Ballard, “Men and Women in the Work of the Lord,” New Era, Apr. 2014, 4; Liahona, Apr. 2014, 48]” (“The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 49).

  • In what ways do priesthood keys bless individual Church members?

Invite a student to read Ephesians 2:19–20 aloud. Then ask the class:

  • What do we learn from this passage about the foundation of the Savior’s Church? (Students should identify the following truth: Jesus Christ, who is the chief cornerstone, organized His Church upon a foundation of apostles and prophets.)

  • What do a foundation and a cornerstone do for a building? (The foundation provides strength and support for the building. As the first stone placed in a foundation, the cornerstone is the reference point for the placement of all other foundation stones and determines the position of the whole building. It also helps to anchor the walls in place.)

Invite students to discuss with someone sitting next to them the following questions:

  • In what ways is Jesus Christ the “chief cornerstone” of the Church?

  • What does this scripture teach us about the relationship between the Savior (the cornerstone) and the apostles and prophets (the foundation)?

Invite a student to read Ephesians 4:11–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and identify reasons Paul gave for why we need apostles, prophets, and other Church leaders to guide the Saints.

Display the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud:

Holland, Jeffrey R.

“In order to establish a church that would continue under His direction even after He was taken from the earth, Jesus ‘went … into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

“‘And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles’ [Luke 6:12–13].

“Later on, Paul would teach that the Savior, knowing the inevitability of His death, had done this to give the Church a ‘foundation of … apostles and prophets’ [see Ephesians 2:19–20]. These Brethren and the other officers of the Church would serve under the direction of the resurrected Christ.

“Why? Among other reasons, so ‘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’ [Ephesians 4:14]” (“Prophets, Seers, and Revelators,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 6–7).

  • In what ways have you seen modern apostles and prophets provide foundational strength and stability to the Church?

Acts 2:1–6, 14–26; 4:1–13, 18–21; Acts 10:9–20, 25–28, 34–35, 44–48; Acts 15:1–20

Jesus Christ guided the Apostles through the Holy Ghost

Ask a student to read Acts 1:1–2 aloud. Then ask the class:

  • How did Luke say the resurrected Jesus Christ continued to lead His Apostles after His Ascension to heaven? (He gave commandments and instruction through the Holy Ghost.)

Testify that after His Resurrection and Ascension to heaven, Jesus Christ guided the Apostles through the ministration of the Holy Ghost. To help students see examples of this guidance, divide the class into four groups and give them the following assignments:

  • Study Acts 2:1–6, 14–26, looking for how the Holy Ghost assisted Peter and the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.

  • Study Acts 4:1–13, 18–21, looking for how the Holy Ghost helped Peter respond to Jewish leaders.

  • Study Acts 10:9–20, 25–28, 34–35, 44–48, looking for how an important change in the Church was revealed to Peter.

  • Study Acts 15:1–20, looking for how past revelation from Jesus Christ through the Holy Ghost influenced Peter’s decision and the support that other Church leaders gave this decision at the Jerusalem conference.

After sufficient time, ask individuals from each group to summarize what they read and to explain how Jesus Christ guided Church leaders through the ministration of the Holy Ghost. Explain that the Holy Ghost performs His duties under the direction of the Savior (see John 16:13–14).

Consider using 3 Nephi 19:7–9, 19–20 to show that Church leaders we read about in the Book of Mormon also received the assistance of the Holy Ghost in their ministry.

Discuss with students the following question:

  • How would you explain to someone why it is important to know that following His death, Jesus Christ continued to guide His Apostles?

Jesus Christ directs Church leaders today through the Holy Ghost

Display the following statements by President Thomas S. Monson and President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency (or distribute them to the class), and ask a student to read them aloud:

Monson, Thomas S.

“I testify … that our Savior Jesus Christ is at the head of this Church, which bears His name. I know that the sweetest experience in all this life is to feel His promptings as He directs us in the furtherance of His work” (Thomas S. Monson, “Looking Back and Moving Forward,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 88).

Eyring, Henry B.

“Revelation and inspiration have come to [President Thomas S. Monson] in my presence, which confirms to me that God is honoring [the priesthood keys that the prophet holds]. I am an eyewitness” (Henry B. Eyring, “The True and Living Church,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 24).

  • How do these statements illustrate a connection between the New Testament Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? (Help students understand the following truth: Just as Jesus Christ directed His Apostles in New Testament times, He directs Church leaders today through various means, including the ministration of the Holy Ghost.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen and think about why Church leaders need to be directed by the Savior.

Holland, Jeffrey R.

“The apostolic and prophetic foundation of the Church was to bless in all times, but especially in times of adversity or danger, times when we might feel like children, confused or disoriented, perhaps a little fearful, times in which the devious hand of men or the maliciousness of the devil would attempt to unsettle or mislead. Against such times as come in our modern day, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are commissioned by God and sustained by you as prophets, seers, and revelators, with the President of the Church sustained as the prophet, seer, and revelator, the senior Apostle, and as such the only man authorized to exercise all of the revelatory and administrative keys for the Church. In New Testament times, in Book of Mormon times, and in modern times these officers form the foundation stones of the true Church, positioned around and gaining their strength from the chief cornerstone, ‘the rock of our Redeemer, who is [Jesus] Christ, the Son of God’ [Helaman 5:12]” (“Prophets, Seers, and Revelators,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 7).

Follow up by asking students some or all of the following questions:

  • What do you think it means that the presiding officers of the Church are “positioned around” and gain strength from the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ?

  • What evidence have you seen or when have you felt that the Savior directs those who preside over the Church today?

  • In what ways has participating in general conference helped you come unto Christ and build upon a foundation of apostles and prophets?

Display or write the following questions on the board. Invite students to ponder the questions and then write in their personal journals or scripture study journals a plan to improve in those areas.

What can I do to strengthen my testimony of the Savior’s modern Apostles?

In what ways can I better rely on modern prophets so I can be founded on Jesus Christ?

Student Readings