The Church and Kingdom of God
To accomplish His work here on earth, God has established His Church through living prophets, who have the priesthood authority to act in his name. Jesus Christ’s Church, which is the Mormon Church, officially called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, thrives today with living Prophets and Apostles who hold the Holy Priesthood and receive revelation from Him to guide and direct the Church. Jesus Christ is the head of the Mormon Church, but on earth, He is represented by His Prophet, Apostles, and Seventies, together called “General Authorities.”
The purpose of Jesus Christ’s true Church is to gather people to Him. It is the duty of all those who belong to Christ’s Church to teach others about Him. Since the goal of the Mormon Church is to bring people closer to Jesus Christ, leaders of the Mormon Church have broken this ministry into three parts: Perfecting the Saints, Proclaiming the Gospel, and Redeeming the Dead. This is called the three-fold mission of the Church. Of this, President Gordon B. Hinckley, late Prophet, Seer, and Revelator to the Mormon Church said,
“[God] has given us a three-fold mission: first, the teaching of the restored gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; second, the building of the Saints in their faith and encouraging them in all of their activities to walk in obedience to the commandments of the Lord; and third, the great work of salvation for the dead. This vast mission contemplates all generations of mankind—those who have gone before, all who live upon the earth, and those who will yet be born. It is larger than any race or nation or generation. It encompasses all mankind. It is a cause without parallel. The fruits of its labors are everlasting in their consequences” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “He Slumbers not, nor sleeps,” Ensign, May 1983, 5).
Perfect the Saints
President David O. McKay, who was Prophet and President of the Mormon Church in the 1950s and 1960s, said that “the purpose of the gospel is […] to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature” (Conference Report, October 1965, 136). The way to improve people is to teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ and help them develop faith in God, through whom they can accomplish everything they need to.
One of the many ways the Mormon Church works to perfect people is through callings. Since the Mormon Church has no professional clergy, every member participates in running the local congregations. This covers everything from being a bishop or Sunday School teacher to cleaning the chapels in preparation for Sunday worship services. Callings are a great opportunity for service and growth. There are other opportunities for service in the Mormon Church, including Church-sponsored activities to help the community, or to help a member of the congregation.
The Church also has “home teachers” and “visiting teachers” who visit each home every month to share Gospel messages and to ensure that every member has enough food and sufficient opportunities for work or school. There is also the temple, in which members perform sacred ordinances.
Proclaim the Gospel
The responsibility to proclaim to the Gospel rests upon everyone who hears it. The Doctrine and Covenants, which contains revelations given to modern prophets, says, “Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:81). Those who have been warned about the Second Coming and need for repentance, must share the Gospel. Modern prophets have called for every person to share the message of the restored Gospel with his friends, family, and neighbors. Joseph Smith, the Prophet, said that, “After all has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel” (History of The Church 2:477, 478).
One way the Mormon Church fulfills this mission is by sending out thousands of Mormon missionaries every year. These Mormon missionaries include young men and women who (at their own expense) put their lives on hold to preach the message of Jesus Christ and His modern prophets. There are also retired couples who spend their later years preaching and ministering to others. However, not only full-time Mormon missionaries share the Gospel, but every member of the Church should take opportunities to share the gospel with others. Members of the Mormon Church are expected to share the teachings of the Gospel with others including family members, friends, and acquaintances.
Redeem the Dead
The final mission of the Mormon Church is to redeem the dead through ordinances (or ceremonies) in Mormon temples. These Mormon temple ceremonies include baptism for the dead, through which those who died without a knowledge of Jesus Christ or did not have an opportunity to be baptized can receive baptism vicariously. This is a great act of service on the part of those who perform the baptisms and a source of great spiritual blessings.
In order to redeem the dead, we must search after our ancestors. The Prophet Malachi predicted:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (Malachi 4:5-6).
This was literally fulfilled in April 1836, when Elijah the prophet appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. in Kirtland, Ohio. (See Doctrine and Covenants 110:13-16). The hearts of the children have turned to their fathers, meaning that children should search after their ancestors through genealogical and family history work. Through genealogy we discover our ancestors who died without a knowledge of the fullness of the Gospel. We can submit those names to the Temple and we, or someone assigned by the temple, will be baptized on their behalf, giving them the full opportunity to obtain salvation.
begin locating your lost ancestors, see Familysearch, or visit a family history library at your local Mormon chapel.
Anita Stansfield began writing at the age of sixteen, and her first novel was published sixteen years later. For more than fifteen years she has been the number-one best-selling author of women’s fiction in the LDS market. Her novels range from historical to contemporary and cover a wide gamut of social and emotional issues that explore the human experience through memorable characters and unpredictable plots. She has received many awards, including a special award for pioneering new ground in LDS fiction, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Whitney Academy for LDS Literature, and also a Lifetime Achievement Award from her publisher, Covenant Communications. She has fifty-six published books. Anita is the mother of five, and has three grandchildren.