Signs of the True Church

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Signs of the True Church

Post#1 » Sun Apr 05, 2015 12:44 am

Signs of the True Church

Mark E. Petersen

The spring of the year is a most welcome season. It is then that all life seems to renew itself, when the promise of the future appears brightest and hope rises to its zenith. Indeed it is a time of reawakened courage and confidence.

Spring! A time of renewal, a revival in nature of the life that is all about us, but especially a reaffirmation of the divine promise of life everlasting! It was spring when the Savior made it all possible by his atoning sacrifice and his resurrection.

It was in the spring when Jesus gathered his disciples about him and instituted the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as a constant reminder of his crucifixion.

It was in the spring when he prayed so humbly in the garden as he set the divine example by saying, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39).

It was then also that he prayed so earnestly for his disciples, that they would be united as one in the heavenly cause, even as he and his Father are one (see John 17:11).

In the early part of still another year he said to his followers, “Be one; … if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27).

This oneness, this unity of action and purpose, was vital to the work. There was no room for conflict among his disciples, no place for dissension, for as Paul demanded of the contending Corinthians, “Is Christ divided?” (1 Cor. 1:13).

When Jesus established his church nearly 2,000 years ago, it was in the hope that all mankind would come in a unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God unto a state of perfection, that we might become Christlike in reality (see Eph. 4:13).

But Christianity as we know it is not united. Among those who profess to believe in him there are wide differences, much conflict, contention, and even enmity at times, a thing which is utterly foreign to the humble prayer for unity which Jesus offered just before his crucifixion.

Well might we ask with the Apostle Paul, “Is Christ divided?” It was he who pleaded with the Corinthians as they drifted apart, “I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).

Paul named four subdivisions or separate denominations already existing in Corinth, a thing which he firmly condemned (see 1 Cor. 1:12–15). His former converts in that city actually began to alter the doctrines of Christ, even denying his resurrection (see 1 Cor. 15:12).

But this was not all. Division continued to develop throughout Christianity in that first century after Christ. Most of the epistles of the New Testament were written to combat it.

Paul reprimanded not only the Corinthians for their dissension, but also the Galatians, saying to them, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another” (Gal. 1:6–7).

He predicted dissension elsewhere when he said, “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock … , speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30).

Peter predicted the rise of false teachers, saying that “many shall follow their pernicious ways” (see 2 Pet. 2:1–2).

To Titus, Paul said, “There are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers” (Titus 1:10), and Jude wrote of mockers who even then walked “after their own ungodly lusts,” separating themselves from the church of God (see Jude 1:18–19).

This secession continued even beyond the time of the Apostles. Historians tell us that during the first century of Christianity at least thirty different contending factions arose, splitting the original Church into a confusion of discordant sectarian groups. There was no longer any unity in Christianity.

The names of some of the denominations which arose in that early time are—

The Judaeo-Christians, who tried to Judaize the Christian religion by introducing Mosaic rituals, including circumcision.

The Millenarians.

The Encratites, who used water instead of wine for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

The Ebionites.

The Gnostics, who confused gospel truth by mixing it with Greek philosophy.

The Archontics, who believed in seven heavens, each one presided over by a prince; they also believed in the Supreme Mother of Heaven, a faith condemned in Jeremiah, chapters seven and forty-four. [Jer. 7; Jer. 44]

The Copts, who are still prominent in Egypt.

The Syriac Christians, centered in Damascus, at that time one of the principal though paganistic cities in the Middle East.

The Mandaeans, a baptist cult, who opposed the rise of sprinkling as a mode of baptism.

The Manichaeans.

The Quartodecimans.

The Hellenists, and a number of others.

Within that same first century the apostles and prophets of Christianity ceased to exist, and the conflicting sects declared that they no longer needed either apostles and prophets or current revelation. To a large extent Greek scholarship and philosophy took their place. No other excuse could be found for the absence of those pillars of the Church.

They are not needed even now, it is said by those who claim that the Bible contains the full word of God. This is sad evidence of the spiritual darkness that came into the world.

But a new day was predicted, a time when all that God had ever given in the past would be restored to earth. It was the Apostle Peter who made this prediction, saying that in the latter days all that was ever given through the prophets from the beginning of the world would be restored. (See Acts 3:21.)

So Christ’s church was destined to come back to earth. But it would arrive in the midst of these denominational conflicts, which have continued to multiply even to our own day.

When it came, how could Christ’s restored church be distinguished from all the existing denominations? How would it be recognized?

The scriptures clearly set forth definite marks of identification so that all who wish may avoid the confusion. Let us mention just a few of them.

The members of the true church anciently did not call themselves Christians, for that was but a nickname applied to them in derision by those who hated Christ. The members of the Church called themselves saints, as may be seen from various New Testament references (see Rom. 16:2; 1 Cor. 1:2), which are confirmed by Webster’s dictionary and by the Bible scholars. This, then, is one of the identification marks of the true Church. The members are called saints.

Another important sign is that the Church would be guided by constant revelation through living prophets. Amos had said that the Lord will do nothing except through his authorized prophets (see Amos 3:7). The divine Church as restored, then, will be led by living seers and revelators receiving current direction from heaven.

Paul explained this to the Ephesians when he said that the whole Church rests upon a foundation of apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone (see Eph. 2:19–20).

He added that these apostles and prophets are to continue in the Church until we all become perfect (see Eph. 4:11–14; see also Matt. 5:48).

But prophets also were placed in the Church for the work of the ministry. This would include preaching of the word, of course, but also it would be for the selection of those who were to serve in the ministry.

Paul said that such persons must be called of God as was Aaron, who was chosen by current revelation through a living prophet (see Heb. 5:4; Ex. 28:1). Paul himself was called that way (see Acts 13:1–3). It is the divine pattern.

Then the Lord’s true church may be further identified by the fact that its ministers are called of God as was Aaron, by current revelation given to a living prophet.

This brings up the matter of communication between the Lord and his church. How could he direct his people unless he spoke to them? Such communication would constitute current revelation and would be given only in the approved manner to living prophets ministering here on earth.

These are a few of the infallible signs of the true Church. But there are others. The Church of today must be of modern origin. Does that surprise you? Not an ancient church, but of modern origin. That is a vital sign of identification of the true church.

The Apostle Peter indicated that the Church will be restored before Christ’s second coming (see Acts 3:19–21).

John the Revelator confirmed this when he said that the Restoration would occur in the hour of God’s judgment, which could relate to none other than modern times (see Rev. 14:6–7).

The Savior spoke of the same thing, adding that after the gospel is finally preached abroad as a warning to the nations, then will the end come (see Matt. 24:14). That certainly indicates modern times.

Another vital sign of the true church is that it will produce new and additional scripture, in addition to the Bible, as was the case in ancient times.

The Bible is a compilation of the books provided by ancient prophets, beginning with Moses, and then added to as each new prophet assumed his place in history. Thus the scripture became a growing thing. It was another pattern of the Lord.

That same pattern applied to New Testament times as well. Hence we have the Gospels and other scriptures of the New Testament. The Lord did not change his system.

Since the Lord is the same in all generations, the true church today also must provide new scripture in addition to the Bible.

There are various other signs of the true church too, but they are too numerous to mention in this short time. But let us say that no one isolated point can unerringly identify the Church. All the signs must be there, fitly joined together, as the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians (see 1 Cor. 1:10; see also Eph. 2:19–21; Eph. 4:11–16).

If we seek the divine church we must find in it all of these infallible marks of identification. If these signs are lacking, it is fair notice that we must look elsewhere.

We Latter-day Saints testify that the Lord’s divine church has been restored to earth as the scriptures say, that it is of modern origin, that it provides new revelation and additional scripture, and that it stands today, as anciently, upon a foundation of living apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone.

All the signs of the divine church are here, not just a few. They are available to everyone for careful examination.

We spoke of spring, that time of resurgence of life and hope and joy. It was on a beautiful spring day in 1820 when the Almighty shattered the seal which had closed the heavens for centuries.

He descended to the earth in the state of New York and called a modern prophet, a youth as pure and unspoiled and as promising as the spring day itself.

This boy became a modern spokesman for God. Through him were all things restored as Peter said. And who was he? Joseph Smith, Jr., the seer and revelator of modern times. He labored humbly and completely under the direction of the Savior himself.

Christ is the Master. Joseph was his servant. Christ is the Redeemer and Messiah for whose coming we eagerly wait. Joseph was the messenger sent to prepare the way before him.

So now we have a new kind of springtime which is most significant, a heaven-sent springtime of world events, blossoming into a summer of resplendent spirituality.

The cold and dark winter without heavenly guidance, when the heavens were sealed over our heads, gives way to the springtime of new revelation, when Christ brought back to earth his truth and his Church.

New heavenly light has burst forth. A new day has dawned, a day of hope and truth which eventually will blend into a thousand years of Millennium and then on into eternal life in the kingdom of God.

From this tabernacle the modern prophets speak. Our great present-day prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball, this morning gave to you God’s message for this present day, for the year 1979. He is the mouthpiece of God. He is the spokesman for God right now. So are his inspired counselors. So is the entire group of twelve inspired men, duly ordained as apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, also for today.

Prophets of God and apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ minister again on the earth. They are here now. They sit here before you. Unitedly and as one voice, they testify of him and for him. They testify to you and for you, and their testimony is true.

God is no longer a remote being; he is here among us by his Holy Spirit. The Savior is no mythical person. He is a great reality and he lives. He too is here among us by his ordained representatives, the apostles and prophets.

May we have the good sense to listen to these inspired men. May we be humble enough to accept their guidance.

May we accept the invitation of the Savior to learn of him and to do so through the righteous men he has raised up today for the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body of Christ. For this I humbly pray, in the sacred name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Elder Mark E. Petersen

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MarkMyWords
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Re: Signs of the True Church

Post#2 » Sun Apr 05, 2015 1:06 am

CHURCH, SIGNS OF THE TRUE:

CHURCH, SIGNS OF THE TRUE

Doctrines and works of a church that show it is approved by God and is the means the Lord has established for his children to gain the fulness of his blessings. Some of the signs of the true Church are as follows:

Correct understanding of the Godhead
God created man in his own image:Gen. 1:26–27;
The Lord spoke unto Moses face to face: Ex. 33:11;
Eternal life is to know God the Father and Jesus Christ: John 17:3;
The Father and Son have bodies of flesh and bones: D&C 130:22–23;
The Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith: JS—H 1:15–20;
We believe in God, the Eternal Father: A of F 1:1;

First principles and ordinances
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit: John 3:3–5;
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ: Acts 2:38;
Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost: Acts 8:14–17;
Become children of God by faith in Jesus Christ: Gal. 3:26–27;
Repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son: 2 Ne. 31:11–21;
They who believed were baptized and received the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands: D&C 76:50–53;
Proper priesthood is needed to baptize and to give the gift of the Holy Ghost: JS—H 1:70–72;
The first principles and ordinances of the gospel are described: A of F 1:4;

Revelation
Where there is no vision, the people perish: Prov. 29:18;
The Lord reveals his secrets to his prophets: Amos 3:7;
The Church is built upon the rock of revelation: Matt. 16:17–18; ( D&C 33:13; )
Woe unto him who shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation: 3 Ne. 29:6;
Revelations and commandments come only through the one appointed: D&C 43:2–7;
We believe all that God has revealed: A of F 1:9;

Prophets
The Church is built upon the foundation of Apostles and prophets: Eph. 2:19–20;
Apostles and prophets are essential to the Church: Eph. 4:11–16;
Joseph Smith was called to be a seer, prophet, and Apostle: D&C 21:1–3;
We believe in prophets: A of F 1:6;

Authority
Jesus gave his disciples power and authority: Luke 9:1–2; ( John 15:16; )
Nephi, the son of Helaman, had great authority from God: Hel. 11:18; ( 3 Ne. 7:17; )
The prophet is to receive commandments for the Church: D&C 21:4–5;
No one may preach the gospel or build up the Church unless he is ordained by someone who has authority: D&C 42:11;
The elders are to preach the gospel, acting in authority: D&C 68:8;
Any who preach or administer for God must be called of God by those in authority: A of F 1:5;

Additional scriptures to come forth
The stick of Judah will be joined with the stick of Joseph: Ezek. 37:15–20;
The coming forth of latter-day scripture was foretold: 1 Ne. 13:38–41;
We believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things: A of F 1:9;

Church organization
The Church is built upon the foundation of Apostles and prophets: Eph. 2:19–20;
Apostles and prophets are essential to the Church: Eph. 4:11–16;
Christ is the head of the Church: Eph. 5:23;
Christ’s Church must be called in his name: 3 Ne. 27:8;
We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church: A of F 1:6;

Missionary work
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations: Matt. 28:19–20;
Seventy were called to preach the gospel: Luke 10:1;
They were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature: Mosiah 28:3;
Elders are to go forth, preaching my gospel, two by two: D&C 42:6;
The gospel must be preached unto every creature: D&C 58:64;

Spiritual gifts
They began to speak with other tongues: Acts 2:4;
The elders are to heal the sick:J ames 5:14;
Deny not the gifts of God: Moro. 10:8;
Spiritual gifts are listed: D&C 46:13–26; ( 1 Cor. 12:1–11; Moro. 10:9–18; )

Temples
I will make a covenant and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them forevermore: Ezek. 37:26–27;
The Lord shall suddenly come to his temple: Mal. 3:1;
Nephi built a temple: 2 Ne. 5:16;
The Saints were chastened for failing to build the house of the Lord: D&C 95; ( D&C 88:119; )
The Lord’s people always build temples for the performance of holy ordinances: D&C 124:37–44;
Building temples and performing ordinances are parts of the great latter-day work: D&C 138:53–54;

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Re: Signs of the True Church

Post#3 » Sun Apr 05, 2015 1:09 am

Signs of the True Church

Author: Hartshorn, Leon R.

The New Testament shows that in the meridian of time Jesus Christ established his Church with definite doctrines, principles, and ordinances, and specifically ordained officers, giving the Church recognizable features by which it could be known. Many of the signs or essential features evident in Christ's New Testament Church are also recognizable in the Church he restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

FAITH, REPENTANCE, BAPTISM, AND THE HOLY GHOST. One sign of Christ's Church is its insistence on the basic principles and ordinances of the gospel. Membership in the New Testament Church was obtained by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance from sin, baptism in water, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:37-38). Baptism was by immersion administered by one having authority, just as Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:11-16). Jesus said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5).

The gift of the Holy Ghost was bestowed through the laying on of hands by one having authority, as exemplified at Samaria when Peter and John encountered some newly baptized persons: "For as yet [the Holy Ghost] was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost" (Acts 8:16-17). The same procedure is demonstrated by Paul at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-6). These same ordinances are required for membership in the Church today (cf. A of F 4).

CHURCH ORGANIZATION. Certain presiding officers, such as apostles and prophets, are characteristic of the Church of Jesus Christ. Paul states that Christ "gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, Evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body [church] of Christ" (Eph. 4:11-12; cf. 2:20). The Church of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth in the early nineteenth century through the Prophet Joseph Smith with "the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, Evangelists, and so forth" (A of F 6; see also Organization of the Church in New Testament Times; Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Seventy).

MIRACLES AND GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT. Jesus and the apostles performed miracles by faith and the power of God. Latter-day Saints believe that where there are apostles and prophets the gifts and signs of the Spirit will be present (Matt. 11:5). Where there is true faith, there will be miracles, and God's power will be manifest (Morm. 9:7-25). Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, wrote, "Miracles wrought by the power of God are the perfect proof of pure religion. They are always…without fail, found in the true Church. Their absence is conclusive, absolute, and irrefutable proof of apostasy" (pp. 374-75).

CONTINUED REVELATION. The New Testament Church of Jesus Christ experienced frequent revelation, such as the visits of angels (Acts 4:5-19;10:3;27:23), visions (Acts 9:3-8), and the workings of the Holy Ghost (cf. John 15:26-27;16:7-15). Through these means, knowledge was received from heaven. Continued revelation from God is necessary for the leaders of the Church and its members to learn the mind and will of the Lord and how to proceed from day to day. This view of revelation is stated thus in the latter-day Church: "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (A of F 9).

PERSECUTION. The New Testament shows that true followers of Jesus Christ were inevitably persecuted. Jesus said to his apostles, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own,…but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19). Paul said that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). Hence, a sign or characteristic of the true Church is rejection and persecution by the wicked (see Worldly, Worldliness).

SEALING POWER. Jesus gave his apostles the power to bind or seal on earth and in heaven. He said, "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 18:18). This sealing power is a feature of the latter-day Church (D&C 128:8-10).

SALVATION OF THE DEAD. The true Church of Jesus Christ promulgates the doctrines and ordinances that provide for salvation of the dead. Evidence thereof is seen in 1 Corinthians 15:29 and 1Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6. Christ's mission would not be complete without such a provision, because so many persons die without even hearing the name of Jesus Christ, and without either knowledge or understanding of the gospel (see Baptism for the Dead).

TEMPLES. Jesus called the temple in Jerusalem "my father's house" (John 2:16). A temple is a facility necessary for the total implementation of the laws and ordinances of the Church of Jesus Christ; therefore, the latter-day Church builds temples for the benefit of the people. From the days of Adam to the present, whenever the Lord has had a people on earth, temples and temple ordinances have been a crowning feature of their worship. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith regarding temples, endowments, and sacred ordinances, the Lord explained that these have been associated with the people of God in every dispensation (D&C 124:39-40; cf. MD, p. 780).

NAME OF THE CHURCH. Christ's Church bears his name, and believers in Jesus Christ take upon themselves his name by baptism (see Jehovah, Jesus ChristChrist: Taking the Name of, Upon Oneself). When the Nephites asked the Lord what the name of his Church should be, Jesus said, "How be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses' name it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel" (3 Ne. 27:8). The name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is symbolic of its author and ideal.

MISSIONARY ACTIVITY. Jesus commanded his disciples to go into all the world to teach his gospel and baptize those who believe (Matt. 28:18-20). Extensive missionary activity characterized the New Testament Church, as with Paul, Barnabas, Philip, and others. This characteristic is considered urgent by the Church today (D&C 58:64; see also Missions).

LOVE. True faith and obedience bring the fruits of the Spirit, the greatest of which is love. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35; cf. 1 Cor. 13).


Bibliography
Lee, Harold B. "Signs of the True Church." In Stand Ye in Holy Places, pp. 312-15. Salt Lake City, 1974.
McConkie, Bruce R. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 2, pp. 374-75. Salt Lake City, 1970.

LEON R. HARTSHORN

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