There are several different ways to look at what a Church is.
The first is what is the bare minimum. What do Noah, Abraham, Elijah, Paul and Nephi have in common (excluding everything else). That bare minimum is very little. Pretty much just teaching people to obey what are referred to as the Noahide Laws or The Seven Laws of Noah.
The other axis is that a Church is an extended family. In which case, it includes everything that makes up and supports an extended kinship group. That includes cultural events, performance and other art, sports and community programs.
There are also various approaches that are somewhere in between.
The most common in-between place is the one pointed out by Elder Holland, above, that includes repenting in this life for our sins and caring for the poor, exemplifying the love of Christ. Teaching people to remember Christ and to be righteous.
What does that mean?
But what constitutes righteousness in God’s eyes? Over and over again, the Bible and Book of Mormon answer this question decisively: it’s treatment of our fellow man with kindness, consideration, empathy, mercy, and respect.
We can’t let our egos overwhelm us with a desire to be above our fellow beings. We can’t pursue our own satisfaction or triumph to the point where we’re willing to vilify those who we think get in our way. We don’t try to force our will upon others, nor demand they make sacrifices or suffer in ways we’re not willing to sacrifice or suffer. We don’t consider ourselves better or more important than others.
We try to emulate God’s attitude towards us, as described by Nephi in 2 Nephi 26:33: “[H]e inviteth [us] all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”
If we want to live by this standard, we have within us the power to do so. A person like that you and I naturally love. You can be that person, even in a presidential election year and its aftermath. And if we all keep plugging away at this elevated behavioral standard, eventually, we’ll become everlastingly happy. It’s an irrevocable promise from God.Scott Mitchell, Former District Attorney at Clark County District Attorney’s Office
Personally, ever since I heard a general authority discuss the matter, with a lot of analysis, around 1985 or so, I’ve thought about the question.
And I’ve asked myself, how do you structure an organization so that its members seek to compassionately respond to the poor and to each other, as they would family members? That seems to me to be what makes a church the Church of Jesus Christ.
What do you think?
- What should a church do?
- What kind of programs should it keep?
- What should it prune away and leave to the larger community?
- What leads an organization to reach out to the least in the community as they would to family?
- What causes an organization or a church to reject those who would be burden?
- What do you consider to be the essence of the Church of Jesus Christ?