True and Living Church

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church, is the true and living Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. It is the true Church, because it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is living, because it is led by a living prophet who receives revelation for the modern day. Elder Boyd K. Packer, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ), taught:

Christ Apostles Mormon
Members of the Church, especially our missionaries, often hear this statement: “If there is anything I resent, it is those that say they are right and everybody else is wrong.” They object, of course, to the declaration concerning the exclusive delegation of authority in this church.
Now I understand, of course, why one would feel that way. … The position that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church upon the face of the earth is fundamental. Perhaps it would be more convenient and palatable and popular if we were to avoid it; nevertheless, we are under a sacred obligation and a sacred trust to hold to it. … Now this is not to say that the churches, all of them, are without some truth. They have some truth—some of them very much of it. ... They are, nonetheless, incomplete.[1]

The True Church of Jesus Christ

The true Church of Jesus Christ is complete—with all of the teachings, doctrines, ordinances and authority that Jesus Christ implemented in His ancient Church. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, said:

So what does it mean that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true Church?
Three features—(1) fulness of doctrine, (2) power of the priesthood, and (3) testimony of Jesus Christ—explain why God has declared and why we as His servants maintain that this is the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth.[2]

These three elements separate The Church of Jesus Christ from other denominations. Elder Packer explained:

The gospel might be likened to the keyboard of a piano—a full keyboard with a selection of keys on which one who is trained can play a variety without limits; a ballad to express love, a march to rally, a melody to soothe, and a hymn to inspire; an endless variety to suit every mood and satisfy every need.[3]

A piano is incomplete without all of its keys, just as the gospel of Jesus Christ is incomplete without the fulness of doctrine, the power of the priesthood and a testimony of Jesus Christ. The testimony of Jesus Christ is borne by people chosen on the earth to have actually seen Christ in the flesh, thus having a sure knowledge, rather than a strong belief, that Jesus is the Christ. This testimony can be likened to that of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to whom the heavens were opened:

And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fulness; And saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever. And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! (Doctrine and Covenants 76:20 - 22).

The Fulness of Doctrine

The true Church of Jesus Christ contains all of the doctrines, teachings, ordinances, etc. from His ancient Church. The fulness of the gospel includes the eternal truths or laws, covenants, and ordinances needed for mankind to enter back into the presence of God.[4] Elder Oaks said:

When Jesus Christ was upon the earth, He taught the fulness of His doctrine, which is the plan that our Heavenly Father has outlined for the eternal progress of His children. Later, many of these gospel truths were lost through being diluted by the principles or philosophies then prevailing in the world where Christianity was preached and through the manipulations of political leaders. We call this loss of the fulness of truth the Apostasy….
Because so much had been lost in the Apostasy, it was necessary that the Lord restore the fulness of His doctrine.[5]

The Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ began in the spring of 1820, when a young 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith knelt down in a grove of trees and asked God which church he should join. In answer to his humble petition, two heavenly beings visited him—Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith was told not to join any of the churches. In The Church of Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith’s experience is called the First Vision. Elder M. Russell Ballard, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, explained:

Because of Joseph Smith, we have been given much. Were it not for the Restoration we would not know the true nature of God, our Heavenly Father, or our own divine nature as His children. We would not understand the eternal nature of our existence or know that the family can be together forever.
We would not be aware that God continues to speak to His prophets in our day, beginning with the marvelous First Vision wherein the Father and the Son appeared to the Prophet Joseph. We would not have the comforting assurance that we are led by a prophet….
Without the Restoration we would likely be under the assumption that the entirety of God’s word is found in the Bible. As precious and wonderful as that book of scripture is, we would not know of the Book of Mormon and other latter-day scriptures that teach eternal truths which help us draw nearer to our Heavenly Father and the Savior.
Without the Restoration we would not have the blessings of priesthood ordinances that are valid in time and eternity. We would not know the conditions of repentance, nor would we understand the reality of the resurrection. We would not have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.[6]

Elder Oaks said:

The fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ begins with the assurance that we lived as spirits before we came to this earth. It affirms that this mortal life has a purpose. It teaches that our highest aspiration is to become like our heavenly parents. We do this by qualifying for the glorified celestial condition and relationships that are called exaltation or eternal life, which will empower us to perpetuate our family relationships throughout eternity.
The doctrine of Jesus Christ, understood in its fulness, is the plan by which we can become what children of God are supposed to become. This spotless and perfected state will result from a steady succession of covenants, ordinances, and actions; an accumulation of right choices; and continuing repentance. “This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32). This is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel.[7]

Having a fulness of doctrine is essential for Jesus Christ’s true Church on the earth.

The Power of the Priesthood

The power of the priesthood is another vital component for Christ’s Church. The priesthood is the power and authority that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of His children. Christ’s ancient Apostles were given the priesthood authority, but the priesthood authority was taken away from the earth during the Apostasy. The only way to restore this priesthood authority was through heavenly messengers. Elder Oaks taught:

The Bible is clear that priesthood authority is necessary and that this authority had to be conferred by the laying on of hands by those who held it. Priesthood authority did not come from a desire to serve or from reading the scriptures. When that priesthood authority was lost through apostasy, it had to be restored by those resurrected beings who had held it in mortality and who were sent to confer it. That happened as part of the Restoration of the gospel, and that priesthood authority, together with the [priesthood] keys necessary to direct its operations, are in this Church and no other.[8]

A Testimony of Jesus Christ

The true Church of Jesus Christ contains a knowledge and testimony of the true nature of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God…. I want you all to know Him and to be familiar with Him.”[9]

Elder Oaks taught:

The Articles of Faith, our only formal declaration of belief, begin as follows: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” We have this belief in the Godhead in common with the rest of Christianity, but to us it means something different than to most. We maintain that these three members of the Godhead are three separate and distinct beings and that God the Father is not a spirit but a glorified being with a tangible body, as is His resurrected Son, Jesus Christ. Though separate in identity, They are one in purpose….
Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God, the Eternal Father. He is the Creator of this world. Through His incomparable mortal ministry, He is our teacher. Because of His Resurrection, all who have ever lived will be raised from the dead. He is the Savior, whose atoning sacrifice paid for the sin of Adam and opened the door for us to be forgiven of our personal sins so that we can be cleansed to return to the presence of God, our Eternal Father. This is the central message of the prophets of all ages.[10]

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, said:

Of the many magnificent purposes served in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, one great aspect of that mission … is the grand truth that in all that Jesus came to say and do, including and especially in His atoning suffering and sacrifice, He was showing us who and what God our Eternal Father is like, how completely devoted He is to His children in every age and nation. In word and in deed Jesus was trying to reveal and make personal to us the true nature of His Father, our Father in Heaven. He did this at least in part because then and now all of us need to know God more fully in order to love Him more deeply and obey Him more completely. …
So feeding the hungry, healing the sick, rebuking hypocrisy, pleading for faith—this was Christ showing us the way of the Father…. In His life and especially in His death, Christ was declaring, “This is God’s compassion I am showing you, as well as that of my own.” In the perfect Son’s manifestation of the perfect Father’s care, in Their mutual suffering and shared sorrow for the sins and heartaches of the rest of us, we see ultimate meaning in the declaration: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”[11]

The Living Church

The Church of Jesus Christ is a living Church because it is led by living prophets who hold priesthood keys—which are the right the govern, direct and control God’s priesthood on earth. In other words, the authority and right to lead The Church of Jesus Christ. Elder Oaks explained:

The keys of the priesthood, held by our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, and every other prophet and President of the Church, entitle him to revelation in behalf of the entire Church. This Church is “living” because we have prophets who continue to give us the word of the Lord that is needed for our time.[12]

Elder Quentin L. Cook, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, taught the importance of a living prophet:

Prophets are inspired to provide us with prophetic priorities to protect us from dangers. As an example, President Heber J. Grant, the prophet from 1918 to 1945, was inspired to emphasize adherence to the Word of Wisdom, the principle with a promise revealed by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph. He stressed the importance of not smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages and directed the bishops to review these principles in temple recommend interviews.
At that time smoking was accepted by society as an appropriate, even glamorous, behavior. The medical profession accepted smoking with little concern because the scientific studies linking cigarette smoking with several kinds of cancer were far in the future. President Grant counseled with great vigor, and we became known as a people who abstained from drinking and smoking. Starting in the late 1960s, illegal drug use reached epidemic proportions throughout the world. While there were some members who rebelled, the vast majority of LDS youth were able to avoid the devastating use of drugs.
Obeying the Word of Wisdom gave our members, especially our youth, a preventive inoculation against drug use and the resulting health problems and moral hazards….
Sometimes prophets teach us prophetic priorities that provide protection for us now and in the future. As an example, President David O. McKay was the prophet from 1951 to 1970. One area of significant focus was his emphasis on the family. He taught that no success in life can compensate for failure in the home. He encouraged members to strengthen families by increasing religious observance. His teachings were a protection from the disintegration of the institution of marriage that came after his death. Because of President McKay’s teaching, the Latter-day Saints strengthened their commitment to family and eternal marriage.[13]

A living Church means that prophets receive revelation and inspiration for the modern days—the current times.

The Church of Jesus Christ is a true and living Church. It contains the fulness of the gospel—and the same organization, doctrines, teachings and ordinances that existed in Christ’s Primitive Church.

References

  1. Elder Boyd K. Packer, The Only True and Living Church, General Conference, October 1971.
  2. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, The Only True and Living Church, Youth Articles, lds.org.
  3. Elder Boyd K. Packer, The Only True and Living Church, General Conference, October 1971.
  4. See Gospel in The Guide to the Scriptures at lds.org.
  5. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, The Only True and Living Church, Youth Articles, lds.org.
  6. Elder M. Russell Ballard, Creating a Gospel-Sharing Home, General Conference, April 2006.
  7. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, The Only True and Living Church, Youth Articles, lds.org.
  8. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, The Only True and Living Church, Youth Articles, lds.org.
  9. History of the Church, 6:305.
  10. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, The Only True and Living Church, Youth Articles, lds.org.
  11. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, The Grandeur of God, General Conference, October 2003.
  12. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, The Only True and Living Church, Youth Articles, lds.org.
  13. Elder Quentin L. Cook, Give Heed unto the Prophets’ Words, General Conference, April 2008.