The church is changing.
Whether we like it, or don’t like it, it’s happening.
Lots of questions arise from change, especially when we as a culture and a church expect Article of Faith number 5 to dictate the comings and goings of the church.
“I thought that was a revelation that caused that policy.”
“I thought you were inspired when you made that program.”
“How is it that they can change the temple endowment when that was supposed to be given directly by Joseph Smith?”
The church isn’t changing on a whim. The things that are being changed have been carefully discussed and prayed over for many years.
Unfortunately, Joseph never had the completed Nauvoo temple to work with and he left Brigham Young a charge to complete the work. Brigham Young recalled: “Bro. Joseph turned to me and said: ‘Brother Brigham this is not arranged right but we have done the best we could under the circumstances in which we are placed, and I wish you to take this matter in hand and organize and systematize all these ceremonies with the signs, tokens, penalties and key words.’ I did so, and each time I got something more, so that when we went through the temple at Nauvoo I understood and knew how to place them there. We had our ceremonies pretty correct.”
or some reason, when people find out something about the Church that they did not previously know, they feel betrayed and believe the Church was trying to hide something from them. Then they make it their life’s mission to expose every little mistake the Church or its leaders have made in the past to the present.
But seriously, no one…ever…in this Church has ever claimed that there haven’t been mistakes along the way. What we do say is that the Church is a living Church! Meaning, that if a policy or interpretation is incorrect or just needs to be updated or changed…then the Lord can put us on the right track. That’s what makes the Church true and unique.
The church is evolving and moving toward perfection in much the same way that we are. Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little…but never all at once. Revelation takes place and change occurs inside the church…slowly… for a reason.
The Key To Understanding Change In The Church Is Found In Jacob
The key to understanding this is found in Jacob. To me, this one little scripture is the most effective explanation at why change occurs slowly in the church. When Jacob was recording the “allegory of the olive tree,” found in Jacob 5, he noted that the Lord is working in His vineyard, plucking, pruning, digging, grafting, and nourishing His church.
As the church begins to grow, the allegory says “ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit.” But…says the allegory, the bitter will be replaced and cleared “according to the strength and size of the good. 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.”(Jacob 5:48)
The Lord makes course corrections in his own time and for his own reasons but he is doing it “according to the strength and size of the good.” Faulty interpretations, policies, and understandings are not uprooted all at once for purposes only known to God Himself. We see this happening all throughout the Old and New Testaments. I can think of so many ways this has been applied in the past, and could be applied in the future but the key is to wait upon the Lord.
It’s no different than when ancient Peter gets rebuked over and over again by the Lord. Remember in Acts 10 when Peter is trying to determine who should and should not receive the gospel? Peter didn’t think the gospel should go to the Gentiles or “any other nation” for that matter, but because the church was a ‘living church’ the Lord had to tell him what’s up! He had to tell him not once, not twice, but three times that he needed to change his view on who was to receive the gospel.
Peter contested saying “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (Acts 10:38) Peter was under the impression that the gospel was only to be given to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) And who could blame him for thinking this? It was Christ who said that He was not sent to anyone but the lost sheep of the house of Israel…meaning the Jews. Was Christ wrong? Was He being discriminatory or leading His own church astray while He was on the earth? Or course not!
So…Peter was leading the Church according to the time he lived in and the knowledge that he had! He…was…learning! I hear people flipping out on Brigham Young because of something he said 200 years ago but no one ever seems to question Peter or the Church that was established and running in Biblical times 2,000 years ago. The Church making course corrections in any age of the world through divine revelation is one of the most obvious indications of that Church actually being true. The Lord is not going to just do it for us and fix every little issue all at once. He does it slowly…”according to the strength and size of the good.”
The Lord corrects and rebukes Joseph Smith over and over again the Doctrine and Covenants. As time has elapsed, He’s corrected Brigham Young and others many times over since the time the church had been organized. He corrected Bruce R. McConkie causing him to say:
“Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”
This sort of course correction and associated humility from it’s leaders is a hallmark of the “true and living Church.” We have no doctrine of infallibility in our Church. We believe that the restoration is still taking place…even today…and that it will continue until the Savior comes to reign personally upon the earth. Having said all that…it’s important to understand that the doctrine of Christ does not and will not change. There are certain doctrines that are the same yesterday, today, and forever. These doctrines are central to the plan of salvation. Policy is completely different than doctrine. The doctrine of Christ taught within the scriptures and by the living prophets is what I have always rooted my faith in.