Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Study on the LDS Church - 2.1 Structure of the LDS Church

**Make sure you've read this post first!

Okay, so this post will not cover all of the ooohs and aaaahs and huhhhs? of the LDS church, but it is important information that you need to know while reading further, so I'm going to start off with it and get all of the groundwork laid for the information that is to come.

The structure of the LDS church is very important to understand, as it is vital in the actions and decisions of the believers. There is a hierarchy, of sorts, that governs the body of LDS believers. This graphic was an awesome representation of this structure, so I have borrowed it from CARM:

In case it is a little too small or if you aren't a visual learner, we'll review it now. Note that the names are provided but aren't necessarily vital information for the remainder of the study. There will not be a test. =)

The church is run by a man with the title of President and Prophet. The current prophet is Thomas S. Monson and is respectfully called "President Monson" by the members of the church. He is flanked by two advisors, currently Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf. This group of three men together is called The First Presidency. You must understand that the prophet of the church is believed to be a prophet in the traditional Old Testament sense of a prophet...that he receives direct revelations from God and is second in "line" only to Jesus Christ himself.

Below this group is the Twelve Apostles. They are twelve men who serve the president/prophet. This group of twelve along with the three individuals of the First Presidency are responsible for the administrative duties and policies of the entire LDS church. Once the living prophet dies, the longest-serving of the apostles takes over as president/prophet. These twelve are believed to be ordained directly as the Twelve Apostles of the book of Acts in the New Testament. They believe their role to be the same of the original twelve.

LDS members will often justify the above positions with the following verse from the KJV Bible: And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. --1 Corinthians 12:28 . Or you might see the argument presented using Amos 3:7 which states, "Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."

Next in line are the Area Presidents, or The Seventy, do exactly what it sounds like...they serve as presidents of an area of churches and are dispersed worldwide to cover all LDS congregations.

Below them is the Stake Presidency, which divides the areas into smaller, more manageable groups of believers.

Below the Stakes, a further subdivision is called a ward, each of which is headed by a bishop of the LDS church.

Then fall the members of locals congregations.


What does the Bible say about this hierarchy? Frankly, it doesn't actually give any type of structure for the church. See the verse from 1 Corinthians 12:28 above? It is simply demonstrating that there will be people with these gifts. It does not give the indication that it is an official mandate for structuring the church. And if it is a mandate for structure, it seems that the apostles should be ranked higher than the prophets, correct? It also notes that there will be prophets--not A Prophet. So the hierarchy of the LDS church really cannot stand on the footing displaying in this letter to the church in Corinth even if it is a mandate.

The verse from Amos? It appears to be contextual. It basically states that when God was about to do big things in the Old Testament, He would tell a prophet. That way the Israelites would be accountable for any disobedience on their part (can't say they weren't warned!). However, the LDS church seems to reason from this scripture that it declares that a prophet would be forever present on earth. Look at the verse and read it again. Go ahead...I'll wait.

Does it actually say that? I didn't see it anywhere.

Please note that members of the LDS church often refer to one another by titles. For example, standard members usually use the title "Brother" or "Sister" followed by the last name of the member. Area and Stake Presidents are called by their title and last name as well, such as "Area President Jones" or "Stake President Willis," or are often called "Elder." The two counselors of the prophet are also called presidents. Local ward leaders are referred to as "Bishop____". Men serving on a mission are called "Elder" while women on their missions are called "Sister." After the mission is complete, they are then called "Brother" or maintain the title of "Sister" respectively. The title of "Elder" is also used for the apostles.

Now, if you have LDS friends, family, or coworkers, please by all means, don't cause some uncomfortable rift to come between you via titles. Call them what you've always called them. Don't try to change them and don't try to change your relationship with them. You being yourself will be the biggest testimony you can give for Christ, refusing any put-ons for the sake of Christ (seriously...He doesn't need that kind of publicity).

However, if you are approached by an LDS missionary, please respect the work they are doing in honest devotion and call them by their title. Elder Smith and Elder Garrison will be respectful and will not cause any discomfort during your encounters. It does not matter if you feel they "deserve" that title or not. Don't drive them away over semantics. I would hate for you to miss the opportunity to proclaim the gospel over minor details such as titles. Respect that they are devoted to their faith enough to drop everything they know, use their own money to fund a trip to somewhere unknown to them (they are assigned their missions; they do not choose them), and serve the god that they believe in. Honor that commitment.


Now...for the quesiton portion. Here are some questions to ask your LDS acquaintances:

  1. Reading 1 Corinthians 12:28, I see where apostles and prophets are sent by God, but does this mandate a hierarchy as established by the LDS church? If so, why aren't the apostles ranked higher than the prophet since they are mentioned first?
  2. Reading Ephesians 2:20, doesn't it seem like the prophets and apostles are the foundation of the church? The church stands on their teaching, but they were the ones to establish the church. Once it has been established, does it have to be re-established every time one of them dies?
  3. Please tell me from Amos 3:7 where it indicates that God requires that a prophet be on earth at all times for His work to be carried out.
  4. Are you aware that according to 1 Corinthians 9:1, 15: 7-8 that apostles have to be personal witnesses of Christ in the flesh to be called apostles?
  5. Are you aware that all of the New Testament apostles did miracles (use Acts 3:3-11; 5:15-16; 9:36-42; 20:6-12 if needed)?
  6. Do your 12 apostles do any type of miracles? If they are doing miracles, they should be humble about it and not brag, but I would think that the recipients of the miracles would be publicizing it greatly. I would think that if news like that were available, people would be flocking to the LDS church in Salt Lake City to get healing for all types of ailments. The LDS church would grow exponentially due to these signs. However, there is no evidence that this has ever occurred.
  7. Can you please refer to John 16:13-15 and then to 1 John 2:27? Doesn't this indicate that the job of the Holy Spirit is to minister to us, thus removing the need for a prophet of God?

These questions and references pulled from Rhodes' book. need to buy it. =)

Study of the LDS Church - 2.2 People of the LDS Church Today

1 comment:

Neil Sharp said...

I'm just thankful that my entire belief system is not dictacted by my personal (or my pastors) "interpretation" of the Bible.