Years ago I was discussing the church, and it hit me:
The church is more like a sailing regatta than anything else.
When you sail, it is extremely rare for a sailing vessel, or a collection of them, to sail directly for the goal. Instead, they adjust for the wind, the currents and for the prior direction the regatta has traveled.
If you are tacking into the wind, or running across it, in order to reach a goal you will need to go back and forth — you cannot go straight at it.
In addition, at the edges of the regatta the ships there will end up going far from the center, just to stay with the regatta.
There will be a halo or area far from the optimal course that most of the ships will have to follow for all the ships to avoid fouling each other and to go towards the goal.
The path that takes one group of ships away from reefs or shallows will take much of the regatta away from an optimal course because the path of the regatta is not only the path of the ship in the lead — it is the path the entire flotilla follows. Many ships will have to go slower than they could, while others will struggle to keep up.
In addition, it isn’t the ships arriving at the destination that matters so much as getting their crews and cargo safely there.
When it comes to the church and the gospel, the church is a container for the gospel, rather than the gospel.
In different ages and times, the church has had different forms.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets …
(From Hebrews 1)
Yea, and the voice of the Lord, by the mouth of angels, doth declare it unto all nations; yea, doth declare it, that they may have glad tidings of great joy; yea, and he doth sound these glad tidings among all his people, yea, even to them that are scattered abroad upon the face of the earth …
(From Alma 13).
The shape of the container has often been much different than it is in our day. So Abraham, whose household included three hundred men trained only for war, herdsmen and others, probably did not have a home teaching assignment like you or I might have. Since home teaching started in 1964, most of the times the gospel has been taught it has not included home teaching. The Relief Society did not exist for most of the history of the human race. There have been a lot of other differences.
As for the gospel, it is the power of God unto salvation.
- Do you think you would have recognized the gospel or the church in the time of Abraham? What about Nehemiah?
- What does that imply for the church as Nephi had it? Mormon?
- What image do you have for the church?
- What impact does the way the church deals with winds, tides, trends and other issues have on how the direction the church is headed compares with its ultimate goal?
- What do you think the ultimate goal is?
- What do you see as the relationship of the Church and the Gospel?
- How does the Church differ from the Gospel?