Come, Follow Me: Protecting the Bride
The role of the Church is help us to make covenants and prepare to meet Jesus at His coming.
Moroni gives valuable insight into how the Church of Jesus Christ should be run in the first six chapters of his own book. It is worth considering the importance of the gift of the Holy Ghost, ordination to the priesthood, and the sacrament. Members should ponder why the words for ordination are no longer used, but the sacrament prayers remain unchanged… although that is a subject for another time.
Like the strait and narrow path described centuries before by Nephi, that begins with faith and penitence, proceeds through the gate of baptism, and then requires endurance to the end, the last chapter in this week‘s reading focuses on staying true… a process that transforms a bunch of believers into actual disciples of Jesus Christ.
Several apostles in the New Testament, including Paul and John the Divine, refer to the church as the “bride” that is being prepared for the return of the “bridegroom” – a metaphor for Jesus. The prophets and apostles take great care to protect and prepare the church to be ready for the return of the King. Moroni describes several of these protective measures explicitly:
Preventing Insincere Covenants
“And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it. Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins. And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.” (Moroni 6:1-3)
Refusing baptism may seem counter-intuitive for an organization that posts “Visitors Welcome” signs and is under command to preach baptism to the ends of the earth… but the goal is not baptism. The goal is to bring people to Christ, and baptism is only the first gate through which a person must pass. If a person is not willing to walk the path after baptism – the unkept covenant they swear to God will do them more harm than good.
Of course we want all to receive baptism… and we understand that people make mistakes after they are baptized… but if a person is unready to repent or is not determined to see a lifelong commitment through, then they should prepare first.
Helping Members Keep Covenants
“And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith. And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.” (Moroni 6:4-6)
The individual who believes that “organized religion” is not for them deceives themselves. Of course, it would be nice if every person were always motivated to keep their covenants, serve those in need, and share the gospel… but everyone has ebbs and flows in their patterns of faith and worship… and more than that – all human beings have a tendency to forget.
The passion that motivates a person to set a resolution at the new year is rarely remembered in March. The same spiritual swell that motivates a person to seek membership in the Church of Jesus Christ can also fade away without the support of fellow saints.
President Gordon B. Hinckley pointed out that every new member needs a responsibility, a friend, and to be nourished by the good word of God. These are natural functions of the organized Church of Jesus Christ. I would also add that these needs are not limited to new members – YOU need responsibilities to help you serve others; YOU need fellowship with friends; YOU need the continual nourishment of the word of God.
And if you feel like the members of your ward are not effectively teaching or serving – then perhaps you can improve it by more effectively ministering to others yourself. The Church is not responsible to serve you… but it can help you keep your covenant to follow Christ and serve your neighbors. This is what it means to endure to the end.
Removal of False Disciples
“And they were strict to observe that there should be no iniquity among them; and whoso was found to commit iniquity, and three witnesses of the church did condemn them before the elders, and if they repented not, and confessed not, their names were blotted out, and they were not numbered among the people of Christ. But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.” (Moroni 6:7-8)
Although disciples are seeking to build the kingdom of God… sometimes, removing individuals from the congregation is necessary. Though each individual in the church is capable of providing good in unique ways, and members should be welcoming in general, APOSTASY SHOULD NEVER BE TOLERATED.
The Church of Jesus Christ cannot help prepare and protect people along the covenant path if individuals from within are persuading people to step off that path.
Of course, the principles of mercy and forgiveness… of love and rescue… these are fundamental to the Church of Jesus Christ. That having been said, Jesus himself warned that there would be false prophets – wolves in sheep’s clothing – that would lie about their intentions and actions.
While it is tragic when an individual no longer embraces the covenants they swore to God, leaders have a responsibility to protect the bride… even if it means blotting out the names of those who were once friends.
Let God Prevail
“And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done.” (Moroni 6:9)
The covenant path leads to God. To walk it is to seek God… and a man who will not seek God is not walking it.
The process of asking and discovering “what would God have me do?” is not a one-time event that ends with baptism. President Nelson exemplifies this pattern as he, by the Holy Spirit, teaches using the correct name of the Church, implementing a home-centered, church supported curriculum, and offering gratitude. Every individual should consider what adjustments they might make in their thoughts, words, and deeds to more deliberately let God prevail.
In the end, Jesus Christ will come. Those who have not endured in their covenants will be as an exposed gold digger who cannot be trusted with the strictest prenuptial. Those who have protected His church and prepared themselves will have joy as a faithful bride, blissfully and eternally united in love.
- Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Book of Mormon 2020, November 30- December 6.
- “Entrance into the Kingdom of God” -Elder Bernard P. Brockbank, October 1972
- “One in Christ” -Elder Ulisses Soares, October 2018
- “Strengthen Thy Brethren” -Elder Robert J. Whetten, April 2005
Brett Jensen manages The Ward Preacher. You can follow him on Twitter @wardpreacher.