church, Church, and CHURCH

I participate in a non-denominational theology group called Theology on Tap (ToT) Logan. It is part of a pub theology movement intended to encourage people to interact on religious topics in an environment unencumbered by religious baggage.

While initially apprehensive, my hunger for deeper religious discussions won out. I have found the discussions to be rich and educational. The depth of knowledge of the participants and presenters often leaves me dumbfounded. It has also broadened my vocabulary.

As one reads theological essays and engages in discussions with other Christians, it is common to hear people speak of “the church” in a broad, generic sense rather than as exclusive to one’s own faith tradition. This is similarly true for “gospel.”

This broader sense has enlightened my understanding of an otherwise nonsensical portion of D&C 10.

50 And thus they did leave a blessing upon this land in their prayers, that whosoever should believe in this gospel in this land might have eternal life;
51 Yea, that it might be free unto all of whatsoever nation, kindred, tongue, or people they may be.
52 And now, behold, according to their faith in their prayers will I bring this part of my gospel to the knowledge of my people. Behold, I do not bring it to destroy that which they have received, but to build it up.
53 And for this cause have I said: If this generation harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them.
54 Now I do not say this to destroy my church, but I say this to build up my church;
55 Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.

If one reads the above with an exclusive view, there is only One Church, it doesn’t make sense. But, if you read it with a broader definition of “church” and “gospel” it becomes meaningful.

Before expanding on this, I want to point to another reference that points to a more expansive view of God’s work, D&C 49:8:

Wherefore, I will that all men shall repent, for all are under sin, except those which I have reserved unto myself, holy men that ye know not of.

“Holy men that ye know not of… .” Just in case we thought Joseph Smith was the ONLY holy man, we learn that there are others that are doing the work of the Lord.

Now, with that in mind, let’s re-read the previous citation, but with some amplifying notations.

50 And thus they did leave a blessing upon this land in their prayers, that whosoever should believe in [the gospel of Jesus Christ] in this land might have eternal life;
51 Yea, that it might be free unto all of whatsoever nation, kindred, tongue, or people they may be.
52 And now, behold, according to their faith in their prayers will I bring this [restored] part of my gospel to the knowledge of my people [who already have the historical gospel]. Behold, I do not bring it to destroy that which they have received (historical Christian gospel), but to build it up.
53 And for this cause have I said: If this generation harden not their hearts, I will establish my [restored] church among them.
54 Now I do not say this to destroy my [historical] church, but I say this to build up my [historical] church;
55 Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my [historical] church need not fear [the restored part of my gospel], for [all believers] shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.

The point may be more academic than practical, but the message seems to be that existing Christian churches shouldn’t fear that the restored church would displace their own. This revelation may also be intended for those congregations that were praying for a restoration of Christ’s church.

Nevertheless, the sentiment dovetails with a quote from Brigham Young regarding the work and role of all religious traditions (As quoted in Crucible of Doubt, Page 92):

Every faithful Methodist that has lived up to and faithfully fulfilled the requirements of his religion, … will have as great a heaven as he ever anticipated in the flesh, and far greater. Every Presbyterian, and every Quaker, and every Baptist, and every Roman Catholic member … that lives according to the best light they have, … will have and enjoy all they live for. … This is the situation of Christendom after death. You may go among the Pagans, or among all the nations there are … and if they have lived according to what they possess, so they will receive hereafter. And will it be glory? you may inquire. Yes. Glory, glory, glory.

President Gordon B. Hinkley said:

“Let me say that we appreciate the truth in all churches and the good which they do. We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it.” (meeting, Nairobi, Kenya, 17 Feb. 1998).

President Hinkley’s comments convey the notion that the LDS church should be a repository of all truth. Rather that sitting and waiting for “the truth” to arrive, the active corollaries to President Hinckley’s otherwise passive invitation are:

  1. Share the message of the restoration with others and invite them to join us or at least share their message with us.
  2. Seek for the truth in all churches and bring those truths and traditions into our own faith tradition.

We, the larger Christian church or community, have much to learn from each other. Isolating ourselves, leave us all poorer. In the words of LDS Apostle Orson F. Whitney (1855-1931), “God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of his great and marvelous work. … It is too vast, too arduous, for any one people.” (Conference Report, 1828, cited in “Becoming Better Saints through Interfaith Involvement“, Ensign, Dec 2013)

What truths have you learned outside of the church that you have been able to include in your worship?

Eugene

Update 29 Nov 2017

So much for being original. On the other hand validation is comforting.

In a Faith Matters podcast, Terryl Givens interprets D&C 10:50-55 and 49:8 in the same manner that I do. His comments begin at 31:20. From the transcript:

Section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants, beginning with about verse 52 where the Lord — and this is given in 1829, of course — speaks to Joseph Smith about His church. He’s referring to a church already in existence, so we have to ask “What Church is this?,” because he’s talking about the Restoration. He’s saying, “I’m not doing this to do away with my church and I don’t want my church to be panicked by what’s about to happen.” That’s the moment at which you become aware that Joseph really understood this idea of an invisible church that transcends any particular denominational category.

It’s my understanding based on that, based on the Lord’s reference to “holy men ye know not of” that he recognized that. The Doctrine and Covenants’ own description of the Church is “those who will repent and have Him to be their God.” I believe that we should and can — and I have — felt a part of this larger spiritual community.

That’s not to downplay the unique significance of the Restoration as the repository of saving keys and ordinances. The way I would put it is that I think Joseph Smith was suggesting that the Church (the institutional Church) is the portal of salvation. It’s not the reservoir of the righteous.

That’s helped me to open myself to being taught by some of the masters of the spiritual tradition and of the Julian of Norwich and the Edward Beecehers and the Gregory of Nazianzus. They’re sprinkled throughout history; these beautiful, beautiful souls who have so much to teach us about the consecrated life.

 

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