“Condemn not other branches of the Church of Christ, for contention is not of me; but build bridges that all may come and worship the Father in my name.” – Doctrines of the Saints 14d:18
In June of 1829, Joseph Smith received a revelation for all those called to be Apostles in these last days. In part they were commanded not to contend against any “church, save it be the church of the devil” (Avahr 25:39, DoS 12a:35). But this commandment wasn’t new. Jesus said the same to His original Twelve:
And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me; for he that is not against us is on our part.” -Mark 9:38-40
The Book of Mormon tells us that there are 2 churches, “one is the Church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil” (1 Nephi 3:221 RAV, 14:10b OPV). Yet there seems to be literally hundreds of thousands of churches on the earth today. How can this be?
We are the Church
One thing to understand is that we are the Church. In Ephesians 5:25, Paul tells the Saints that husbands should love their wives as Jesus loved the Church and gave His life for it. Did Jesus give his life for a building? For an institution? No, he died for us, each of us personally. Thus we are the Church. In Romans 16:5 talks about greeting the Church in a house, that would be the people. In 1 Corinthians 14:12, when Paul is talking about using spiritual gifts to edify the Church, he means to edify the people, that we should edify one another. In 1 Timothy 3:5 we are asked how someone that cannot take care of their own family take care of the people of Christ. And on and on.
Mormon echoes this in the Book of Mormon:
“Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the Church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope, by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” -Moroni 7:3 RAV, OPV
A building cannot be a peaceable follower of Christ, nor can an institution. But we can, as human beings. We have free will. We make choices. We can choose for ourselves to side with God by loving our neighbors or with the devil by choosing to love only ourselves.
“For I remember the Word of God which saith: By their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also. For behold, God hath said: A man, being evil, cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent, it profiteth him nothing; for behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness. For behold, if a man, being evil, giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore, it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore, he is counted evil before God… But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, everything which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him is inspired of God. Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.” -Moroni 7:4b-12 RAV, 7:5-14 OPV
The Church is in Our Hearts
It is clear that it is not the denomination we belong to that defines our church status, but who our hearts belong to. Who is it that we serve? God or Satan? Our neighbors, or our selves? Does our love for our fellow man wax weal or strong? Are we working to grow in the Grace of Christ, or in our own self worth and self importance? These are the things that define us, not what we own or what religious institutions we belong to.
My challenge to you this day would be this: Turn to God. Remember the Shema:
“Hear, O Israel! YHVH is our Elohim, YHVH is Unity.” -Deuteronomy 6:4
This is the prayer that Jesus uttered when he asked that we, His Church, would be one, even as He and the Father are one (John 17:11). This should be our prayer, every morning when we wake and every evening before we sleep as a reminder that we are to be one with God and one with our neighbors, because unity is the very heart of Christianity. To be a apart of the Church of Christ is the very desire to be one.