Last night I met the mother of a friend that I haven’t seen for some time. She shared with me that my friend and her husband had left the church because of their belief that they were having experiences that went beyond what the church was teaching. She also wondered if I had left the church because she knew we shared many of the same views of the gospel. I shared with her that I have never been more committed to the Lord’s church. The more I go down my path to Christ I find myself more and more centered in His, the Lord’s, restored church.
I don’t know all the reasons why my friend left the church since we haven’t spoken in well over a year. I don’t want make wrong assumptions, but I do want to speak to the general reason that many, many of my friends and acquaintances that have left the church because of their journey to Christ.
It’s hard to have close friends that are of great faith and passion for truth remove themselves from the church that put them on this path. They remove themselves from the church that restored the teachings and great scriptures that informed their seeking higher truths. They abandon the very structure that invited, taught, and inspired their journey to the presence of Christ. They abandon the priesthood keys through which the doctrines of the fulness of the Gospel have flowed.
And because of imperfection and dissonance between the great doctrines of the fulness of the gospel and its members, and even its leaders, they throw out babies with the bath water. And as this mother sorrowfully acknowledged to me last night, there is a lot of bathwater in the church.
But so what? This is almost always the case with the Lord’s covenant people.
And it is important to understand that the Church is the Lord’s covenant people. And as we understand how the Lord relates to his covenant people we will know the purpose and path of his church.
When in the history of the Lord’s covenant people has there not been friction, condemnation, struggle, disobedience, lack of faith, false beliefs, ease, and disinterest in receiving a fullness? The answer is, almost always. The groups of saints that do not descend into unbelief go on to create Zion societies, as in the time of Enoch or 3rd Nephi, took a great and long journey to get there. Or they experienced great destruction in order to be prepared for the higher and glorious state of Zion.
Just because you’ve been awakened to the great promises of the gospel does it mean you turn and rend the covenant body that hasn’t had the same experience?! Why would you be so quick to judge and leave a people that the Lord, himself, refuses to leave?
If a covenant people hasn’t ascended to a Zion state does it mean they are no longer a covenant people? Is it the case that unless a covenant people are in a Zion state that their future is hopeless and they are cut off?
Of course not! The work of the Lord is to patiently work and toil and labor with His people across many generations to prepare them to receive a fullness. He will do anything possible to bring forth good fruit. THIS IS HIS WORK! Those that leave his covenant people and abandon them because they don’t walk the same path are foolish. If they knew the Lord of the vineyard and his servants they would know that they abandon the very vineyard in which that they are called to work!
In Jacob 5 we read an exhaustive allegory of the Lord’s dealing with his covenant people. He goes through great effort, work, and long-suffering and patience to prepare his covenant people to receive of his fullness. This work spans many generations. He works and digs, and plants, and restructures, and pleads, and preaches, and does all sorts of work until there is absolutely no more hope that he can’t recover any more of his children from his covenant structure until he allows his vineyard to finally be burned.
If the Lord refuses to abandon his vineyard and labors and sorrows over it until the very end, how do those who profess to follow Christ abandon it so quickly when it doesn’t live up to their standards or expectations?
True followers of Christ do not leave the covenant body. They stay with it, they pray for it, they are patient and long-suffering with it. A true disciple of Christ is willing to suffer the judgements and mocking and scorn, and misunderstanding of those in the covenant body that persecute them for striving to partake of the Tree of Life.
Part of the path of Christ is enduring those in the Church that will persecute us for doing so. It is just part of the path. We should understand it and be humble and meek about it.
We should understand that the Lord allows there to be those of both belief and unbelief in his Church. It is part of the pattern.
Consider Jacob 5: 65
And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.
The Lord also allows the wheat and tares to grow together until the very end. It is the pattern of the Lord’s work to allow his people to struggle in their unbelief and in not living up to the full covenant so that he can produce as much good fruit as possible.
If we follow Christ we also make his work our own work. We make his path our own. And his path is to do all that he can to redeem his people. His path is one of long-suffering with those that are unbelieving in his church.
Central to the path of Christ is enduring with and loving those that persecute, judge, or mock us within the Church for seeking higher things – for seeking a fullness of the blessings of the Gospel. Those of unbelief who may judge us or even persecute us within the church may do so because they honestly believe they are doing the right thing. We must love and extend grace to those who do so. It is the way we invite them to Christ. If we are truly after the holy order of the Son of God, we will do his works, which is suffer and endure abuse and judgment from within the covenant people in order to invite all into his mercy and grace. We must suffer and endure as our Savior so that his work may be accomplished.
We should never elevate ourselves above our brothers and sisters because we think we are more favored of the Lord. This is the path and temptation of Lucifer. This is his doctrine. We are not above anyone. In fact, if we are truly of the order of Christ, we understand that we are the least and servant of all.
The path of the true servant of Christ is to do all that one can, no matter the difficulty and discomfort, to toil with those that are called by virtue of being part of his covenant people, to bring them into a redeemed society.
Zion is hard. It requires us repenting and becoming fully sanctified from the things of this world. If we are coming to Christ he will take us along a path of revealing within us everything that is not Zion. He will show unto us our weakness. If we are on the path to eternal life we must endure every test and have every pride stripped out of us. Particularly the pride that asserts that since we have had spiritual experiences we can then stand in judgement against the Lord’s vineyard.
We must repent of the deception that following Christ leads us to leave his covenant people. This is not good fruit. It is not the path of the faithful servants to whom the Lord says:
“Andart thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have with me because of the fruit of my vineyard” (Jacob 5: 75).
There are many false spirits and false Christs that are seeking to destroy the Lord’s elect. As we walk the covenant path we will find the deceptions of the Adversary increase in sophistication and in power. If we are not stripped of pride, and if we do not seek to be meek and lowly of heart, and willing to suffer all things in the name of Christ – if we seek to vaunt or elevate ourselves in the least degree, we will be rent and deceived by powerful and deceptive spirits.
We must repent of the impulse to pridefully judge or even abandon the covenant people by elevating ourselves above them. And we must discern and reject the luring deceptions of the Adversary that teaches us that our path is above the Church and beyond the covenant people. If we understand the path to which we are called, we understand that is never the case.
The path of meekness and lowliness is the only path of safety. Willingness to long-suffer with the Lord’s covenant people is the fruit and disposition of a true-follower of Christ.
May we faithfully walk and endure that path.