The 6th article of faith:
6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church, namely apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists and so forth.
The Early Primitive Church
Jesus established his Church when he was on the earth. It was called the Church of Jesus Christ (see 3 Nephi 27:8), and the members were called Saints. Through the persecution and martyrdom of Church leaders and the general wickedness of the people, the Church of Jesus Christ was taken from the earth.
Today the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored and is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All of the offices and functions of the Church in the days of Jesus are present in the Church today.
When Jesus established his Church, he personally instructed and directed its leaders. He, in turn, received his instructions from his Father in Heaven. Thus the Church of Jesus Christ was directed by God and not by men (see Hebrews 1:1–2). Jesus taught his followers that revelation was the “rock” upon which he would build his Church (see Matthew 16:16–18).
Before Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection, he told his Apostles, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). True to his word, he continued to guide them from heaven. He sent the Holy Ghost to be a comforter and a revelator to them (see Luke 12:12; John 14:26). He spoke to Saul in a vision (see Acts 9:3–6). He revealed to Peter that the gospel should be taught not only to the Jews but to the whole world (see Acts 10). He revealed many glorious truths to John, which are written in the Book of Revelation. The New Testament records many other ways in which Jesus revealed his will to guide his Church and enlighten his disciples.
The Church Organization
The Church of Jesus Christ was a carefully organized unit. It was compared to a perfectly formed building that was “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).
Jesus appointed other priesthood leaders to assist the Apostles in the work of the ministry. He sent officers called seventies in pairs to preach the gospel (see Luke 10:1). Other officers in the Church were evangelists (patriarchs), pastors (presiding leaders), high priests, elders, bishops, priests, teachers, and deacons (see chapter 14, “Priesthood Organization”). These officers were all necessary to do missionary work, perform ordinances, and instruct and inspire Church members. These officers helped the members come to a “unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13).
The Apostles were commanded to go into all the world and preach. They could not stay in any one city to supervise new converts. Therefore, local priesthood leaders were called and ordained, and the Apostles presided over them. The Apostles visited and wrote letters to the leaders in the various branches. Thus, our New Testament contains letters written by the Apostles Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude, giving counsel and instruction to the local priesthood leaders.
The New Testament shows that this Church organization was intended to continue. For example, the death of Judas left only eleven Apostles. Soon after Jesus had ascended into heaven, the eleven Apostles met together to choose someone to take the place of Judas. Through revelation from the Holy Ghost, they chose Matthias. (See Acts 1:23–26.) Later, other Apostles died or were killed. Paul, Barnabas, and James, the brother of the Lord, were all ordained in their places. Jesus had set a pattern for twelve Apostles to govern the Church. It seemed clear that the organization was to continue as he had established it.
The Apostles taught two basic principles: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance. After new converts had faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their Redeemer and had repented of their sins, they received two ordinances: baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. These were the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Jesus had taught, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Everyone needed these saving ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Ordinances Performed for the Dead
Jesus has provided for everyone to hear the gospel, whether on earth or after death. Between his death and resurrection, Jesus went among the spirits of those who had died. He organized missionary work among those who were dead. He appointed righteous messengers and gave them power to teach the gospel to all the spirits of people who had died. This gave them an opportunity to accept the gospel. (See 1 Peter 3:18–20; 1 Peter 4:6; D&C 138.) Living members of his Church then performed ordinances in behalf of the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15:29). Ordinances such as baptism and confirmation must be done on earth.
After Jesus was resurrected, he visited the people in America and organized his Church among them (see 3 Nephi 11–28). Then he left them and ascended into heaven. For over two hundred years they lived righteously and were among the happiest people whom God had created (see 4 Nephi 1:16).
Apostasy from the True Church
Throughout history, evil people have tried to destroy the work of God. This happened while the Apostles were still alive and supervising the young, growing Church. Some members taught ideas from their old pagan or Jewish beliefs instead of the simple truths taught by Jesus. In addition, there was persecution from outside the Church. Church members were tortured and killed for their beliefs. One by one, the Apostles were killed. Because of the persecution, surviving Apostles could not meet to choose and ordain men to replace those who were dead. Eventually, local priesthood leaders were the only ones who had authority to direct the scattered branches of the Church. The perfect organization of the Church no longer existed, and confusion resulted. More and more error crept into Church doctrine, and soon the destruction of the Church was complete. The period of time when the true Church no longer existed on earth is called the Great Apostasy.
Soon pagan beliefs dominated the thinking of those called Christians. The Roman emperor adopted this false Christianity as the state religion. This church was very different from the church Jesus organized. Members of this church believed that God was a being without form or substance.
These people lost the understanding of God’s love for us. They did not know that we are his children. They did not understand the purpose of life. Many of the ordinances were changed because the priesthood and revelation were no longer on the earth.
The emperor chose his own leaders and called them by the same titles used by priesthood leaders in the true Church of Christ. Church officers were given honor and wealth. Bishops and archbishops fought among themselves to gain more power. There were no Apostles or other priesthood leaders with power from God, and there were no spiritual gifts. The prophet Isaiah had foreseen this condition, prophesying, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5). It was the Church of Jesus Christ no longer; it was a church of men. Even the name had been changed. In the Americas, apostasy also occurred (see 4 Nephi).
A Restoration Foretold
God had foreseen the Apostasy and prepared for the gospel to be restored. The Apostle Peter spoke of this to the Jews: “He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:20–21).
ored. He said, “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6).
“Chapter 16: The Church of Jesus Christ in Former Times,” Gospel Principles, 101
I love this story told by President Spencer W. Kimbal in the 1978 New Era.
Some years ago a young Primary boy was on a train going to California in the days when we traveled on trains. He was all alone. He sat near the window watching the telephone poles go by. Across the aisle from him was a gentleman who also was going to California. The attention of the gentleman was called to this very young boy traveling all alone without friends or relatives. He was neatly dressed and well-behaved. And this gentleman was quite impressed with him.
“Hello, young man, where are you going?”
The gentleman said, “Well, that’s interesting. I’ve wondered about the Mormons and what they believe. I’ve been through their beautiful city; I’ve noticed the beautiful buildings, the treelined streets, the lovely homes, the beautiful rose and flower gardens, but I’ve never stopped to find out what makes them as they are. I wish I knew what they believe.”
And the traveling companion thought, “This is rather unusual for a mere boy to know these important things.”
That brought some other discussion. “You mean that your church has Apostles such as James and John and Peter and Paul, and prophets such as Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Daniel, and also evangelists?”
And the boy responded quickly, “Yes, even evangelists. We call them patriarchs, and they are appointed in all parts of the Church where there are stakes. And by inspiration they give to all the members of the Church, as required, what is called a patriarchal blessing. I have already had my patriarchal blessing, and I re
ad it frequently. Now we have 12 Apostles who have the same calling and the same authority as given to the Apostles in the days of old.”
The gentleman wanted to know more and the boy repeated articles of faith 7-13.
This youngster relaxed now as he finished the Articles of Faith. The gentleman was clearly excited, not only at the ability of this young boy to outline the whole program of the Church, but at the very completeness of its doctrine.
He said, “You know, after I have been to Los Angeles a couple of days, I expect to go back to New York where my office is. I am going to wire my company that I will be a day or two late and that I am going to stop in Salt Lake City en route home and go to the information bureau there and hear all the things, in more detail, about what you have told me.”
I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to be the most correct church on the Earth today. It is the same church restored from the time of Christ and is headed by Christ under the direction of God.
The Savior’s gospel and doctrine are being preached throughout the world today so that all may have the opportunity to hear its message. I am grateful for missionary work and the selfless sacrifices these young people make to spread the gospel throughout the world. I am grateful for this restored gospel and the powerful blessings it has poured into my life. I know I would not be who I am today without it. The more effort I make each day to study this gospel the happier I become – it keeps getting better. I feel very blessed to have this knowledge and to be a part of this great work. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ amen.