A Package Deal

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.





  1. Good post, man. I feel the same way. Although true, your assertion of not being able to repent unless baptized into the LDS Church caused me pause and thought. “Repent and be baptized”, it says. Elder Christopherson’s quote clarified it very well, and brought to mind one of my favorite quotes from the BOM: “Speaking of things to come as though they had already come” (Mosiah 16:6).

    Also, you brought up a bad memory. A good friend and member of my bishopric once asked me (and many others) if it was more important to be a Christian or more important to be a Mormon. I thought to myself, “too bad,” and I was right; they left the Church a few years later.

  2. Have you ever noticed that Elder Christopherson sounds like Agent Smith from the Matrix (or the head elf in Rivendale in Lord of the Rings)? I always love it when he says “Elder Anderson”. My real dream would be for him to talk about Frodo Baggins.

    I mean… he gives good talks..

  3. explained well. I’ve heard those words so many times too. “Just cause I don’t go to church, doesn’t mean the church isn’t in me!” HA! if the church really is in you- you get your butt to church to renew covenants!

  4. mintifresh, I never thought of that! Now I need to go listen to him again!

    You read my mind, MMM. I wrote a post today about why I go to Church –and then I come here and read about how Church and The Gospel are connected. I agree wtih you! I think we all have too many people we know who don’t understand this concept, though. And it’s sad. 🙁

  5. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about someone I know who says the same thing: “I have a testimony of the gospel, but not the church.” And you are absolutely right. You can’t believe one thing and not another. I’m annoyed with people who pick and choose parts of the gospel/church and then say that there are things missing from it and “fill in the gaps” with other teachings that are completely opposite of what the church/gospel teaches. And then completely testify that they know the church is true, but… not really. It doesn’t make sense to me that something like that would actually make sense to someone. GREAT post!

  6. I like how simply you explained this. I have always believed this excuse is about control. Some people don’t want to be told what to do. I have even known some who say “I don’t need the church, I am self-reliant like the church teaches.”

  7. Then there’s always “I know the Book of Mormon is true, but It’s hard to accept Joseph Smith.” Or “I don’t believe Jesus was the Son of God, but he was a great moral teacher.” Explain how THAT works. *rolls eyes a bit*

  8. MMM, any reasoned analysis would show that your logic here is impeccable. Kudos on a good discussion topic, and for digging a little deeper. The Mad Hatter might refer to this phenomenon as the Untestimony, which makes no more sense than an Unbirthday.

  9. I particularly enjoy the dark chocolate Reese’s. I’ll hardly touch the milk chocolate anymore now that I’ve tasted the dark side. Regardless of this fact, I still believe the church is true through and through in the blue… 🙂

  10. Best. Candy. Ever. I even mention it in my Mormon.org profile.

    Once my EC was having breakfast with a customer in Utah. While the man sipped coffee, he told my EC: “I haven’t been to church in seven years but my testimony has never been stronger!”

    That led to many jokes about us skipping out on church for the day to “work on our testimonies.” (aka eating just the middle out of a Reese’s). No, we never did it.

  11. Great post. I have thought for some time that we need an organized church for three reasons: 1) to perform the ordinances with authority, 2) to teach correct doctrine with authority, 3) to give us practice living the gospel with people. (It’s awfully easy to be charitable and kind when there are no difficult people to have to deal with.) Love your analogies.

    That said, I would be interested to have you cite for me the source for the concept that partaking of the sacrament is necessary for the completion of repentance. A friend and I were discussing that recently, and we cannot find any source for that concept. I have searched the scriptures, Gospel Principles, Answers to Gospel Questions, Mormon Doctrine, Doctrines of Salvation, True to the Faith, and The Encyclopedia of Mormonism. While I agree that when we partake of the sacrament we covenant to keep the commandments, and keeping the commandments is part of repenting, I don’t find the direct link between the two that you imply.

  12. Kathy: Good question. I went back to the post and added some quotes by Elder Oaks on the subject. In addition to his teachings, I would suggest that we remember that it is the Holy Ghost who purges us of our sins (Baptism of Fire), and if we listen closely to the Sacrament prayer, we remember that one of the blessings of partaking of the sacrament is to have the Spirit with us as we renew our covenants.

    So, a simple diagram would be:
    Repent>take sacrament>renew covenants>regain Spirit>be cleansed.

    I feel the sacrament is the equivalent of being re-baptized each Sunday – only drier.

    ‘Tis a powerful thing, the sacrament.

  13. I’ve heard people say they like one but not the other, and I’ve never really known what to say to that. I mean, besides the obvious that they’re being ridiculous. Now I’m just going to send people links to this post.

  14. I don’t know about everyone who says “that,” but I know that for some who say it, saying “The church” is tantamount to a reporter saying “The White House says…” Did the actual building on Pensylvania Ave. speak? No. Do they have a problem with Baptism by Immersion for the Remission of Sins by those who are in Authority to do so? Not my friends/family who say they have a testimony of The Gospel but not the church. But do they have a problem with professional photo sessions of a child in white, $250 Baptism Announcements being mailed out, and elaborate parties in the Relief Society room after a Baptism? Yes. Do they have a problem with the manner in which callings (aka opportunities to grow, learn, and serve your fellowman and follow God) are issued/accepted or rejected/announced? No. But do they have a problem with people saying “Congratulations on your calling!!!!” all giddy-like in the halls? Yeah.

    Did Lehi and Sariah go “inactive” when they left to go into the wilderness on their own to follow God’s commands? I’m sure to the people they left behind they did. But I’m also pretty sure they lived the Gospel of Jesus Christ from outside the church. Did Peter need to have HP Pancake Breakfasts to be counted as an active member of Christ’s Church? Did Emma Smith need Craft Night to be a faithful servant in Christ’s Church?

    I think the difference is the capitalization of the word. “C”hurch = Gospel; “c”hurch = the people and activites (the non-saving ordinance kind). Sometimes, people get a bit caught up in themseleves and the activiy of the church (“Email me the VT message and we’ll count this month good.” one sister once told me. That’s not necessarily the puropose of VT, nor is it necessarily in the Spirit of Christ’s Gospel) and forget to be active in the Church.

    True, today The Gospel is presented through The Church. But when the church gets in the way of people being able to see The Gospel, is it really being True to The Gospel?

  15. Anonymous: I would need to take a nap after a rant like that!

    I think you are confusing the people of the church with the organization of the church.

    Simply put, if you don’t go to church and participate in the ordinances, you are not participating in the gospel. The invitation is a simple one – no $250 required.

  16. I just wanted to say that I approve of this post, and I believe it’s true doctrine. MMM, you’ve inspired me to research the sacrament/repentance link, not because I disagree; rather I’ve just never quite heard it stated quite that way before. Needing the sacrament to repent is the best thing I can think of to tell a less-active member who is struggling with meeting attendance. Who doesn’t need more repentance?

    PS Snickers Peanut Butter Squares have surpassed Reese’s Peanut Butter cups (or Easter Eggs, as that is actually the best chocolate/peanut butter ratio) as my favorite confection.

  17. Elder Bednar came and talked to our stake at Stake Conference about a year ago. He made a good point…that there are different levels of conversion. Every member is converted to the gospel, and most are converted on different levels. I totally agree with what you are saying…but there are some inactive members who may believe in the Church, but aren’t converted enough to get over certain things. They get offended and that stops them from coming…or they may be more “converted” to other things and get distracted of whats important. I have an aunt who illustrated this to me. Her son was recently baptized (he is 14 and the only active member in his family. His mom [my aunt] hasn’t been active for a very long time.) At his baptism his bishop had my aunt bear her testimony. She mentioned how she knew the church was true…Yet she isn’t active. I do believe she knows that if any church were true, it would be ours. But her conversion to the church isn’t there. She isn’t willing to commit, and she isn’t willing to sacrifice for it. Therefore she is missing out on the blessings of the church.

Add your 2¢. (Be nice.)