RS / MP Lesson 16: “The Church of Jesus Christ in Former Times”

Lesson 16

We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth. (Articles of Faith 6)

The question is, what does this claim mean? It doesn’t mean that were we somehow to return to 1st-century Jerusalem we would find a Christian churched that we would immediately recognize as being like our home ward. We don’t know a lot about the early Church. The New Testament tell us only a little and there are few other documents to rely on. But it seems unlikely that we would recognize what they were doing. There would be a local leader, a bishop, but he might not function as our bishop does. The deacons were not twelve-year-olds, and we don’t know what they did in the church. We don’t know for sure that there was a priesthood office called “teacher,” though modern revelation certainly suggests that there was. Though there were priests, at the temple, it isn’t obvious that there was anyone with that title in a local, first-century congregation.

But the Articles of Faith tells us this much: the early Church had apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists (i.e., patriarchs; see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 151). I understand this to remind us of two important features of the Restoration: we are guided by revelation and we have been given authority from God to perform his ordinances. Those two points are at the heart of this lesson.

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