I heard it again, and it is so much nonsense. But I hear it quite often. However, before I explain what “it” is, I would like to tell you about something wonderful: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. OK, you probably already know about them, but I would like to reinforce that they are seriously delicious. Something about the blend between the sweetness of the chocolate outside and the saltiness of the peanut butter middle.
My EC and I both prefer the “miniature” version. It has our preferred ratio of chocolate to peanut butter. OK, I have already gone on too long. And it’s Fast Sunday, so I need to get to my point. This is my point: To enjoy both layers of a Reese’s cup, you need to eat both the outside and the inside. If you didn’t like chocolate, but only liked the middle, then you would have a ridiculous task of trying to dig the insides out to eat by themselves. It would be equally ridiculous to suck on a Reese’s for the chocolate, only to thow it away when you started tasting peanut butter. To enjoy this candy, you had better enjoy both parts – the outside and the inside.
I heard it again this week. “I don’t believe in the Church, but I try and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Another version that I have heard is “I have a testimony of the gospel, but not the Church.”
It doesn’t work. Church and Gospel are a package deal. Even more so than the candy, there is no way into the middle of the gospel without going through the church.
The “Church” is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That’s easy. Defining the “Gospel” on the other hand can quickly blossom into a huge discussion about many things – especially in HP group. Brigham Young defined the gospel as “All truth”. That definition can get a little unwieldy, so let’s stick with the 4th Article of Faith.
Gift of the Holy Ghost
This definition of the gospel stems from the Savior himself – he described it in the New Testament, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Book of Mormon.
“And this is my gospel – repentance and baptism by water and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter.” (D&C 39:6)
Now that we have defined things a little better, I will make my point again: It is impossible to live the gospel of Jesus Christ from outside of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is a package deal.
The ordinances of the gospel are administered within the church. The priesthood exists in the church. Any ordinance that happens without the priesthood, or without the consent of priesthood keys is not valid. So, to get baptized or confirmed outside of the church organization is meaningless.
Now that one was kind of easy – let’s get more profound: Unless you are a baptized member of the church, you can’t repent. Yes, know it sounds a little extreme, but it is true. Without the covenant of repentance, there has been no agreement made with God that you can repent and he will forgive. You have to make the deal first.
This concept was reinforced by Elder Christofferson just last conference when he said: “Without this covenant (baptism) repentance remains incomplete and the remission of sins unattained.” (The Divine Gift of Repentance)
Next, the way we complete the repentance process is through participating in the sacrament – another ordinance that cannot effectively be done without the priesthood, under priesthood keys.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said it this way:
“Not one of you … has lived without sin since your baptism. Without some means of further cleansing after our baptism, each of us is lost to things spiritual. We cannot have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and at the final judgment we would be bound to be “cast off forever” (1 Ne. 10:21). How grateful we are that the Lord has provided a means for each baptized member of His Church to be … cleansed from the soil of sin. The sacrament is a necessary part of that process.”
“We are commanded to repent of our sins and to come to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and partake of the sacrament in [keeping our part of] its covenants. When we renew our baptismal covenants in this way, the Lord renews the cleansing effect of our baptism. In this way we are made clean and can always have His Spirit to be with us.” (Ensign, November 1998, page 38.) (Full text here)
Another great talk by Elder Oaks about the Sacrament is here: (Always Have His Spirit)
So, how does this all apply to those who would claim to live the gospel independent of the church? I would say this: It doesn’t work.
• You can’t be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Therefore…
• You can’t repent and be forgiven. This applies to both unbaptized people, AND baptized members who do not come to church and take the sacrament. Both carry around a lifetime of unresolved sins. It is truly sad, and gives a renewed urgency to any reactivation or missionary efforts.
So, if you think, or have heard “I have a testimony of the gospel, but not the church,” please know that it doesn’t work that way. It is a package deal.